Special Issue: The Gas Revolution

Natural gas extracted from a deep shale formation by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology burns at a well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Fracking is enabling a shale gas production boom, remaking energy markets, and stoking environmental concerns. See page 1464.

[Photo © Les Stone/Corbis]

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© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Eddies Move Mountains (of Ocean Water)

Swirling ocean currents called mesoscale eddies — previously underestimated as influential global ocean circulation — can trap and transport as much water as other elements thought to drive ocean circulation, a new study reports. Since most climate models simulating global warming underestimate the transport of ocean materials by mesocale eddies, the researchers say, these models must function at higher resolutions to capture the effects they observed. 

Read more about this research from the 26 June issue of Science Express here.

[Image courtesy of Sergey Kryazhimskiy. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Eddies Move Mountains (of Ocean Water)

Swirling ocean currents called mesoscale eddies — previously underestimated as influential global ocean circulation — can trap and transport as much water as other elements thought to drive ocean circulation, a new study reports. Since most climate models simulating global warming underestimate the transport of ocean materials by mesocale eddies, the researchers say, these models must function at higher resolutions to capture the effects they observed.

Read more about this research from the 26 June issue of Science Express here.

[Image courtesy of Sergey Kryazhimskiy. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Why the Same Electric Organs Showed Up In Unrelated Fish

The electric organs fish use to navigate and communicate — mystifying to scientists in that they have shown up repeatedly in unrelated fish species — evolved in their hosts because certain developmental pathways were modified in each one, a new study reports. Jason Gallant and colleagues assembled the genome of the electric eel. The work of Gallant and colleagues suggests that a common genetic regulatory network was repeatedly targeted by natural selection, shaping the development of electric organs in creatures that needed them to survive. It helps explain the genetic mechanisms leading to convergent evolution.

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image © 2014 Jason Gallant. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Why the Same Electric Organs Showed Up In Unrelated Fish

The electric organs fish use to navigate and communicate — mystifying to scientists in that they have shown up repeatedly in unrelated fish species — evolved in their hosts because certain developmental pathways were modified in each one, a new study reports. Jason Gallant and colleagues assembled the genome of the electric eel. The work of Gallant and colleagues suggests that a common genetic regulatory network was repeatedly targeted by natural selection, shaping the development of electric organs in creatures that needed them to survive. It helps explain the genetic mechanisms leading to convergent evolution.

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image © 2014 Jason Gallant. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Finding Flowers Gets Harder amid Competing Smells

Insects follow the odors of flowers to find their next nectar nibble, but a new study reports that competing odors, including manmade odors, make this task harder by altering odor perception of the target odor in the insects’ brains. Until now, scientists haven’t known much about how insects discriminate the odors of certain flowers amid the variety of natural and manmade odors in the air. The work of Riffell et al. reveals that both target odor frequency and odor background content dictate the ability of an insect to track a target scent. Changes to the natural odor background, potentially by human-produced odors, could make finding target flowers more difficult for pollinators. 

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Kiley Riffell. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Finding Flowers Gets Harder amid Competing Smells

Insects follow the odors of flowers to find their next nectar nibble, but a new study reports that competing odors, including manmade odors, make this task harder by altering odor perception of the target odor in the insects’ brains. Until now, scientists haven’t known much about how insects discriminate the odors of certain flowers amid the variety of natural and manmade odors in the air. The work of Riffell et al. reveals that both target odor frequency and odor background content dictate the ability of an insect to track a target scent. Changes to the natural odor background, potentially by human-produced odors, could make finding target flowers more difficult for pollinators.

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Kiley Riffell. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

A More Ancient Origin of Animal-Built Reefs

The discovery of an approximately 548-million-year-old reef in Namibia, made of the world’s earliest known skeletal animals, suggests that these aquatic organisms built reefs before the Cambrian explosion (currently dated to have begun around 540 million years ago). Until now, the oldest reefs on record made of such metazoans had been dated to about 530 million years of age. The researchers’ findings not only imply that metazoans had been building reefs millions of years before the Cambrian explosion, but also that the evolutionary pressures that led to hard parts on and connecting animals, such as skeletons and reefs, were present millions of years prior to that great speciation event as well.

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Fred Bowyer. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

A More Ancient Origin of Animal-Built Reefs

The discovery of an approximately 548-million-year-old reef in Namibia, made of the world’s earliest known skeletal animals, suggests that these aquatic organisms built reefs before the Cambrian explosion (currently dated to have begun around 540 million years ago). Until now, the oldest reefs on record made of such metazoans had been dated to about 530 million years of age. The researchers’ findings not only imply that metazoans had been building reefs millions of years before the Cambrian explosion, but also that the evolutionary pressures that led to hard parts on and connecting animals, such as skeletons and reefs, were present millions of years prior to that great speciation event as well.

