Mothers usually set about teaching their offspring the moment they're born. But the females of one Australian bird can't wait that long. Superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) mothers sing to their unhatched eggs to teach the embryo inside a 'password' — a single unique note — which the nestlings must later incorporate into their begging calls if they want to get fed. The trick allows fairy-wren parents to distinguish between their own offspring and those of the two cuckoo species that frequently invade their nests. The female birds also teach their mates the password.
Animals communicate with each other, and sometimes with us. But that’s where the similarity between animals and us ends. Primates, birds, cetaceans, dogs and other species have proven able, through extensive training, to understand human words and simple sentences.
However, language is more than a process through which meaning is attached to words or short sentences. Language might be described as the ability to take a finite set of elements (such as words), and using a set of rules (grammar and syntax) to create infinite combinations, each of which is comprehensible. Given this definition, it is perhaps not surprising then that cognitive psychologists sometimes speak of a "grammar of action".
Like sentences, the catalogue of human actions is infinite. We stretch, bend, and kick. We build bridges and prepare meals. We perform an endless variety of dance routines. We make paper airplanes. A complex action, like hammering a nail, can be broken down into its constituent actions – grasping, striking, reaching – just as a sentence can be broken into its units – nouns, verbs, adjectives. In 1951, cognitive psychologist Karl Lashley proposed a link between language and action. "Not only speech,” he wrote, “but all skilled acts seem to involve the same problems of serial ordering, even down to the temporal coordination of muscular contractions in such a movement as reaching and grasping." Just as a stream of speech does not contain explicit pauses between words, fluid actions like nail hammering do not contain breaks between their components. Yet humans effortlessly parse speech streams and action sequences into their parts.
What is language, then, if it can describe the way we process actions as well as the way we manipulate words? Understand from this perspective, language is not a method of communication, per se, but a rather method of computation. Other animals clearly communicate with one another, sometimes in fairly elaborate ways. Whale sing, monkeys howl, birds chirp. Lizards bob their heads up and down to communicate, and some squid do it by regulating the colouration of their skin cells. But none of these processes can be explained by language.
What makes human language unique is not that it allows us to communicate with each other, but that it allows us to do so with infinite variety. A monkey can scream to warn its troopmates of an approaching predator, or alert them to a cache of tasty food, but it can't communicate something like "doesn't that hawk have a funny looking beak?" or "with a little salt, this fig would taste divine". It certainly can't create nonsensical yet understandable sentences like “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously”.
No, only humans can utter that sort of grammatical nonsense and understand it.
Nobody likes listen to people complain. No matter how empathetic you try to be, there’s always that little voice in your head that’s saying; “So why are you telling me?” and/or “Why don’t you just go and do something about it?”
Scientists are looking at ways to lower the global temperature by removing greenhouse gases from the air. Could super-absorbent fake leaves be the answer?
It may be a colorless, odorless and completely natural gas, but carbon dioxide is beginning to cause us a lot of problems. It only makes up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere (0.04% of all the gas by volume – or 395 parts per million) but it has a huge effect on the Earth’s temperature. That's because unlike nitrogen or oxygen, carbon dioxide molecules absorb the Sun's heat rays even though they let light rays pass through, like a greenhouse.
Scientists are looking at ways to modulate the global temperature by removing some of this carbon dioxide from the air. If it works, it would be one of the few ways of geo-engineering the planet with multiple benefits, beyond simply cooling the atmosphere. Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide just like all other metabolic life forms. Meanwhile, photosynthetic organisms like plants and algae take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. This balance has kept the planet at a comfortably warm average temperature of 14˚C (57˚F), compared with a chilly -18˚C (0˚F) if there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In the Anthropocene (the Age of Man), we have shifted this balance by releasing more carbon dioxide than plants can absorb. Since the industrial revolution, humans have been burning increasing amounts of fossil fuels, releasing stored carbon from millions of years ago. Eventually the atmosphere will reach a new balance at a hotter temperature as a result of the additional carbon dioxide, but getting there is going to be difficult.
