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Scientists overturn idea racehorses can't get any faster

Racehorses are reaching faster and faster speeds, scientists have found, overturning research which suggested they had reached their galloping limit.

A team from the University of Exeter studied a total of 616,084 races run by more than 70,000 horses, with a broader focus on sprint races.

Racehorses are reaching ever-faster speeds, the study found Credit: PA

Previous research, which suggested speeds had reached a plateau, had largely concentrated on a small number of middle- to long-distance races.

It is not yet known whether the faster pace is down to breeding, better training, better jockeys, or a combination of these.

Researcher Dr Patrick Sharman said:

There has been a general consensus over the last 30 years that horse speeds appeared to be stagnating.

Our study shows that this is not the case and, by using a much larger dataset than previously analysed, we have revealed that horses have been getting faster. Interestingly, both the historical and current rate of improvement is greatest over sprint distances.

The challenge now is to find out whether this pattern of improvement has a genetic basis.

– Dr Patrick Sharman, University of Exeter

Rewards and rejection for Dorset's dinosaur heritage

Fossil hunters comb Dorset's Jurassic Coast. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Dinosaur footprints and the archive of novelist Thomas Hardy are among the treasures that helped Dorset County Museum attract more than £10m in Heritage Lottery Funding.

the 150-year-old museum has ambitious plans to build a new Discovery Centre so it can bring the rest of its collection out of storage.

It's not all good news for dinosaur fans though. Jurassica, the Attenborough-backed project to create a spectacular prehistoric attraction on Portland on the scale of Cornwall's Eden Project has been turned down for £16m of Lottery funding.

Also rejected for funding were plans to uncover the Roman baths beneath Exeter Cathedral.


Fish genetically mutated by Cornish mining

Research at Exeter University has linked the evolution of fish to pollution from Cornwall's mining boom.

Scientists have found that pollution from historic mines in the South West has "severely affected" the genetic diversity of local populations of brown trout.

The report highlights the difference between so-called clean rivers like the Camel and the Fal, with more contaminated rivers such as the Hayle.

Man regains feeling in paralysed arm decade after crash

Craig Stewart has movement in his arm for the first time in years. Credit: Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery, Morriston Hospital

A man from Devon whose arm was severed in a car crash can move it for the first time in a decade.

Surgeons reattached former serviceman Craig Stewart's limb after his accident ten years ago, but it was left paralysed - until now. Over the last three years doctors in Swansea have worked to restore movement.

Pioneering surgery at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery transferring a muscle from his thigh into his arm means he can now raise and bend that arm and move its fingers for the first time in years. You can find out more about the surgery here.

New sea creature discovered in Devon

The new discovery has been nicknamed the 'fairy anemone'. Credit: Robert Durrant

An new type of sea anemone have been discovered off the coast of north Devon.

Retired teacher Robert Durrant had no idea the tiny, 6mm creature was unknown to science when he spotted it in Hele Bay near Ilfracombe.

He posted a photograph to Facebook and asked experts, but nobody could identify it - so he took it home to his aquarium to feed it.

The breakthrough came when he took a backlit photo, which showed the anemone was transparent and covered in tiny tubercules. This helped French expert Wilfried Bay-Nouailhat to identify it as a different variety of Aiptasiogeton pellucidus, an anemone found in Dorset in the 70s before disappearing off the radar.

As the scientific name for the new discovery, Aiptasiogeton pellucidus var comatus, is a bit of a mouthful, Devon Wildlife Trust have asked Robert to name it.

I’d like to call it the fairy anemone, as it’s so small, delicate and elusive.

– Robert Durrant
The backlit photo which helped an expert identify the creature. Credit: Robert Durrant

Since the discovery, further anemones of this variety have been found at Newlyn in Cornwall

It’s amazing that new animal discoveries can still be made right on our shores. The north Devon coast is particularly rich in marine habitats and species, which is why local people nominated the area from Bideford to Foreland Point as a Marine Conservation Zone.

Government missed this site off the list in the first designations of MCZs in 2013, but we have a chance to secure protection for this stunning section of coast in the new year.

– Dan Smith, Devon Wildlife Trust


Tin mine clean-up could reap rewards

Scientists plan to use algae to clean up water from a Cornish tin mine Credit: ITV News

Researchers at Exeter University are hoping to use algae to clean up water from a tin mine.

The project is taking place at Wheal Jane in Cornwall. Scientists hope the work will have extra benefits in that the algae will harvest precious metals at the same time.

World Cup success for Plymouth's star robot athletes?

The team's star performer Mustachio Credit: Plymouth University

This year Plymouth is pinning its sporting hopes on a world cup team with a difference - they're all robots.

The Plymouth Humanoids, based at Plymouth University, will compete against the international elite of robot sport at the FIRA RoboWorld Cup in Beijing this week.

A five-strong squad of robots supported by academics and students from the University’s School of Computing and Mathematics, they will be led at the competition by monocle-wearing star Mustachio.

This team has previously won the Marathon and Sprint events, though in robot sport a marathon is 200m, rather than 26 miles.

Since these victories, new technical improvements have given the athletes better balance and gait control - no wonder they fancy their chances.

Our achievements in global events are furthering Plymouth’s reputation as one of the world-leading universities for robotic technology.

Through technical and software developments, our students and staff are pushing the boundaries of innovation and engaging new audiences with the potential for this technology to have a positive impact on their lives.

– Dr Phil Culverhouse, Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, Plymouth University
  1. West Country (E)

Archaeologists say lake village is well preserved

Building houses on a flood plain is always a contentious issue, especially after what happened on the Somerset Levels last winter, but it's nothing new. Archaeologists have been looking at a site at Glastonbury where they did just that, more than 2000 years ago.

Glastonbury Lake Village was built on a man made island in the wetlands and it's been very well preserved.

Archaeologists Bob Croft and Richard Brunning told us more:

  1. West Country (E)

2,200 year old Glastonbury Lake Village is excavated

2,200 year old Glastonbury Lake Village is excavated Credit: ITV West Country/Bob Cruwys

Archaeologists have been digging at the site of a 2,200 year old Iron Age settlement in Somerset.

Glastonbury Lake Village is one if Britain's best preserved sites from the era. It was last excavated over a hundred years ago.

Glastonbury Lake Village was last excavated over a hundred years ago Credit: ITV West Country/Bob Cruwys