Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dinosaur-era 'swordfish' discovered in outback Australia

14 October 2016

"Extremely rare" fossils from a swordfish-like creature which lived 100 million years ago have been discovered in the Australian outback.

Two families on holiday unearthed the prehistoric predator at a free fossil-finding site in north-west Queensland.

The remains are thought to be from the Australopachycormus hurleyi, a 3m-long ray-finned fish with a pointed snout.

"Part of what makes this specimen so special is that it is so complete," Dr Patrick Smith told the BBC.

Eels Consume Their Own Bones to Survive Migration

By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | October 19, 2016 06:26am ET 

To survive an arduous swim thousands of miles long without eating anything on the way, European eels apparently lose a significant amount of bone in a way that keeps them alive and moving, a new study finds.

This finding could yield insights that will help scientists prevent or reverse human bone loss, the researchers said.

In order to spawn, European eels (Anguilla anguilla) undertake a 3,000-mile-long (5,000 kilometers) migration from European freshwaters across the Atlantic Ocean to the Sargasso Sea, located between the Azores Islands and the Caribbean Sea. During this trek, previous research found that they not only mature sexually, but also abstain entirely from eating. 

During this energy-consuming, months-long journey, eels lose substantial amounts of bone, other research has found. "Their bones become significantly thinner — for instance, their skull loses more than 50 percent of bone volume, while the spine loses about 65 percent of bone volume," said study senior author Björn Busse, a biomedical scientist and biomedical engineer at University Medical Center Hamburg in Germany.

A great deal remains uncertain regarding the specific mechanisms that drive this bone loss in eels. A better understanding of how this bone thinning works could "provide new directions in understanding human bone-loss syndromes," Busse said.

To shed light on how the eel skeleton shrinks as it matures, the scientists analyzed the bones of 30 specimens at different stages of the eel life cycle. Since eel migration takes place in the deep sea, and satellite tags are too big for animals as small as these eels (adults typically reach lengths of about 2.3 feet, or 70 centimeters), the researchers had no way to collect bone samples from actual migrating eels. Instead, they examined eels that were artificially induced in a lab to mature through hormone injections.

New nematode is hermaphrodite: One of the smallest known earthworms found in Jaén

Date: October 13, 2016
Source: Plataforma SINC

Around nine kilometres south of the city of Jaén (Spain), Spanish scientists have found a new species of nematode in the compost at a vegetable garden. The specimens found are extremely small, with adults measuring 0.2 mm in length. Moreover, there are no males among these roundworms, making the new nematodes a rare hermaphrodite species.

Nematodes are small worms that measure around 1 millimetre long and live freely in soil or water. They feed on bacteria, single-cell algae, fungi or other nematodes; they can also parasitise other animals or plants. But the most striking fact about them is their ability to adapt.

Scientists from the Andalusian Nematology Group at the University of Jaén focused on studying how a type of worm usually associated to damp environments has adapted to live in the dry ecosystems in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. This gave rise to the discovery of new species exclusive to extreme environments, which scientists could use to detect processes of desertification.

This is the case with Protorhabditis hortulana, a new species of nematode found in a vegetable garden nine kilometres south of Jaén, in a region known as Puente de la Sierra.
"We studied the nematofauna in a compost heap used to fertilise the plot and realised that it contained some very small nematodes," says Joaquín Abolafia of the department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology of the University of Jaén, and the lead author of the study, published in the journal Zootaxa.

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