Videnskab

Nyt og spændende #2

Her er et lille uddrag af de spændende ting jeg har læst om den seneste uge.

Store hvaler

Har du nogensinde spekuleret over hvorfor hvaler er så store? Så er du ikke den eneste. I et nyt studie har forskere undersøgt sagen nærmere og er kommet frem til en plausibel forklaring. De har sammenlignet kranier fra 63 uddøde hvalarter og 13 nulevende arter og plottet dem ind på en tidslinie. Ud fra disse resultater kunne forskerne se at ved hvalernes oprindelse for ca. 38 millioner år siden, var de største hvaler ca. 10 meter lange. Sådan forblev de indtil for nylig (ca. 4.5 millioner år siden), hvor de pludselig voksede i størrelse. Og hvad skete der så for 4.5 millioner år siden? Jo, der begyndte temperaturen at falde og det betød en ændring i bardehvalernes føde, som indtil da havde været forholdsvis ligeligt fordelt i verdenshavene. Pga. den store mængde næringstoffer, der nu blev frigivet fra gletsjerne om foråret og sommeren opstod der relativt små og meget koncentrerede populationer af krill. Store hvaler svømmer hurtigere end små og kunne derfor hurtigere bevæge sig mellem flokkene af krill. Desuden blev det en fordel med en enorm stor mund, så hvalerne kunne hapse så mange krill som muligt i en enkelt mundfuld.

Tomater

Genetikere har kigget nærmere på tomatplanter og har ved hjælp af lidt genmodificering (aka GMO) gjort tomatavlerne glade. Det viser sig nemlig at planteavlerne har selekteret for to mutationer, der hver for sig har en positiv effekt, men når de begge er til stede i samme plante, er de ikke så heldige. Den ene mutation er flere tusinde år gammel og er selekteret frem af de aller første tomatavlere. Fordelen ved denne mutation er stadig uklar, men det menes at den måske har gjort planten i stand til at bære tungere frugter. Den anden mutation blev krydset ind i tomatplanterne tilbage i 50’erne og den fik planterne til ikke at tabe de modne tomater, så de dermed er nemmere at høste. Desværre viste det sig, at sammen bevirker de at planterne bliver meget buskede og sætter så mange blomster, at det går ud over antallet af modne tomater. Nu har forskerne så pillet lidt ved disse to gener (og et tredje) og derved skabt en plante, der udelukkende har de positive effekter fra disse gener.

Disco bakterier 

Bakterier kan blive den nye Picasso. I hvert fald har en gruppe forskere pillet lidt ved generne i nogle E. Coli bakterier og har derved lært dem at tegne. Bakterierne er blevet designet til at producere et farvet pigment, når man lyser på dem med farvet lys. Hvis man gror bakterierne på en stor plade, kan man derved få dem til at frembringe billeder. Foreløbig kan bakterierne dog kun male med rød, gul og grøn og det tager dem op mod 18 timer at male et billede. E. Coli bakterier bruges rigtig meget i forskning, men den bruges også af f.eks. Novo Nordisk til at producere medicin. Resultaterne er dermed også spændende nyt for produktionsvirksomheder, da man nu har udviklet en metode, der kan tænde og slukke for aktiviteten af E. Coli bakterierne blot ved at lyse på dem, i stedet for at skulle bade dem i forskellige kemikalier.

Intelligente gener

I et nyt studie publiceret i Nature Genetics har en gruppe forskere sammenlignet IQ og gener fra ikke mindre end 60.000 voksne og 20.000 børn. Resultatet blev en liste på 40 nye gener (oven i de 12 hidtil kendte gener), der har en betydning for hvor intelligente vi bliver. Det er et meget lille skridt på vejen mod at forstå menneskers intelligens. Ud fra studier af tvillinger har forskere sjusset sig frem til at vores gener kan forklare ca. 50% af variationen af IQ. Og ud af de 50%, udgør de i alt 52 identificerende gener kun omkring 5 %.

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