Goldfish survive harsh winters with alcohol

This video says about itself:

Goldfish go months without oxygen by making alcohol inside cells

11 August 2017

Goldfish and crucian carp have evolved enzymes that turn carbohydrates into alcohol when no oxygen is available – helping the fish survive in ice-locked pools. Read more here.

From the University of Liverpool in England:

How goldfish make alcohol to survive without oxygen

August 11, 2017

Scientists at the Universities of Oslo and Liverpool have uncovered the secret behind a goldfish’s remarkable ability to produce alcohol as a way of surviving harsh winters beneath frozen lakes.

Humans and most other vertebrate animals die within a few minutes without oxygen. Yet goldfish and their wild relatives, crucian carp, can survive for days, even months, in oxygen-free water at the bottom of ice-covered ponds.

During this time, the fish are able to convert anaerobically produced lactic acid into ethanol, which then diffuses across their gills into the surrounding water and avoids a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in the body.

The molecular mechanism behind this highly unusual ability, which is unique among vertebrates and more commonly associated with brewer’s yeast, has now been uncovered and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The international team has shown that muscles of goldfish and crucian carp contain not just the usual one, but two sets of the proteins normally used to channel carbohydrates towards their breakdown within a cell’s mitochondria — a key step for energy production.

While one set of these proteins appears very similar to that in other species, the second set is strongly activated by the absence of oxygen and shows a mutation that allows channelling of metabolic substrates to ethanol formation outside the mitochondria.

Further genetic analyses suggest that the two sets of proteins arose as part of a whole genome duplication event in a common ancestor of goldfish and crucian carp some 8 million years ago.

Dr Michael Berenbrink, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Liverpool, said: “During their time in oxygen-free water in ice-covered ponds, which can last for several months in their northern European habitat, blood alcohol concentrations in crucian carp can reach more than 50 mg per 100 millilitres, which is above the drink drive limit in these countries.

“However, this is still a much better situation than filling up with lactic acid, which is the metabolic end product for other vertebrates, including humans, when devoid of oxygen.”

Lead author Dr Cathrine Elisabeth Fagernes, from the University of Oslo, said: “This research emphasises the role of whole genome duplications in the evolution of biological novelty and the adaptation of species to previously inhospitable environments.

“The ethanol production allows the crucian carp to be the only fish species surviving and exploiting these harsh environments, thereby avoiding competition and escaping predation by other fish species with which they normally interact in better oxygenated waters.

“It’s no wonder then that the crucian carp’s cousin the goldfish is arguably one of the most resilient pets under human care.”

The work is the result of a collaboration between scientists at the University of Liverpool, UK, and the University of Oslo, Norway. The work was funded by the Research Council of Norway.


Bahamas pupfish, new study

Bahamas pupfish

This picture about Bahamas pupfish shows San Salvador Island generalists (red), molluscivores (green), large-jawed scale-eaters (dark blue), small-jawed scale-eaters (light blue), and outgroup species (black) in the Caribbean, California, and Mexico. Credit: Emilie Richards and Christopher Martin; CC-BY.

From PLOS:

San Salvador pupfish acquired genetic variation from island fish to eat new foods

Study finds that ecological and genetic factors both contributed to rise of new pupfish species

August 10, 2017

Pupfish living in salty lakes on San Salvador Island were able to diversify into multiple species with different eating habits, in part, by interbreeding with pupfish from other islands in the Caribbean, report Emilie Richards and Christopher Martin, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, August 10, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.

Pupfish are small, brightly colored fish that commonly live in coastal areas and salty lakes and feed off of algae. But on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, a group of pupfish has undergone adaptive radiation, a process where existing species rapidly evolve and differentiate into new species, to take advantage of a new environment. Where most pupfish species eat algae, one San Salvador species has a protruding nasal region that allows it to eat snails, while another has enlarged jaws that enable it to bite the scales off of other fish. To understand why these specialized species evolved only on San Salvador Island, despite the availability of scales and snails across the Caribbean, the researchers used whole genomes to identify regions of the San Salvador pupfish genome that came from outside sources.

