Common ancestor of all wildlife, new research


This video says about itself:

Scientists Reveal LUCA – Common Ancestor Of All Living Things On Earth

26 July 2016

Many scientists believe that all living entities on Earth originated from an ancient organism called Luca which stands for the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Now, a team led by William F. Martin of Heinrich Heine University has released a new study which aims to “reconstruct the microbial ecology of LUCA.”

Many scientists believe that all living entities on Earth originated from an ancient organism called Luca which stands for the Last Universal Common Ancestor. The single-celled being likely lived around 4 billion years ago and is thought to have eventually spawned two distinct groups of uni-celled life–bacteria and archaea.

Now, a team led by William F. Martin of Heinrich Heine University has released a new study which aims to “reconstruct the microbial ecology of LUCA.” For the research, they tested 286,514 protein clusters and found that 355 protein families likely descended from the organism. Based on the attributes of this select group, the scientists theorize that Luca was able to withstand hot temperatures and live on hydrogen and carbon dioxide instead of oxygen; it also needed metals to be in the surrounding environment.

These combined attributes seem to indicate that this so-called universal ancestor lived in a habitat similar to a hot and gassy deep-sea vent. Despite the team’s findings, critics point out that additional information is needed to prove where life began.

From Nature Microbiology:

The physiology and habitat of the last universal common ancestor

Published online: 25 July 2016

Abstract

The concept of a last universal common ancestor of all cells (LUCA, or the progenote) is central to the study of early evolution and life’s origin, yet information about how and where LUCA lived is lacking.

We investigated all clusters and phylogenetic trees for 6.1 million protein coding genes from sequenced prokaryotic genomes in order to reconstruct the microbial ecology of LUCA. Among 286,514 protein clusters, we identified 355 protein families (∼0.1%) that trace to LUCA by phylogenetic criteria. Because these proteins are not universally distributed, they can shed light on LUCA’s physiology.

Their functions, properties and prosthetic groups depict LUCA as anaerobic, CO2-fixing, H2-dependent with a Wood–Ljungdahl pathway, N2-fixing and thermophilic. LUCA’s biochemistry was replete with FeS clusters and radical reaction mechanisms. Its cofactors reveal dependence upon transition metals, flavins, S-adenosyl methionine, coenzyme A, ferredoxin, molybdopterin, corrins and selenium. Its genetic code required nucleoside modifications and S-adenosyl methionine-dependent methylations. The 355 phylogenies identify clostridia and methanogens, whose modern lifestyles resemble that of LUCA, as basal among their respective domains.

LUCA inhabited a geochemically active environment rich in H2, CO2 and iron. The data support the theory of an autotrophic origin of life involving the Wood–Ljungdahl pathway in a hydrothermal setting.

See also here.

Most painful plant arrives at botanical garden


This video says about itself:

Most Painful Plant

31 January 2015

The gympie gympie plant has an excruciatingly painful sting. It’s one of the most venomous plants in the world.

Its sting is infamously agonizing. An officer once killed himself in order to escape the pain. It’s from the gympie gympie plant, and here’s what you need to know to survive.

What is it?

The gympie gympie plant, or Dendrocnide moroides, is one of the world’s most venomous plants with large, heart-shaped leaves. It’s known as a stinging because because of its stinging hairs that deliver a potent neurotoxin when its leaf is touched. The pain from a sting has been described as unbearable, driving its victims to the point of madness. Stories have been told of horses jumping off cliffs after being stung just to escape the pain. It was extensive[ly] studied for years by Dr. Marina Hurley.

Where is it located?

Gympie gympies are native to the rainforest areas of northeastern Australia, the Maluku Islands (Moluccas), and Indonesia. They’re large shrubs with bright pink fruits whose seeds germinate and flower in full sunlight after soil disturbances.

How will it kill you?

The entire gympie gympie plant is covered in fine, silicon-like hairs that embed themselves in your body after which they release a painful toxin. Breathing them in can cause severe sneezing fits and nosebleeds. Stings start out as a painful burning sensations that grow more and more intense over the next half hour. It can then lead to aching joints and swelling under your armpits as well as vomiting due to the intensity of the pain. The pain can last from a few days up to several months. Also, it can become so severe that it can eventually lead to shock followed by death.

