Category Archives: Nature

Wild animals could hamper efforts to eradicate yaws disease

Global health officials are intensifying efforts to eradicate yaws, a disfiguring skin disease that infects more than 64,000 people a year in 14 African and southeast Asian countries. But some critics say that the plans could fail, because they don’t take account of discoveries in the past few years that wild primate populations harbour the bacterial infection. That could complicate or foil eradication efforts, they say.

Public-health officials met in Geneva, Switzerland, on 29–30 January to discuss how to expand the eradication programme in 6 of the 14 countries in which yaws is endemic. But they did not discuss the part played by wild animals. “Even if this is not the main cause of re-emerging yaws nowadays, it would jeopardize global eradication,” says Sascha Knauf, who studies neglected tropical diseases at the Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, Germany.
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Fishing for fossils in the North Sea

Palaeontologists who attend the annual International Cave Bear Symposium (ICBS) can usually count on at least one expedition to a bear cave. The meeting allows scientists to report the latest fossil findings of Pleistocene animals such as cave bears and big cats — whose best-preserved samples are often found in caves.

But the 2015 meeting on 10–13 September took place instead near the North Sea coast in the Netherlands, with no caves in sight. Palaeontologist Natasja den Ouden of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, a museum in Leiden, tells Nature how fossil samples from the North Sea are shedding light on mammals’ movements during the last ice age.
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Nicaragua defies canal protests

Nicaragua has great expectations for the Grand Canal, a US$50-billion, 5-year project to link its Caribbean and Pacific coasts with a 280-kilometre waterway. President Daniel Ortega and other supporters of the canal, who celebrated the start of construction on 22 December, say that it will generate much-needed income for residents of the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading

Supernova erupts in nearby galaxy

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UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

Last night, light from a new supernova reached astronomers on Earth. Its origin: the nearby galaxy M82, some 3.5 megaparsecs away (11.4 million light years). It is one of the closest and brightest supernovae seen from Earth since a monster exploded in 1987 just 168,000 light years away. Astronomers say that the latest supernova is of the type 1a class, and may help reveal how such supernovae form. Moreover, because these supernovae are used as cosmic measuring sticks, understanding them better may help clarify the shape of the Universe.

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