Current Event Summaries by Michael J.

5 Responses to Current Event Summaries by Michael J.

  1. Michael James says:

    Disrupting the gut microbiome may affect some immune responses to flu vaccination
    Thomas Hagan
    Science Daily

    The human gut is home to a large number of microorganisms and microbiomes. Science researchers at Stanford University discovered that some oral medicine, when consumed, affect the way our immune systems react to the influenza virus vaccination. They began their research with 33 healthy adults. They split the groups researched; 22 were examined during the 2014-2015 flu season, while the second group of 11 was examined in the 2015-2016 flu season. The first group of 22 had a high immunity to the influenza vaccine, while the second group of 11 had low immunity. Both groups were given the seasonal vaccine, but half of each group were given a set of antibiotics that had a wide range of use for 5 days before receiving the vaccine. Every volunteer’s stool and blood were analyzed to find the immune response to the vaccine, as well as the amount of bacteria and microorganisms in their gut.
    Most participants that received antibiotics had reduced microorganism numbers, as expected, and those with a low immunity to the vaccine had a lowered response to the strains of influenza within the vaccine. These participants would be less protected against the influenza virus than those who would not receive antibiotics.
    These findings have led researchers to continue questioning why, as people get older, immune systems become less powerful. These could also lead to insights as to why elderly people have different reactions to the influenza virus vaccine.

    I think this is an interesting lead onto why immune systems function in different ways. Viruses are certainly a dangerous part of our world, especially to humans. This doesn’t relate to anything we’ve covered just yet, but I figure we will cover something similar to it later in biology.

  2. Michael James says:

    Birds Fed a Common Pesticide Lost Weight Rapidly and Had Migration Delays
    Maanvi Singh

    Article Summary:
    One of the world’s most widely used insecticides for farming, neonicotinoids, have been observed to have a lasting effect on insects, such as bees.
    A team of scientists captured and fed a group of 24 white-crowned sparrows, just before their departure to migrate north to Canada and Alaska. Of these 24 birds, the scientists fed half of them food covered with a dose of these imidacloprid insecticide, to see if there was an effect. 6 of these birds were given a small dose, and the other 6 were given a slightly higher dose. The remaining 12 sparrows were simply given sunflower oil, but nothing else.
    Just later that same day, the birds that were given the imidacloprid insecticide began to rapidly lose weight, as well as eat notably less food. The sparrows given a higher dose of the insecticide lost around 1.6 grams of the average 27 gram body weight. After tagging these birds with lightweight trackers, it was observed that these same birds given the chemicals took substantially longer to depart on their migration. All of these findings by this experiment have suggested that neonicotinoid pesticides have the same or similar effects on sparrows. The population of these common farmland birds have dropped greatly in the past 70 years, likely caused by pesticide and insecticide use on farms.

    Personal Reactions:
    I personally love birds of all kinds, and I’d hate to see them drop even further in population over the next few decades. These delays in migration could cause many more birds, not exclusive to sparrows, to miss their opportunity to mate, and die out. These chemicals seem to be very detrimental to both insects and birds alike. These have been banned in the European Union, but are still used widely in the U.S.

  3. Michael James says:

    Plants Don’t Have Feelings and Aren’t Conscious, A Biologist Argues
    Laura Sanders
    August 12, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Plant biologist Lincoln Taiz has been watching the field of “plant neurobiology” grow, with increasing displeasure and dismay. Plant neurobiology is based off of the belief / idea that plants, like humans and animals, have and can process emotions. Though plants lack brains, it is still up for debate; some plant parts can perform intelligent tasks, like sending repairing material to leaves that have been damaged.

    Taiz and his team argue against this possibility of plant consciousness with the observation that it does not make much sense from an evolutionary perspective. Sophisticated animal brains have evolved in a way that assists them in finding food to eat, and avoid becoming that food that is eaten by other species. They evolved this way and developed these nerve based systems to ensure, or at least increase the chances of, surviving to the next day. It’s argued that plants are rooted to the ground, so they haven’t grown these neurological systems needed to be intelligent enough to survive attacks from other species.

    “What use would consciousness be to a plant?” Taiz asks. The amount of energy needed to operate and sustain a functional brain is too great an amount to be worth having for a plant. Plants typically have all they need in nature to survive. They create their own food through photosynthesis more likely than not, so Taiz argues: “Isn’t that enough?”

