понедельник, 14 октября 2019 г.

Staffordshire Hoard Mythical Creatures by Artist, Katharine Morling, The Potteries Museum...











Staffordshire Hoard Mythical Creatures by Artist, Katharine Morling, The Potteries Museum and Gallery, Stoke on Trent, 5.10.19.


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2019 October 14 Andromeda before Photoshop Image Credit: Kees…


2019 October 14


Andromeda before Photoshop
Image Credit: Kees Scherer


Explanation: What does the Andromeda galaxy really look like? The featured image shows how our Milky Way Galaxy’s closest major galactic neighbor really appears in a long exposure through Earth’s busy skies and with a digital camera that introduces normal imperfections. The picture is a stack of 223 images, each a 300 second exposure, taken from a garden observatory in Portugal over the past year. Obvious image deficiencies include bright parallel airplane trails, long and continuous satellite trails, short cosmic ray streaks, and bad pixels. These imperfections were actually not removed with Photoshop specifically, but rather greatly reduced with a series of computer software packages that included Astro Pixel Processor, DeepSkyStacker, and PixInsight. All of this work was done not to deceive you with a digital fantasy that has little to do with the real likeness of the Andromeda galaxy (M31), but to minimize Earthly artifacts that have nothing to do with the distant galaxy and so better recreate what M31 really does look like.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap191014.html


A triple merger in the early Universe


The total brightness (contours), velocity along our line of sight (colors of top panel), and speed of random motions (colors of bottom panel) of  DEIMOS COSMOS 818760.


As part of the multinational ALPINE collaboration, scientists at the Kavli Institute have discovered a system of three galaxies merging together when the universe was only 1.3 billion years old.


The ALPINE program (ALMA Large Program to INvestigate CII at Early times) is an extensive project using the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) to look at the ionized carbon emission (tracing regions that are actively forming stars) from 118 galaxies as they were ~1-1.5 billion years after the Big Bang. One of the primary goals is to characterize the dynamics of each galaxy in the sample, including how many are merging with other galaxies and how many feature regular rotating disks.


One of the galaxies in this sample (named DEIMOS COSMOS 818760), features three clumps of emission. From the way the clumps are distributed, how they are moving, and by comparing them with simulations, they are interpreted as three galaxies that are merging together in the early Universe. The two brightest sources are close together and show signs of interaction, while the third source is slightly weaker and more distant. The discovery of such complex interactions between galaxies in the early Universe provides previous information for understanding the early formation of galaxies and of their subsequent evolution.


Only a handful of triple mergers have been detected in the early universe, and further analysis of the ALPINE data is sure to reveal more.


The investigation of this galaxy was led by Gareth Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at the Kavli Institute, and the results were published in this week’s issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters — https://academic.oup.com/mnrasl/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/mnrasl/slz154/5582601. This is the very first paper published by the ALPINE collaboration and it is opening a sequel of several other papers that will be published in the coming months presenting various other important results that provide new important information on the primeval stages of galaxy evolution.

The ALPINE project is led by Olivier Le Févre.





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Scientists identify molecule that could have helped cells thrive on early Earth

To truly understand how the body works and improve human health, researchers need to tease apart the building blocks of our cells. But as scientists continue to make major breakthroughs in cellular biology, an important question lingers: How did cells originally form billions of years ago?











Scientists identify molecule that could have helped cells thrive on early Earth
“Protocells would have been the ancestors of cells today, if you will,” says Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, PhD,
an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research. “They didn’t have the full functionality of modern cells,
but they had the precursor behaviour to lay the foundation for what came afterward.”
[Credit: The Scripps Research Institute]

A new study, led by Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, PhD, of Scripps Research, and Sheref Mansy, PhD, of the University of Trento, offers an explanation for how «protocells» could have emerged on early Earth, eventually leading to the cells we know today. Their work, published in the journal SMALL, suggests that molecules called cyclophospholipids may have been the ingredient necessary for protocells to form important internal structures called vesicles, which likely kicked off the evolutionary process.


