Caption: Slovenian helicopter crews provided assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the devastating floods, May 2014. Now scientists think they can explain exactly what atmospheric conditions caused these floods. (Photo: EC/ECHO/EEAS/EU Delegation BiH)
April 16 2016
Here are five extra short summaries of scientific studies published during the past week, available free via open-access journals for anyone and everyone to read and enjoy!
1) Scientists film thousands of Red Crabs swarming across the deep ocean floor whilst diving in the Hannibal Seamount off the Panama coast. The crabs were later identified by DNA analysis as Pleuroncodes planipes, which are common of the Californian coast but have never been seen this far south before. The scientists behind the discovery suggest that the low oxygen waters provide a relative sanctuary for the crabs, away from predators. The team plans to head back to study the underwater mountainous region. Such deep-sea areas are low in oxygen and relatively acidic and are a good test site to study possible effects of climate change to ocean habitats. The results are published as open-access in the scientific journal PeerJ.
2) Archaeologists discover how the oldest known shaman headdresses were made. The team studied the largest known collection of prehistoric headdresses that were discovered in Yorkshire, UK and made from 11,000-year-old red deer skulls with antlers in tact. They analysed organic residues and took 3D-images to visualise the skulls, and experimented with a range of techniques until they achieved a similar result. The most likely methods were faster than the archaeologists had expected. Initial treatment was to pack the skull with damp clay and place it in a bed of embers for four hours to remove the skin and make the bone easier to work with. The results are published as open-access in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
3) ‘Superfast’ wing muscles help tropical birds find a mate, shows new research. Scientists studied wing movements of male red-capped and golden-crowned manakins. Their wings beat twice as fast as these little birds need in order to fly, and seems to be a part of an extravagant courtship. The results should help medical researchers figure out how they can make muscles perform better in humans, when they are impaired by diseases such as motor disorders, cancers, or HIV. The results are published as open-access in the scientific journal eLife.
4) Record Balkan floods in 2014 likely caused by slowdown of giant airstreams, shows new research. A weather system was trapped over the Balkans by a temporary slowdown in giant airstreams–so-called planetary waves that circle the globe between the equator and the North Pole. These air streams usually flow eastwards, but in May 2014, they essentially stopped moving for several days and trapped a cyclone over the Balkans causing extensive flooding throughout the region. This type of trapping may become more common in the future say the scientists behind the new research, which is published open-access in the scientific journal Science Advances.
5) Sexually transmitted infections may have brought down the Neanderthals, suggests new research. Neanderthals may have contracted STIs from anatomically modern humans–homo sapiens–as they migrated out of Africa. The scientists behind the new research studied pathogen genomes and DNA from ancient bones. They found that some infectious diseases are many thousands of years older than scientists previously thought. Neanderthals may have been unable to adapt to these tropical diseases, which may have contributed to the Neanderthal’s ultimate demise. The results are published as open-access in the scientific journal American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Pineda, J., Cho, W., Starczak, V., Govindarajan, A., Guzman, H., Girdhar, Y., Holleman, R., Churchill, J., Singh, H., & Ralston, D. (2016). A crab swarm at an ecological hotspot: patchiness and population density from AUV observations at a coastal, tropical seamount PeerJ, 4 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1770
Little, A., Elliott, B., Conneller, C., Pomstra, D., Evans, A., Fitton, L., Holland, A., Davis, R., Kershaw, R., O’Connor, S., O’Connor, T., Sparrow, T., Wilson, A., Jordan, P., Collins, M., Colonese, A., Craig, O., Knight, R., Lucquin, A., Taylor, B., & Milner, N. (2016). Technological Analysis of the World’s Earliest Shamanic Costume: A Multi-Scalar, Experimental Study of a Red Deer Headdress from the Early Holocene Site of Star Carr, North Yorkshire, UK PLOS ONE, 11 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152136
Fuxjager, M., Goller, F., Dirkse, A., Sanin, G., & Garcia, S. (2016). Select forelimb muscles have evolved superfast contractile speed to support acrobatic social displays eLife, 5 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.13544
Stadtherr, L., Coumou, D., Petoukhov, V., Petri, S., & Rahmstorf, S. (2016). Record Balkan floods of 2014 linked to planetary wave resonance Science Advances, 2 (4) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501428
Houldcroft, C., & Underdown, S. (2016). Neanderthal genomics suggests a pleistocene time frame for the first epidemiologic transition American Journal of Physical Anthropology DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22985