China-Canada joint fossil discovery reveals dinosaur fight from 125 million years ago

An extraordinary story has emerged with the recent discovery of a rare fossil dating back approximately 125 million years ago, through joint efforts between Chinese and Canadian researchers. This fossil unveil a remarkable encounter where a large herbivorous dinosaur fell victim to an attack by a carnivorous mammal.

About the size of a large dog, the dinosaur fossil was identified as Psittacosaurus whereas the badger-like mammal fossil is an example of Repenomamus robustus, one of the largest mammals during the Cretaceous - a time when mammals had not yet become the dominant animals on Earth.

The two were found "locked in mortal combat," and "intimately intertwined," said Dr Jordan Mallon, the palaeobiologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature who handled the fossils.

The discovery of these two species Psittacosaurus and Repenomamus robustus was not a "novel finding" in and of itself, but the "predatory behaviour" on display is a rare find, Mallon emphasized.

Wu Xiaochun, a core figure on the project, told the Global Times that the fossils reveal the mammal was not feasting on an already dead dinosaur, but was actively attacking the animal.

"Similar articles that feature a predator mammal have been published before, but only until this one can we show it had its prey alive," said Wu, who is also the head of the Paleobiology Research and Collections Department of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
A typical case of a smaller predator attacking bigger prey, the fossils show, according to Mallon, that they had both lost their lives in the "roily aftermath."

While the fossil had been researched for years since it was first excavated in 2012 in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, the study was only published on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, a scholarly journal. Mallon is the co-author of the paper.

From excavation to publication, Wu played a pivotal role in bringing the researchers from China and Canada together for the project.

In 2012, the fossil was collected in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, more exactly from the Liujitun fossil beds, which are dubbed "China's Dinosaur Pompeii." After excavation, the fossils were in the care of study co-author Dr Han Gang in China, and later Wu helped Han connect with Mallon.

The research projects between China and Canada "will continue in 2023," Wu revealed to the Global Times.

"Joint research projects such as one on a marine reptile in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, is coming along," Wu said.

2 killed, 15 injured after tornado hit East China’s Jiangsu

Some towns in Yancheng, East China's Jiangsu Province, were hit by a tornado on Sunday afternoon. The tornado took two lives and injured 15 people, according to the local authorities. 

The tornado hit Yancheng at around 4:15 pm Sunday, in some towns in Dafeng district, Yancheng, under the influence of strong convective weather. The tornado was identified by experts as EF2 level (medium intensity), China Central Television (CCTV) reported Sunday.

The wind speed of a EF2-level tornado is estimated at 178 to 217 km per hour and usually causes a considerable damage. Under a EF2-level tornado, whole roofs ripped off frame houses, interiors of frame homes damaged, and small, medium, and large trees uprooted. Weak structures such as barns, mobile homes, sheds, and outhouses have been completely destroyed. Cars were lifted off the ground.

According to local authorities, two deaths and 15 injuries were reported from the disaster. All of the injured have been sent to hospital for treatment and none of the injuries are life-threatening. 

According to preliminary verification, 283 agricultural houses and 32 vegetable greenhouses have been damaged. The damage is being further verified, CCTV reported.

All the affected people have now been properly relocated, while post-disaster recovery and reconstruction work is being carried out in an orderly manner, according to CCTV.

Xi's moment: National Ecology Day debuts to raise awareness, commitments

Verdant villages prospering in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, Yangtze finless porpoise, also called the "panda in the water" for its rarity, being spotted more often in rivers, scientific expedition team members seeing lakes on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau with clearer water… all these significant changes over the past decades have marked China's continuous efforts to achieve a core concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," which gave inspiration to the country's first National Ecology Day.

On August 15, China's first National Ecology Day, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the whole society to vigorously promote and act as role models in practicing the concept that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.

Ecological conservation is of vital importance for the sustainable development of the Chinese nation, Xi said.

On the new journey of building a modern socialist country in all aspects, efforts should be made to maintain strategic resolve in advancing ecological progress and promote high-quality development in sync with high-standard protection, Xi said.

