Termites Create Sustainable Monoculture Fungus Farming

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Macrotermes workers tending fungus garden nodules.

Food production of modern human societies is mostly based on large-scale monoculture crops, but it now appears that advanced insect societies have the same practice. Our societies took just ten thousand years of (mainly cultural) evolution to adopt this habit and we are far from convinced that it is sustainable. Farming ants and termites had tens of millions of years to evolve their fungus farming systems and here monocultures are apparently evolutionary stable.

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NASA Reproduces A Building Block Of Life In Laboratory

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Stefanie Milam, Michel Nuevo and Scott Sandford.

NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, a key component of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces this essential ingredient of life.

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Nitrogen Loss Threatens Desert Plant Life, Study Shows

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The Mojave Desert. As the climate gets warmer, arid soils lose nitrogen as gas, reports a new Cornell study. That could lead to deserts with even less plant life than they sustain today, say the researchers.

As the climate gets warmer, arid soils lose nitrogen as gas, reports a new Cornell study. That could lead to deserts with even less plant life than they sustain today, say the researchers.

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New Drake Equation To Quantify Habitability?

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An image showing microbes living in sandstone in Antarctica.

Researchers from the Open University are laying the groundwork for a new equation that could mathematically quantify a habitat’s potential for hosting life, in a similar way to how the Drake equation estimates the number of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way. Continue reading… “New Drake Equation To Quantify Habitability?”

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Model Suggests How Life’s Code Emerged From Primordial Soup

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Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

In 1952, Stanley Miller filled two flasks with chemicals assumed to be present on the primitive Earth, connected the flasks with rubber tubes and introduced some electrical sparks as a stand-in for lightning. The now famous experiment showed what amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, could easily be generated from this primordial stew. But despite that seminal experiment, neither he nor others were able to take the next step: that of showing how life’s code could come from such humble beginnings.

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Maya Intensively Cultivated Manioc 1,400 Years Ago

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Professor Payson Sheets and his team uncovered a manioc field one-third the size of football field

A University of Colorado at Boulder team has uncovered an ancient and previously unknown Maya agricultural system — a large manioc field intensively cultivated as a staple crop that was buried and exquisitely preserved under a blanket of ash by a volcanic eruption in present-day El Salvador 1,400 years ago.

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