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Science – rubrikken News at a glance Panel seeks gene-editing registry Bioengineering An expert panel convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week recommended a global registry of all experiments in human genome editing, calling it an “urgent need.” WHO's international committee of researchers and bioethicists stopped short of endorsing a moratorium on efforts to produce germline, or heritable, changes, which a separate group of prominent researchers recently argued was needed. But the committee said it would be “irresponsible at this time for anyone to proceed with clinical applications of human germline genome editing.” The panel met in the wake of the news in November 2018 that a researcher in China, He Jiankui, had used the genome editor CRISPR to modify the embryos of twin girls who subsequently were born. Court faults vaccine journalism Public health A Japanese court ruled 26 March that a medical journalist defamed a neurologist by writing he “intentionally fabricated” data in findings about a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). The decision might bolster the vaccine's opponents in Japan and elsewhere, who claim that HPV vaccination causes chronic pain and movement disorders in humans. The neurologist, Shuichi Ikeda of Shinshu University in Matsumoto, Japan, had reported findings that seemed to show a link between the vaccine and brain damage in mice, although the World Health Organization has found the three available vaccines safe and effective in reducing cervical cancer in humans. The court found that the journalist, Riko Muranaka, had not provided convincing evidence of fabrication. Muranaka and the magazine that published her article will have to pay Ikeda 3.3 million yen (about $29,900), post an apology, and delete portions of the online article. DEPRESSION DRUG  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment specifically developed for postpartum depression, an injectable drug called brexanolone. CLIMATE EFFECTS  A federal judge ruled that oil and gas companies seeking to drill on federal lands in Wyoming must estimate the effects on climate change, which could slow efforts to expand drilling in the western United States. ALZHEIMER'S FAILURE  In another blow to the idea that targeting the brain protein β-amyloid can help those with Alzheimer's disease, two drug companies halted a pair of large clinical trials of an antibody designed to eliminate the protein because evidence of efficacy was lacking. OPIOID SETTLEMENT  Purdue Pharma and its owner, the Sackler family, will give the addiction studies and treatment center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa about $200 million to settle a lawsuit by the state over the company's marketing of the opioid OxyContin. DEEP-SEA MINING DELAYED  An equipment failure pushed back by several months a trial set to begin in April of a robot designed to harvest metallic nodules from the Pacific Ocean floor. News at a glance  See all authors and affiliations Science  29 Mar 2019: Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1368-1370 DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6434.1368 U.K. adders dwindle Wildlife conservation  Open in new tab PHOTO: JONATHAN LEWIS/GETTY IMAGES The common adder (Vipera berus), the only venomous snake in the United Kingdom and a storied character in English folklore, is on the decline, possibly because of habitat fragmentation. In January, scientists reported in The Herpetological Journal the first standardized U.K. population trend estimates, based on data from a long-term citizen science monitoring program: The population declined by 47% from 2005 to 2016, and by even more among small subpopulations. The authors recommend that heathland and moorland be managed carefully to avoid destroying hibernation sites and disturbance by people and dogs. Last week, other researchers reported in Animal Conservation that when land managers remove too many shrubs and young trees, adders may lack shade in summer and face attacks by dogs or birds. HIV Two drugmakers—ViiV Healthcare in Brentford, U.K., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals in Beerse, Belgium—last year stoked hope for a major advance in HIV treatment when they announced, with few details, that their monthly injections of antiretroviral medications worked as well as daily pills in a large-scale study (Science, 24 August 2018, p. 740). Last week, at the largest annual HIV/AIDS conference in the United States, researchers presented the data from that phase III trial—and from a second, similarly successful one. Participants getting the shots instead of pills controlled their HIV infections equally well and experienced few serious side effects. A monthly shot regimen could be a boon for those with HIV who have difficulty sticking to a schedule of taking multiple pills every day. The companies hope to get marketing approval for the shots as soon as this year. Genetics The UK Biobank this week released the study's first 50,000 exomes—the parts of the human genome that code for proteins—marking the largest-ever public data set that links partial genomes with detailed clinical information on participants. The sequence data, generated by the company Regeneron in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, include exons for 