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Best from science journals: What makes us sneeze?

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Decoding sneeze reflex

Published in Cell

A small tickle in your nose, exposure to irritants and viral infections can cause sneezing. But the cellular pathways and neurons behind them have been hardly understood. A new study has shown that a molecule named neuromedin B (NMB) was important for sneezing. When this molecule was blocked, the test mice did not sneeze in spite of being exposed to allergens. The researchers could also stimulate a sneeze reflex by exposing part of the mouse brain to the NMB peptide.

Snail survival skills

Published in Communications Biology

 

About 40 years ago, humans brought the North American rosy wolf snail to the island of Tahiti. This snail was a predator and it led to the extinction of over 50 species of native snails. But surprisingly one species survived, the white-shelled Partula hyalina. Now by sticking extremely small sensors to the shells of the snail, scientists have understood how it survived. P. hyalina could tolerate more sunlight than its predator, so it was able to live undisturbed in the sunlit parts of the forest.

Methane eating microbes

Published in PNAS

By studying sediments from seven seafloor seeps, researchers have found that these sites house several methane-oxidising microbes. These microbial communities showed high rates of methane consumption. Lead author Jeffrey J. Marlow explains in a release, that understanding these anaerobic methane-eating microbes, can help in bioremediation in other situations like landfills with methane leaks.

Bizarre lizard

Published in Current Biology

Oculudentavis naga, as depicted in this artist’s reconstruction, was a bizarre lizard that researchers initially struggled to categorise. Credit: Stephanie Abramowicz/Peretti Museum Foundation/Current Biology

Oculudentavis naga, as depicted in this artist’s reconstruction, was a bizarre lizard that researchers initially struggled to categorise. Credit: Stephanie Abramowicz/Peretti Museum Foundation/Current Biology  

 

By studying amber collected from Myanmar, researchers have described a new lizard that lived 99 million years ago. The team named it Oculudentavis naga. Oculudentavis is derived from oculus = eye, dentes = teeth, and avis = bird and Naga is the name of one of the many ethnic tribes living in the Burmese amber mines area.

Sediment secrets

Published in Nature Microbiology

An international team of researchers has now discovered several bacteria that use DNA as a food source. They were found in the sediments of the Atlantic Ocean. "From the bacteria's perspective, DNA is particularly nutritious," says Kenneth Wasmund, lead author of the study in a release. "It's essentially a fertilizer. After all, it is a chain of millions of pieces of sugar and phosphorus- and nitrogen-containing bases." The team further studied the genomes of these species.

 


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