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Animal behaviour – Fish, like people, must pay for their accommodation | Science and technology

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Feb 15th 2020

TENANTS WHO don’t pay the hire are a bane of landlords all over the place. And landlords who use heavy techniques to implement cost are equally a bane of tenants. Nor are these issues confined to human beings. Property-owning cichlid fish appear as ruthless about receiving what they’re owed as any 19th-century tenement holder within the Decrease East Aspect of New York.

The fish in query, Neolamprologus pulcher, inhabit Lake Tanganyika in east Africa. They’re co-operative breeders, that means that dominant people do the breeding and subordinates help in numerous methods, in alternate for quick survival-enhancing advantages which will result in the final word prize of turning into dominant themselves. Within the case of N. pulcher the principle profit is having someplace to stay. Dwellings, within the type of shelters dug out from sand below rocks, are managed by dominant pairs. These dominants allow subordinates to share their lodging, and people subordinates pay for the privilege by conserving the property in good restore and defending the dominants’ eggs and fry in opposition to predators.

Although co-operative breeding by vertebrates has developed a number of occasions (well-known examples embrace the meerkat mongooses of southern Africa and the scrub jays of Florida), the query of how rental funds are enforced has by no means been definitively settled. The presumption is that dominants punish subordinate defaulters. However it’s exhausting to show, by observing wild animals, that that is what is going on.

What was wanted to clear the purpose up was an experiment. And fish are simpler to experiment on than mongooses or jays. Jan Naef and Michael Taborsky of the College of Bern, in Switzerland, subsequently acquired 96 specimens of N. pulcher and created menages of a pair of dominant landlords and a subordinate tenant in sand-bottomed aquaria.

Left alone, the fish behaved a lot as they might have executed within the wild, with the tenant doing the grunt work of sustaining the hollows within the sand, and good relations pertaining between all. Nevertheless, if a tenant was prevented for a time from fulfilling its duties, by trapping it behind a partition inserted into the aquarium for that objective, issues modified. When the partition was eliminated, the landlords attacked it, and it confirmed a giant improve in submissive behaviour for a number of minutes earlier than issues returned to regular.

Whether or not comparable remedy could be meted out for a failure to defend the landlords’ eggs has but to be decided. When prevented by a partition from driving away predators, tenants weren’t subsequently on the receiving finish of aggression from landlords—however since there have been no eggs to defend on the time, that will not have been a part of the contract. The predators in query, a species known as Telmatochromis vittatus, will not be a risk to grownup specimens of N. pulcher, solely to eggs and fry. It’s however clear from Dr Naef’s and Dr Taborsky’s experiment that, for cichlids at the very least, the hire should be paid in a well timed vogue, or punishment might be confronted.

This text appeared within the Science and expertise part of the print version below the headline “Fish, like individuals, should pay for his or her lodging”

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FreshDirect, After Broken Eggs and Angry Customers, Stages a Comeback

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A couple of 12 months and a half in the past, longtime patrons of the pioneering grocery supply service FreshDirect began complaining that orders had been arriving hours late. There have been damaged eggs and spoiled fruit. One buyer reported that she had paid $200 for groceries — solely to obtain nothing however seltzer and a loaf of bread.

The supply of the issues was FreshDirect’s multimillion-dollar headquarters within the Bronx, a distribution heart with 9 miles of conveyor belts that the corporate opened in the summertime of 2018 after shifting out of a smaller facility within the Lengthy Island Metropolis part of Queens. A fancy automated system was creating confusion on the ground of the brand new warehouse, leading to canceled orders, lacking objects and lengthy waits.

On the peak of the disaster, FreshDirect’s chief govt, Jason Ackerman, stepped down and was changed by David McInerney, who had helped run the corporate for the reason that early 2000s. Over the subsequent months, FreshDirect made logistical fixes that regularly eradicated the distribution issues. However loads of injury had been performed.

“We had a lot belief, we may’ve constructed a financial institution of belief,” Mr. McInerney mentioned in a current interview. “Over time, that belief was eroded.”

One thing else additionally eroded as FreshDirect struggled: its maintain over the grocery supply business in New York. Over 20 years, FreshDirect had collected a loyal following of well-to-do Manhattanites as one of many first firms within the nation to execute a profitable grocery supply operation. Now, nevertheless, it faces an more and more big selection of rivals, together with Amazon, which owns Complete Meals and received over plenty of FreshDirect’s clients in the course of the chaotic transition to the Bronx.

