Ancient Egyptian cat, dung beetle mummies discovered


This 10 November 2018 video says about itself:

Egypt: Mummified cats, scarab beetles discovered in ancient tombs near Cairo

Seven ancient Egyptian tombs containing mummified cats and scarabs, have been discovered in the Saqqara necropolis, 30 km (19 miles) south of Cairo, according to an announcement by Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany on Saturday.

Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Mostafa Waziri, said he believes this is the first time the preserved insects have ever been found, saying “we asked museums in many countries if they have mummified scarabs, but no one have mummified scarabs till today.”

Three of the tombs, which date back to the New Kingdom period and are between 3500 and 3000 years old, appear to have been used for feline burial as dozens of mummified moggies were discovered within, as well as wooden cat statutes and representations of the cat goddess Bast.

The other four tombs are believed to date from the Old Kingdom period and are thus at least 4000 years old.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Tombs with mummies of cats and dung beetles discovered in Egypt

Archaeologists have discovered seven tombs in Egypt from the time of the pharaohs. More than 200 cat mummies and mummies of scarabs were found in the tombs. They also appeared to contain wooden images of other animals, such as a lion, a cow and a falcon.

Three graves date from the time of the New Kingdom, from 1550 to 1069 BC, the other four from the Old Kingdom, which ran from 2686 to 2181 before the beginning of our era. The archaeologists discovered the tombs in the pyramid complex of the necropolis Saqqara, south of Cairo.

Experts call the discovery of the mummified dung beetles, which were revered by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of rebirth [in the hereafter], unique. Cats were also honoured during the time of the pharaohs. Bastet, the goddess of fertility, was depicted by the Egyptians as a cat. A bronze statue of her was found in one of the graves.

To the surprise of the archaeologists they discovered the door of another tomb, when they were preparing for an exhibition of the found objects in the area. The discovery of this tomb from the fifth dynasty of the Old Kingdom is special because the door and the façade are still intact and not, like many other graves, destroyed by grave robbers. .

This may indicate that the contents of the tomb are still untouched. Experts want to open this tomb somewhere in the coming weeks.

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Dinosaur age beetle discovery in amber


This 31 October 2018 video is called Breaking News – A tiny beetle trapped in amber 99 million years ago.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Tiny beetle trapped in amber might show how landmasses shifted

October 30, 2018

Summary: Scientists have discovered a tiny fossil beetle trapped in amber. It’s three millimeters long, and it has a flat body and giant feathery antennae that it would have used to navigate under tree bark. And, since it was found in amber from Asia but its closest relatives today live in South America, it hints at how landmasses have shifted over the past 100 million years.

In 2016, Shuhei Yamamoto obtained a penny-sized piece of Burmese amber from Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, near China’s southern border. He had a hunch that the three-millimeter insect trapped inside the amber could help to show why our world today looks the way it does.

After carefully cutting and polishing the amber, Yamamoto determined that the insect, smaller than the phone-end of an iPhone charger, was a new species to science. The beetle, which lived 99 million years ago, is a relative of insects alive today that live under tree bark, and it’s giving scientists hints about how Earth’s landmasses were arranged millions of years ago.

“This is a very rare find”, Yamamoto said, a Field Museum researcher and lead author of a paper in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology describing the new species. The fossil beetle is one of the oldest known members of its family — its name, Propiestus archaicus, refers to the fact that it’s an ancient relative of the flat rove beetles in the Piestus genus today which now dominates the South America.

While dinosaurs roamed much of Earth 99 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous era, Propiestus, with its flattened body and short legs, was busy conquering smaller turf underneath the bark of rotting trees. Its long, slender antennae were the clear giveaway to Yamamoto that Propiestus lived in this environment — similar to today’s flat rove beetles.

“The antennae probably had a highly sensitive ability as a sensory organ”, Yamamoto said. Smaller hair-like structures attached perpendicular to the antennae would have increased its ability to feel out its surroundings. “There wouldn’t have been a lot of space available in the beetle’s habitat, so it was important to be able to detect everything”, he explains.

Propiestus is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Burmese amber inclusions — another word for the objects trapped inside the amber — that scientists have extensively researched over the last 15 years. Many small insects that lived during the Cretaceous era met their maker at the hands of tree sap that engulfed the bugs and hardened into amber. The bugs trapped inside fossilized and remained frozen for millions of years, unaffected by the passage of time. The hardened amber, covered by soil, decayed leaves, and other organic material, eventually blended in with its surroundings.

Because of this, amber in nature doesn’t look like it does in jewelry — in fact, it doesn’t look like anything special at all. The small clumps of unpolished amber look like rocks, meaning only those experienced in amber identification, mostly local miners, are able to find them.

After miners extract the amber, the clumps are either sold into the jewelry trade or to scientists like Yamamoto to study the inclusions. For Yamamoto’s piece of amber, he used sandpaper to carefully polish the amber just enough to make Propiestus clearly visible.

“It was very exciting, because the cutting process is very sensitive,” Yamamoto said. “If you cut too fast or apply too much pressure, you destroy the inclusion inside very quickly.”

