Biology news

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 ....

genetic codes

Robert Farrar sent in this link to Dr Jay L Wile at http://blog.drwile.com/?p=14280 ... which discusses the 'universal genetic code' and says it is far from universal. This is a challenging statement that would rile uniformitarians and yet Dr Wile is able to point out, if mitochondria in invertebrates was a different genetic code from mitochondria in vertebrate, and both of these codes differ from the 'universal' genetic code what is that telling us?

appaloosa horses

A couple of years ago there was a TV documentary, 'True Appaloosas' about a journey by a New Zealand horse breeder, Scott Engstrom, when she was 66 years of age, to Kyrgistan after reading about a horse breed that closely resembled the Appaloosa breed. Modern Appaloosas are of course a modern breeding success but they seem to have an origin in horses bred by the Nez Perce tribe, famous for the long march to the Canadian border pursued by the US Army.

nest sites

At http://phys.org/print372582577.html ... we learn that nesting grounds of sauropod dinosaurs are quite astonishly preserved in some parts of the world, some sites covering many square miles. These form vast playgrounds to rear their young. At Jabaljur in India, and at Lemta Ghat for example eggs of giant crocodiles have also been found in these fossilised nesting sites. The nesting sites with crocodiles tend to be located in estuarine situations in what may indicate crocodiles and dinosaurs wee able to tolerate each other.

rodents

The Times, February 25th 2015, nearly a year ago, had a report on the Black Death - and Asian gerbils were said to be responsible. Between the winter of 1348 and the summer of 1349 the plague is said to have wiped out a quarter of England's population and half that of London. An estimated 50 million people in Europe died in such a short space of time that it makes you wonder if rodents could spread a disease that quickly. Mike Baillie in his book, 'New Light on the Black Death; the Cosmic Connection' had a different view.