“When FreshDirect first began, they didn’t have the competitors that they’ve now,” mentioned Phil Lempert, a retail and grocery analyst. “They’ve 100 issues working in opposition to them.”

Whereas it stays the preferred on-line grocery service in New York, FreshDirect’s share of the market dropped to 46 p.c on the finish of final 12 months, from roughly 66 p.c in 2017, in response to the analysis agency Second Measure. Over the identical interval, Amazon’s share practically tripled to round 22 p.c, from just a little underneath eight p.c. Rivals like Instacart and Cease & Store’s Peapod model additionally made up floor.

“Amazon will take increasingly more of FreshDirect’s gross sales,” mentioned Burt P. Flickinger III, a retail and grocery store advisor. “It’s the proverbial David versus Goliath story.”

On some degree, FreshDirect’s struggles are a standard evolution: A start-up pioneers a brand new enterprise, earlier than well-funded imitators regularly overtake it. However the firm’s future additionally represents a take a look at of whether or not Amazon, with its deep pockets and huge logistical infrastructure, can dominate recent meals, a market through which regional firms like FreshDirect have traditionally thrived.

Final month, the grocery store chain Fairway, one other New York establishment, filed for chapter for the second time in 5 years, blaming the elevated competitors from nationwide retailers like Amazon and Dealer Joe’s. Within the fall, the asset-management arm of JPMorgan Chase, which led a $189 million funding in FreshDirect in 2016, mentioned promoting its stake with a handful of regional and nationwide grocery chains, in response to Mr. Flickinger, who mentioned he had mentioned the matter with a number of the chains that JPMorgan approached. (He declined to call the chains; the talks had been beforehand reported by The New York Submit.)

Nonetheless, Mr. McInerney insists he isn’t apprehensive about FreshDirect’s opponents. The corporate has been worthwhile prior to now, although a spokeswoman declined to disclose any particulars about its present monetary efficiency, besides to say it’s “exhibiting double-digit income progress.” In 2017, FreshDirect generated $600 million to $700 million in gross sales, in response to information stories.

FreshDirect didn’t dispute that JPMorgan had mentioned promoting its stake, although Mr. McInerney mentioned the corporate had no “quick plans” to be acquired by a competitor. (JPMorgan’s asset-management department declined to remark.) In the meanwhile, FreshDirect delivers to New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., in addition to some components of Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. However Mr. McInerney, a loquacious and energetic former chef, has an expansive imaginative and prescient for the corporate’s future — a supply empire stretching from Washington to Boston.

“Our aim is actually to manage the Northeast hall,” he mentioned. “If I had been to look into the longer term, there could possibly be a bifurcation of purchasing, the place individuals are shopping for packaged items in a single place and recent meals in one other.”

That’s an argument grocers throughout the US make with growing regularity, hoping that culinary experience and regionally sourced provide chains will permit them to compete with the logistical superiority of Amazon. In November, Kroger modified its slogan to “recent for everybody” — a branding transfer that consultants say was meant to emphasise its benefits over on-line rivals which have much less expertise supplying recent meals.

“Lots of the massive supermarkets are ensuring that they’ve higher-quality vegetables and fruit, higher-quality ready meals, higher-quality deli counters,” mentioned Judah Frommer, a grocery business analyst at Credit score Suisse. “That’s quite a lot of the way in which that native grocers are combating Amazon.”

FreshDirect, in fact, has no retail shops. Its fastidiously chosen meats, cheeses and produce are delivered from distribution facilities just like the warehouse within the Bronx and a separate facility in Prince George’s County in Maryland.

During the last 18 months, the corporate has made a sequence of changes to regain the belief of consumers who felt burned by the supply points in 2018. Previously, clients who reported lacking objects obtained retailer credit score and an apology. Now, FreshDirect gives to ship lacking objects instantly, at no further value. And first-time clients get their groceries in a special coloration bag than an everyday supply, so FreshDirect’s drivers know to be particularly cautious.

However most of all, FreshDirect has staked its future on offering high-quality recent meals from all over the world. On a current afternoon, Mr. McInerney bounded by the Bronx warehouse, grabbing passing colleagues by the shoulders and enthusiastically shaking their palms. Then he stopped subsequent to a field of unusually massive blueberries.

