DNA from an underwater site suggests that there was wheat in Britain 8,000 years ago — 2,000 years before farming arrived in the region.

The research suggests that wheat somehow made its way from the Neolithic farmers of Southern Europe to the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of present-day Britain.

The farmers and hunter-gatherers may have been trading, said Robin Allaby, a plant geneticist at the University of Warwick and an author of the new study, which appears in the journal Science.

Stone tools found at the site resemble those found in northern France, another clue that there may have been trade between the two groups.

The researchers analyzed sediment cores from Bouldnor Cliff, on the coast of the Isle of Wight, and found ancient DNA from certain wheat strains. There was no evidence of cultivation, however, suggesting that the hunter-gatherers obtained the wheat as flour.

“They would probably add water to it and make a flatbread,” Allaby said.

For some reason, the hunter-gatherers in Britain waited 2,000 years after being introduced to wheat to take up farming themselves.


Bees can stumble with memory, too

Bumblebees can remember the patterns, colors and scents of different flowers, researchers have discovered. But memory can fail in the bumblebee, just as it does in humans.

In a laboratory, Lars Chittka, a behavioral ecologist at Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues trained bumblebees to expect a reward when they visited a solid yellow artificial flower and one with black and white rings.

In a follow-up test minutes later in which no rewards were offered, the bees were shown the same two flowers, as well as one with yellow and white rings — a combination of the two originals. The bees showed a clear preference for the original flowers.

But a day later, when Chittka ran the same test, the bees became confused, sometimes heading toward the hybrid flower. After three days, the bees opted for the hybrid flower half the time.

Like humans, bees use memories to create rules about their environment, Chittka said. Now, he and his colleagues are using radar to monitor bees’ flower choices over their lifetimes.


Secret revealed of eyelashes

The mysterious function of eyelashes has been revealed.

After measuring the dimensions of nearly two dozen mammal eyes, performing a series of wind tunnel experiments and engaging in some fluid dynamic modeling, researchers determined that most mammal eyelashes are one-third the length of their eyes — just the right length to minimize the flow of air over the eyeball.

This reduction of airflow is important because less moving air across the eye keeps evaporation at bay and stops irritating dust from getting deposited on the eye surface, the scientists report in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. “All mammals have wet eyes, and airflow is the enemy of that,” said author Guillermo Amador, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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