Oldest of all animals discovered in Australia


Ikaria wariootia reconstruction (Sohail Wasif/UCR)

From the University of California – Riverside in the USA:

Ancestor of all animals identified in Australian fossils

A wormlike creature that lived more than 555 million years ago is the earliest bilaterian

March 23, 2020

A team led by UC Riverside geologists has discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most familiar animals today, including humans.

The tiny, wormlike creature, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut. The paper is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The earliest multicellular organisms, such as sponges and algal mats, had variable shapes. Collectively known as the Ediacaran Biota, this group contains the oldest fossils of complex, multicellular organisms. However, most of these are not directly related to animals around today, including lily pad-shaped creatures known as Dickinsonia that lack basic features of most animals, such as a mouth or gut.

The development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life, giving organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies. A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organized around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Evolutionary biologists studying the genetics of modern animals predicted the oldest ancestor of all bilaterians would have been simple and small, with rudimentary sensory organs. Preserving and identifying the fossilized remains of such an animal was thought to be difficult, if not impossible.

For 15 years, scientists agreed that fossilized burrows found in 555 million-year-old Ediacaran Period deposits in Nilpena, South Australia, were made by bilaterians. But there was no sign of the creature that made the burrows, leaving scientists with nothing but speculation.

Scott Evans, a recent doctoral graduate from UC Riverside; and Mary Droser, a professor of geology, noticed miniscule, oval impressions near some of these burrows. With funding from a NASA exobiology grant, they used a three-dimensional laser scanner that revealed the regular, consistent shape of a cylindrical body with a distinct head and tail and faintly grooved musculature. The animal ranged between 2-7 millimeters long and about 1-2.5 millimeters wide, with the largest the size and shape of a grain of rice — just the right size to have made the burrows.

“We thought these animals should have existed during this interval, but always understood they would be difficult to recognize,” Evans said. “Once we had the 3D scans, we knew that we had made an important discovery.”

The researchers, who include Ian Hughes of UC San Diego and James Gehling of the South Australia Museum, describe Ikaria wariootia, named to acknowledge the original custodians of the land. The genus name comes from Ikara, which means “meeting place” in the Adnyamathanha language. It’s the Adnyamathanha name for a grouping of mountains known in English as Wilpena Pound. The species name comes from Warioota Creek, which runs from the Flinders Ranges to Nilpena Station.

“Burrows of Ikaria occur lower than anything else. It’s the oldest fossil we get with this type of complexity,” Droser said. “Dickinsonia and other big things were probably evolutionary dead ends. We knew that we also had lots of little things and thought these might have been the early bilaterians that we were looking for.”

In spite of its relatively simple shape, Ikaria was complex compared to other fossils from this period. It burrowed in thin layers of well-oxygenated sand on the ocean floor in search of organic matter, indicating rudimentary sensory abilities. The depth and curvature of Ikaria represent clearly distinct front and rear ends, supporting the directed movement found in the burrows.

The burrows also preserve crosswise, “V”-shaped ridges, suggesting Ikaria moved by contracting muscles across its body like a worm, known as peristaltic locomotion. Evidence of sediment displacement in the burrows and signs the organism fed on buried organic matter reveal Ikaria probably had a mouth, anus, and gut.

“This is what evolutionary biologists predicted,” Droser said. “It’s really exciting that what we have found lines up so neatly with their prediction.”

Christmas island wildlife, Asian or Australian


This 2017 video says about itself

One Hundred Million Crabs | The Trials of Life | BBC Earth

On Christmas Island, red crabs migrate en masse in order to spawn a new generation into the Indian Ocean.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Christmas Island discovery redraws map of life

March 23, 2020

The world’s animal distribution map will need to be redrawn and textbooks updated, after researchers discovered the existence of ‘Australian’ species on Christmas Island.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Jonathan Aitchison said the finding revises the long-held understanding of the location of one of biology and geography’s most significant barriers — the Wallace line.

“The Wallace line — named after its discoverer Alfred Russel Wallace — delineates major biological division separating the species with Asian origins from those with Australasian ones,” Professor Aitchison said.

“It runs along the narrow seaways separating Bali from Lombok, and Borneo from Sulawesi.

“To the west are the tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses and orang-utans of Eurasia and to the east, the marsupials and monotremes that are synonymous with Australia.”

Working 1000 kilometres west of the conventional trace of Wallace line, on Christmas Island, Professor Aitchison and his colleagues, Dr Jason Ali from the University of Hong Kong and Professor Shai Meiri from the University of Tel Aviv, noted species with Australasian origins.

“Unexpectedly, half of Christmas Island’s land mammal and land reptile species — two rats, two skinks and one gecko — have a genetic heritage to Australia’s side of the divide,” Dr Ali said.

“It was a highly surprising discovery.

“The ancestors of these species would have most likely have been washed over on uprooted trees of vegetation mats and transported in by a major oceanic current known as the Indonesian Throughflow.

“The Indonesian Throughflow is part of the global heat conveyor belt, and follows deeper waters that delineate the Wallace line.

“It’s caused by the westernmost Pacific Ocean surface topography being slightly higher than its Indian Ocean counterpart.

“That’s right — it’s a little mind-bending — but the ‘sea-level’ varies slightly in different parts of the world.”

Professor Aitchison said the species’ journey must have occurred within the last five million years, as this is when Christmas Island emerged to form a new landmass.

“Christmas Island existed as a coral atoll from about 40 to 17 million years ago,” Professor Aitchison said.

“But in response to a tectonics phenomenon originally described by Darwin, it subsided beneath the ocean surface and disappeared.

“It re-surfaced only five million years ago thanks to some flexing tectonic plates — 300 to 350 kilometres to the south of where it is now located — from then on land plants and animals could begin to establish new populations.

Christmas Island is a strange and unique place, not just because of its geological history, but also its biological history.

“We’re excited to see what other weird and wonderful discoveries are ahead.”

United States nazis abuse coronavirus for anti-Semitism


Alt-right members prepare to enter Emancipation Park, Charlottesville, USA holding nazi, Confederate, and ‘Don't Tread on Me’ flags in 2017

This photo shows alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park, Charlottesville, USA holding nazi, Confederate, and ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags in 2017.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 23 March 2020:

US white supremacist groups target Jews over coronavirus

WHITE supremacist groups in the US are calling on supporters who contract coronavirus to pass it on to Jewish people … according to the FBI.

Intelligence reports from its New York office claimed: “Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions.”

ABC News reported on Sunday that an FBI alert was sent to local police forces last week warning that the far-right groups were urging their members to use spray bottles.

So, the coronavirus crisis is not only abused for anti-Asian racism.

Hasidic man refused service by Toyota dealership ‘because you’re spreading the virus’.