What our fish and our b-ball players have in common

New Worlds: Israeli basketball players are significantly smaller than their European counterparts, and so are their red mullets - the fish, that is.

fish biz 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
fish biz 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israeli basketball players are significantly smaller than their European counterparts, and so are their red mullets - the fish, that is. University of Haifa researchers, along with Italian colleagues discovered that red mullets off the coast of Israel are about five centimeters shorter than those in Italian waters. The adult male Israeli fish is an average of 146.3 millimeters long, while females are 176 millimeters. The Italians are 195 mm. (males) and 218 mm (females). Prof. Ehud Spanier and Oren Sunin of the university's limnological institute say very young red mullets are longer, but this difference disappears with age; when fully grown Israeli red mullets are, on average, five centimeters shorter than Italian ones. The reason, said the researchers, is nutrition. In the eastern end of the Mediterranean, there are sharp variations in the amount of food, while near Italy the supply is much more stable. When there isn't enough to eat, the mullets develop at a different pace. They have a growth spurt, and when they reach adolescence and can multiply, they compensate for the lack of food and grow more slowly. The young European fish, however, can take their time, reaching adolescence more slowly before producing offspring. Thus they are able to end up five cenimters longer than their Israeli cousins. Mullets are a family (Mugilidae) of ray-finned fish found worldwide in coastal temperate and tropical waters, and in some species in fresh water also. Mullets have served as an important food source in Mediterranean Europe since Roman times. The family includes about 80 species. It seems as if European fish, like European people, know how to enjoy the good life and good meals (and perhaps a sip of good wine at lunch?). But stressed Israeli life under constant pressure forces them to eat on the run. THREE JOIN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Three scientists have joined the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the government's official adviser on science matters. At a ceremony at the academy in Jerusalem, the three joined the other 93 current members and delivered lectures on their field of interest. Fifty-three of the academy members are in the natural sciences and the rest in social sciences and humanities. The new ones, appointed in a general meeting of the academy after nomination by members in the two divisions, are Prof. Ya'acov (Gerald) Blidstein of the department of Jewish thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Prof. Chava Turniansky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Yiddish department; and Prof. Yosef Yarden of the biological control department of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Blidstein, renowned worldwide for his work on halacha and aggada, is the author of six books and scores of articles. He has also done extensive research on Maimonides. Turniansky, an emeritus professor, has studied the history of Yiddish culture during the pre-modern era, and received the Bialik Prize for Jewish Thought. Yarden is a research leader in the biological roles of hormone-like molecules called growth factors and their involvement in cancer. He is dean of the Weizmann school for master's degree studies, and chairman of the National Biotechnology Council. ABRAMSKY TO HEAD R&D COUNCIL Prof. Oded Abramsky, a senior neurologist and researcher at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, has been appointed chairman of the National Council for Civilian Research and Development by President Shimon Peres. The nomination has already been approved by the cabinet, as requested by Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadlah, and by Israel Academy of Sciences president Prof. Menachem Ya'ari. The national council, established in 2004, serves as the government's adviser for planning and organizing civilian R&D; recommends general national policy in this field to the government on an annual basis; recommends national priorities in civilian R&D; makes suggestions on infrastructure projects in science and technology; and advises the government and ministerial committee on science and technology and the forum of government chief scientists on matters connected to government R&D. Abramsky, 67, headed Hadassah's neurology department for 17 years and also chaired Hadassah's Agnes Ginges Center for Human Neurogenetics. Among his many positions, he also served as dean of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, chief scientist of the Health Ministry and chairman of the board of governors of the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation. A retired colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, Abramsky served as assistant head of research and development for the IDF and the Defense Ministry. A prolific researcher and writer, he has published four books and over 300 articles. He is also is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the American National Academy of Sciences. CLIMATE CHANGING FASHION You take an umbrella when rain is forecast. But actual change in climate will have a profound effect on clothes and fashion, changing styles, fabrics and laundering, according to a University of Maryland expert. "Remember Jimmy Carter's sweaters from the 1970s energy crisis? With Seventh Avenue proclaiming that 'green is the new black,' we can expect a surge in fashion innovations in response to climate change," says Jo Paoletti, an American studies professor at the University of Maryland, and an expert in apparel design and the history of textile and clothing. "As the impact of global warming is felt, we can anticipate debates over cotton versus polyester, and increasing concern about the water and energy needed to launder clothing," adds Paoletti, who has spent over 25 years researching and writing about clothing in America. "In the future, smart clothing that monitors and adjusts to body temperature may help reduce our need for air conditioning and heating." Climate change could also affect the frequency of buying new clothes, and the size of our wardrobes. "Shakespeare wrote 'fashion wears out more apparel than the man,' and that phrase is even truer today," says Paoletti. "North Americans buy more clothing than they 'need' and thrift shops and charities are swamped with our leftovers." OUTSTANDING YOUNG RESEARCHER Dr. Sigal Ben-Yehuda of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Medicine has won the President's Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher of the Year. The prize, named for the late president and rector of the university, Prof. Yoram Ben-Porath, is being awarded because her "groundbreaking scientific work, her publications and achievements have placed her in the front ranks of young researchers at the university," said HU president Prof. Menachem Magidor. Ben-Yehuda, of the molecular biology department, last year received the faculty dean's prize for outstanding young researcher of the year. She was also the only Israeli researcher chosen in 2006 as one of the participants in the prestigious EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) Young Investigator Program. Ben-Yehuda has led a group of HU researchers who succeeded in observing and describing for the first time how damaged DNA can be naturally identified through a cellular protein. This research sheds new light on the molecular mechanism involved in the search for and identification of damaged DNA, and will likely aid in further research on diseases in which damaged DNA is involved, such as cancer.