Weekly News Bites

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are a wormlike robot, shady spider sales, and different ways of keeping a healthy heart.

DNA that is shed from fish (through washing, blood, scales, etc.) into wastewater can be used to detect whether fish markets are selling endangered species says research from the University of Hong Kong. While the DNA can’t show which vendors are selling the endangered species, it could be used to signal the need for a visual inspection, which was used during the study to confirm the species being sold.

Researchers from an international team including the University of Hong Kong and Suranaree University of Technology have uncovered shady online sales of spiders and other arachnids, with buyers sometimes receiving protected and endangered species or even species currently unknown to science. “It’s like getting your deck of Pokemon cards: You might get a super rare one, or you might get a bunch of random stuff.” said one of the researchers.

Buying insects and animals online may be risky, but working with animals can have positive side effects. Studies from the National University of Singapore have suggested that working with animals can make people more compassionate. Zookeepers reported a higher level of compassion towards both humans and animals when they had more interaction with animals; they are trained to watch out for non-verbal emotional signals.

Converting forests and wild landscapes to agricultural use can have a toll on the biodiversity of a region. This has been demonstrated by research from Hokkaido University and the Forest Research and Management Organization. By using maps from the 1850s, the researchers found that 70% of birds have disappeared after the Ishikari Lowland in Japan was converted to farmland, with some species losing 90% of their population.

We all know by now that sitting down and watching television instead of exercising is detrimental to our health. Now, scientists from Cambridge University and University of Hong Kong say that more than one in 10 cases of heart disease could be prevented by watching less than 1 hour of TV a day. Reducing snacking on unhealthy foods or exercising between TV programs can also help heart health.

Another way to keep a healthy heart is by regularly eating eggs, suggests research by a team of Chinese institutions, including Peking University. The study of almost 5,000 participants showed that people who regularly ate eggs had higher levels of beneficial metabolites in their blood and lower levels of harmful ones than those who ate fewer eggs.

A wormlike robot that can make its way through tiny, clogged pipes has been developed by Tsinghua University. This robot can slither its way around bends and up pipes made of different materials, even when filled with oil which could be useful for checking machines and engines. The robot can even be made longer by magnetically snapping on additional pieces.