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Scientists measure whales' aversion to noise pollution

Scientists measure whales' aversion to noise pollution

Science
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A new study has offered fresh insights into how whales are impacted by noise pollution.Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia wanted to find out if "ramp-up sequences" allow whales to acclimate to foreign noise. Ramp-up sequences describe the use of softer sounds for 10 to 20 minutes prior to the introduction of louder noise levels.To find out, researchers subjected a pod of migrating humpback whales to a series of acoustic air guns, at different distances and decibel levels. The test results -- detailed this week in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin -- suggest ramp-up sequences have no effect.Whales avoid noise pollution, whether it is preceded by ramp-up sequences or not.Air guns are frequently used by oil and gas drilling operations to map the ocea...
Research reveals how neurons communicate

Research reveals how neurons communicate

Science
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- New research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests scientists have misunderstood the neuron communication process, specifically the dopamine release mechanism.The discovery -- detailed this week in the journal Neuron -- could have wide ranging implications for the study and treatment of dopamine-related disorders, including Parkinson's disease, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and addiction.Neurons communicate by releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine into the small gap known as a synapse before they're received by other neurons. Inside neurons, neurotransmitters await their release inside small sacs called vesicles.In studying the release process, researchers found the vesicles begin to fill again before being emptied. Researchers ...
The algae that terraformed Earth

The algae that terraformed Earth

Science
A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth.That's what geochemists argue in Nature this week, on the basis of invisibly small traces of biomolecules dug up from beneath the Australian desert.The molecules mark an explosion in the quantity of algae in the oceans.This in turn fuelled a change in the food web that allowed the first microscopic animals to evolve, the authors suggest. "This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth's history," lead researcher Jochen Brocks told the BBC's Science in Action programme.The events took place a hundred million years before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Darwin and always h...
'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved

'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved

Science
Scientists have solved the puzzle of the so-called "Frankenstein dinosaur", which seems to consist of body parts from unrelated species. A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex. The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians. The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMatthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates al...
NASA, students to study eclipse with high-altitude balloons

NASA, students to study eclipse with high-altitude balloons

Science
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Not everyone will be watching next week's eclipse from ground level. As part of the Eclipse Ballooning Project, some 50 high-altitude balloons launched from 20 locations will offer a view of the phenomenon from the edge of space.For those in the path of Monday's total solar eclipse, the star attraction will be skyward. Necks will be craned as moon's path intercepts the sun and casts a shadow stretching 70 miles across.Thanks to the cameras and live-streaming technology installed on most of the balloons' payloads, online viewers will be able to look down on the eclipse."The focus of the live stream will really be on the shadow," said Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University.The project, which includes dozens of student research teams from colleges and universities acr...