How to survive:

Gympie gympie stings are felt immediately and its hairs must be removed right away in order for the pain to subside. The recommended treatment is to apply diluted hydrochloric acid onto the affected skin areas then pulling the hairs out with a wax hair removal strip. If you don’t remove all the gympie gympie hairs, they can keep releasing their toxin into your skin for up to a year.

The Leiden botanical garden reports that this week, a gympie gympie plant has been added to their collection; not to the part of the collection open to the public, because of the danger of the sting.

The gympie gympie plant is related to stinging nettles; however, its sting is about a hundred times worse.

Beetle feeds on arum plant, video


This 24 June 2016 video is about a bee beetle feeding on an arum plant.

Theo Hoogervorst made this video in his garden in the Netherlands.

Chanterelle fungi in Dutch Zeeland


This 25 June 2016 video is about chanterelle fungi near Westhove castle in Zeeland province in the Netherlands.

Osprey nest, flowers, spoonbills in Dutch Biesbosch


This 12 June 2016 video is from Biesbosch national park. For the first time ever in the Netherlands, as far as is known, an osprey couple built a nest there this year. It is said that three young birds have hatched.

You cannot see the young ospreys yet on this video, filmed at about 450 meter from the nest. However, at about 30 seconds into the video, you can see a young osprey defecating, in a curve over the side of the nest. About ten seconds later, the male bird arrives, to bring fish to the nesting female and the youngsters.

In the video, you can also hear edible frogs call.

On 18 June 2016, we went to the Biesbosch, to see the ospreys and other wildlife.

Biesbosch, 18 June 2016

Water and land interlock in the Biesbosch estuary scenery, creating opportunities for many wildlife species.

As we arrive, we see a male roe deer and a flying common tern.

We hear a Cetti’s warbler sing.

A sedge warbler.

Male and female reed bunting.

A male marsh harrier.

An osprey flies. A lesser black-backed gull tries to drive it away, though ospreys eat fish, not birds.

Crow garlic flowers.

A willow warbler sings.

Swifts flying.

A wren flies across a ditch. Beneath it, a coot couple and their three chicks swim.

A spoonbill foraging.

Tufted ducks.

A greenfinch sings.

Common bird's-foot trefoil

Yellow flowers: common bird’s-foot trefoil.

Two great crested grebes.

Hare's-foot clover, 18 June 2016

Pink flowers: hare’s-foot clover.

We arrive at the ospreys’. One of the parents sits on the nest.

This 4 June 2016 video by Luuk Punt is called Ospreys feeding their chick. First time seen in the Netherlands ever.

A cuckoo calls.

A juvenile white wagtail. Two little ringed plovers on the bank.

Two Egyptian geese flying.

Canada geese.

A northern lapwing. A great egret.

Then, we see about eight ruffs in summer plumage. Rare in the Netherlands!

We walk to a hide. We can see swifts and sand martins fly over the water.

Mural in hide, 18 June 2016

There is a mural on the inside of the hide: depicting a kingfisher, pintail duck, spoonbill, great cormorant, black-headed gull, wren, robin, great egret, tufted ducks and other birds.

Biesbosch museum, 18 June 2016

There was more art outside the Biesbosch museum.

Not far away, a nesting colony of many sand martins.

Biesbosch sky, 18 June 2016

Then, many gadwall ducks resting in the water.

Avocets with chicks.

A song thrush sings from a tree.

Biesbosch islet, 18 June 2016

On an islet, yellow fen ragwort flowers.

We return to the osprey nest. The female and the youngsters are inside. The male arrives, sitting on a branch.

A flock of about thirty spoonbills.

A buzzard lands on a tree.

A skylark sings.

Orchids and spoonbills of Voorne island


This 12 Juni 2016 video shows orchids, spoonbills and other wildlife of Voorne island in the Netherlands.

Rare orchid near Schoorl in the Netherlands: here.