Oldest tooth filling was made by an Ice Age dentist in Italy

Scared of the dentist? Be glad you don’t live in the Ice Age. A pair of 13,000-year-old front teeth found in Italy contain the earliest known use of fillings – made out of bitumen.

The teeth, two upper central incisors belonging to one person, were discovered at the Riparo Fredian site near Lucca in northern Italy.

Each tooth has a large hole in the incisor’s surface that extends down into the pulp chamber deep in the tooth. “It is quite unusual, not something you see in normal teeth,” says Stephano Benazzi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna. Read more in New Scientist.

Fish Farms Can Be Disease Accelerators

Much like terrestrial animal farms, fish farms are incubators for disease.

Last summer, more than half a million farmed salmon died from a sea lice outbreak in New Brunswick’s Passamaquoddy Bay. More than 250,000 died directly from the parasites, which attach themselves to the fish and feed on their skin, blood, and mucus, while another 284,000 were euthanized to try to contain the spread.

The outbreak, which affected two sites owned by Gray Group, a bankrupt aquaculture company that still had fish in its pens, was a “catastrophic loss,” says Matthew Abbott, an environmentalist who monitors Passamaquoddy Bay for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Both sites were wiped out.” Read more in Hakai Magazine.

US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. Read more in New Scientist.

Flying foxes are facing extinction on islands across the world

Flying foxes are in deep trouble. Almost half the species of this type of fruit bat are now threatened with extinction.

The bats face a variety of threats, including deforestation and invasive species, but the main one is hunting by humans, says Christian Vincenot, an ecological modeller at Kyoto University in Japan, who highlights their plight in a perspective article in Science this week. Read more in New Scientist.

Seven scientists win the 2017 Gairdner Awards

Seven researchers have each been awarded a 2017 Gairdner Award for seminal work in areas including child nutrition and treatment for cardiovascular disease.

Cesar Victora, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, has won the 2017 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for his work on maternal and child health in developing countries.

When Victora graduated from medical school in 1976, he went to work in community health in a slum in Porto Allegre, Brazil. He saw a lot of malnutrition, diarrhoea, and other infectious diseases, and the same children kept coming back. “I was treating disease episodes, but these kids remained vulnerable, and many ended up dying”, he tells The LancetRead more in The Lancet.

A creepy-crawly food revolution

Long considered pests, insects are now on the menu for farmed fish and poultry in Kenya and Uganda, where scientists are looking for cheaper, healthier ways to boost animal growth and develop the local economy.

Raising chickens or fish in Africa can be an expensive proposition. Most of the money goes into just keeping them fed, which accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the cost of rearing the animals.

“Around here the high cost can discourage farmers from using high-quality feeds,” says Komi Fiaboe, an agricultural entomologist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.

The feed’s most expensive component is protein, which usually comes from imported soybeans or a combination of imported and locally sourced fishmeal, and the cost of the latter has doubled in the past couple of years. So researchers in Uganda and Kenya are investigating a cheaper, local alternative that could reduce the price of feed while providing economic opportunities in the region: insects. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

 

Dogs use deception to get what they want from humans (a sausage)

Dogs are all honest, loyal and obedient, right? Well, not always. Our pets can be sneaky and manipulative when they want to maximise the number of tasty treats they get to eat.

Marianne Heberlein, who studies dog cognition at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, wanted to test the animals’ ability to use deception to get what they want from humans. Read more in New Scientist.

Solithromycin rejection chills antibiotic sector

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December rejected the new antibiotic solithromycin over liver toxicity fears, putting the future of the drug in doubt and sending a chill through companies working on novel antimicrobials. “The problems with solithromycin are going to hit the whole sector hard,” says Lloyd Czaplewski, director of Chemical Biology Ventures, a pharmaceutical R&D consultancy in Oxford, UK. “It could put people off getting into an area where we really need some successes.” Read more in Nature Biotechnology.

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $18 million to Amundsen

CFI aims to secure ongoing operation and maintenance funds for research facilities including Canada’s only research icebreaker.

Laval University has received more than $18 million for the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen in the latest round of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund.

Over the next five years, the funding will mainly be used to maintain and deploy the coast guard ship’s scientific equipment and to pay the specialised engineers who operate the Arctic research vessel, says Louis Fortier, the Amundsen’s scientific director. But the money will also be used to subsidize some scientific projects that need a little extra cash. Read more in University Affairs.

Snow will melt more slowly in a warmer world – here’s why

As global temperatures rise, snow will melt more slowly. Yes, you read that right – more slowly.

Warmer global temperatures will lead to less snow in many mountainous areas, says Keith Musselman, a hydrologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

That thinner layer of snow will be less likely to last into the late spring and early summer, when melting rates are highest. Instead, it will melt slowly throughout the winter and early spring, when night-time temperatures are lower and there is less direct sunlight, releasing just a trickle of water instead of a sudden gush. Read more in New Scientist.

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