MI weekly selection #549

L. Calçada / ESO

Why did humans evolve without tails?

Though humans’ ape ancestors have tails, we evolved without them due to a single gene mutation, which was pinpointed through researching the genomes of six ape species and 15 monkey species. Scientists are unsure whether becoming tailless was an evolutionary benefit or a chance mutation, but one theory is that being tailless was part of becoming upright.

Full Story: The Associated Press

DART collision with asteroid slowed its orbit

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which was conducted in 2022, successfully slowed the asteroid Dimorphos’ orbital period by 32 to 33 minutes. Researchers also found that the 6.1 kilometers per second impact reshaped the asteroid, rather than forming a crater.

Full Story: CNN

Melting of Antarctic glacier traced to early 1940s

Rapid melting of Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier — which has lost about 540 billion metric tons of ice since the 1980s and has contributed to a 4% rise in sea levels — may have started in the early 1940s after an El Nino climate pattern, say researchers, who collected and examined sediment cores from the Thwaites and neighboring Pine Island glaciers. “What is especially important about our study is that this change is not random nor specific to one glacier,” says University of Houston geologist Rachel Clark, first author of the new study.

Full Story: Live Science

Metal scar marks magnetic fields’ role in cannibal stars

A change in a white dwarf star’s magnetic field has caused a dark metal scar on its surface, an indication that the dying star consumed a piece of a planet in its orbit. Study authors note that the cannibalism of such stars on their planetary systems is widely known, but WD 0816-310 is the first star to indicate that the white dwarfs’ magnetic fields play a role in the process.

Full Story: CNN

Gene-edited pork hits commercial scale

UK company Genus has genetically engineered pigs with 100% resistance to the virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome through a licensing deal with the University of Missouri, which developed the CRISPR edit to fight the virus that costs the pork industry an estimated $2.7 billion a year. According to a report in The CRISPR Journal, Genus has elevated the process to a commercial scale and hopes for FDA approval for broad human consumption by the end of 2024, which would be the first such approval for a gene-edited animal.

Full Story: Science

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