Dinosaur age fungi discovery


This video says about itself:

23 February 2016

Here are 10 extraordinary fossils that have been found preserved in amber. Amber certainly makes beautiful jewelry, but its clarity and longevity have also proven it to be a great preservation medium. Here are 10 extraordinary fossils that have been found in the solidified resin.

Number 10. Ancient hierarchical civilizations. Thanks to some well-preserved remains, researchers now believe arthropod social structures have been around longer than anyone ever imagined. The encased specimens of ants and termites recently studied date back roughly 100 million years.

Number 9. A possible early version of the bubonic plague. The disease is well known as a Middle Ages mass killer, and its power may have been building since before the dawn of man. Traces of very similar bacteria were found on a 20-million-year-old flea trapped in amber.

Number 8. First carnivorous plant. Dating back some 40 million years, the specimen, which has gooey, insect-trapping tentacles shooting off of its leaves, still contains traces of its last meal. The fossil was found in what is now Russia.

Number 7. 52-million-year-old parasitic beetle. The creature’s prey of choice was ants, and it was somehow able to dupe the hard workers into letting it live in their nest. While there, the beetle would likely eat the ants’ young and exploit their resources.

Number 6. Elusive male stinging scorpion. There are many holes in the history and development of the Miocene scorpion, as very few remains of the ancient ones have been found. Except for this one, a very rare, fully-grown male discovered in Mexico.

Number 5. A daddy long legs with an erect penis. With a 400-million-year history of existence, that the arachnids mate isn’t surprising. However this particular one, estimated to be about 99 million, is the oldest known to have been preserved in such a state.

Number 4. A flower on the verge of being fertilized. Had it not been for the flow of resin that engulfed this bud 100 million or so years ago, the bloom likely would have spread viable seed far and wide. Instead, it was fossilized right as pollen tubes were about to make contact with flower’s stigma.

Number 3. A spider on the brink of an attack. This roughly 110-million-year-old, 8-legged predator missed out on getting a last meal by a sliver of time. The would-be nibble was a wasp that had become ensnared in the web.

Number 2. Dinosaur feathers. Many experts have suggested the prehistoric beasts were covered in them, and this particular piece of amber certainly lends support to the idea. It was discovered in Canada and created some 78 million years ago.

Number 1. Ancient Caribbean lizards. Even though they are 20 million years old, the reptiles inside the golden stones were not found to differ from their contemporary counterparts in any significant way. Scientists attribute the rarity to stable ecological surroundings.

Which amber-encased fossil do you find most fascinating?

From Xinhua news agency in China:

Scientists find earliest intact mushroom fossils

NANJING, March 17 — Paleontologists from China, New Zealand and the United States have found four intact mushroom fossils, sources with the Chinese Academy of Sciences said Friday.

The four, well preserved in Burmese amber for at least 99 million years, are the earliest complete mushroom fossils ever found.

The findings represent four species of mushroom. A stalk and a complete cap containing distinct gills are visible in most of the mushrooms, which are two to three millimeters long.

The research team led by Prof. Huang Diying from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported the finding after researching more than 20,000 pieces of Burmese amber collected over 10 years.

The team also found three kinds of rove beetle, which feed on mushrooms, in pieces of amber 125 million years old. The discovery highlights the palaeo-diversity of mushrooms, pushing back the presence of agaric mushrooms by at least 25 million years.

Mushrooms are common and morphologically diverse fungi. Their bodies are soft and ephemeral and therefore extremely rare in fossils. Until the recent discovery, only five species of mushrooms were known exclusively from amber. Among the previous five species, one was found in a 99-million-year-old piece of damaged Burmese amber, another in a 90-million-year-old piece of New Jersey amber and the three remaining species in 20-million-year-old Dominican amber.

World’s first fluorescent frog discovered in Argentina


This video says about itself:

14 March 2017

World’s first fluorescent frog that glows bright green is found in Argentina

Under normal light the polka-dot tree frog is a dull green/brown colour.

But scientists stumbled upon the species’ rare ability under their UV torches.

It is rare for land animals to have fluorescent skin pigments.

The pigments absorb light and re-emit it at longer wavelengths.

Read more here.

See also here.

Scientific description of this new discovery about Hypsiboas punctatus frogs: here.

World’s oldest fossils discovery in Canada


This video says about itself:

2 March 2017

Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB), Quebec, Canada.

From University College London in England:

World’s oldest fossils unearthed

March 1, 2017

Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB), Quebec, Canada.

