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Posts Tagged ‘National Academy of Sciences’

It’s amazing what you can learn from DNA. Recently, scientists have been collecting insights from camel DNA about how camel ancestors were used on ancient trade routes.

Victoria Gill writes at the BBC, “Scientists examined DNA samples from more than 1,000 one-humped camels. Despite populations being hundreds of miles apart, they were genetically very similar. Scientists explained that centuries of cross-continental trade had led to this ‘blurring’ of genetics.

“The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“One of the team, Prof Olivier Hanotte, from Nottingham University, explained that what made the dromedary so biologically fascinating was its close link to human history.

” ‘They have moved with people, through trading,’ he told BBC News. ‘So by analysing dromedaries, we can find a signature of our own past. … Our international collaboration meant we were able to get samples from West Africa, Pakistan, Oman and even Syria.’ …

” ‘People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted.

” ‘So they would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey.’

“This caused centuries of genetic ‘shuffling’, making dromedaries that are separated by entire continents remarkably similar.

“Crucially, this has also ensured that the animals maintained their genetic diversity — constantly mixing up the population. This means that dromedaries are likely to be much more adaptable in the face of a changing environment. …

” ‘The dromedary will be our better option for livestock production of meat and milk. It could replace cattle and even sheep and goats that are less well-adapted.’ ”

More at the BBC website, here.

Photo: Mark Payne/Gill/NPL
Ships of the desert: camels provide transport, milk and food in arid, hostile environments

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Years ago, there was a nose-warmer knitting fad at Bryn Mawr College (even before my time, so you can imagine). Students knitted nose warmers for themselves, their relatives, their friends. They put nose warmers on statues of goddesses around the campus.

The one my mother bought me at a fund-raiser looked silly, and the fad died out.

Now medical science could bring the nose warmer back.

Adam Wernick writes at Public Radio International, “As it turns out, your immune system turns sluggish in the cold, and the cold virus grows better in the slightly chillier environment of your nose than at the body’s normal core temperature. That’s the conclusion of a mouse study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“ ‘The optimal temperature for the cold virus to replicate is around 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit), which is found in the nose of most people living in normal conditions,’ says Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunology at Yale University and one of the authors on the paper.

“As temperatures drop outside, humans breathe in colder air that chills their upper airways just enough to allow cold viruses to flourish, says Ellen Foxman, Iwasaki’s colleague. The recent study suggests that if you can keep your nose warmer, the virus won’t replicate as easily.”

Ah-HA!

Read all about it here,. The story was based on a PRI Science Friday interview with Ira Flatow.

Photo: Aunty Marty Made It (on Etsy)

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Sindya N. Bhanoo writes at the NY Times about a surprising discovery under the waters of Lake Huron.

“A 9,000-year-old stone structure used to capture caribou has been discovered 120 feet beneath the surface of Lake Huron. Researchers say it is the most complex structure of its kind in the Great Lakes region. …

“The remarkable structure consists of a lane with two parallel lines of stones leading to a cul-de-sac. Within the lines are three circular hunting blinds where prehistoric hunters hid while taking aim at caribou. …

“The site was discovered using sonar technology on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, 35 miles southeast of Alpena, Mich., which was once a dry land corridor connecting northeastern Michigan to southern Ontario.

“In their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers suggest that the hunting structure was used in the spring, when large groups of hunter-gatherers assembled.”

Hard to imagine life 9,000 years ago. Anthropological archaeologists have the best fun. More here.

Photo: University of Michigan via Associated Press

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