Test your smarts on comb jellies prehistoric warfare and the smallest genome

first_img One 10 times as fast. Scientists often look to the so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum as an analog for today’s rising temperatures, even though it happened more slowly than current global warming. A lingering question is what caused the massive prehistoric injection of carbon in the first place. It may have begun with bouts of volcanism in the oceans, which would have heated up organic carbon in surrounding rocks that then wound up in the atmosphere. Rising atmospheric temperatures would trigger other processes, such as the release of methane buried in the sea floor or carbon trapped in permafrost. Prairie dogs. Over 6 years of studying white-tailed prairie dogs in Colorado, researchers saw them chase and kill ground squirrels more than 100 times. But prairie dogs are herbivores, and they don’t eat their kills. So what turns them into ruthless murderers? Prairie dogs and ground squirrels eat the same grasses, live in the same prairies, and sometimes even use the same burrows. These close quarters and shared tastes pit the two species directly against each other in competition for food. Killing off ground squirrels boosts prairie dogs’ chances: The more squirrel murders these mostly female prairie dogs committed, the more offspring they were able to raise, the researchers found. Prairie dogs 4500 Humans aren’t nature’s only cold-blooded killers. Which animal routinely kills more baby ground squirrels than all other predators combined? Cockroaches Manta rays. When researchers put a mirror in the tanks of two giant manta rays, the fish didn’t act like they were meeting a fresh face. Instead, they circled around and flapped their wings, as if testing to see whether the reflection moved. This is similar to how apes act in front of a mirror, implying that manta rays are more self-aware than scientists previously thought. But other researchers—including the one who created the “mirror test” in the first place—are skeptical. They say the manta rays may have just been curious. Time’s Up! LOADING Venezuela Eating an injured member of its own species 0 / 10 Wine grapes 901 Twice as fast Only a small number of species, including humans and dolphins, recognize themselves in a mirror, suggesting self-awareness. Which species may have recently passed the mirror test and joined that exclusive club? March 28, 2016 The Science Quiz The faster you answer, the higher your score! Thailand Egypt 473 10 times as fast Pooping out of its butt Pooping out of its butt. The first animals that arose lacked an anus and had to eat and excrete through the same hole. Their modern-day descendants, such as sea sponges, sea anemones, and jellyfish, continue to use that strategy. Scientists thought comb jellies did too, until one researcher caught them on tape defecating through anus-like pores. The as-yet unpublished findings disrupt the stepwise progression of digestive anatomy from one to two holes early in animal evolution. French Polynesia March 28, 2016 Scientists have spotted an intriguing bright spot on the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. What do they think it might be? Regenerating after being cut in half Fifty-six million years ago, a massive amount of carbon surged into the atmosphere, triggering a rise in temperature of 5°C. A new study suggests that the carbon was vented over the course of 4000 years. How much faster are humans pumping carbon into the atmosphere today? Wine grapes. In general, an early grape harvest—and a good wine—depends on a wet spring, a hot summer, and a late season drought. The researchers found that grape harvests have come on an average of 10 days earlier since 1981, thanks to higher summer temperatures. In other words, global warming has been good to wine. But that might be changing. Before 1981, hot summer temperatures typically came in drought years, and drought was an essential predictor for an early harvest and a good wine year. Now, the hot summers arrive with or without drought—a sign that the climatic relationship is not holding. Swimming in a directed manner, rather than passively floating Eagles Farmers are worried that hotter, drier weather associated with climate change could make it hard to grow many important crops. But so far, at least one is thriving in today’s higher temperatures. Which is it? 0 Known as Syn 3.0, the new organism has a genome whittled down to the bare essentials needed to survive and reproduce. It has 52 fewer genes than the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, which with 525 genes has the fewest of any free-living natural organism. Syn 3.0’s streamlined genetic structure excites evolutionary biologists and biotechnologists, who anticipate adding genes back to it one by one to study their effects. The function of 149 of Syn 3.0’s genes—roughly one-third—remains unknown. Investigators’ first task is to probe the roles of those genes, which promise new insights into the basic biology of life. Question Five Score A methane lake Weasels 525 No one knows Germany. The 3200-year-old battlefield was discovered along the Tollense River about 120 kilometers north of Berlin. Archaeologists have unearthed wooden clubs, bronze spearheads, and flint and bronze arrowheads. They have also found the remains of at least five horses and more than 100 men. Bones from hundreds more may remain unexcavated, and thousands of others may have fought but survived. The site may be the earliest direct evidence—with weapons and warriors together—of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world. Average A volcano The Zika virus has raced through Latin America, and the link to the birth defect microcephaly is growing stronger. Researchers now estimate that the Zika virus arrived in Brazil between May and December 2013. Where did it come from? William E. Browne Koalas Britain Two Results: You answered out of correctly – Click to revisit Bananas Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a major battle that took place around 1250 B.C.E., an early instance of systemic warfare. Where did it take place? Top Ranker Nine No one knows. To try to retrace the virus’s route, the scientists compared the genomes of the Brazilian samples to those from patients in nine other countries, six from the current outbreak in the Americas and one each from French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, and Thailand. The sequences from the Americas were the most closely related; the sequence from Thailand was the most distant. That suggests the virus entered Brazil only once and spread to the rest of the Americas from there, but it’s not enough to pin down the source. Although researchers tend to focus on a 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia as a likely origin, other Zika-endemic countries have much larger populations and send more travelers to Brazil, including the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Dogs A mixture of ice and mineral salts. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which is in orbit around Ceres, has taken the highest resolution picture of the bright spot in the middle of the 90-kilometer-wide Occator crater. Scientists can now see that at the center of Occator is a 9-kilometer-wide pit, and in the center of that is an uplifted dome, 2 kilometers wide and full of ringlike fractures. Heat from the impact that made Occator about 80 million years ago probably allowed a mixture of ice, salts, and rock in Ceres’s interior to become more fluid and rise up to the surface, scientists say. They hope the fractured dome could give them a window to the ice thought to dwell below Ceres’s surface. You A mixture of ice and mineral salts Coyotes This week, scientists synthesized a bacterium with the smallest genome of any freely living organism. How many genes does it have? Start Quiz Trick question—today’s rate is slower 100 times as fast Manta rays Greece The Science Quiz Germany Rice Corn An error occurred loading the Quiz. Please try again later. An alien spaceship Back in the natural world, comb jellies evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. Scientists believed the gelatinous sea creatures hadn’t changed much since then. But recently, a comb jelly was caught on tape doing something shockingly complex. What was it? Tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.5 million people in 2014, making it the deadliest infectious disease in the world. But just because you get infected with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis doesn’t mean you’ll get sick. Out of every 10 people infected, how many develop TB? One. More than 2 billion people—almost a third of the world’s population—carry M. tuberculosis, and predicting who will fall ill has so far been impossible. Now, scientists may have found one answer: a set of 16 genes that is more active in people who will develop TB than in those who are infected but stay healthy. Overall, the gene signature test picked out about 80% of infected people who would go on to develop TB in the next 12 months, but it also wrongly fingered about one-third of the people who would remain healthy. Still, scientists say, that level of accuracy may be enough to start at-risk people on drugs given to prevent TB. Share your scorelast_img read more