«Protocells would have been the ancestors of cells today, if you will,» says Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research. «They didn’t have the full functionality of modern cells, but they had the precursor behavior to lay the foundation for what came afterward.»


Krishnamurthy is a member of the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life and holds a joint appointment with the Center for Chemical Evolution, co-funded by the NASA Astrobiology program and the National Science Foundation. Like many in his field, Krishnamurthy is curious about how early vesicles would have worked.


Cells today teem with different molecules and chemical reactions, but protocells would have been much simpler, like vesicles. One feature these vesicles did have were internal hollow areas called lumen—spaces that could capture bigger and bigger molecules needed for tasks like forming RNA and making proteins, the building blocks needed for life.


Eventually, thanks to vesicles, protocells could have divided into more advanced generations of protocells that took nutrients in from the environment to grow and divide again.


The new study offers a simple solution to the puzzle of how stable vesicles could have developed. In the past, researchers tried using molecules called fatty acids to build vesicles, but these vesicles would react to metal ions and fall apart.


«Fatty acid vesicles just don’t survive many of the conditions found on the Earth, and certainly not the types of conditions needed to get activity out of biological-like molecules,» says Mansy. «This gap between plausibility and stability has made it difficult for us to imagine how protocells could have emerged.»


Researchers had never before tried using cyclophospholipids to form vesicles, but in 2018, Krishnamurthy’s laboratory published a Nature Chemistry study showing that conditions on early Earth could have led to cyclophospholipids.


After demonstrating that cyclophospholipids could have existed in life’s early days, the researchers set out to see if the molecules could help protocells build vesicles. «We didn’t know whether they’d be stable enough to be useful or functional,» says Krishnamurthy.


It turned out that the new vesicles were surprisingly stable. They stood up to a wider range of physical and chemical conditions than fatty acid vesicles, including changes in pH. In fact, the new findings suggest cyclophospholipids could be the ideal foundation for the vesicles that allowed protocells to evolve.


«Professor Krishnamurthy’s work with prebiotic phosphorylation led us to explore a new type of lipid that shows great promise in helping us to at least understand what kinds of chemical properties were necessary to build a prebiotically reasonable and robust protocell,» says Mansy.


The researchers are now gearing up to run cyclophospholipid vesicles through even more strenuous tests, answering deeper questions. They would like to know if these vesicles are compatible with other important processes needed for evolution, such as non-enzymatic RNA replication.


Source: The Scripps Research Institute [October 08, 2019]



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Meet the ‘mold pigs,’ a new group of invertebrates from 30 million years ago

Fossils preserved in Dominican amber reveal a new family, genus and species of microinvertebrate from the mid-Tertiary period, a discovery that shows unique lineages of the tiny creatures were living 30 million years ago.











Meet the 'mold pigs,' a new group of invertebrates from 30 million years ago
Fossils preserved in Dominican amber reveal a new family, genus and species of microinvertebrate from the
mid-Tertiary period, a discovery that shows unique lineages of the tiny creatures were living
30 million years ago [Credit: Provided by George Poinar Jr.]

The findings by George Poinar Jr. of the Oregon State University College of Science give a rare look at a heretofore unknown clade of invertebrates, along with their fungal food source and other animals that lived in their habitat.


Poinar, an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn more about the biology and ecology of the distant past, informally calls the new animals «mold pigs» for their resemblance to swine, and their diet. Scientifically, they are Sialomorpha dominicana, from the Greek words for fat hog (sialos) and shape (morphe).


Invertebrate means not having a backbone, and invertebrates account for roughly 95 percent of animal species.


«Every now and then we’ll find small, fragile, previously unknown fossil invertebrates in specialized habitats,» Poinar said. «And occasionally, as in the present case, a fragment of the original habitat from millions of years ago is preserved too. The mold pigs can’t be placed in any group of currently existing invertebrates — they share characteristics with both tardigrades, sometimes referred to as water bears or moss pigs, and mites but clearly belong to neither group.»


