Rafflesia consueloae: New Species of Giant Rafflesia Discovered

A new species of the plant genus Rafflesia – R. consueloae — has been described from the Philippine Island of Luzon by a team of scientists led by Prof. Edwino Fernando of the University of the Philippines.

Rafflesia consueloae . Image credit: Edwino S. Fernando.
Rafflesia is a genus of endophytic, holoparasitic plants, well-known for producing the largest flowers in the world.
“ Rafflesia flowers are unique in that they are entirely parasitic on roots and stems of specific vines in the forests and have no distinct roots, stems, or leaves of their own,” Prof. Fernando said.
“Thus, they are entirely dependent on their host plants for water and nutrients.”
When in bloom, all Rafflesia flowers emit a repulsive odor, similar to that of rotting flesh.
The best known of Raffl… Read more

Dodo Bird Was Not So Stupid After All

According to a new study in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society , an extinct bird known as the dodo ( Raphus cucullatus ) was in fact relatively smart.

The dodo ( Raphus cucullatus ) by Frederick William Frohawk, 1905.
The dodo is an extinct flightless bird that lived on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It was discovered by European sailors in 1598, and was extinct by 1680.
The bird was about 1 m tall, weighed 10-23 kg, and had blue-gray plumage, a big head, a long bill, small useless wings, stout yellow legs, and a tuft of curly feathers high on its rear end.
Even though the dodo has become an example of stupidity, oddity, obsolescence, and extinction, most aspects of its biology are still unknown.
To examine the brain of the dodo, a team of researchers from Denmar… Read more

Neanderthal-Derived DNA Has Significant Impact on Modern Human Traits

A large team of scientists led by Vanderbilt University geneticist John Capra has found surprising correlations between Neanderthal-derived DNA and disease states in humans.

A model of a Neanderthal man. Image credit: H. Neumann / Neanderthal Museum.
Previous studies have suggested that when populations of anatomically modern humans migrated out of Africa, they interbred with Neanderthals ( Homo neanderthalensis ).
More recently, genetic researchers have identified parts of the human genome carrying Neanderthal genetic variants, but they still don’t fully understand how Neanderthal-derived variants influence modern human traits.
Now, by comparing a genome-wide map of Neanderthal gene groups with health records of 28,000 adults of European ancestr… Read more

Researchers Create Unique Shape-Memory Polymer

A group of scientists at the University of Rochester has created a polymer material that undergoes a shape change that can be triggered by body temperature.

A time-lapse image of a previously deformed shape-memory network during recovery to its original shape upon contacting a finger in a room temperature environment. The image was obtained by periodic flash exposure over a time period of about 10 seconds. Image credit: J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester.
“Shape-memory polymers are polymer networks that can be deformed and temporarily fixed into an elastically strained, non-equilibrium shape. Shape-fixing occurs when strong intermolecular interactions between configurationally distorted polymer chains overcome the chains’ entropic restoring f… Read more