Dr Ceiridwen Edwards
Archaeogenetic researcher Dr Ceiridwen Edwards will compare ancient DNA samples from one of one of Europe’s earliest civilisations with contemporary Cretans
RESEARCHERS at the University of Huddersfield have visited Rethymnon in Crete, to collect samples from the late Bronze Age Necropolis of Armenoi, one of the world’s finest archaeological sites. DNA analysis of the ancient skeletal remains could provide fresh insights into the origins of European civilisation. Dr Ceiridwen Edwards and PhD student George Foody were permitted to take bone samples and teeth from over 110 of the more than 600 skeletons discovered in the Necropolis, a rock-hewn burial site from the Late Minoan period dating to more than 4,000 years ago. During their two-week visit, the Huddersfield researchers – part of a team that included colleagues from Oxford University and the Hellenic Archaeological Research Foundation – also took DNA swabs from more than 100 contemporary Cretans. They sought people whose grandmothers were from Crete in order to analyse links to the Minoan period.
Two new species of parasitic plants have been discovered on the main island of Okinawa, Japan. The discovery was made by Project Associate Professor SUETSUGU Kenji (Kobe University Graduate School of Science), who named them Gastrodia nipponicoides and Gastrodia okinawensis. Details of these findings were published online in Phytotaxa on April 7th. Plants’ ability to photosynthesize is often taken as one of their defining features. However, some species choose instead to live a parasitic existence, attaching to the hyphae of fungi and exploiting them for nutrients. These plants are known as mycoheterotrophs. Since they don’t engage in photosynthesis, they only appear above ground during the brief period when they are in fruit or flowering. In addition, many of the species are small, making them very hard to find. Even in Japan, one of the most advanced countries in the world in documenting its flora, many mycoheterotrophs remain unclassified. Professor Suetsugu is one of those involved in documenting their distribution and classification.
A sports person who has accidentally caused serious injury to a rival. A distracted driver who has caused an accident. Or a colleague who has involuntarily made a very serious error. Even outside the court room we have all been in situations in which we have had to express judgements on specific events on the basis of the seriousness of the incident but also on the intentions of those who caused them. New research by Trieste’s SISSA, published in the Scientific Reports journal, has studied the areas of the brain involved in processes which prompt us to forgive those who have seriously, but unintentionally, messed up. Researchers specifically examined the role of a part of the brain, called anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS), and discovered that the larger the amount of grey matter in this patch of cortex, the more likely we are to forgive those who have made a serious mistake by accident.
“Bare peat surfaces in the discontinuous permafrost zone of the sub-Arctic East European tundra. New research explores the source of unexpectedly high nitrous oxide emissions from such bare peat soils in Arctic tundra." Photo credit: University of Eastern Finland Biogeochemistry Research Group
A new study from the University of Eastern Finland presents, for the first time, the isotopic fingerprint of nitrous oxide produced by Arctic soils. The finding opens new avenues for predicting future trends in atmospheric nitrous oxide as well as in identifying climate change mitigation actions in the Arctic, a region that is particularly sensitive to climate change. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas and also the second largest contributor to ozone depletion in the stratosphere. It is produced naturally by soils, with agricultural and tropical rain forest soils being the main sources of N2O to the atmosphere. Until recently, scientists assumed that nitrous oxide emissions were negligible in colder climate regions like the Arctic and sub-Arctic.
In a study of nearly 9500 individuals aged 65 and older who did not need help in managing medications or finances, many needed assistance as time went on. Over 10 years, 10.3% of those aged 65 to 69 needed help managing medications and 23.1% needed help managing finances. These rates rose with age, to 38..2% and 69%, respectively, in those over age 85. Women had a higher risk than men, especially with advancing age. Additional factors linked with an increased risk for both outcomes included a history of stroke, low cognitive functioning, and difficulty with activities of daily living.
Forest harvesting necessitates heavy terrain-transport of timber. This entails risk of rutting and soil compaction. Therefore, sensitive soils have traditionally been logged in winter, on frozen ground. But with ever milder winters and higher standards of environmental performance, forestry needs a low impact forwarder that can economically transport the wood to the nearest road with little risk of damage to the forest floor. The PRINOTH track technology has been successfully adapted and installed into a PONSSE Buffalo forwarder chassis. The machine is now undergoing the initial tests in Sweden. This concept machine is an important platform for refining the tracked forwarder concept. The initial test indicates that the machine combines low ground pressure and low vibration levels, with excellent off-road capabilities.
Coucou de Rennes, a French breed with the characteristic sex-linked barring phenotype. Photo Hervé Ronné, Ecomusée du pays de Rennes.
Birds show an amazing diversity in plumage colour and patterning. But what are the genetic mechanisms creating such patterns? In a new study published in PLOS Genetics, Swedish and French researchers report that two independent mutations are required to explain the development of the sex-linked barring pattern in chicken. Both mutations affect the function of CDKN2A, a tumour suppressor gene associated with melanoma in humans. Research in pigmentation biology has made major advances the last 20 years in identifying genes controlling variation in pigmentation in mammals and birds. However, the most challenging question is still how colour patterns are genetically controlled. Birds are outstanding as regards the diversity and complexity in colour patterning. The study published today has revealed the genetic basis for the striped feather characteristic of sex-linked barring. One example of this fascinating plumage colour is the French breed Coucou de Rennes. The name refers to the fact that this plumage colour resembles the barring patterns present in the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). The sex-linked barring locus is on the Z chromosome. (In chickens as well as in other birds the male has chromosomes ZZ while females have ZW).
Maria Pala's findings unlock ancestral origins of Sardinians
The University of Huddersfield’s Sardinian researcher Dr Maria Pala investigates the origins of her homeland ancestors 8,000 years ago THE island of Sardinia is remarkable for the fact that an exceptionally high proportion of the population is seemingly descended from people who have occupied it since the Neolithic and Bronze Age, between 8,000 and 2,000 years ago. For centuries after that, they had little interaction with mainland Europe. Now, University of Huddersfield researcher Dr Maria Pala has taken part in a project that has helped to unlock the genetic secrets of her Mediterranean homeland. One of the findings is that some modern Sardinians could have evolved from people who colonised the island at an even earlier period, the Mesolithic. Dr Pala - whose first degree was from the University of Sassari in her native Sardinia – is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a member of its Archaeogenetics Research Group. The group is led by Professor Martin Richards and includes Dr Francesca Gandini as Research Fellow.
The photo shows an infected wooden pole that is ultimately destroyed by a copper-tolerant fungus.
The St. Gallen-based Empa biotech spin-off, MycoSolutions AG, has developed a new fungal product that improves the soil and controls pest fungi in an environmentally friendly way. Wooden poles remain in use much longer, leading to cost savings of millions for operators. A "Proof-of-Concept" is now available for the integrated wood preservation method. In Europe, some 30 million wooden poles are used by telecommunications companies and electricity utilities. Every year, hundreds of thousands of these poles have to be replaced due to the occurrence of copper-tolerant, wood-destroying fungi. This results in millions in terms of costs. The problem is likely to worsen in the future, since the copper fixation agent chromium, (which is carcinogenic in a certain chemical form), and the wood preservative boron, are restricted by law. In addition, the authorisation for Switzerland will expire in 2019. In Germany, even stricter regulations have already been put in place. Since the use of boron has largely been discontinued, in certain regions the defects appear early, after only six to eight years and the wooden poles have to be replaced for safety reasons.