SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

481

The ~70 km-diameter Yarrabubba impact structure in Western Australia is regarded as among Earth’s oldest, but has hitherto lacked precise age constraints. Here we present U-Pb ages for impact-driven shock-recrystallised accessory minerals. Shock-recrystallised monazite yields a precise impact age of 2229 ± 5 Ma, coeval with shock-reset zircon. This result establishes Yarrabubba as the oldest recognised meteorite impact structure on Earth, extending the terrestrial cratering record back >200 million years. The age of Yarrabubba coincides, within uncertainty, with temporal constraint for the youngest Palaeoproterozoic glacial deposits, the Rietfontein diamictite in South Africa. Numerical impact simulations indicate that a 70 km-diameter crater into a continental glacier could release between 8.7 × 1013 to 5.0 × 1015 kg of H2O vapour instantaneously into the atmosphere. These results provide new estimates of impact-produced H2O vapour abundances for models investigating termination of the Paleoproterozoic glaciations, and highlight the possible role of impact cratering in modifying Earth’s climate.

287

Domestication dramatically alters phenotypes across animal species. Standing variation among ancestral populations often drives phenotypic change during domestication, but some changes are caused by novel mutations. In dogs (Canis familiaris) specifically, it has been suggested that the ability to interpret social-communicative behavior expressed by humans originated post-domestication and this behavior is thus not expected to occur in wolves (Canis lupus). Here we report the observation of three 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously responding to social-communicative behaviors from an unfamiliar person by retrieving a ball. This behavioral expression in wolves has significant implications for our understanding and expectations of the genetic foundations of dog behavior. Importantly, our observations indicate that behavioral responses to human social-communicative cues are not unique to dogs. This suggests that, although probably rare, standing variation in the expression of human-directed behavior in ancestral populations could have been an important target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication.

201

The current outbreak of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, China, was caused by a novel coronavirus designated 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization, as determined by sequencing the viral RNA genome. Many patients were potentially exposed to wildlife animals at the Huanan seafood wholesale market, where poultry, snake, bats, and other farm animals were also sold. To determine the possible virus reservoir, we have carried out comprehensive sequence analysis and comparison in conjunction with relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) bias among different animal species based on existing sequences of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Results obtained from our analyses suggest that the 2019-nCoV appears to be a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin-unknown coronavirus. The recombination occurred within the viral spike glycoprotein, which recognizes cell surface receptor. Additionally, our findings suggest that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV based on its RSCU bias resembling snake compared to other animals. Taken together, our results suggest that homologous recombination within the spike glycoprotein may contribute to cross-species transmission from snake to humans. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

116

Empirical and anecdotal evidence has associated stress with accelerated hair greying (formation of unpigmented hairs)1,2, but so far there has been little scientific validation of this link. Here we report that, in mice, acute stress leads to hair greying through the fast depletion of melanocyte stem cells. Using a combination of adrenalectomy, denervation, chemogenetics3,4, cell ablation and knockout of the adrenergic receptor specifically in melanocyte stem cells, we find that the stress-induced loss of melanocyte stem cells is independent of immune attack or adrenal stress hormones. Instead, hair greying results from activation of the sympathetic nerves that innervate the melanocyte stem-cell niche. Under conditions of stress, the activation of these sympathetic nerves leads to burst release of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine). This causes quiescent melanocyte stem cells to proliferate rapidly, and is followed by their differentiation, migration and permanent depletion from the niche. Transient suppression of the proliferation of melanocyte stem cells prevents stress-induced hair greying. Our study demonstrates that neuronal activity that is induced by acute stress can drive a rapid and permanent loss of somatic stem cells, and illustrates an example in which the maintenance of somatic stem cells is directly influenced by the overall physiological state of the organism.

112

Across the nation, growing numbers of individuals are exploring the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and the proportion of cannabis-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes increased from 8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014, raising concerns about the impact of cannabis use on driving. Previous studies have demonstrated that cannabis use is associated with impaired driving performance, but thus far, research has primarily focused on the effects of acute intoxication.

