Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Ноябрь 2020 г.

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2020 г.
Российская наука и мир
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    HuffPost / 11/06/2020
    Russian Scientists Discover Huge Walrus Haulout In Arctic Circle
    More than 3,000 walruses have been counted at the remote location on the shores of the Kara Sea.
    • Maria Vasilyeva
    В прошлом году российские ученые обнаружили на побережье Ямала огромное лежбище атлантических моржей - около тысячи особей. В этом году их собралось, по предварительным оценкам, от трех до пяти тысяч, это самое большое лежбище в Карском море за всю историю изучения вида, находящегося под угрозой исчезновения. Ученым предстоит определить точное количество животных и динамику роста численности, выяснить, к какой популяции они принадлежат и чем им так приглянулся именно этот арктический пляж.

Scientists in northern Russia have discovered a huge walrus haulout on the shores of the Kara Sea where their habitat is under threat from shrinking ice and human activity.
The haulout, a place of refuge where walruses congregate, reproduce, and socialise, is located in a remote corner of Russia’s Yamal peninsula, and scientists say they counted over 3,000 animals there last month.
Walrus haulouts have traditionally been located on drifting sea ice or on Arctic islands, scientists say. But warmer climate cycles mean sea ice is shrinking and habitats are under threat from oil and gas exploration and more Arctic shipping.
"This haulout is unique because there are both female and male walruses, as well as calves of different age," said Aleksander Sokolov, a senior Arctic researcher at Russia’s Academy of Sciences who called the find a "unique open-air laboratory".
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the species as "nearly threatened" in 2016, estimating the total number of adult Atlantic walruses in the world at 12,500. Before commercial hunting of them was banned internationally in the middle of the 20th century, their numbers were threatened by overharvesting for their blubber and ivory.
Andrei Boltunov, from the Marine Mammal Research and Expedition Center, said the Yamal haulout which was first discovered last year but only properly documented last month, showed that the Atlantic walrus population was recovering.
"We want to believe that it’s a positive sign," said Boltunov, who said there was too little information for now to draw sweeping conclusions however. According to Boltunov, the Kara Sea’s ice-free season has become longer in recent decades.
Scientists have taken DNA samples and fitted several walruses with satellite tags to monitor their movements for up to several months. But Boltunov says much work was required to establish what made this particular Arctic beach so attractive for thousands of walruses and what steps could be taken to protect them.

© 2020 Verizon Media. All rights reserved.
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    Newswire / Nov 6, 2020
    Norilsk Nickel Reinforces Its Commitment to Sustainable Development
    Российская горно-металлургическая компания «Норникель» представила пятилетний план по модернизации и замене устаревших и неэкологичных технологий с целью сохранения окружающей среды.

Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest metal and mining company, headed by Vladimir Potanin, has reiterated its commitment to environment preservation. The new five-year modernization plan presented to the Governor of the Murmansk Region, Andrey Chibis, detailed a comprehensive upgrade programme for the copper refinery in Monchegorsk, worth over US 1B (RUB 91B). The project is a part of the company's strategy to modernize and replace obsolete and unsustainable technologies.
First Vice-President, Chief Operating Officer, Sergey Dyachenko commented: "I would like to reiterate that reduction of environmental footprint remains our strategic priority, and we continue our efforts to cardinally improve the ecological situation in the regions of our operations. In the Kola division, we are planning to shut down smelting facilities by the end of this year; that should lead to a dramatic reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions. In addition, we are launching modernization of copper production, moving to a more eco-friendly technology."
The Company has already achieved material progress in the clean-up effort after the fuel spill incident in Norilsk. The contaminated soil from the area has been collected, and the rehabilitation of the damaged land and vegetation has started, continued until the first snowfalls. All of the water-fuel mixture collected from the Ambarnaya river has been pumped to a water refinery site in Norilsk and separated into industrial water and fuel. This industrial water will be used for closed-circuit technological operations.
Nornickel is actively researching the most efficient technological solutions to recycle the contaminated soil and to restore the ecosystem in close cooperation with experts and scientists. To that end, the Company has sponsored a Great Norilsk Expedition, comprised of 30 scientists from 14 leading research institutes of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences. The expedition has completed its fieldwork in the Norilsk region in the Fall, and its findings will further inform Nornickel's action plan on sustainable development. The scientists are expected to publish an independent analysis of the fuel spill impact on the environment and recommendations for most efficient rehabilitation of the disturbed area.

© 2005-2020 Newswire.
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    Electronics Weekly / 9th November 2020
    Russian scientists crack Mendeleev mystery
    Russian scientists have created a chemical space mapping method and cracked the mystery of Mendeleev Numbers.
    • By David Manners
    Ученые долгое время пытались разработать систему для прогнозирования свойств веществ на основе их состава. В 1984 году британский физик Дэвид Петтифор предложил концепцию «химического пространства»: вещества помещаются в координатную систему, где по осям расположены химические элементы таким образом, чтобы соседние элементы и соединения обладали похожими свойствами. Петтифор также приписал каждому элементу некие «менделеевские цифры», смысл которых был неясен.
    Сотрудники Сколковского института науки и технологий Артем Оганов и Захед Аллахьяри предположили, что загадочные числа основаны на двух фундаментальных характеристиках атомов - атомном радиусе и электроотрицательности и предложили метод их расчета. В итоге получились карты, на которых четко показаны области, где расположены наиболее перспективные по определенным свойствам соединения.

Scientists had long tried to come up with a system for predicting the properties of materials based on their chemical composition until they set sights on the concept of a chemical space which places materials in a reference frame such that neighboring chemical elements and compounds plotted along its axes have similar properties.
This idea was first proposed in 1984 by the British physicist, David G. Pettifor, who assigned a Mendeleev number (MN) to each element.
Yet the meaning and origin of MNs were unclear. Scientists from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) puzzled out the physical meaning of the mysterious MNs and suggested calculating them based on the fundamental properties of atoms.
They showed that both MNs and the chemical space built around them were more effective than empirical solutions proposed until then. Their research supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation’s (RSF) World-class Lab Research Presidential Program was presented in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.
Systematizing the enormous variety of chemical compounds, both known and hypothetical, and pinpointing those with a particularly interesting property is a tall order. Measuring the properties of all imaginable compounds in experiment or calculating them theoretically is downright impossible, which suggests that the search should be narrowed down to a smaller space.
David G. Pettifor put forward the idea of a chemical space in the attempt to somehow organize the knowledge about material properties. The chemical space is basically a reference frame where elements are plotted along the axes in a certain sequence such that the neighboring elements, for instance Na and K, have similar properties.
The points within the space represent compounds, so that the neighbors, for example NaCl and KCl, have similar properties, too. In this setting, one area is occupied by superhard materials and another by ultrasoft ones.
Having the chemical space at hand, one could create an algorithm for finding the best material among all possible compounds of all elements. To build their "smart" map, Skoltech scientists, Artem R. Oganov and Zahed Allahyari, came up with their own universal approach that boasts the highest predictive power as compared to the best known methods.
For many years scientists were clueless as to how Pettifor derived his MNs (if not empirically), while their physical meaning remained a nearly "esoteric" mystery for years.
"I had been wondering about what these MNs are for 15 years until I realized that they are most likely rooted in the atom’s fundamental properties, such as radius, electronegativity, polarizability, and valence. While valence is variable for many elements, polarizability is strongly correlated with electronegativity.
This leaves us with radius and electronegativity which can be reduced to one property through a simple mathematical transformation. And here we go: we obtain an MN that turns out to be the best way to describe all the properties of an atom, and by a single number at that," explains Artem R. Oganov, RSF grant project lead, a professor at Skoltech and MISiS, a Member of the Academia Europaea, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) and a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).
The scientists used the calculated MNs to arrange all the elements in a sequence that posed as the abscissa and ordinate axes at the same time. Each point in space In corresponds to all compounds of the corresponding elements. In this space, using measured or predicted properties of compounds, one can map any specific characteristic, for example, hardness, magnetization, enthalpy of formation, etc. A property map thus produced clearly showed the areas containing the most promising compounds, such as superhard or magnetic materials.

Copyright © 2020 Electronics Weekly.
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    Resource World Magazine / November 9, 2020
    Russia preparing to beat Canada in race for Arctic resources
    • By Eugene Gerden
    Россия планирует обойти Канаду и США в гонке за арктическими углеводородными ресурсами, получив контроль над более чем 60% из них путем признания ее прав на подводный хребет Ломоносова в Северном Ледовитом океане. В 2001 году Комиссия ООН по границам континентального шельфа отказалась признать это право из-за отсутствия научных доказательств, однако в 2021 г. Россия намерена подать новую заявку с научным обоснованием того, что хребет Ломоносова является продолжением российской континентальной платформы.