With a focus on carbon peaking and carbon neutrality, the country should facilitate the gradual transition from dual control over the amount and intensity of energy consumption to dual control over the amount and intensity of carbon emissions, Xi noted.

The country has already set ambitious goals of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

Observers believe that the National Ecology Day will not only help raise ecological awareness across society, but also provide an opportunity to share China's story of ecological civilization construction with the international community, allowing better participation in global environmental and climate governance.

Today marks the inaugural National Ecology Day, a pioneering and symbolic commemoration, reflecting the significant position of ecological civilization construction in the new era, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference on Tuesday. It embodies the steadfast determination to promote the construction of a Beautiful China and also demonstrates China's firm stance in actively participating in global environmental and climate governance, as well as its commitment to fostering a shared future for humanity.

Vigorous efforts

According to a bluebook on China's ecological conservation red lines released by the Ministry of Natural Resources on Tuesday, the red line of ecological conservation is approximately 3.19 million square kilometers, covering all 35 priority areas for biodiversity conservation in China and over 90 percent of typical ecological system types.

The ecological conservation red line refers to areas within an ecological space that have particularly important ecological functions and must be strictly protected on a mandatory basis, including water conservation, biodiversity maintenance, soil and water conservation, windbreak and sand fixation, and coastal ecological stability, as well as environmentally sensitive and fragile areas prone to soil erosion, land desertification, rock desertification and salinization.

China is a mega-diverse country in terms of biodiversity. The protection of biodiversity has been elevated to a national strategy and has become a consensus and action for the entire society, Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Over the past years, China has actively promoted biodiversity conservation, taking a series of robust measures, including the innovative establishment of the ecological conservation red line system," Ma said.

"Based on what we have observed, the demarcation of the ecological red line has been essentially completed across the entire country," he added.

Besides drawing the red lines, Chinese authorities make full use of resources such as satellites, manned and unmanned aircraft, fixed ground and mobile patrol monitoring to construct an integrated ecological quality monitoring network from "sky to ground," according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

Those monitoring measures focus on natural reserves, ecological conservation red lines and key ecological function areas, Huang Runqiu, head of the ministry, told a press conference on July 27.

More than over 5,000 key issues were identified in national nature reserves, and 79 ecological damage issues were found in five pilot provinces with ecological conservation red lines up to July 27.

Currently, China has over 30 laws on ecological and environmental protection, more than 100 administrative regulations, and over 1,000 local regulations, the National People's Congress said in a post on Tuesday. They lay a solid foundation for establishing and improving the system of ecological civilization.

Chinese authorities released a guideline on Tuesday to enhance the integration of law enforcement and administering justice in forestry and grassland affairs.

Jointly issued by the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the guideline is centered on building a coordination mechanism for administrative law enforcement and prosecutorial public interest litigation in forestry and grassland affairs.

In the past decade, the national forest coverage rate increased from 21.63 percent to 24.02 percent, according to a statement sent by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration to the Global Times on Tuesday.

China has contributed one quarter, the most in the world, to the increase in global green coverage. Grasslands have an overall vegetation coverage of 50.32 percent and their status has transformed from production to ecological purposes, the authority said.

Core concept

As the birthplace and first demonstration site of the concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," residents in East China's Zhejiang Province, especially Huzhou, have a more vivid experience of the concept.

Huzhou's Yucun village, previously the largest limestone mining area in Anji county, is an example as it transformed the local economy from mining to greener industries.

The air in the village used to be shrouded with coal dust and the green bamboo leaves on the mountains were covered in soot. Miners who came out of the mines looked all the same - all covered in black.

The change started in 2002 when Yucun village began shutting down the mines. The momentum of green development became stronger after Xi, then Party Chief of Zhejiang, raised the "two mountains" concept on August 15, 2005 during his inspection trip to the county.

Nowadays, former miners are able to wake up breathing fresh air every day and have sought out ways to make a living in industries related to eco-tourism, such as running guest houses and shops, as well as high-tech agriculture.

The "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" concept for local people is that they are able to enjoy beautiful and green ecology and at the same time live an abundant life, Chen Guangju, the deputy head of the "Two Mountains" Concept Research Institute affiliated with Huzhou University, told the Global Times.