107

In December 2019, a cluster of patients with pneumonia of unknown cause was linked to a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China. A previously unknown betacoronavirus was discovered through the use of unbiased sequencing in samples from patients with pneumonia. Human airway epithelial cells were used to isolate a novel coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, which formed another clade within the subgenus sarbecovirus, Orthocoronavirinae subfamily. Different from both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV is the seventh member of the family of coronaviruses that infect humans. Enhanced surveillance and further investigation are ongoing. (Funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China and the National Major Project for Control and Prevention of Infectious Disease in China.).

80

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-independent, T cell-mediated targeting of cancer cells would allow immune destruction of malignancies in all individuals. Here, we use genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screening to establish that a T cell receptor (TCR) recognized and killed most human cancer types via the monomorphic MHC class I-related protein, MR1, while remaining inert to noncancerous cells. Unlike mucosal-associated invariant T cells, recognition of target cells by the TCR was independent of bacterial loading. Furthermore, concentration-dependent addition of vitamin B-related metabolite ligands of MR1 reduced TCR recognition of cancer cells, suggesting that recognition occurred via sensing of the cancer metabolome. An MR1-restricted T cell clone mediated in vivo regression of leukemia and conferred enhanced survival of NSG mice. TCR transfer to T cells of patients enabled killing of autologous and nonautologous melanoma. These findings offer opportunities for HLA-independent, pan-cancer, pan-population immunotherapies.

77

Acoustic communication is crucial to humans and many other tetrapods, including birds, frogs, crocodilians, and mammals. However, large-scale patterns in its evolution are largely unstudied. Here, we address several fundamental questions about the origins of acoustic communication in terrestrial vertebrates (tetrapods), using phylogenetic methods. We show that origins of acoustic communication are significantly associated with nocturnal activity. We find that acoustic communication does not increase diversification rates, a surprising result given the many speciation-focused studies of frog calls and bird songs. We also demonstrate that the presence of acoustic communication is strongly conserved over time. Finally, we find that acoustic communication evolved independently in most major tetrapod groups, often with remarkably ancient origins (~100-200 million years ago). Overall, we show that the role of ecology in shaping signal evolution applies to surprisingly deep timescales, whereas the role of signal evolution in diversification may not.

69

We use a globally unique dataset that scores every individual academic’s holistic research performance in New Zealand to test several common explanations for the gender pay gap in universities. We find a man’s odds of being ranked professor or associate professor are more than double a woman’s with similar recent research score, age, field, and university. We observe a lifetime gender pay gap of ~NZ$400,000, of which research score and age explain less than half. Our ability to examine the full spectrum of research performance allows us to reject the ‘male variability hypothesis’ theory that the preponderance of men amongst the ‘superstars’ explains the lifetime performance pay gap observed. Indeed women whose research career trajectories resemble men’s still get paid less than men. From 2003-12, women at many ranks improved their research scores by more than men, but moved up the academic ranks more slowly. We offer some possible explanations for our findings, and show that the gender gap in universities will never disappear in most academic fields if current hiring practices persist.

68

Under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, new controls are being implemented to reduce emissions of HFC-23 (CHF[Formula: see text]), a by-product during the manufacture of HCFC-22 (CHClF[Formula: see text]). Starting in 2015, China and India, who dominate global HCFC-22 production (75% in 2017), set out ambitious programs to reduce HFC-23 emissions. Here, we estimate that these measures should have seen global emissions drop by 87% between 2014 and 2017. Instead, atmospheric observations show that emissions have increased and in 2018 were higher than at any point in history (15.9 [Formula: see text]). Given the magnitude of the discrepancy between expected and observation-inferred emissions, it is likely that the reported reductions have not fully materialized or there may be substantial unreported production of HCFC-22, resulting in unaccounted-for HFC-23 by-product emissions. The difference between reported and observation-inferred estimates suggests that an additional ~309 Tg [Formula: see text]-equivalent emissions were added to the atmosphere between 2015 and 2017.