The carbon dioxide we are releasing is changing the climate, the wind and precipitation patterns, acidifying the oceans, warming the habitats for plants and animals, melting glaciers and ice sheets, increasing the frequency of wildfires and raising sea levels. And we are doing this at such a rapid pace that animals and plants may not have time to evolve to the new conditions. Humans won't have to rely on evolution, but we will have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on adapting or moving our cities and other infrastructure, and finding ways to grow our food crops under these unfamiliar conditions. Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, there is enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that temperatures will continue to rise for a few hundred years. We won't stop emitting carbon dioxide today, of course, and it is now very likely that within the lifetime of people born today we will increase the temperature of the planet by at least 3˚C more than the average temperature before the industrial revolution.
The problem with removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is that it’s present at such a low concentration. In a power plant chimney, for instance, carbon dioxide is present at concentrations of 4-12% within a relatively small amount of exhaust air. Removing the gas takes a lot of energy, so it is expensive, but it’s feasible. To extract the 0.04% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would require enormous volumes of air to be processed. As a result, most scientists have baulked at the idea.
Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University, has come up with a technique that he thinks could solve the problem - Fake plastic trees. Lackner has designed an artificial tree that passively soaks up carbon dioxide from the air using “leaves” that are 1,000 times more efficient than true leaves that use photosynthesis. "We don't need to expose the leaves to sunlight for photosynthesis like a real tree does," Lackner explains. "So our leaves can be much more closely spaced and overlapped – even configured in a honeycomb formation to make them more efficient."
The leaves look like sheets of papery plastic and are coated in a resin that contains sodium carbonate, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it as a bicarbonate (baking soda) on the leaf. To remove the carbon dioxide, the leaves are rinsed in water vapour and can dry naturally in the wind, soaking up more carbon dioxide.
Lackner calculates that his tree can remove one tonne of carbon dioxide a day. Ten million of these trees could remove 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to about 10% of our global annual carbon dioxide emissions. "Our total emissions could be removed with 100 million trees," he says, "whereas we would need 1,000 times that in real trees to have the same effect."
Rare stripes in some cheetahs found only in sub-Saharan Africa made scientists classify it as different species. Now, researchers have finally solved the mystery. Mutation in a single gene is causing the stripes in the cheetah similar to the blotched pattern or stripes in feral cats.
While some tabby cats have stripes on their back, some tabbies do have stripes in irregular swirls. These tabbies were called as "blotched" and were not considered as common in the wild. Even the cheetahs with the blotched pattern were initially thought to belong to a separate species and were known as "king cheetahs."
A distant gas and dust cloud that is likely to collapse into a Sun-like star has enough water vapor to fill Earth’s oceans more than 2,000 times over. The discovery marks the first time scientists have detected water vapor in a “pre-stellar core”—the cold, dark clouds of gas and dust from which stars form.
“To produce that amount of vapor, there must be a lot of water ice in the cloud, more than three million frozen Earth oceans’ worth,” says Paola Caselli, a professor at the University of Leeds.
The discovery was made using the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, in a pre-stellar core known as Lynds 1544, in the constellation of Taurus. Water has previously been detected outside of our Solar System as gas and ice coated onto tiny dust grains near sites of active star formation, and in proto-planetary discs capable of forming planetary systems. More than 2,000 Earth oceans-worth of water vapor were detected, liberated from icy dust grains by high-energy cosmic rays passing through the cloud. Some of the water vapor detected in L1544 will go into forming the star, but the rest will be incorporated into the surrounding disc, providing a rich water reservoir to feed potential new planets.
“Thanks to Herschel, we can now follow the ‘water trail’ from a molecular cloud in the interstellar medium, through the star formation process, to a planet like Earth where water is a crucial ingredient for life,” says ESA’s Herschel project scientist, Göran Pilbratt.
There is an international quantum teleportation space race heating up. Around the world, countries are investing time and millions of dollars into the technology, which uses satellites to beam bits of quantum information down from the sky and and could profoundly change worldwide communication.
This is not a maybe-sort-of-one-day quantum technology. Quantum teleportation has been proven experimentally many times over and researchers are now eyeing the heavens as their next big leap forward. Most of what remains are the nuts and bolts engineering challenges (and some more money) before it becomes a thing of the present.
Though it may be disappointing to hear, quantum teleportation is not about instantly sending a person or object between two places – this is no “Beam me up, Scotty,” or “Bampf!” Instead, the technique involves the perhaps even freakier task of separating a subatomic particle from its quantum state.
