Scientific News

More than 5,000 camels have been killed in Australia by snipers

More than 5,000 wild camels are reportedly killed, mainly by snipers and helicopter snipers, in fire-ravaged South Australia, according to an AFP press release. These wild herds of non-native animals are in fact devastating the indigenous communities already affected by the drought caused by the huge fires that are developing in recent weeks.

Aboriginal people would suffer most from these wandering herds of camels which, we recall, are not native to Australia but have been imported by humans over the past centuries. Precisely because of the extreme heat produced by the fires, these animals are migrating from one area to another in search of water, damaging the water infrastructure but also proving to be a real danger to vehicle drivers.

Despite the concerns announced by activists and animal rights activists, sniper teams have continued to shoot down these animals, which are now considered to be real parasites introduced into an environment that is not theirs. In addition to consuming huge amounts of precious water for the locals, especially the native groups, these camels often die right near the Water Sources.

This means that their bodies are rotting and irreparably pollute the water sources themselves, making them no longer usable not only by humans but also by other animals, especially birds. And the prolonged drought is only making this situation so much worse that mass culling has proved to be the only solution, although it may seem the most brutal.

Camels in Australia were introduced around 1840 as they were considered very useful for exploring the vast inland areas of this continent. Camels in fact adapt very well to the heat and very dry regions of the Australian outback. Over the following decades, tens of thousands of camels were imported, which naturally reproduced and over time multiplied in some ways without control.

Scientific News

Vitamin D unrelated to low blood pressure according to a new study

According to a study conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, vitamin D would not be associated with low blood pressure when standing, a condition also known as orthostatic hypotension in the elderly.

Orthostatic hypotension affects approximately 30% of older people and sees a definable drop in blood pressure when standing. This low pressure is then connected to falls and to everything that follows, fractures or even death.

According to some research carried out in recent years, vitamin D could help with this pathology as it is essential for bone metabolism. It is also believed that it can be very positive also as regards muscle strength.

However, according to this new study, which appeared in Hypertension, a cohort study that examines the association between the prevalence of orthostatic hypotension and the intake of vitamin D supplements, this link would not exist.

Eamon Laird, the lead author of the study and researcher at the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) of the aforementioned Dublin institute, clearly specifies this:

“This is the largest study ever conducted that explores vitamin D and orthostatic hypotension. We see no association in the elderly Irish population. This is important as it is essential to know what is and is not associated with vitamin D when trying to devise and recommend recruitment for the population based on health outcomes. Recently vitamin D has been seen as the healthy panacea for everything; however, it makes perfect sense on a biological level that it cannot be associated with everything.”

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Coyote in cities are more aggressive due to a garbage-based diet

Coyotes are becoming more aggressive because they are increasingly present in the urban context and because they are increasingly nourished by junk food: this is the conclusion reached by a new study conducted by researcher Scott Sugden.

The researcher analyzed the intestinal microbiome of 76 coyotes, endemic to both urban and suburban contexts, and compared them. He discovered that those who used to live more in urban environments showed a diet much lower in protein, those proteins in game that are part of the natural diet of coyotes living in wilder environments.

In the stomachs of the animals the researcher has found various traces that undoubtedly showed the origin of the food: hamburgers, leftovers from fast-food, burritos and more, food that is certainly not very nutritious for a coyote. He also analyzed the bacterial groups present in the intestines, finding in particular a smaller amount of Fusobacterium.

Already in the past some research has vaguely associated a smaller amount of this bacterium in the intestines to aggression in dogs and it is therefore natural to make the same connection also with regard to coyotes.

Moreover, in the coyote stomachs of “city” the researcher has found a greater prevalence, of about twice, of the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, a parasite that pet dogs could easily introduce into their bodies through coyote faeces.

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An observatory that will allow us to study primordial universe has nearly been completed

Only one last piece is missing to complete the new Simons astronomical observatory, a telescope that will be used to obtain new information on the formation of the universe and its origins.

Engineers, technicians and scientists are making the final touches to the LATR (Large Aperture Telescope Receiver), one of the most important pieces, considered the central detector as well as the “heart” of the entire observatory.

The observatory Simons will rely on a series of telescopes placed in Atacama desert, Chile, and will be used in particular to study deeper into the cosmic microwave background radiation, ie the residual radiation left by the big bang, a group of waves very weak important to know the first moments of the universe.

This is a very weak signal that can be easily disturbed by any “background noise.” Precisely to avoid this disturbance, the LATR detector will operate at very low temperatures, even at absolute zero, a temperature that can only be obtained through cryogenic techniques. This is why the engineers have designed a massive metal shell that will house this central detector.

This is the largest experiment aimed at studying the cosmic ground-based radiation ever made (thus not considering orbiting telescopes), an experiment that can count on sensitivity at least 10 times higher than any other study of this radiation.

The observatory should gather the first data in the spring of 2021.

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Two potentially habitable exoplanets found 12.5 light years away

Two extrasolar planets have been found that are potentially habitable according to two researchers from two Israeli institutes. The two planets orbit the star of Teegarden, a red dwarf 12.5 light-years away from us.

This star was discovered in 2003 by the astrophysicist Bonnard Teegarden while the two planets, “b” and “c,” were discovered in June by another team.

According to Amri Wandel and Lev Tal-Or, the two researchers, one from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the other from Tel Aviv University, the two planets orbit their star in only 4.9 and 11.4 days what which, combined with the size of the star itself, ensure that the two planets can be inserted into the so-called “habitable zone.”

In addition, both have an orbit with one side always facing the star. In essence, they do not have the cycle of day and night. This type of planet was initially considered, at least until a few years ago, as uninhabitable as one side would always be too hot and the other always too cold.