Read more about this research from the 27 June issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Fred Bowyer. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

scienceisbeauty:

Front pages after moon landing, from Poynter.

Skulls with Mix of Traits Illuminate Human Evolution

Neandertals’ trademark facial features took shape as a first step in their evolution, while their other defining features came along later, and not all at once, researchers have reported. These researchers were studying a collection of skulls in a Spanish cave, where they identified both Neandertal-derived features in the skulls and features associated with more primitive humans. Having this new data has allowed scientists to better understand hominin evolution during the Middle Pleistocene, a period in which the path of hominin evolution has been controversial. 

The work of Arsuaga et al. helps address hypotheses about Neandertal evolution, specifically the accretion model hypothesis, which suggests that Neandertals evolved their defining features at different times, not in a single linear sweep. 

Read more about this research from the 20 June issue of Science here.

[Image © Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Skulls with Mix of Traits Illuminate Human Evolution

Neandertals’ trademark facial features took shape as a first step in their evolution, while their other defining features came along later, and not all at once, researchers have reported. These researchers were studying a collection of skulls in a Spanish cave, where they identified both Neandertal-derived features in the skulls and features associated with more primitive humans. Having this new data has allowed scientists to better understand hominin evolution during the Middle Pleistocene, a period in which the path of hominin evolution has been controversial.

The work of Arsuaga et al. helps address hypotheses about Neandertal evolution, specifically the accretion model hypothesis, which suggests that Neandertals evolved their defining features at different times, not in a single linear sweep.

Read more about this research from the 20 June issue of Science here.

[Image © Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Cell Proliferation in Hard Environments

A new study identifies a signaling pathway that cells use to convert information about the stiffness of the material that surrounds them into intracellular stiffness, a process that in turn influences cellular behavior.  This could help researchers understand how to improve or maintain blood flow in conditions like fibrosis or other diseases in which the ECM surrounding the blood vessels is altered. 

Read more about this research from the 17 June issue of Science Signaling here.

[Image courtesy of Keeley L. Mui. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Cell Proliferation in Hard Environments

A new study identifies a signaling pathway that cells use to convert information about the stiffness of the material that surrounds them into intracellular stiffness, a process that in turn influences cellular behavior. This could help researchers understand how to improve or maintain blood flow in conditions like fibrosis or other diseases in which the ECM surrounding the blood vessels is altered.

Read more about this research from the 17 June issue of Science Signaling here.

[Image courtesy of Keeley L. Mui. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

DNA Blood Test Detects Heart Transplant Rejection

A blood test that gauges differences in the circulating DNA of heart transplant recipients could be used to diagnose the likelihood of heart transplant rejection and reduce the need for costly and invasive heart biopsies (a procedure that involves removing heart muscle tissue for analysis). The findings could potentially reduce the number of biopsies that transplant patients undergo, eventually replacing the risky procedure with a simple blood test for monitoring organ rejection.

Read more about this research from the 18 June issue of Science Translational Medicine here.

[Image © C. Bickel/Science Translational Medicine]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

DNA Blood Test Detects Heart Transplant Rejection

A blood test that gauges differences in the circulating DNA of heart transplant recipients could be used to diagnose the likelihood of heart transplant rejection and reduce the need for costly and invasive heart biopsies (a procedure that involves removing heart muscle tissue for analysis). The findings could potentially reduce the number of biopsies that transplant patients undergo, eventually replacing the risky procedure with a simple blood test for monitoring organ rejection.

Read more about this research from the 18 June issue of Science Translational Medicine here.

[Image © C. Bickel/Science Translational Medicine]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Why the Bright Center of a Galaxy Went Dark

In 2013, astronomers noticed that something was obscuring the emission from a bright, well known active galaxy, NGC 5548. Now, Jelle Kaastra and colleagues suggest that the blocking agent may be a fast-moving and clumpy stream of gas. Its location only a few light days away from the galaxy’s nucleus may imply an origin in the accretion disk. This finding may provide some future insight into the workings of more powerful quasars and how they influence their environment, they say.

This video, courtesy of Kaastra et al. (Science/AAAS 2014) provides an animated journey through the active galaxy NGC 5548.

Read more about this research from the 19 June issue of Science Express here.

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.