Though the team’s paper was purely theoretical at the time, scientists since then have done many experiments teleporting particles over longer and longer distances. In the past year, a team from China and another in Austria set new records for quantum teleportation, using a laser to beam photons through the open air over 60 and 89 miles, respectively. This is many times farther than the previous record of 10 miles, set in 2010 by the same Chinese team. With scientists extending quantum teleportation to such distances, many are already considering the next step: zapping particles and information from an orbiting satellite to a relay station on Earth.
If developed, quantum teleportation satellites could allow spies to pass large amounts of information back and forth or create unhackable codes. Should we ever build quantum computers – which would be smaller and exponentially more powerful than modern computers, able to model complex phenomenon, rapidly crunch numbers, and render modern encryption keys useless – they would need quantum teleporters in order to be networked together in a quantum version of the internet.
China plans to launch a satellite with a quantum teleportation experiment payload in 2016 and the European, Japanese, and Canadian space agencies are hoping to fund their own quantum teleportation satellite projects in the coming years. Conspicuously, the U.S. is far behind the pack because of a bureaucratic reshuffling that left quantum communication research experiments without government support in 2008. Whoever loses this new competition could fail to capitalize on the promise of quantum communication altogether.
A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That's far brighter than the full Moon.
It’s not a magic trick and it’s not sleight of hand – scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. While the connection between levitation and drug development may not be immediately apparent, a special relationship emerges at the molecular level.
At the molecular level, pharmaceutical structures fall into one of two categories: amorphous or crystalline. Amorphous drugs typically are more efficiently taken up by the body than their crystalline cousins; this is because amorphous drugs are both more highly soluble and have a higher bioavailability, suggesting that a lower dose can produce the desired effect.
The vital tasks carried out by tiny "engineers" like earthworms that recycle waste and bees that pollinate crops are under threat because one fifth of the world's spineless creatures may be at risk of extinction, a study showed on Friday.
Last month, dozens of news outlets reported the story of Charlotte Neve, the seven-year-old girl from Lancashire who awoke from a coma after hearing one of her favourite songs. "It's a complete miracle," the girl's mother, Leila, told The Sun. "I thought I was going to lose my little girl. I climbed into her hospital bed to give her a cuddle … and Adele came on the radio. I started singing it to her because she loves her and we used to sing that song together. Charlotte started smiling and I couldn't believe it."
There are other, similar cases. Earlier this year, Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia, and reportedly emerged from it 12 days later after family members began playing familiar music and singing to him. Such cases provide anecdotal evidence that familiar music has beneficial effects on comatose patients. Now, French researchers have conducted the first scientific study of this phenomenon, and their preliminary findings suggest that familiar music probably can increase arousal in coma patients, and may also enhance their cognitive processes.
While I do enjoy this video, it is especially interesting in in how it conceptualizes the world in the two frames. Urban, human, civilized society on one side, with natural, unsettled wilderness on the other. The video attempts to bridge the divide, hoping that more people will see more interconnections between the human/urban world and the natural/wildlife world. While geographers recognize that all elements of the planet are interconnected, most people still think of the world through dichotomies such as these: civilization vs. wilderness, cultural vs. natural and human vs. animal. How do these terms shape our thinking about the world?
Corals under attack by toxic seaweed do what anyone might do when threatened -- they call for help. A study reported this week in the journal Science shows that threatened corals send signals to fish "bodyguards" that quickly respond to trim back the noxious alga -- which can kill the coral if not promptly removed.
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found evidence that these "mutualistic" fish respond to chemical signals from the coral like a 911 emergency call -- in a matter of minutes. The inch-long fish -- known as gobies -- spend their entire lives in the crevices of specific corals, receiving protection from their own predators while removing threats to the corals.
This symbiotic relationship between the fish and the coral on which they live is the first known example of one species chemically signaling a consumer species to remove competitors. It is similar to the symbiotic relationship between Acacia trees and mutualist ants in which the ants receive food and shelter while protecting the trees from both competitors and consumers.
"This species of coral is recruiting inch-long bodyguards," said Mark Hay, a professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. "There is a careful and nuanced dance of the odors that makes all this happen. The fish have evolved to cue on the odor released into the water by the coral, and they very quickly take care of the problem."
