A 1,500-year-old skeleton suggests that leprosy may have spread to England from Scandinavia. The bones of the male skeleton show changes consistent with the disease, scientists found, including a narrowing of the toe bones and damage to the joints.

DNA and isotope analyses confirm the leprosy diagnosis and suggest that the man was from southern Scandinavia, possibly the region that is now Denmark. The strain of leprosy he carries dates to the fifth or sixth century A.D.

“We didn’t expect to find leprosy at this early stage in Britain,” said Sonia Zakr­zewski, a bio-archaeologist at the University of Southampton in England and one of the study’s authors. She and her colleagues reported their conclusions in the journal PLOS One.

The skeleton was discovered in Great Chesterford in Essex, England, during the 1950s. The findings make a strong case for researchers to revisit museum collections and perform DNA analyses on skeletons that were discovered long ago, Zakrzewski said.


Beetle found, no sign of relatives

A newly identified beetle species in the wetlands of South Africa has no direct relatives on the continent, a study reports.

“To the uninitiated, it looks like yet another black beetle,” said David Bilton, an aquatic biologist at Plymouth University in England and an author of the report, published in Systematic Entomology. “The thing that’s interesting about this one is that it doesn’t have any relatives in the whole of South Africa.”

The diving beetle, Capelatus prykei, is about two-fifths of an inch long — large compared with other diving beetles. Although diving beetles are found worldwide — there are more than 4,000 species — DNA analysis revealed that the new species has no relatives in Africa. “Its closest relatives are in Australia and New Guinea, and in the Mediterranean,” Bilton said.

The beetle lives in the fynbos, an ecosystem in the Western Cape of South Africa. The climate is similar to the Mediterranean’s, contributing to great biodiversity. The region has also been climatically stable for about 9 million years, making extinctions rare.

The researchers know of only one living population of Capelatus, in Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. Other populations may have died out because of urban development, Bilton said.


Evidence of particle decay

Smashing protons together in search of strange particles, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva said they have discovered signs of particle decays that have long been predicted, but have never before been seen.

The decay pattern of the two B mesons, described in the journal Nature, could help researchers test the limits of the standard model of particle physics and probe unexplained cosmic phenomena, including the existence of dark matter and the dearth of antimatter in the universe. Three years after the discovery of the Higgs boson — a find that earned the theorists who predicted its existence a Nobel Prize — CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has been upgraded to search for particles at even higher energies than before.


Wearing red may alter perception

Heads up, men : Pulling on a bright red shirt in the morning may change the way people perceive you.

According to a study published in Biology Letters, most of us think men dressed in red look more aggressive, dominant and angry than if they were clad in gray or blue.

The research team, led by anthropologist Diana Wiedemann of Durham University in England, points out that male zebra finches with red leg bands get more access to resources, and some monkeys have been known to avoid people wearing red.

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