Top stories: A deadly plague epidemic, the evolution of skin color, and thrice-domesticated rice

Science | AAAS | 10/13/2017 | Staff
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An epidemic of the deadliest form of plague, pneumonic, has hit major cities and towns in Madagascar and is spreading fast. As of 7 October, the Madagascar Health Ministry reported that 343 people had been infected and 42 died, and numbers are rising rapidly. A massive response is underway, and the World Health Organization is on high alert. This poor island nation is regularly hit by plague outbreaks, but they are typically the relatively less dangerous bubonic form, transmitted from rats to humans by fleas, and occur largely in remote areas.

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Most people associate Africans with dark skin. But different groups of people in Africa have almost every skin color on the planet, from deepest black in the Dinka of South Sudan to beige in the San of South Africa. Now, researchers have traced the evolution of a handful of new gene variants responsible for this palette of tones. While the dark skin of some Pacific Islanders can be traced to Africa, gene variants from Eurasia also seem to have made their way back to Africa. And surprisingly, some of the mutations responsible for lighter skin in Europeans turn out to have an ancient African origin.

Genome - Dimensions

Watch the human genome fold itself in four dimensions

Each human cell nucleus is packed with 2 meters of DNA wrapped around 46 chromosomes like a jumble of spaghetti. These “noodles” are in constant motion as they adjust to what the cell...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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