On The Radar


News from the world of science

Rainforests and reptiles

The collapse of rainforests around 300 million years ago drove the development of reptiles, according to a new study published in the journal Geology.

The research examined the fossil record before and after the collapse of Carboniferous “coal forests” on land we now know as Europe, east North America and Northern Africa.

“Climate change caused rainforests to fragment into small ‘islands’ of forest,” co-author Howard Falcon-Lang, from Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC. This isolated populations of reptiles, and each community evolved in separate directions, leading to an increase in diversity.

Turning back time for mice

Scientists have shown how to turn back the clock of ageing – at least in susceptible mice.

The approach targeted capped regions at the ends of DNA strands called telomeres. As a cell ages its telomeres get shorter, and these particular mice had short, dysfunctional telomeres that are linked with tissue breakdown, wasting and early death. When the researchers biochemically restored function to the telomeres in particular parts of the body, the prematurely aged mice appeared rejuvenated at a cellular level, they became fertile and brain cells grew.

The study authors wrote of an “unprecedented reversal of age-related decline in the central nervous system and other organs” in the journal Nature, where the results were published online.

Science reading

If you fancy a spot of online reading about big questions in science, you could do worse than to click on royalsociety.org/further/ and check out Science Sees Further, a dozen essays to mark the end of the UK Royal Society’s 350th anniversary.