However, new theories have confirmed that a thin strip of land at the borders between these two zones can be habitable provided that the other conditions, such as the orbital location of the planet itself in the habitable zone, are satisfied.

According to the two researchers, it is likely that both planets can support liquid water on their surface. The two planets also have dimensions comparable to those of the Earth.

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Trees exchange information when beetles attack

A new study published in Science of the Total Environment shows once again how trees and plants in general are interconnected when it comes to survival. It is one of those studies that show that trees can literally communicate with each other even to counter “predators.”

The study, conducted by a scientist at the University of Alberta, focused on the pines of Lodgepole, a species widespread especially in North America but which over time has been “introduced” into Scandinavian countries as well Sweden and Norway.

The researcher found that when attacked by pine beetles, these trees release particular volatile chemical compounds to warn nearby trees about the threat. These “messages” can only be decoded by trees of the same species, as reported by the scientist Altaf Hussain who led the study.

It is not the first study that shows a communication system between trees, but past research has mostly focused on the mechanisms based on networks of roots under the ground. This is the first study that shows a form of communication that takes place via volatile chemicals.

These substances are transferred from trees attached to trees not yet attached within 30 meters distance via a mushroom associated with the same beetle. This study could help to implement a possible form of contrast against the dwarf pine beetles which are one of the most serious threats with regard to North American forests, particularly Canadians.

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Artificial intelligence and satellites used to predict volcanic eruptions

Researchers and scientists are resorting to artificial intelligence to predict, or at least detect in time, volcano eruptions. Considering that there are more than 800 million people living close to active volcanoes, such research takes on a certain importance.

Using satellite images, the MOUNTS project (Monitoring Unrest from Space) currently monitors 18 active volcanoes, including Etna, and does so by analyzing satellite images. However, the data sets provided by the satellites are so large and full-bodied, and are updated almost daily, that manual checks are not possible and computer algorithms must be used.

The images also reflect the smallest changes related to the deformation of the terrain near volcanoes. Just to make the “control” phase more efficient, the researchers developed artificial neural networks, a type of artificial intelligence, to automatically detect important ground deformation events, signals that suggest that the magma itself is moving underneath the terrain.

In essence, researchers, as reported by Andreas Ley, a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin involved in the MOUNTS project, do not want to continuously monitor volcanoes, they want computers to report when something interesting is happening.

The system has already been able to detect early signals of different eruptions. Last month, for example, he detected a deformation of the land connected to an evolution which then took place on the island of Reunion concerning the volcano Piton de la Fournaise.

On this occasion, the system itself sent automatic emails not only to the researchers but also to the users who had registered with the appropriate website to get updates.

The deformations of the ground detectable by the satellites do not cover all situations and for this reason, the researchers decided to integrate these important data with other equally important data such as those related to gas emissions near the cone and to volcano temperature increases or of the area around it. This data is naturally collected via ground sensors. Now, with all this data, it is possible to work on algorithms based on automatic learning to predict eruptions more and more efficiently.

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Teeth can be repaired and regenerated thanks to stem cells

Triggering a natural tooth regeneration on command could be possible in the future thanks to a new discovery made by researchers at the Biotechnology Center of the Technical University of Dresden (BIOTEC) concerning a group of stem cells.

Scientists at the German institute, along with several other colleagues, have in fact discovered a new population of mesenchymal stromal cells that could be useful to repair teeth. This is what researchers observed in some experiments on mice: these cells contributed to the regeneration of dentin, which is the hard and resistant tissue that underlies the structure of the tooth.

When the researchers activated these stem cells through a gene called Dlk1, a signal was activated that caused the cells of the dental tissue to increase or to decrease the number of cells produced.

For the moment the experiments have been carried out only on mice and therefore further research will be necessary to verify that what happened on the teeth of rodents can also occur on human teeth.

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“Intelligent” road signs that change color depending on the viewing angle have been developed

A new technology that could allow better visualization of road signs in the dark was developed by researcher Limin Wu of the University of Fudan, China, in collaboration with other scientists.

Wu and his team have developed a thin film that reflects light in particular ways, brightly shining or changing color in the dark. The study, published in Science Advances, describes this film made from polymeric microspheres attached to the sticky side of a transparent ribbon.

When a white light, for example, illuminates this film during the night, or at least in the dark, certain observers will see one color while another will come in another, depending on the angle of observation or if the same light source is moving less.

Extremely useful features regarding the “intelligent” road signs were noted by Qiaoqiang Gan, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo who contributed to the study: “If a person is listening to music at high volume or not paying attention while walking or driving, a signal that changes color can help alert you better to the traffic situation.”

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Frogs create small artificial ponds to protect tadpoles from predators

A group of researchers has discovered a particular behavior in goliath frogs that they define as the “first example of a construction of a nest in an African amphibian.”

According to the researchers, who published their work in the Journal of Natural History, these frogs can build real little ponds for their little ones, environments that they then guard and care for.

To “build” these ponds they manage to move rocks weighing up to one pound, a good effort even considering that they are huge frogs that can weigh up to 5 pounds and can reach a length of 34 cm. They create these small ponds at the edges of the rivers using the flow of the latter. By blocking the flow of water, they create a sort of safe haven from the numerous predators that can live in such an aquatic environment.

The very fact that they move such large rocks to block the flow of water would also explain the gigantism that developed during their evolution, as explained by Marvin Schäfer of the Natural History Museum in Berlin, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers noted this behavior in various specimens on the Mpoula River in Cameroon.

Initially they wanted to know more about the reproduction of this particular species of frog but then discovered strange small pools of water created thanks to the accumulation of large stones as well as other elements such as leaves and gravel that were meant to be said for real “nests” that parents created for their children.

They also discovered that the frogs themselves could also spend all night to protect these sites from predators by ending their wake only at dawn.