Russia plans to beat Canada and the US in the race for Arctic hydrocarbon resources by establishing control of over 60% of them via recognition of its right to the Lomonosov Ridge by the special UN Commission which may take place as early as 2021.
According to earlier statements by Dmitry Medvedev, a member of the Russian Security Council, Russia is planning to "more vigorously defend its claims for the development of Arctic mining fields" amid the attempts of rivals to limit its access to these resources.
Needless to say, the main interest of Russia in the Arctic is related to the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater ridge of continental crust under the Arctic Ocean that spans 1,800 km from the New Siberian Islands over the central part of the ocean to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and which, in addition to Russia, could also be considered as an attractive region by Canada and Denmark.
Most analysts believe Russia’s policy in the Arctic can be seen as expansionist. The country’s desire to strengthen its position in the region is also demonstrated by its political maneuvers in the past. Several years ago Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Franz Josef Land about 1,000 km from the North Pole. According to analysts, he was probably emphasizing that this resource-rich region belongs to Russia.
Russia’s interest in the Arctic was officially declared in the country’s national security strategy until 2025. Political interest in this issue rose sharply in 2007. The strategy is built on the concept of an energy superpower, which was openly backed by Putin in 2006.
Despite the refusal of the UN Commission for Maritime Law to recognize Russia’s right for the Lomonosov Ridge as far back as in 2001, due to lack of scientific evidence, next year Russia will be ready to submit a new application, which, according to some Russian scientists, will contain irrefutable evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the Russian continental platform and does have oceanic origin, as stated by some Western scientists.
Details of the application have not yet been disclosed, but, according to scientists of the Russian Science Institute of Oceanology, recognition of the scientific findings of the Russian geologists, which are expected to be contained in this application, might disprove well-established scientific hypotheses.
A positive decision by the UN regarding this issue will allow Russia to expand the outer limits of its Arctic continental shelf up to 1.2 million km2 and start development of oil and gas fields in the Chukotka - Murmansk - North Pole triangle.
The current status of the Arctic is regulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, in accordance to which no country has the right to establish its control over the Arctic. However, for having an access to the Arctic Ocean, some countries may declare an exclusive economic zone which would stretch over 200 miles from their shores. This zone can be extended for another 150 nautical miles if the country proves that the Arctic shelf is an extension of its land territory. Due to the complexity of identification of the outer limits of continental shelf, so far no country has established such boundaries.
Russia has not stopped in its attempts to become the world’s first country that will be able to draw such boundaries. At present, it is continuing with hydrographic and geological surveys of the Arctic Ocean being conducted with the use of some oil and gas offshore platforms, looking at samples from the sea bottom.
In addition, the Russian government is considering starting the operation of a new space system, enabling it to monitor meteorological observations in the region from space that would aid mineral exploration.
Moreover, part of Moscow’s plans are to establish a separate force in the region to ensure the safety of the Russian Arctic territory "in various military-political situations."
According to Artur Chilingarov, the man who planted a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007 (thereby unleashing an open competition for the Arctic among current claimants), Russia intends to restore the Soviet network of polar stations and to reinforce its claims to Arctic resources with the help of its icebreaker fleet.
"Russia will not leave the Arctic and we will build up our economic and scientific presence in the region," said Chilingarov. "I am confident that our claims are absolutely legitimate."
Evidence of Russia’s determination to outrace its competitors is its ever increasing spending on Arctic projects. According to sources close the Russian government, investments in the coming years may reach US$195 billion.
Apart from the purely populist activities and prior to filing a new application to the UN, Russia has gained support of its position from Norway - one of the former rivals in a dispute over the Arctic shelf - which occurred through an earlier approval by the Russian parliament of a bilateral agreement with Norway. The agreement determined the status of approximately 175,000 km2 of a maritime region in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean, earlier considered a disputed territory.
In order to bring Norway on its side in the competition with Canada and Denmark, Russia decided to make concessions to this country, (which has great influence in the UN), with regards to fisheries.
Oleg Khlestov, a former vice president of the Russian International Law Association commented: "This agreement goes beyond the bilateral relations between Russia and Norway and opens up additional opportunities for cooperation among the Arctic states. Russia gets a definite advantage in the struggle for the Arctic shelf prior to of re-examination of its application in the UN. Certainly, resolution of this issue in the Western Arctic has a positive impact for Russia."
According to Dmitry Abzalov, a leading Russian Arctic expert, due to this agreement, Canada may have to deal with a European alliance of Russia and Norway in the competition for Arctic resources.
At the same time, in addition to Canada and Russia, Denmark could be also considered as one of the main bidders for the Arctic shelf, also thanks to its strong presence in the UN Commission for Maritime Law which will decide the status of the Arctic after receipt of applications from all the claimants - probably by 2021.
For Denmark’s claims of 62,000 square miles of Arctic territory, it has allocated about US$500 million to achieve this goal. In contrast to Russia, Denmark insists that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of its territory. Several years ago Denmark held its own research mission to the Arctic to collect data for an application to the UN. Of course, Denmark itself is not an Arctic nation; however, Greenland, the world’s largest island, is an autonomous Arctic territory within the Kingdom of Denmark
According to the results of this mission, Danish geoscientists stated that the Lomonosov Ridge, which passes under the North Pole, is an extension of the North American and Greenlandic tectonic plates, but not the Eurasian plate, as claimed by Russia.
Meanwhile, the majority of Russian experts believe that the main competition for Arctic resources will take place between Russia and Canada, which compete for economically attractive regions in the northern areas of the shelf, primarily for oil and gas. The presence of oil and gas in the central Arctic is less likely.
There is a possibility that after Norway, Moscow could reach a similar agreement with Denmark, thus significantly increasing its chances for success.
Anatoly Tsyganok, a Russian energy columnist, believes an agreement between Russia and Denmark might be signed regarding the establishment that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of both Greenland and the continental shelf of Siberia. Both sides could agree on mutually beneficial terms. This will allow Russia to establish the control over the largest part of Arctic energy resources.
Currently, a considerable part of Russian gas production takes place in the Arctic (the Yamal Peninsula, north of the Arkhangelsk region), while gas-rich Shtokman field (3.8 trillion m3 of gas), is located in the Barents Sea.
At the same time, Russia and Canada should take into account those states which do not have direct access to the Arctic, but also claim rights to its resources; namely, Sweden, Finland and China. As well, the United States (Alaska) is insisting on establishing a regime of common use of the total Arctic region.
It is obvious that the sectoral separation of Arctic, as proposed by some countries (including Canada and Russia), would not be beneficial for the United States, which would gain the right for only 10% of Arctic territories via Alaska.
Ideally, the US would prefer to develop the Arctic regions, based on direct agreements with the governments of other Arctic claimant countries, whose undersea shelf is prospective for exploration. In this case, the US will not have to discuss the details of such agreements with third countries; that is, other claimants without direct access to the Arctic Ocean. Therefore, Washington still hopes to lobby the possibility of the development of the Arctic shelf in accordance with the international agreements.
However, the U.S. does not have a navy capable of ensuring the country’s interests in the region.
It is expected that Russia will continue its struggle for the dominance in the Arctic. There is a possibility of new legal attempts by Moscow, (based on historical and geographical traditions of Russia’s presence in the Arctic), to acquire these controversial territories. At the same time, in the case of a failure of legal actions, Russia may focus on economic and military efforts for strengthening its Arctic presence.
Currently, Russia is ready to explore the Arctic in accordance with international law, but if the UN does not recognize Russian rights to the North Pole, there is a possibility Russia may even withdraw from the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Anyway, the competition for Arctic resources will only increase, mainly due to the continued melting of Arctic ice. In September 2019, the area of ice cover in the Arctic was 4.7 million km2, which is 600,000 km2 less compared to 2007. Such trend could be considered as encouraging in terms of further development of the Arctic shelf.
According to scientists, most of the Arctic resources are located at a depth of less than 500 metres, which means that they are available for drilling and mining, although this would require some improvements in available technologies.

Copyright © 2002-2020 Resource World Magazine Inc. All rights reserved.
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    Science Daily / November 10, 2020
    Swedish, Finnish and Russian wolves closely related
    Происхождение скандинавской породы волков долгое время оставалось спорным. Предыдущие исследования указывали на миграцию с востока, но однозначных ответов о географическом происхождении не давали. Шведские, финские и российские ученые, проанализировав генетический материал 200 волков, внесли некоторую ясность в этот вопрос - скандинавский волк оказался родом из Финляндии и России. Кроме того, в отличие от многих европейских популяций, его геном не содержит признаков гибридизации с собаками.

The Scandinavian wolf originally came from Finland and Russia, and unlike many other European wolf populations its genetic constitution is virtually free from dog admixture. In addition, individuals have migrated into and out of Scandinavia. These findings have emerged from new research at Uppsala University in which genetic material from more than 200 wolves was analysed. The study is published in the journal Evolutionary Applications.
The origin of the Scandinavian wolf strain has long been a controversial topic. Previous genetic studies have indicated migration from the east, without being able to give unequivocal answers about the geographical provenance of this population. The new survey provides a clearer picture of how it formed.
"We can see that those wolves that founded the Scandinavian population in the 1980s were genetically the same as present-day wolves in Finland and Russian Karelia," says Hans Ellegren, professor of evolutionary biology at Uppsala University.
These results are a culmination of earlier research. In 2019, the same research group published a study in which they had analysed wolves' Y-chromosome DNA only - that is, the male-specific genes that can be passed on solely from fathers to their male offspring, showing paternal lineages over past generations. In the new, much more extensive study, also led by Hans Ellegren and Linnéa Smeds at Uppsala University, whole-genome sequences were analysed.
From time to time, new wolves migrate into Sweden from the east. Now, on the other hand, the scientists found genetic evidence for migration in the opposite direction: Scandinavian-born wolves among animals found in Finland.
"We've probably never had a specific Scandinavian population. Throughout the ages, wolves have likely moved back and forth between the Scandinavian peninsula and regions to the east," Ellegren says.
The researchers also sought answers to the question of whether there has been genetic mixing of dogs and Scandinavian wolves. Hybridisation between feral dogs and wolves is common in many parts of the world, and may be difficult to avoid. As late as in 2017, a hybrid wolf-dog litter was found in the county of Södermanland, southwest of Greater Stockholm. If such crossbreeds were allowed to reproduce, they would constitute a threat to the genomic integrity of the wolf strain.
When genetic material from Scandinavian and Finnish wolves was compared with that from some 100 dogs of various breeds, however, the scientists were unable to find any evidence that wolf-dog hybridisation has left its mark on the genetic composition of this wolf population - at least, no signs that recent crossbreeding has affected the wolves.

