Science News - Monday, March 31st

Ed Rybicki, a virologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, answers:
Tracing the origins of viruses is difficult because they don't leave fossils and because of the tricks they use to make copies of themselves within the cells they've invaded. Some viruses even have the ability to stitch their own genes into those of the cells they infect, which means studying their ancestry requires untangling it from the history of their hosts and other organisms. What makes the process even more complicated is that viruses don't just infect humans; they can infect basically any organism—from bacteria to horses; seaweed to people.

New Genomics Software Infers Ancestry With High Accuracy
Some people may know where their ancestors lived 10 or 20 generations ago, but the rest of us can learn our distant biological heritage only from our DNA. New genomics analysis software developed by computer scientists at Stanford appears far more adept than prior methods at unraveling the ancestry of individuals. A new paper describes the HAPAA system, which takes its name from "hapa," the Hawaiian word for someone of mixed ancestry.

Reason For Almost Two Billion Year Delay In Animal Evolution On Earth Discovered
Scientists from around the world have reconstructed changes in Earth's ancient ocean chemistry during a broad sweep of geological time, from about 2.5 to 0.5 billion years ago. They have discovered that a deficiency of oxygen and the heavy metal molybdenum in the ancient deep ocean may have delayed the evolution of animal life on Earth for nearly 2 billion years.

Garments that can measure a wearer's body temperature or trace their heart activity are just entering the market, but the European project BIOTEX weaves new functions into smart textiles. Miniaturised biosensors in a textile patch can now analyse body fluids, even a tiny drop of sweat, and provide a much better assessment of someone's health.

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