Tag Archives: nature


Swabbing dolphin mouths reveals bacterial ‘dark matter’

Researchers have found two previously unknown phyla of bacteria inside the mouths of dolphins.

A phylum is a broad taxonomic rank that groups together organisms that share a set of common characteristics due to common ancestry.

The discovery of two bacterial phyla, as well as additional novel genes and predicted products, provides new insights into bacterial diversity, dolphin health, and the unique nature of marine mammals in general, says David Relman, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author of a new paper describing the findings.

swabbing dolphin's mouth
(Credit: National Marine Mammal Foundation via Stanford)

Bacterial ‘gold’

The US Navy’s Marine Mammal Program reached out to Relman more than 10 years ago for help in keeping its dolphins healthy. The animals are highly trained and perform missions at sea.

“We knew there was gold in those dolphin mouths, and we decided it was time to go after it…”

Previous research by Relman’s group, in collaboration with the Marine Mammal Center, revealed a surprising number of never-before-seen bacteria in dolphin and other marine mammal samples, particularly those swabbed from the dolphins’ mouths, says Relman. Some of the bacteria found in the current study are affiliated with poorly understood branches of the bacterial tree.

“These organisms, about which we have known just a tiny bit, are basically the dark matter of the biological world,” he says. “We knew there was gold in those dolphin mouths, and we decided it was time to go after it with more comprehensive methods.”

In the new study, the researchers identified bacterial lineages by reconstructing their genomes from short bits of DNA. The genome of a given cell serves as its blueprint and contains all its operating instructions, encoded in DNA.

The researchers named one of the newly identified lineages Delphibacteria in honor of the dolphins (Delphinidae is the Latin name for oceanic dolphins).

Earth may be home to 1 trillion species of microbes

By looking at the genes encoded in the genomes of Delphibacteria representatives, the researchers gained insight into the bacteria’s lifestyle.

Researchers predict the bacteria express a property called denitrification that may affect dolphins’ oral health: The chemical process can cause inflammation and could be connected to gum disease. Denitrification also occurs in plaque on human teeth, suggesting that something about mammalian mouths selects for this process.

Putting the puzzle together

The researchers differentiated between bacteria and predicted their behavior by looking broadly at their genomes.

“What we do first is shear the DNA into a bunch of little bits and pieces, the mix of DNA is sequenced, and we then try to figure out how the genomes were originally assembled,” says lead author Natasha Dudek, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

If a gene is one piece of a puzzle, the researchers put together the whole puzzle.

“Typically, people are interested in small Cas9 proteins that might be easy to manipulate and deliver into cells,” says Relman. “These are the opposite—they’re enormously big.”

Different structures in the genes that encode these proteins account for the size difference, and the researchers suggest these large Cas9 proteins have different properties from those known before. Dudek plans to pursue this line of research further.

‘Competing’ ocean bacteria may collaborate instead

The study also feeds nicely into ongoing work in Relman’s lab. A large, comparative study is underway to investigate how adaptation to life in the sea might affect marine mammal microbiomes. Beyond discovering and characterizing novel bacteria, Relman wants to apply his research to conservation.

“Marine mammals are becoming increasingly endangered,” he says. “They are sentinel species for the health of the sea, and the more we can understand their biology, the better we can anticipate changes in the health of their environment.”

The researchers report their findings in Current Biology.

Additional researchers from the UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and Stanford also contributed to the study. The Office of Naval Research supported the study, as did Stanford’s medicine and microbiology and immunology departments.

Source: Nicoletta Lanese for Stanford University

The post Swabbing dolphin mouths reveals bacterial ‘dark matter’ appeared first on Futurity.

"I'll have what he's having" – sea slugs seek their prey's already-ingested meals

A Cratena peregrina nudibranch, which eats both hydroid polyps and the zooplankton that THEY eat

Do you know what kleptoparasitic behaviour is? That’s when one species of animal steals prey killed by another, such as hyenas driving a lion away from its kill. Kleptopredation, however, describes what happens when one animal makes a point of eating another that has just fed, essentially eating both that animal and its recently-consumed meal. The behaviour has been observed in nature for the first time, in sea slugs off the coast of Sicily.

