Shrinking Dinos learn to fly rather rapidly

      Does this Genetically modified bird look like a shrunken dinosaur? Perhaps not, but when we talk about dinosaurs, most of us think of giant terrible beasties of huge proportions. As the article below suggests, most of the bird-like dinosaurs were rather small to begin with, but shrunk fairly rapidly when the need…

Life forms appeared at least 60 million years earlier than previously thought

After Big Bang

Geologists in Ireland have rewritten the evolutionary history books by finding that oxygen-producing life forms were present on Earth some 3 billion years ago — a full 60 million years earlier than previously thought. These life forms were responsible for adding oxygen to our atmosphere, which laid the foundations for more complex life to evolve and proliferate.

The study site landscape is shown with boulders of the paleosol in the foreground.  Quentin Crowley The study site landscape is shown with boulders of the paleosol in the foreground.
Quentin Crowley

Working with Professors Joydip Mukhopadhyay and Gautam Ghosh and other colleagues from the Presidency University in Kolkata, India, the geologists found evidence for chemical weathering of rocks leading to soil formation that occurred in the presence of O2. Using the naturally occurring uranium-lead isotope decay system, which is used for age determinations on geological time-scales, the authors deduced that these events took place at least 3.02 billion years ago. The ancient soil (or paleosol) came…

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Hot-spring bacteria reveal ability to use far-red light for photosynthesis

After Big Bang

Bacteria growing in near darkness use a previously unknown process for harvesting energy and producing oxygen from sunlight, scientists have discovered. The discovery lays the foundation for further research aimed at improving plant growth, harvesting energy from the sun, and understanding dense blooms like those now occurring on Lake Erie and other lakes worldwide.

This is a close view of a benthic microbial mat community at the LaDuke hot spring in Gardiner, Montana near Yellowstone National Park, showing cyanobacteria and other chlorophototrophic bacteria. Credit: Donald A. Bryant lab, Penn State University This is a close view of a benthic microbial mat community at the LaDuke hot spring in Gardiner, Montana near Yellowstone National Park, showing cyanobacteria and other chlorophototrophic bacteria.
Credit: Donald A. Bryant lab, Penn State University

“We have shown that some cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, can grow in far-red wavelengths of light, a range not seen well by most humans,” said Donald A. Bryant, the Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State. “Most cyanobacteria can’t ‘see’ this light either. But we have found a…

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Simply complex: The origin of our body axes

After Big Bang

Experimental biology owes much to the discovery of the freshwater polyp Hydra over 300 years ago. Hydra was first described by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1702. In 1744 Abraham Trembley published a remarkable series of experiments on Hydra, the first to demonstrate regeneration, tissue transplantation and asexual reproduction in an animal. The photograph by Melanie Mikosch and Thomas Holstein shows a budding Hydra magnipapillata polyp. Credit: Copyright Melanie Mikosch/Thomas Holstein, COS Heidelberg Experimental biology owes much to the discovery of the freshwater polyp Hydra over 300 years ago. Hydra was first described by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1702. In 1744 Abraham Trembley published a remarkable series of experiments on Hydra, the first to demonstrate regeneration, tissue transplantation and asexual reproduction in an animal. The photograph by Melanie Mikosch and Thomas Holstein shows a budding Hydra magnipapillata polyp.
Credit: Copyright Melanie Mikosch/Thomas Holstein, COS Heidelberg

The fresh-water polyp Hydra, a member of the over 600-million-year-old phylum Cnidaria, is famous for its virtually unlimited regenerative capability and hence a perfect model for molecular stem cell and regeneration research. This polyp, with its simple structure and radial symmetry, can help us understand how our body axes came to evolve. Scientists from Heidelberg and Vienna have brought this evidence to light through their research on the formation of new polyps in the Hydra through asexual reproduction.

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Evolution used similar molecular toolkits to shape flies, worms, and humans

yes HGT (horizontal gene transfer) and epigenetics which change the expression of genes without changing the DNA code sequence itself answers a lot of questions about evolution and makes the old Darwinian tree a bit of a mess.

After Big Bang

Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms, and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression, according to a massive analysis of genomic data. Two related studies tell a similar story: even though humans, worms, and flies bear little obvious similarity to each other, evolution used remarkably similar molecular toolkits to shape them.

Tree of life poster (internet image) Tree of life poster (internet image)

Two related studies led by scientists at Harvard and Stanford, also published Aug. 28 in the same issue of the journal Nature, tell a similar story: Even though humans, worms, and flies bear little obvious similarity to each other, evolution used remarkably similar molecular toolkits to shape them.

However, the same Yale lab reports in a separate paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences dramatic differences between species in genomic regions populated by pseudogenes, molecular fossils of working genes.

The human, worm…

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40,000 Year Old Neanderthal #Hashtag Engravings from Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar

Anthropology.net

Engravings believed to have been made by Neanderthals more than 39,000 years ago is pictured in Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, in this handout photo courtesy of Stewart Finlayson of the Gibraltar Museum. Engravings believed to have been made by Neanderthals more than 39,000 years ago is pictured in Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar, in this handout photo courtesy of Stewart Finlayson of the Gibraltar Museum.

Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal and his colleagues have found a 40,000 year old pattern scratched in into the floor of a cave in Gibraltar.

Is it a doodle, a message or a work of art?

We’ve found Neanderthal art before, such as red ochre handprints on cave walls. But this new discovery is some sort of a tic-tac-toe pattern, to which the New Scientist cheekily dubbed them a “hashtag”). The team found the carving in near to many Neanderthal tools, about 300 or so. The researchers ruled out the possibility that the engravings were accidental or from cutting meat or animal skins. Instead, they were made by repeatedly and intentionally using a sharp stone tool to etch the rock…

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