The Week In Science: Unselfish Evolution, Genetic Genesis, Secret Life Of A Polar Bear

on August 03 2013 8:00 AM
Tasul
Tasul, left, a polar bear at the Oregon Zoo, was recently fitted with a special collar that may soon be used to track wild bears. Flickr via Creative Commons/thirteenthbat

This week, we bid NASA a happy 55th birthday, looked at the connection between a warming climate and spikes of violence, and found a stellar system with its own dusty “hula hoop.” But lots of other scientific happenings were afoot this week. So here’s a roundup of what we missed:

Genes might be selfish, but creatures often aren’t -- with good reason. A new study involving a reconsideration of the classic “prisoner’s dilemma” game-theory experiment shows that evolution does not favor purely selfish creatures. Being mean is a good short-term strategy, but cooperation is key for long-term survival. [BBC News]

The killer whales that summer in Washington state’s Puget Sound will remain under protection of the Endangered Species Act, federal officials said this week. California farmers had petitioned to lift the protections to make it easier for their farms to receive irrigation water. The farmers are sweating under water regulations invested in protecting the orca’s food of choice, salmon. [Associated Press]

Larger wildfires in the western U.S. may be fueled by climate change. Michigan State University researchers say that dry and unstable atmospheric conditions should keep contributing to extreme fire behavior for some time in the future. [redOrbit]

The genetic version of Genesis just got a little more interesting. Researchers say the most recent common ancestor of all humans alive today on the patrilineal side, aka “Y-chromosomal Adam,” likely lived around the same time -- give or take a few thousand years -- as the most recent common ancestor of all humans on the matrilineal side, aka “mitochondrial Eve.” But this Adam and Eve probably didn’t share a country, let alone a garden, and likely didn’t mate, scientists say. [LiveScience]

Dolphins are dying in droves along the Jersey Shore, and scientists are stumped as to the cause. [USA Today]

Yellowstone National Park’s Steamboat Geyser hasn’t made a peep for eight years, but finally blew its top this week, venting steam and hot water 250 feet in the air for about nine minutes straight. [Los Angeles Times]

Some dinosaurs may have developed larger, birdlike brains long before they truly flew. While the iconic Archaeopteryx was relatively small-brained, a Stony Brook University-led team found that even more distant avian ancestors had big noggins. The data suggest some dinosaurs might have flown earlier than we previously thought. [L.A. Times]

Ever wondered what life might be like as a polar bear? Thanks to staffers at the Oregon Zoo, who mounted a camera on a collar worn by the bear Tasul, we now have an idea:

The collar also includes an accelerometer that detects her movements. The experiment is more than just a YouTube novelty -- scientists want to place similar collars on wild bears in the Arctic region to see how they are affected by the retreat of sea ice caused by climate change. [Oregon Zoo]

More News from IBT MEDIA