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Jul. 17, 2013

T-Rex's Rep, a Flying Bike, Living the High Life, and Mosquito Appetites

by Jordan Davidson

Click to enlarge images
T. Rex’s Rep Restored?
Tyrannous Rex’s fierce reputation has taken hits from experts who suggest that it was more of a scavenger than a predator. Now, a new fossil revealing a T-rex tooth lodged in a hadrosaur’s spine gives the dino-king’s legacy a boost—the vertebrae show signs of healing around the puncture, suggesting that the hadrosaur was alive when bitten, according to a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While the fossil isn’t a smoking gun for steady predatory behavior, it does suggest that T-rex might have chewed on living fare from time to time.
 
Finally, a Flying Bicycle
A team of Canadian engineers claimed a world record and a quarter-million-dollar prize by meeting a 33-year-old challenge: They built the world's first helicopter powered only by human muscle that could fly above three meters and stay aloft for at least one minute in a designated area. The flying machine, called Atlas, has four rotors attached to 67-foot blades. For power, the pilot pedals on a suspended bicycle frame. E.T.-mobile it’s not, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless (check out the video in the link below).
Wired
 
The High-Altitude Gene
You may not be cut out for the Ethiopian Highlands. Chalk it up to your DNA. Researchers isolated a gene that seems to enable people to adapt to living in high-altitude areas with low oxygen, according a study in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. The researchers scanned the genomes of three Ethiopian ethnic groups that reside at about 6,000 feet and two groups living at 1,500 feet. They found that a version of a gene called BHLHE41 appeared with a high frequency among all three of the high-altitude groups but not among the low-altitude ones. The gene appears to play a role in how the body responds to low oxygen, and it might affect sleep cycles. 
 
Why Mosquitos Want to Suck Your Blood
It’s that time of year when some us wish we were clad in head-to-toe insect netting. An estimated 20 percent of people are particularly appetizing to mosquitoes, which could be for a variety of reasons. For instance, the blood-suckers seem to prefer Type O blood and people with higher body temperatures. The pests also might be attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, the substances we sweat out, or clothes that stand out. (Pregnant women, who exhale more CO2 and run a higher body temperature, could well be the ice cream sundae of our species.) The good news? British researchers are studying the molecules excreted by people who naturally repel mosquitos, which could eventually be incorporated into an advanced bug spray.
 
 
About Jordan Davidson

Jordan Davidson is a freelance writer based in New York.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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