Before the dinosaur age, the fungi age

This video is called Evolution: coevolution of the ant and fungi.

From Discovery News:

Fungus Feasted Off World’s Worst Extinction

Michael Reilly, Discovery News

Oct. 2, 2009 — In the wake of the world’s worst mass extinction 250 million years ago, life on Earth was nearly nonexistent. All across the supercontinent Pangea, once lush forests lay in ruins, the corpses of trees poking like matchsticks into the poisoned air.

In their place fungus ruled the land, according to a new study. It feasted on defunct wood, spreading across the planet in an orgy of decay.

The finding offers evidence against an alternative theory that rampant algae fed off the dead forests and puts to rest an old idea that an asteroid impact may have had a hand in the massive destruction.

“This [fungus] was a disaster species, something that perhaps enjoyed the extinction a little more than it should,” Mark Sephton of Imperial College London in the United Kingdom said. “It proliferated all over the globe.”

Sephton and a team of researchers studied rocks containing microscopic fossils from the extinction. They were trying to settle a decades-old debate: Were the remains in fact the fungus Reduviasporonites, or algae, as had previously been thought?

Carbon isotopes within the fossils indicated the organisms ate wood while they were alive, a strong sign that they were fungus.

“What we’re looking at is a lot of plant die-offs concentrated in time,” Peter Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco said.”We’re most likely looking at episodes of intense greenhouse warming, and chemical changes in the atmosphere that made it unsuitable for the huge, massive forests living at the time.”

The team’s results were published yesterday in the journal Geology.

The finding has important implications for the Permian-Triassic extinction, which wiped out a large majority of life on the planet. If the fossils had turned out to be algae, it would’ve suggested a soggy, swampy world dominated by gradual changes in climate and the environment.

But in this ancient murder mystery, fungus fits. Modern forests ravaged by acid rain are covered in the stuff, and scientists generally believe that the titanic eruptions of the Siberian Traps, a large volcanic province in Russia, choked the atmosphere and blighted the land with acid rains. The harsh conditions lasted for hundreds of thousands of years.

And it further puts to rest the idea that an asteroid impact caused the destruction.

“Fungal presence starts to increase just before the main extinction; it’s not as sudden as the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction [which killed the dinosaurs].” Sephton said. “The idea of a declining ecosystem doesn’t exactly fit will with an extraterrestrial impact event.”

See also here.

New findings show a quick rebound from marine mass extinction event [65 millon years ago]: here.

A new breakthrough by scientists at the University of Sheffield has shed light on how the Earth’s first plants began to colonise the land over 470 million years ago by forming a partnership with soil fungi: here.

(Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) A team of biologists has discovered an entirely new group of algae living in a wide variety of marine and freshwater environments. This group of algae, which the researchers dubbed “rappemonads,” have DNA that is distinctly different from that of other known algae. Based on their DNA analysis, the researchers believe that they have discovered not just a new species or genus, but a potentially large and novel group of microorganisms: here.


850 new animal species discovered in Australian caves

This video says about itself:

This may be the first footage of the rarest Tasmanian invertebrate, the highly threatened cave pseudoscorpion.

From Wildlife Extra:

850 new invertebrate species discovered in Australian caves

28/09/2009 17:22:56

Whole new habitats discovered underground in Australia

September 2009. Australian researchers have discovered some 850 new species of invertebrates, including insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others, living in underground water, caves and “micro-caverns” amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.

Britain: Cave spiders relocated back to their underground home: here.

Pictures: “Bizarre” New Tailless Whip Scorpions Found: here.

New pseudoscorpion discovered in Yosemite National Park (w/ Video): here.

May 22, 2013 — Two new species of cave-dwelling short-tailed whipscorpions have been discovered in northeastern Brazil, and are described in research published May 22 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Adalberto Santos, from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil) and colleagues: here.

If any group of animals looks like a nightmare made real, it’s the whip spiders. Also known as whip scorpions, these creatures look like flattened versions of true spiders, and they’re close relatives of their namesakes. Their front pair of legs has been transformed into long ‘whips’, which they flail ahead of their bodies to search of prey: here.

USA: Two ‘Pseudoscorpions‘ Discovered in Grand Canyon Cave: here.

New Indian lizard species discovered

Newly discovered lizard in India. Credit Bombay Natural History SocietyFrom Wildlife Extra:

New lizard species discovered in India

30/09/2009 14:50:59

Efforts on to highlight the rich bio-diversity of country’s most industrialised state

September 2009. Scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society, with help from Villanova University in the USA, have discovered a new species of lizard, named Cnemaspis kolhapurensis.

Cnemaspis are small lizards, generally seen in forests, although a few have been found in human habitations as well. In India the geckos of this genus are mostly known from the Western Ghats and a few from Eastern Ghats. This discovery comes soon after the recent discovery of two other species of lizards, Hemidactylus sataraensis and Hemidactylus aaronbaueri, in Maharashtra.

The new species was first seen by Mr Varad B Giri, Curator of the BNHS during a survey in the Western Ghats. Close observations about the lizard revealed interesting facts.

This species is known from only one locality; interestingly this locality is close to human habitation. This and the other two recent discoveries prove the fact that the Western Ghats region of Maharashtra has a unique diversity of amphibians and reptiles, which has still not been fully explored and studied. This region needs an immediate and serious attention. If not then India may lose many species before they are known to science.

A Satanic leaf-tailed gecko, a type of lizard that can camouflage itself to resemble a shrivelled autumn leaf, has been captured on camera in a stunning image: here.

Agama lizards: here.

Cuban poet Cintio Vitier dies

Cintio VitierFrom AFP news agency today:

Cuban poet Cintio Vitier dead at 88

HAVANA — Cintio Vitier, the Cuban poet, essayist and novelist, who won the Juan Rulfo prize for literature in 2002 and was considered one of Cuba‘s foremost intellectuals, has died aged 88.

Local television reported, without providing details, the death of Vitier, who also won Cuba’s National Literature Prize in 1988 and was awarded the title of Officer of Arts and Letters by France.

Born in Key West, Florida on 21 September, 1921, Vitier helped start the journal “Origins,” which brought together some of the island’s leading intellectuals.

His most famous works include “From Pena Pobre,” and volumes of poems including “Evenings” and “Testimonies.”

He was also awarded the Order of Jose Marti by then-Cuban President Fidel Castro for his studies on the Cuban independence figure.

Noam Chomsky on the Cuban 5: here.

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