Most recent news releases
May 22, 2013 Drought makes Borneo’s trees flower at the same time
A drought period causes the trees in Borneo’s tropical forests to flower at the same time. Evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich have identified two genes that indicate when the plants are about to flower. By monitoring these genes specifically, scientists are better able to predict when mass flowering will occur. This means that plant seeds can be collected in a targeted manner and used for reforestation.
14 species of crocodile lived in South America around 5 million years ago, at least seven of which populated the coastal areas of the Urumaco River in Venezuela at the same time. Paleontologists from the University of Zurich have found evidence of an abundance of closely related crocodiles that remains unparalleled to this day. As they were highly specialized, the crocodiles occupied different eco-niches. When the watercourses changed due to the Andean uplift, however, all the crocodile species became extinct.
About 99% of the world’s land ice is stored in the huge ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, while only 1% is contained in glaciers. However, the meltwater of glaciers contributed almost as much to the rise in sea level in the period 2003 to 2009 as the two ice sheets: about one third. This is one of the results of an international study with the involvement of geographers from the University of Zurich.
In the last thirty years, vegetation has changed significantly the world over. Until recently, the extent to which the climate or humankind was responsible remained unclear. However, geographers from the University of Zurich and colleagues from the Netherlands now reveal that over half of these changes are climatological, humans or as yet unknown human-climate interactions cause over a third and around ten percent cannot be explained fully by either the climate or human activity.
Researchers at Wits University in South Africa, including Peter Schmid from the University of Zurich, have described the anatomy of a single early hominin in six new studies. Australo-pithecus sediba was discovered near Johannesburg in 2008. The studies in Science demon-strate how our two million year old ancestor walked, chewed and moved.
Apr 9, 2013 Iceman Ötzi had bad teeth
For the first time, researchers from the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich together with colleagues abroad have been able to provide evidence of periodontitis, tooth decay and accident-related dental damage in the ice mummy ‘Ötzi’. The latest scientific findings provide interesting information on the dietary patterns of the Neolithic Iceman and on the evolution of medically significant oral pathologies.
Like humans, mice can become infected with Borrelia. However, not all mice that come into contact with these bacteria contract the dreaded Lyme disease: Animals with a particular gene variant are immune to the bacteria, as scientists from the universities of Zurich and Lund demonstrate. Wild mice are the primary hosts for Borrelia, which are transmitted by ticks.
Mar 27, 2013 The placodonts are fellow Europeans
Placodonts were among the first marine reptiles. With their trademark crushing teeth, they fed on shellfish and crustaceans. However, when and where these highly specialized marine reptiles originated remained unclear until now. A 246-million-year-old skull of a juvenile placodont was recently discovered in the Netherlands. Paleontologists from the universities of Zurich and Bonn have now proved that it is one of the earliest examples of this saurians and that it originated in Europe.
Mar 10, 2013 Selectively Manipulating protein modifications
Protein activity is strictly regulated. Incorrect or poor protein regulation can lead to uncontrolled growth and thus cancer or chronic inflammation. Members of the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Zurich have identified enzymes that can regulate the activity of medically important proteins. Their discovery enables these proteins to be manipulated very selectively, opening up new treatment methods for inflammations and cancer.
Mar 7, 2013 A sausage a day is too many
Anyone who eats over 40 grams a day of sausage products or other kinds of processed meat is asking for trouble: the risk of mortality increases by 18 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat per day. This is the result of a study conducted with around 450,000 participants by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich in collaboration with research colleagues from all over Europe.
Feb 21, 2013 The age from when children can hop on one leg
Motor development in children under five years of age can now be tested reliably: Together with colleagues from Lausanne, researchers from the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and the University of Zurich have determined normative data for different exercises such as hopping or running. This enables parents and experts to gage the motor skills of young children for the first time objectively and thus identify abnormalities at an early stage.
Molecular biologist Michael Karin is to receive this year’s Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research in recognition of his studies on the role of chronic inflammation in the development of tumors. The award, which carries CHF 100,000 in prize money, is considered one of the highest accolades for cancer researchers worldwide. The awards ceremony takes place in Zurich this Thursday in the framework of an international symposium on “Breakthroughs in Cancer Research and Therapy”.
Jan 24, 2013 A scanner for hereditary defects
Our genetic material is constantly exposed to damage, which the body’s own proteins normally repair. One of these proteins works like a scanner, continually scouring the genetic material for signs of damage. Researchers from the Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich see new possibilities in this damage recognition for improving cancer treatment in humans.
The appearance of free oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere led to the Great Oxidation Event. This was triggered by cyanobacteria producing the oxygen which developed into multicellular forms as early as 2.3 billion years ago. As evolutionary biologists from the Universities of Zurich and Gothenburg have shown, this multicellularity was linked to the rise in oxygen and thus played a significant role for life on Earth as it is today.
Animals are more eloquent than previously assumed. Even the monosyllabic call of the banded mongoose is structured and thus comparable with the vowel and consonant system of human speech. Behavioral biologists from the University of Zurich have thus become the first to demonstrate that animals communicate with even smaller sound units than syllables.
Jan 7, 2013 Italian immigrants live longer
Immigrants from Italy live longer than members of their host country. However, the risk of mortality is considerably higher for their offspring than their Swiss counterparts. More exposed to the influences of the host country, the second generation detaches itself from the healthy southern lifestyle and the close-knit family network and has poorer educational opportunities than locals. Men are affected more strongly by this than women, as a study conducted by the University of Zurich’s Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine reveals.
Dec 21, 2012 Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction
The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.
Dec 20, 2012 Shedding light on Anderson localization
Waves do not spread in a disordered medium if there is less than one wavelength between two defects. Physicists from the universities of Zurich and Constance have now proved Nobel Prize winner Philip W. Anderson’s theory directly for the first time using the diffusion of light in a cloudy medium.
Dec 10, 2012 Tour the Galapagos Islands in Zurich
Galapagos, the completely isolated volcanic islands in the Pacific, can be explored right here on your doorstep from December 11. The University of Zurich Zoological Museum has dedicated its new special exhibition to this small archipelago so important for evolutionary theory. Armed with a guide, visitors travel around the Galapagos Islands, where they learn about its unique flora and fauna.
Pathological changes typical of Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced in mice by blockade of an immune system transmitter. A research team from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of Zurich has just published a new therapeutic approach in fighting Alzheimer’s disease in the current issue of Nature Medicine. This approach promises potential in prevention, as well as in cases where the disease has already set in.