Archives for the month of: December, 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 9,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 16 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The genome of the Christmas tree hasn’t really changed in the last hundred million years – this explains why our Christmas trees look very similar to those in ancient fossils (though perhaps without the tinsel…)

Researchers from China, the US and Europe have sequenced  the genome of the watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), a large juicy fruit, usually with pink or red flesh and dark pips that is grown throughout the world.

The team sequenced 20 different watermelons and created a draft genome, finding 23,440 predicted protein-coding genes, around the same number as in humans. They also identified three different C lanatus subspecies.

The paper was published in Nature Genetics.

The bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) genome is around five times the size of the human genome, and the total size is around 17 gigabase pairs. Researchers have found around 100,000 genes. The bread wheat genome is hexaploid, with three entire genomes (six sets of seven chromosomes) in each cell, as a result of crossbreeding.

Bread wheat accounts for more than a fifth of the calories eaten by people worldwide, and over 680 million tonnes of wheat are grown annually.

According to recent DNA studies from a team of researchers, the Romani people arose in India around 1500 years ago, earlier than previously thought. They then spread across Europe via the Balkans about 900 years ago.

Ethiopians can live and work more than a mile and a half above sea level without getting acute mountain sickness, despite breathing lower pressure air with lower levels of oxygen. This is because they have a gene adaptation that keeps their haemoglobin levels lower, reducing their risk of stroke. This is a different adaptation to that seen in Tibetans

Read the original article in PLoS Genetics.

However fit and well you feel, however good your genetic inheritance, nobody’s genes are perfect, because everyone carries an estimated 400 damaging gene variants and two disease-causing mutations. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though – many of the disease or damaged variants are unlikely to cause any harm to the carrier, and even though as many as one in ten people studied were expected to develop a genetic disease as a consequence of the variants, these are often very mild.

Read the original paper in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

City birds have been spotted using cigarette butts to make their nests. Birds have long used plants that keep away parasites as anti-pest warfare in their nests, and this may be a modern variation, as nicotine is an effective pesticide.

Read the original paper in Biology Letters.

French catfish have learned to kill birds – the fish, which are up to 1.5 metres long, beach themselves, lay in wait for pigeons, pounce, and then wriggle back into the river. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

Forget walking on water – pygmy mole crickets can jump off the surface of water using spring-loaded, oar-like paddles on their back legs.
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