Where do the gender differences in the human pelvis come from?

The pelvis is the part of the human skeleton with the largest differences between females and males. The female birth canal is on average more spacious and exhibits shape features that enable birth of a large baby with a big brain. In forensics, these pelvic differences are used for sex identification of human skeletons. Thus far it was unclear when these pelvic differences first appeared in human evolution. Barbara Fischer from the University of Vienna and her coauthors have published a study in Nature Ecology & Evolution presenting new insights into the evolutionary origin of pelvic sex differences.

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Agricultural biodiversity:

To minimize negative impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and related ecosystem services, “biodiversity-friendly” management is needed. Why scientific results are rarely translated into agricultural practice could be explained by their different perceptions of agricultural biodiversity, according to the results of a recent survey of European scientists and farmers.

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Fossilized feeding frenzy:

An international team of scientists with Fridgeir Grímsson from the University of Vienna has found a previously unknown fossil fly species in old lake sediments of the Messel Pit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. In the stomach of the fossil insect, pollen from various plants could be detected, which allows rare insights into the feeding behavior, the ecology and the role of the fly as a pollinator.

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How a ladybug warps space-time

Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, led by Markus Aspelmeyer have succeeded in measuring the gravitational field of a gold sphere, just 2 mm in diameter, using a highly sensitive pendulum – and thus the smallest gravitational force. The experiment opens up new possibilities for testing the laws of gravity on previously unattained small scales. The results are published in the journal Nature.

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Promising metallodrug candidate for tumour therapy

BOLD-100/KP1339 is a ruthenium-based anticancer agent that has been decisively co-developed at the University of Vienna and which has shown promising results in clinical trials in cancer patients. However, the mode of action of this metal compound has not yet been fully elucidated. Researchers from the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have now been able to demonstrate that BOLD-100 binds to ribosomal proteins in tumour cells. The study now published with a cover in “Angewandte Chemie” can support a more targeted application of BOLD-100 as tumour-inhibiting active agent.

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Life of a pure Martian design

Experimental microbially assisted chemolithotrophy provides an opportunity to trace the putative bioalteration processes of the Martian crust. A study on the Noachian Martian breccia Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 composed of ancient (ca. 4.5 Gyr old) crustal materials from Mars, led by ERC grantee Tetyana Milojevic from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Vienna, now delivered a unique prototype of microbial life experimentally designed on a real Martian material. As the researchers show in the current issue of “Nature Communications Earth and Environment”, this life of a pure Martian design is a rich source of Martian-relevant biosignatures.

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Quantum effects help minimise communication flaws

Noise limits the performance of modern quantum technologies. However, particles traveling in a superposition of paths can bypass noise in communication. A collaboration between the Universities of Hong-Kong, Grenoble and Vienna, as well as the Austrian Academy of Sciences, under the lead of Philip Walther, reveals novel techniques to reduce noise in quantum communication.

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Marmoset monkeys have personalities too

In humans, differences in personalities have been evident since the ancient times. Personality in animals has long been ignored, but recently this question has received increasing research interest as it has been realized that personality has evolutionary and ecological significance. An international team of behavioral biologists from Austria, Brazil and the Netherlands, with Vedrana Šlipogor from the University of Vienna as leading author of the study, designed a set of tasks to assess personality of common marmosets.

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Spectacular fossil discovery: 150 million-year-old shark was one of the largest of its time

In a new study, an international research team led by Sebastian Stumpf from the University of Vienna describes an exceptionally well-preserved skeleton of the ancient shark Asteracanthus. This extremely rare fossil find comes from the famous Solnhofen limestones in Bavaria, which was formed in a tropical-subtropical lagoon landscape during the Late Jurassic, about 150 million years ago.

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More than just a sun tan: ultraviolet light helps marine animals to tell the time of year

Changes in daylength are a well-established annual timing cue for animal behavior and physiology. An international collaboration of scientists led by Kristin Tessmar-Raible at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, now shows that, in addition to daylength, marine bristle worms sense seasonal intensity changes of UVA/deep violet light to adjust the levels of important neurohormones and their behavior.

