• 30/12/2006

the latest buzz: Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered the oldest bee ever known, a 100-million-year-old specimen preserved in almost lifelike form in amber, and an important link to help explain the rapid expansion of flowering plants during that period. The specimen, at least 35-45 million years older than any other known bee fossil, has given rise to a newly-named family called Melittosphecidae, insects that share some of the features of both bees and wasps. It supports the theory that pollen-dependent bees evolved from wasps.

no bones: A study led by a Mayo Clinic rheumatologist indicates that men with knee osteoarthritis who smoke experience greater cartilage loss and more severe pain than men who do not smoke. Knee osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in elders. According to the researchers, the association between smoking and cartilage loss in knee osteoarthritis could be because smoking inhibits cell proliferation in the knee cartilage, besides increasing oxidant stress, which contributes to cartilage loss. It also raises carbon monoxide levels in arterial blood, contributing to tissue hypoxia (insufficient blood oxygenation), which could impair cartilage repair.

still bird: University of Alberta researchers have pinpointed a section in the tiny hummingbird's brain that may be responsible for its ability to stay stationary mid-air and hover. Hummingbirds are well known for their wing speed and ability to hover and fly forward and backward with more precision than a helicopter. It is critical that the hummingbird remain perfectly still as it feeds itself while darting in and out of flower blossoms with pinpoint accuracy. The bird must be able to maintain a stable position space, despite the fact that their wings beat 75 times per second and that disruptive effects such as wind gusts could throw them off.

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