Boulder, Colorado – Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder found that the Burmese python exhibits a unique trait when it consumes a meal. The massive predators often go months without eating, and when they finally do eat it is usually a very large meal, often a large mammal such as deer. After consuming these large meals, the snakes’ hearts grow roughly 40% in size, presumably to keep up with the massive demand from the digestive tract. This remarkable heart growth seems to be the result of an influx of a specific blend of fatty acids into the bloodstream of the snake. When injecting mice with the same ratio of three fatty acids generated by the snakes, researchers noted similar results.
Munich, Germany – Dreams appear to work the brain more than just in a visual way. Researchers at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, have found that during a dream the human brain reacts as if the body was actually doing the actions in the dream. To test this, the researchers recruited a number of people capable of “lucid dreaming,” those that are aware that they are dreaming and having some control over the dream. The researchers then put these people to sleep, had them signal when they knew they were dreaming, and recorded their brain activity. In every case, the brain was firing in the same way it would if the body were actually doing the things that the person was dreaming about.
Lisbon, Portugal – The second-oldest case of prostate cancer was discovered in an Egyptian mummy dating to 250 B.C. The mummy, known as M1, was “diagnosed” with prostate cancer after a team of researchers performed a number of high-resolution CT scans on the body and found the characteristic small tumors spreading from the mummy’s lower back and lumbar. This new discovery is one of 176 cases of skeletal maladies showing up in the ancient dead among the tens of thousands of skeletons studied.
Crawley, Australia – Many species of Australian seaweed may not survive the century, according to a new study conducted in the Indian Ocean. The study offers evidence that many species of seaweed have been found moving farther south along the Australian coast, toward the edge of the continental shelf. This behavior is most likely a response to global warming. The seaweed appear to be moving to cooler oceanic climates, and in the process may be moving off the continental shelf entirely. The researchers involved in the study fear that as many as 100 species of seaweed may become extinct in the next 60 years.