They examined 42 pupfish genomes collected from populations on San Salvador Island, two distant Caribbean islands, Laguna Chichancanab in Mexico, and Devil’s Hole in California, to identify regions of the genome that have been exchanged between San Salvador Island and outside pupfish populations. They identified 11 gene variants in the San Salvador fish that came from other Caribbean pupfish populations, with four of these regions known to affect jaw size and shape, traits important in the evolution of their specialized diets.

The study suggests that multiple outside sources of genetic variation contributed to the adaptations found in pupfishes on San Salvador Island. These findings indicate that a complex suite of factors, including breeding with related species, in addition to new ecological opportunities, may be necessary for adaptive radiations to occur.

“The really intriguing thing here is that new species are assembled from different pots of genetic variation over a very large range. Our own species is likely no different,” says study corresponding author Dr. Martin.

Blue lizards less scared of humans with blue T-shirts

This video says about itself:

California Wildlife — Western Fence Lizard, “push-ups”, blue neck/undersides

20 August 2014

Ronald Caspers Wilderness Park, San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, California, USA.

From PLOS:

The color of people’s clothing affects lizard escape behavior

Lizards with blue patches tolerate closer approaches when people wear dark blue T-shirts

August 9, 2017

The color of T-shirts people wear affects escape behavior in western fence lizards, according to a study published August 9, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Breanna Putman from University of California, Los Angeles and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, U.S.A., and colleagues.

Animals often see people as predators, and animal behavior can be affected by nuanced aspects of human behavior including gaze direction, camera shutter noise, and clothing color. For example, several species of birds with orange or red body patches are more tolerant of people wearing orange or red. This tolerance has been explained by the species confidence hypothesis, which suggests that birds are less fearful of colors found on their own bodies. However, most of these bird studies tested responses to observers wearing bright orange versus dark gray, making it impossible to determine whether the birds responded to the color itself or to its detectability against the background environment.

Putman and colleagues tested the species confidence hypothesis further on western fence lizards in Southern California. Males of this species communicate with blue patches on the abdomen and throat. Putman wore T-shirts of different colorsm dark blue, light blue, red and gray, and measured how close she could approach lizards before they fled. After they fled, she determined how easy they were to catch. She approached lizards that were already used to human presence as well as lizards that had little experience with humans in their protected nature reserve. Altogether, she did nearly 30 trials for each T-shirt color. In addition, the researchers used reflectance spectroscopy to determine the conspicuousness of the T-shirts in the environment.

Irrespective of the lizard’s previous interactions with human, the study found that western fence lizards are preferentially biased toward dark blue, supporting the species confidence hypothesis. Notably, lizards fled at shorter distances when Putman wore dark blue than when she wore red (an average of roughly 100 versus 200 centimeters, respectively). In addition, she captured lizards about twice as often when wearing dark blue than when wearing red (84% versus about 40% of the time, respectively). Importantly, because the pattern by which lizards fled from different colored T-shirts does not associate with their conspicuousness (based on spectral sensitivities), this suggests that they are responding to color and not detectability.

The researchers suggest that the colors scientists wear in the field could affect ease of capture as well as behavior of study species. Moreover, the colors ecotourists and hikers wear could minimize disturbances to animals, which is critical because fleeing long distances when there is no threat could have fitness consequences. As Breanna Putman says: “What we wear can have indirect effects on animals through changes in their behavior.”

London Grenfell Tower disaster and after

This 9 August 2017 video is about a member of the British Socialist Equality Party addressing a meeting on the London Grenfell Tower fire inferno.

By Paul Mitchell in London, England:

Survivors, SEP member denounce police inaction over Grenfell Tower fire at latest community public meeting

11 August 2017

The fifth Grenfell Tower fire “community public meeting” was held Wednesday evening at Notting Hill Methodist Church.

It was convened by the Grenfell Response Unit, set up by Theresa May’s Conservative government to supposedly keep survivors and local residents informed of the measures being taken by the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) in the aftermath of the inferno.

Instead, the meeting confirmed that, eight weeks after the fire, few of the promised measures have materialised and that survivors and local residents continue to be treated with contempt. One after another, those in attendance spoke of the lack of help given to those with health problems and the failure to provide decent housing.

One survivor described the appalling impact of having seen “dead bodies, people jumping for their lives and children screaming.”

A local resident close to the tower explained, “I’m traumatised, my kids are traumatised. The Red Cross is a disgrace. I’ve emailed for help twice and got my MP [member of parliament] too, but still there is no response.”