Monarchs aren't the only continent-hopping butterflies. Painted ladies, common on the European continent and in the United Kingdom, are also long-distance commuters, traveling back and forth to North Africa, a new study shows. Although the insect's northward trip was well-documented by citizen scientists, few saw it heading south again—suggesting the commute might be just one-way. But in the spring of 2009, millions of painted ladies hit the shores of the United Kingdom, offering up an abundance of new data. With many observations to work with, researchers correlated some of the 60,000 sightings with data from radars that monitor insect movements above 150 meters. The radar revealed a high-altitude southward migration route: Most painted ladies ascend to 500 meters or so to hitchhike rides on the upper air's fast moving winds, ecologists reported this week in Ecography. The insects—the offspring of the northward-traveling migrants—tended to leave for North Africa in two waves, one in August and one in October, sometimes traveling more than 50 kilometers an hour—twice as fast as they can fly on their own, say the researchers. Based on radar sightings, in 2009 11 million painted ladies landed in the United Kingdom and 26 million left—indicating that, far from being a dead end, the British Isles gave the species a boost.
An amazing set of experiments suggest the present and the future are entangled, and that events in the future may influence things happening in the world now.
We've been taught our consciousness -− and everything else in the world -− flows like an arrow in one direction from the cradle to the grave. But an amazing set of experiments suggest the present and the future are entangled, and that events in the future may influence things happening in the world now. Since this sounds absurd, let's go straight to an actual experiment published in 2002. Scientists showed that pairs of particles could anticipate what their distant twins would do in the future. They stretched the distance one of the photons took to reach its detector, so the other photon would hit its own detector first. The photons taking this path already finished their journeys -− they either collapse into a particle or don't before their twin encounters a scrambling device. They decided this before their twin ever encountered the scrambler. Somehow, the particles "knew" what the researcher would do before it happened.
In a 2007 experiment, scientists shot photons into an apparatus and showed they could retroactively change whether they behaved as particles or waves. The particles had to "decide" what to do when they passed a fork in the apparatus. Later on, the experimenter could flip a switch. It turns out what the observer decided at that point determined how the particle had behaved at the fork in the past.
Eminent Princeton physicist John Wheeler (who coined "black hole") insisted when observing light from a distant quasar bent around a galaxy, we've set up a quantum observation on an enormously large scale. It means, he said, the measurements made on incoming light now, determines the path it took billions of years ago. This mirrors the results of the actual quantum experiment described above, where an observation now determines what a particle's twin did in the past.
In 2002, Discover magazine sent a reporter to the coast of Maine to speak to Wheeler firsthand. Wheeler said he was sure the universe was filled with "huge clouds of uncertainty" that haven't yet interacted either with a conscious observer or even with some lump of inanimate matter. In all these places, he said, the cosmos is "a vast arena containing realms where the past is not yet the past."
This logic applies not just to events that took place billions of years ago. What you do today could influence past events -- say, at the building of the Great Pyramids, the birth and death of Christ, or landing on the moon -- or events that will occur millions of years in the future when the Sun's dome obscures the heavens.
Washington State University researchers have developed a new drug candidate that dramatically improves the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer’s-like mental impairment. Their compound, which is intended to repair brain damage that has already occurred, is a significant departure from current Alzheimer’s treatments, which either slow the process of cell death or inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme believed to break down a key neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory development.
Such drugs, says Joe Harding, a professor in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, are not designed to restore lost brain function, which can be done by rebuilding connections between nerve cells.
"This is about recovering function,” he says. "That’s what makes these things totally unique. They’re not designed necessarily to stop anything. They’re designed to fix what’s broken. As far as we can see, they work.”
Harding, College of Arts and Sciences Professor Jay Wright and other WSU colleagues report their findings in the online "Fast Forward” section of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Their drug comes as the pharmacological industry is struggling to find an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, reported that only three of 104 possible treatments have been approved in the past 13 years. "This 34 to one ratio of setbacks to successes underlines the difficulty of developing new medicines for Alzheimer’s,” the trade group said in a news release.
Tissue engineers have succeeded in making artificial organs that use a patient’s cells to become a living part of the body, with hope for eventual organ regeneration.
