The leaf cycle:

During the spring and summer leaves serve as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. The process, known as photosynthesis; takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green colour. Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments; carotenes and xanthophyll, however most of the year these colours are masked by great amounts of chlorophyll.

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Genetically Modified Bacteria Conduct Electricity, Ushering in New Era of Green Electronics
Soil bacteria modified to conduct 2000 times as much electricity as that in untreated dirt

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have genetically modified common soil bacteria to produce nanowires capable of conducting electricity at a level that surprised even the scientists themselves. After years of skepticism that this was even theoretically possible, the practical demonstration could lead to a new generation of “green” electronics in which nanowires could be produced in plant waste, without the need for toxic chemicals.

The research, which was supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), goes back to a series of papers that Derek Lovley, a professor at UM Amherst, published back in 2011. Lovely overcame skeptics who claimed it was impossible for soil bacteria to conduct electricity. Brushing aside computer models indicating that it was impossible to make the bacteria into electrically conductive nanowires, Lovley demonstrated through experiments that it was indeed possible.

“Research like Dr. Lovley’s could lead to the development of new electronic materials to meet the increasing demand for smaller, more powerful computing devices,” said Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, in a press release. “Being able to produce extremely thin wires with sustainable materials has enormous potential application as components of electronic devices such as sensors, transistors and capacitors.”

The bacteria that Lovley has used in his experiments are called Geobacters; they possess nanoscale protein filaments extending outward from their bodies. These protein filaments are the key to the bacteria’s growth, as they allow it to make electrical connections to the iron oxide contained in the soil where it lives. While these connections allow the Geobacter to survive, it was believed that they could never be made to conduct electricity to the extent that it would ever be useful for human interests, namely electronics.

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290916 | 50/100 

it’s that point in the school year where i consider whether i should actually go to school every morning 

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No two kinds of retroviruses look—or act—the same

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers in the Institute for Molecular Virology and School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota report that most types of retroviruses have distinct, non-identical virus structures

Researchers analyzed seven different retroviruses including two types of HIV as well as HTLV-1, a virus that causes T-cell leukemia. They also examined retroviruses that infect birds, mice, chimpanzees and fish, that can cause cancer or immunodeficiency.

“Each kind of retrovirus has distinct structural features and each assembles virus particles differently,” said Louis Mansky, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Molecular Virology, who is also a member of the Masonic Cancer Center. “Most researchers assume that all retroviruses are just like HIV, but they’re not. We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach when studying retroviruses and discovering new strategies for antiviral treatments or vaccines.”

Jessica L. Martin et al, Distinct particle morphologies revealed through comparative parallel analyses of retrovirus-like particles, Journal of Virology (2016).  DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00666-16

Credit: Photo: CC, NIAID,
Scientists might have just found a way to protect babies from Zika
Light at the end of the tunnel.
By David Nield

Scientists have discovered a key mechanism by which Zika virus affects the human foetal brain, and the findings suggest that two existing antiviral treatments might protect babies against the most damaging effects.

These existing drugs have the potential to stop the development of microcephaly, a condition associated with Zika that causes shrunken heads and underdeveloped brains in newborn babies.

We’re not talking about a cure for Zika yet, but the team from Yale University is hoping to find ways to block the mechanism they’ve found, to help give affected babies a better chance of a healthy arrival into the world.

“There is an urgent need to identify therapeutic approaches to halt Zika infection, especially in pregnant women,” said one of the researchers, Marco Onorati. “In the interim, we hope these findings can lead to therapies that might minimise the damage caused by this virus.”

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 I like the way they say they don’t wish to “inconvenience” the parents and children.

Miami-Dade County Stops Aerial Pesticide and Naled Spraying on Weekdays

Earlier this month, a Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control plane buzzed over New Times’ Wynwood office building around 11:15 a.m., wafting the organic, larva-killing bacterial pesticide Bti over the neighborhood. A nearby worker noticed a reporter taking photos and chimed in.

“If you’re under the cloud, it gets on your skin,” she said, extending her arms in front of her. “You get like a film on you.”

