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Forest & trees

  • Research gives trees an edge in landfill clean-up - Matching the capability of different tree species with the types of contaminants present in soil and water is critical in phytoremediation. A research team has developed a new contaminant prioritization tool that has the potential to increase the effectiveness of phytoremediation in landfill clean-up.
  • Extinct 'horned' crocodile gets new spot in the tree of life - New research has resolved a long-standing controversy about an extinct 'horned' crocodile that likely lived among humans in Madagascar. Based on ancient DNA, the study shows that the horned crocodile was closely related to 'true' crocodiles, including the famous Nile crocodile, but on a separate branch of the crocodile family tree. The study contradicts recent scientific thinking and also suggests that the ancestor of modern crocodiles likely originated in Africa.
  • Flexible diet may help leaf-eating lemurs survive deforestation - A new study sequencing the genome of four species of sifakas (Propithecus), a genus of lemurs found in Madagascar's forests, reveals that these animals' taste for leaves runs all the way to their genes, which are also more diverse than expected for an endangered species. But they can also thrive on fruit and flowers, which may be an advantage over being strictly leaves-only or fruit-only in the face of forest fragmentation.

News & articles

  • Swiping, swabbing elevates processing plant food safety - By swiping surfaces in commercial food processing plants with specially designed rapid-testing adenosine triphospate (ATP) swabs -- which produce a light similar to the glow of fireflies in the presence of microorganisms -- spoilage and foodborne illness could diminish, according to a new study.
  • Most human origins stories are not compatible with known fossils - In the 150 years since Charles Darwin speculated that humans originated in Africa, the number of species in the human family tree has exploded, but so has the level of dispute concerning early human evolution. A new review looks at the major discoveries in hominin origins since Darwin's works and argues that fossil apes can inform us about essential aspects of ape and human evolution, including the nature of our last common ancestor.
  • Equipping crop plants for climate change - Biologists have significantly enhanced the tolerance of blue-green algae to high light levels -- with the aid of artificial evolution in the laboratory.