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Your daily roundup of research news

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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.

Oceans,, Pollution

Millions of tons of plastic end up in oceans each year

By Beth Mole 4:04pm, February 12, 2015
A new estimate quantifies how much plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans.
Animals,, Genetics

Tiger swallowtail genome gives clues to insect’s stinky defense

By Kate Baggaley 1:27pm, February 12, 2015
Clues within the genetic code of the Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) explain how it developed a smelly defense against predators.
Animals,, Microbes

Wasps may turn ladybugs into zombies with viral weapons

By Helen Thompson 4:30pm, February 11, 2015
Parasitic wasps may use a neurological virus to make ladybugs their minions, a study posits.

On the biomechanics of popcorn

By Bethany Brookshire 7:05pm, February 10, 2015
When popcorn pops, the biomechanics resemble both an explosion and a spring.

White dwarf pair will trigger a supernova — in 700 million years

By Christopher Crockett 1:58pm, February 9, 2015
Astronomers found two white dwarfs with enough mass to explode as a supernova.
Pollution,, Sustainability

Funding canceled for clean coal plant

By Beth Mole 12:33pm, February 6, 2015
The Department of Energy has scrapped funding for FutureGen, a project to use new technology to sequester carbon dioxide emissions from a coal power plant.
Paleontology,, Animals

Ancient wolf skulls challenge dog domestication timeline

By Helen Thompson 9:00am, February 5, 2015
A 3-D analysis of two ancient canine skulls from Russia and Belgium suggests the fossils were of wolves, not dogs.

Tropical wasps memorize friendly faces

By Helen Thompson 7:00am, February 5, 2015
A social wasp species uses sight and smell to keep intruders from hijacking their nests.
Planetary Science

New Horizons snaps new photos of Pluto

By Christopher Crockett 7:08pm, February 4, 2015
Pluto and its moon Charon appear as two smudges in the first pictures taken since New Horizons came out of hibernation.
Health,, Biomedicine,, Technology

Handheld device turns smartphone into diagnostic tool

By Nathan Seppa 3:52pm, February 4, 2015
A compact device can process a blood sample to diagnose HIV or syphilis when attached to a smartphone.
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