Science Briefs: There's nothing like grog for Bronze Age winter

January 26, 2014 

There’s nothing like grog for Bronze Age winter

Winters in Scandinavia were long and cold in the Bronze and Iron Ages – but a blazing fire was not the only thing to keep people warm. From northwest Denmark, circa 1500-1300 BC, to the Swedish island of Gotland as late as the first century AD, Nordic peoples were imbibing an alcoholic “grog” or extreme hybrid beverage rich in local ingredients, including honey, bog cranberry, lingonberry, bog myrtle, yarrow, juniper, birch tree resin, and cereals including wheat, barley and/or rye. And sometimes, grape wine imported from southern or central Europe.

The conclusion is based on new archaeochemical evidence derived from samples inside pottery and bronze drinking vessels and strainers from four sites in Denmark and Sweden, combined with previous archaeobotanical data. The research was recently published online in the Danish Journal of Archaeology.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers obtained ancient residue samples from four sites. Ancient organic compounds were identified by a combination of chemical techniques.

New genetic info will help fight against hookworm

Going barefoot in parts of Africa, Asia and South America contributes to hookworm infections, which afflict an estimated 700 million of the world’s poor. The parasitic worm lives in the soil and enters the body through the feet. By feeding on victims’ blood, the worms cause anemia and, in children, stunted growth and learning problems.

Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have decoded the genome of the hookworm (Necator americanus), finding clues to how it infects and survives in humans and to aid in development of new therapies to combat hookworm disease.

The research was published this month in Nature Genetics.

“We now have a more complete picture of just how this worm invades the body, begins feeding on the blood and successfully evades the host immune defenses,” said senior author Makedonka Mitreva, a member of The Genome Institute at the WU School of Medicine.

Widely used pesticide inhibits growth in bees

Exposure to a widely used pesticide causes worker bumblebees to grow less and then hatch out at a smaller size, according to a new study by Royal Holloway University of London.

The research, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reveals that prolonged exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide – which is used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage – reduces the size of individual bees produced by a colony.

The researchers worked with colonies of bumblebees in their laboratory and exposed half of them to the pesticide. They tracked how the bee colonies grew over a four-month period, recording their size and weighing bees on microscales, as well as monitoring the number of queens and male bees produced by the colony.

“We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging. Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers,” said researcher Gemma Baron of Royal Holloway.

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