What other places can learn from the Zhejiang experience is that the practice should first prioritize ecology and seek a development path that fits local conditions so as to reach the goal of common prosperity, Chen said.

The "two mountains" concept is and will lead to a new form of human civilization, Chen said.

China's ecological governance approach not only addresses domestic environmental issues but also has a positive impact on global sustainable development and climate management, Sun Shao, a senior researcher at Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

China's practices in ecological restoration and sustainable development can offer insights and lessons for other countries, propelling worldwide environmental conservation efforts, Sun said.

"Through collaborative initiatives, technology sharing and international cooperation, China plays a vital role in global environmental management, contributing to addressing global challenges such as climate change," he added.

Over 41% Chinese male participants diagnosed as overweight: study

Nearly 35 percent of a group of 15.8 million Chinese adults were classified as overweight, while the prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher in northern China than southern China, according to media reports on Monday, citing a study on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in China. The topic of obesity triggered a wide discussion online on Monday, with many calling for a focus on healthier lifestyles.

A study titled "Prevalence of obesity and associated complications in China: A cross-sectional, real-world study in 15.8 million adults" was published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, a journal of pharmacology and therapeutics on August 17.

The study showed a digital version of the China obesity situation based on the BMI (body mass index) classification of overweight and obesity in the country, with 34.8 percent of the 15.8 million adult participants being considered overweight, and 14.1 percent diagnosed as obese.

Being overweight and obesity were more prevalent in male than female participants, with 41.1 percent of male participants being overweight. The prevalence of being overweight peaked at age 50-54 years-old in males and at age 65-69 years-old in females, according to the study.

The study was based on data obtained from 519 Meinian health check-up centers across 243 cities, with eligible participants aged 18 years-old and above. The prevalence rates of overweight and obesity nationwide were standardized according to the 2010 China census by age group and sex, according to the study.

According to both WHO and Chinese BMI classifications, the prevalence of both overweight individuals and obesity was higher in northern China than southern China, with the highest prevalence seen in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, East China's Shandong Province and North China's Hebei Province, according to the study. 

Experts have noted that several factors have contributed to the high obesity rates in China such as sedentary lifestyles and a decrease in physical activity. Especially in teenagers, instances of being overweight or obese have become one of the serious challenges faced by young people, as it is reported that about 30 million teenagers are dealing with being either overweight or obese. 

The country has recognized the severity of the obesity and has carried out measures to address the rising trend.  In a notice released in July on improving China's basic public health services in 2023, the country has stressed the work in health services on key groups including prevention of overweight and obesity in children.

In 2020, Chinese authorities set a goal of reducing the average annual growth rates of overweight and obese children and adolescents by 70 percent from a baseline in the next 10 years.

Chinese students with valid US visas harassed by customs, a professional website providing comprehensive information services to overseas Chinese around the world, has recently received feedback from some Chinese students studying in the US, who said they had problems when entering the country and during their studies, which has affected their academic pursuits. 

According to the website, three Chinese students were recently detained and interrogated by personnel from the US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security for an extended period of time. The US officials confiscated electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones without any basis or valid permission and demanded access to the devices by requesting passwords. 

They repeatedly asked the students about their membership of the Communist Party of China and military background. Eventually, the US officials refused entry to the three Chinese students and coerced them into signing documents to abandon their visas.

According to feedback from the students involved, the methods used by the US authorities were harsh and illegal, and the questions asked were manipulative and threatening. 

Another Chinese student who went to the US to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering stated that he was interrogated by US law enforcement officers for a duration of 12 hours. The US authorities started by questioning his parents’ status as farmers and continuously harassed him about the source of his study funds. 

They searched his phone and seized photos related to his electrical engineering studies and his military interests, suspecting him of being a member of military personnel sent to the US to steal intelligence. The US authorities also refused the student’s request for a translator and did not inform him of his right to contact the Chinese Embassy in the US and other external parties. 

One student was suspected of having connections with the Wagner Group and was deported due to content related to the Ukraine crisis in a social media group chat. Another student was suspected of concealing work experience in the immigration process because he used pinyin to write the name of his previous employer instead of the official English name in his visa application materials. As a result, he was deported on the grounds of discrepancy in his visa application materials.