That fact, coupled with New Times’ report that naled, the other pesticide the county had been spraying aerially, is potentially harmful to growing fetuses and is banned in Europe, has created a stir across the neighborhood since the county began blasting the area August 7 amid a Zika outbreak.

So, apparently out of concern for area schoolchildren, Miami-Dade County announced today it would suspend aerial pesticide spraying on weekdays and spray only on an as-needed basis on weekends from now on.

“We have adjusted our spraying schedule to avoid any inconvenience to our local school system and the children, families, and teachers in our community,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said in a statement. “As of this time, no additional adulticide aerial sprayings using naled are planned. We will continue to monitor our mosquito-control surveillance data and will schedule additional sprayings as warranted on weekends.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say naled can be safely sprayed in small doses to kill mosquitoes, but the EPA bans naled use inside homes and has asked that organizations voluntarily phase out using those pesticides. A 2010 Emory University study suggested that fetal and early-childhood exposure to organophosphates such as naled could be linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The European Union, which polices environmental threats much more closely than the U.S., has banned naled out of fear that it poses an “unacceptable risk” to human and environmental health.

Koshisaurus katsuyama

By Jack Wood on @thewoodparable

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Name: Koshisaurus katsuyama 

Name Meaning: Koshi Reptile

First Described: 2015

Described By: Shibata and Azuma

Classification: Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Genasauria, Neornithischia, Cerapoda, Ornithopoda, Iguanodontia, Dryomorpha, Ankylopollexia, Styracosterna, Hadrosauriformes, Hadrosauroidea

Koshisaurus is a Hadrosauroid known from the Kitadani Formation of the Tetori Group in Fukui, Japan. It lived in the Barremian to Aptian ages of the Early Cretaceous, approximately 128 million years ago. It is known from isolated skeletal elements from a single individual, including portions of the jaw. It was probably older than 3 years when it died and was a subadult individual; as such, it is entirely possible that it is a young individual of Fukuisaurus, as the two lived in similar locations, especially since it has a mixture of more derived and less derived traits. It was found, phylogenetically, to be an indeterminant Hadrosauroid. Given that it lived alongside Fukuisaurus, it likely the two came into competition with one another. It also lived alongside Fukuiraptor, Fukuititan, and Fukuivenator, so at least it has a slightly more interesting name. 


Azuma, Y., X. Xu, M. Shibata, S. Kawabe, K. Miyata, T. Imai. 2016. A bizarre theropod from the Early Cretaceous of Japan highlighting mosaic evolution among coelurosaurians. Scientific Reprots 6 (20478).

Shibata, M., Y. Azuma. 2015. New basal hadrosauroid (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda) from the Lower Cretaceous Kitadani Formation, Fukui, central Japan. Zootaxa 3914 (4): 421-440. 

Shout out goes to @currylemon!

Newly Discovered Virus Is All Broken Up

A new study released yesterday may just overturn key concepts regarding the structure of viruses. Scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have found a previously unknown mosquito virus that comes in multiple pieces.

Think of all the science fiction movies you’ve ever seen, where the villain (alien, robot, shapeless blob…) is cut up into multiple pieces that pull themselves back together and keep going.

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Zebra finch parents tell eggs: It’s hot outside

By calling to their eggs, zebra finch parents may be helping their young prepare for a hotter world brought on by climate change.

As I glance out at the yard, I’m charmed by nature’s details: the magnolia tree’s fuzzy buds fattening up for spring; the melting snow on the lawn that’s left hundreds of grass follicles; long arcs of wild raspberry canes covered in their chalky lavender winter mask. But I’m also struck by the everythingness of everything in cahoots with the everythingness of everything else. When I look at my hand now, I scout its fortune-teller’s lines, and the long peninsulas of the fingers, each one tipped by a tiny weather system of prints; I see it whole, as one hand. But I also know that only a tenth of what I’m seeing is human cells. The rest is microbes.

When all is said and done, both our parasites and we there innkeepers are diverse – no one hosts the same reeking and scampering microbial zoo. Our microbes can change either in ratio or in kind at the drop of a cookie or in the splash from a locker-room puddle or through an ardent kiss, and then we have to adapt quickly. So it’s possible that some diseases really are inherited, but the genes that bestowed them were bacterial. When you think about it, for a major trait to evolve – something grand like the advent of language or urge to explore – only one gene has to change on the Y chromosome of one man. That would be enough, over many many generations, to create a predisposition or a trend in an entire culture. It all depends on the hijinks of the maddening microbe.

