New Study Reveals Structure of Zika Virus

A team of researchers led by Purdue University scientists Michael Rossmann and Richard Kuhn is the first to determine the structure of the Zika virus, which reveals insights critical to the development of effective antiviral treatments and vaccines. A paper detailing the findings was published online this week in the journal Science .

A representation of the surface of Zika virus with protruding envelope glycoproteins (red) shown. Image credit: Devika Sirohi et al / Purdue University.
Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne flavivirus closely related to dengue virus. It was first identified in a rhesus monkey from Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and in mosquitoes Aedes africanus in the same forest in 1948. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda… Read more

Moorfields Acuity Chart: Novel Sight Test Detects Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration

An international team of scientists, led by Prof. Roger Anderson from the University of Ulster at Coleraine and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, has designed a test that can spot the first stages of sight loss in age-related macular degeneration.

Left: conventional chart. Right: Moorfields Acuity Chart. Image credit: Nilpa Shah et al.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss in industrialized countries.
Worldwide, AMD affects 8.69 percent of the adult population – almost double the prevalence of dementia.
AMD affects the macula – the central part of the light-sensitive layer of the eye (the retina) that we use for reading and recognizing fac… Read more

Brown Skuas Can Recognize Individual Humans, New Study Shows

Ornithologists from South Korea and Poland have shown for the first time that Antarctic brown skuas ( Stercorarius antarcticus ), a species that typically inhabited in human-free areas, are able to recognize individual humans who disturbed their nests.

Brown skuas ( Stercorarius antarcticus ). Image credit: B. Navez / CC BY-SA 3.0.
Dr. Won Young Lee of Korea Polar Research Institute and co-authors report in the journal Animal Cognition that they performed a series of experiments at Narebski Point on King George Island, Antarctica.
“We examine individual human recognition abilities in a wild Antarctic species, the brown skua ( Stercorarius antarcticus ), which lives away from typical human settlements and was only recently exposed to humans due to activities a… Read more

Researchers Create 3D Atlas of Dodo’s Skeletal Anatomy

A multinational team of scientists has created the first 3D atlas of the skeletal anatomy of the dodo ( Raphus cucullatus ), based upon two exceptional skeletons.

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 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.
The bird was discovered by European sailors in 1598, and was extinct by 1680.
Until the mid — 19th century, almost all that was known about the dodo was based on illustrations and written accounts by 17th century mariners, often of questionable accuracy.
Furthermore, only a few fra… Read more

Cryptotora thamicola: Cavefish Walks Like Four-Legged Creature

An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Brooke Flammang from New Jersey Institute of Technology, has identified unique anatomical features in a species of blind fish – the waterfall climbing cave fish ( Cryptotora thamicola ) — that enable the fish to walk and climb waterfalls in a manner comparable to terrestrial vertebrates.

The waterfall climbing cave fish ( Cryptotora thamicola ): dorsal view, resting on the bottom of glass tank. Image credit: Daphne Soares.
The waterfall climbing cave fish, also known as the cave angel fish, is a rare species of fish endemic to the Tham Maelana and Tham Susa karst formation in northern Thailand.
This fish can grow to 1.1 inches (2.8 cm). It is depigmented and has no visible eyes.
It can walk up rocks in fast-flowing water and… Read more

Nineteen New Pieces of Ancient Retroviral DNA Found in Human Genome

Nineteen previously unidentified pieces of non-human DNA — left by retroviruses that first infected human ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago — have been found by scientists in a study of 2,500 human genomes. According to the team, one stretch of newfound DNA, found in about 50 of the 2,500 genomes studied, contains an intact ancient virus – only the second such virus described.

This electron micrograph shows particles of a provirus resurrected from human DNA in 2006. Scale bar – 200 nm. Image credit: Marie Dewannieux et al.
The findings, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , add to what researchers already know about human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). That’s the name for the ancient infectious viruses that inserted… Read more

Myloplus zorroi: New Species of Pacu Discovered in Rio Madeira Basin

Scientists led by Dr. Marcelo Andrade of the Universidade Federal do Para report that they have discovered a new species of omnivorous freshwater fish in the Rio Madeira basin, Amazonia, and named it after the fictional secretive Latin American character Zorro.

Myloplus zorroi : female (upper image) and male. Image credit: Douglas Bastos / Andrade M.C. et al.
The newfound species belongs to Myloplus , a genus in the South American family Serrasalmidae.
Species in this genus are commonly known as ‘pacu’ in Brazil and ‘asitau’ or ‘kumaru’ in French Guiana.
They inhabit slow-or rapid-flowing rivers are of high commercial value, particularly in the Amazon.
The pacus are related to the piranha and have specialized dentition for crushing seeds.
The new pacu, named Myl… Read more

Urban Birds are Smarter than Their Rural Counterparts, Say Ornithologists

Birds living in urban environments are smarter than their country counterparts, says a group of ornithologists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

The Barbados bullfinch ( Loxigilla barbadensis ). Image credit: Postdlf / CC BY-SA 3.0.
In a first-ever study to find clear cognitive differences in birds from urbanized compared to rural areas, Jean-Nicolas Audet from McGill University’s Department of Biology and co-authors report key differences in problem-solving abilities among city birds versus rural birds.
The team assessed problem solving, color discrimination learning, boldness, neophobia, and immunocompetence in the Barbados bullfinch ( Loxigilla barbadensis ), an endemic bird in the Caribbean island-nation Barbados, wild-caught from a r… Read more

Scientists Find ‘Fairy Circles’ in Australia

An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Stephan Getzin of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Germany, has announced the exciting discovery of the so-called ‘fairy circles’ in the remote outback of Western Australia.

Aerial view on the Australian fairy circles which spread homogeneously over the landscape. Image credit: Kevin Sanders.
According to plant biologists, ‘fairy circles’ are one of nature’s greatest mysteries.
The circles are devoid of vegetation and often surrounded by a fringe of tall grasses. Although seedlings are sometimes found in these barren patches after rainfall, they usually do not survive, leaving the patches completely bare for most of the time.
Until now the phenomenon was only known to occur in the arid grassla… Read more

New Species of Shieldtail Snake Discovered in India

A new species of snake, named the Khaire’s black shieldtail ( Melanophidium khairei ), has been discovered in India.

The Khaire’s black shieldtail ( Melanophidium khairei ). Image credit: David J. Gower et al.
The Khaire’s black shieldtail is described in a paper recently published in the journal Zootaxa by an international team of scientists led by Dr. David Gower of the Natural History Museum, London, UK.
According to the team, this new species belongs to Melanophidium , a genus of non-venomous shieldtail snakes.
All previously known species of the genus – Melanophidium bilineatum , M. punctatum , M. wynaudense — are found in southern India in the Western Ghats: in the Peermede Hills, Kerala, and the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu.
The newfound species occurs in south… Read more

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