Another Chinese student was recently charged by the FBI under the so-called Presidential Proclamation 10043, accusing him of “intentionally concealing military education experience” and committing “visa fraud,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. But the student only attended a few classes that the US authorities deemed “sensitive,” and he was unjustly accused. Moreover, the FBI stole the student’s personal information from his study application materials and used it as “evidence,” severely violating his privacy.

Experts in the field of study abroad services pointed out that while the US claims to be open, inclusive, and supportive of academic freedom, it has politicized and weaponized academic research, and abused the concept of “national security” to suppress and persecute Chinese students in the US. 

During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in June, China and the US reached a consensus on expanding cultural and educational exchanges. However, while the US claims to welcome more Chinese students to study in the US, it continues to suppress them. The US’ “tolerance” and “freedom” are false, and its true intention is to restrain China by suppressing Chinese students, experts warned.

The actions of the US will undoubtedly have a chilling effect both within and outside the US, they said, adding that Chinese students planning to study in the US should carefully assess the risks and think twice before making a decision.

Senj Wind Farm exemplifies BRI cooperation between Croatia, China: company manager

The Senj Wind Farm, a project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is an example of the mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation between Croatia and China, said Luci Veljacic, manager of the Grupa Company in southern Croatia, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"For me and my company it was a great honor to be part of the Senj Wind Farm project," Veljacic said, adding that in July 2019, the Grupa Company was offered a contract for supervision and implementation of safety and health protection, fire protection and environmental protection during construction of the Senj Wind Farm project.

Despite numerous unfavourable conditions, including the extremely complex mountainous terrains, the COVID-19 pandemic, snow, strong winds and thunderstorms during the construction process, the Senj Wind Farm, undertaken by China's Norinco International Cooperation Ltd. (Norinco International), was completed on schedule and "without any worker injuries, deaths or incidents," Veljacic noted.

"During the construction, all legal regulations of Croatia and the European Union (EU) and all safety measures were observed to the maximum," Veljacic said.

The Grupa Company is one of the more than 70 contractors from across Croatia participating in the construction, and among the daily turnover of about 300 workers during the construction, more than half of them were from Croatia, Veljacic said, adding that most Croatian workers were from the local Lika-Senj County.

Moreover, participation in the project has made many Croatian companies gain extensive professional experience, which will certainly make them more competitive in the EU market, not just in Croatia, Veljacic said.

Veljacic hailed the "exceptional" cooperation with the Chinese side during the construction process.

"We had an exceptional cooperation, both professional and friendly, with all Chinese companies and workers at the Senj Wind Farm project," Veljacic said, noting that in spite of the language barrier, "we successfully communicated, negotiated, solved daily problems and performed work safely."

In addition, "We also found time to socialize during the project, getting to know the cultures of the two countries ... we talked about history, music, education, customs and the like," Veljacic added.

Veljacic was deeply impressed by the hard work and expertise of the Chinese workers during the construction process.

"During this project, Chinese workers performed the most demanding work and showed exceptional expertise, professionalism, endurance and technological progress," she said, adding that she and her company colleagues also received a lot of help from Chinese engineers who "were always ready to help with their professional knowledge and experience."

The Senj Wind Farm, located on the Adriatic coast of western Croatia and inaugurated in December 2021, produces about 530 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green electricity each year and reduces Croatia's carbon dioxide emissions by about 460,000 tonnes per year.

In the eyes of Veljacic, the Senj Wind Farm is a project valuable and important not only for the Lika-Senj County but also for the whole Croatia, as it can significantly contribute to the total annual production of electricity from clean and renewable sources, reduce electricity imports and further promote low-carbon development.

"With this project, Norinco International has become one of the largest investors in green energy and the green economy in Croatia ... The example of the Senj Wind Farm project, the joint successful cooperation of Chinese and Croatian workers and companies will certainly be further developed," Veljacic said.

Protected coral reefs may not be the ones that need protection

Most people don’t live close to a coral reef. If we want to visit one, we have to travel far, to the tropical waters that are home to these beautiful and diverse ecosystems. But, it turns out, most coral reefs aren’t that far from people. And it’s those really accessible reefs that we should be worrying about, a new study argues.

