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Ugly Bug Contest

“The biologists from Dow AgroSciences, NAU Imaging and Histology Core Facility, ASU International Institute for Species Exploration and W. M. Keck Bioimaging Laboratory are pleased to present the Ugly Bug contestants for 2009. Each of the bugs are anxious to be crowned champion so be sure to vote soon and vote often… and remember…Ugly is only cuticle deep.” (ASU-Ask A Biologist)

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Most Babies Born Today Will Live 100 Years

Life Expectancy at birth (years) {{col-begin}}...
Life expectancy at birth

“More than half of babies born today in rich nations will live for 100 years as earlier diagnoses and better treatment of illnesses such as heart disease extend lives, scientists estimate.

Life expectancy increased by three decades or more over the 20th century in countries such as the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Canada and Japan, and that trend will continue, according to a review published today in The Lancet medical journal. Without any further improvement in longevity, three- quarters of babies will mark their 75th birthdays, the Danish and German researchers wrote.” ()

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The Neanderthal Genome Project

An international consortium of researchers is sequencing the 3 billion bases that make up the genome of our closest relative – the Neandertal

The sequence is generated from DNA extracted from three Croatian Neandertal fossils, using novel methods developed for this project.

The Neandertal genome sequence will clarify the evolutionary relationship between humans and Neandertals as well as help identify those genetic changes that enabled modern humans to leave Africa and rapidly spread around the world, starting around 100,000 years ago. (Max Planck Institute)

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A Little Stress May Be Good for You

“A lot of stress can turn your hair gray, but a little stress can actually delay aging. A protein tied to protecting cells from stress also helps slow aging, a new study finds. The research, published February 20 in Science, identifies a key regulator of a mechanism cells use to prevent protein damage from stress.

Exposure to heat, cold or heavy metals can damage proteins and unravel them from their usual conformations — trauma that can cause cell death. But cells have a damage-limiting mechanism called the heat shock response to combat these and other stresses. As part of the heat shock response, special protein repair molecules patch up the damaged proteins and refold them correctly, preventing death and extending the life of the cell.” via Science News.

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Second Genesis: Life, but not as we know it

The Miller-Urey experiment attempts to recreat...
The Miller-Urey experiment
attempts to recreate…

“Around the world, several labs are drawing close to the threshold of a second genesis, an achievement that some would call one of the most profound scientific breakthroughs of all time. David Deamer, a biochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been saying that scientists would create synthetic life in “five or 10 years” for three decades, but finally he might actually be right. “The momentum is building,” he says. “We’re knocking at the door.”

Meanwhile, a no-less profound search is on for a “shadow biosphere” – life forms that are unrelated to the life we know because they are descendants of an independent origin of life. We know for sure that life got going on Earth once, so why couldn’t it have happened twice? Many scientists argue that there is no reason why a second genesis might not have taken place, and no reason why its descendants should not still be living among us.” via New Scientist.

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First Extinct-Animal Clone Created

José M.

“An extinct animal has been resurrected by cloning for the first time—though the clone died minutes after birth. Findings revealed January 23 in the journal Theriogenology describe the use of frozen skin in 2003 to clone a bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of Spanish ibex that went extinct in 2000. Scientists had cloned endangered species before, but not one that had officially died out.” via National Geographic News.

Related:
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The year’s weirdest animals

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'Horror frog' breaks own bones to produce claws
One of the best 10-best lists I’ve run across:

“From a sea-slug that runs on solar power, to a bug that lives in total isolation; from the world's smallest snake to a one-tonne rodent – here are the 10 oddest species from 2008.”

via New Scientist.

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Deep-sea superorganism

Portuguese Man-O-War (Physalia physalis).

“Here is some terrific video of a bioluminescent deep-sea siphonophore — an eerily fantastic creature that appears to be a single, large organism, but which is actually a colony of numerous individual jellyfish-like animals that behave and function together as a single entity. The individual units, called zooids, all share the same genetic material and each perform a specialized role within the colony. The best-known siphonophore is the poisonous Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis), which lives at the surface of the ocean, unlike the one shown in this video (filmed at a depth of 770 meters). Some siphonophore species can grow up to 40 meters (130 ft) in length.”

via Pink Tentacle.