The several hundred individual fossils preserved in the amber shared warm, moist surroundings with pseudoscorpions, nematodes, fungi and protozoa, Poinar said.


«The large number of fossils provided additional evidence of their biology, including reproductive behavior, developmental stages and food,» he said. «There is no extant group that these fossils fit into, and we have no knowledge of any of their descendants living today. This discovery shows that unique lineages were surviving in the mid-Tertiary.»


The Tertiary period began 65 million years ago and lasted for more than 63 million years.


About 100 micrometers long, the mold pigs had flexible heads and four pairs of legs. They grew by molting their exoskeleton and fed mainly on fungi, supplementing that food source with small invertebrates.


«No claws are present at the end of their legs as they are with tardigrades and mites,» Poinar said. «Based on what we know about extant and extinct microinvertebrates, S. dominicana appears to represent a new phylum. The structure and developmental patterns of these fossils illustrate a time period when certain traits appeared among these types of animals. But we don’t know when the Sialomorpha lineage originated, how long it lasted, or whether there are descendants living today.»


The findings were published in Invertebrate Biology.


Author: Steve Lundeberg | Source: Oregon State University [October 08, 2019]



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MKG Hamburg returns 12th-century marble panel to Afghanistan

On the 8th of October, the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg officially returned a marble dado panel to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Mr. Abdul Jabar Ariyaee, Charge d’Affaires at the Afghan Embassy in Berlin, came to Hamburg to receive the panel from the museum. MKG is one of the first German museums to return a work of art to Afghanistan. Beyond investigating Nazi art looting and the issue of colonial collections, the museum has been increasingly turning its attention to more recent acquisitions as well.











MKG Hamburg returns 12th-century marble panel to Afghanistan
Marble panel from the Royal Palace of Mas’ud III in Ghazni
[Credit: © MKG/Joachim Hiltmann]

The restitution of the panel is the result of research carried out on its provenance and represents yet a further example of the responsibility borne by museums and the international art trade for how objects from illicit excavations are handled. The marble dado panel once belonged to a 78-part frieze dating to the twelfth century that adorned the inner courtyard of the Royal Palace of Sultan Mas’ud III in the town of Ghazni, Afghanistan. In the late 1970s, it was stolen from Ghazni’s Rawza Museum of Islamic Art.


Now, after years of research, assisted by scholars from the University of Hamburg and the Sapienza Universita di Roma, as well as close cooperation between German and Afghan authorities, the panel can finally be handed back to its rightful owners. For the time being it will be kept in the Afghan National Museum in Kabul. MKG reached out to the director, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, to help resolve the issue of the panel. Since November 2018, the MKG is displaying the marble panel in its permanent exhibition Looted Art? Provenance Research on the Collections of the MKG: The panel is presented already half-packed in a transport box set, ready to be returned. In volume 4 of its “Looted Art?” series, the MKG summarizes the research conducted on the history of the panel’s loss and acquisition.


MKG originally purchased the marble panel in good faith at a Paris auction in 2013. The provenance was not a cause of concern at first, but upon closer study it turned out that the object had in fact been stolen from the Rawza Museum of Islamic Art in Ghazni. It was possible to trace the dado panel to excavations carried out by archeologists from Afghanistan and Italy between 1957 and 1966. The archeological finds were handed over at the time to the Rawza Museum, where they were documented as new accessions. The later destabilization of Afghanistan in 1978 and the invasion by the Soviet Army in 1979 led to the museum’s collections being transported off site for safekeeping. During this relocation, the panel now in the possession of MKG was apparently stolen or moved elsewhere, and showed up on the Paris art market in the early 1990s. Many international museums have objects from Afghanistan that come from the same excavations in Ghazni.