Maybe this should also remind us how much of a pointillist jigsaw puzzle a personality really is. As a friend approaches with a smile, we greet a single person, one idiosyncratic and delightful being who is recognizable – predictable, even, at times. And yet every “I” is really a “we”, not one of anything, but countless cells and processes just barely holding each other in equilibrium. Some of those may be invisible persuaders of one sort or another: protozoa, viruses, bacteria, and other hobos. But I like knowing that life on Earth is always stranger and more filigreed than we guess, and that both the life forms we see and those we cannot see are equally vibrant and mysterious.

Where does your life story begin? When does the world start whittling your personality and casting your fate? At birth? In the womb? At the moment of conception, when DNA from your mother and father fuse, shuffling an ancient deck of genetic cards and dealing out traits at random from Mom or Dad? Long before womb-time, it would seem, much father back, before your parents’ courtship, even before their parents’, in a crucible of choices, daily dramas, environmental stresses, and upbringing. Our genome is only one part of our saga. The epigenome is another. The birdlike microbes singing in the eaves of the body are yet another. Together, they’re offering a greatly enriched view of the terra incognita inside us. In the process, sometimes loud as headlines, but more often silent as the glide of silk over glass, how we relate to our own nature is subtly changing.

—  Diane Ackerman, ‘The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us
Jinzhousaurus yangi

By José Carlos Cortés on @ryuukibart

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Name: Jinzhousaurus yangi

Name Meaning: Jinzhou Reptle

First Described: 2001

Described By: Wang & Xu

Classification: Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Genasauria, Neornithischia, Cerapoda, Ornithopoda, Iguanodontia, Dryomorpha, Ankylopollexia, Styracosterna, Hadrosauriformes, Hadrosauroidea

Jinzhousaurus is another Hadrosauroid, found from the Dakangpu member of the Yixian Formation in Liaoning, China. It dates back to the Hauterivian to Barremian ages of the Early Cretaceous, about 135 to 144 million years ago. It is known from a fairly complete skeleton, about 7 meters in length and with a half a meter long skull. Originally found to be an indeterminant ornithopod, it has been since found in subsequent analyses to be a Hadrosauroid. It had some similarities to Iguanodon, such as in the shape of its snout and skull, though some parts of its jaw were different. This may indicate that it had a modified feeding strategy than Iguanodon. It was also very similar to Probactrosaurus, though less similar to Hadrosaurids than it was. It is the first large sized Ornithischian known from its ecosystem, and there are no Sauropods in its locality, indicating that it had a major role as a large sized herbivore. Furthermore, there were no large sized predators in the ecosystem, which might either be an aspect of bias or due to no large predators being present to feed on Jinzhousaurus, potentially due to flora turnover. It lived alongside such dinosaurs as Liaoningosaurus, Archaeorhynchus, Confuciusornis, Dalingheornis, Hongshanornis, Longicrusavis, Shanweiniao, Zhongornis, Sinornithosaurus, Tianyuraptor, Sinosauropteryx, and Yixianosaurus. 


Barrett, P. M., R. J. Butler, W. Xiao-Lin, X. Xing. 2009. Cranial anatomy of the Iguanodontoid Ornithopod Jinzhousaurus yangi from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of China. Acta Paleontologica Polonica 54(1): 35-48.

McDonald, A. T., D. G. Wolfe, J. I. Kirkland. 2010. A new basal hadrosauroid (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda) from the Turonian of New Mexico. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30(3): 799-812. 

Wang, X., & X. Xu. 2001. A new iguanodontid (Jinzhousaurus yangi gen. et sp. nov.) from the Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China. Chinese Science Bulletin 46(19): 1669-1672. 

Zhou, Z. 2006. Evolutionary radiation of the Jehol Biota: chronological and ecological perspectives. Geological Journal 41: 377-393. 

Shout out goes to @paranormaality!