So far, only a few organs have been made and transplanted, and they are relatively simple, hollow ones — like bladders and Mr. Beyene’s windpipe, which was implanted in June 2011. But scientists around the world are using similar techniques with the goal of building more complex organs. At Wake Forest University in North Carolina, for example, where the bladders were developed, researchers are working on kidneys, livers and more. Labs in China and the Netherlands are among many working on blood vessels.
The work of these new body builders is far different from the efforts that produced artificial hearts decades ago. Those devices, which are still used temporarily by some patients awaiting transplants, are sophisticated machines, but in the end they are only that: machines.
Tissue engineers aim to produce something that is more human. They want to make organs with the cells, blood vessels and nerves to become a living, functioning part of the body. Some, like Dr. Macchiarini, want to go even further — to harness the body’s repair mechanisms so that it can remake a damaged organ on its own.
Researchers are making use of advances in knowledge of stem cells, basic cells that can be transformed into types that are specific to tissues like liver or lung. They are learning more about what they call scaffolds, compounds that act like mortar to hold cells in their proper place and that also play a major role in how cells are recruited for tissue repair.
Tissue engineers caution that the work they are doing is experimental and costly, and that the creation of complex organs is still a long way off. But they are increasingly optimistic about the possibilities.
A new study from consulting firm California Environmental Associates, part of which appeared in the journal Science last week, estimates that “over 40 percent of fisheries have crashed or are overfished, producing economic losses in excess of $50 billion per year.” If you’ve heard more encouraging numbers before now, that’s because these new figures include estimates of what’s happening to unmonitored stocks, from which fishermen draw 80 percent of the world’s harvest, not just those stocks that authorities closely assess. One indication of fishery depletion, the report notes, is that people are spending more effort — traveling farther, sinking more hooks, staying on the water longer — to catch fewer and fewer fish. Unsurprisingly, the problem is worst in middle- and low-income countries, where regulation is more often spottily enforced or nonexistent.
UCLA astronomers report the discovery of a remarkable star that orbits the enormous black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy in a blistering 11-and-a-half years — the shortest known orbit of any star near this black hole. The star, known as S0-102, may help astronomers discover whether Albert Einstein was right in his fundamental prediction of how black holes warp space and time.
Before this discovery, astronomers knew of only one star with a very short orbit near the black hole: S0-2, which Ghez used to call her "favorite star" and whose orbit is 16 years. (The "S" is for Sagittarius, the constellation containing the galactic center and the black hole). Black holes, which form out of the collapse of matter, have such high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light. They cannot be seen directly, but their influence on nearby stars is visible and provides a signature, said Ghez, a 2008 MacArthur Fellow. Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that mass distorts space and time and therefore not only slows down the flow of time but also stretches or shrinks distances.
According to general relativity, the elliptical orbits of objects like S0-2 and S0-102 should themselves “rotate,” creating a rosette-pattern over time. This motion is known as precession and is most easily observed in bodies orbiting close to massive objects. But the mass of other stars near the galaxy’s center creates a different type of precession that is difficult to separate from precession caused by general relativity. By studying the orbits of S0-02 and S0-102 together, the Galactic Center Group will be able to distinguish between the two precessions.
And according to Ghez, “It is conceivable that we will be able to observe deviations from Einstein’s theory in regions where S0-102 and other short period stars reside.” S0-102 was discovered using images taken with the twin 10-metre telescopes of the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, the largest optical telescopes on the planet. These included observations with the Keck II telescope using adaptive optics and laser guide-star technology that corrects for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. With a resolution greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the observations allow Ghez, Do, and the group to resolve individual stars in the crowded region.
Humans may have conquered the world, but not without a big helping hand from climate change. A major study of the last 120,000 years of history reminds us that, while we are adaptable, our species is ultimately at the mercy of the climate. Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, but only left the continent about 70,000 years ago. After that our species rapidly went global, colonising first Europe and Asia, and then Australasia and the Americas.
But why did early humans linger so long in Africa, and what spurred them to finally move? Several theories have been proposed, but according to a large effort to reconstruct the last 120,000 years of human history – including the climate we lived in and the vegetation we fed on – the current population spread around the planet would not be as it is without key changes in the climate.