Dr. Carsten Brosda, Senator for Culture and Media, Hamburg: “For far too long, our eyes have been closed to the true provenance of cultural goods. On a variety of levels, we are therefore currently tackling the important task of investigating the origins of the objects in our collections and, if necessary, arranging for their restitution. One result of this crucial change of consciousness and the intensive provenance research being done at many museums is that the historic marble panel acquired by MKG can now be returned to Afghanistan. I thank MKG for taking a critical look at its own collection. With the restitution to Afghanistan, the people living there will again have access to this object, which is part of their cultural heritage.”


Prof. Tulga Beyerle, Director of MKG: “I consider the fact that a museum, in this case the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, is publicly acknowledging its mistakes to be an important step. My predecessor, Dr. Sabine Schulze, has thus set a new standard in dealing with looted art. For it is not only a matter of careful provenance research and the potential restitution of art objects that have long been in the museum’s holdings, but also a question of being willing to rectify errors made in recent acquisitions as well.”


Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, Director of the Afghan National Museum in Kabul: “Thousands of movable artifacts have been stolen from both Ghazni and the National Museum of Afghanistan, in particular the white marble panels from the palace of Mas’ud III. We are looking forward to having the dado panel from Hamburg back in our collection soon, and I would like to express my gratitude to MKG for supporting its return. At the same time, I appeal to other museums and private collections to help us retrieve other art objects stolen from Afghanistan.”


MKG has been working on the restitution of the panel since 2014, assisted by Germany’s cultural property authority (Kulturgutschutz Deutschland) and the German Foreign Office. In the summer of 2018, an initial meeting took place between the museum, representatives from the Afghan Embassy in Berlin, and the German authorities. MKG is now the first German museum to return an object to Afghanistan. Back in 2006, the Musee Guimet in Paris already restored pieces to the Afghan National Museum. And in July 2019, the British Museum announced that it would give back Buddha sculptures that were presumably introduced into the art trade by the Taliban and confiscated at a London airport in 2002.


Source: Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg [October 08, 2019]



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Chemical evolution: One-pot wonder

Before life, there was RNA: Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich show how the four different letters of this genetic alphabet could be created from simple precursor molecules on early Earth — under the same environmental conditions.











Chemical evolution: One-pot wonder
The first RNA molecules, the precursors of life, may have emerged on geothermal fields on early Earth
such as those in Yellowstone National Park [Credit: Shutterstock]

Evolution has a history: Before life could be formed on the then still young planet, the first simple building blocks must have been created some four billion years ago that set its formation in motion. Under what conditions and in what ways did such molecules come together to form more complex genetic polymers that were able to replicate themselves — precursors of today’s DNA? Scientists around Professor Thomas Carell at the Ludwigs-Maximilian-Universitaet (LMU) Munich, are now able to explain another, if not the decisive, step in this chemical evolution that preceded biological phylogeny. They report about it in the renowned journal Science.
In their new work, Thomas Carell and his team propose a cascade of chemical reactions in which the four different components of the hereditary molecule RNA can all be produced under identical early Earth conditions: the primordial soup — cooked in one pot, so to speak. So far, there have been two competing pathways that required different geochemical settings on early Earth.


One leads to the construction of the so-called pyrimidines, the letters C (cytosine) and U (uracil) in the RNA alphabet, the other to A (adenine) and G (guanin), the purines. Carell’s team had already described the reaction path to the latter molecules in a previous paper. Now the Munich scientists have finally created all four genetic building blocks that might have jump-started life.


Accordingly, the simplest chemical ingredients and reaction conditions, such as those found on Earth millions of years ago on geothermal fields with subsoil volcanic activity or in shallow ponds for example, were sufficient to keep the synthesis of the RNA building blocks, going over a whole series of reaction steps.


Starting materials for the experiments, which were intended to simulate prebiotic conditions, were substances as simple as ammonia, urea and formic acid. It also needed salts such as nitrites and carbonates as well as metals such as iron and zinc, which are present in large quantities in the Earth’s crust. The chain of chemical reactions was driven only by wet-dry cycles, such as those caused by hydrothermal sources or periods of drought or rain.


