Social Bees Have Kept Symbiotic Gut Bacteria for 80M Years, New Study Says

About 80 million years ago (Cretaceous period), a group of bees began exhibiting social behavior. Today, their descendants — honey bees, stingless bees, and bumble bees — carry ‘stowaways’ from their ancient ancestors.

The stingless bee Trigonisca ameliae in Colombian copal. Image credit: Dr David Penney / University of Manchester.
At least five host-specific species of bacteria, living symbiotically in the guts of social bees, have been passed from generation to generation for 80 million years, according to a study published in the March 29, 2017 issue of the journal Science Advances .
This is the first study to chart the evolution of the gut community of bacteria in a group of animal hosts so far back in time.
“The fact that these bacteria have been with the bees for so long says that they are a key part o… Read more

Study: Concentrated Blueberry Juice Improves Brain Function in Older Adults

New research from the University of Exeter, UK, has demonstrated that regular consumption of concentrated blueberry juice improves brain function in healthy older adults.

Supplementation with an anthocyanin-rich blueberry concentrate improved brain perfusion and activation in brain areas associated with cognitive function in healthy older adults. Image credit: Xicocool.
In the study, older adults who drank concentrated blueberry juice every day showed improvements in cognitive function, blood flow to the brain and activation of the brain while carrying out cognitive tests. There was also evidence suggesting improvement in working memory.
“Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” explained lead author Dr. Joanna Bowtell, H… Read more

Lungs Play Previously Unknown Role in Blood Production

Using video microscopy in a living mouse lung, a team of researchers at the Universities of California, San Francisco (UCSF) & Los Angeles (UCLA), has revealed that the lungs play a previously unrecognized role in blood production.

Visualization of resident megakaryocytes in the lungs. Image credit: Emma Lefrançais et al , doi: 10.1038/nature21706.
The team, headed by UCSF Professor Mark R. Looney, found that the lungs produced more than half of the platelets — blood components required for the clotting that stanches bleeding — in the mouse circulation.
In another finding, the team also identified a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells capable of restoring blood production when the stem cells of the bone marrow, previously thought to be the principal site of blood production, are depleted. Read more

New Frog Species Discovered: Ecuadorian Rainfrog

A species of frog that is completely new to science has been discovered in the cloud forests of Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian rainfrog ( Pristimantis ecuadorensis ), adult female. Image credit: J.M. Guayasamin et al , doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172615.
Writing in the journal PLoS ONE , Professor Juan Guayasamin of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and co-authors are calling the new species the Ecuadorian rainfrog, or Pristimantis ecuadorensis .
This frog is known only from three nearby localities on the western slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha.
“The tropics are known to contain many more distinct species per unit area than temperate zones like the United States and Canada, which together have about 110 described frog species,” Prof. Guayasamin and colleagues s… Read more

‘Laughter’ is Catching in New Zealand’s Kea Parrots

The kea ( Nestor notabilis ) — a large species of parrot endemic to the Southern Alps of New Zealand — has become the first non-mammal to show signs of ‘emotionally contagious’ vocalization.

Specific calls of playing kea trigger playful emotions in other, non-playing birds, just as laughter does for us. Image credit: Raoul Schwing, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.
When people are feeling playful, they giggle and laugh, making others around them want to laugh and play too.
A team of scientists led by Dr. Raoul Schwing, a researcher at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria, found that the particularly playful kea parrot has ‘play calls’ with a similarly powerful influence.
“We were able to use a playback of these calls to show that it animates k… Read more

Rising Global Temperatures Could Be Contributing to Worldwide Diabetes Epidemic

Growing global temperatures may be playing a part in the rising numbers of people developing type 2 diabetes, suggests new research from the Leiden University Medical Center and the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.

Map of the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico), showing the mean annual temperature and the magnitude of the β coefficients from the obesity-adjusted meta-regression analysis, per state or territory over the period 1996–2009. The β coefficient from meta-regression analysis, representing the difference in diabetes incidence rate per 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature; red circles indicate a positive β coefficient, while blue circles indicate a negative β coefficient. Adjusted for the effect of time passage. Diabetes incidence rate is… Read more

Study: Uganda’s Ngogo Chimpanzees Have Surprisingly Long Life Expectancies

A 20-year demographic study of a relatively undisturbed and exceptionally large community of eastern chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii ) at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, southwestern Uganda, has revealed that our close primate relatives can lead surprisingly long lives in the wild.

A member of the Ngogo community of chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park. Image credit: Brian Wood, Yale University.
The study, led by Yale University researcher Brian Wood, establishes an average life expectancy of about 33 years in its sample of 306 chimpanzees, nearly twice as high as that of other chimpanzee communities and within the 27- to 37-year range of life expectancy at birth of human hunter-gatherers.
“Our findings show how ecological factors, including variation in food supplies and p… Read more

Bolivian Tsimane People Have World’s Healthiest Arteries, Study Says

According to a new study published in The Lancet , the Tsimane (pronounced chee-MAH-nay) — an indigenous people of lowland Bolivia — have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date, with coronary atherosclerosis being five times less common than in the United States.

Tsimane village from the water. Image credit: Hillard Kaplan et al .
“The lifestyle of the Tsimane people suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fiber-rich carbohydrates, along with wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart,” said lead author Professor Hillard Kaplan, from the University of New Mexico.
“The loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk fac… Read more

Tatama Tapaculo: New Bird Species Discovered in Colombia

A new species of tapaculo — called the Tatama tapaculo ( Scytalopus alvarezlopezi ) — has been discovered in the cloud forests of Colombia’s Western Andes.

The Tatama tapaculo ( Scytalopus alvarezlopezi ) upon capture at Cerro Montezuma, Risaralda department, Colombia, April 2, 2015. Image credit: Julian Heavyside, doi: 10.1642/AUK — 16-205.1.
The Tatama tapaculo was first spotted in June 1992 in Colombia’s Risaralda department by Dr. F. Gary Stiles, an ornithologist at the Institute of Natural Sciences at the National University of Colombia.
Now studies of the bird’s vocalizations and DNA have confirmed it to be a unique species.
The discovery is outlined in the April 2017 issue of The Auk , the official publication of the American Ornithologists’ Union.
“We take pleasure in naming this species i… Read more

Regular Tea Consumption Reduces Risk of Neurocognitive Disorders in Older Adults, Study Says

Regular consumption of tea lowers the risk of cognitive impairment in older adults by 50%, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging .

Feng et al found that regular tea consumption is associated with lower risk of neurocognitive disorders among Chinese elderly. Image credit: Deaphen.
“A cup of tea a day can keep dementia away, and this is especially so for those who are genetically predisposed to the debilitating disease,” said lead author Dr. Lei Feng, from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National University of Singapore.
The long-term study involved 957 community-living Chinese elderly (aged 55 years or older) who were cognitively intact at baseline.
“We collected tea consumption information at baseline from 2003 to 2005, and ascertained incident cases… Read more

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