The new climate model revealed that climate changes probably had a key role in lifting four major roadblocks to humanity's global takeover. The first and most important roadblock was the Arabian peninsula, an impassable desert that trapped humans in Africa for tens of thousands of years. Then, 70,000 years ago it began receiving more rain. The coastal areas became more fertile, allowing humans out of Africa. One group expanded east into Asia, spreading south-east into Indonesia. There, they hit a second roadblock: high sea levels meant that wide stretches of open water separated the many islands. Manica assumed that crossings of 100 kilometres were a bridge too far, leaving pioneers no way to reach Australia. That meant people could only go further once sea levels fell, exposing more patches of low-lying land and making for shorter sea journeys. The waters fell 60,000 years ago and then again 15,000 years later, as successive glaciations trapped more of the world's water at the poles.
Further north, humans reached Siberia by 30,000 years ago, where they were met by a vast ice sheet which prevented them from entering North America – the third roadblock. Not until 15,000 years ago did it shrink, allowing them into the Americas. Once in, they spread rapidly. Back in Europe and Asia, populations faced one last roadblock: their local ice sheets. During warm periods humans went north into Scandinavia and northern Asia, but they were forced south when the ice advanced again.
A new set of fossil footprints discovered in Joggins, Nova Scotia, near Amherst, have been identified as the world’s smallest known fossil vertebrate footprints. The footprints were found at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. A fossil specimen of the ichnogenus Batrachichnus salamandroides was collected by local amateur paleontologist Gloria Melanson, daughter of Don Reid, the famed Keeper of the Joggins Cliffs, while walking the Joggins beach.
“This was one of the most exciting finds I have ever made and I am very pleased that, along with my colleagues, we are able to share it with the world. Every big fossil find is by chance; it's all about being lucky and recognizing what you’re looking at. When I saw the very small tail and toes I knew we had something special. I never thought it would be the world’s smallest,” said Melanson.
The footprints belonged to a small amphibian which would have roamed the Earth 315 million years ago, a creature not unlike a salamander. Small trackways of these animals at Joggins are common, but none so small as the one discovered recently. The 48-mm-long trackway preserves approximately 30 footprints with the front feet measuring 1.6 mm long and back feet measuring 2.4 mm long. Study of the footprints by paleontologists at Saint Mary's University (student Matt Stimson) and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History (Dr. Spencer Lucas) has revealed the trace maker was a juvenile amphibian, similar to a salamander (temnospondyl or microsaur) with an estimated body length of only 8 mm from snout to tail.
An international team of scientists has discovered the oldest record of arthropods -- invertebrate animals that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans -- preserved in amber. The specimens, one fly and two mites found in millimeter-scale droplets of amber from northeastern Italy, are about 100 million years older than any other amber arthropod ever collected.
"Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years," said corresponding author David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology and a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods.
Globules of fossilized resin are typically called amber. Amber ranges in age from the Carboniferous (about 340 million years ago) to about 40,000 years ago, and has been produced by myriad plants, from tree ferns to flowering trees, but predominantly by conifers. Even though arthropods are more than 400 million years old, until now, the oldest record of the animals in amber dates to about 130 million years. The newly discovered arthropods break that mold with an age of 230 million years. They are the first arthropods to be found in amber from the Triassic Period.
The amber droplets, most between 2-6 millimeters long, were buried in outcrops high in the Dolomite Alps of northeastern Italy and excavated by Eugenio Ragazzi and Guido Roghi of the University of Padova. About 70,000 of the miniscule droplets were screened for inclusions -- encased animal and plant material -- by a team of German scientists led by Alexander Schmidt, of Georg-August University, Göttingen, resulting in the discovery of the three arthropods. The tiny arthropods were studied by Grimaldi and Evert Lindquist, an expert on gall mites at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa.
Princeton University researchers have found that the pulvinar, a mysterious region deep in the human brain, acts like a switchboard operator to make sure that separate areas of the brain are communicating about the same external information most important to our behavior at a given moment. The pulvinar uses electrical impulses to synchronize and allow more effective communication between brain cells in the visual cortex, which processes visual information. The researchers produced neural connection maps that show the pulvinar's connection to these brain regions. In this scan, the pulvinar communicates with the occipital lobe (yellow) and the temporal lobe (red) individually, and with both (green).
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