Tag Archives: Elizabeth Armstrong Moore

Scientist shocked by what he sees moon jellyfish doing

Scientist shocked by what he sees moon jellyfish doing

Moon jellyfish are pictured. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)

When Caltech biologist Michael Abrams cut two arms off a young jellyfish in 2013, he figured it would do what many marine invertebrates do—grow new ones. But no.

“[Abrams] started yelling… ‘You won’t believe this, you’ve got to come here and see what’s happening,'” his PhD adviser Lea Goentoro tells National Geographic.Reporting this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Abrams says he watched the jellyfish, which relies on being symmetrical to move about, not regenerate the missing arms but rather rearrange its remaining six limbs so that they were symmetrical again.

The phenomenon, dubbed symmetrization, has never before been observed in nature, and Abrams was floored. The jellyfish was using its own muscles to push and pull on its remaining six arms to space them out evenly again.

(They confirmed this by observing that muscle relaxants made the jellies unable to rearrange their arms, while increasing muscular pulses allowed them to rearrange their arms faster.) And the discovery was accidental; Abrams and his team had only been cutting into the common moon jellyfish to practice for their future study on what are called immortal jellyfish, which had yet to arrive in the lab.

They’ve since observed symmetrization in moon jellies many times, and it takes anywhere from 12 hours to four days to complete. (Scientists recently made another staggering observation, this one in Norway.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Moon Jellyfish Shock Scientists With This Trick

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Science determines catchiest hit song of all time

What makes that earworm an earworm? Musicologists at the University of Amsterdam recently set out to find out, collecting data from 12,000 participants who listened to a random selection from 1,000 hit singles in the UK dating back to the 1940s.

The results were unveiled at the Manchester Science Festival over the weekend. While it took most participants an average of 5 seconds to identify a song, the 17 most popular were all detectable in less than 3 seconds, with the top song—1996 hit “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls—averaging just 2.29 seconds, reports the Independent.

“Very strong melodic hooks seem to be the most memorable for people,” the lead researcher said. The interactive game Hooked on Music is online for now, reports the BBC, so see how you compare to the top 10:

  1. Spice Girls, “Wannabe”
  2. Lou Bega, “Mambo No 5”
  3. Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger”
  4. Lady Gaga, “Just Dance”
  5. ABBA, “SOS”
  6. Roy Orbison, “Pretty Woman”
  7. Michael Jackson, “Beat It”
  8. Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”
  9. The Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”
  10. Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”

Click for the full list of 20—Gaga appears again.

This article originally appeared on Newser: Scientific Study Determines Catchiest Hit Song Ever

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‘Uncontacted’ tribe attacks Amazon village

'Uncontacted' tribe attacks Amazon village

This Nov. 2011 file photo shows members of the Mashco-Piro tribe, photographed at an undisclosed location near the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru. (AP Photo/Diego Cortijo, Survival International, File)

Peru is evacuating a remote village near the Brazilian border after an unusual display of aggression from one of the 15 or so “uncontacted” tribes that live in its Amazon forests.

Last week, 200 men from the tribe, called Mashco-Piro, raided the village of Monte Salvado armed with bows and arrows.”There were no injuries although the men fired off arrows,” says a minister for intercultural affairs.

“The villagers took refuge in a guard post. They are safe but have no food and are terrified.” Officials are moving 39 people, 16 of whom are children, along with 22 more from nearby Puerto Nuevo to the region’s capital, Puerto Maldonado.

The Mashco-Piro raiders took tools, blankets, and food, reports the Guardian, as well as killed domestic animals. “We believe the Mashco-Piro are still in the area,” says the official running the evacuation.

It’s the third time this year that this particular tribe has traveled to Monte Salvado, reports the BBC, but this is the first time such a large group of just men (instead of families) have arrived armed.

Some suggest the tribe is growing desperate as loggers and drug-traffickers encroach on its protected land; others point to climate change, which has led to steeper drops in temperature.

“When there’s pressure on their territory or attacks against them, that’s when there are these violent reactions,” one anthropologist tells the Guardian. The Mashco-Piro were first spotted in May 2011; more on the tribe here.

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Easter Islanders weren’t as isolated as we thought

Easter Islanders weren't as isolated as we thought

This August 2012 photo shows heads at Rano Raraku, the quarry on Easter Island. (AP Photo/Karen Schwartz)

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is such a remote speck of rock in the Pacific Ocean that it has been nicknamed “navel of the world.” Yet a review of genetic data of 27 natives suggests the islanders made contact with outsiders hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived from Holland in 1722.

