SciNews, Sunday, May 8, 2016

Venus flytraps exploit plant defenses; lab-grown embryo reigniting old debate; Chewbacca the hairy weevil; microbe eats plastic; unpredictable fires; textalyzers; rare Mercury event on Monday – just a few of the themes in today’s eclectic collection of SciNews.  Share these stories with your students and get them excited about science.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

Venus flytrap exploits plant defenses in carnivorous lifestyle. 

Venus flytraps have fascinated biologists for centuries, however, the molecular underpinnings of their carnivorous lifestyle remain largely unknown. Researchers have now characterized gene expression, protein secretion, and ultrastructural changes during stimulation of Venus flytraps and discover that common plant defense systems, which typically protect plants from being eaten, are also used by Venus flytraps for insect feeding.  Read more…

Why this lab-grown human embryo has reignited an old ethical debate. Science Mag

It’s easy to obey a rule when you don’t have the means to break it. For decades, many countries have permitted human embryos to be studied in the laboratory only up to 14 days after their creation by in vitro fertilization. But—as far as anyone knows—no researcher has ever come close to the limit. The point of implantation, when the embryo attaches to the uterus about 7 days after fertilization, has been an almost insurmountable barrier for researchers culturing human embryos.  Read more…

New species of hairy weevil named after Chewbacca. Science News

Researchers discovered four new species of weevils on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea, one of which they named after the lofty Star Wars character. Trigonopterus chewbacca is a black, flightless beetle about 3 millimeters long that thrives in the tropical forests of New Britain. Although T. chewbacca doesn’t resemble its namesake in size, the dense hairlike scales covering its head and legs reminded the researchers of Chewbacca’s fur.  Read more…


13698187_s from 123rf

This microbe thinks plastic is dinner. Science News for Students

People value this plastic because it can be made into stiff and strong fibers. This plastic also can be molded into semi-hard sheets. Because the material’s name is such a mouthful, most people just refer to it as PET — for polyethylene terephthalate (Pahl-ee-ETH-eh-leen TEHR-eh-THAAL-ayt). It is the basis of polyester fabrics and disposable beverage bottles. But the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis doesn’t wear clothes or sip from bottles. For this microbe, PET is simply dinner.  Read more…

Wildfires: The science of how they spread and how they’re stopped. CBC

Fires are very unpredictable, and that’s why the situation changed so rapidly in Fort McMurray. They can spread at rates of 23 kilometres per hour when whipped up by winds for as long as fuel is available.  Read more…


18685938_s from 123rf

Proposed ‘textalyzer’ law for texting and driving raises privacy concerns. CBC

A proposed New York state law that would allow police to test technology to check if drivers had been texting and driving before a crash — without a warrant — is causing controversy.

Advocates of the proposed law say better tools to help police enforce distracted-driving laws will discourage reckless behaviour such as texting and save lives.  Read more…

Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

Mercury transit: How to watch the rare event. CBC

A rare daytime celestial show takes place on Monday. The planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, and Canadians will get an exceptional view.

Such “transits” of Mercury only happen 13 times a century, and not all of them are visible from all parts of the world.  Read more…

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