As weird animals go, the mangrove killifish is in a class of its own.
It flourishes in both freshwater and water with twice as much salt as the ocean. It can live up to two months on land, breathing through its skin, before returning to the water with a series of spectacular 180-degree flips.
And it is one of only two vertebrates — the other is a close relative — that fertilizes itself.
This last part intrigues scientists like Luana Lins, a postdoctoral researcher in the Washington State University School of Biological Sciences.
Two earthquakes that shook the ground about 18 miles south of Toppenish on Friday likely had no effect on a fissure forming on Rattlesnake Ridge, a geologist said.
Steve Reidel, an adjunct geology professor at Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus, said the quakes would be unnoticeable given how far underground they were happening.
He also said it does not appear that the quakes contributed to the fissure on Rattlesnake Ridge near Union Gap. The crack was first discovered in October, and it has been monitored since. Officials have urged about 50 residents in the area to leave as a landslide could occur in coming weeks. The state Department of Transportation has warned drivers to watch for falling rocks on Interstate 82 in the area just north and south of the gap.
Washington State University researchers have discovered a genetic variation that predicts how well people perform certain mental tasks when they are sleep-deprived.
Their research shows that individuals with a particular variation of the DRD2 gene are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when completing tasks that require cognitive flexibility, the ability to make appropriate decisions based on changing information.
“Our work shows that there are people who are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when it comes to cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly these same people are just as affected as everyone else on other tasks that require different cognitive abilities, such as maintaining focus,” said Paul Whitney, a WSU professor of psychology and lead author of the study, which appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.
The annual pre-spawning salmon mortality study at the Suquamish Tribe’s Grovers Creek Hatchery takes a different twist each year.
After six years of learning how coho and chum salmon are affected by runoff from urban streets, scientists are narrowing down which pollutant is killing fish. This year, they focused on how tire residue in water affects juvenile and adult coho and chum salmon.
“We want to figure out which concentration of the tire residue in the water will kill fish and how long after exposure do the fish become sick and die,” said Jen McIntyre, aquatic ecotoxicologist for Washington State University, who has overseen the last few years of the project.
It was another great year for science, particularly physics.
A team of physicists at Washington State University, led by professor Peter Engels, announced that they had created “negative mass,” which, as they noted, behaved in surprising ways, such as accelerating backwards when pushed from a forward direction—it was created by using lasers to cool rubidium atoms to just above absolute zero and could be used to study challenging questions related to the cosmos.