The NSB contains some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth which likely formed part of an iron-rich deep-sea hydrothermal vent system that provided a habitat for Earth’s first life forms between 3,770 and 4,300 million years ago. “Our discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed. This speedy appearance of life on Earth fits with other evidence of recently discovered 3,700 million year old sedimentary mounds that were shaped by microorganisms,” explained first author, PhD student Matthew Dodd (UCL Earth Sciences and the London Centre for Nanotechnology).

Published today in Nature and funded by UCL, NASA, Carnegie of Canada and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the study describes the discovery and the detailed analysis of the remains undertaken by the team from UCL, the Geological Survey of Norway, US Geological Survey, The University of Western Australia, the University of Ottawa and the University of Leeds.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest microfossils reported were found in Western Australia and dated at 3,460 million years old but some scientists think they might be non-biological artefacts in the rocks. It was therefore a priority for the UCL-led team to determine whether the remains from Canada had biological origins.

The researchers systematically looked at the ways the tubes and filaments, made of haematite — a form of iron oxide or ‘rust’ — could have been made through non-biological methods such as temperature and pressure changes in the rock during burial of the sediments, but found all of the possibilities unlikely.

The haematite structures have the same characteristic branching of iron-oxidising bacteria found near other hydrothermal vents today and were found alongside graphite and minerals like apatite and carbonate which are found in biological matter including bones and teeth and are frequently associated with fossils.

They also found that the mineralised fossils are associated with spheroidal structures that usually contain fossils in younger rocks, suggesting that the haematite most likely formed when bacteria that oxidised iron for energy were fossilised in the rock.

“We found the filaments and tubes inside centimetre-sized structures called concretions or nodules, as well as other tiny spheroidal structures, called rosettes and granules, all of which we think are the products of putrefaction. They are mineralogically identical to those in younger rocks from Norway, the Great Lakes area of North America and Western Australia,” explained study lead, Dr Dominic Papineau (UCL Earth Sciences and the London Centre for Nanotechnology).

“The structures are composed of the minerals expected to form from putrefaction, and have been well documented throughout the geological record, from the beginning until today. The fact we unearthed them from one of the oldest known rock formations, suggests we’ve found direct evidence of one of Earth’s oldest life forms. This discovery helps us piece together the history of our planet and the remarkable life on it, and will help to identify traces of life elsewhere in the universe.”

Matthew Dodd concluded, “These discoveries demonstrate life developed on Earth at a time when Mars and Earth had liquid water at their surfaces, posing exciting questions for extra-terrestrial life. Therefore, we expect to find evidence for past life on Mars 4,000 million years ago, or if not, Earth may have been a special exception.”

See also here. And here.

Ancient primate fossil discovery in India


This 2014 video Lecture 16 Early Primate Evolution.

From the University of Southern California in the USA:

Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life

The new species of primate from India is distantly related to the lemurs of Madagascar

February 28, 2017

Summary:

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a researcher reports. Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat.

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a USC researcher said.

Biren Patel, an associate professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has been digging for fossils in a paleontologically rich area of Kashmir in northern India for six years. Although paleontologists have scoured this region for a century, relics of small extinct primates were rarely found or studied.

Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat, said Patel, co-author of the new study in the Journal of Human Evolution.

“Among the primates, the most common ones in the Kashmir region are from a genus called Sivapithecus, which were ancestral forms of orangutans,” Patel said. “The fossil we found is from a different group on the primate family tree — one that is poorly known in Asia. We are filling an ecological and biogeographical gap that wasn’t really well documented. Every little step adds to the understanding of our human family tree because we’re also primates.”

The last primate found in the area was 38 years ago. So, in addition to being a new species, this is the first primate fossil found in the area in decades.

“In the past, people were interested in searching for big things — things they could show off to other people,” Patel said. “A lot of the small fossils were not on their radar.”

The inch-and-a-quarter partial mandible belongs to a primate weighing less than 11 pounds that had outlived its other adapidae cousins found in North America, Europe and Africa by millions of years.

“New primates are always a hot topic, and this one is the first of its kind from its area in Asia, which has significant consequences for understanding primate evolution in the Old World,” said Michael Habib, an assistant professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

The question that remains is how the ecosystem in northern India supported this species when its relatives elsewhere were disappearing or had already gone extinct. Future fieldwork and recovering more fossil primates will help answer this question.

“People want to know about human origins, but to fully understand human origins, you need to understand all of primate origins, including the lemurs and these Sivaladapids,” Patel said. “Lemurs and sivaladapids are sister groups to what we are — the anthropoids — and we are all primates.”

Researchers from Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, Arizona State University, Stony Brook University and Panjab University also contributed to this study, which was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Institute of Human Origins and funding from some of the involved universities.

