Self-healing materials inspired by plants

Scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites (LPAC) and the University of Freiburg’s Botanical Garden have studied how the flax plant heals itself after it has been wounded. As part of a cross-disciplinary EU research project, they measured changes in the plant’s mechanical properties, like stiffness and damping, and examined the plant’s self-repair mechanisms. Because natural fibers are being increasingly used to make composite materials, understanding how such mechanisms work can help scientists develop self-healing materials with better performance, drawing on methods inspired by nature. The research was recently published in PLOS ONE. _EPFL

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Brain study reveals how insects make beeline for home

Edinburgh researchers have shed light on the complex navigation system that insects use to make their way home in a straight line following long, complex journeys.

They have revealed how a network of neurons integrates every detail of changes in direction and distance covered on outbound journeys, and enables bees to return directly home. _UOE

New Clues From Brain Structures of Mantis Shrimp | UANews

Mantis shrimp have mushroom bodies in their brains, structures that are well known from insects but not from crustaceans. The findings of a study question the most commonly held scenario retracing how brain structures evolved in arthropods._UA News

Brain guides body much sooner than previously believed | Tufts Now

The brain plays an active and essential role much earlier than previously thought, according to new research from Tufts University scientists which shows that long before movement or other behaviors occur, the brain of an embryonic frog influences muscle and nerve development and protects the embryo from agents that cause developmental defects.

A new species of hermit crab, Diogenes heteropsammicola, replaces a mutualistic sipunculan in a walking coral symbiosis

Observations of behavior in aquaria have shown that the hermit crab transports its symbiotic coral and rescues the coral from being overturned or buried, just as the symbiotic sipunculan does, suggesting that the coral–hermit crab association is the same accommodation–transportation symbiosis observed between the coral and sipunculan. This case is interesting in that an animal species phylogenetically distant from the original symbiont takes over its role transporting the host coral._PLOS one

Night Parrots at Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

September 2017: Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) ecologists have made a ground-breaking discovery, using exceptional natural history skills to uncover a Night Parrot population at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary on the north shore of Kata Thandi-Lake Eyre.

It is the first record of the Night Parrot in South Australia for more than a century.

New weapon against Diabetes

Researchers have used the simplest approach yet to produce artificial beta cells from human kidney cells. Like their natural model, the artificial cells act as both sugar sensors and insulin producers._ ETH Zurich

Vigilin, the lock keeper

ETH researchers have discovered a molecule in liver cells that controls the release of fat into the bloodstream. This “lock keeper” is present in large quantities in overweight people and leads indirectly to vascular narrowing._ ETH Zurich

Protein-like structures from the primordial soup

Experiments performed by ETH scientists have shown that it is remarkably easy for protein-like, two-dimensional structures – amyloids – to form from basic building blocks. This discovery supports the researchers’ hypothesis that primal life could have evolved from amyloids such as these. _Fabio Bergamin ETH Zurich

Freeloading Butterflies Get Away with Theft

A bizarre Amazonian butterfly is the ultimate freeloader, researchers say. The butterfly species steals and eats gooey bamboo secretions from its ant neighbors, in a relationship known as kleptoparasitism, new research has found. _live science | By Tia Ghose