Eva Maire of the University of Montpellier in France and colleagues started by breaking up all of the world’s coral reefs into 1-kilometer-square cells. They then calculated how much travel time sat between each of those cells and the nearest human settlement, doing their best to account for whether a person would have to use a boat, a road or a meager track to reach the reef.
Fifty-eight percent of the cells are less than 30 minutes from people, the group reports February 15 in Ecology Letters. Most of those reefs can be found in the Caribbean, the Coral Triangle off Southeast Asia, the Western Indian Ocean and around islands in the Pacific. Others, such as those in the Coral Sea or the northwest Hawaiian Islands, are largely inaccessible, requiring 12 hours or more to reach — too far for a quick fishing jaunt.

Being close to people means that a reef and its resources can be more easily accessed and exploited. Proximity to a market — a source of income for fishermen with easy access to a rich catch — may make that even easier. The researchers found that a quarter of the reefs were within four hours of a major market, and nearly a third were more than 12 hours away. And how close a reef sat to a market appears to matter when it comes to the amount of fish swimming on the reef — those that are closer have lower amounts of fish, the team calculated.

Then the group looked at the pattern of protection for reefs. Many reefs are in marine protected areas that have been set up to limit exploitation. But the reefs most likely to be in a protected area are those that are far from people. An isolated coral reef is more than twice as likely to be protected than average.

The pattern is easy to explain. To set up a protected area, a government has to get everyone who is using that swath of ocean — for fishing, recreation, tourism or anything else — on board with the restrictions that will be placed on usage. And it’s a lot easier to do that with remote patches that not many people are using.

The problem with this, Maire and her colleagues note, is that it means that we may be protecting areas of the ocean that don’t really need protection. And it’s possible that the global goal of protecting 10 percent of the ocean by 2020 “can be met without actually reducing human impacts on the seascape,” they write.

There needs to be more work analyzing the pattern of marine protected areas before any such conclusion can be drawn. And there’s also something to be said for protecting coral reefs now, before they’re totally exploited. Corals already face an uphill battle for survival, given the threats of climate change and ocean acidification. Setting some reefs aside before fishermen and others can do damage doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Playing with building blocks for metamaterial design

BALTIMORE — Metamaterials, among the most intricate and skillfully designed configurations of matter ever devised by science, could be improved with the help of Legos.

Famous for their use in cloaking devices, metamaterials are artificial structures that play unnatural tricks with light and sound and other vibrations. Scientists have investigated the use of such materials for soundproofing rooms or protecting buildings from the shaking of earthquakes, among other things. But to do their jobs, metamaterials must be properly designed and fabricated using precisely manufactured components. Testing ideas for new metamaterials is therefore time-consuming and expensive.
So Paolo Celli and colleagues at the University of Minnesota sought alternatives. They considered 3-D printing, Celli said March 15 at a meeting of the American Physical Society. But the printing process can be slow and the “ink” isn’t cheap, so they rejected that idea. “That’s when we thought, ‘Why don’t we use Lego bricks?’” he said. Legos are relatively cheap and can rapidly be rearranged into all sorts of configurations.

Celli and colleagues arranged Lego bricks on a base plate attached to a wooden frame and investigated how the arrangements influenced the way vibrations traveled through the plate. For some arrangements, certain vibration wavelengths could not be transmitted. Manipulation of the Legos allowed the scientists to determine what processes created the forbidden wavelength zones (known as bandgaps), providing valuable data for future designs of real metamaterials.

Further experiments showed how Lego arrangements could identify metamaterial architectures that might provide a shield for buildings at risk from earthquake waves. “We might be able to design a metamaterial shield that might block some frequencies that can be harmful to that structure,” Celli said.

Ahmed Elbanna, a materials researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, called the work with Legos exciting and said in principle it could be applicable to designing metamaterials for some applications. He said he was “a little bit more skeptical” that it could result in useful earthquake protection.

Celli emphasized that the motivation behind the work was not solely to produce better metamaterials. “We’ve been looking for an agile and versatile experimental platform,” he said, “but we were also looking for something that people can relate to…. We think that this platform is probably very powerful” for promoting this branch of physics to a broader community.