Copyright 2020 ScienceDaily.
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    Mirage News / November 10, 2020
    TSU archaeologists found ancient mines in Gorny Altai from space image
    При помощи снимков из космоса археологи Томского государственного университета обнаружили на территории Кош-Агачского района Республики Алтай крупнейшие в Сибири древние железные рудники.

The staff of the Artefact interdisciplinary archaeological laboratory, with the support of the Russian Science Foundation, are studying ancient technologies of iron mining in southern Siberia. In particular, they are researching Gorny Altai, where iron metallurgy was already developed in the middle of the 1st millennium AD. While analyzing space images of the Kosh-Agach Region of the Altai Republic, archaeologists saw strange objects similar to mines. When they went there, scientists discovered the largest ancient iron mines in Siberia.
"In the ancient history of Gorny Altai, one of the most interesting phenomena is the extremely developed metallurgy of iron in the middle of the 1st millennium AD. The dimensions of the ancient iron-smelting furnaces that have survived from ancient times have no analogs in Eurasia", says Olga Zaitseva, head of the Department of Anthropology and Ethnology and a staff member of Artefact. "One furnace produced so much iron that it would be enough to make more than 10,000 arrowheads. Such technologies could exist in Altai only if there had been successful development of local iron ores."
The laboratory staff focused on the search for mines - those places where ore was taken for iron smelting in ancient times. At the same time, the scientists were faced with the problem of how to search. Such places can be located in high-mountain and hard-to-reach areas at an altitude of more than two kilometers. Space archeology came to the aid of the researchers.
To search for mines, a team of archaeologists scanned hundreds of satellite images of the Kosh-Agach region of the Altai Republic, where most of the iron-smelting furnaces are concentrated. In some of the photographs, the attention of archaeologists was drawn by strange objects that could be pitmines, where ancient smelters took ore. To test this hypothesis, archaeologists went to the site and discovered more than a thousand ancient workings.
"Thanks to space archeology, we found the largest ancient iron mines in Siberia without leaving the laboratory", explains Evgeny Vodyasov, the head of Artefact. "Their scale is amazing. More than 1,000 tons of ore was mined here in ancient times. This means that we still have to find and explore a huge variety of iron-smelting furnaces in which this ore was melted.
Archaeologists carried out aerial photography at all mines, created 3D relief models, and took ore and slag samples for geochemical studies. Analyzing the samples will help them pinpoint when these deposits were developed.

© Mirage.News 2020.
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    Nature / 11 November 2020
    Russia announces positive COVID-vaccine results from controversial trial
    Developers of the Sputnik V vaccine announce phase III results, two days after Pfizer and BioNTech released the first compelling evidence that a vaccine can protect against coronavirus infection.
    • Ewen Callaway
    Через два дня после того, как Pfizer и BioNTech сообщили о положительных промежуточных результатах третьей фазы испытания вакцины против коронавируса, разработчики российской вакцины Спутник V также объявили о ее эффективности.

For the second time this week, researchers have announced positive results for the final, human stages of a coronavirus vaccine trial. This time, the results are from the Russian vaccine trial, dubbed Sputnik V.
On 9 November, New York City-based drug company Pfizer put out a press release on positive interim results from a coronavirus vaccine phase III trial - the first to report on the final round of human testing. It was the first compelling evidence that a vaccine can prevent COVID-19.
Today, the developers of a controversial Russian vaccine called Sputnik V have announced, also in a press release, that their candidate seems to be similarly effective at preventing the disease.
The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow and the Russian Direct Investment Fund said that an interim analysis of 20 COVID-19 cases identified among trial participants has found that the vaccine was 92% effective. The analysis looked at more than 16,000 volunteers - who received either the vaccine or a placebo - 3 weeks after they had taken the first dose. The trial has enrolled a total of 40,000 participants, the release said.
By contrast, the Pfizer team’s early analysis was based on 94 COVID-19 cases - and reported greater than 90% effectiveness, when measured a week after participants got their second dose. The Pfizer trial, which started on 27 July, has enrolled more than 43,000 participants, more than 38,000 of whom had received 2 doses when the analysis was carried out.
Follow-up needed
The low number of cases reported in the Sputnik V trial means that there is less certainty that the vaccine’s true efficacy is above 90%, compared with the Pfizer and BioNTech analysis, said Stephen Evans, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in a statement to the UK Science Media Centre (SMC). "Further follow-up is needed because the results are compatible with a much lower efficacy - 60% - based on these data."
It is difficult to interpret the clinical-trial results without more information, says Shane Crotty, a vaccine immunologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California. "I would not conclude anything from 20 events."
The Sputnik V trial’s protocol has not been made public, in contrast to those of Pfizer and some other leading candidates in phase III trials, so it is unclear whether an interim analysis after identification of just 20 COVID-19 cases was in the works. Pfizer had originally planned to do its first interim analysis after 32 cases, but changed course after discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration.
"I worry that these data have been rushed out on the back of the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement," Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, told the SMC. "This is not a competition. We need all trials to be a carried out to the highest possible standards and it is particularly important that the pre-set criteria for unblinding the trial data are adhered to avoid cherry picking the data."
In a move criticized by many scientists as reckless, Russian regulators licensed the vaccine for limited rollout in August, without waiting for safety or efficacy data from a phase III trial. The vaccine is composed of two different adenoviruses that produce the coronavirus spike protein, administered three weeks apart.
Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinologist at the University of Oxford, UK, agrees that the Sputnik V results should be interpreted cautiously because of the small number of cases. But she is encouraged, because the vaccine her team is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca also uses an adenovirus to expose the immune system to the coronavirus spike protein. "Seeing the Russian results, albeit from a small number of endpoints, does indicate that we would expect to see high efficacy, but we have to wait and see," she says.

© 2020 Springer Nature Limited.
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    Nuclear Engineering / 11 November 2020
    Russian government fails to meet Rosatom’s request for project funding
    Министерство финансов не нашло средств для нацпроекта «Росатома» по атомной науке и технологиям. На его выполнение до 2024 года из требуемых 339,6 млрд рублей выделено всего 24 млрд. Общая же стоимость программы, предполагающей финансирование научных исследований в области создания новых типов реакторов, термоядерного синтеза и замкнутого топливного цикла, составляет 732,6 млрд руб.

The Russian government has failed to allocate the funds that Rosatom had requested to finance a separate national project on nuclear science and technology, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on 3 November.
The Ministry of Finance budgeted only RUB24 billion ($310m) for its implementation to 2024 of the RUB339.6 billion requested. The total cost of the programme, which involves financing scientific research for the design of new types of reactors, thermonuclear fusion and a closed fuel cycle is estimated at RUB732.6 billion, Kommersant said.
Rosatom had asked for RUB339.6 billion from the state budget leaving the remaining RUB393 billion to be funded from its own civil budget for 2019.
The areas Rosatom included in its programme included the Breakthrough project on a closed nuclear fuel cycle for which, up to 2024, it planned to allocate up to RUB166.5 billion, plus RUB75.6 billion for an experimental bench base.
In addition, Rosatom wanted to allocate up to RUB152.7 billion for the development of controlled thermonuclear fusion (separate from the ITER project).
Another RUB58.8 billion was to be allocated to the development of new materials and technologies for promising energy systems such as high temperature gas-cooled reactors.
Finally, Rosatom intended to spend up to RUB279 billion for the design and construction of reference nuclear power units, including low power reactors.
In April 2020, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree according to which the government was to develop and agree on a federal programme for the development of scientific research in the field of atomic energy use to 2024 within three months. This was considered as an analogue of the national project on nuclear science, although of lower priority. In July, the government published a decree according to which the provisions on project activities applicable to national projects would also apply to the programme on nuclear science and technology.
However, according to Kommersant's sources, the Ministry of Finance, despite the presidential decree, initially resisted the inclusion of such large expenditures in the budget because of its deficit. Discussion within the government ended with the Ministry including only RUB8.17 billion in the draft budget for implementation of the programme for 2021, RUB9.46 billion for 2022 and RUB6.35 billion for 2023.
Kommersant said that, judging by the draft budget, the Ministry of Finance proposed to take into account in the new programme the financing of specialised research within the framework of other state programmes of the nuclear industry that had already been approved.

