By: Kaitlyn Morabito
Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.
Malaria parasite alters host body order to entice mosquitoes. Building upon earlier indications that mosquitoes are more attracted to people that are infected with Plasmodium, the parasite that causes Malaria, scientists were able to identify chemical exuded by mice infected with plasmodium which attract Anopheles mosquitoes. These four chemicals are present mainly at 13-20 days post infection, which coincides with diminishing Malaria symptoms. Researchers are now determining whether these findings hold true for infected humans. The presence of these chemicals may allow for rapid detection of people who are carriers of the disease. (Geoffrey Mohan)
Ninety-nine percent of the ocean’s plastic is missing. Disappearing garbage does not typically raise alarm bells, but researchers studying how much garbage is floating in the oceans cannot account for 99% of the estimated plastic that should be in our oceans. Scientists hypothesize that the plastic, which is broken down into tiny pieces by sun and ocean exposure, are becoming fish food. Since fish are part of the food web, they worry that the plastic and toxins such as DDT, PCBs, and mercury that adsorb on the plastic may be concentrating in the fish. These chemicals could make it up the food chain and ultimately eventually land on your plate. However, the effects of fish eating plastic are not known, and neither is how much plastic is being consumed. Other “best case” possibilities for the missing plastic include digestion by microbes, washing ashore and sinking to the bottom of the oceans. Further investigation into the quantity and consequences of marine animal consumption of plastic is needed to assess the risk to the human population. (Angus Chen)
Finally, some solid science on Bigfoot. Following an open solicitation of possible Yeti/Bigfoot hairs, Scientist Bryan Sykes and his colleagues at Oxford University and the Museum of Zoology in Lausaane, Switzerland found two DNA samples matching a 40,000-year-old polar bear’s jawbone. While there was no indication of yeti DNA, researchers may have discovered a new species of bear and deduce that “the hairs are from either an unknown bear species or a hybrid of a brown bear and a polar bear.” However, the match is only based on 100bp of DNA, so these results are preliminary and need to be further validated. Since these samples were collected independently and far apart in both time and distance, Sykes believes this is not a hoax. If real, this bear species may account for some of the Bigfoot sightings in this region. (Erika Engelhaupt)
Have an interesting science policy link? Share it in the comments!