10% of the 500,000 middle-aged volunteers, most of whom have European ancestry, who are taking part in the massive genetics and health study. Initial findings reported in a preprint on bioRxiv include novel genes linked to varicose veins, bone density, and eye and blood cell traits. FDA OKs depression drug Drug development A new, fastacting treatment for depression won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week. The nasal spray esketamine (marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals under the name Spravato) is a form of ketamine, an anesthetic already used off label to treat depression. FDA approved esketamine for use in combination with an oral antidepressant for people whose depression has not responded to at least two other treatments. The agency requires patients to take esketamine in a clinic because it can cause serious side effects, including hallucinations. A sweet discovery about sourness Genetics  Open in new tab A molecular pump makes these Lisbon lemons sour. PHOTO: DESIGN PICS INC/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGE COLLECTION University of Amsterdam geneticist Ronald Koes didn't expect that his quest to understand what makes some petunias red—and others blue—would help him solve a long-standing mystery about why some, but not all, lemons taste so sour. The secret: A powerful molecular pump helps store the protons that create the fruit's acidity and sour flavor, Koes and his colleagues report this week in Nature Communications. Cells become more acidic when they pump more protons into internal sacs called vacuoles. A special molecular pump provides an abundance of protons that help create a red pigment in petunia petals, and now Koes and his colleagues have demonstrated that this same proton pump runs full tilt in sour lemons, pomelos, oranges, and limes but does not function in sweet varieties. The results provide a blueprint for plant breeders to identify fruits and flowers with desired flavors and colors, says Harry Klee, a molecular geneticist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Probe grabs asteroid sample Planetary science Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully executed a challenging touchdown on asteroid Ryugu last week in an effort to return fragments of its surface to Earth for study. During an autonomous operation, the probe landed momentarily within a target site just 6 meters wide and fired a tantalum pellet into the asteroid's surface in hopes of scattering fragments into a collection horn, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. Mission planners expected to collect 10 grams of material and plan two more touchdowns to gather additional samples. How much is collected won't be known until the sample-carrying re-entry capsule returns to Earth in 2020. Lab analyses of the contents could shed light on Ryugu's age and makeup (Science, 4 January, p. 16 ). Asteroid mission faces ‘breathtaking’ touchdown Dennis Normile  See all authors and affiliations Science  04 Jan 2019: Vol. 363, Issue 6422, pp. 16-17 DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6422.16 Article Figures & Data Info & Metrics eLetters  PDF Japan's Hayabusa mission made history in 2010 for bringing back to Earth the first samples ever collected on an asteroid. But the 7-year, 4-billion-kilometer odyssey was marked by degraded solar panels, innumerable mechanical failures, and a fuel explosion that knocked the spacecraft into a tumble and cut communications with ground control for 2 months. When planning its encore, Hayabusa2, Japan's scientists and engineers were determined to avoid such drama. They made components more robust, enhanced communications capabilities, and thoroughly tested new technologies. But the target asteroid, Ryugu, had fresh surprises in store. “By looking at the details of every asteroid ever studied, we had expected to find at least some wide flat area suitable for a landing,” says Yuichi Tsuda, Hayabusa2's project manager at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), which is headquartered in Sagamihara. Instead, when the spacecraft reached Ryugu in June 2018—at 290 million kilometers from Earth—it found a cragged, cratered, boulder-strewn surface that makes landing a daunting challenge. The first sampling touchdown, scheduled for October, was postponed until at least the end of this month, and at a symposium here on 21 and 22 December, ISAS engineers presented an audacious new plan to make a pinpoint landing between closely spaced boulders. “It's breathtaking,” says Bruce Damer, an origins of life researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Yet most everything else has gone according to plan since Hayabusa2 was launched in December 2014. Its cameras and detectors have already provided clues to the asteroid's mass, density, and mineral and elemental composition, and three rovers dropped on the asteroid have examined the surface. At the symposium, ISAS researchers presented early results, including evidence of an abundance of organic material and hints that the asteroid's parent body once held water. Those findings “add to the evidence that asteroids rather than comets brought water and organic materials to Earth,” says project scientist Seiichiro Watanabe of Nagoya University in Japan. Ryugu is 1 kilometer across and 900 meters top to bottom, with a notable bulge