Pickled Serpent DNA, Farthest Rotating Galaxy and More

How to Extract DNA from Pickled Snakes Decades Old

There are countless jars containing biological specimens floating in liquid in museums around the world.

Almost perfectly preserved in a mixture of formalin – a solution of formaldehyde gas and water – and alcohol, animal tissues become rubbery and stiff. But, unfortunately for geneticists, this process alters the DNA inside cells.

“It does something called cross-linking, which binds DNA,” says Dr Sara Ruane, assistant curator of herpetology at the Field Museum in the United States and lead author of a study using new approaches to maximize the DNA extracted from these specimens. “If you want to study its DNA, you have to undo or try to force the DNA out of these crosslinks.”

The study focused on a rare greenish-brown snake called the small-eyed olive snake (Hydrablab Periops). The snake is endemic to Borneo but is poorly known and there are no fresh tissue samples available, so chemically treated museum specimens are the only possibility to determine its taxonomy.

Researchers took small samples of liver tissue from two snake specimens from 1993 and 1964 and changed DNA extraction techniques (making it hotter for longer and using more digestive enzymes) to analyze their genetics.

“The chemicals used to preserve the snakes chopped their DNA into shorter pieces of code, making them difficult to compare with longer, more complete genes from other specimens,” says first author Dr. Justin Bernstein, researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, USA.

By using software to visualize gaps in the snake’s genome and adding the data to larger published genetic datasets, the team was able to determine that H. periops belongs to the Natricidae family.

The research has been published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Specimens preserved in alcohol Hydrablab Periops, a snake endemic to Borneo, in the collections of the Field Museum. Credit: Josh Mata/Field Museum

Demand for abortion drugs following leaked US Supreme Court draft ruling

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade – the 1973 decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion.

This week, new search on the effects of the first leak The Dobbs draft decision – made public in early May – found that internet searches for abortive drugs had reached national highs and searches were more common in US states with more restrictive reproductive rights, following the leak. .

The researchers analyzed Google search queries from the United States that mentioned the “abortion pill” or specific drug names, from January 1, 2004 to May 8, 2022.

Searches for abortifacient drugs increased at the time the draft was leaked online and increased by 162% in the 72 hour period following the leak compared to before. There were approximately 350,000 searches on the internet during the week of the leak (May 1-8).

“Accessible information on abortion drugs must be prioritized online; including encouraging evidence-based telehealth for those seeking abortion medication,” says co-author Nora Satybaldiyeva, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, San Diego.

Understanding how falcons land could help robotic systems

While planes can use runways to brake and reduce speed after landing, birds aren’t so lucky. Instead they have to brake before they come to a perch.

But slowing down to a safe speed while still in flight risks stalling and suddenly losing control.

In a new study Posted in Natureresearchers have discovered how hawks control their flight to ensure the safest landing conditions when perching.

Four Harris Hawks (Parabuteo unicinctus), wearing tiny retroreflective markers, were tracked back and forth between two perches. Their movements were recorded by 20 motion-capture cameras, which allowed the researchers to reconstruct their flight paths and then use computer simulations to figure out why the birds chose their particular path to roost.

They found that to minimize stalling, the hawks would dive downward while flapping their wings before spreading their wings in a soaring posture as they headed for the roost. By using the right speed and position from which to launch, the birds were always safely within easy reach of the roost when they inevitably stumbled.

“Motion-capture technology has allowed us to analyze thousands of flights at once, addressing questions we never could have answered before,” says lead author Graham Taylor, a professor in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, UK.

“Looking to the future, this opens up the tantalizing possibility of understanding how animals learn complex motor tasks, like learning to fly, and revolutionizing the way robotic systems can do the same.”

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Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) in flight. Credit: Rob Bullingham

Health-conscious young people pay high prices for ‘healthy’ drinks

A study of over 1,000 hotel consumers from Australia and New Zealand found that younger consumers (aged 18-24) are more likely than older guests to be interested in “healthy” drinks .

More than a quarter – 27% – of consumers would pay nearly double the price for drinks with little or no sugar, natural or no additives, or vitamins and minerals. Those who ate out at least once a week were likely to pay more for healthy drinks, and those who ate out more often were willing to pay a higher premium.

These findings have implications for the restaurant industry as it gets back up and running after being hit hard by the pandemic.

The research has been published in PLOS A.

The most distant galaxy rotation ever observed

The most distant galaxies that telescopes can detect are among the first to form in our universe. They move away from us as the universe expands, and the further away a galaxy is, the faster it seems to move away from us.

Now, according to a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Lettersastrophysicists have detected the most distant rotating galaxy ever observed (MACS1149-JD1).

Scientists can estimate how fast a galaxy is moving and when it formed, based on how “red-shifted” its emissions appear. By measuring small redshift differences from position to position within the galaxy, they were able to determine that JD1 is spinning at around 50 kilometers per second (the Milky Way is spinning at 220 km/s) .

“The rotational speed of JD1 is much slower than those found in galaxies of later epochs and our Galaxy, and it is likely that JD1 is at an early stage of development of rotational motion,” says the co-author Akio Inoue, a professor at the School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Waseda University, Japan.

These discoveries allow us to better understand the process of galaxy formation in the early universe.

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After the Big Bang came the first galaxies. Due to the expansion of the universe, these galaxies are moving away from us. This causes their emissions to redshift (shift to longer wavelengths). By studying these redshifts, it is possible to characterize the “movement” within the galaxies as well as their distance. In a new study, astronomers from Waseda University have now revealed probable rotational motion from such a distant galaxy. Credit: Waseda University