Nuclear Engineering International © 2020, All Rights Reserved.
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    Science / Nov. 12, 2020
    Martian dust storms parch the planet by driving water into space
    • By Paul Voosen
    Марсианские пыльные бури случаются постоянно, а примерно раз в десять лет они накрывают всю планету. В 2014 году впервые было высказано предположение, что именно пыль каким-то образом способствовала исчезновению воды на Марсе. В начале этого года ученые из России, Франции, Великобритании и Австралии опубликовали результаты наблюдений, которые показали, что потери молекул воды из марсианской атмосферы меняются в зависимости от сезона и усиливаются во время пыльных бурь, а позже астрономы США уточнили, как именно это происходит.

Two years ago, Mars went undercover. Martian dust storms are common, but every decade or so, for reasons unknown, a monstrous one goes global, veiling the planet. The storms can be a mortal threat to exploration: The one in 2018 killed off NASA’s Opportunity rover by coating its solar panels in dust. But now, researchers say the storms may also be one of the culprits in the ultimate martian cold case: how the once-wet planet lost its water.
Fossilized rivers and deltas etched across Mars suggest water flowed there billions of years ago. Most of it must have somehow escaped to space - yet researchers thought water vapor could not travel high in the frigid, thin atmosphere without condensing into snow and falling back to the surface. New data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter, published today in Science, show how churning dust storms may in effect pump water into space. "These escape processes are an effective way to make Mars dry," says Anna Fedorova, a planetary scientist at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
One known escape process comes from the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light, which can split small amounts of water near the surface of Mars, sending hydrogen and oxygen - both lighter than the planet’s mostly carbon dioxide air - percolating to the top of the atmosphere, where they are lost into space. But scientists assume water loss by this mechanism is a trickle.
During the 2018 storm, however, Shane Stone, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, was looking at data from MAVEN, which has studied the planet’s upper atmosphere since 2014. One MAVEN instrument directly samples the gossamer atmosphere as the probe dips to its lowest orbital altitude of 150 kilometers, and Stone and his colleagues couldn’t believe what it was reporting: While the dust swirled at lower altitudes, a deluge of water was reaching the edge of space. "This was really a smack in the face," Stone says. "The global dust storm stands out in the data like nothing else."
Earlier hints that dust storms might somehow be lofting water came in 2014, when two teams reported on UV observations made in 2007, after the last global dust storm, by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Express orbiter. The teams noticed a fluorescent fog of hydrogen in the upper atmosphere, which faded as the southern hemisphere’s summer ended and the storm subsided. The only plausible source for that hydrogen was water. "That was the first hint of something weird going on," says Michael Chaffin, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who led the Mars Express work.
Since then researchers using instruments on MAVEN and the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) have found evidence for water high in the atmosphere during the southern hemisphere’s summer, when solar heating stirs up dust. That was true even when there wasn’t a full-fledged dust storm, says Fedorova, who led the TGO work, published in January in Science.
Fedorova and colleagues believe dust drives a positive feedback that pumps water into the upper atmosphere. Sun-warmed dust particles radiate heat into the lower atmosphere, driving winds that kick up more dust, which in turn leads to more heat and more dust. A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and the dust itself likely drags water along with it as it swirls into the upper atmosphere.
The TGO observations showed water levels gradually increase through the southern summer, but the MAVEN data suggest regional and global dust storms drive the largest spikes. Over the course of 2 days near the start of the 2018 storm, water abundance in the upper atmosphere, normally about 3 parts per million, more than doubled; by summer’s peak, the storm and the overall warming ultimately combined to push those levels to 60 parts per million. "It’s just a huge influx of water," Stone says.
High in the atmosphere, UV light readily splits the water, allowing the hydrogen and oxygen to be lost to space. But Stone and his colleagues believe another destructive mechanism dominates. Their models suggest carbon dioxide, ionized by particles in the solar wind that bombards the atmosphere, vigorously splits the water molecules apart. "They’re making a good case," though the importance of the mechanism needs to be better quantified, says John Clarke, a planetary astronomer at Boston University.
The MAVEN team has calculated that if the observed loss rates persisted throughout martian history, they believe Mars lost enough water that, if laid evenly atop the planet’s surface, it would form a global ocean more than 25 meters deep. But how long this dust-driven destruction has operated on Mars is anyone’s guess, Stone adds. It could be recent, or it may have been key to drying out the planet billions of years ago. Researchers believe the planet once had a protective magnetic field that failed early in its history, allowing the solar wind to penetrate deeper in the atmosphere, where global dust storms were putting water in harm’s way. That could have caused water loss to surge, Chaffin says. "Maybe you fall off a cliff and get this seasonal and dust-driven loss," he says. What MAVEN is witnessing now, he adds, could be the end of a "planetary death spiral."

© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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    Phys.Org / November 12, 2020
    Russian scientists developed sensor for detecting toxic substances in water bodies
    Ученые Южно-Уральского государственного университета совместно с коллегами из Бельгии и Египта разработали сенсор для выявления в водоемах токсичных инсектицидов.

SUSU scientists, with their colleagues from Belgium and Egypt, have developed and tested a sensor for environmental monitoring. The device reveals insecticides in water. The research results have been published in Scientific Reports.
Accumulation of insecticides in the environment
Insecticides are important for agriculture. These are toxic substances that decompose in water and soil for a long time and have a negative effect on animals, birds and people when they accumulate in large quantities. Neonicotinoids dominate the market because of their selective toxicity. The most popular of these substances is imidacloprid.
Over nearly two decades, the presence of imidacloprid in the environment has increased, and monitoring it has become especially relevant. Current methods such as chromatography are effective. However, they require lengthy preparation of samples, a large amount of solvent and expensive equipment.
Researchers at South Ural State University, jointly with their foreign colleagues, proposed using the electrochemical method for this purpose. They were the first who introduced a capacitive sensor based on molecular imprinted polymers that can detect imidocloprid in water.
"Capacitive sensors belong to the category of impedametric sensors. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first molecularly imprinted, polymer-based capacitive sensor for detecting imidocloprid in water. Moreover, a two-step approach with a regeneration step between each analysis was first introduced to determine intermodulation distortions. This added the possibility of sequential use of each electrode 32 times," said Nataliia Beloglazova, senior researcher at the Nanotechnology Research and Education Center.
The sensor was developed at SUSU, and their colleagues from the Ghent University, Belgium (Center of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences) also participated in its development.
Molecularly imprinted polymers were synthesized and then immobilized on an electrode surface. The two-step procedure prevented damage to the electrodes and ensured that no template molecules were present in the resulting particles. In addition, nonimprinted polymers were produced.
"The binding properties of the synthesized molecularly imprinted and nonimprinted polymers were tested using solution chromatography of tandem mass spectrometry. The proposed sensor showed a linear range of 5-100 μM with a detection limit of 4.61 μM," Nataliia Beloglazova said.
The sensor with a detection element was developed on the basis of another sensor proposed for testing by an international team. Testing was carried out using water samples from the Nile in Egypt. Therefore, research assistance was also provided by the staff of the Reference Materials Laboratory, National Institute of Standards (NIS), Giza, Egypt, and Beni-Suef University, Beni-Suef, Egypt.

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    China Dialogue Oceane / November 13, 2020
    What is the UN decade of ocean science hoping to achieve?
    The UN wants its 2021-2030 project to encourage massive investment in data collection and analysis.
    • David Adam
    Организация Объединенных Наций объявила следующее десятилетие Декадой наук об океане в интересах устойчивого развития. Российский океанограф и исполнительный секретарь Международной океанографической комиссии ЮНЕСКО Владимир Рябинин - о том, что и как планируется сделать за эти десять лет.

