Will's Feed
Nov 26, 2014

Gut check: how vultures dine on rotting flesh, and like it

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – They snack on danger and dine on death, merrily munching on rotting flesh that would certainly sicken or kill any person and most other animals. But how do vultures do it?

These feathery scavengers have one of the toughest guts on the planet, that is how. Scientists said on Tuesday that their analysis of two species of North American vultures showed that the birds possess a ferociously acidic digestive system and intestines loaded with two fiendish kinds of bacteria.

Nov 24, 2014

Cold hard facts: Underwater robot measures Antarctic sea ice

WASHINGTON, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Measuring the thickness of
Antarctic sea ice, an important gauge of environmental
conditions in this remote polar region in a time of global
climate change, has proven to be a tricky task. But an
underwater robot is providing a nice solution.

Satellite measurements can be skewed by surface snow, and
some ice floes are simply too difficult to reach by ship, even
icebreakers, to make direct measurements by drilling into them.

Nov 20, 2014

Want to live on the ‘roof of the world’? Grow barley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Tibetan Plateau, the harsh Asian domain known as the ‘roof of the world,’ would not seem an ideal place for people to call home thanks to its extreme altitude, frigid temperatures, relentless winds and low-oxygen conditions.

When people did succeed in colonizing this remote land, it was only after they discovered how to feed themselves year-round with cold-hardy crops like barley brought to the region from far away, scientists said on Thursday.

Nov 20, 2014

HIV drugs show promise in treating common eye disease

WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – A class of drugs used for
three decades by people infected with the virus that causes AIDS
may be effective in treating a leading cause of blindness among
the elderly.

HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
(NRTIs), including AZT and three others, blocked age-related
macular degeneration in mice and worked well in experiments
involving human retinal cells in the laboratory, researchers
said on Thursday.

Nov 19, 2014

Secret Service chief says agency ‘severely damaged’ by lapses

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The acting head of the U.S. Secret Service said on Wednesday that the agency charged with protecting the president had been “severely damaged” by harmful lapses, including allowing a knife-carrying man to jump a fence and run into the White House in September.

Joseph Clancy told the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee he had sought to establish a culture of trust within the Secret Service since replacing Julia Pierson, who resigned under fire as director on Oct. 1.

Nov 17, 2014

Virus implicated in massive die-off of North American starfish

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists investigating a huge die-off of starfish along North America’s Pacific coast have identified a virus they say is responsible for a calamitous wasting disease that has wiped out millions of the creatures since it first appeared last year.

The scientists said on Monday they identified the pathogen as the Sea Star Associated Densovirus, or SSaDV, after ruling out other possible culprits including certain bacteria, protozoans and fungi.

Nov 13, 2014

Chimpanzee study reveals the value of being an ape bully

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For male chimpanzees, there may be a benefit to being a bully.

Scientists said on Thursday a study of chimpanzees in Tanzania spanning 17 years found that males that subjected females to long-term aggressive behavior, often including physical attacks, greatly improved their chances of fathering babies with them.

Nov 13, 2014

Bolt from the blue: warming climate may fuel more lightning

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rising global temperatures may cause a big jolt in the number of lightning strikes in the United States over the rest of the 21st century in the latest example of extreme weather spawned by climate change, scientists say.

Researchers forecast on Thursday that lightning strikes will increase by about 50 percent by 2100 in the continental United States because thunderstorms will become more explosive in the coming decades thanks to a warming planet.

Nov 13, 2014

Infanticide common among adult males in many mammal species

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Predators such as leopards and cheetahs are not the biggest mortal threat to baby Chacma baboons, large and aggressive monkeys that live across southern Africa. That threat comes from adult males of their own species.

“Up to 50 percent of the infants might be killed by males in these populations, a massive impact more important than disease or predation,” University of Cambridge behavioral ecologist Dieter Lukas said.

Nov 12, 2014

Scientists scour the genomes of people who live past 110

WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) – How do some people live past
110 years old? Is it superior genes, clean living, good luck or
some combination of those?

Scientists studying these “supercentenarians” said on
Wednesday they sequenced the genomes of 17 people ages 110 to
116 to try to determine whether they possess genetic traits that
may account for their membership in this exclusive club that
worldwide includes only about 75 individuals, nearly all women.