Thomas Carell calls it a «breakthrough.» It is interesting to see how comparatively homogeneous the reaction conditions are for the individual steps of synthesis. Even small fluctuations of physical parameters such as mild warming or cooling or the change between a slightly acidic and a slightly alkaline reaction environment are sufficient. «There are few complex molecules that can be produced in such narrow reaction bands,» says the LMU chemist. Such simple framework conditions, he concludes, made it all the more plausible that these reaction cascades and thus a decisive step in chemical evolution could have taken place on early Earth.


The findings are published in Science.


Source: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen [October 09, 2019]



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Roman catapult missile found in the ruins of Leekie Broch, The Hunterian Museum,...


Roman catapult missile found in the ruins of Leekie Broch, The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, 29.9.19.


It’s very easy to downplay the tensions between the Roman Empire and the tribes that occupied Scotland. Archaeological evidence such as this makes it very real. Apparently it bears the distinctive cracks of a super heated missile that was quickly cooled down by Broch residents pouring water over it. All conjecture, of course.


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Meet Siamraptor suwati, a new species of giant predatory dinosaur from Thailand

Fossils discovered in Thailand represent a new genus and species of predatory dinosaur, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Duangsuda Chokchaloemwong of Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Thailand and colleagues.











Meet Siamraptor suwati, a new species of giant predatory dinosaur from Thailand
Siamraptor skull reconstruction [Credit: Chokchaloemwong et al., 2019]

Carcharodontosaurs were a widespread and successful group of large predatory dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods and were important members of ecosystems on multiple continents. However, the fossil record of these animals is notably lacking from the Early Cretaceous of Asia, with no definite carcharodontosaurs known from Southeast Asia.
In this study, Chokchaloemwong and colleagues describe fossil material from the Khok Kruat geologic formation in Khorat, Thailand, dating to the Early Cretaceous. These fossils include remains of the skull, backbone, limbs, and hips of at least four individual dinosaurs, and morphological comparison with known species led the authors to identify these remains as belonging to a previously unknown genus and species of carcharodontosaur which they named Siamraptor suwati.


Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Siamraptor is a basal member of the carcharodontosaurs, meaning it represents a very early evolutionary split from the rest of the group. It is also the first definitive carcharodontosaur known from Southeast Asia, and combined with similarly-aged finds from Europe and Africa, it reveals that this group of dinosaurs had already spread to three continents by the Early Cretaceous.


The authors summarize their work as follows: «A Siam predator: New carnivorous dinosaur Siamraptor suwati discovered in Thailand.


Source: Public Library of Science [October 09, 2019]



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Ancient fossils reveal fresh clues about early life on land

Slime has been present on Earth for a very long time—almost 2 billion years, according to a recent reassessment of fossil evidence.











Ancient fossils reveal fresh clues about early life on land
Credit: University of Oregon

In a study published this month in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, UO geologist Greg Retallack and Xuegang Mao of China’s Fujian Normal University confirm that a fossil from Western Australia is the planet’s oldest known land-dwelling slime mold.


The fossil in question, Myxomitodes stirlingensi, is a hairpin-shaped trace of biological activity found in the rocks of the Stirling Range, a mountain region 200 miles southeast of Perth. Long the subject of scholarly controversy, the fossil has sparked debate both about the specific life form it represents as well as the paleoenvironment it inhabited.


«They have been interpreted as trails of metazoan animals and often as marine organisms,» said Retallack, who is director of the Condon Fossil Collection at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. «Though they resemble animal trails they probably were not. Slime molds make similar trails but lack any animal organization: no mouth, no gut, no anus, no nerves, no veins. And we are seeing these fossils at the surface of ancient terrestrial soils, making them additional evidence of life on land during the Paleoproterozoic Period.»