around the equator, like a diamond. Visible light observations and computer modeling suggest it's a porous pile of rubble that likely agglomerated dust, rocks, and boulders after another asteroid or planetesimal slammed into its parent body during the early days of the solar system. Ryugu spins around its own axis once every 7.6 hours, but simulations suggest that during the early phase of its formation, it had a rotation period of only 3.5 hours. That probably produced the bulge, by causing surface landslides or pushing material outward from the core, Watanabe says. Analyzing surface material from the equator in an Earth-based laboratory could offer support for one of those scenarios, he adds. If the sample has been exposed to space weathering for a long time, it was likely moved there by landslides; if it is relatively fresh, it probably migrated from the asteroid's interior. So far, Hayabusa2 has not detected water on or near Ryugu's surface. But its infrared spectrometer has found signs of hydroxide-bearing minerals that suggest water once existed either on the parent body or on the asteroid, says Mutsumi Komatsu, a planetary materials scientist at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Hayama, Japan. The asteroid's high porosity also suggests it once harbored significant amounts of water or ice and other volatile compounds that later escaped, Watanabe says. Asteroids such as Ryugu are rich in carbon as well, and they may have been responsible for bringing both water and carbon, life's key building block, to a rocky Earth early in its history. (Comets, by contrast, are just 3% to 5% carbon.) Support for that theory, known as the late heavy bombardment, comes from another asteroid sample return mission now in progress. Early last month, NASA's OSIRISREx reached asteroid Bennu, which is shaped like a spinning top as well and, the U.S. space agency has reported, has water trapped in the soil. “We're lucky to be able to conduct comparative studies of these two asteroid brothers,” Watanabe says. Geologist Stephen Mojzsis of the University of Colorado in Boulder is not convinced such asteroids will prove to be the source of Earth's water; there are other theories, he says, including the possibility that a giant Jupiter-like gaseous planet migrated from the outer to the inner solar system, bringing water and other molecules with it around the time Earth was formed. Still, findings on Ryugu's shape and composition “scientifically, could be very important,” he says.  Open in new tab Hayabusa2 imaged its shadow during a rehearsal descent (top). A close-up shows a surface strewn with boulders (bottom). PHOTOS: (TOP TO BOTTOM) JAXA; JAXA, UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, KOCHI UNIVERSITY, RIKKYO UNIVERSITY, NAGOYA UNIVERSITY, CHIBA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, MEIJI UNIVERSITY, UNIVERSITY OF AIZU, AIST Some new details come from up-close looks at the asteroid's surface. On 21 September, Hayabusa2 dropped a pair of rovers the size of a birthday cake, named Minerva-II1A and -II1B, on Ryugu's northern hemisphere. Taking advantage of its low gravity to hop autonomously, they take pictures that have revealed “microscopic features of the surface,” Tsuda says. And on 5 October, Hayabusa2 released a rover developed by the German and French space agencies that analyzed soil samples in situ and returned additional pictures. The ultimate objective, to bring asteroid samples back to Earth, will allow lab studies that can reveal much more about the asteroid's age and content. ISAS engineers programmed the craft to perform autonomous landings, anticipating safe touchdown zones at least 100 meters in diameter. Instead, the biggest safe area within the first landing zone turned out to be just 12 meters wide. That will complicate what was already a nail-biting operation. Prior to each landing, Hayabusa2 planned to drop a small sphere sheathed in a highly reflective material to be used as a target, to ensure the craft is moving in sync with the asteroid's rotation. Gravity then pulls the craft down gently until a collection horn extending from its underside makes contact with the asteroid; after a bulletlike projectile is fired into the surface, soil and rock fragments hopefully ricochet into a catcher within the horn. For safety, the craft has to steer clear of rocks larger than 70 centimeters. During a rehearsal in late October, Hayabusa2 released a target marker above the 12-meter safe circle; unfortunately, it came to rest more than 10 meters outside the zone. But it is just 2.9 meters away from the edge of a second possible landing site that's 6 meters in diameter. Engineers now plan to have the craft first hover above the target marker and then move laterally to be above the center of one of the two sites. Because the navigation camera points straight down, the target marker will be outside the camera's field of view as Hayabusa2 descends, leaving the craft to navigate on its own. “We are now in the process of selecting which landing site” to aim for, says Fuyuto Terui, who is in charge of mission guidance, navigation, and control. Aiming at the smaller zone means Hayabusa2 can keep the target marker in sight until the craft is close to the surface; the bigger zone gives more leeway for error, but the craft will lose its view of the marker earlier in the