‘Restore predator, prey animals simultaneously’


This 2016 video from North America is called Bison vs Grizzly Bear – Wild Animal Interaction.

From the University of California – Santa Barbara in the USA, 27 February 2017:

Recovering predators and prey

Researchers show how simultaneously restoring predators, prey is much faster and more effective than doing so one at a time

If you build it, they will come. That’s historically been a common approach to species recovery: Grow the prey population first and predators will quickly return. As it turns out, that’s not quite the case. A new study has found that restoring predator and prey species simultaneously speeds the recovery efforts of both.

Published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the paper by a team of scientists that includes UC Santa Barbara researchers used models and case studies to examine the pace of species and ecosystem recovery efforts. They found that tandem recovery of predators and prey is almost always more efficient — and on average about twice as fast — as sequential recovery.

“Previous work has shown how high demand for resources has led to the overexploitation of species throughout the food chain in a number of ecosystems,” said co-author Adrian Stier, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “We show how synchronized restoration of these species is nearly always the more rapid and direct path to ecological recovery. Restoration takes longer when predators recover first, but when prey recover first the system is more prone to volatile population fluctuations.”

Co-author Benjamin Halpern, director of UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and a professor in the campus’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, noted that the study’s conclusion is important because it offers an improvement on traditional strategies. Historically, about half of species restoration efforts employ a sequential, one-species-at-time tactic, most often beginning with targeted restoration of prey species first.

“Our results suggest that we need to fundamentally rethink the way we approach species restoration and recovery efforts,” said Halpern. “If you stop to think about it, our results make sense. Natural systems are a community of species that all interact; you need all parts present and abundant to function well — and synchronized recovery of species is the best way to do that effectively.”

Just as critical, synchronous restoration is also better for the humans who earn a living harvesting both predator and prey, say, for example, Pacific cod and Pacific herring.

“You might think the loss of income associated with reducing harvest on both species at the same time would be greater than reducing harvest on one species after another, but our work suggests that synchronous recovery is ultimately better for recovering the ecosystem — and better from an economic perspective as well,” said co-author Mark Novak of the Oregon State University College of Science.

Because of overharvest, declines of multiple animal populations are typical of many ecosystems. For example, population collapses seen in pairs of species — lions and wildebeest, Steller sea lions and Pacific herring, and mink and muskrat — are wholly or partially attributable to trophy hunting, industrial fisheries or the fur trade.

In both terrestrial and marine resources management, population restoration and the setting of harvest quotas have long been single-species endeavors. Even in the pursuit of more holistic ecosystem-based rebuilding of food webs — the interconnected chains of who eats whom — the dominant strategy has been to allow prey species to initially rebound to where they readily sustain top predator levels.

However, this new research found that such single-species strategies are less efficient than allowing predator and prey to recover simultaneously. For example, predator-first strategies are particularly slow because they lead to increases in predator numbers while prey species remain depleted, limiting the availability of food that would encourage faster predator population growth.

The scientists’ analyses included information from real-world examples, such as the recovery of aforementioned Pacific cod along the west coast of Vancouver Island, which proceeded slowly before the recovery of cod’s preferred prey: the Pacific herring.

A database of marine fisheries shows that past recovery efforts have been nearly evenly divided between sequential recoveries — those that prioritize predator or prey species — and the type of synchronous recoveries that this new research determined to be faster and more efficient.

“This suggests that there is room for improvement in many restoration efforts by coordinating the recovery of predator and prey species,” Stier said. “Our research emphasizes how existing marine policy, including marine protected areas and mixed stock management, offers opportunities to synchronize the restoration of multiple species.”

“The order and timing of how you approach recovery does matter,” said lead author Jameal Samhouri, a research fish biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. The scientists concluded that improving the efficiency of ecosystem recovery efforts by better coordinating the restoration of individual species has the potential to “play a critical role in shaping 21st-century solutions to environmental issues.”

Bumblebee football video


This video says about itself:

Watch a bee score a goal | Science News

23 February 2017

In experiments, buff-tailed bumblebees learned how to roll a ball to a goal (first clip), a task more bees mastered after watching a trained bee do it (second clip). When successful, bees received a sip of sugar solution as a reward.

From Science News:

Score! Bumblebees see how to sink ball in goal, then do it better

Lesson in six-legged soccer tests power of insect learning

By Susan Milius

2:32pm, February 23, 2017

Even tiny brains can learn strange and tricky stuff, especially by watching tiny experts.

Buff-tailed bumblebees got several chances to watch a trained bee roll a ball to a goal. These observers then quickly mastered the unusual task themselves when given a chance, researchers report in the Feb. 24 Science. And most of the newcomers even improved on the goal-sinking by taking a shortcut demo-bees hadn’t used, says behavioral ecologist Olli Loukola at Queen Mary University of London.