In fact, the Rapa Nui people appear to have had significant intermixing with Native Americans as far back as the late 13th century, researchers report in the journal Current Biology.

The findings indicate “an ancient ocean migration route between Polynesia and the Americas,” says the study’s lead author. Though the nearly 2,500-mile journey would have been perilous in their wooden outrigger canoes, the researchers say it’s more likely the islanders ventured to South America and back than others finding their way to Easter Island, reports Reuters.

Today’s Rapa Nui people are genetically about 76% Polynesian, 16% European, and 8% Native American, though the European intermingling dates back only to the 19th century, while the Native American intermingling appears to go back 19 to 23 generations.

A separate study also published in Current Biology this week details the genetic makeup of two ancient human skulls from Brazil’s indigenous Botocudo tribe. The skulls were genetically Polynesian without any Native American mixing, further suggesting that islanders traveled to the Americas.

(Check out the drug that scientists found in the island’s soil.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Easter Islanders Not as Isolated as Thought

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Archaeologists: For centuries, Rome’s Colosseum was a ‘condo’

Archaeologists: For centuries, Rome's Colosseum was a 'condo'

This once used to be a … “condo”?AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

If only these walls could talk. Rome’s iconic Colosseum, built nearly 20 centuries ago in 72 AD, has long been known as the site of gory gladiator battles and animal slaughter.

Now, archaeologists who spent three weeks studying an excavated area beneath some 80 arched entrances that opened up into the arena say that after the Roman empire crumbled, the ancient structure came to house—gasp!—ordinary Romans, reports the Telegraph.

Discovery likens the Colosseum to a “huge condominium” from the 800s until at least 1349, when a major earthquake inflicted significant damage. “This excavation has allowed us to identify an entire housing lot from the late medieval period,” explains the Colosseum’s director.

Among the findings: terracotta sewage pipes, pottery shards, the likely presence of stables and workshops, and the foundation of a wall that marked the boundaries of one of the properties.

They believe that friars from the nearby Santa Maria Nova convent, who controlled the building for a time, rented out square feet within the Colosseum as housing.

The amphitheater, no longer used as an arena, became a huge courtyard, they say, thriving with people, animals, and goods. Archaeologists even found a tiny monkey figurine carved in ivory, likely a chess pawn.

Smithsonian notes other unexpected uses followed: In the 1500s, Pope Sixtus attempted to make the Colosseum a wool factory. (On US shores, archaeologists are trying to solve the mystery of Plymouth colony.)

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Mysterious mounds: not created by animals after all?

Mysterious mounds: not created by animals after all?

Bryan Moss and Tracey Byrne from the Seattle area stop along the walking path in the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve Dec. 29, 2013, near Littlerock, Wash.AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom

The mystery of the mounds lives on. A mere six months after researchers said computer modeling proved pocket gophers, over the course of several hundred years of scurrying and burrowing, formed the bizarre-patterned earthen “Mima mounds” in Washington state, a new team of researchers claims that plants are in fact the likely source.

These mounds—which are up to 6.5 feet tall and 55 feet wide—are found on every continent but Antarctica, and in his study, Michael Cramer of the University of Cape Town sets out to debunk the gopher theory.

He outlines a number of issues: Mima mounds appear in areas gophers don’t inhabit; some of the mounds feature rocks bigger than the 2-inches-in-diameter stones pocket gophers are believed to be able to move.

And as for the previous claim that a series of gophers developed the mounds over hundreds of years, Cramer says there’s no indication that abandoned mounds are repopulated over and over.

His theory: The mounds have formed due to what is called vegetation spatial patterning. The idea, reports LiveScience, is that plants and their roots alter how wind or water may carry soil to these patches of vegetation, thus the mounds grow bigger over time as the plants continue to trap sediment.

The vegetation could further stabilize the soil, thereby reducing erosion on the mounds while depleting the adjacent soil of water and nutrients, creating patterned dips. The researchers hope to test their theory on mounds in South Africa.

Whatever the source, the News Tribune reports that Washington state is pushing to protect its mysterious mounds: Its Department of Fish and Wildlife recently requested $3 million from the state to do so.

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