Birds Once Had an Extra Set of Wings

The Atlantic Wire

Discovered: ancient bird species had four wings; milk is good for college students; texting errors can indicate a stroke; breast milk contains stem cells.

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Ancient bird species featured four wings. A group of Chinese scientists studying the fossils of ancient birds discovered that some species bore an extra pair of wings, according to a new paper published in Science. The only uncertainty: for what, precisely, these birds used their third and fourth wings, which were attached to the rear of the species' bodies. "These fossil traces ... do not indicate how these ancient animals used their rear set of feathers — whether for gliding assistance, steering or both." The discovery situates birds even closer to the dinosaurs from which they are long thought to have evolved. [Science]

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Milk is good for college students. If you're a college student, you may want to think about upping your dairy intake. That's the conclusion of a recent survey of Mexican college-aged individuals conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois. People whose diets lack in dairy can be at a greater risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of disorders commonly associated with and increased propensity for heart disease and diabetes. So far, however, the exact role played by dairy products is elusive. "Although scientists believe that dairy products guard against obesity and the health problems that accompany extra weight, they aren't sure how it happens." [Food and Nutrition Sciences]

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'Bqhatevwr' could indicate a stroke. Texting errors other attributable to overzealous auto-correct algorithms or (in the case of former Senator Scott Scott Brown) pocket-tweeting, could indicate something more serious: a stroke. "Difficulty or inability to write a coherent text message, even in patients who have no problem speaking, may become a 'vital' tool in diagnosing a type of crippling stroke," according to several Detroit doctors studying the effects of strokes on routine activities. To be sure, it wasn't so much the mistake itself that indicated the likelihood of a stroke — it's the inability to recognize the mistake as such that indicates something much more serious. [American Academy of Neurology in San Diego]

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Breast milk contains stem cells. Stem cell research, the frequent concern of ethicists for its reliance on embryos to harvest usable cells, may have found a fresh — and much less controversial — source of stem cells. Results from years of research performed by Australian scientist indicates that human breast milk contains stem cells that, when collected, can be used to grow and repair existing human tissue. Beyond its obvious application, the findings open up new questions about the benefit of breastfeeding: "Breastfed infants could be getting a developmental head start, with stem cells from the mother contributing to organ development in the newborn." [New Scientist]

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