Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing

Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that covers 36 percent of the country’s oceans. The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open 17 percent of the parks’ area to commercial fishing and 16 percent of their area to recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012.

Read more here.

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Hagfish Take Weeks to Recover from Sliming Someone

If you see a hagfish don’t anger it. Under attack, these bottom scavengers and hunters releases thick, clear slime in astonishing quantities. Potential predators back off quickly when presented with the slime, because it clogs their gills. The hagfish itself escape their own mucus that they tie their bodies into a knot and scrape it off (A highway in Oregon was harder to clean up after a truck full of hagfish crashed there last year.)

However, it turns out that this mucus is a precious resource for a hagfish. After sliming a predator, the fish can take nearly a month to refill its slime glands. So leave the poor slime monsters alone.

Read about it here.

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Interested in responsible gene editing? Join the (new) club

You had to see this coming. When we first started discussing the possibility of gene editing, our second thought was “oh shoot, this could get ethically complicated quickly”.

So it’s not surprise that as we continue down this path, many a voice is rising in caution.

Read about some of them here.

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Telomeres are the new cholesterol

Telomeres are the caps at the end of your chromosomes. When they degrade beyond a certain point, the cells start kicking the bucket. It’s a natural part of aging (like the grey hairs I’m getting, and my eye sight going). So I laughed, loudly, when I read this:

““I am a bit concerned about your telomeres,” the doctor told me, evenly.

Raffaele hadn’t literally seen those telomeres of mine. What he’d seen were the results of blood work carried out by a lab called Repeat Diagnostics, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has become a leader in the burgeoning field of telomere diagnostics. Burgeoning because, as Raffaele posits, “telomeres are the new cholesterol”—by which he means they are (A) something measurable and understood to have explanatory powers and (B) something Big Pharma can aim at in the hope of finding the equivalent of a statin to make them more robust.”

This is crazy to me, and I look forward to seeing how it goes! Note, one way cancer gets around cell death after too many duplications is to elongate telomeres. Not to be paranoid, but I’ve got to think that this is not a good long term solution.

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Writing to reach your audience, where ever you come from

You’re research is only as good as your ability to communicate it.

That is a sad but true statement.

Which is why this awesome initiative, (Writing Support Across Global Research Communities: A Case Study for Public Health) to increase communication is so interesting and worth examining.

Read about it here.

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Blue foxes, and what can happen when new-comers infiltrate a small population

Arctic foxes are endangered in Sweden, Norway and Finland, scattered in isolated populations. And a group atop the highest mountain in southern Sweden, Helagsfjället, six white foxes settled in 2000s.

In 2010, a local ranger noticed his foxes had changed color, to “blue”. The influx of new foxes provides an interesting opportunity to study the importance of migrants in small and isolated populations.

And, importantly, it affords me the opportunity to talk about blue foxes, and at the end of the day, that’s also pretty awesome. Read about it here!

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Divided by DNA: The uneasy relationship between archaeology and ancient genomics

Genetics are having a disruptive influence on humans complex past. For example:

Thirty kilometres north of Stonehenge, stands a less-famous group of Neolithic stones. Established around 3600 BC by early farming communities, the West Kennet long barrow is an earthen mound with five chambers, adorned with giant stone slabs. At first, it served as a tomb for some three dozen men, women and children. But people continued to visit for more than 1,000 years, filling the chambers with relics such as pottery and beads that have been interpreted as tributes to ancestors or gods.

The artefacts offer a view of those visitors and their relationship with the wider world. Changes in pottery styles there sometimes echoed distant trends in continental Europe, such as the appearance of bell-shaped beakers — a connection that signals the arrival of new ideas and people in Britain. But many archaeologists think these material shifts meshed into a generally stable culture that continued to follow its traditions for centuries.

But last year, reports started circulating that seemed to challenge this picture of stability. A study1 analysing genome-wide data from 170 ancient Europeans, including 100 associated with Bell Beaker-style artefacts, suggested that the people who had built the barrow and buried their dead there had all but vanished by 2000 BC. The genetic ancestry of Neolithic Britons, according to the study, was almost entirely displaced. Yet somehow the new arrivals carried on with many of the Britons’ traditions. “That didn’t fit for me,” says Carlin, who has been struggling to reconcile his research with the DNA findings.

 

So can genetic studies overturn work done by dozens of researchers over decades? Is the promise of ancient DNA too good to be true, or a whole new window into our ancestors?

Read about the ongoing struggle here.

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