descent. Assuming the craft survives the first landing, plans call for Hayabusa2 to blast a 2-meter-deep crater into Ryugu's surface at another site a few months later, by hitting it with a 2-kilogram, copper projectile. This is expected to expose subsurface material for observations by the craft's cameras and sensors; the spacecraft may collect some material from the crater as well, using the same horn device. There could be a third touchdown, elsewhere on the asteroid. If all goes well, Hayabusa2 will make it back to Earth with its treasures in 2020. Public health Pinterest, a popular social media platform, shut down all vaccination-related searches in October 2018, the company tells Science this week, confirming a move first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Pinterest—which has 250 million active users, many of them mothers of young children—said it made the move after failing to selectively remove the many postings that erroneously criticized vaccines as unsafe. A Pinterest spokesperson called the antivaccination messages harmful. The company intends the shutdown to be temporary until it devises ways to precisely identify and remove antivaccine messages while leaving pro-vaccine statements, they said. Its move was reported as a measles outbreak in Washington state reached more than 65 cases, almost all in unvaccinated children, and 1 week after U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D–CA) wrote to the chief executives of Google and Facebook asking what steps they are taking “to provide medically accurate information on vaccinations to your users.” 17% —Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders among people examined in China in the first such nationwide study in that country. Anxiety disorders were most common, at 7.6%. Prevalences of most mental disorders were higher than in earlier, smaller studies that used different methods (The Lancet Psychiatry). Paintings' mystery acne solved Art conservators say they've harnessed modern technology to diagnose an art ailment and developed an iPad app to help identify and slow damage to artworks at risk. Most paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe had acquired what appeared to be acne—small, goosebumplike blebs were growing and causing bits of paint to flake off. Past studies figured out why: Metal ions in the paint were reacting with fatty acids commonly used as binder. The app—developed by a team from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe—creates 3D images that depict even micron-size protrusions and other anomalies that do not originate from brush strokes or canvas texture. A finalized version of the app will be released later this year, which could help conservators monitor and preserve other artworks that suffer from the same chemical reactions. Planetary science  Open in new tab PHOTO: WEI MINGCHUAN (BG2BHC), HU CHAORAN (BG2CRY), TAI MIER (KG5TEP), ZHAO YUHAO (BG2DGR)/HARBIN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY; CEES BASSA, TAMMO JAN DIJKEMA, VANESSA MOSS/CAMRAS DWINGELOO RADIO TELESCOPE; COMMAND UPLINK BY REINHARD KUEHN (DK5LA) The far side of the moon, with Earth in the background, looms in this photo taken 4 February by a simple camera, built by students, on board the Chinese DSLWP-B/Longjiang-2 satellite. China placed it in orbit last year to conduct radio astronomy and then successfully deployed a lander on the far side on 3 January. The image was transmitted to the amateur-operated Dwingeloo radio telescope in the Netherlands. PHOTO: WEI MINGCHUAN (BG2BHC), HU CHAORAN (BG2CRY), TAI MIER (KG5TEP), ZHAO YUHAO (BG2DGR)/HARBIN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY; CEES BASSA, TAMMO JAN DIJKEMA, VANESSA MOSS/CAMRAS DWINGELOO RADIO TELESCOPE; COMMAND UPLINK BY REINHARD KUEHN (DK5LA) The far side of the moon, with Earth in the background, looms in this photo taken 4 February by a simple camera, built by students, on board the Chinese DSLWP-B/Longjiang-2 satellite. China placed it in orbit last year to conduct radio astronomy and then successfully deployed a lander on the far side on 3 January. The image was transmitted to the amateur-operated Dwingeloo radio telescope in the Netherlands. UC scores CRISPR patent win Biotechnology The University of California (UC) has received a critical patent for its invention of CRISPR, the enormously popular genome-editing tool. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office notified UC last week that its patent had been “allowed” and should be issued soon, a step that may push the fierce legal war over this valuable intellectual property toward a treaty between sparring academic institutions. The protracted fight has pitted UC and its collaborators against a group led by the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Broad received many CRISPR patents beginning in 2014. UC unsuccessfully challenged them, but its patent covers the fundamental invention of CRISPR as a research tool. Companies hoping to develop new medicines and crops may have to license from both groups, if they don't reach a settlement. Europe, meanwhile, has a separate patent system that so far has given UC an edge. Genealogy company lets in FBI Forensics A direct-to-consumer DNA testing company acknowledged last week that it has begun to allow the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search its private