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Sweet taste reduces appetite?

The sweet taste of sugar, energy intake and the regulatory process of hunger and satietyTo date, very little is known about how sweetness perception contributes to satiety. This study, conducted by an Austrian-German team led by chemists Veronika Somoza and Barbara Lieder, provides new insights into the relationship between the sweet taste of sugar, energy intake and the regulatory process of hunger and satiety.

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Producing leather-like materials from fungi

Leather is used as a durable and flexible material in many aspects of everyday life including furniture and clothing. Leather substitutes derived from fungi are considered to be an ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional bovine leather. An international team led by material chemists Alexander Bismarck and Mitchell Jones from the University of Vienna demonstrate the considerable potential of these renewable sustainable fabrics derived from fungi in their latest review article in “Nature Sustainability”.

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Autophagy: the beginning of the end

Autophagy, from the Greek for ‘self-eating’, is an essential process that isolates and recycles cellular components under conditions of stress or when resources are limited. Cargoes such as misfolded proteins or damaged organelles are captured in a double membrane-bound com-partment called the autophagosome and targeted for degradation.

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Searching for stress-resistant potatoes

Plant Biologist Markus Teige at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna has received a €5 million grant from the Horizon 2020 EU Program to study mechanisms how potato’s adapt to multiple environmental stresses. He coordinates a consortium of 17 European leading academic research institutions, potato breeders, a non-profit EU association, a government agency and a screening technology developer.

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When learning on your own is not enough

We make decisions based on not only our own learning experience, but also learning from others. But with the presence of other people’s choices, how do we learn from them to better inform our own learning? Is social learning processed differently from direct learning? In a new study, published in “Science Advances”, neuroscientist Lei Zhang of the University of Vienna provides empirical evidence that there are parallel computations for direct learning and social learning and they are carried out in distinct but interacting regions in the brain.

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Evolution in real-time: How bacteria adapt to their hosts

Some bacteria become increasingly infectious when they have to move from cell to cell in order to survive. Bacteria that invade animal cells in order to multiply are widespread in nature. Some of these are  pathogens of humans and animals. In the environment, they are often found inside unicellular organisms. A research team led by Matthias Horn at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna has made use of  laboratory experiments to gain a better understanding of how these bacteria adapt to their host cell over time and become increasingly infectious under certain conditions.

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Between shark and ray: The evolutionary advantage of the sea angels

Angel sharks are sharks, but with their peculiarly flat body they rather resemble rays. An international research team led by Faviel A. López-Romero and Jürgen Kriwet of the Institute of Palaeontology has now investigated the origin of this body shape. The results illustrate how these sharks evolved into highly specialised, exclusively bottom-dwelling ambush predators and thus also contribute to a better understanding of their threat from environmental changes.

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Material and genetic resemblance in the Bronze Age Southern Levant

Different “Canaanite” people from the Bronze Age Southern Levant not only culturally, but also genetically resemble each other more than other populations. A team around Ron Pinhasi from the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology found in a recent study that their DNA is a mixture of two populations: The Chalcolithic Zagros and Early Bronze Age Caucasus. The results have been published in “Cell”.

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First fossil nursery of the great white shark discovered

An international research team led by Jaime A. Villafaña from the Institute of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna discovered the first fossil nursery area of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias in Chile. This discovery provides a better understanding of the evolutionary success of the largest top predator in today’s oceans in the past and could contribute to the protection of these endangered animals. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Nature Unveiling Herself Before Science

21st century societal challenges such as demographic developments and an ageing population demand for new functional materials, such as for bone prostheses. Nature often serves as inspiration when designing these materials. In a recent study published in Analytical Chemistry, a team led by ERC awardee Dennis Kurzbach of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna reports an innovative approach for high-resolution real-time monitoring of calcium phosphate mineralisation, which is an important natural process for the formation of, e.g., bone, carapace and teeth. They showed how next generation NMR technology allows to create new knowledge about the efficiency of natural materials.

