Academic World News

Symbiotic fungi produce attractants for bark beetles

In a new study, an international research team led by the researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology demonstrates that the European spruce bark beetle Ips typographus uses volatile fungal metabolites of plant defense substances as important chemical signals in their attack on spruce trees. The researchers also show that the insects have olfactory sensory neurons specialized for detecting these volatile compounds. The fungal metabolites likely provide important clues to the beetles about the presence of beneficial fungi, the defense status of the trees, and the population density of their conspecifics.

The dance of supermassive black holes

A long-term study with data from four telescopes, ranging from radio to high energy frequencies, has penetrated to the core of the much-discussed active galaxy OJ 287, revealing further details about its interior. The results of the international team, led by Stefanie Komossa of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, strengthen the evidence for a binary black hole system and place the primary black hole back on the scale.

Seabirds in the eye of the storm

Hurricanes are becoming more intense due to the climate crisis. Therefore, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany and Swansea University in the United Kingdom have studied the wind speeds that different seabird species can withstand. The team was able to show that the individual species are well adapted to the average wind conditions in their breeding grounds, but use different strategies to avoid flying through the storm. Within their research, one behavior of the albatrosses particularly surprised the scientists.

Distant cradles of stars

The first images of the James Webb Space Telescope are helping to uncover the missing pieces of the star formation puzzle in nearby galaxies. Data from the powerful infrared telescope are revealing previously hidden regions where new stars are born. These images provide the first clues as to how networks of gas and dust become the site of active star formation.

Ice age survivors

With the largest dataset of prehistoric European hunter-gatherer genomes ever generated, an international research team has rewritten the genetic history of our ancestors. This study was led by researchers from the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Peking University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, in collaboration with 125 international scientists.

Life in the smoke of underwater volcanoes

Disconnected from the energy of the sun, the permanently ice-covered Arctic deep sea receives miniscule amounts of organic matter that sustains life. Bacteria which can harvest the energy released from submarine hydrothermal sources could thus have an advantage. On research missions with the research vessel Polarstern, scientists from Germany found bacteria uniquely adapted to this geo-energy floating in deep-sea waters. They describe the role of these bacteria for biogeochemical cycling in the ocean.

Major advance in super-resolution fluorescence microscopy

Scientists led by Nobel Laureate Stefan Hell at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg have developed a super-resolution microscope with a spatio-temporal precision of one nanometer per millisecond. An improved version of their recently introduced MINFLUX super-resolution microscopy allowed tiny movements of single proteins to be observed at an unprecedented level of detail: the stepping motion of the motor protein kinesin-1 as it walks along microtubules while consuming ATP. The work highlights the power of MINFLUX as a revolutionary new tool for observing nanometer-sized conformational changes in proteins.

Catalysts of the energy transition

When it comes to the energy transition, there has to be the right chemistry. This makes it possible to store electricity from the wind and sun in fuels and base materials for chemical production and also to use CO2 for this purpose. However, the corresponding chemical compounds can only be produced efficiently with the right catalysts; these are, however currently still in short supply.

Fireworks have long-lasting effects on wild birds

A study has tracked wild birds over three countries in Europe to examine the long-term impact of fireworks. The international team of scientists GPS tracked Arctic migratory geese in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands for three weeks over the New Year period, generating the most detailed understanding yet of how wild birds respond to fireworks. Movement data from 347 geese showed that on New Year’s Eve, birds suddenly leave their sleeping sites and fly to new areas further away from human settlements.

Animals are key to restoring the world’s forests

As UN climate talks close in Egypt and biodiversity talks begin in Montreal, attention is on forest restoration as a solution to the twin evils roiling our planet. Forests soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide and simultaneously create habitat for organisms. So far, efforts to help forests bounce back from deforestation have typically focused on increasing one thing—trees—over anything else. But a new report uncovers a powerful, yet largely overlooked, driver of forest recovery: animals.

Do women age differently from men?

The effect of medicines on women and men can differ significantly. This also applies to the currently most promising anti-ageing drug rapamycin, as researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and University College London have now shown. They report that the drug only prolongs the lifespan of female fruit flies, but not that of males. In addition, rapamycin only slowed the development of age-related pathological changes in the gut in female flies. The researchers conclude that the biological sex is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of anti-ageing drugs.

Iron for energy storage

Energy from sun or wind is weather-dependent and lacks an efficient way to store and transport it. Scientists from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung and TU Eindhoven are investigating iron as a possible energy carrier. The idea is to store excess energy in iron and release it through combustion of iron into iron oxide. The team is working to understand the underlying processes and upscale the technique to industrial relevance.