Science

A Pinnacle of Coral Is Discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Explorers of the Great Barrier Reef have discovered a giant pinnacle of coral.This week, a team of scientists reported finding a detached coral feature that rises from the seabed to a height of nearly one-third of a mile — taller than the Empire State Building. Its discoverers call it the first large new element of Australia’s famous reef system to be identified in more than 120 years.Moreover, the new reef is flourishing, in contrast to many ill ones in the Great Barrier and around the globe. Corals in warm, polluted waters often suffer environmental stresses that can turn them white and, if prolonged, kill them off. The wastage is known as coral bleaching.“It was a good day” when the team brought the massive new reef to light for the first time, said Robin Beaman of James Cook Univers...

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Science

Scientific Journals Commit to Diversity, but Lack the Data

“Science is publicized as a meritocracy: a larger, data-driven enterprise in which the best work and the best people float to the top,” Dr. Extavour said. In truth, she added, universal, objective standards are lacking, and “the access that authors have to editors is variable.”To democratize this process, editors and reviewers need to level the playing field, in part by reflecting the diversity that journals claim they seek, Dr. Kamath said. “People think this is a cosmetic or surface issue,” she said. “But in reality, the very nature of your scholarship would change if you took diversity, equity and inclusion seriously.”In responses to The Times, several organizations, including A.A.A.S., Cell Press, the Lancet and PLoS, pointed to ongoing efforts to track and boost equitable gender re...

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Science

NASA’s Asteroid Mission Packs Away Its Cargo. Next Stop: Earth.

As the canister was moved during the stowage steps, some more of the sample floated away. Dr. Lauretta estimated that tens of grams were lost.“We’ve come to realize that the particle loss, which continued throughout the entire stow, was what I would call a saltshaker effect,” Dr. Lauretta said. “It’s sloshing around as a result of that and a few of the particles, a small fraction of the collected sample, is escaping.”After the canister was lowered into place, the top of the return capsule swung down like a clamshell and was held closed by two latches, sealing the sample container inside and preventing the loss of any more material.Along the way, Dr. Lauretta said visual inspection of the collection canister confirmed there was about 400 grams, or close to a pound, of material inside. Bu...

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Science

Ancient Dog DNA Shows Early Spread Around the Globe

Among the other findings, Dr. Larson said he found it particularly intriguing that once dogs had become domesticated, and even while they were sometimes breeding with wolves, no new wolf DNA entered their genomes.By contrast, pigs, for example, were brought to Europe by farmers from Anatolia. But the genes of those first domesticated pigs have been completely lost, replaced by the genes of wild European boars, even though the pigs stayed domesticated animals.While dogs do interbreed, no new wolf genes survive over the years. One possibility, Dr. Larson said, is that “wolfiness” just doesn’t fit with an animal as close to people as a dog. Pigs can be a little wild but “if you’re a dog and you’ve got a little bit of wolf in you, that’s not a good thing and those things get knocked on the ...

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Science

When It Comes to Octopuses, Taste Is for Suckers

Some cells, they discovered, were there to detect only touch, and responded to pressure. Another population of cells, called chemoreceptors, instead detected chemicals, such as those that imbued fish with flavor.A series of genetic experiments then revealed that the surfaces of these taste-tuned cells were covered with different types of proteins, each tailored to its own chemical trigger. By mixing and matching these proteins, cells could develop their own unique tasting profiles, allowing the octopus’s suckers to discern flavors in fine gradations, then shoot the sensation to other parts of the nervous system.It seems octopuses have “a very detailed taste map of what they’re touching,” Dr. Tarvin said. “They don’t even need to see it. They’re just responding to attractive and aversive...

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How Suckerfish Surf Across Blue Whales Without Falling Off

In 2014, Jeremy Goldbogen, a marine biologist at Stanford University, stuck video cameras on the backs of blue whales, hoping to learn more about their feeding habits. When he retrieved the footage, he realized he had been photobombed. Dozens of Remora australis were treating his research subjects like dance floors, skimming and twisting across them — even as the whales swam at high speeds.They were “cruising all over the surface” of the whales, he said. “We were not expecting that at all.”Remoras — also known as suckerfish or whalesuckers — are strange, even for fish. They hitch rides with cetaceans, sharks and other larger creatures of the deep, attaching to them by means of a “sucking disc” that sits on their head like a flat, sticky hat. They then act as a kind of mobile pit crew, e...

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Science

Death Rates Have Dropped for Seriously Ill Covid Patients

Early on, physicians were placing patients on mechanical ventilators to assist with their breathing; over time they learned to position patients on their stomachs and provide them with supplemental oxygen through less invasive means, and postpone ventilation or avoid it altogether if possible.By mid-June, clinical trials in England had proven that treatment with a cheap steroid drug, dexamethasone, reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and death in patients getting supplemental oxygen by one-fifth. But the early recommendations from China and Italy were “to absolutely not use steroids, even though a lot of us thought it made sense to use them,” said Dr. Gita Lisker, a critical care physician at Northwell Health. “I think it’s making a big difference. But when we starte...

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Science

How Musk Ox Make It Through Arctic Nights and Never-Ending Days

In the distant reaches of northeastern Greenland, musk oxen amble across the tundra, grazing as they go. As Arctic creatures, they need to gather enough energy to make it through cold, dark winters. So when the bright summers come, they eat as if their lives depend on it — as in fact they do.Their lives are so extreme, scientists have wondered: Do they have circadian clocks?Most creatures on the planet live in lock step with the planet’s daily cycle of light and dark. There’s a time of day for eating, a time of day for sleeping, a time for digestion and so on. Scientists think 24-hour internal clocks help maximize an organism’s survival by keeping it from, for instance, wasting energy foraging at times of day when food may be hard to find. Evolution clearly favored this approach — circa...

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Pfizer C.E.O. All but Rules Out Vaccine Before Election Day

After weeks of dangling the possibility of coronavirus vaccine results by October, Pfizer’s chief executive said on Tuesday that would now be nearly impossible.The announcement, by Dr. Albert Bourla, came on the same day that Pfizer announced third-quarter earnings, and all but ruled out the possibility of early results before the presidential election next Tuesday. President Trump had long sought to tie the possibility of positive vaccine news to his own prospects for re-election.In a call with investors on Tuesday, Wall Street analysts pushed Dr. Bourla to be more specific about when the company would have early results that could show the effectiveness of its vaccine, and how much detail the company would provide. Pfizer is one of four companies with large, late-stage clinical trials...

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