    Personal Reactions:
    I, through my 14-year-old uninformed and entirely cynical opinion, don’t see any reason plants would have a nervous system, or any form of consciousness that relates to animals. This relates to what we’re doing in unit 2, since it’s dealing with the internal systems of plants, just like cells. It seems silly to assume that plants could have the same sort of brain systems we humans do. They don’t need to be able to process information in similar ways to us, sine they aren’t in need of those survival instincts.

  4. Michael James says:

    We’ve Lost 3 Billion Birds Since 1970 in North America
    Jonathan Lambert
    September 19, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Close to 3,000,000,000 birds have been killed or have died in the U.S. since 1970. Birds have been known to struggle in their habitats, specifically because of human interference. “Our study is a wake-up call. We’re experiencing an ecological crisis,” says Peter Marra, a conservation biologist at Georgetown University. Much of the research is focused on the massive losses in specific species’ numbers. Individual birds are important as well, of course.
    Birds that are more common can take the place of birds that are more rare in numbers and location, since the commonplace birds are much more adaptable to new environments. Hillary Young, an ecologist at the University of California, states that “Often it’s the common, abundant birds that keep ecosystems ticking.” Most habitats and species have seen a massive hit since the mid-1900’s. American sparrows in particular saw the most significant hit to population count, losing nearly 750 million headcounts since 1970. Young says “These results clearly show they [common birds, in relation to more niche birds] are just as vulnerable.”
    The study being conducted doesn’t precisely address why birds are disappearing, but many face degradation and loss. Cats may kill more than a billion birds a year, while almost a billion more die in collisions with buildings. However, some mallard ducks and Canadian geese have seen great population growth in the past 50 years. “This increase is no accident,” says Kenneth Rosenberg, an ornithologist at Cornell. “It’s a result of conservation efforts made and billions of dollars spent to protect these birds and their habitat.

    Personal Reactions:

    I was astonished at the amount of birds that have died in the past 50 years. I was aware that birds were dying due to these conditions, of course, but I had no idea it was on this magnitude of a scale. Losing 3 billion birds is a huge punch in the gut, like is stated in the article. That’s the best description as to how I feel about it, which is in line with how the researchers feel.

  5. Michael James says:

    Cats May Have ‘Attachment Styles’ That Mirror People’s
    Sofie Bates
    September 23, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Animals, specifically humans, grow up in an environment with four different attitudes and behaviors towards their caretakers. Human children typically feel secure, ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized. Ambivalent children are clingy and overly dependent, avoidant children are disinterested or neglected, and disorganized children seek attention, but then actively refuse it. This set of behaviors has been seen in cats, as well as other animals, such as dogs.
    What this has shown is that cats are capable of more flexibility and development of social relationships than what was thought of before. The researchers dedicating themselves to finding the connection between cats and humans performed a different version of a secure base test, a psychology experiment to study and identify the link between parent and infant. The owners sat in a room with their cat, instructed to only interact with their pet if he / she stepped inside their circle. They then left the room for 2 minutes, to return another 2 minutes later. Kittens of the secure type interacted with their caretaker, before going to explore the room. Kittens who were ambivalent demanded constant attention in the lap of their owner, and kittens that were avoidant ran away and disallowed physical contact.
    “But it doesn’t mean insecure cats aren’t attached to their owner,” says Kristyn Vitale, a graduate of Oregon State. She explains that cats shouldn’t be stuck to their owners at all times, like many believe. This test was also carried out with adult cats, and similar results were found. A separate experiment was carried out that tested the strength of these bonding types between kittens and their humans; it was found that first impressions on kittens are incredibly important.

    Personal Reactions:
    I’m not surprised that kittens and adult cats both have attachment styles, since I’ve been working at an animal shelter every weekend for over a year now. Some kittens are incredibly shy, some are super playful, and some are my personal favorite kind: the kind that want to snuggle with you and sit in your arms all day. First impressions are incredibly important with all infant creatures, human and feline. Some cats take multiple weeks, or even months to become comfortable with you. It’s all in the cat and your patience with them. This relates to biology because the way cats have grown to adapt to humans has undoubtedly taken a long time to develop in this way. The evolution of domesticated cats has come a long way.

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