Biology news

writhing innards

Writhing innards, as in wiggly things like nematoid worms and squidgy life forms such as bacteria. At www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/inner-earth-teeming-exotic-forms-l... ... we learn a mile to two miles below the surface of our planet life is teeming with diverse creatures. Geomicrobiologists have been exploring the ground under our feet - looking at rocks and strata that go back even earlier than the Jurassic. Bacteria are still living in them. Deep life has been found all over the world under a variety of conditions.

Life on Earth

One of the consensus ideas that has been popular for a long period of time is the belief that early Earth, over 3 billion years ago, was much warmer than it is today. In fact, some people have gone so far as to suggest that life could only have started to flourish in high temperatures, much warmer than in the modern world. Walls, it is said, are built to be knocked down - and it seems new research may be about to knock down this particular wall of the consensus.

swimming dinosaurs

The idea of swimming dinosaurs has become popular recently, an idea deriving from footprints left behind which tend to show just the front or rear footfalls but not both front and rear at the same time. Various sets of footprints, after the initial claim, have been added to the accumulating idea that dinosaurs could swim or wade, but just what kind of environment is envisaged during the Jurassic. In the UK, if you go by geological theory, half the country was underwater with numerous sand bars and estuarine locations, in a climate very close to that of modern Florida.

another giant

At http://phys.org/print375349033.html ... glypodonts, like all armadilloes, originate from a common ancestor around 35 million years ago. The glypodont is a very large version of the armadillo and lived during the Late Plaeistocene - at the same time as giant elephants, giant grould sloths, giant elk and deer, and giant forms of lots of other animals. At the end of the Ice Age all these large mammals became extinct - why? Why did they grow to such a large size? It is almost reminiscent of the Jurassic era - when small dinosaurs of the Triassic became larger versions of the same animal.

Zika

The Zika virus appears to be the latest in a long line of health 'doom mongerings' that has gone viral on social media and the internet and has been stirred and sloshed on mainstream media. It follows in the recent tradition of doom laden health scare stories such as Aids, Bird Flu, and Mad Cow Disease - and more recently the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. For a view from a mainstream party line go to http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2016/31/genetically-modi... ...

European migrations

An article in Current Biology 26 page 1-7 by Posth et al is interesting - see also http://phys.org/print373788881.html ... which provides a link via dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.01.1037 'Pleistocene mitochondrial genomes suggest a single major dispersal of non-Africans and a Late Glacial population tunrover in Europe.' Quite how, or what impelled modern humans to disperse into Eurasia and Australasia is an unknown but genetics may be able to pick up such movements, and these appear to be multiple rather than a single movement flux.

human evolution

A special issue of the Journal of Human Evolution (Jan 2016) presents the results of a long term excavation of a site in Lower Saxony at an open cast coal mine. The recent archaeology of course had nothing to do with the laying down of the coal - but came from soil layers on top of the quarry. Well preserved wooden utensils and even a wooden spear have been uncovered over the last couple of years, as well as bone tools. Thewy seem to have liked hunting and eating horses as many remains of these animals has been found at the site - along with other animals, including at least one carnivore.

birds and dinosaurs

At http://blog.drwile.com/?p=10925 ... is about feathered dragons, as the consensus view is that birds are descended from the dinosaurs. Alan Feduccia is an evolutionary biologist whose research is focussed on the natural history of birds. He takes issue with the consensus view and says they are not descended from dinosaurs, but from a common ancestor to both dinosaurs and birds. This has not gone down too well if Dr Wile is to be taken at his word.

Megafauna

This is a big issue it would seem. There are 24 articles on megafauna in January's Ecography journal and the journal of PNAS - see http://phys.org/print373189841.html

They are based on a conference that took place at Oxford University back in March of 2014 (only now being written up in journal form and published). We don't learn much about the contents from the press release, only that we are supposed to be living in the shadow of big beasts that were once in abundance on all the continents of the earth.

Jurassic discoveries

Must Farm, the archaeological site that uncovered a Bronze Age village and boats in Cambridgeshire is also a working quarry (for the nearby brick works). A pleisosaur has been dug out of what is known as the Oxford Caly, a geological strata known for containing small or broken fossilised remains of creatures. The pleisosaur is now in the Oxford University Natural History Museum and is 5.5m in length, having been reassembled from 600 bone fragment - see for example www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-35380223 ....