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Scientists Find Gold-Studded Fungus in Western Australia

Researchers believe the fungus is an indicator of gold deposits and hope the discovery will help miners.

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FILE - A miner looks across the largest open pit gold mine in Australia called the Fimiston Open Pit, also known as the Super Pit, in the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie, located around 500 kilometres east of Perth, July 27, 2001. VOA

A fluffy pink fungus that decorates itself with gold nanoparticles has been found in Western Australia. Researchers believe the fungus is an indicator of gold deposits and hope the discovery will help miners narrow down where to dig.

Scientists in Australia have found a fungus that can bond with gold particles. It releases a chemical called superoxide that can dissolve gold in the soil. It is then able to mix this dissolved metal with another chemical to turn it back into solid gold, in the form of tiny nanoparticles.

So why does this gold-loving fungus have an attraction to this precious metal? The research team believes by interacting with gold in this way it can grow faster and bigger relative to other fungi that do not.

The research has been carried out by Australia’s national science agency.

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A fluffy pink fungus that decorates itself with gold nanoparticles has been found. VOA

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the CSIRO, believes the discovery could be a new way to mine gold. The fungi could be markers that indicate the presence of gold, and narrow down the area where exploratory drilling would be most beneficial.

The study’s author is Dr. Tsing Bohu, a CSIRO geo-microbiologist.

“I think this is probably very novel because gold is very inert generally speaking but we found actually this fungus can interact with gold by dissolving gold. So I think it is very novel and it is also very important for mining and other industrial [processes] like leaching, so [it] has some potential applications,” he said.

The fungus was found in soil at Boddington, 130 kilometers south-east of Perth in Western Australia.

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The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Australia is the world’s second-largest producer of gold, but its output is expected to fall unless more deposits are discovered.

In recent weeks, two Australians have stumbled upon large gold nuggets worth tens of thousands of dollars in Western Australia and the state of Victoria. (VOA)

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Scientists Take Peek Behind Those Sad Puppy Dog Eyes and Find a Unique Muscle

Pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression

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FILE - Lexy, a therapy dog, is seen at Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 18, 2014. A study released June 17, 2019, suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred dogs that could pull off the "puppy dog" eyes look. VOA

What’s behind those hard-to-resist puppy dog eyes?

New research suggests that over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. And that encouraged the development of the facial muscle that creates it.

Today, pooches use the muscle to raise their eyebrows and make the babylike expression. That muscle is virtually absent in their ancestors, the wolves.

“You don’t typically see such muscle differences in species that are that closely related,” said Anne Burrows of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, an author of the study released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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FILE – A female red wolf emerges from her den sheltering newborn pups at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C., May 13, 2019. VOA

Dogs differ from wolves in many ways, from having shorter snouts, smaller sizes and more expressive faces. And unlike wolves, dogs heavily rely on human eye contact, whether to know when someone’s talking to them or when they can’t solve a problem, like hopping a fence or getting out the door.

Burrows and her colleagues examined the eye muscles in the cadavers of six dogs and two wolves. They found dogs have a meaty eye muscle to lift their eyebrows and make puppy dog eyes. But in wolves, the same muscle was stringy or missing.

The scientists also recorded 27 dogs and nine wolves as each stared at a person. Pet pooches frequently and intensely pulled back their eyebrows to make sad expressions, while the wolves rarely made these faces, and never with great intensity.

The researchers believe dogs, over their relatively short 33,000 years of domestication, used this eye muscle to communicate, possibly goading people to feed or care for them — or at least take them out to play. And people, perhaps unwittingly, obliged.

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‘Profound’ implications

Dog experts not involved with the study were impressed.

“The implications are quite profound,” said Brian Hare from Duke University, who edited the article. Hare wrote in an email that these muscles almost certainly developed because they gave dogs an advantage when interacting with people, and people have been unaware of it.

“The proof has been in their puppy dog eyes all this time!” he said.

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Over thousands of years of dog domestication, people preferred pups that could pull off that appealing, sad look. Pixabay

Evan MacLean at the University of Arizona called the findings fascinating, but cautioned that the muscle difference could be an indirect effect of other changes rather than a specific response to human influence.

Clive Wynne of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University said: “Kudos to the researchers for thinking of a cool way to investigate an important aspect of dogs’ success” with humans.

But he noted in an email that the study has a few snags, particularly the small sampling — only five dog breeds were examined and videos were mainly of Staffordshire bull terriers — and the lack of background information about each animal.

“Did these wolves regularly meet people bearing gifts that might be worth asking for with an endearing face?” he asked.

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Burrows said she planned follow-up studies to examine more breeds. (VOA)