genealogy database to track down suspects in violent crimes. BuzzFeed News first reported last week that since last fall, FamilyTreeDNA has let FBI agents submit a DNA sample from a rape or murder crime scene for genotyping and search its 1 million DNA profiles for suspects' relatives. In April 2018, California police used a public genealogy site to home in on the suspected Golden State Killer, inspiring more such cold case searches. But DNA testing companies with nonpublic databases usually require a court order for law enforcement searches. FamilyTreeDNA's voluntary move has alarmed some genealogists and privacy experts in part because one user's profile can expose hundreds of their distant relatives to being identified as suspects. Science databases measured Publications  Open in new tab CREDITS: (GRAPHIC) J. BRAINARD/SCIENCE; (DATA) M. GUSENBAUER, SCIENTOMETRICS 118 , 177 (JANUARY 2019) Google Scholar surveyed more scholarly literature in 2018 than any other multidisciplinary search engine or database, a study says. Compared with an estimate for 2015, its size has more than doubled. Michael Gusenbauer of Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, developed a new way of counting the records surveyed by Google Scholar and nine other search engines and bibliographic databases widely used by scientists and other scholars. Gusenbauer says his study, in the January issue of Scientometrics, offers an independent check on the sizes reported by the search engines and databases themselves. Semantic Scholar and WorldWideScience stated totals significantly higher than Gusenbauer's results, for which his paper offers explanations. Google Scholar does not report its size. Among the study's limitations is that the databases contain duplicate records and follow no universal definition of a scholarly work. Climate science U.S. states that voted for Donald Trump for president will suffer larger economic losses from climate change by 2080 than those that didn't, says a report this week from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The losses in income will reflect lower agricultural yields and more deaths, coastal damage, and loss of outdoor workers' time because of heat stress. Some of the biggest hits, exceeding 10%, will come in Florida and other states along the southeast and gulf coasts. Those states all favored Trump, who has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The report, by Mark Muro, David Victor, and Jacob Whiton of the Brookings Institution, concludes that projections of mounting economic losses may help persuade those states' residents well before 2080 to reject Republican orthodoxy that the government does not need to address climate change. Marine ecology U.S. government agencies monitoring fisheries, endangered marine species, and human impacts on the oceans should make greater use of a powerful source of data: the DNA present in every drop of seawater, says a report released last week. It was written by university researchers who organized the first U.S. conference on environmental DNA (eDNA) in November 2018; they argue that biological surveys based on eDNA are reliable and could cut costs and save time. Animals leave behind a trail of genetic material as they move through their environment, often in the form of skin cells. Scientists can collect these fragments of DNA from water or soil and analyze them to ferret out what species they came from. In the oceans, scientists have used eDNA to detect killer whales and great white sharks, and the U.S. Office of Naval Research funds eDNA research to track marine mammals.
Shanidar Cave in Iraq once sheltered at least 10 Neanderthals. GEORG KRISTIANSEN/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO New remains discovered at site of famous Neanderthal ‘flower burial’ By  Elizabeth Culotta Jan. 22, 2019 , 3:45 PM For tens of thousands of years, the high ceilings, flat earthen floor, and river view of Shanidar Cave have beckoned to ancient humans. The cave, in the Zagros Mountains of northern Iraq, once sheltered at least 10 Neanderthals, who were unearthed starting in the 1950s. One skeleton had so many injuries that he likely needed help to survive, and another had been dusted with pollen, suggesting someone had laid flowers at the burial. The rare discovery ushered in a new way of thinking about Neanderthals, who until then had often been considered brutes. “Although the body was archaic, the spirit was modern ,” excavator Ralph Solecki wrote of Neanderthals, in Science, in 1975. But some scientists doubted the pollen was part of a flower offering, and others questioned whether Neanderthals even buried their dead. In 2014, researchers headed back to Shanidar to re-excavate, and found additional Neanderthal bones. Then, last fall, they unearthed another Neanderthal with a crushed but complete skull and upper thorax, plus both forearms and hands. From 25 to 28 January, scientists will gather at a workshop at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom to discuss what the new finds suggest about Neanderthal views of death. Science caught up with archaeologist and team co-leader Christopher Hunt  of Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom to learn more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 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Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Bottom