MI weekly selection #498

Photo: Paul Bump

Several genes play a role in whales’ enormous size

Biologists have identified evolutionary changes in DNA that allowed whales to grow larger over time. The researchers found that despite having bigger bodies with more chances for cancer to develop in cells, whales have genes that not only contribute to body size but reduce the impacts of that size by suppressing cancer.

Full Story: The New York Times

Mars meteorite contains important organic compounds

A study of a Martian meteorite that fell to Earth in 2011 has uncovered a diverse group of at least five organic compounds. Researchers found that the meteorite contained organic magnesium compounds, which had never been detected in a sample from Mars before, and several other compounds that are found in all lifeforms on Earth, which may help scientists determine how Mars’ interior was formed.

Full Story: Live Science

Greenland is its warmest in more than 1,000 years

New ice core data reveals that Greenland’s temperatures since 1995 are 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th-century average, and the island is warming increasingly faster than the global average. The findings show that there is “almost zero” chance the sharp jump in temperature after 1995 is anything other than anthropogenic climate change.

Associated Press

New path for studying metamorphosis

Scientists who work with the California broken-hearted worm used a novel application of single-cell analysis to track the creature’s metamorphosis from a sesame-seed-sized blob to 30-centimeter-long worm, and the approach may inform studies of development in other species. The team categorized cells taken from different stages of development and labeled DNA at different time points so cells could be tracked through metamorphosis, yielding what developmental biologist Elaine Seaver calls “a powerful tool to learn more about evolution and about life histories.”

Full Story: Science

Fast radio bursts to weigh Milky Way

Fast radio bursts (FRB) across the sky can help astronomers identify invisible matter and weigh the mass of the galaxy. The researchers used FRB data to weigh the Milky Way, finding that while most of the universe has about 16% regular matter and 84% dark matter, the Milky Way is lighter than anticipated with less than 10% regular matter and more than 90% dark matter.

Full Story: Space

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