Buzzcocks punk musician Pete Shelley, RIP


This music video is called THE BUZZCOCKS – FAST CARS (LIVE 1981).

From the BBC, 6 December 2018:

Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley dies at 63

Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley has died at 63 of a suspected heart attack.

The punk band are best known for their hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

Their management told the BBC that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.

BBC music correspondent Lizo Mzimba said Buzzcocks, who formed in Bolton in the 1970s, were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols.

The band have tweeted saying Shelley was “one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks”.

His music inspired generations of musicians over a five-decade career with his band and as a solo artist, they said.

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Jurassic ichthyosaur was warm-blooded, new research


This 15 June 2018 video says about itself:

Ichthyosaurs 101 | National Geographic

Meaning “fish lizard” in Greek, the aptly-named ichthyosaur once dominated the world’s oceans for millions of years. Learn about these prehistoric marine reptiles and see how features, such as basketball-sized eyes and a vertical tail, helped the ichthyosaur secure a place at the top of the ancient food chain.

From the North Carolina State University in the USA:

Soft tissue shows Jurassic ichthyosaur was warm-blooded, had blubber and camouflage

December 5, 2018

An ancient, dolphin-like marine reptile resembles its distant relative in more than appearance, according to an international team of researchers that includes scientists from North Carolina State University and Sweden’s Lund University. Molecular and microstructural analysis of a Stenopterygius ichthyosaur from the Jurassic (180 million years ago) reveals that these animals were most likely warm-blooded, had insulating blubber and used their coloration as camouflage from predators.

“Ichthyosaurs are interesting because they have many traits in common with dolphins, but are not at all closely related to those sea-dwelling mammals,” says research co-author Mary Schweitzer, professor of biological sciences at NC State with a joint appointment at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and visiting professor at Lund University. “We aren’t exactly sure of their biology either. They have many features in common with living marine reptiles like sea turtles, but we know from the fossil record that they gave live birth, which is associated with warm-bloodedness. This study reveals some of those biological mysteries.”

Johan Lindgren, associate professor at Sweden’s Lund University and lead author of a paper describing the work, put together an international team to analyze an approximately 180 million-year-old Stenopterygius fossil from the Holzmaden quarry in Germany.

“Both the body outline and remnants of internal organs are clearly visible,” says Lindgren. “Remarkably, the fossil is so well-preserved that it is possible to observe individual cellular layers within its skin.”

Researchers identified cell-like microstructures that held pigment organelles within the fossil’s skin, as well as traces of an internal organ thought to be the liver. They also observed material chemically consistent with vertebrate blubber, which is only found in animals capable of maintaining body temperatures independent of ambient conditions.

Lindgren sent samples from the fossil to international colleagues, including Schweitzer. The team conducted a variety of high-resolution analytical techniques, including time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF SIMS), nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS), pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, as well as immunohistological analysis and various microscopic techniques.

Schweitzer and NC State research assistant Wenxia Zheng extracted soft tissues from the samples and performed multiple, high-resolution immunohistochemical analyses. “We developed a panel of antibodies that we applied to all of the samples, and saw differential binding, meaning the antibodies for a particular protein — like keratin or hemoglobin — only bound to particular areas,” Schweitzer says. “This demonstrates the specificity of these antibodies and is strong evidence that different proteins persist in different tissues. You wouldn’t expect to find keratin in the liver, for example, but you would expect hemoglobin. And that’s what we saw in the responses of these samples to different antibodies and other chemical tools.”

Lindgren’s lab also found chemical evidence for subcutaneous blubber. “This is the first direct, chemical evidence for warm-bloodedness in an ichthyosaur, because blubber is a feature of warm-blooded animals,” Schweitzer says.

Taken together, the researchers’ findings indicate that the Stenopterygius had skin similar to that of a whale, and coloration similar to many living marine animals — dark on top and lighter on the bottom — which would provide camouflage from predators, like pterosaurs from above, or pliosaurs from below.

“Both morphologically and chemically, we found that although Stenopterygius would be loosely considered ‘reptiles,’ they lost the scaly skin associated with these animals — just as the modern leatherback sea turtle has,” Schweitzer says. “Losing the scales reduces drag and increases maneuverability underwater.