of Form Q: Why re-excavate? A:  Shanidar has yielded very important and sometimes controversial evidence, but all of the excavation evidence is old. So a key issue is testing Solecki’s hypotheses of burial and ritual activity. Our project is led by archaeologists  Graeme Barker Tim Reynolds , and me. We have been working in the cave since 2014, reassessing the work done by Solecki, dating his layers, and doing all the modern science not available to him. Q: Why did you want to be part of the excavation? A:  I was motivated by the work of pollen expert Arlette Leroi-Gourhan, who recovered clumps of pollen close to one skeleton. She interpreted this as evidence for the placing and burial of flowers around the body. I think her evidence is plausible, but other explanations are also at least equally possible. The new find is adjacent to the “flower burial” body, so we have a unique opportunity to test her observations. Q: What did you discover? A:  We located fragmentary human bone 2 years ago, but could not excavate—we were at the end of a season, and there were 2 meters of cave sediment containing both archaeology and huge boulders above it. So we covered it and left it. Last summer, we noticed what appeared to be a fresh disturbance nearby, so we made the decision to excavate. We had to lift out one 3-ton boulder without disturbing anything below it, plus several smaller ones. Human bone specialist Emma Pomeroy , who joined the University of Cambridge this month, was the first person to see the skull as she was troweling. She knew pretty quickly what it was. On first seeing the partly exposed skull, my immediate thought was that this was likely the crowning moment of my 40-year career. The bones of the new skeleton fit together as they would have in life. The lower body and legs would have extended into the block of sediment containing the “flower burial,” which also contained partial remains of two other adults, both female, and a fragment of a juvenile. Whether the new find relates to one of these individuals is unclear. Analysis has a long way to go, but we should be able to test the hypothesis of the “flower burial,” as well as doing all the great science-based things you can do with a Neanderthal these days!
This crushed Neanderthal skull was unearthed last fall at Shanidar cave in Iraq, right next to the “flower burial” excavated in the 1950s. GRAEME BARKER Q: How old are the new remains? A:  Solecki thought about 80,000 years, but we await dates from the [University of] Oxford [dating] laboratory. For now, the broad envelope of 60,000 to 90,000 years is about as good as gets. Q: So, were the skeletons buried intentionally, with ritual, or not? A:  Ritual is almost impossible to prove to everyone’s satisfaction. What is clear is that the cluster of bodies at the “flower burial” came to rest in a very restricted area, but not quite at the same geologic level, and therefore likely not quite at the same time. So that might point to some form of intentionality and group memory as Neanderthals returned to the same spot over generations. But I don’t want to go beyond that, because most of the analyses are still to be done. Q: What’s the next step—are you trying to extract DNA from the bones? A:  Yes. We expect that modern techniques … will allow us to understand better the evolutionary relationships, group territories, and diet of these individuals. We are seeking funding for further work, because we have a whole season’s worth of analyses to do, and we are aware of further Neanderthal remains. We’d like more dates and to try to extract DNA from the sediment itself as well. Q: Is security a concern? A:  The team was at Shanidar in 2014 when the ISIS [Islamic State group] advance got uncomfortably close, and evacuation became necessary. But the Kurdish Peshmerga have a base at Shanidar, and they and reps from the Kurdish regional government’s Directorate of Antiquities have looked after us splendidly. Shanidar is an immense source of national pride for the Kurds, because the resistance against Saddam [Hussein] was partly run from there. Digging at Shanidar is a bit like digging on the Cenotaph in London or the Arlington National Monument in the USA. Thousands of day-trippers visit on a regular basis. We see exuberant dancing, picnics, and wedding parties as well as quiet people with flowers and photos, and many school and college groups. They have been delightful, but at times we have been overwhelmed by the sheer demand to participate in selfies, and we have been concerned that curious visitors might trample on important evidence without realizing. The Antiquities Directorate has erected a stout fence, which helps. Q: What’s the day-to-day work like on-site? A:  Grueling—we have been out there digging hard in the cold during torrential spring rains and in 50⁰C summer heat. Everything has to be carried up from, and down to, base camp, on a flight of more than 240 steps. We have wet-sieved and floated almost every cubic centimeter of cave sediments. As someone who has worked on caves for 35 years, this is by far the most difficult site I have ever worked on! It has become ever clearer to us that Ralph Solecki’s achievement was immense and that his—and our—work at Shanidar will offer challenges and insights for many years to come. Posted in:  doi:10.1126/science.aaw7586