Continue Reading “I’ll have what he’s having” – sea slugs seek their prey’s already-ingested meals

Category: Biology


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Westfalia's latest Volkswagen camper van literally grows to add foot room

Westfalia transforms the new VW Crafter into the Sven Hedin camper

The new VW Crafter has been finding its place in the camper van market, in production campers like the Knaus Boxdrive to wild concepts like Volkswagen’s own California XXL. But there’s no better indication that Volkswagen’s latest full-size van has officially arrived on the camper van scene than a new package from Westfalia, the shop whose name will be forever intertwined with VW camper vans and buses. Westfalia turns the new Crafter into a smart, versatile camper with extendable bed, flexible storage and all the amenities you need to spend some time in nature.

Continue Reading Westfalia’s latest Volkswagen camper van literally grows to add foot room

Category: Automotive


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Israel's first AUV could make a splash

The HydroCamel II takes the plunge

Israel can now be added to the list of countries that manufacture autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Developed by a team at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the HydroCamel II was unveiled this Thursday at the NexTech Conference 2017 in the city of Beer-Sheva. According to its makers, it can do things that other AUVs can’t.

Continue Reading Israel’s first AUV could make a splash

Category: Marine


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David Adjaye’s Latest Project? A Museum Of Spycraft

Spyscape will invite visitors to explore 60,000 square feet of espionage.

The CIA. NSA. KGB. MI6. If you come across a secretive organization that has a foreboding, three-letter acronym, there’s a good chance it’s filled with spies. It’s unlikely any of us will ever lay eyes inside these covert organizations, by their very nature. But at Spyscape, a museum coming to Midtown Manhattan in January 2018, visitors will get a chance to see how espionage works–and even live a day in the life of a spy.

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Need another reason to eat your broccoli? Science just found one

It might not be your favorite thing on the dinner plate, but broccoli's disease-fighting powers just ...

Everyone knows eating veggies helps enhance health. But let’s face it, a plate of broccoli has nothing on a bowl of pasta. But before you brush those little tree tops aside, science has found yet another reason why consuming vegetables is good for us. The information is compelling enough that some people might want to add more green to their plates to help protect their guts.

Continue Reading Need another reason to eat your broccoli? Science just found one

Category: Medical


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The Wizard Of 3D Printing On What Comes Next

Joris Laarman, whose first major survey opens at the Cooper Hewitt this week, spoke to Co.Design about the future of digital design.

By 2006, Joris Laarman had finished graduate school at the Design Academy Eindhoven and was stewing on what would be his next big project. He had recently seen a documentary about an eccentric German professor, Claus Mattheck, who had created a novel design software program. First Mattheck would load a 3D rendering of a machine part into the program, which then stress-tested the part in virtual space. This wasn’t new. But Mattheck’s program would then automatically redesign the interior of the part, adding and subtracting material as needed to yield a piece optimized for weight and performance. That internal structure–a delicate lattice of spindly support columns–looked every bit like what had inspired it: the inside of a bone. Mattheck’s algorithms were borrowed from nature. Laarman imagined making a chair using that same program, only the chair wouldn’t hide its delicate, organic structure on the inside. It would show it off, as both a functional and decorative element. Thus was born the Bone Chair, which has become perhaps the most iconic work of the digital-design era.

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general design discussion • Re: Form Sensitivity-How to make co-workers aware

I just visited a studio that had developed a system to facilitate form finding discussions. Their system broke down form discussions into reads – 1st read, 2nd read, and so on. The 1st read was silhouette. The last had to do with the tactile nature of the surface. Everything else was in-between. Maybe you can create something similar, make some simple illustrations to demonstrate, and use it to encourage constructive discussions on form.

design employment • Re: Got laid off… want to relocate, but where to?

I escaped AZ. In terms of ID its a barren wasteland. It stems from the nature of the state where music and art are the first things cut for education budgets. It is after all #49 in education spending nationwide.

Have you seen the job at MTD in Tempe ? Do an Indeed search for ID in Tucson. You could always apply for one of the many Honeywell ID jobs they never fill. Boon on Tempe. Ping. You might find it to be more njoyable….

Unfortunately, ID is a young persons game and by young I mean under 40 years old.

PM if you want to know more.