World’s deepest sinkhole discovered in Mexico: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

The blue hole Izvor Cetine, Dalmatia. Image:

At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed.

Scientists just found the world’s deepest underwater sinkhole

Blue holes are underwater sinkholes that plunge down towards the ocean’s ground. They are hotspots of marine life, offering a home to diverse species, including sponges, sea turtles, and sharks. They also are characterized by unique seawater chemistry.

The Taam Ja’ Blue Hole (TJBH) in Mexico was previously known as the world’s second deepest blue hole. Now, writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, researchers in Mexico reported that instead of the previously measured 274 meters, the TJBH reaches 420 meters depth with no bottom yet reached.

Previous measuring attempts were hindered by instrument limitations. New methods, however, revealed water depths surpassing those of the Sansha Yongle Blue Hole, measuring 301 meters deep, in the South China Sea. Next to breaking the world record, the researchers also found hints that the TJBH could form part of system of interconnected underwater caves. To confirm this, as well as the blue hole’s final depth, more studies are needed, wrote the authors.

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At what age can we recognize basic emotions?

We use words to express ourselves. Facial expressions, however, might be even more telling about how we feel. Watching them also helps us to respond to others appropriately and gather information. This ability is also crucial for children’s emotional development and social interactions.

In a recent Frontiers in Psychology article, researchers in China have examined when children learn to recognize various basic emotions – happiness, disgust, anger, fear, sadness, and surprise.

They found that age played a significant role in children’s ability to recognize facial expressions. Around the age of eight, the ability to reliably tell apart basic emotions stabilized and improved thereafter. They also found that girls outperformed boys when it came to recognizing emotions. Interestingly, boys and girls differed in which emotions they learned to recognize quicker: Boys had a steeper learning curve when it came to recognizing disgust, fear, and anger. As girls aged, they improved quicker than boys at recognizing surprise, sadness, and happiness.

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Eating special mushrooms could help solve vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, immune function, and brain cell activity. Because there aren’t many foods that contain significant amounts of it, getting out there and into the sun is widely considered to be the easiest way to prevent deficiency.

Still, much of the world’s population is deficient – up to 72% in some regions globally. For those who can’t easily get outside, spend enough time there, or can’t intake enough of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ via select foods, there may be a different way, scientists in Australia recently wrote in Frontiers in Nutrition: Eating more mushrooms.

By exposing mushrooms (or other whole foods) to UV-lamp pulses, their vitamin D content can be increased significantly. Australian UV-exposed white button mushrooms, for example, can provide more than 100% of daily vitamin D requirements in a single, 75g serving. Other UV-treated mushrooms, too, can be better sources than oily fish and eggs, both go-to vitamin D sources.

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Protecting Antarctica could protect the few bird species living there

Of Antarctica’s vast landmass, less than 0.1% has been granted special protection. The areas that are protected are distributed unevenly and unrepresentative of the continent’s biodiversity. This is at a time when a changing climate, more pollutants, and human advances into remote areas threaten the Antarctic ecosystem.

The Gruber Mountains have been identified as worthy of special protection. These mountains are one of the largest nesting sites for snow petrels, one of only three bird species that has been seen at the geographic south pole. In this context, scientists conducted a snow petrel nesting site census. They published their findings in Frontiers in Conservation Science.

The researchers used unpiloted aerial vehicles to find snow petrel nests that are usually located in mountain cavities. They found more than 11,500 breeding pairs and enough nesting sites for twice as many pairs in an area of only 39 square kilometers, making the site an important breeding ground. This highlights the necessity of designating the Gruber Mountains as a protected area, the scientists wrote.

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Sleep deprivation can be seen in brain vital signs

Globally, 62% of adults report poor sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to situational cognitive impairment, a condition that in otherwise healthy individuals can affect information processing negatively.

Researchers in Canada recently set out to find if situational cognitive impairment caused by sleep deprivation can be detected by monitoring the vital signs of the brain. In their experiment, 30 healthy adults were scanned using portable EEG, a test that measures electrical brain activity, before and after either a night of regular sleep or a night of total sleep deprivation.

Writing in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, they found that brain vital signs show sleep deprivation effects. In the group that had spent a sleepless night, especially basic attention was reduced in the morning compared to the evening before. The researchers also highlighted that portable EEG could be deployed outside the laboratory and used in critical situations where sleep deprivation is a factor, for example among pilots.

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