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Atomic fingerprint identifies emission sources of uranium

Uranium is not always the same: depending on whether this chemical element is released by the civil nuclear industry or as fallout from nuclear weapon tests, the ratio of the two anthropogenic, i.e. man-made, uranium isotopes 233U and 236U varies. These results were lately found by an international team grouped around physicists from the University of Vienna and provides a promising new “fingerprint” for the identification of radioactive emission sources.

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Each Mediterranean island has its own genetic pattern

A Team around Anthropologist Ron Pinhasi from the University of Vienna – together with researchers from the University of Florence and Harvard University – found out that prehistoric migration from Africa, Asia and Europe to the Mediterranean islands took place long before the era of the Mediterranean seafaring civilizations.

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Dancing Matter: New form of movement of cyclic macromolecules discovered

Physicists show unique polymer behavior using computer simulationsEmploying a computer simulation, physicists Maximilian Liebetreu and Christos Likos have shown a unique dynamic behavior of cyclic polymers. Their motion can be distinguished into phases, and the scientists were able to observe the so-called “inflation phase” for the first time.

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A Quantum of Solid

Researchers in Austria use lasers to levitate and cool a glass nanoparticle into the quantum regime. Although it is trapped in a room temperature environment, the particle’s motion is solely governed by the laws of quantum physics. The team of scientists from the University of Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published their new study in the journal Science.

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A new form of glass through molecular entanglement

Physicists at the University of Vienna in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have discovered a new type of glass formed by long, cyclic molecules. The scientists successfully demonstrated that by making parts of the rings more mobile, the rings become more strongly entangled and the molecular fluid glassifies.

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Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice

One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades. This unprecedented loss of biodiversity threatens valuable ecosystems and human well-being. But what is holding us back from putting conservation research into practice? The journal Biological Conservation has published a collection of 14 articles on this topic.

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Ancient Rome: a 12,000-year history of genetic flux, migrations and diversity

Scholars have been all over Rome for hundreds of years, but it still holds some secrets – for instance, relatively little is known about where the city’s denizens actually came from. Now, an international team led by Researchers from the University of Vienna, Stanford University and Sapienza University of Rome, is filling in the gaps with a genetic history that shows just how much the Eternal City’s populace mirrored its sometimes tumultuous history.

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Many cooks don’t spoil the broth: Manifold symbionts prepare their host for any eventuality

Deep-sea mussels, which rely on cooperative symbiotic bacteria for their food, harbor a surprisingly high diversity of these bacterial “cooks”: Up to 16 different bacterial strains live together in the mussel’s gills, each with its own abilities and strengths. Thanks to this diversity of symbiotic bacterial partners, the mussel is prepared for all eventualities. The mussel bundles up an all-round carefree package, a German-Austrian research team including Jillian Petersen from the University of Vienna and Rebecca Ansorge and Nicole Dubilier from the Max-Planck-Institute for Marine Microbiology now reports in Nature Microbiology.

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Placenta transit of an environmental estrogen

The human foetus is considered to be particularly sensitive to environmental contaminants. A team led by Benedikt Warth from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna and Tina Bürki from the Swiss Materials Science and Technology Institute, Empa, has now been able to demonstrate for the first time how the widespread food estrogen zearalenone behaves in the womb.

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Fossil fish gives new insights into the evolution

An international research team led by Giuseppe Marramà from the Institute of Paleontology of the University of Vienna discovered a new and well-preserved fossil stingray with an exceptional anatomy, which greatly differs from living species. The find provides new insights into the evolution of these animals and sheds light on the recovery of marine ecosystems after the mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago.

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2000 atoms in two places at once

The quantum superposition principle has been tested on a scale as never before in a new study by scientists at the University of Vienna in collaboration with the University of Basel. Hot, complex molecules composed of nearly two thousand atoms were brought into a quantum superposition and made to interfere. By confirming this phenomenon – “the heart of quantum mechanics”, in Richard Feynman’s words – on a new mass scale, improved constraints on alternative theories to quantum mechanics have been placed. The work will be published in Nature Physics.

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