Top stories: toxic toads, three-parent babies in Singapore, and the hunt for the Lost Colony | Science

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Top stories: toxic toads, three-parent babies in Singapore, and the hunt for the Lost Colony | Science


Toxic toads could devastate Madagascar’s biodiversity

In 2014, a toxic invasive species—the Asian common toad—was spotted in Madagascar’s largest seaport. Conservation biologists quickly sounded an urgent alarm, warning that the invader could devastate the African island’s unique biodiversity, which includes lemurs and hundreds of other animals found nowhere else in the world. Now, scientists have confirmed that the toad’s toxic slime will likely kill nearly everything in Madagascar that tries to eat it, according to a study that surveyed the susceptibility of 88 species.

Singapore could become the second country to legalize mitochondrial replacement therapy

The small city-state of Singapore could become the second country—after the United Kingdom—to explicitly legalize mitochondrial replacement therapy, a controversial assisted reproduction technique that allows women who are carriers of some rare genetic disorders to give birth to healthy babies. A 13-member Bioethics Advisory Committee will make formal recommendations to the government later this year about whether to legalize the technology.

Archaeologists start a new hunt for the fabled Lost Colony of the New World

In 1587, more than 100 men, women, and children settled on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina. War with Spain prevented speedy resupply of the colony—the first English settlement in the New World—and when a rescue mission arrived 3 years later, the colonists had vanished. Archaeologists have searched for traces of the colony, but more than a century of digging has turned up only the remains of a small workshop and an earthen fort that may have been built later. Now, after a long hiatus, archaeologists plan to resume digging this fall.

Cost plunges for capturing carbon dioxide from the air

Pulling carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and using it to make synthetic fuel seems like the ultimate solution to climate change: Instead of adding ever more CO2 to the air from fossil fuels, we can simply recycle the same CO2 molecules over and over. But such technology is expensive—about $600 per ton of CO2, by one recent estimate. Now, in a new study, scientists say future chemical plants could drop that cost below $100 per ton—which could make synthetic fuels a reality in places such as California that incentivize low-carbon fuels.

NASA rover hits organic pay dirt on Mars

In its quest to find molecules that could point to life on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has struck a gusher. Since Curiosity landed in 2012, it has sifted samples of soil and ground-up rock for signs of organic molecules—the complex carbon chains that on Earth form the building blocks of life. Past detections have been so faint that they could be just contamination. Now, samples taken from two different drill sites on an ancient lakebed have yielded complex organic macromolecules that look strikingly similar to the goopy fossilized building blocks of oil and gas on Earth.

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