Next year marks the beginning of what the United Nations hopes will be a pivotal decade for the global ocean. The UN is mounting a massive operation to try to raise awareness of the many problems it faces, and to harness the scientific research needed to solve them.
Called the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the campaign has been in the planning stages for some time. Much remains to be finalised - not least the formal choice of which specific issues to address, and finding ways to do so. But last month, the project kicked off by publishing its first call for ideas for programmes, projects or activities that could be carried out under its banner.
The project’s motto is "The science we need for the ocean we want". By 2030, the UN expects the world to have more of both. But what exactly will the ten-year campaign do - and how?
The person best-placed to answer that question is Vladimir Ryabinin, a Russian marine scientist who serves as executive secretary of the IOC. That’s not the International Olympic Committee, as Ryabinin feels duty-bound to tell people, but the lesser-known International Oceanographic Commission. It’s part of UNESCO, the arm of the UN that handles education, science and culture.
"Basically the ocean is in big trouble," Ryabinin tells China Dialogue Ocean. "The only ocean we can afford to have in the future is one that is scientifically managed. Historically, science has been based on curiosity and discovery. Now the world needs science that is oriented and practical and focused on solutions."
The blueprint for the project starts with how it wants to finish. By 2030, the organisers want to have made possible significant progress towards:
- identifying and removing sources of ocean pollution
- mapping and protecting marine ecosystems
- ensuring the ocean is harvested in a sustainable way
- protecting people from ocean hazards
- building capacity to understand and predict ocean conditions
- opening up access to ocean data and technologies
Much of this will be made possible, the UN says, by investment in open sources of data, information and technology.
"The scale is huge but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s probably the largest campaign in the history of natural sciences or social sciences," Ryabinin says.
He has been trying to drum up support for the idea - and funding. On 16 October, for example, he presented details on how the project could help promote better global ocean governance at a meeting in Shenzhen, China. Called the International Cooperation and Development Forum on Marine Economy 2020, the event was focused on the 65% of the surface of the oceans that are beyond the reach of national systems of governance and surveillance. These regions of the high seas are rich in biodiversity and resources and play a critical role in oxygen production and carbon storage. Yet they are subject to overexploitation, pollution and degradation.
One way to manage and conserve these international waters is to set up marine protected areas, Ryabinin says. To establish more such zones is one of the explicit goals of the UN’s decade project. Others include early warning systems for tsunamis, coast and fisheries management, and better planning systems to encourage aspects of the "blue economy" such as offshore wind power generation. Other important aspects of the project are to boost and build national capacity in countries that have not traditionally prioritised ocean management - allowing them to develop national research strategies and ocean policies.
Ryabinin says the job of the project organisers is to set the framework, and then rely on scientists, policymakers and other experts around the world to lay out the best routes to achieving the desired progress.
One idea from scientists, for example, is a massive expansion in the routine, long-term monitoring of the oceans. Called the Global Ocean Observing System, such a scheme would use autonomous submarines, smart floats and research cruises to constantly track physical, chemical, biological and ecological ocean properties - from basics like temperature to sophisticated analyses of fish stocks.
Writing in the journal One Earth earlier this year, marine scientists from around the world said the UN decade project offered "an unprecedented opportunity for the international ocean science community to organise itself and create the needed synergies, partnerships, connections and interfaces to support policy and action with science and knowledge."
The scientists added: "It is imperative we get to the end of the Decade with a new way of carrying out marine science".

© China Dialogue.
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    PRNewswire / Nov 16, 2020
    Russian Scientists Develop World Most-Sensitive Photon Video Detector
    Ученые Центра НТИ «Квантовые коммуникации» НИТУ «МИСиС» разрабатывают первый в мире прототип видеодетектора инфракрасных фотонов. Камера с 1000-пиксельной матрицей будет способна обнаружить одиночный фотон и получить его изображение в почти полной темноте.

Scientists from NUST MISIS National Technological Initiative Center "Quantum Communications" are developing the world's first prototype of an infrared photon video detector. This will be a camera so powerful that it would be able to track the movement of single particles. The camera will be equipped with a 1000-pixel matrix, and such a system will be used in a number of areas where high-precision measurements are required: secure communications, including satellite ones, quantum computing, and diagnostic medicine. The development is carried out within a contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.
A photon is an elementary quantum particle of electromagnetic radiation or, in other words, light. If you can track individual quanta of infrared light, you can significantly improve the security of communication lines and the accuracy of measuring devices.
This is not a new idea, as the first attempts to detect single photons were made at the beginning of the 20th century via electronic lamps, photoelectronic multipliers. However, the first devices, due to the weak technological component, worked slowly, sometimes did not work, and sometimes they worked falsely. Then there were semiconductor devices: avalanche photodiodes, which worked better, but only with visible light. A significant breakthrough was made in the early 2000s when the team of Russian physicist Grigory Goltsman founded the company "Skontel", created a single-pixel photo detector of single infrared photons on superconductors.
Now in 2020, as part of NUST MISIS NTI Center "Quantum Communications", the team is developing a 1000-pixel single photon video detector within a contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation. The device, which has no analogues in the world, will not only detect particles, but also get an image in almost complete darkness. At the moment, the first stage has been completed and 8 pixels have been created. According to scientists, this number already allows one to understand and control the principles of the matrix. The next step is scaling.
"The detector itself is located inside the cryostat at a temperature of only 2 K, which is close to absolute zero. When a photon is detected, it sends a signal to the processing circuit, and an image appears on the display", comments Grigory Goltsman, Chief Researcher at NUST MISIS NTI Center "Quantum Communications", founder of "Skontel" company.
Our next step is to get an image of 1,000,000 pixels from a matrix of 1000 pixels. You can "open" one pixel at a time, as in old TVs, but this will be a very slow process. Therefore, to further scale the resulting image, scientists apply special patterns.
"There is a way to speed up the process: open pixels in groups. For this purpose, special stencils are used. You open one pattern, measure how much light hits the detector, then you open the second pattern, and so on", says Alexander Korneev, Senior Researcher at NUST MISIS NTI Center "Quantum Communications".
As noted, the final device can be applied in the most high-tech areas: when creating secure quantum communication lines, including satellite communication channels, when designing a quantum, as well as in diagnostic medical devices.

Copyright © 2020 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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    Newswise / 16-Nov-2020
    No Losses: Scientists Stuff Graphene with Light
    Dotty graphene and doping: Whatever it takes for Russia’s record plasmonics to shine.
    С помощью полупроводниковых квантовых точек и слоя диэлектрика толщиной в несколько нанометров физики из МФТИ и Владимирского государственного университета повысили эффективность передачи энергии света в колебания на поверхности графена почти до 90%. В дальнейшем это может быть использовано для создания сверхкомпактных устройств, сохраняющих и преобразующих световую энергию.

Physicists from MIPT and Vladimir State University, Russia, have achieved a nearly 90% efficiency converting light energy into surface waves on graphene. They relied on a laser-like energy conversion scheme and collective resonances. The paper came out in Laser & Photonics Reviews.
Manipulating light at the nanoscale is a task crucial for being able to create ultracompact devices for optical energy conversion and storage. To localize light on such a small scale, researchers convert optical radiation into so-called surface plasmon-polaritons. These SPPs are oscillations propagating along the interface between two materials with drastically different refractive indices - specifically, a metal and a dielectric or air. Depending on the materials chosen, the degree of surface wave localization varies. It is the strongest for light localized on a material only one atomic layer thick, because such 2D materials have high refractive indices.
The existing schemes for converting light to SPPs on 2D surfaces have an efficiency of no more than 10%. It is possible to improve that figure by using intermediary signal converters - nano-objects of various chemical compositions and geometries.
The intermediary converters used in the recent study in Laser & Photonics Reviews are semiconductor quantum dots with a size of 5 to 100 nanometers and a composition similar to that of the solid semiconductor they are manufactured from. That said, the optical properties of a quantum dot vary considerably with its size. So by changing its dimensions, researchers can tune it to the optical wavelength of interest. If an assembly of variously sized quantum dots is illuminated with natural light, each dot will respond to a particular wavelength.
Quantum dots come in various shapes - cylinders, pyramids, spheres, etc. - and chemical compositions. In its study, the team of Russian researchers used ellipsoid-shaped quantum dots 40 nanometers in diameter. The dots served as scatterers positioned above the surface of graphene, which was illuminated with infrared light at a wavelength of 1.55 micrometers. A dielectric buffer several nanometers thick separated the graphene sheet from the quantum dots.
The idea to use a quantum dot as a scatterer is not new. Some of the previous graphene studies used a similar arrangement, with the dots positioned above the 2D sheet and interacting both with light and with surface electromagnetic waves at a common wavelength shared by the two processes. This was made possible by choosing a quantum dot size that was exactly right. While such a system is fairly easy to tune to a resonance, it is susceptible to luminescence quenching - the conversion of incident light energy into heat - as well as reverse light scattering. As a result, the efficiency of SPP generation did not exceed 10%.
"We investigated a scheme where a quantum dot positioned above graphene interacts both with incident light and with the surface electromagnetic wave, but the frequencies of these two interactions are different. The dot interacts with light at a wavelength of 1.55 micrometers and with the surface plasmon-polariton at 3.5 micrometers. This is enabled by a hybrid interaction scheme," comments study co-author Alexei Prokhorov, a senior researcher at the MIPT Center for Photonics and 2D Materials, and an associate professor at Vladimir State University.
The essence of the hybrid interaction scheme is that rather than using just two energy levels - the upper and lower ones - the setup also includes an intermediate level. That is, the team used an energetic structure akin to that of the laser. The intermediate energy level serves to enable the strong connection between the quantum dot and the surface electromagnetic wave. The quantum dot undergoes excitation at the wavelength of the laser illuminating it, whereas surface waves are generated at the wavelength determined by the SPP-quantum dot resonance.
"We have worked with a range of materials for manufacturing quantum dots, as well as with various types of graphene," Prokhorov explained. "Apart from pure graphene, there is also what’s called doped graphene, which incorporates elements from the neighboring groups in the periodic table. Depending on the kind of doping, the chemical potential of graphene varies. We optimized the parameters of the quantum dot - its chemistry, geometry - as well as the type of graphene, so as to maximize the efficiency of light energy conversion into surface plasmon-polaritons. Eventually we settled on doped graphene and indium antimonide as the quantum dot material."
Despite the highly efficient energy input into graphene via the quantum dot intermediary, the intensity of the resulting waves is extremely low. Therefore, large numbers of dots have to be used in a specific arrangement above the graphene layer. The researchers had to find precisely the right geometry, the perfect distance between the dots to ensure signal amplification due to the phasing of the near fields of each dot. In their study, the team reports discovering such a geometry and measuring a signal in graphene that was orders of magnitude more powerful than for randomly arranged quantum dots. For their subsequent calculations, the physicists employed self-developed software modules.
The calculated conversion efficiency of the newly proposed scheme is as high as 90%-95%. Even accounting for all the potential negative factors that might affect this figure of merit, it will remain above 50% - several times higher than any other competing system.
"A large part of such research focuses on creating ultracompact devices that would be capable of converting light energy into surface plasmon-polaritons with a high efficiency and on a very small scale in space, thereby recording light energy into some structure," said the director of the MIPT Center for Photonics and 2D Materials, Valentyn Volkov, who co-authored the study. "Moreover, you can accumulate polaritons, potentially designing an ultrathin battery composed of several atomic layers. It is possible to use the effect in light energy converters similar to solar cells, but with a several times higher efficiency. Another promising application has to do with nano- and bio-object detection."
The research reported in this story was supported by Grant No. 20-12-00343 of the Russian Science Foundation.