East Antarctica's ice is melting rapidly

PHOTO: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/POOL/GETTY IMAGES The vast majority of Antarctica's ice melt, which is responsible for at least 13.8 millimeters of sea level rise over the past 40 years, was long thought to come from the unstable West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Now, a study using 40 years of satellite imagery finds that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing a substantial quantity of ice as well. Over the past 4 decades, that loss accounted for more than 30% of the sea level rise attributed to the continent, researchers report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. East Antarctica, which has 10 times as much ice as the continent's western half, was long thought to be insulated from climate change because it rests on land, largely protected from warming ocean waters. A 2018 Nature paper estimated the region was actually gaining ice. If confirmed, the new results could dramatically reshape projections of sea level rise for the next century.

Plagiarism at integrity meeting


Researchers studying integrity might be expected to be full of that rare quality. That's why organizers of the sixth World Conference on Research Integrity, to be held in Hong Kong, China, in June, were surprised to receive an abstract that was, instead, full of apparent plagiarism. After combing through all 430 submissions, they discovered 11 additional cases of suspected plagiarism. When they reached out to the authors of the abstracts—two of which, ironically, were about plagiarism—six didn't respond, one withdrew their submission, one blamed staff, and two said they had permission to use each other's work. Only two gave “acceptable” explanations, the organizers reported last week on the Retraction Watch blog.
CREDIT: (GRAPHIC) J. BRAINARD/SCIENCE; (DATA) R. J. ABDILL AND R. BLEKHMAN, BIORXIV, 10.1101/515643 (2019) Last year saw rapid growth in the number of biologists posting papers to the preprint server bioRxiv and in the total number of papers. The server still hosts only a small fraction of all new biology papers, but it has provided an outlet to authors looking to quickly share research findings. More preprints were posted in the first 11 months of 2018—18,825—than in the years since the server launched in 2013. Nearly two-thirds of preprints posted in 2017 or earlier were later published in journals, report Richard Abdill and Ran Blekhman of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis this week in a bioRxiv preprint. The researchers also unveiled, a website that allows users to sort bioRxiv preprints by number of downloads or Twitter mentions.

News at a glance

 See all authors and affiliations Science  11 Jan 2019: Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 106-108 DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6423.106

China visits moon's far side

Planetary science
Chang'e-4's rover, named Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit 2) for a moon goddess's companion, rolls into action. PHOTO: CHINA NATIONAL SPACE ADMINISTRATION China's Chang'e-4 lander became the first spacecraft to set down on the far side of the moon on 3 January. Later that day, the China National Space Administration released the first close-up pictures of the surface and confirmed that the mission's rover safely exited the lander. Because the moon blocks direct radio contact with the lander and rover, Chang'e-4 relies on a communications relay satellite that China placed beyond the moon at a gravitationally locked point. Chang'e-4's cameras, spectrometers, and ground-penetrating radar may provide new scientific insights into the composition and evolution of the moon. The far side has an older crust and more craters than the near side, where more recent lava flows cover much of the surface. Chang'e-4 is the fourth of China's lunar missions, all named after a Chinese moon goddess. Chang'e-5 is scheduled for launch later this year and will attempt to gather lunar soil and rock samples and return them to Earth.

