It’s time to say bye to Baiji, one of the world’s oldest dolphin species. This rare white dolphin dating back about 20 million years may soon be extinct. An expedition searching for them ended without a single sighting. Few may exist in the Yangtze River in eastern China but they are not enough to breed and ward off their disappearance, said August Pfluger, Swiss co-leader of the joint Chineseforeign expedition.
At least 20 to 25 Baiji are needed to give them a chance to survive. Over-fishing and shipping traffic seem to be the main causes of their extinction.
Who flew first: birds or mammals? The answer is mammals! Well not pigs, but a squirrel-sized animal that lived at least 125 million years ago. A fossil uncovered in the Inner Mongolian region of China suggests that mammals took to the skies at about the same time – or even earlier – than birds!
The US-Chinese team that discovered the fossil said Volaticotherium antiquus belonged to a now extinct ancestral line that used a furcovered skin membrane to glide through the air. With the earliest known flying bird Archaeopteryx dating back about 150 million years, this could mean mammals started flying at least 70 million years earlier than previously believed!
We may soon forget what pain is! Geneticists have discovered a gene that is central to the perception of pain. Mutation in this gene stops all perception of injury! A 10-year-old boy living in Lahore, Pakistan, who could walk on coals and pass knives through his arms without discomfort provided the clue to this discovery. This may help develop drugs that would remove pain by blocking the gene's function. And that too, without any side effects.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi, India, has a tinge of green now! The state government wants an environment-friendly approach to various Games-related constructions and their subsequent maintenance. Use of clean and renewable energy, recycled and recyclable material, assuring healthy indoor air quality, and efficient use of water are few of its main targets.
It states that the operating cost for ‘green buildings’ is 30 per cent less, while the incremental investment is only 2 per cent higher. But the foundation of this “green idea” lies in the floodplain of river Yamuna – the site of the Game. One wonders how green the Game is…
Human beings can now digest milk better! The ability to digest milk in adulthood has increased in the people of East Africa, claimed a genetic research team led by Sarah Tishkoff, University of Maryland. After weaning, the enzyme that breaks the principal sugar of milk, Lactose, is no longer needed.
This switches off our milk digesting power. But, three new mutations have been identified among 43 ethnic groups in East Africa. This would help us to gain extra energy, and the water in milk would benefit us in drought conditions. And all these changes occurred just 3,000 years ago!
The title of Asia’s ‘worst air city’ goes to Beijing, China! And the runners up are Xi’an, Kathmandu, Dhaka and New Delhi! A rather dubious distinction. Air pollution in Asia’s worst affected cities is up to five times more than Paris, London and New York.
It is five to six times the levels that the World Health Organization considers safe, according to pollution readings compiled by the Asian Development Bank and announced during a conference at Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The data compares microscopic dust that sets in the lungs and has been linked to respiratory diseases, cancer and other deadly illnesses.