© 2020 Newswise, Inc.
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    Xinhua / 2020-11-17
    Top Russian scientist eyes closer cooperation with China
    Президент РАН Александр Сергеев заявил, что надеется на расширение российско-китайского сотрудничества в научно-технической сфере. Одним из направлений должна стать вирусология.

Alexander Sergeev, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has said that he is looking forward to more Russia-China cooperation in the scientific and technological sphere.
The Russia-China Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation from 2020 to 2021 is a very significant event, Sergeev told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"With this, we emphasize that we are not just developing general cooperation with China, but we concentrate on science and high technologies. While we have already fostered serious cooperation, we should take it to a new, modern level," he said.
China has shown "very significant progress" in recent years in scientific research and its accomplishments in the high-tech sector are well known, he said, adding that China has set the task of reaching the forefront in a large number of scientific fields, "precisely those that will be key in determining the technologies of the future."
"For Russia, this is very important because we will be able to work together in some of these areas, share our resources and use our joint experience," Sergeev said.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the areas for Russia-China cooperation should certainly be modern virology, the scientist said.
In his view, such cooperation should focus on not only the creation of new test systems, vaccines or medicines, but also the developments in fundamental virology, because there is a need to lay scientific and technological groundwork for quick responses to virus-induced challenges.
"We have put forward an initiative in Russia to create a new center for fundamental virology, where we will undoubtedly take into account the experience of our Chinese colleagues and consult with them on how to properly build such cooperation," he said.
Sergeev was also impressed by China's capability to quickly apply the latest outcomes of scientific research.
"China is, to a large extent, an example for Russia in terms of how to quickly transform scientific knowledge and advances into technology ... How China is able to do so is very important for us," said Sergeev, who believes that bilateral partnership in this area could be promising.

Copyright © 2000-2020 XINHUANET.com. All rights reserved.
* * *
    ScienceAlert / 18 November 2020
    Scientists Discover Exotic New Mineral Forged in The Furnace of a Russian Volcano
    • Peter Dockrill
    Ученые Санкт-Петербургского университета обнаружили на Камчатке новый минерал, получивший название петровит - в честь выдающегося кристаллографа, профессора СПбГУ Томаса Петрова. Пористая структура минерала, состоящего из атомов кислорода, натрия, серы и меди, представляет собой интерес с точки зрения ионной проводимости, а в будущем петровит может быть использован для создания катодного материала для натрий-ионного аккумулятора.

Volcanoes rank among the most destructive and awe-inspiring phenomena on the planet. But these fiery fissures do much more than just destroy. They also create.
In a new study, researchers in Russia report the discovery of one such creation - an unusual mineral never before documented by scientists: an alluring, vibrantly blue-and-green crystallised substance the team have called petrovite. The mineral was found in the volcanic landscape of Russia's far east, atop the Tolbachik volcano in the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Tolbachik's eruptive history traces back thousands of years, but in recent times, two notable events stand out: the "Great Tolbachik Fissure Eruption" of 1975-1976, and a second, lesser follow-up that took place between 2012-2013. The force of eruptions during the first event tore numerous cinder cones in the volcanic complex, opening up rocky terrain that's since been discovered to be a rich vein of fumarole deposits and unknown minerals never seen anywhere else.
In total, the Tolbachik volcano lays claim to 130 type locality minerals that were first identified here, the latest of which is petrovite, a sulfate mineral that takes shape as blue globular aggregates of tabular crystals, many holding gaseous inclusions.
The specimen studied here was discovered in 2000, near the second cinder cone associated with the 1975 eruption, and was stored for later analysis. It may have been a long time coming, but that analysis now reveals that this vibrantly blue mineral exhibits peculiar molecular hallmarks only rarely seen before now.
The copper atom in the crystal structure of petrovite has an unusual and very rare coordination of seven oxygen atoms," explains lead researcher and crystallographer Stanislav Filatov from St Petersburg University.
"Such coordination is characteristic of only a couple of compounds, as well as of saranchinaite."
Saranchinaite, identified a couple of years ago by another St Petersburg team, was also uncovered at Tolbachik - and, like petrovite, is strikingly coloured in its own right.
In petrovite's case, the mineral, which is thought to crystallise via direct precipitation from volcanic gases, takes form as blue cryptocrystalline crusts enveloping a fine pyroclastic material.
At the chemical level, petrovite represents a new type of crystal structure, although one that bears similarities to saranchinaite, from which it may be produced, hypothetically speaking.
Notably, petrovite's molecular framework - consisting of oxygen atoms, sodium sulphur and copper - is effectively porous in nature, demonstrating interconnected pathways that could enable sodium ions to migrate through the structure.
Due to that behaviour - and if we can replicate the framework in the lab - the team thinks this could lead to important applications in material science, potentially enabling new ways of developing cathodes for use in batteries and electrical devices.
"At present, the biggest problem for this use is the small amount of a transition metal - copper - in the crystal structure of the mineral," Filatov says. "It might be solved by synthesising a compound with the same structure as petrovite in the laboratory."
The findings are reported in Mineralogical Magazine.

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    India Education Diary / November 22, 2020
    Scientists have discovered a new stingray and named it "six-eyed"
    Российские и японские ихтиологи открыли новый вид ската, получившего название «шестиглазый» (Bathyraja sexoculata) из-за светлых пятен на голове. Скат был выловлен в районе острова Симушир (Курильские острова) и предположительно является эндемиком, т. е. локальным видом.

A Russian-Japanese group of researchers, which includes Aleksey Orlov, the chief researcher at the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) and the TSU Biological Institute, has discovered a new species of stingrays. A previously unknown member of the species of this cartilaginous fish was caught in the region of the central Kuril Islands. Because of to its external features, it was named Bathyraja sexoculata - six-eyed stingray. It is assumed that this species is endemic; it lives locally and only in the waters of Russia. The find is described in an article published in the prestigious international scientific journal Zootaxa.
"Several individuals of this species were caught by my colleague Ilya Gordeev from VNIRO and Moscow State University, during a commercial voyage in the fishery for the northern one-finned greenling in the region of the central Kuriles (Simushir Island)", says Alexei Orlov. "The scientific name of the new stingray is Bathyraja sexoculata, which literally means "six-eyed". I suggested this option because of three pairs of light spots on the disc and head of this species. The official name is given according to the place of catch - Simushirskiy stingray".
According to the ichthyologist, outwardly, the new species is hardly distinguishable from closely related members of the subgenus Arctoraja - the rays Bathyraja (Arctoraja) smirnovi and the shield-bearing Bathyraja (Arctoraja) parmifera. However, the CO1 gene sequence in the find turned out to be unique, which made it possible to establish the status of this species as previously unknown to science.
After the genetic examination, Russian scientists sent the sequences (nucleotide sequences) and photos to their Japanese colleagues Hajime Ishihara and Ryo Misawa. Comparing them with their own genetic data of already known rays, which were absent in the Genbank, the Japanese experts came to the conclusion that the species discovered is new to science.
This was followed by their visit to Moscow, to the Zoological Museum of Moscow State University, where VNIRO staff handed over a standard series - five specimens of skates. For two days, Japanese ichthyologists studied these specimens and were convinced of the correctness of the preliminary conclusions. Based on the research results, a joint scientific article was prepared, in which the authors describe the morphological and genetic characteristics of the six-eyed stingray. Presumably, it is endemic, that is, it has a local distribution.

© Copyright IndiaEducationDiary, 2020.
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    Science / Nov. 24, 2020
    With more data on its COVID-19 vaccine, Russian institute offers new evidence of success
    • By Kai Kupferschmidt
    Разработчики российской вакцины «Спутник-V» сообщили о результатах второго промежуточного анализа данных, полученных во время испытаний. Второй отчет содержит большее количество данных, чем первый, опубликованный 11 ноября, и сообщает об эффективности 91,4%.

