This story details a process called biomineralization, and the first known evidence of the phenomenon, found in 750 million-year-old, spectacularly preserved fossils. Biomineralization is the ability to convert minerals into hard, physical structures — the process that allows for bones, shells, teeth and hair, Wired’s Brandon Keim explains. It also strives to tackle the question ofwhy — after 3 billion years without them — did bones evolve at all? (Brandeim Keim, Wired Science)
Natalie Angier writes here on what she deems “our own private Australia,” the opossum. The opossum is the United States’ only living example of a marsupial animal — one that gestates its young in its pouch. Scientists, she reports, say that the earliest living marsupials probably closely resembled these animals, and that all other marsupials were derived from them. A fascinating look at an animal with 50 teeth and a “casually relentless adaptability” that we don’t often think about. (Natalie Angier, New York Times)
Elizabeth Kolbert’s latest piece in the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town takes a sweeping look at weather related disasters worldwide — including the tornados in Joplin, Missouri, the Mississippi River flooding, drought along China’s Yangtze River and excessive rainfall in Colombia — and presents a harsh look at the administration’s climate policies. “Since the midterm elections, Obama has barely mentioned climate change, and just about every decision that his administration has made on energy and the environment has been wrong,” she writes. The story ends with a warning. Worth reading. (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker)
Scientists have found amyloid plaques and tau tangles — well-known markers of Alzheimer’s disease — in the brains of adult patients with Down Syndrome. This may helps explain why older people with Down Syndrome develop a form of dementia that’s similar to Alzheimer’s. But the brain region where the plaques and tangles are found is different, Science reports. (Sarah C.P. Williams, Science NOW)
Photo by Flickr user Alice Chaos
The World Health Organization is warning that a new strain of the E. Coli bacteria is responsible for sickening more than 1,500 people and killing at least 18. The outbreak appears to be centered primarily in Germany, where some of those who have fallen ill visited, but the original source of the bacteria has not been confirmed. Two people who traveled from Germany to the United States are also ill.
According to the Associated Press:
Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with aggressive genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.
Russia has moved to ban produce imports from the European Union. Early in the outbreak, there were reports that Spanish cucumbers could be to blame, although that has not been confirmed. Experts have advised those in Germany to avoid cucumber, lettuce or tomatoes until the source is identified.
The spread of the disease is likely to slow if the original contaminant is contained, but experts warn of secondary spread if those who are ill don’t take precautions like handwashing.
Record snow melt and heavy rain bloated the Missouri River, jeopardizing parts of five states Sunday and residents of western Michigan reported tornado sightings. Meanwhile, residents of Joplin, Mo., are still digging out after a massive and deadly tornado. Gwen Ifill discusses the state of recovery efforts with Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston.
— Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Missy Shelton from KSMU/Ozarks Public Radio for an update on the storm’s aftermath in Joplin, Mo.