Another said, “I live 40 yards from the tower and have been suffering chest problems from the air pollution since. Knowing that there was asbestos and cyanide, why was no one evacuated?”

A survivor said, “Before this fire, I was working, supporting myself, looking after my sick uncle who has mental health problems and physical health problems, as well as working… But since the fire I haven’t been eating properly, I haven’t been sleeping properly. I have mental health problems now.”

Another member of the audience related how so many people had been complaining to local general practitioners about breathing problems that it had become known as the “Grenfell cough.”

A woman stood up to apologise for not coming to previous meetings, explaining that she had been “burying my two dead lost relatives.”

The meeting in Notting Hill Methodist Church

“I was lucky to get my relatives back. But there are many who haven’t got them back. The police one-to-one [sessions] are just not working,” she concluded.

Another resident asked, regarding the “assistance” being offered, “Is Reiki an adequate substitute for having decent housing for children living in hotel rooms? Why is it taking so long to rehouse them? Forget about Reiki! Forget about yoga! Why aren’t the council providing housing and decent, adequate services?

“You talk about a tragedy. It is an avoidable disaster. You have blood on your hands. You’re an absolute disgrace,” she told the panel.

Judy Bolton, a local resident who lost her uncle, told RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell, “You should be so ashamed of yourself. You have no understanding or respect for these people in this tower and this community.

“Let me explain why: You say it’s a tragedy, it’s a disaster. This is an atrocity and it’s an atrocity that all of these people here today have said ‘We’re not getting help… our children are in one bedroom.’ This is two months on.

“My daughter goes to school and she comes home and says ‘Mum, there are empty desks in my classroom.’ We’re living with this every day. If you’re coming to this meeting, come prepared, come with a strategy, come with answers. Do not fob us off.”

Another speaker described the support provided for young people by the Grenfell Assistance Centre at the local Curve building as “disgraceful.” The Centre, according to the website, is supposed be providing “housing needs, emergency funds, health, social care services, experienced volunteers from the Red Cross and other organisations, food and above all, a kind and sympathetic team of people ready to provide advice on anything.”

The speaker described how young people are “broken, grieving, hurt and want answers.”

Campbell’s condescending and supercilious response to questions about the failure to provide homes—“We’re starting viewings again next week… It’s a slower process than you would have wished for… We’re getting there… We have a timeline… We have a strategy”—were shouted down.

Kensington Conservative leader Elizabeth Campbell

Survivors of the fire replied, “This is a humanitarian crisis and you don’t have any plan;” “You’re not helping anyone and blame the survivors for not accepting the first thing they are given;” “It’s two months and you can’t give a simple answer. You can’t even be prepared for this meeting;” “You keep coming back saying ‘I do not know, I cannot give any guarantees.’”

This reporter addressed the meeting. Introducing myself as a member of the Socialist Equality Party, I noted, “Just like Theresa May’s Public Inquiry these meetings are a cynical damage limit exercise. They are a fraud…

“Those who have attended in good faith have time and again heard representatives of the police insist that nothing can be revealed about the investigation and refuse to explain why no one has yet been questioned under caution, let alone arrested.

“To add insult to injury the Met’s ‘Gold Command’ are joined by representatives of the very organisation they should be investigating!”

I urged those in the meeting, “All the excuses being handed down as to why the guilty have not been arrested, we should reject them. Anyone who reads the national newspapers and watches the news knows that there is a cast-iron case for the prosecution. Indeed, if this level of evidence existed for the likes of us accused of the pettiest crime, we would already be sitting in jail…

“The central lesson of events since the Grenfell fire is that nothing genuine and lasting can be accomplished through the good graces of the Conservative government, the council, the Met … ”

To applause I concluded, “Everything depends on the survivors, local residents and the entire working class taking an independent stand.”

Grenfell Tower: How the warnings of cladding dangers were ignored: here.

Grenfell fire: “It’s like Victorian days, where we have nothing and they have everything”: here.

Four 13-storey blocks in Ledbury estate in Peckham, south-east London, at risk of collapse in the event of a gas explosion. Hundreds of people have been told they will have to leave their homes on an estate of tower blocks in London after safety checks carried out following the Grenfell Tower fire found the buildings had been at risk of collapse for decades: here.