Retallack said that while slime molds are not themselves multicellular, they might hold important clues about how multicellular organisms evolved.


«Myxomitodes were amoebae that live dispersed in soil, but these traces of their movement demonstrate that they could coalesce into a slug that wandered over the soil as a unit, possibly to sense better feeding opportunities or a place to sporulate, and then disaggregate once again into single cells,» he said. «This may demonstrate an early stage in the evolution of multicellular creatures, bridging the gap between microbes and more complex life forms.»


Author: Kristin Strommer | Source: University of Oregon [Octpober 09, 2019]



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5700-year-old child burial unearthed in eastern Turkey

A recently unearthed skeleton of a child in eastern Turkey is thought to date back to 5,700 years ago, according to the head of excavation.











5700-year-old child burial unearthed in eastern Turkey
Credit: AA

The skeleton was discovered in a Late Chalcolithic era house during ongoing excavations in the Archaeological Site of Arslantepe, located in the eastern Malatya province.
“We found beads on the arms and neck of the child, which we have not seen before. These beads indicate that the child belonged to a noble family,” excavation head Marcelle Frangipane told Anadolu Agency.


A professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, Frangipane said scientific studies at Arslantepe continue and the child is thought to have lived in 3600-3700 BC.











5700-year-old child burial unearthed in eastern Turkey
Credit: AA

Following expert examination by the Anthropology Department of Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, the skeleton will give clues about the life of the era it belonged.
“The excavation team said that the child was 6 or 7 years old, but they should work on it further. The child may have died due to a trauma,” she added.


Frangipane also said that they are waiting for the results of the examination to discover the gender, genetic signature, age and cause of death of the child as well as the diet of era.











5700-year-old child burial unearthed in eastern Turkey
Credit: AA

The four-hectare and 30-meter high archaeological mound, lying five kilometers (three miles) away from the city center, Arslantepe was accepted into the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage on April 15, 2014.
According to the UNESCO, Arslantepe excavations have been conducted since 1961 on behalf of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Italian Archaeological Expedition of the Sapienza University of Rome.


Arslantepe — where findings from the Late Chalcolithic era and the Iron Age were found — was home to many civilizations, such as Hittites, Romans and Byzantines.











5700-year-old child burial unearthed in eastern Turkey
Credit: AA

During the past years’ excavations, lion statues and an overturned king sculpture were unearthed, as well as the adobe palace, which has a rainwater drainage infrastructure and more than 2,000 sealings, revealing the structure of the first city-state in Anatolia.


Source: Hurriyet Daily News [October 09, 2019]



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Bacteria contradict Darwin: Survival of the friendliest

New microbial research at the University of Copenhagen suggests that ‘survival of the friendliest’ outweighs ‘survival of the fittest’ for groups of bacteria. Bacteria make space for one another and sacrifice properties if it benefits the bacterial community as a whole. The discovery is a major step towards understanding complex bacteria interactions and the development of new treatment models for a wide range of human diseases and new green technologies.











Bacteria contradict Darwin: Survival of the friendliest

New microbial research at the Department of Biology reveals that bacteria would rather unite against external threats, such as antibiotics, rather than fight against each other. The report has just been published in the scientific publication ISME Journal. For a number of years the researchers have studied how combinations of bacteria behave together when in a confined area. After investigating many thousands of combinations it has become clear that bacteria cooperate to survive and that these results contradict what Darwin said in his theories of evolution.
«In the classic Darwinian mindset, competition is the name of the game. The best suited survive and outcompete those less well suited. However, when it comes to microorganisms like bacteria, our findings reveal the most cooperative ones survive,» explains Department of Biology microbiologist, Professor Soren Johannes Sorensen.


