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Science Ticker

Superfast evolution observed in soil bacteria

Pseudomonas fluorescens

Two mutations allowed soil bacteria (Pseudomonas fluorescens) to re-evolve flagella: One pumped up levels of a protein than controls nitrogen uptake, and one that switched that protein’s job to flagella production control.

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You can take the flagella out of the bacteria, but you can’t take the flagella out of the bacteria’s genetic arsenal.

By deleting a gene that controls flagella growth, Tiffany Taylor of the University of Reading in England and colleagues engineered the soil bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens so they lacked their tiny tails. Bacteria that can move around and find food are more likely to survive, and after a mere 96 hours in a low-food environment, the bacteria were once again growing flagella.

How did the bacteria manage such a swift feat? Two mutations in regulatory genes jump-started flagella production, suggesting that natural selection can rewire genetic networks with a few key mutations, the researchers report February 26 in Science.

Health,, Science & Society

CDC panel gives thumbs up to vaccine against nine HPV types

By Nathan Seppa 6:44pm, February 26, 2015
A federal vaccine advisory committee voted February 26 to recommend use of an expanded version of the human papillomavirus shot marketed as Gardasil.
Planetary Science

Mysterious bright spot on Ceres has a partner

By Christopher Crockett 2:45pm, February 26, 2015
A new image from the Dawn spacecraft finds two bright patches within a basin, possibly caused by an ice volcano.

Some cicadas drum up a beat with the help of their wings

By Allison Bohac 2:00pm, February 25, 2015
By using their wings as drumsticks, so-called “mute” cicadas can make themselves heard.
Computing,, Technology,, Numbers

Artificial intelligence conquers Space Invaders, Pong, Q*bert

By Lila Guterman 1:09pm, February 25, 2015
With a single algorithm, a computer can learn dozens of classic video games, researchers from Google DeepMind in London report.
Biomedicine,, Cells

Stem cells from wisdom teeth could help repair corneas

By Helen Thompson 12:55pm, February 24, 2015
A study points to a potential new treatment for corneal blindness: Stem cells extracted from pulp from pulled wisdom teeth.
Chemistry,, Science & Society

Brute-force chemistry study retracted

By Beth Mole 2:00pm, February 19, 2015
The journal Science has retracted a notable 2011 chemistry study in which authors reported a brawny method to break sturdy chemical structures.
Planetary Science

New Horizons spies two of Pluto’s moons

By Christopher Crockett 1:16pm, February 19, 2015
Nix and Hydra come into view on the 85th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery.
Planetary Science

Dwarf planet Ceres comes into view

By Christopher Crockett 12:45pm, February 18, 2015
New images from the Dawn spacecraft reveal a landscape of craters and mysterious bright patches on the dwarf planet Ceres.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Pair of stars buzzed the solar system 70,000 years ago

By Christopher Crockett 5:03pm, February 17, 2015
Astronomers discover a binary system that made the closest known flyby of the sun.
Evolution,, Animals

To deal with sexual conflict, female bedbugs get flexible

By Helen Thompson 9:00am, February 14, 2015
Female bed bugs evolved an elastic underbelly to tolerate violent mating, a new study suggests.
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