biology

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Study Suggests Earth Life Began on Mars

Building blocks of life may have arrived via meteorite: scientist

(Newser) - Were our earliest ancestors Martians? A new study suggests that all life on Earth may have originated on the Red Planet, the BBC reports. That's because Mars would have had plenty of the minerals that are best at forging RNA, which is one of the key components of life... More »

Tests Hint at Fish Miles Below Antarctic Ice

Scientists study RNA at Lake Vostok

(Newser) - A lake nearly 2.5 miles below Antarctica's ice sheet could harbor some surprising organisms—including, perhaps, fish, scientists find. Lake Vostok, some 5,800 square miles in area, is thought to have been closed off from the atmosphere for millions of years, the BBC notes. But rivers below... More »

Things Can Actually Live at the Ocean's Deepest Point

Bacteria makes a home 8 miles underwater

(Newser) - The Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench contains the deepest point in all the world's oceans. But despite its nearly eight-mile depth (Mount Everest, by comparison, doesn't hit six miles), Challenger Deep is also home to life, a study finds. Researchers sent a robot into Challenger Deep in 2010... More »

Tech Giants Fund Big Annual Award for Scientists

Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, will shell out $3M to each winner

(Newser) - Forget the Nobel Prize; pretty soon, enterprising medical researchers will really be after the Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize. Some of the biggest names in tech—including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin—have teamed to create the award, which rewards biological breakthroughs with fat, $3 million checks.... More »

Search Begins for Life in Antarctic Lake

Lake Ellsworth has been isolated for up to 500K years

(Newser) - What lurks in the pitch black, near-freezing waters of Lake Ellsworth? That's what British researchers, who began their trek to the lake in October 2011, hope to find out in as soon as a week. They've begun drilling through more than two miles of ice to reach the... More »

Scientist Who Cloned Dolly Dead at 58

Keith Campbell's idea prompted first adult mammal cloning

(Newser) - A British cell biologist central to the cloning of the first adult mammal died at his home in England last Friday, aged 58. Keith Campbell and colleague Ian Wilmut announced their success with cloning Dolly the sheep in 1997, achieving what experts had believed impossible—and sparking a major ethical... More »

What Makes Music Scary?

An evolutionary biologist thinks it's nonlinear noises

(Newser) - Why exactly does the Jaws theme send a chill down our spine? What makes Darth Vader's entrance music so unsettling? In short, why does certain music freak us out? Evolutionary biologist Daniel Blumstein thinks he has the answer. Blumstein hit on the idea while observing baby marmots, who would... More »

Beneath Pacific Lies Ancient, Barely Alive Bacteria

Bacteria 100 feet under ocean floor haven't had new food since time of dinosaurs

(Newser) - Some 100 feet below the most nutrient-starved part of the Pacific Ocean floor, incredibly old life exists. In the most detailed look yet at the lifestyles of "extremophile" bacteria, scientists have determined that the organisms have survived for what could be as long as millions of years solely on... More »

Thank Moss for Livable Planet

Plant may have prompted major shift in ancient climate

(Newser) - About 480 million years ago, the planet was a much hotter place—and we have moss to thank for the habitable Earth we enjoy today, research suggests. Back then, 16 times as much carbon dioxide existed in the atmosphere, scientists think. Some 20 million years later, carbon dioxide levels had... More »

Slime Mold Is Smarter Than You Think

It can solve mazes, might be used in future biocomputers

(Newser) - It may not look like much, but slime mold is capable of human-like "thought" beyond the reach of the most sophisticated computers. The organism can arrange its cells in order to find the quickest route through a maze, a Japanese scientist has found. "Humans are not the only... More »

Earth Holds 8.7M Species, Study Finds

And most of them are still undiscovered

(Newser) - Humanity shares the planet with roughly 8.7 million species, most of them still undiscovered, according to a new study. Researchers used complex mathematical models to tackle a question that has long puzzled scientists, identifying numerical patterns in data from 1.2 million known species, excluding viruses and microorganisms, reports... More »

What the Orange Goo Really Is

Scientists originally misidentified substance washed up in Alaska

(Newser) - At first, scientists were baffled by the orange goo that washed ashore in Alaska. Then they announced it was tiny eggs . Now they’re saying that's wrong: It’s actually fungal spores, the Los Angeles Times reports. Microbiologists in South Carolina linked the material to the spores that turn... More »

Scientists Seek 'Frankenstein Spark'

Synthetic life close to becoming a reality

(Newser) - Alien life may appear in a test tube on Earth long before it's found elsewhere—and by some standards, it's already here, researchers say. Multiple teams of scientists around the world are experimenting with genetic tools in an effort to create synthetic life, the New York Times finds.... More »

'Worms From Hell' Could Mean Life on Mars

Discovery of complex life deep below the Earth's surface raises new questions

(Newser) - Scientists have discovered the first complex creatures living a mile or more below the surface of the Earth, unlocking the possibility that similar organisms are elsewhere in the universe, the Washington Post reports. Researchers found the group of nematodes, or roundworms, in water flowing through several gold mines in South... More »

New Life Form Discovered at Truck Stop

Biologist makes big find en route to collecting trip

(Newser) - The world is teeming with undiscovered species, as biologist Piotr Naskrecki discovered at a ... South African truck stop. Naskrecki was part of a team hunting for specimens of Mantophasmotes—an entirely new order of carnivorous insects only discovered in 2002—in a remote area of Namibia. When he paused at... More »

'Darwin Day' Celebrated in Rural US, Quietly

Biologists take the opportunity to show kids science is 'cool'

(Newser) - How to celebrate "Darwin Day" in rural America? Very carefully, the New York Times reports: When evolutionary biologists set out on a road trip this weekend to Virginia, Nebraska, Montana, and Iowa to promote science in honor of Charles Darwin's 202nd birthday, one high school principal made sure to... More »

13% of High School Bio Classes Push Creationism

Only 28% advocate evolution; most take middle ground

(Newser) - About 13% of high school biology teachers nationwide push creationism as the process by which humans came to exist on Earth, LiveScience reports. A Penn State survey found that the majority of bio teachers—about 60%—take a soft stance on the contentious issue, avoiding definitive statements about either creationism... More »

Bacteria Ate Methane in Gulf at Near-Impossible Rate

Gas from spill consumed in less than 4 months, according to study

(Newser) - Bacteria appears to have broken down all the methane that spilled out of the Deepwater Horizon well in less than four months—even though the process should have taken years, according to one team of scientists studying the spill. “This was a surprise to us,” says the chemical... More »

Researchers Create Mice With 2 Daddies

No one's entirely sure why

(Newser) - Scientists at the University of Texas have managed to create mice from the genetic material of two males. A female mouse was involved, of course—researchers engineered one whose eggs contained only DNA from a male, then mated her with another male—but genetically the mice have two fathers. Scientists... More »

Scientists Blast NASA's Arsenic-Based Life Paper

Researchers refuse to respond directly to criticism

(Newser) - Scientists are coming out of the woodwork to deride NASA’s finding of arsenic-based life as flim-flam. “I was outraged at how bad the science was,” one microbiology professor tells Slate , and she wasn’t alone; Slate tracked down dozens of experts to ask their opinion of the... More »

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