Social bacteria work shoulder to shoulder


By isolating bacteria from a small corn husk (where they were forced to «fight» for space) the scientists were able to investigate the degree to which bacteria compete or cooperate to survive. The bacterial strains were selected based upon their ability to grow together. Researchers measured bacterial biofilm, a slimy protective layer that shields bacteria against external threats such as antibiotics or predators. When bacteria are healthy, they produce more biofilm and become stronger and more resilient.


Time after time, the researchers observed the same result: Instead of the strongest outcompeting the others in biofilm production, space was allowed to the weakest, allowing the weak to grow much better than they would have on their own. At the same time the researchers could see that the bacteria split up laborious tasks by shutting down unnecessary mechanisms and sharing them with their neighbors.


«It may well be that Henry Ford thought that he had found something brilliant when he introduced the assembly line and worker specialization, but bacteria have been taking advantage of this strategy for a billion years,» says Soren Johannes Sorensen referring to the oldest known bacterial fossils with biofilm. He adds:


«Our new study demonstrates that bacteria organize themselves in a structured way, distribute work and even to help each other. This means that we can find out which bacteria cooperate, and possibly, which ones depend on each another, by looking at who sits next to who.»


Understanding invisible bacterial synergy


The researchers also investigated what properties bacteria had when they were alone versus when they were with other bacteria. Humans often discuss the work place or group synergy, and how people inspire each other. Bacteria take this one step further when they survive in small communities.


«Bacteria take our understanding of group synergy and inspiration to a completely different level. They induce attributes in their neighbors that would otherwise remain dormant. In this way groups of bacteria can express properties that aren’t possible when they are alone.


When they are together totally new features can suddenly emerge,» Soren Johannes Sorensen explains.


Understanding how bacteria interact in groups has the potential to create a whole new area in biotechnology that traditionally strives to exploit single, isolated strains, one at a time.


«Bio-based society is currently touted as a solution to model many of the challenges that our societies face. However, the vast majority of today’s biotech is based on single organisms. This is in stark contrast to what happens in nature, where all processes are managed by cooperative consortia of organisms. We must learn from nature and introduce solutions to tap the huge potential of biotechnology in the future», according to Soren Johannes Sorensen.


Source: University of Copenhagen [October 10, 2019]



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Study offers solution to Ice Age ocean chemistry puzzle

New research into the chemistry of the oceans during ice ages is helping to solve a puzzle that has engaged scientists for more than two decades.











Study offers solution to Ice Age ocean chemistry puzzle
The Southern ocean, south-east of Tasmania [Credit: IMAS]

At issue is how much of the CO2 that entered the ocean during ice ages can be attributed to the ‘biological pump’, where atmospheric carbon is absorbed by phytoplankton and sequestered to the seafloor as organisms die and sink.


Solving the puzzle is important to improve the accuracy of climate models and inform understanding of how ocean processes may react to future climate change.


Led by IMAS and University of Liverpool scientists and published in Nature Communications, the study found ice age phytoplankton in the tropics absorbed high levels of CO2 due to fertilisation by iron-rich dust blowing into the ocean.


Lead author Dr Pearse Buchanan said that until now models had only been able to explain a portion of the CO2 that entered ice age oceans via the biological pump.


«During past ice ages, carbon levels were lower in the atmosphere and higher in the oceans than today, but scientific models aren’t able to account for all of the additional CO2 that entered the ocean,» Dr Buchanan said.


«The leading hypothesis has been that iron-rich dust blown from glacial landscapes stimulated phytoplankton growth in high latitudes, but this only explained around one-third of the extra CO2 absorbed through the biological pump: the other two-thirds was effectively ‘missing’.


«We used an ocean model to look at the response to iron rich dust of phytoplankton in tropical waters, particularly a group of phytoplankton called «nitrogen fixers».


«These are able to biochemically ‘fix’ nitrogen from the atmosphere, much like nitrogen fixing bacteria that help legume crops thrive in nutrient poor soil.


«Marine nitrogen fixers are known to be important in the marine nitrogen cycle, and now we’ve shown they’re also critically important in the marine carbon cycle.


