Short Science, August 18, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 1:25am

Scientists surprised by swimming chimps

Scientists said they were surprised to witness a chimpanzee and an orang-utan swimming and diving in water - a skill that primates were thought to have lost long ago. Evolutionary researchers Renato Bender and Dr Nicole Bender made the observation while filming two primates raised in captivity in the United States. "We were extremely surprised when the chimp, Cooper, dived repeatedly into a swimming pool in Missouri and seemed to feel very comfortable," Renato Bender from the South African University of the Witwatersrand said. "It was very surprising behaviour for an animal that is thought to be very afraid of water." AFP


Brazil to enhance its data security

Brazil will set up a certification centre to strengthen data security and prevent surveillance in online communications, the army's technology department announced. The centre would be operational by next year to certify equipment to protect information from espionage, the department's head, Sinclair Mayer, told a government hearing examining US espionage in Brazil. The move was aimed at keeping unsafe equipment from being used in the country, Mayer added. US agencies had been spying on Brazilians online, according to information leaked by American Edward Snowden. Xinhua


Ancestor of modern rats found in China

A fossil of the oldest known ancestor of modern rats - an agile creature that could climb, burrow and eat just about anything - has been found in China. Rugosodon eurasiaticus originated 160 million years ago, living for 100 million years before modern rodents overcame them, researchers said in the journal Science. AFP


Stem cells used to grow human heart tissue

Scientists have used stem cells to grow human heart tissue that contracted spontaneously in a petri dish, marking progress in the quest to manufacture transplant organs. A team from the University of Pittsburgh used cells generated from human skin, "reprogrammed" so they can be prompted to develop into any kind of body cell. The primitive heart cells created in this way were attached to a mouse-heart "scaffold" from which the researchers had removed all mouse-heart cells, scientists wrote in Nature Communications. The cells developed into heart muscle, and after 20 days of blood supply the mouse organ "began contracting again at the rate of 40 to 50 beats per minute". AFP