News at a Glance: Classification Research Debate, Giant Water Lilies and New Hummingbird Feather Colors | Science


Scientists discover new hummingbird colors

Hummingbird plumage has more color diversity than the feathers of all other birds combined, according to a recent study. Researchers at Yale University collected feathers from specimens of 114 hummingbird species and, using a spectrometer, documented the wavelengths of light they reflected. These wavelengths were then compared to those found in a previous study of 111 other bird species, including penguins and parrots. The researchers were surprised to find new colors in the hummers, which expanded the known avian color range by 56% and included rarely seen saturated greens and blues, they report in Communications Biology. The new variation largely includes colors in the ultraviolet scale that are invisible to humans and likely only seen by hummingbirds themselves. The researchers note that the variation is likely due to the reflective qualities of the nanostructures present in the small barbs that protrude from the tip of each hummingbird feather. The new colors were mainly found on the crowns and throats of birds, suggesting a role in courtship displays and communication.


New debate on secrecy

Science learned that the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has asked the National Academies to revisit a Cold War-era presidential directive this fall that sees opening up basic research as a boon to both innovation and national security. Proponents of classifying as little information as possible say additional restrictions would hurt US research without deterring countries seen as adversaries. China’s aggressive pursuit of several emerging technologies for commercial and military purposes, however, has prompted many lawmakers to call for sealing off basic research findings on a range of sensitive technologies. A 2019 report to the NSF supported the current policy, published in 1985 and known as NSDD-189. But NSF officials say the world has changed enough for experts in academia, government and industry to revisit the issue.


Court limits EPA’s climate power

Along with a group of Republican-led states and the power industry, the US Supreme Court last week limited the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. Analysts say the 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. APE will hamper President Joe Biden’s efforts to achieve his goal of dramatically reducing US carbon emissions and empowering states. Notably, however, the court’s conservative majority did not use the case to challenge the EPA’s underlying authority to regulate greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, the primary warming gas. the planet. But federal courts are still considering other lawsuits that would further narrow the agency’s options for regulating carbon dioxide emissions.


Colombia reaches its conservation target

Colombia is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to achieve the widely adopted 30×30 ocean conservation goal, Colombian President Iván Duque said last week at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. More than 100 other countries have signed the commitment to protect 30% of the ocean and land surface by 2030. To reach this proportion of the ocean area protected in Colombia 8 years before the deadline, Duque has designated three new marine areas protected and expanded the existing Malpelo Wildlife Sanctuary in the eastern Pacific Ocean to include a 1,400 kilometer underwater ridge that acts as a highway for sharks and other marine life. Duque also announced a $245 million initiative that aims to protect 32 million hectares of Colombian land and oceans.

We just hope we haven’t opened a Pandora’s box.

  • Artificial intelligence scientist Almira Osmanovic Thunström
  • in American Scientistdiscussing research papers written by AI algorithms, including one she submitted to a journal.

German military research encouraged

German universities should undertake more military research, Germany’s national engineering academy, Acatech, said in a white paper published last month. The Russian attack on Ukraine has prompted a shift in Germany’s narrow approach to defense that has prevailed since World War II, with lawmakers recently approving 100 billion euros in new military funding. Many German universities have long voluntarily banned military and dual-use research, but that stance has been outdated since the war in Ukraine, the June 24 report said. He calls on German science to also focus on security, resilience and sustainability and for a broad debate on the research needed for the country’s security.


Protections overhang trees at risk

Tree conservation initiatives largely focus on non-threatened species, according to an analysis presented last week at the Global Biodiversity Forum. The work is an update of the State of the World’s Trees report, originally published in September 2021, which showed that a third of the world’s 60,000 tree species are at risk of extinction, fueled by land clearing for agriculture, logging and climate change. The new analysis finds that areas marked for conservation, such as national parks, protect 85% of non-threatened tree species, compared to only 56% of threatened species. The same goes for trees in scientific collections, such as botanical gardens and seed banks; only 21% of threatened species are saved there against 45% of non-threatened ones. Researchers are concerned that the lack of endangered trees in collections could hamper conservation and restoration programs aimed at cultivating and preserving endangered species. Among the most vulnerable trees in the world are the Magnolia ekmanii of Haiti and Diospyros egrettarumof which less than 10 specimens remain in his native Mauritius.


In the United States, Google searches for the “abortion pill” and the names of specific abortion drugs between May 1 and May 8, the week the United States Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization draft decision has been disclosed. (JAMA internal medicine)


Next-gen COVID-19 jabs are coming

Revamped COVID-19 booster shots are expected this fall, after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisers voted 19-2 last week in favor of incorporating an Omicron strain into existing vaccines. The FDA approved, announcing on June 30 that it was asking manufacturers to retool their injections for an advanced protein component shared by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which are currently gaining traction around the world. The new vaccines, which Pfizer and Moderna say they can make available by around October, will have the same dose of messenger RNA as previous boosters, but will target both Omicron and the original coronavirus strain first detected. times in 2019. Pfizer and Moderna reported data from ongoing vaccine trials against an earlier strain of Omicron, BA.1, and the FDA plans to consider this data when evaluating fall recalls.


Airline stops carrying monkeys

Air France will stop transporting non-human primates once its current contracts have ended. The airline was the last major obstacle to transporting non-human primates as cargo. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals welcomed the decision, but the European Association for Animal Research warns it will restrict research, especially as the European Union prepares to introduce new limits on primate studies later this year. The United States already faces a shortage of monkeys for research, in part because of a Chinese ban on monkey exports.


New species of water lily named

two people edge a new species of giant water lily
Scientists have discovered and named a new species of giant water lily.ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS, KEW

Researchers have discovered a new species of water lily, and its leaves, as wide as a ping-pong table is long, are the largest in the world, they report in Frontiers in plant science. Bolivian Victoriaso named because it grows the tallest in Bolivia, proved to be a separate species with detailed genetic analysis and morphological observations of specimens at the National Herbarium of Bolivia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England, where the new species is exposed.


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