Published: Wednesday 31 August 2005

are readily able to degrade crude oil. Scientists from the Estacin Experimental del Zaidn in Granada investigated in situ crude oil degradation after the Prestige oil tanker accident off the Spanish coast in November 2002.

The study also concluded that, probably due to frequent contamination of that coast, indigenous microbial population had evolved to select organisms that are able to grow and degrade crude oil.

plastic detector: Although metal detectors help commercial food processors keep metal fragments from ending up in finished products, these detectors can't identify plastic and other foreign objects.

John Stewart, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in the US, is now finalising a computer vision system that will detect and remove coloured foreign objects as food products move on a conveyor belt. If the system sees an object it doesn't recognise, it records the digital image and sets off an alarm and kick-off device that removes the product from the line.

gorilla deaths: Poaching has emerged as the number one killer of mountain gorillas, followed closely by respiratory diseases, according to a survey. The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, based in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, studied the cause of death in 100 gorillas since 1968. The team found 40 deaths were due to trauma, for which poaching is almost always the cause. But more surprising was the effect of respiratory diseases, including influenza A and parainfluenza viruses, which accounted for 24 deaths.

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