Short Science, November 30, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 November, 2014, 5:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 November, 2014, 5:03am

Grey seals blamed for porpoise massacre

It seemed like an open-and-shut case - a British beach mystery that a 10-year-old detective with some time on his hands could figure out. For the better part of a decade, hundreds of harbour porpoises washed up along the southeastern coastline of the North Sea. Their lifeless bodies were gashed with horrible injuries. The slash marks pointed some apex predator or maybe a ship's propeller. Instead, many of the deaths should be laid at the flippered feet of the grey seal, says a team of Dutch biologists. DNA found in bite wounds implicate grey seals, suggesting they may also pose a risk to humans. AFP


Underwater robots measuring ice floes

Measuring the thickness of Antarctic sea ice, an important gauge of environmental conditions in a time of global climate change, has proven to be a tricky task. But an underwater robot has given a nice solution. Satellite measurements can be skewed by snow, and some ice floes are simply too difficult to reach by ship, even icebreakers, to make direct measurements by drilling into them. Reuters


Scientists map the centipede genome

An international research team has mapped the genome of the centipede and found that, while it easily beats humans on leg numbers, it falls short when it comes to genes. Sequencing the genome of Strigamia maritima, a northern European centipede, the team found it has about 15,000 genes - some 7,000 fewer than a human. Reuters


Loss of certain plants hits bee populations

Bee populations have declined in recent decades mainly due to a loss of biodiversity causing the disappearance of their favourite pollinating plants, a study says. Scientists analysed pollen found on bodies of insects from 57 wild bee species collected before 1950. They found that the bees had preferred plants for pollinating. As their favoured plants diminished, so too did the bee populations, said the study in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. AFP