Ocean plastic cleanup stumbles

Marine ecology

A high-profile trash collector designed to remove plastic from the Pacific Ocean is limping back to port after a mechanical failure. The 600-meter-long device was built by the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Boyan Slat founded the group as an 18-year-old inventor, raised $31.5 million, and hired 80 engineers and scientists. They designed a U-shaped pontoon that, pushed by wind and waves, would collect plastic with a skirt. Ships could occasionally haul the trash away. Boyan has said that a fleet of 60 such pontoon collectors could remove half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a large accumulation of waste between Hawaii and California—in 5 years. But skeptics questioned the plan's feasibility and cost. In November 2018, the team discovered the prototype tested in the garbage patch was not retaining trash, perhaps because it was not moving fast enough. Then, in late December 2018, an 18-meter-long section broke off, apparently because of material fatigue. Engineers will try to repair and improve the device after it reaches Honolulu on 13 January.

Departing head knocks vax policy

Public health

The leader of Italy's main health research agency resigned in December 2018, accusing government officials of “unscientific or frankly antiscientific positions on many issues.” Walter Ricciardi told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that he decided to step down from the National Institute of Health because of the antivaccine stances of the coalition government that came to power last June. Ricciardi is an expert on vaccination who supported a law that made 10 childhood vaccinations mandatory and that the new government has partly repealed. He also called out Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini as falsely claiming that migrants carry diseases, which Ricciardi said caused “discomfort in health agencies, forcing them into a kind of self-censorship not to contradict politicians.”
40% —Portion of Germany's public electricity supply that came from renewable sources in 2018, exceeding for the first time the share from coal-fired plants (Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems).


In cell biology, higher resolution means more gets revealed. Now, scientists are ready to use new combinations of tools and techniques to provide close-up looks at components inside cells in unprecedented detail, and in 3D. Already, researchers can analyze DNA, proteins, RNA, and epigenetic marks in single cells. This year, multidisciplinary teams plan to combine those methods with advances in cryoelectron tomography, labeling techniques to trace molecules, and other types of microscopy to see subcellular structures and processes. For example, a multifaceted technique for imaging and staining DNA could shed new light on how chromosomes fold. And the blended methods could yield clearer pictures at the molecular level of how cells divide and change shape, and how gene activity affects structure and function.


The first release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in Africa is set to happen in Burkina Faso this year, an initial step in a planned “gene drive” strategy against malaria. It will be the first release of GM mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, which transmits the parasite responsible for the disease. The gene drive approach, under development at the nonprofit consortium Target Malaria, would spread mutations through the wild population that knock out key fertility genes or reduce the proportion of female insects, which transmit disease. But the first GM Anophelesmosquitoes released won't bear such mutations and aren't intended to cut down the population. Researchers will let out fewer than 10,000 genetically sterilized males to observe how they survive and disperse in the wild and to help introduce the concept of GM mosquitoes to regulators and community members.

Disease crisis looms for swine

Livestock agriculture

Pig farmers—and perhaps some bacon lovers—will anxiously scan the headlines this year for news of African swine fever (ASF). Harmless to humans, the viral disease is highly infectious and lethal among pigs, causing serious economic damage through culls and trade bans. ASF made major jumps in Europe last year, turning up for the first time in pigs and wild boar in Bulgaria and in boar in Belgium and Hungary. The virus can jump from boar, which are difficult to manage, to swine. Germany, Denmark, and other major pork producers are on high alert. Most worrisome was the first detection of the virus in China, a long-dreaded development in the country with the world's largest pig population. China has recorded more than 80 outbreaks since August 2018, including in boar. Authorities have clamped down on the transport of pigs, culled more than 630,000,and last month reportedly banned pig farming where wild boar are present. Despite these efforts, the virus could still explode in China and elsewhere in Asia.

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