Earlier than turning into chief govt, Mr. McInerney served as FreshDirect’s “chief meals adventurer,” touring extensively with a group of meals retailers to scout new merchandise. On one journey, he mentioned, he visited FreshDirect’s blueberry provider, David Jackson, at his farm in California. In a shed the place blueberries had been being packed into containers, Mr. McInerney observed that some berries had been bigger than others.

“I mentioned, ‘Dave, may you type out simply the largest ones for me?’” he recalled. And so FreshDirect’s signature “jumbo blueberries” had been born.

“It was solely as a result of we had boots on the bottom that we noticed that, one thing the farmer could not consider on their very own,” Mr. McInerney mentioned.

Mr. McInerney tells an analogous origin story about FreshDirect’s eggs — besides, in that case, he picked out an unusually small, particularly flavorful selection.

However irrespective of how flavorful, eggs need to arrive intact for purchasers to proceed ordering them. And after the change to the Bronx, such primary necessities turned difficult for FreshDirect. Meals was out of inventory. Orders arrived late or went lacking. Prospects had been livid.

The logistical chaos was largely the results of inadequate planning and a rushed transition to the brand new facility, which was a lot bigger and extra complicated than the Lengthy Island Metropolis headquarters, in response to six folks accustomed to FreshDirect, together with a number of present and former staff.

It was additionally in keeping with a broader lack of group throughout the corporate. For years, former staff mentioned, FreshDirect’s web site had been unwieldy, making it tough and time-consuming to submit updates.

After the preliminary points on the new headquarters, FreshDirect develop into higher organized and extra streamlined, with the assistance of a advisor at AlixPartners, Holly Etlin. For one factor, conferences turned extra environment friendly, in response to a former worker. Ms. Etlin was a stickler for punctuality and barred staff from having laptops out throughout conferences she attended. (Ms. Etlin declined to remark.)

“Like many companies going through a transition, we had enlisted inner and exterior experience to ensure we emerged in a fair higher place to develop,” mentioned Sabrina Strauss, a spokeswoman for FreshDirect. “They helped us on an interim foundation to assist our enterprise and hold us on a optimistic trajectory.”

Now FreshDirect is trying to transfer previous its issues within the Bronx. Mr. McInerney professes to be extra all in favour of recent fish and poultry than potential acquisitions or competitors from Amazon.

“What we do is deal with what we do effectively,” Mr. McInerney mentioned. “Which is recent meals.”

In a storage room within the Bronx headquarters, he took out a field containing a big halibut, digging by a layer of ice crystals till the glistening scales emerged.

“That’s a beautiful fish,” he exclaimed, lifting it out of the field. “Have a look at how stunning that’s. This fish got here out of the water yesterday.”

He put it again down.

“Fairly cool, proper?”

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Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: Supply and demand

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Apple provider Foxconn Know-how Group, the world’s largest contract electronics producer, has warned that expertise provide chains are being disrupted by the coronavirus epidemic.

“As we’re shifting forward with the reopening of mainland China manufacturing complexes in a comparatively cautious method, this can certainly have a unfavorable influence on full-year revenues,” Hon Hai, the group’s Taipei-listed flagship firm, stated in an announcement to the Taiwan Inventory Change on Thursday.

Earlier within the week Apple had issued a monetary alert that disruption from the virus outbreak would trigger it’s revenues to fall brief within the present quarter. The corporate stated it was “experiencing a slower return to regular circumstances than we had anticipated”, main it to warn that it’ll not meet the income steering issued on the finish of final month. The manufacturing issues will shine a highlight on vulnerabilities within the tightly co-ordinated community of suppliers that Apple has constructed to assist the iPhone.

Others grappling with the provision chain disruptions embody Samsung, which has begun flying digital elements for its newest Galaxy telephones from China to its factories in Vietnam, and LG Electronics, one other South Korean expertise producer, which produces largely low to mid-end smartphones in Vietnam.

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Cell biology – Mapping cells to build a complete atlas of the human body | Science and technology

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BODIES ARE made from cells. Plenty of them. A median grownup human accommodates about 37.2trn cells, 100 occasions as many because the variety of stars within the Milky Means. Clearly, attempting to map the placement of each certainly one of these cells could be a futile endeavour. However cells are usually not equivalent. They’re divided into many sorts, every specialised for various duties. Mapping the placement of every of those varieties is a extra tractable downside. And that’s the goal of the Human Cell Atlas undertaking, a collaboration of researchers from 1,029 institutes in 71 international locations world wide. Work on the atlas started in 2016, and its organisers hope to finish the trouble by the tip of this decade. A number of of these concerned gave a progress report back to the AAAS assembly in Seattle.

