April Editorial

I’m trying something a bit different with the newsletter for the rest of the year – an automated RSS-driven newsletter that means you get your news every month, and I can write a short editorial in wordpress rather than faffing about copying across all my posts for you into a bespoke newsletter each month, which, let’s be frank, I clearly don’t have time to do every month.

I’m also experimenting with including some of my content from elsewhere on the web – don’t worry this will always be clearly marked as such, so you know what content comes direct from Curious Meerkat and what was published first elsewhere.

I’d love to know what you think of these changes, feel free to drop me an email at: claire@curiousmeerkat.co.uk.

Tibetans evolved to cope with UV

Study identifies seven new loci associated with high-altitude living

Tibetan populations have evolved at least nine specific genetic variants to help them survive the extreme conditions of the Tibetan Plateau. Living permanently at over 4,000 m above sea level, these populations have been coping for millennia with 40% less oxygen and 30% stronger UV radiation, as well as exposure and limited food.

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My #230 Papers Challenge

You might have heard of the #360papers challenge – to read one journal article a day for a whole year – you might be less familiar with the related #230 papers challenge. This makes the more realistic goal of reading one journal article each working day of the year, which is apparently 230 days in total (I haven’t checked their maths). This is a record of my feeble attempt to reach this lofty goal – I will update every ten articles or so and try to give a one sentence summary (or link to an article or a longer blog).

Last updated: 04.04.17

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Geological uplift creates mountain biodiversity hotspots

Mountains tend to have more species than valleys, and new research provides support for the theory that mountain formation itself might be responsible.

Yaowu Ying and Richard Ree from The Field Museum in Chicago compared regional rates of plant colonisation and speciation in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, a high-altitude biodiversity hotspot. Within the QTP, the Hengduan mountain region is the most biodiverse, harbouring an astonishing 12,000 species in just 500,000 km2. The authors used published datasets to compare the spread of over 4,500 plant species across Hengduan, the Central Asian Mountains and the Himalayas.

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The first skeletons evolved repeatedly in chalky seas

The first skeletons evolved multiple times independently because of unusually chalky seas, later becoming essential for survival even when chalk became scarce.

Calcium-based skeletons appeared suddenly in the fossil record around 550 million years ago, fundamentally changing the global carbon cycle and introducing a wealth of new predatory strategies to the sea.

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