Biology news

Pleistocene mammals

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id//333948/description/Woolly_rhinos_ca... ... is a report on a paper published in Science (Sept 2nd) and is all about the discovery of a new cache of mammal fossils - this time found in the foothills of the Himalayas, on the high Tibetan plateau. The bones date back nearly 4 million years ago - preceding the so called Ice Ages. Concentrating on the rhinoceros it was found they had some features in common with the woolly rhinoceros of the Ice Ages.

Shorter In the News - links

At www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/Not_so_fast_--_researchers_find_that... is a report on s study published in PNAS which uses evidence from the fossil record, and therefore relies on geological dating methodology, which is based on uniformitarianism. The object is to inform us  that lasting evolutionary change takes on average a million years to take place.

Its all in the genes

Interesting web site to browse ... www.geneticarchaeology.com, while at www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14630012, BBC News reports on a DNA study that overturns earlier genetic research which claimed farmers displaced the indigenous Mesolithic population of Europe - or a large part thereof. The latest research now says that most of Europe's males can trace descent from Stone Age hunters (research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B). It seems the results vary depending on the genetic markers studied and different interpretations are being made.

Life from Space

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110808220659.htm ... the headline reads, 'DNA building blocks can be made in space, NASA evidence suggests' while at www.physorg.com/print232030474.html it is 'Meteorites Tool kits for creating life on earth' and the same story appears all over the blogosphere, even at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/10/seeds-of-life-on-earth-may-have-or... - which has some interesting comments including one that simply says this is a bit more information to confirm an already existing hypothesis.

Pandemics from Space

Mike Baillie's book, 'New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection', Tempus:2006, drew on the Hoyle and Wickramasinghe theory of Panspermia to make the astonishing claim that the 14th century plague outbreak that struck the medieval world came from space. This idea had merit in so far as peoples, separated by long distances, fell victim at roughly the same time, even where the rat population was minimal.

Jumping Genes

At www.physorg.com/print229856609.html ... Murdoch University researchers have gathered evidence on jumping genes - why some species adapt and others fail. Jumping genes are sequences of DNA that can move to a new position within the genome of a cell. Such movement can result in mutations.

Nematodes

At www.physorg.com/print229686718.html is a story about worms, or nematodes, living two and a half miles beneath the surface of the earth, according to a paper in Nature (June 2nd). Speculation is now that life may exist even deeper within the crust and this raises the possibility that such life may exist elsewhere in the solar system - or beyond.

Mammoths, Gray whales ... and Polar bears.

Beneath an alpine meadow in the Colorado Rockies a huge fossil bed has been foudn - exactly how and when it was laid down is yet to be worked out. It is some 35 feet deep and is choc a bloc with Ice Age mammals (see www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/science/05dig.html ). What is now a meadow environment was formerly a lake and previous to that, a glacier - but where do the animals come from?

Problems with ancient DNA

Recent DNA tests on the mummies of Tutankhamon and his close relatives came up with the odd, if not  too likely finding that they had origins in western Europe. Now it is thought the DNA sampling procedure was open to contamination. The mummies have been handled by a lot of European archaeologists and scientists - so that is not surprising. See www.nature.com/news/2011/110427/full/472404a.html for an idea of the limitations of DNA research and the inhouse controversies about the way it is applied in practise - and an expectation it might get better in the future.

And Electric Brains ...

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428143155.htm ... biologists have found that electrical oscillations in the brain are more important than they imagined as they play a role in organising cognitive functions such as memory and are particularly important as they allow the brain to store information that in turn allows us to navigate around the physical environment - a sort of inbuilt GPS system inside our heads. The paper describing it all can be found in Science of April 29th (2011).