Science Saturday: The One-Day-Late Edition

Good News/Bad News on Climate Change. You probably want the bad news first, right? ScienceDaily reported on December 7 that climate change will “significantly increase impending bird extinctions.” Land bird species—the majority of all birds—that depend on cooler ecosystems in the lowlands will be forced to move to less hospitable highlands as the Earth warms. The worst-case scenario calls for extinction of 30 percent of land bird species by 2100 as birds run out of habitable space. The good news? If scientists can figure out how to develop biotechnological applications from the genome of a gas-eating microorganism, they might be able to curb greenhouse gases. Again reported by ScienceDaily last Friday, a research team from the University of Calgary discovered a new species of bacteria—belonging to a family known as methanotrophic bacteria— “living in one of the most extreme environments on Earth,” a geothermal field called “Hell’s Gate” in New Zealand. As noted in the article, “methanotrophic bacteria consume methane as their only source of energy and convert it to carbon dioxide during their digestive process.” (I’m sure there’s a fart joke in there somewhere, but my delicate sensibilities can’t find it.)

Advice from a 500,000-year-old Homo Erectus: Get Your Vitamin D. Anthropologists from the University of Texas at Austin found evidence of tuberculosis in a 500,000-year-old skeleton discovered in Turkey, which put to rest the previous notion that the disease is only a few thousand years old. The discovery also reinforced the belief that people with less vitamin D—specifically, those with darker skin, which blocks ultraviolet light and decreases the body’s production of vitamin D—have compromised immune systems and are more susceptible to diseases like TB, especially when they migrate to northern climates. (Source: ScienceDaily.)

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