“This animal’s preservation is unusual, especially for a marine environment — but then, the Holzmaden formation is known for its exceptional preservation. This specimen has given us more evidence that these tissues and molecules can preserve for extremely long periods, and that soft tissue analysis can shed light on evolutionary patterns, relationships, and how ancient animals functioned in their environment.

“Our results were repeatable and consistent across labs. This work really shows what we’re capable of discovering when we perform a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional study of an exceptional specimen.”

Hagfish and lamprey ears, new study


This 2017 video says about itself:

The hagfish is a slime-emitting ocean-dweller that’s remained unchanged for 300 million years–and it shows. It has a skull (but no spine), velvet smooth skin, and a terrifying pit of a mouth that’s lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth.

From RIKEN in Japan:

Evolution of the inner ear: Insights from jawless fish

December 5, 2018

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics (BDR) and collaborators have described for the first time the development of the hagfish inner ear. Published in the journal Nature, the study provides a new story for inner ear evolution that began with the last common ancestor of modern vertebrates.

Comparing organs among related animals can be helpful when trying to understand the evolutionary process, and will ultimately help us better understand organogenesis — the process through which organs develop. This underlying philosophy helped guide the collaborative effort to study the inner ear led by Shigeru Kuratani at RIKEN BDR.

The story begins with a difference between jawed and jawless vertebrates. Jawed vertebrates like humans have inner ears with three semicircular canals, which are what allow us to sense our position and stay balanced in the world, and especially to sense 3-D acceleration. The fossil record shows that a group of jawless fish from the Paleozoic era only had two semicircular canals. In order to understand the evolutionary changes that led [to] three canals, the team looked at the only two types of jawless vertebrates that still exist on earth: lampreys and hagfish.

Lampreys are thought to have two semicircular canals, while hagfish only have one. However, hagfish are no longer thought to be more primitive than lampreys. A series of molecular biological experiments was able to clarify the issue. Analyzing the regulatory genes that control the development of the semicircular canals showed that the basic pattern of inner ear development is similar for all vertebrates, including lampreys and hagfish. Key genes, such as Tbx1 and Patched were expressed at the same places with the same timing across all three types of vertebrate.

The anterior and posterior canals in jawed vertebrates appear to be genetically homologous to the anterior and posterior parts of the lamprey canal, while the pattern for the single hagfish canal is likely an evolved trait, not a primitive condition. The difference between the jawed and jawless fish is the presence of the common crus, a structure that connects the anterior and posterior canals in jawed vertebrates. The current study could not determine whether the common crus is something that jawed vertebrates gained or something that was lost in jawless vertebrates.

Further analysis focused on the Otx1 gene. This gene is required for proper development of the lateral canal, the third canal that is unique to jawed vertebrates. The researchers found that despite the lack of a lateral canal, lampreys and hagfish both expressed Otx1 in the proper location during development. This was somewhat surprising as its expression was thought to be an advent that led to the evolution of the lateral canal. Instead, it appears that Otx1 expression in the otic vesicle is an ancient feature for all vertebrates.

A more complete understanding will be possible by performing studies with an animal that represents the lineages before jawed and jawless vertebrates diverged.

Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses suspect of sexual abuse


This 29 May 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Tonight on A&E: Jehovah’s Witness Child Abuse Cover Ups. ‘Cults & Extreme Beliefs’

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Police raids at seven buildings in the Jehovah’s Witnesses abuse case

There were police raids at seven premises last month in the context of the investigation into sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses. The public prosecutor confirms this after reporting by RTL News.

The raids took place in, eg, Emmen, in the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In addition, two community buildings – so-called kingdom halls – and four dwellings of the religious community were searched.

Police were looking for documents of internal ‘lawsuits’.

Internal trials

Jehovah’s Witnesses has an internal system for treating cases like abuse. A complaint arrives at a special committee, after which a procedure is started that is not public.

Possible perpetrators are tried by the society and not reported to the police. Reports of cases are not shared with law enforcement.

At the beginning of August, Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to hand over a document to the Public Prosecution Service in which the confession of a perpetrator in a child abuse case is said to be.