News That Matters

Science

UN puts brave face as climate talks get stuck

UN puts brave face as climate talks get stuck

Science
UN talks have been officially suspended as countries failed to resolve differences about implementing the Paris climate agreement. The negotiations will resume in Bangkok in September where an extra week's meeting has now been scheduled .Delegates struggled with the complexity of agreeing a rulebook for the Paris climate pact that will come into force in 2020. Rows between rich and poor re-emerged over finance and cutting carbon.Overall progress at this meeting has been very slow, with some countries such as China looking to re-negotiate aspects of the Paris deal. UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa was putting a brave face on the talks. "We face, I would say, a satisfactory outcome for this session but we have to be very, very clear that we have a lot of...
Origins of amphibian-killing fungus uncovered

Origins of amphibian-killing fungus uncovered

Science
A deadly fungus that has ravaged amphibian populations worldwide probably originated in East Asia, new research suggests.A study in Science journal supports an idea that the pet trade helped spread killer strains of the chytrid fungus around the globe.The fungus is a major cause of the devastating declines experienced by frogs, toads, newts and salamanders.There is no known effective measure for controlling the disease.The authors of the report highlight the need to tighten biosecurity along country borders, including a potential ban on the trade in amphibians as pets.The chytrid fungus, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, was first identified as a problem in the 1990s, said co-author Dr Simon O'Hanlon, from Imperial ...
Scientists devise new model for origins of Darwin's finches

Scientists devise new model for origins of Darwin's finches

Science
May 9 (UPI) -- New research offers the best explanation to date of the origins of Darwin's finches.The diversity of finches on the Galapagos Islands inspired Darwin's theory of natural selection and species divergence, central tenets of the naturalist's theory of evolution. But until now, scientists have struggled to determine where the finch species came from and how they got to the Pacific Islands.Darwin's finches include 15 passerine species. They belong to the tanager family and are not closely related to true finches.As part of the latest study, San Diego State University's Erik Funk and Kevin Burns built a complex statistical model to consider two competing hypotheses for the origins of Darwin's finches. Both models considered the Galapagos, South America and the Caribbean as the bir...
Farming techniques, not fungus, explain success of leafcutter ants

Farming techniques, not fungus, explain success of leafcutter ants

Science
May 9 (UPI) -- A comprehensive new survey has yielded new insights into the evolutionary success of leafcutter ants, the most advanced of the fungus-growing ants.Leafcutter ants grow the largest colonies, featuring millions of ants, and produce the most diversified workforce. Until now, scientists have credited their fungus with the group's empowerment. But new research suggests the same fungus is cultivated by other less sophisticated ant species.It is a combination of unique -- but still poorly understood -- cultivation techniques that explains the evolution of the leafcutter ants, researchers argue in a new paper, published this week in the journal Molecular Ecology.Genetic analysis of all 47 leafcutter ant species, from colonies and nests in Brazil, Texas and everywhere in-between, sug...
Waterwheel: Ten times faster than a Venus flytrap

Waterwheel: Ten times faster than a Venus flytrap

Science
Scientists have characterised the movement of the Venus flytrap's aquatic cousin in detail for the first time.The carnivorous Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel plant, snaps its "trap" shut ten times faster than the flytrap.As it is quite rare in the wild, the plant's mechanism has not previously been studied in great detail.It is thought that the waterwheel and the flytrap may share a common ancestor.However there is no fossil evidence for what this ancestor might have looked like."This is one of the main questions in the carnivorous plant community," says Dr Simon Poppinga, an author on the study."Snap traps evolved only once in plants. There are two different mechanisms. Which one was first?"A stressful lifeThe study, led by Anna Westermeier and Renate Sachse at the Uni...