As Aviv Regev of the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how defined, compiling the atlas has been made attainable by a way referred to as single-cell transcriptome sequencing. This seems to be, a cell at a time, on the messenger molecules which carry directions from a cell’s nucleus to the protein-making equipment in its cytoplasm. These messengers are made by transcribing genes right into a DNA-like chemical referred to as RNA. All an organism’s cells have kind of the identical DNA. What makes them completely different from one another is which bits of that DNA are being actively transcribed, and thus what proteins are being made. This implies figuring out and counting the RNA messengers reveals what kind of cell it’s.

One early discovery the undertaking’s researchers have made is that there are a lot of extra forms of cell than the textual content books recommend. Human cells have about 20,000 protein-coding genes and so possess 20,000 completely different attainable messengers. One method to classify cells, Dr Regev defined, is to plot a graph that has 20,000 axes, every similar to a gene’s exercise, after which plot explicit cells as factors on this graph. Clearly, such a graph would in a bodily kind be unattainable, however it could possibly exist and be manipulated in a pc. Plotting cells out on this means reveals how they cluster collectively. These clusters are cell varieties.

Primarily based on cells’ look underneath a microscope, and their reactions with chemical stains used to make them seen to microscopy, early histologists got here up with about 300 cell varieties in a physique. Single-cell RNA sequencing is multiplying that quantity by displaying that cells which look related underneath a microscope usually become chemically completely different from each other. It has additionally discovered beforehand unknown cell varieties so uncommon that microscope research have missed them.

One instance Dr Regev proffered issues the liner of the airways of the lungs. This tissue, pulmonary epithelium, is extra simply sampled pre mortem than many others, so was an early candidate for investigation. The textual content books recommend it has six forms of cell in it. RNA evaluation confirmed that three of those six can themselves be divided into three, and that there are additionally two minor cell varieties earlier investigators had ignored. This turned out to be an essential discovery, as a result of one of many minor varieties proved to be the place the gene concerned in cystic fibrosis, a deadly hereditary illness of the lungs, is lively.

Having recognized particular person cell varieties on this means, it’s then attainable to find them inside tissue samples. Fluorescent chemical compounds hooked up to molecular tags that can stick solely to explicit RNA messengers present up the cells containing these messengers. This allows development of three-dimensional maps into which an observer might zoom to disclose ever finer ranges of element, in the identical means that the zoom management works on an web map of Earth.

That makes understanding the microscopic particulars of anatomy a lot simpler. Shannon Hughes, of America’s Nationwide Most cancers Institute, illustrated this with the instance of pores and skin most cancers. Tumours are significantly good targets for transcriptome sequencing as a result of they’re brought on by genetic mutations that present up within the RNA messengers. This has led to a parallel effort to the Human Cell Atlas, the Human Tumour Atlas, a community devoted particularly to finding out most cancers. And, like the liner of the lungs, the pores and skin is well sampled. Dr Hughes and her colleagues have been in a position to detect pre-cancerous pores and skin cells (these with out the complete complement of mutations wanted to make them cancerous), and observe how these are already attracting the eye of immune-system cells referred to as T-lymphocytes, which burrow by means of the pores and skin tissue to assault their targets.

Kerstin Meyer of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Britain, in the meantime, trailed the publication of an entire map of an organ referred to as the thymus. This has subsequently appeared on February 20th as a paper in Science, the AAAS’s home journal,

The thymus, situated simply above the lungs, is the place T-lymphocytes develop. By taking a look at 25 thymuses from embryos, fetuses, kids and adults, Dr Meyer and her colleagues have constructed a map that stretches by means of time, in addition to area. Their transcriptome sequencing distinguishes greater than 40 cell varieties, and so they can observe the ebb and stream of those at completely different levels of life.

The thymus is, admittedly, however a small continent on this planet that could be a human physique. Mapping it’s, nevertheless, an essential advance for the mobile cartographers. Larger organs will observe quickly. The consequence would be the most granular view but obtained of human anatomy.

This text appeared within the Science and know-how part of the print version underneath the headline “An atlas of the innerverse”

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