Once the amber was polished, the beetle was clearly visible, enabling Yamamoto and his colleagues to study the beetle and determine its closest living relatives. Propiestus’s flat rove beetle cousins alive today are found mostly in South America, with the exception of one species in Southern Arizona. Myanmar, where Propiestus was found, is literally on the other side of the globe from these places. But it hasn’t always been that way.

Millions of years ago, Myanmar and South America were actually quite close to each other, all fused together as part of the megacontinent Gondwanaland, which formed when the earlier megacontinent Pangea broke apart. Gondwanaland itself eventually broke apart, helping to form the continents we recognize on a map today.

Scientists have a clear sense of which of today’s continents and subcontinents would have comprised Gondwanaland and which would have made up its sister continent, Laurasia. However, the detailed timing and pattern of Gondwanaland’s split into smaller continents is disputable. Searching for supporting or contrasting evidence means analyzing fossils, some as small as Propiestus, to compare their similarities to other organisms discovered across the globe that might have inhabited the same space long ago.

“Like koalas and kangaroos today, certain animals that we think lived in Gondwanaland are only found in one part of the world. Although Propiestus went extinct long ago, our finding probably shows some amazing connections between the Southern Hemisphere and Myanmar”, Yamamoto said. “Our finding fits well with the hypothesis that, unlike today, Myanmar was once located in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Many inclusions in Burmese amber that have been researched in the last 15 years, including Propiestus, show signs that show traits in common with insects from Gondwanaland. By studying these tiny creatures trapped in amber, we’re finding answers to the questions surrounding Earth’s structure and the life it supported millions of years ago.

“This fossil helps us understand life in the Mesozoic era”, he said. “We need to think about everything from that time, both big and small.”

How burying beetles use carrion for their larvae


This 2013 video from Switzerland is about the Nicrophorus vespilloides burying beetle.

From the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany:

How beetle larvae thrive on carrion

Burying beetles rely on their gut symbionts in order to transform decaying carcasses into nutritious nurseries for their young

October 15, 2018

The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides buries the cadavers of small animals in soil to use them as a food source for its offspring. However, the carcass and thus the breeding site are highly susceptible to microbial decomposition and putrefaction resulting in the production of toxic substances, the growth of microbial pathogens and nutrient loss. In a new study, researchers from the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology, the University of Mainz and the University of Giessen, Germany, show that Nicrophorus vespilloides beetles are able to replace harmful microorganisms with their own beneficial gut symbionts, thus turning a carcass into a nursery with a microbial community that even promotes larval growth (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

How burying beetles prevent carrion decomposition

Burying beetles exploit nutrient-rich, but challenging resources for breeding: Their larvae feed on the cadavers of small animals. If untended by these beetles, carcasses are usually taken over by microbial decomposers. Decomposition of carrion under natural conditions is associated with growth of microbial pathogens and competitors, accumulation of toxic metabolites and rapid nutrient loss.

A team of scientists has now found out that the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides preserves the food source for its offspring by inoculating it with beneficial microbes from its own gut. The researchers genetically characterized the bacterial and fungal communities of tended and untended carcasses and compared microbial metabolic activity. They also quantified putrescine and cadaverine, the foul-smelling organic compounds associated with carrion putrefaction, and amino acids. “Utilization of carcasses did not involve suppression of microbes, but the replacement of the native microbial community with the beetles’ gut microbes. For example, tended carcasses showed suppression of a soil-associated mold but the growth of a beetle-associated yeast. This shift in microbial communities resulted in biochemical changes in beetle-tended carcasses”, explains first author Shantanu Shukla from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

The importance of the symbionts for larval development

The researchers then wanted to know if these changes were beneficial to the insects that invest so heavily in defending and preparing carcasses. Therefore they tested the effect of the carrion microbiota on host fitness by measuring larval performance with and without the microbial symbionts present on the carrion. The negative effects on larval growth were considerable: Larvae fed on carcasses from which the matrix had been removed were significantly smaller although they had consumed the same amount of carcass tissue.

“Our study shows how insects can modify their habitats by culturing their symbionts both in their guts as well as outside on a breeding resource to increase fitness. The burying beetle is a fascinating example of symbiont-enabled exploitation of challenging resources,” senior author Heiko Vogel summarizes.

The potential of the identified yeasts

The identified yeasts will now be studied in more detail, especially their role in detoxifying putrefaction products and (pre)digesting carrion to benefit the beetle larvae. “Since the microbiome transmitted by the beetles suppressed the growth of potentially harmful and toxin-producing bacteria and fungi, it is worthwhile to explore potential antimicrobials more closely, because they could also become relevant for medical applications”, says Andreas Vilcinskas, who is leading the antibiotic research at the participating Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology.

In cadaver caves, baby beetles grow better with parental goo. Parental gut microbes can turn a small dead animal into a healthful nursery. By Susan Milius, 6:27pm, October 15, 2018.

Special beetle discovered on Texel island


This 2009 video from Slovakia is called Buprestis (Ancylocheira) novemmaculata novemmaculata, Linnaeus, 1767.

Warden Erik van der Spek on Texel island in the Netherlands reports today:

At the work shed of Staatsbosbeheer on Texel the jewel beetle Buprestis novemmaculata was found. Until now, this beetle was only known in the Netherlands from the Bergen and Schoorl dune forest, the first sighting there was in 1997. …

Presumably the closest natural population can be found in Alsace

in France.