Tagged: animals

Scientists puzzled by hundreds of dead penguins

More than 700 Magellan penguins have washed up dead on the beaches of south Brazil over the last month, capturing headlines worldwide and leaving scientists puzzled.

The penguins are currently migrating from Patagonia to south Brazil – a journey which no doubt claims some lives but not at this magnitude.

According to the Brazilian Center for Coastal Studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, however, the penguins likely died of natural causes.

In a press release, the center said it had analysed the dead animals’ conditions and found that most of the birds were young, and showed no signs of external injury or oil in the plumes.

According to biologist Mauricio Tavares: “Birds in the first year of life are inexperienced,” adding that dead birds at this time of year is common and the result of “the process of natural selection”.

Some questions have been raised as to just how natural this occurrence is, however. According to TreeHugger, dead penguins washing ashore happens with “disturbing” regularity.

A more detailed report on the latest penguin deaths is expected later this month.

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Could genetically engineered plants put an end to drug factory livestock?

The use of animals in drug manufacturing has always been a necessary evil, but new developments in the field of genetic engineering could well mark the end of the practice in some fields.

Gaucher disease –  a condition resulting from the lack of a particular enzyme – is traditionally treated with drugs derived from hamster cells. Now, however, Israeli scientists from biotech firm Protalix Biotherapeutics, have discovered a way to grow the required enzymes in carrot cells instead, by inserting specific genes into them.

Patients that received the ‘bio-pharmed’ version of the drug reportedly showed the same levels of improvement as those given the treatment derived from hamster cells.

The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval for the plant-derived treatment, potentially the marking the beginning of the end of genetically modified livestock in drug factories.