The Panda's Spanish Ancestor; Ebola Could Take Flight

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Discovered: Pandas descended from a species in Spain; Ebola could be transmitted through air; how pollutants end up in Antarctica; targeting sea lice in Canadian salmon.

Pandas have Spanish ancestors. Pandas are now linked in the public imagination with their natural habitats in central China. Many bears held in captivity even get cute Chinese names. But long before the panda showed up in Asia, it may have roamed Europe. That's what researchers from Spain's National Museum of Natural Sciences found when they studied fossils of great pandas found in their northeast Spain. "The new genus we describe in this paper is not only the first bear recorded in the Iberian Peninsula, but also the first of the giant panda's lineage," says paleontologist Juan Abella. [The Christian Science Monitor]

Ebola could go airborne. Up until now, scientists believed that the only way for primates and humans to transmit Ebola was through bodily fluids mixing. But now, researchers associated with Gary Kobinger of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg suggest that it could also be passed from pigs to macaques, and it could make that leap through the air. The researchers were able to show in a lab setting that piglets and macaques housed in the same room could transmit the virus to each other through their respiratory tracts. However, before anyone gets too alarmed, Kobinger notes that, "It’s definitely not an efficient route of transmission." And Ebola has only been shown to infect pigs within the confines of laboratories  No pigs in the wild have yet turned up with traces of Ebola antibodies in their blood. [ScienceNews]

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Salmon in Canada get picked over for sea lice. The early 2000s were a terrible time to be a pink salmon in British Columbia. Sea lice infestations in a salmon farm there killed around 90 percent of all migrating wild juvenile salmon, accounting for other natural mortality causes. But University of Alberta researchers led by Stephanie Peacock have been working to contain sea lice outbreaks, and they discovered that by shifting the timing of sea lice treatment administration to the fall and winter, they could slow its spread. They're already seeing fledgling recovery in BC's wild salmon population, though Peacock notes, "The ecological effects of anti-parasite chemicals are poorly understood and lice have developed resistance to parasite treatments in other salmon farming regions." [University of Alberta]

How pollutants travel by air. The first question researchers might ask upon uncovering fossil fuel pollution all the way in Antartica is, "well, how did this get here?" Department of Energy researchers have studied that question, and now they have answers about pollution's favored flight paths. So that they don't decay before reaching the poles, pollutants don't just cling to the outside of airborne particles—they burrow deep inside where they're protected. "We propose a new explanation for how PAHs get transported so far, by demonstrating that airborne particles become a protective vessel for PAH transport," says DOE physical chemist Alla Zelenyuk. Hopefully by understanding this transportation method, researchers can develop methods to halt the spread of pollution. [DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory]

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