The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Science news around the world this week

Fiona Batchelor reports on key science stories from around the globe


Seal poo proves plastic travels up the food chain

Researchers from the UK’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory dissected faeces from male seals to find evidence that plastic affects even carnivores at the top of the food chain.

This has long been an assumption of researchers, as ingested plastic have been found in the fish that seals prey on. However, the finding that nearly half of the seal faeces contained plastic fragments confirms the concern that the toxic effects of plastics may be exacerbated in top marine predators.

China’s first space station due to crash down to Earth within weeks

The out-of-control Tiangong-1 space station is set to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere soon, but scientists are still unsure as to where it may fall.

The Aerospace Corporation has calculated that the crash will likely occur in the first week of April.

They insist, however, that the chances of any human populations being hit by debris are minuscule, as most material from the space station will not survive re-entry to the atmosphere.

Experts have known since 2016 that there would be no organised landing, as the operators had lost control of the spacecraft.

Animal tattoos on Egyptian mummy amongst the oldest in the world

Blurry dark marks on the arm of a mummified man have recently been identified as a tattoo depicting a wild bull and a goat-like animal. The mummy, known as Gebelein Man A, was discovered more than a century ago and thought to have died between 3350-3020 BC.

Though equally old geometric tattoos have been found on an Alpine mummy from the same time period, the Gebelein mummy has the oldest known depictions of animals inked into his skin.

AIDS conference in Boston reveals possible new route to combat HIV

New findings discussed at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections held in Boston this week could provide a new explanation for why some people are more susceptible to the effects of HIV.

A genetic ‘signature’ allows people of African descent to better-control the virus.  The ‘signature’ was found on a segment of a chromosome that is associated with a lower stable level of the HIV after initial infection.

This may lead to new routes of treatment as it reveals biological differences that may result in improved disease progression.

Dogs may “see” when they follow a scent trail

Research published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology finds that dogs may have the ability to visualise what they are looking for when following their sense of smell.

48 dogs, half of which were specially trained as police or rescue dogs, were made to search for a hidden toy, of which one was their favourite.

The dogs largely searched for the toy used to lay the scent trail, suggesting they had a mental image of what they were looking for.

A similar study in horses found that they too create mental images, in this case of their owners, based on the sound of their voice.