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Lyme bacteria show that evolvability is evolvable

Nature Natural selection favours those with a greater capacity to generate genetic variation. Some gamblers succeed by spiriting cards up their sleeves, giving them a wider range of hands to play. So do some bacteria, whose great capacity for genetic variability helps them evolve and adapt to rapidly changing environments. Now research on Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, shows that the capacity to evolve can itself be the target of natural selection. The results were published today in PLoS Pathogens1. “There are other data that suggest that there could be selection on evolvability, but this is the first example … Read more…

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Ozone-hole treaty slowed global warming

Montreal Protocol helped to curb climate change and so did world wars and the Great Depression. Human actions that were not intended to limit the greenhouse effect have had large effects on slowing climate change. The two world wars, the Great Depression and a 1987 international treaty on ozone-depleting chemicals put a surprising dent in the rate at which the planet warmed, says research published today in Nature Geoscience1. Francisco Estrada, an ecological economist at the Free University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues analysed annual temperature data collected from 1850 to 2010, as well as trends in emissions of greenhouse gases … Read more…

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Lady of the Lakes

Nature Diane Orihel set her PhD aside to lead a massive protest when Canada tried to shut down its unique Experimental Lakes Area. It was an ominous way to start the day. When she arrived at work on the morning of 17 May 2012, Diane Orihel ran into distraught colleagues. Staff from Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area had just been called to an emergency meeting at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg. “It can’t be good,” said one.

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Bats before bedtime

Scientists find new animal species in old rainforests Deep in the heart of a small South American country called Guyana lies a protected forest. As night falls, you will find this tropical rainforest pulses with life. It is anything but quiet. The whistle of a bird called the screaming piha pierces the thick canopy of trees, as if competing with the chorus of crickets, cicadas and mosquitoes. Other strange creatures make themselves heard too. A sheep frog bleats while red howler monkeys spookily wail from the treetops. On this evening, it seems no one in the rainforest is sleeping — … Read more…

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The Manning Awards: how four Canadian inventors became market leaders

For three decades, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation has recognized Canadians who develop and market successful innovations. This year, the awards are about imagination and stamina, says David Mitchell, the foundation’s president. Each of the four winners created a homegrown, breakthrough product. (Two of the prizes, the Innovation Awards, go to those who haven’t had access to research facilities or advanced education in their fields). All of the inventors refined their ideas constantly—sometimes over decades—until they had something they knew would make a difference. Critical deliveries Encana Principal Award $100,000 In the mid-1990s, Geoffrey Auchinleck and his business partner Lyn Sherman … Read more…