News Archives: August, 2018

University of Kansas scientists discover polyps will let unrelated 'others' fuse to them and share tissue

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University of Kansas scientists discovered that polyps have no qualms about treating a nonrelated individual like part of the family.

The polyps are plankton-eating Hydrozoa — relatives to jellyfish and sea anemones — that live in shallow waters, sharing precious space and scarce resources in a spot of the ocean that’s teeming with life, from barnacles and clams to other hydrozoans. Each individual polyp is about a centimeter long and bright pink. A colony fits in two cupped hands.

The findings appear in the journal Evolution Letters and were published by researchers at the University of Kansas: Paulyn Cartwright, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology; Maria Orive, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology; and doctoral candidate Sally Chang.

In previous research, Cartwright found that unlike their loner relatives, Ectopleura larynx form colonies of “baby” polyps that fuse to the “mother” and share a gastrovascular cavity — basically, a stomach.

“We just got our minds wrapped around the idea that moms and offspring are fusing and sharing resources and that they’re related, but this was very surprising,” Cartwright said of seeing nonrelated individuals as part of one, big happy family. “And they don’t seem to have a problem with it.”

“I collect them in Maine, and everybody knows what they are when you explain them,” Cartwright said. “They’re colorful, and they grow on docks. They’re very conspicuous.”

These particular polyp colonies are different from others in that they are not simply composed of a mother cloning itself. Rather, they reproduce sexually, and the offspring fuse to the parent.

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Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

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Brown University researchers and collaborators from Tsinghua University in China have shown that nanoclusters made from boron and lanthanide elements form highly stable and symmetric structures with interesting magnetic properties.

The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that these nanoclusters may be useful as molecular magnets or assembled into magnetic nanowires. The research also helps shed light on the structure and chemical bonding of bulk boron lanthanides, which may help in engineering new boride materials.

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Scientists from UNL, WKU and UAH are part of team studying the connection between Great Plains precipitation and agricultural irrigation

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To further understand how irrigation may be affecting precipitation, scientists from six partner institutions -- the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Western Kentucky University (WKU), University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Center for Severe Weather Research have teamed up for a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project known as the Great Plains Irrigation Experiment, or GRAINEX. Scientists began collecting data in late May across a 3,600-square-mile area in southeastern Nebraska. The data collection will continue through the end of July.

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