Jurassic ‘flying’ mammals discovery

This video says about itself:

Flying Squirrel | World’s Weirdest

9 January 2013

Flying isn’t just for the birds. A stretchy membrane and rudder-like tail help this little mammal sail through the treetops, avoiding land-bound predators with ease.

From the University of Chicago Medical Center in the USA:

First winged mammals from the Jurassic period discovered

160-million-year-old fossils suggest a new model of life — gliding — for the forerunners of mammals, in an evolutionary parallel to modern mammal gliders

August 9, 2017

Two 160 million-year-old mammal fossils discovered in China show that the forerunners of mammals in the Jurassic Period evolved to glide and live in trees. With long limbs, long hand and foot fingers, and wing-like membranes for tree-to-tree gliding, Maiopatagium furculiferum and Vilevolodon diplomylos are the oldest known gliders in the long history of early mammals.

The new discoveries suggest that the volant, or flying, way of life evolved among mammalian ancestors 100 million years earlier than the first modern mammal fliers. The fossils are described in two papers published this week in Nature by an international team of scientists from the University of Chicago and Beijing Museum of Natural History.

“These Jurassic mammals are truly ‘the first in glide,'” said Zhe-Xi Luo, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and an author on both papers. “In a way, they got the first wings among all mammals.”

“With every new mammal fossil from the Age of Dinosaurs, we continue to be surprised by how diverse mammalian forerunners were in both feeding and locomotor adaptations. The groundwork for mammals’ successful diversification today appears to have been laid long ago,” he said.

Adaptations in anatomy, lifestyle and diet

The ability to glide in the air is one of the many remarkable adaptations in mammals. Most mammals live on land, but volant mammals, including flying squirrels and bats that flap bird-like wings, made an important transition between land and aerial habitats. The ability to glide between trees allowed the ancient animals to find food that was inaccessible to other land animals. That evolutionary advantage can still be seen among today’s mammals such as flying squirrels in North America and Asia, scaly-tailed gliders of Africa, marsupial sugar gliders of Australia and colugos of Southeast Asia.

Maiopatagium reconstruction, © April I. Neander, University of Chicago

The Jurassic Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon are stem mammaliaforms, long-extinct relatives of living mammals. They are haramiyidans, an entirely extinct branch on the mammalian evolutionary tree, but are considered to be among forerunners to modern mammals. Both fossils show the exquisitely fossilized, wing-like skin membranes between their front and back limbs. They also show many skeletal features in their shoulder joints and forelimbs that gave the ancient animals the agility to be capable gliders. Evolutionarily, the two fossils, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation northeast of Beijing, China, represent the earliest examples of gliding behavior among extinct mammal ancestors.

The two newly discovered creatures also share similar ecology with modern gliders, with some significant differences. Today, the hallmark of most mammal gliders is their herbivorous diet that typically consists of seeds, fruits and other soft parts of flowering plants.

But Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon lived in a Jurassic world where the plant life was dominated by ferns and gymnosperm plants like cycads, gingkoes and conifers — long before flowering plants came to dominate in the Cretaceous Period, and their way of life was also associated with feeding on these entirely different plants. This distinct diet and lifestyle evolved again some 100 million years later among modern mammals, in examples of convergent evolution and ecology.

“It’s amazing that the aerial adaptions occurred so early in the history of mammals,” said study co-author David Grossnickle, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. “Not only did these fossils show exquisite fossilization of gliding membranes, their limb, hand and foot proportion also suggests a new gliding locomotion and behavior.”

Thriving among dinosaurs

Early mammals were once thought to have differences in anatomy from each other, with limited opportunities to inhabit different environments. The new glider fossils from the dinosaur-dominated Jurassic Period, along with numerous other fossils described by Luo and colleagues in the last 10 years, however, provide strong evidence that ancestral mammals adapted to their wide-ranging environments despite competition from dinosaurs.

“Mammals are more diverse in lifestyles than other modern land vertebrates, but we wanted to find out whether early forerunners to mammals had diversified in the same way,” Luo said. “These new fossil gliders are the first winged mammals, and they demonstrate that early mammals did indeed have a wide range of ecological diversity, which means dinosaurs likely did not dominate the Mesozoic landscape as much as previously thought.”