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Daily briefing: Crabs and lobsters could gain lab protections

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A researcher tries to swab a white-tailed deer at a wildlife center at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Researchers prepare to swab a white-tailed deer in College Station, Texas, to check for SARS-CoV-2.Credit: Sergio Flores/The New York Times/Redux/eyevine

COVID is spreading in deer

Hundreds of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in North America have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 — but scientists aren’t panicking, yet. “Out of millions of humans who interacted with deer, hunting this last year, we now know of a grand total of one that may have been infected,” says Bryan Richards, a wildlife biologist and emerging-disease researcher. So far, infected deer don’t seem to feel very unwell themselves. But they might spread the infection to livestock or vulnerable wildlife. “Once it gets into wildlife, there is basically no way at the moment to control it,” says medical virologist Marietjie Venter.

Nature | 12 min read

‘Collegiality’ has a nebulous effect on careers

A study of universities in North America suggests that collaboration and teamwork are widely considered, but not not formally acknowledged, in review guidelines. Some scientists worry that, without clear guidance, such assessments can act as a cover for discrimination or to stifle dissent. The definition of collegiality is subjective, says geologist Sujay Kaushal, who has previously studied collegiality but was not involved in this research. “We need to make sure that we don’t use collegiality to exclude others that may communicate or interact differently.”

Nature | 4 min read

Crabs and lobsters could gain protections

Scientists who use crabs and lobsters in the laboratory couldface new restrictions in the United Kingdom when a bill that recognizes the animals as sentient beings that can feel pain becomes law. Decapods are a useful model for studying how pollution affects the body because they are sensitive to pollutants and breed quickly. But unlike mice, octopuses and some other animals covered by strict welfare laws, no licences or training are required to use them in procedures that could cause them pain or distress. New rules would be “a step forward” — but should be applied to commercial exploitation too, says biologist Robert Elwood, whose work has provided evidence that the animals feel pain. “To ask scientists to go through all sorts of regulations that affect their work but allow these animals to be boiled alive at will would be unfair.”

The Guardian | 4 min read

Reference: London School of Economics and Political Science report on sentience in cephalopods and decapods

That’s no dog, that’s my dingo

Australian dingos (Canis lupus dingo) descended from wild dogs and were never domesticated, suggests an analysis of the Australian icon’s genome. Researchers won funding to sequence it after entering a competition for the public to vote for ‘the world’s most interesting genome’. “Lots of farmers believe that if you see a dog that’s running around, there’s no difference between a dingo and a feral domestic dog,” says evolutionary geneticist and co-author Bill Ballard. “But from a conservation perspective, knowing there is a really significant difference between them is important.”

New Scientist | 3 min read

Reference: Science Advances paper

Features & opinion

Audio long-read: new hope for treating MS

Evidence suggesting a link between multiple sclerosis (MS) and the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) raises the tantalizing prospect of antivirals and vaccines that could treat or prevent the condition. It could take decades before an EBV-directed intervention proves to be a way to stave off MS. But interest is high — even outside the MS community — because the spectre of long COVID has focused attention on the roots of post-viral diseases. Key will be the painstakingly collected biological samples stored in large biobanks, such as the one maintained by the US Department of Defense, which fuelled recent discoveries. Discover more in this audio feature read by Nature’s Benjamin Thompson.

Nature | 18 min listen

Infographic of the week

Animated infographic illustrating long-term changes in groundwater storage in Pakistan and northwest India.

British Geological Survey (@BritGeoSurvey)

A canal network in India and Pakistan could be the world’s largest artificial aquifer-recharge system. Between 1900 and 1960, when the region was watered primarily by canals, its groundwater volume grew despite below-average rainfall. The finding is consistent with previous studies showing that canals leak water into the surrounding earth. Unfortunately, groundwater is now heavily overdrawn in some parts of the region because of the growth in irrigation with well water. (Nature Research Highlight | 3 min read, Nature paywall)

Nature’s Research Highlights are available to readers with subscriber access to Nature. Get help logging in with your institution’s subscription.

Reference: Nature Geoscience paper


Today I’m admiring the life of Kane Tanaka, who was the world’s oldest person. She was born in 1903 and died last week, aged 119. She spent her last years playing the strategy board game Othello and studying mathematics. When she became the world’s oldest person, Tanaka was asked about her happiest moment. Her answer was “now”.

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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