«When we added iron to our ocean model, nitrogen fixers thrived, and their growth and subsequent sinking to the deep ocean can account for much of the missing CO2,» Dr Buchanan said.


IMAS Associate Professor Zanna Chase said this solution was first proposed in 1997 but had gained little traction over the last two decades.


«The beauty of this approach is that it can explain almost all of the additional CO2 that phytoplankton transported into the oceans during the last Ice Age,» Associate Professor Chase said.


«The increased activity of the biological pump in the tropics complemented that happening in colder waters, drawing higher levels of CO2 into the oceans and locking it away in the deep ocean.


«This pathway for carbon to the deep ocean is reduced today because less fertilising iron is being circulated by the wind and phytoplankton growth, including that of nitrogen fixers, is correspondingly limited, although there are signs that it has strengthened within the Pacific since the industrial revolution.


«Taking account of these links between the cycles of iron, nitrogen and carbon in our ocean and climate change models will make them better able to explain ocean processes and predict future changes.


«But how iron fertilisation of phytoplankton will evolve is currently uncertain, undermining our ability to predict the ocean’s role in drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere in the coming centuries,» Associate Professor Chase said.


Source: University of Tasmania [October 10, 2019]



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Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops have been revealed at Luxor’s Valley of the Monkeys by a team of Egyptian archaeologists headed by Dr. Zahi Hawass.











Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Credit: Egypt. Ministry of Antiquities



Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Dr. Khaled Al-Anani announced on Thursday two archaeological discoveries carried out by Dr. Hawass’ expedition in the Valley of the Monkeys, a site neighboring to the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor’s West Bank.
At first, Egypt’s Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri said that the Egyptian expedition, which has been active in the Valley of the Monkeys since December 2017, has succeeded to uncover a hitherto unknown industrial area.


Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys










Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Credit: Egypt. Ministry of Antiquities



This area contains a deep cut —given number KV (T)— fronted by an oven which was once used for pottery and other archeological objects. Besides it, archaeologists located a tank KV(U) used to store drinking water, possibly for the needs of the workforce. Between KV(T) and KV(U), the team found a scarab ring, hundreds of inlay beads and golden objects which were used to decorate royal coffins. Some of the inlays are shaped in a pattern known as “the wings of Horus”.
Secondly, the team has brought to light 30 workshops in the shape of “houses” for the storage and cleaning of funerary furniture.  Pottery from the site allows dating them to Dynasty 18. The team also explored a tomb known as KV 65 where they located tools associated with tomb-building.


Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys










Ancient Egyptian funerary equipment workshops revealed at Valley of the Monkeys

Credit: Egypt. Ministry of Antiquities



Dr. Hawass stated that his team represents the second expedition excavating in the area of the East Valley after Howard Carter’s era. The team’s mission is to search for tombs still remaining unrecorded, including burials of the wives and sons of 18th Dynasty Pharaohs buried in the Valley of the Kings; since the Valley of the Queens did not start taking on burials except at the beginning of dynasty 19.
In particular, Dr. Hawass said that work is currently underway to search for the tomb of Queen Nefertiti and the tomb of her daughter (and King Tutankhamun’s wife) Queen Ankhesenamun. Moreover, he explained that the area located between the tombs of Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ay contains the tombs of the Amarna family. He also noted that the mission is working to unearth the tombs of King Amenhotep I and King Tuthmose II and Ramses VIII.



He finally specified that the mission has worked next to the tombs of King Ramses VII, Queen Hatshepsut and King Ramses III and behind King Merneptah’s tomb. Excavating next to the tomb of King Tutankhamun the team has found many important artifacts set to be announced during the press conference. In that area, the team has recorded forty-two small labor huts where royal tomb builders were placing their tools, alongside hieroglyphic inscriptions, as well as parts of inscribed tombs and rings dating from the Ramesside period.


Source: Egypt. Ministry of Antiquities [October 11, 2019]



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