Quirks & Quarks

Apr 2: New human genome, lion cuddle chemical, Pluto's ice volcanoes and more…

Deconstructing de-extinction, giant crocodiles in BC

Deconstructing de-extinction, giant crocodiles in BC

After the administration of oxytocin, lions play with pumpkin toy in closer proximity than before (Jessica Burkhart)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald

The Human Genome - 2nd edition, complete and unabridged

This week in the journal Science, researchers released a new edition of the book of life, updated and unabridged. The first human genome was a transcript of our DNA produced more than 20 years ago, but it had some gaps. The original technology for reading the three billion chemical elements of our DNA didn't capture some complicated and subtle elements that made up about 8% of our genome. But now, new genome sequencing tech has allowed scientists like geneticist Karen Miga to produce a complete edition of the genome, which should help us better understand our biology and genetic disease.

Q&A with Karen Miga

Karen Miga, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz, co-founded the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) consortium to pursue a complete, gapless assembly of a human genome sequence. (Carolyn Lagattuta/UCSC)

Oxytocin helps aggressive rescue lions chill out in sanctuaries 

Lions rescued from abusive and dangerous situations around the world don't always do well in sanctuaries. They can be dangerously aggressive toward humans and other lions. Jessica Burkhart, a neurobehavourist in the department of ecology, evolution & behaviour at the University of Minnesota found that oxytocin, sometimes known as the 'love hormone', administered as a nasal spray has a positive impact on the social behaviour of troubled lions in wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa. Her research was published in the journal iScience.

VIDEO - Researcher Jessica Burkhart doses lions with an oxytocin spray

Pluto's strange landscape includes 7 km tall ice volcanoes

Images of Pluto sent from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show a very strange looking world complete with recent ice volcano activity. One of the ice volcanoes observed by Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and a member of the New Horizons team, is an astounding 7 kilometres high. The presence of these ice volcanoes suggests there may be more heat below the surface of the icy planet than previously thought. Her research was published in Nature Communications.

Deconstructing de-extinction

Since Jurassic Park, and perhaps earlier, there have been dreams of bringing back extinct animals. And while dinosaurs aren't likely to be recoverable, some have speculated that we might be able to bring back to life more recently deceased species like the dodo or the wooly mammoth. But in a new study published in Current Biology evolutionary geneticist Tom Gilbert throws some cold water on this idea, by looking more closely at how scientifically complex and ethically problematic de-extinction is going to be. 

A museum employee looks at a replica of a dodo. The dodo, which went extinct in 1691, is one of the most well-known examples of human-caused extinction. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Giant crocodiles left trackways in northeastern BC 95 million years ago

Back in the Cretaceous some of the world's most fearsome predators were 12 metre-long, multi tonne giant crocodiles. And the oldest fossil trackways – marks from an estimated metre-wide clawed foot – from these enormous beasts have been identified from a site near Tumbler Ridge, BC. Dr. Charles Helm, the scientific advisor to the Tumbler Ridge Museum and his colleagues published a new study on the trackways in the journal Historical Biology.

Fossil claw-marks from a swimming giant crocodile scraping the bottom of a shallow pond, found near Tumbler, Ridge BC. (Submitted by Charles Helm)

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