New method determines the snakiness of plesiosaur necks

Royal Society Open Science Using computed tomography and three-dimensional modelling, researchers assessed the range of motion of the plesiosaur Nichollssaura borealis neck. They measured intervertebral mobility by manipulating the models in the lateral and dorsoventral directions, with results suggesting that N. borealis may have preferred moving its neck sideways. Three-dimensional modelling is an effective tool […]

Methadone linked to lower death rates among opioid-addicted convicted offenders

PLOS Researchers analyzed data from 1998 to 2015 on 14,530 people with criminal convictions who had been prescribed methadone in British Columbia. They found offenders were five times less likely to die from infectious diseases and nearly three times less likely to die from overdoses during periods when they were dispensed methadone, even after controlling […]

Island living makes for brainy birds

Nature Communications  Using a dataset of brain sizes for 11,554 specimens from 1,931 bird species, researchers found that birds living on mid-ocean islands tend to have larger brains than their mainland relatives. Island environments are less predictable, with limited opportunities for species to disperse when conditions deteriorate. This may force individual birds to explore and rely on […]

White clover becomes less toxic in the city

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Researchers show that across 20 cities, towns and villages in southern Canada, common white clover repeatedly adapts to city environments by evolving to have less toxic defences. The results show adaptation to cities may be common, and this evolutionary change may have important consequences for maintaining healthy […]

Proteins in ancient tooth plaque reveal long-ago diets

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Researchers found a new way to identify ancient diet from proteins preserved in ancient people’s teeth. After extracting proteins from 100 plaque samples from teeth ranging in age from the Iron Age to the Post-Medieval period in Britain, the researchers found the plaque contained proteins from cereals, […]

Reproductive strategies linked to disease resistance in white-throated sparrows

Disease resistance often comes at a cost to other functions, meaning that even within the same species, immune activity can differ between the sexes or even between different life-history strategies within a sex. White-throated sparrows are unusual in having two colour morphs, white and tan. Within each sex, white birds are more aggressive and tan […]

Universal free fall leaves Einstein’s theory standing 

The principle that all objects accelerate identically, regardless of their own gravity, when falling in an external gravitational field has passed the most stringent test to date. Scientists observed the motions of a binary star system containing a neutron star closely orbited by a white dwarf, which are, in turn, both orbited by another, distant […]

HPV testing detects cervical pre-cancer earlier, more accurately than Pap smear

Nearly all cervical cancers are associated with persistent cervical infection from cancer-related human papillomavirus (HPV) strains. Results from a randomized clinical trial of about 19,000 women that compared primary HPV testing alone versus Pap test for cervical screening show that primary HPV testing detects precancerous lesions earlier and more accurately than the Pap test. Moreover, […]

Antidepressants may increase risk of death for those with progressive lung disease

Antidepressant use in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with a 20 per cent increase in likelihood of death and a 15 per cent increase in likelihood of hospitalization due to related symptoms. This study suggests a strong association exists between, new users of serotonergic antidepressants among adults with COPD and higher […]

Who takes the most risks, and when? 

A new mathematical model shows organisms in good condition take the most risks when their condition gives them higher probabilities of success, higher gains from success, or higher buffering against failure. Conversely, organisms in poor condition take the most risks when poor condition causes desperation. Under specific conditions, the riskiest individuals are those in intermediate […]

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