SciTech

SciTech Briefs

The larger bamboo lemur eating a bamboo shoot. This endangered species is at greater risk of extinction as climate change forces them to rely on less woody, dry and less nutritious bamboo.  (credit: Courtesy of Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Commons) The larger bamboo lemur eating a bamboo shoot. This endangered species is at greater risk of extinction as climate change forces them to rely on less woody, dry and less nutritious bamboo. (credit: Courtesy of Brian Gratwicke via Flickr Commons)

Astronomers detect astroid from outside the solar system

On Oct. 18, the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope discovered the object named A/2017 U1. It was originally thought to be a comet because of its highly titled orbits, however, more data reveals that it might actually be an asteroid.

All astroids discovered so far have been from within the solar system and revolve around the sun. Even comets, according to an article on Science News, come from the Oort cloud, and have highly tilted orbits but still orbit the sun.

This object’s path is at a very steep angle as compared to the other objects in this solar system to be orbiting the sun. More data collected by other telescopes from around the world suggest that this asteroid doesn’t originate from this solar system and now, is on its way out of it.
This object presents opportunity for scientists to better understand planets from other systems. It seems to be only 400 meters across and is flying across our solar system at 25.5 kilometers per second.

These results were announced by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in a bulletin on Oct. 25.

Source: Science News

Climate change critically endangers Madagascar lemurs

The greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) found almost exclusively in Madagascar is a critically endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

They are extremely picky eaters and eat a single species of bamboo throughout the year. They prefer the tender, nutritious shoots. However, during the dry months like pandas, they eat the hard, woody stems called culm. They even have specialized teeth for that purpose. Their highly specific diet makes them vulnerable to starvation as they become increasing dependent on culm as the climate becomes drier, and tender shoots become rarer.

This dependency is a direct consequence of climate change. Global warming has caused, and if unchecked will continue to cause longer dry seasons, which will force the greater bamboo lemurs to eat culm.

Patricia Wright at Stony Brook University explains in an article on Science Daily, “making the lemurs rely on a suboptimal part of their food for just a bit longer may be enough to tip the balance from existence to extinction.”

The report was published in Current Biology on Oct. 26.

Source: Science Daily

Scientists replace DNA errors instead of deleting them

On Oct. 25, a study published in Nature explained a new genome-editing technique that allowed scientists to replace the DNA base adenine to guanine.
Previous CRISPR techniques used deletion to get rid of genomic errors. Another study was published by Feng Zhang and his team, also on Oct. 25, in Science journal that explained how to make the same corrections in RNA molecules.

CRISPR/Cas9 is used to make genetic modifications and correct errors in animals and even, human embryos. It uses a guiding RNA that allows the new DNA to reach the target DNA section, and then snip off the offending area.

Gene Yeo, an RNA biologist at the University of California, San Diego says, “we know there are drawbacks to cutting DNA.” Mistakes often arise when cellular machinery attempts to repair DNA breaks. And although accurate, CRISPR sometimes cuts DNA at places similar to the target, raising the possibility of introducing new mutations elsewhere. Such “permanent irreversible edits at the wrong place in the DNA could be bad,” Yeo says. “These two papers have different ways to solve that problem.”

Source: Science News