Asked if he played with Legos as a child, Celli replied, “a lot.”

Spider diet goes way beyond insects

Spiders eat insects. That’s why some of us are reluctant to kill spiders we find at home — we figure they’ll eat the critters we really don’t want around. But a new study reveals that the spider diet is far more diverse than we learned in elementary school. Spiders are insectivores, sure, but many also have a taste for plants.

Only one species of spider is known to be completely vegetarian. Bagheera kiplingi jumping spiders of Mexico survive mostly on bits of acacia trees, Science News reported in 2008. And while scientists have yet to find any other vegetarian species, plant-eating appears to be very common, particularly among jumping spiders and spiders that make webs outdoors.

Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel in Switzerland and colleagues combed books and journals for reports of spiders consuming plant material. There is evidence of veggie-eating among more than 60 species of spiders, representing 10 families and every continent but Antarctica, the team reports in the April Journal of Arachnology.

Perhaps past scientists can be forgiven for overlooking the plant-eating behavior, as spiders can’t eat solid material. They have a reputation for sucking the juices out of their prey, but that’s not quite the right description. Instead, a spider covers its prey with digestive juices, chews the meat with its chelicerae and then sucks the juices in. This eating style means, though, that spiders can’t just cut a piece of leaf or fruit and chow down.

Some spiders feed on leaves either by digesting them with enzymes prior to ingestion (similar to prey) or piercing a leaf with their chelicerae and sucking out plant sap. Others, such as the vegetarian Bagheera kiplingi, drink nectar from nectaries found on plants or in their flowers. More than 30 species of jumping spiders are nectar feeders, the researchers found.

“During such [feeding], the spiders were seen pushing their mouthparts deep into flowers to drink nectar, similar to the way nectar-drinking insects feed,” the researchers write. And this isn’t accidental behavior — some spiders can feed on 60 to 80 flowers in an hour.

Pollen is probably another common plant-based food source for spiders, especially those that make webs outdoors. That’s because spiders eat their old webs to recycle the proteins. And when they eat their webs, they eat anything that might be caught on the sticky strands, such as calorie-rich pollen. Spiders might also be consuming tiny seeds and fungal spores this way, though the latter may be a risky meal as there are many fungi whose spores will kill spiders.
The researchers also found some cases of spiders intentionally eating pollen and seeds, and they also note that many spiders are eating plant material when they munch on plant-eating insects. Just how common plant-eating is among spiders isn’t yet known, but it could be even more common, especially among species that create webs outdoors.

“The ability of spiders to derive nutrients from plant materials is broadening the food base of these animals,” Nyffeler says. “This might be one of several survival mechanisms helping spiders to stay alive for a while during periods when insect prey is scarce.”

And with reports of spiders eating a whole menu of other non-insect foods — including crustaceans, earthworms and small vertebrates in the wild; and sausage and soy milk in the lab — it’s clear that we need to call them something other than insectivores.

Diverse yeasts make their home on coffee and cacao beans

When your barista says today’s cuppa joe has rich, spicy notes found only in Colombia’s soil or ‘terroir,’ he or she might not be completely full of … beans.

Before going global, the coffee bean plant originated in Ethiopia, while cacao was first cultivated in the Amazon. Both coffee and cacao beans undergo fermentation prior to roasting. Wild yeast and other microbes that live on the bean digest the pulp that coats the beans, altering flavor and color as well. Researchers wondered, are these yeasts a product of the plants’ current geography or their original roots?

So, they bought unroasted coffee and cacao beans from 27 countries, isolated bean yeasts and analyzed the yeasts’ genes. While coffee and cacao yeasts are even more diverse than wine yeasts, strains that came from the same continents and countries had more in common genetically with their immediate neighbors. Still, some cacao strains from South America share genes with European vineyard yeast and North American oak tree yeast. Such hybrids are probably the result of human trade and travel, the team reports March 24 in Current Biology.

Determining the flavor fallout of all this yeast diversity requires further study, but wine yeasts from different locales are linked to specific chemical profiles.