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.
Joining the flood of press releases announcing positive results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine today reported 91.4% efficacy from a second interim analysis of more than 18,000 people, bolstering a claim the team made on 11 November with scant evidence.
Whereas the initial report rested on a mere 20 cases of COVID-19, with no details on how they were split between vaccinated and placebo groups, the new analysis is based on 39 cases total, eight among the vaccinated group versus 31 in the much smaller placebo arm. "This is great news not just for Russia, but the world," Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is bankrolling the development of the candidate, announced at a virtual press conference this morning.
The Sputnik V vaccine, made by the Gamaleya Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, uses adenovirus (Ad) "vectors" to deliver a gene that codes for the surface protein, spike, of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The two-dose scheme begins with an Ad26-spike vaccine and is followed by a booster shot 21 days later that contains Ad5 spike. Gamaleya chose two different adenoviruses because of concerns that immune responses to the same vector could lower the impact of the booster shot.
Another adenovirus vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, reported efficacy data yesterday of 70%. It uses the same adenovirus vector for both the prime and the booster shot. "At the moment, the data released today on the Sputnik vaccine looks to be the best in the field of the adeno-vectored vaccines," says Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading. The Chinese company CanSino Biologics and pharma giant Johnson & Johnson both also have adenovirus vaccines against COVID-19 in efficacy trials.
The Russian results presented today are an interim analysis from 18,794 participants 7 days after they received their booster dose. (Only one out of every four received the placebo.) "Whilst the [COVID-19] case numbers remain small, this is highly effective," Azra Ghani, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Imperial College London, told the Science Media Centre. The ongoing trial will conduct its next interim analysis after 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Overall, trial organizers expect to enroll 40,000 participants.
The new report allays the concerns raised by many vaccine researchers and public health experts when the Sputnik V team made the earlier efficacy claims, according to Jones. "I think the numbers are now significant and I think they do give credence to what they say," he says.
Dmitriev said the researchers plan to publish results from the trial in an international peer-reviewed journal. Denis Logunov, deputy director at the Gamaleya Center, notes that although side effects including pain at the injection site, headache, and fever had been observed, no serious adverse events had surfaced. "There is nothing unexpected," he said at the press conference.
One benefit of adenovirus vaccines is they can be stored in standard refrigerators, rather than needing freezers. Charlotte Houldcroft, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, cautions that the latest Russian announcement is yet another instance of "science by press release," but, she adds, "If the figures are as good as they appear, that’s really promising because this needs a standard cold chain to be rolled out rather than an ultracold chain like the RNA vaccines, and that’s a big plus."
"One thing seems to be clear, that this platform works," Alexey Chumakov, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Medical Science’s Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral Encephalitides in Moscow, wrote in an email. "Of course, with any vaccine, and especially with the ones that have such potential for future revenue flow, as well as political impact, one must be careful in any type of pronouncement, only time and testing will tell."
Dmitriev said partners in India, South Korea, China, and Brazil are producing the vaccine, which could cost less than $10 a shot. Current agreements would allow for the production of 1 billion doses in 2021, with first doses delivered internationally in January.

© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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    Nuclear Engineering / 25 November 2020
    Russian academic consortium established to study hydrogen
    Шесть ведущих образовательных и научных организаций России, специализирующихся в области водородной энергетики, подписали соглашение о создании консорциума «Технологическая водородная долина» для развития водородных технологий. Инициатором выступил Томский политехнический университет, в консорциум вошли также Институт катализа СО РАН, Институт проблем химической физики РАН, Институт нефтехимического синтеза РАН, Самарский государственный технический университет и Сахалинский государственный университет.

Six leading educational and scientific organisations in Russia with competencies in the field of hydrogen energy have signed an agreement to establish a consortium, Technological Hydrogen Valley, for the development of hydrogen technologies.
The participants will conduct joint research and develop technologies for hydrogen production, transportation, safe storage and use in the energy sector.
The creation of the consortium was initiated by the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). It includes the Institute of Catalysis of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics of RAS, the Institute of Petrochemical Synthesis of RAS, the Samara State Technical University and the Sakhalin State University.
"The global energy market is changing, humanity needs new, efficient, more environmentally friendly energy sources not as a replacement, but as an alternative to traditional hydrocarbons. And hydrogen will definitely occupy its niche in the energy of the future," said TPU. The International Hydrogen Council estimates that by 2050, hydrogen will account for 18% of total global energy demand. "In order for Russia to be a leading player in this energy market of the future, the scientific community must combine its knowledge and efforts to increase the backlog in the field of hydrogen technologies."
TPU said it is important that the consortium includes both universities and institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "while all participants are organisations with a serious level of competencies in the field of hydrogen".
The consortium members will jointly develop technologies along the entire "hydrogen chain": from technologies for its production to use. The consortium plans close cooperation with major Russian companies interested in the development of hydrogen energy. In the near future, the participants will develop a roadmap for further work. The first joint scientific event will be the conference, which is scheduled for December.

Nuclear Engineering International © 2020, All Rights Reserved.
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    Canadian Plastics / November 25, 2020
    Russian scientists have developed an ideal polymer for implants
    The innovative polymer material mimics the mechanical behavior of living tissues.
    В Московском государственном университете имени М.В.Ломоносова разработан инновационный полимерный материал, максимально приближенный к живым тканям. Импланты из такого материала могут встраиваться в организм человека, принимая нужную форму и имитируя мягкие ткани.

An international group of scientists led by Moscow State University professor Dmitry Ivanov have created a polymeric biomimetic material that can reproduce the mechanical behavior of living tissues, imitate their properties, and integrate into the body - making it ideal for implants.
The project began in 2018, when Ivanov and his colleagues synthesized and studied an artificial analogue of chameleon skin: A material that changed colour and strength depending on mechanical impact. The developed concept made it possible to create polymers with mechanical properties that exactly reproduced the given living tissues of humans and animals.
"Earlier, we showed that our polymers can reproduce the mechanical behavior of living tissues, and they can be programmed," Ivanov said. "We can reproduce any curve corresponding to the deformation of living tissues. That is, our polymers stretch to the required limit and then become much stronger. And now we have added one more functionality to these systems - now our ‘smart’ polymers respond to another factor: temperature."
The polymers are solid at room temperature, Ivanov said, but upon contact with a living body - in this work, at 37°C - they turn into liquid. Due to this phase transition during implantation, polymers can spread and fill the cavities in the body, creating an ideal implant to restore skin, fatty tissue, and cartilage due to the fact that the bonds between the side chains of the brush break down in the polymer.
And according to Ivanov, the phase transition temperature can be selected with amazing accuracy, ranging from room temperature to 50-60°C. "In this case, we made the transition threshold in the region of 37°C, adjusting it to the temperature of the human body, but you can adjust the parameters for any animal," he said.
The scientists are now focused on understanding the extent to which brush density and hair branching affect the rate of phase transition. "We are just running an experiment at the synchrotron in Grenoble [in southeastern France], where we began to study the details of the phase transition using X-ray analysis," Ivanov said. "The bulk of the work was done on a diffractometer at Moscow University."
In the near future, this development will be tested on animals. "This work is just beginning with us," Ivanov said. "We plan to carry it out in cooperation with a new laboratory, which is currently being created at the Faculty of Chemistry of Moscow State University within the framework of a mega-grant."

© Copyright 2020 Annex Business Media.
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    Space Daily / Nov 26, 2020
    Scientists claim controversial results of comets observations are consistent
    Астрофизики Дальневосточного федерального университета в составе международной команды объяснили противоречивые данные о цветовом спектре кометы 41P/Туттля-Джакобини-Кресака, полученные тремя независимыми группами исследователей. Причина - в разных наборах фотометрических фильтров и выборе размера расчетной области. По мнению ученых, полученные данные не противоречат, а дополняют друг друга, позволяя сделать более точные выводы.