Learning abilities of animals without big vertebrate brains often get severely underestimated, Loukola says. “The idea that small brains constrain insects is kind of wrong, or old-fashioned.”

He and colleagues had previously challenged bees to learn, in stages, the not very beelike skill of pulling a string to reveal a hidden flower. Bees eventually succeeded. So the researchers devised an even more fiendish protocol to see how far insect learning could go.

Loukola invented six-legged sort-of soccer (or football for bees in London) in which a Bombus terrestris rolls a yellow ball about the size of its own body down a trackway to a central goal, where researchers dispense sugary rewards. This time, there was no pampering, no working up in stages to full completion of the test. But bees could observe a trained ball roller, a ball moving on its own (thanks to a researcher sliding a magnet under the arena) or get no advance ball-movement hints at all.

The 10 bees that saw an expert bee roll the ball and score three times before their own attempt succeeded in almost every trial at the task. Watching ghostly movement didn’t help as much, and only a few bees happened on the solution on their own. Social learning matters, but Loukola highlights the way bees changed the technique they watched. Most of the successful bees ignored the ball they had seen rolled and instead used one closer to the goal, doing less work for the same reward.

“Fascinating,” says Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in England, who studies bumblebees. Ball rolling may not be part of routine foraging behavior, but he notes that bees do drag around nesting material, moving backward as they do when playing soccer in the test. And they occasionally remove fat almost ball-like grubs from the nest with a similar technique.

Exactly how the bees solved the problem remains a puzzle, says Bennett Galef of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who has studied social learning. He would like to know more details, for instance, about how untrained bees react to a ball.

Loukola often gets a different question: Could he train bumblebees to play a soccer match? He says he could certainly train some to score on one side of an arena and some on the opposite side. Then he might be able to study whether bumblebees could share a ball.

New marsupial species discovery in Brazil


THis video from the USA says about itself:

8 May 2012

My daughter’s grandfather captured this video of a mother [Virginia] opossum transporting 15 baby opossums on her back. Amazing!

From National Geographic:

New Redheaded Opossum Named After Magical Gnome

The rat-size marsupial prowls the tropical rain forests of northern Brazil at night.

By Carrie Arnold

PUBLISHED February 23, 2017

A chance finding at a Brazilian museum has revealed a brand-new species of opossum.

Biologist Silvia Pavan first discovered an unnamed mammal specimen with rich mahogany fur in 2008 at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém.

The rat-size marsupial’s reddish head inspired its name: Monodelphis saci.

Brazilian folklore features a gnome called the saci (pronounced sah-SEE), who wears a magical red cap that lets him disappear and reappear at will. (See “Unbelievably Cute Mammal With Teddy Bear Face Rediscovered.”)

Just like the saci, the new species of opossum has a red cap—and had been hiding in plain sight.

“I analyzed the specimen right away when it was brought to the museum, and I noticed it didn’t have a name,” says Pavan, lead author of the new study in the journal American Museum Novitates.

After that, she was able to find other specimens representing the same unnamed species in Brazilian collections.

Playing Possum

Opossums evolved in the South American tropics; several dozen species live in the Americas, but only the Virginia opossum made it as far north as the United States.

All opossum species are nocturnal omnivores, eating a range of fruit, insects, and small mammals—a flexibility that has allowed them to spread far and wide. (Read how opossum blood may help snakebite victims.)

As part of her Ph.D. work at the American Museum of Natural History, Pavan wanted to piece together the opossum family tree. But with so many species sprinkled across so many habitats, Pavan went to museums to supplement her search for opossums in the wild.

After she came across the gnome opossum, her colleagues traveled to the source—Itaituba I National Forest in Pará, Brazil—to see if they could find live animals.

Mysterious Marsupials

Pavan’s colleagues set up a series of humane pitfall traps—basically small buckets that capture opossums as they prowl the tropical rain forest at night.

To her surprise, Pavan discovered several more gnome opossums in her buckets. (Also see “Newly Discovered Carnivore Looks Like Teddy Bear.”)

“They’re not really that rare, but they only appeared in scientific collections relatively recently when people started using the pitfall traps,” she says.

The species doesn’t appear to be threatened with extinction, though more people have been collecting the animal in the wild in the weeks since her discovery was announced, she says.

Guillermo D’Elia, a biologist at the Austral University of Chile in Valdivia, says there are likely more marsupials to be identified.

“I am pretty sure there are several new species of opossum to come in the future,” D’Elia says, “now that researchers are collecting in new areas, rechecking museum specimens, and using DNA.”