A tooth like this one, found in a 1,500-year-old grave site near Munich, harbored enough blood in the leftover bits of dental pulp that researchers were able to sequence the DNA. In that blood, they found not only human genetic material, but that of a bacterium — Yersinia pestis, aka the plague. The interesting thing here is that the plague of 6th-century Munich is not the same plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century under the nickname Black Death. The discovery means that Y. pestis jumped from rat to flea to human on more than one occasion, producing plagues that are genetically distinct.
The researchers are linking this earlier plague with the Plague of Justinian, a 6th century pandemic that killed millions. There's still debate over whether the Plague of Justinian was caused by the plague, as in Y. pestis, or by something else, largely because descriptions of symptoms don't totally match up with later plague outbreaks and the death toll is much larger than what we see in plague outbreaks today. (Those facts also apply to the Black Death, which was different from the Plague of Justinian and different from modern plague outbreaks.) Based on this evidence, we can't really say much about the Plague of Justinian, for certain. There's nothing directly linking the Munich bodies to it, specifically. But, if the Plague of Justinian was caused by Y. pestis, and there has been more than one time Y. pestis jumped to humans, then the differences between those strains could help explain the differences between the plagues attributed to the bacterium. So that's cool.
A better understanding how a sperm swims its way toward an egg could help inform new treatments for male infertility. Researchers from the University of York have now come up with a mathematical formula to model how large numbers of moving sperm interact with fluid they’re swimming through. From the University: By analysing the head […]
Dr Gale Ridge is a public entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where an average of 23 people a day call, write or visit; an increasing proportion of them aren’t inquiring about actual insects, they’re suffering from delusional parasitosis, and they’re desperate and even suicidal.
Biologist Nipam Patel and his team at UC Berkeley study how butterflies develop wing shape and color by performing surgery on caterpillars, creating translucent windows in their cocoons.
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]