Astrophysicists from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) joined the international research team for explaining the difference in the results of observation of the comet 41P/ Tuttle - Giacobini - Kresak. Researchers believe that data obtained by three independent teams are complementary and its complex analysis helps to unravel the mystery of dust chemical composition of comet 41P and other conundrums of the Universe. A related article appears in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The activity of comets is more complex than it appeared to be, one of the research outcomes says. The chemical composition of a cometary coma (gas-dusty environment of the nucleus) is able to change very rapidly, literally during the day. That is because of the Sun affects the nucleus of a comet approaching.
Researchers all over the Globe try to get data on the chemical composition of comets via analyses of the light refracted by its dust particles. However, the information about the color spectrum of comets differs every time, depending on different observation epochs and different phase angles (angle Earth-comet-Sun).
The present research paper postulates the controversial data sets obtained due to different sets of photometric filters and areas (apertures) of research are steady.
"At least three groups of researchers who observed comet 41P in 2017 came up with different results. The comet color ranged from red to blue. We have explained in detail why this happened", Anton Kochergin says", one of the authors of the study, a young scientist at FEFU.
"Usually, the final color is normalized by taking into account the different bandwidths of the photometric filters applied. However, in many studies, the color of celestial bodies is interpreted independently of a particular set of photometric filters. We show that this is not valid for all cases. The reason the comet color differs is exactly sets of various photometric filters.
In addition, the choice of the size of the calculation area, i.e. aperture, is of great importance. This is a certain radius around the cometary coma in the pictures from observatories, which scientists define as an area of research. Having decided on the aperture, they analyze only the signal inside this field".
The choice of the aperture determines which processes and results are included in the analysis. For example, a gas from a diatomic carbon molecule (C2): there are parent molecules (called CHON particles in the literature), which become a source of C2 upon photodissociation. This dissociation occurs at a certain distance from the comet's nucleus, which in turn depends on the comet's distance from the Sun. With the right aperture chosen, one can exclude most of the signals that C2 molecules give focusing on analyses of the dust component of the coma.
Dr. Kochergin emphasized that the opposite data about the color of the comet, collected by different groups using different sets of photometric filters, only benefits the researchers. It is impossible to give a thorough description of the color (the color is directly related to the chemical composition of the dust of a cometary coma), and the chemical composition after just one observation. It is necessary to observe and determine the characteristics in dynamics. The more measurements made, the more accurate the conclusions are.
"In practice, this allows us to probe into the microphysical properties of cometary dust, and the processes run in a cometary coma. With such information, we will shed light on the evolutionary processes of the Solar system. Many scientific groups around the world are working inside this fundamental area", explains Anton Kochergin.
Scientists were able to model the results of color measurements of comet 41P, receives almost simultaneously via different photometric filters in different locations. Although the blue color was gained in one case and the red in the other, the researchers found that both results were consistent with the actual behavior of cometary dust particles in coma 41P.
One can copy these results via simulating light scattering by dust particles of the pyroxene mineral. Pyroxene is a silicate material that is part of the lunar soil and was also delivered from the asteroid Itokawa and discovered in the comet 81P / Wild 2. Pyroxenes are a part of cometary matter and are well studied in laboratories.
Researchers to further cooperate in observing celestial bodies from different Earth locations. The routine helps to catch up with the object under investigation in case of adverse weather conditions at the location of one of the observatories. This also brings additional data in the case of different sets of filters applied by different teams. In the observation schedule of the international collaborators, all comets and asteroids their gear is capable of tracing.
The present results became possible due to the collaboration of scientists from Astronomical Observatory, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Humanitas College, Kyung Hee University (South Korea), Space Science Institute (USA), Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Main Astronomical Observatory of National Academy of Sciences, School of Natural Sciences, Far Eastern Federal University, Ussuriysk Observatory of the Institute of Applied Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Previously, FEFU astrophysicists teamed up with Russian and foreign colleagues to observe the ATLAS comet, which disintegrated when approaching the Sun. They brought up a conclusion that carbon found in the nucleus of the comet would help to determine the age of comets in the Solar system.

Copyright 1995-2020 - Space Media Network.
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    PV magazine / November 30, 20209
    The unstoppable trajectory of photovoltaic water pumps
    • Emiliano Bellini
    Ученые из Федерального научного агроинженерного центра ВИМ проанализировали наиболее важные исследования и достижения в области солнечных фотоэлектрических водонасосных систем за последние 55 лет, и создали дорожную карту для будущих исследований.

A group of scientists from Russia's Federal Scientific Agroengineering Center VIM (FSAC VIM) has provided a retrospective analysis of the most important research conducted on photovoltaic water pumping systems (PVWPS) over the past 55 years and has analyzed the most relevant issues and opportunities in their development, operation, and optimization.
"The [use of] PVWPS is an attractive alternative for irrigation and drinking-water supply in urban and rural regions of the countries [with] huge … solar energy [potential], where a considerable part of rural population lives in remote areas, such as India, China, other countries of Asia and Africa, in sunny, under-populated and mountainous areas of Russia, and other countries," the researchers stated. "Unlike conventional water pumps, correctly-designed and sized PVWPS are capable [of providing] essential long-term savings."
The scientists stressed how most of the technological advances achieved for solar water pumps were achieved in the last decades of the past century and these were mainly improvements in the photovoltaic array structure, the interconnection of the solar modules, the interaction of the photovoltaic array with the electric motor, and that of the electric motor with the pump. Furthermore, strategies for consumption optimization and control improvement, through maximum power point tracking (MPPT), were also implemented.
In the past and current decade, most of the studies were devoted to applying PVWPS' in different countries or dealt with problems of practical use of solar energy for irrigation. "The advantages of solar energy application in water supply systems for irrigation are associated with the seasonal correlation between the annual maximum of solar energy [supply] and that of water demand characterized by low probability of cloudy weather, during [the] spring-summer period," the Russian group explained.
Future research, according to the academics, should focus on further cost reductions, extending the life cycle of the devices, improving their components, and expanding the reach of their applications. "One of the prospective lines of PVWPS improvement and upgrading is to include them in the system of end-user consumption equipment and assess the system efficiency not at the pump output, and not [at] the point of end consumption equipment, but after the water consumption," they further explained.
Their findings are presented in the paper Review of photovoltaic water pumping system research, published in Energy Reports.

© PV MAGAZINE 2020.
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    Phys.Org / November 30, 2020
    Mystery of Siberian freshwater seal food choice solved
    В то время как многие популяции тюленей страдают от антропогенного фактора, байкальские нерпы процветают. Японские и российские ученые выяснили, что значительную часть их рациона составляют планктонные рачки-бокоплавы, которыми водные млекопитающие обычно не интересуются. Особое строение зубов позволяет нерпам отцеживать планктон из воды, не тратя много энергии на охоту.

Through video tracking and examination of museum specimens, scientists have discovered why Siberia's Lake Baikal seals are thriving when so many other seal populations are suffering from human-caused environmental stresses.
Lake Baikal is the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, containing more water than all of North America's Great Lakes combined. Native only to the lake whose name it bears, the Baikal seal is the only exclusively freshwater seal in the world.
Baikal seals are thriving in this location even as populations of many seals elsewhere have been hit by anthropogenic stresses. It appears to quite like chomping on amphipods, extremely tiny crustaceans typically under 10mm long. These are so small that in terms of the energy gained from eating them, it really should not be worth the hassle of hunting them individually. Yet Lake Baikal seals do precisely this, a rare behavior for seals or toothed whales anywhere else.
It turns out they have highly specialized comb-line teeth that allow them to expel water while retaining prey during high-speed hunting. Their small size, compared to most other seals, also allows them to achieve a net energy gain from these crustaceans that no other aquatic mammals are terribly keen to eat, according to a study published November 16, 2020 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
While researchers until now had thought Baikal seals primarily stuck to fish, past investigations of stomach contents have shown that Lake Baikal seals also feed on the amphipod Macrohectopus branickii, the world's only freshwater amphipod with a planktonic (floating) lifestyle. But the plankton's tiny size (only a few centimeters long and weighing less than 0.1gram) and the fact that all of its body parts are digestible made it challenging to ascertain just how much plankton these seals ate - and how such tiny prey sustains the seal.
Using animal-borne accelerometers and video cameras, Yuuki Watanabe, a marine biologist with Japan's National Institute of Polar Research, and colleagues recorded Baikal seals' foraging behavior, and found that contrary to the prevailing view that they mainly eat fish, the seals actually hunted the amphipod at extremely high rates.
On average, Baikal seals caught 57 amphipods per dive - not all at once, but hunting them individually, leading to thousands of amphipod catches per day. This represents the highest consumption rate ever recorded of any aquatic mammal that feeds on single prey one at a time rather than scooping up lots of different types of prey all at once. In one case, the research team observed a seal hunting down 154 individual amphipods, meaning that it hunted one every 2.5 seconds.
Everywhere else in the world, amphipods are rarely targeted by aquatic mammals, except for a few baleen whales which are able to do so using baleen, which acts as a great big filter to collect krill, plankton and small fish. But hunting these tiny crustaceans individually would have made gaining an energy surplus almost impossible. Swallowing prey and water together requires extra muscular activity, adding to the energy expenditure, and in turn slowing down foraging rates, further reducing the energy profit.
"Each time the seals open their mouth to try to catch an amphipod, there is this huge drawback," said Watanabe, the paper's first author. "Water is inevitably going to be swallowed too."
To answer this question, the team examined museum specimens of the seal, and found that Baikal seals have the most specialized comb-like post-canine teeth in the subfamily Phocinae (Northern seals). This unique feature allows them to expel water while retaining prey during high-speed foraging.
The small body size of the Baikal seals also plays a role in making individual hunting of tiny amphipods energetically rational. Weighing in at around 50 kilograms, they are some of the smallest seals in the world. The researchers modeled the relationship of predator body size, prey body size, and the number of prey a predator needs to consume per dive to replenish the energy expended during the dive. As predator body mass increases, the number of prey needed to be caught per dive increases rapidly. But the Baikal seal size hits the sweet spot where there is a substantial energy profit.
The final piece of the puzzle of the Baikal seal's unique prey choice, and why it hasn't been threatened by human-caused environmental changes lies in where it lives: Lake Baikal produces very little algae but is abundant in amphipods.
"This apparent paradox can at least partly be resolved by our finding that the seals eat the amphipods instead of just eating the fish that eat the amphipods," said Watanabe.
When an organism from a lower trophic level, or food chain, is consumed by one at a higher level, there is a certain loss of energy. "When the seals eat the prey of the fish directly, they are basically shortcutting this chain, and thus avoiding that energy loss."
The researchers conclude that this evolutionary innovation gives the ecosystem a greater capacity to support apex predators than would otherwise be the case, even given significant levels of human disturbance.

© Phys.org 2003-2020 powered by Science X Network.
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