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5 June 2013

Galapagos tortoises could have had roots in the Amazon, a new cancer vaccine in Argentina, and Ecuador’s oil spill reaches Peru.

ARGENTINA

Argentina has approved the use of a cancer vaccine that complements other treatments for lung cancer, which will be available for patients in July. The National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) has approved the work that took Argentine and Cuban scienctists 18 years to complete. The vaccine stimulates the patient’s immune system to attack the tumor without killing healthy cells.

      The Amazon was once home to giant tortoises that could have been the ancestors of the Galapagos tortoise. Credit: Marcelo Paz via Flickr.

A study of the abundance of amphibian species in the arid Chaco forest of Cordoba found that land degradation due to overgrazing, logging and fire misuse affects amphibian populations. It was found that in lakes where there were once 10 species, but there were only three.

Argentine scientists have created silicon plates with nano-holes that can characterize DNA and proteins quickly and cheaply. The goal of the CONICET and INTA researchers is to speed up and cheapen DNA sequencing. The new technique is applicable to clinical diagnosis, detection of pathogens and diseases.

BRAZIL

The Amazon was home to giant tortoises, according to Brazilian paleontologists that have reconstructed 8 million-year-old fossils in the Amazon. The tortoises measured one meter high by 1.65 meters long and 90 cm wide, twice the size (but could be the ancestor) of the ones currently living in the Galapagos Islands. Last weekend, scientists met in the Galapagos for the 3rd World Summit on Evolution.

A joint study conducted by Spanish and Brazilian scientists has identified as one of the causes of the downsizing of the seeds of a species of palm tree is the replacement of native forest by agricultural systems, specifically coffee and sugar cane plantations from the early nineteenth century. The change in vegetation caused major bird migration (like the toucan) who once ate and thus helped spread the seeds. The palm species evolved producing smaller seeds that could be dispersed by blackbirds or thrushes.

ECUADOR

Ecuador’s state-owned oil company PetroEcuador has started handing out water bottles to communities affected by a 10,000 barrel oil spill that started last Friday on the river Coca, a tributary of the Amazon river. Ecuador has warned Peru and Brazil that the oil is headed their way.

UNESCO has declared the Macizo de Cajas reserve in Ecuador a new UNESCO biosphere reserve. For such a designation, the area must fulfill three functions: to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation; foster sustainable economic and human development related to the socio-cultural and ecological and support demonstration projects education and training in the environment, research, conservation and sustainable development.

A Patagonian seagull was sighted in the Galapagos Islands far from its home. In 50 years of records of birds of the islands, the Patagonian gull had never been observed species. Being a single individual is speculated that the bird may have been lost during its migration.

MEXICO

Scientists at UNAM have created filters with bacteria capable of purifying the air containing foul odors. The filters have a “sponge” with nutrients required for bacterial growth. Air pollutants dissolve in that bacterial membrane; the innovation is designed for waste treatment plants for solids and liquids.