Monday, 7 June 2010

News Round-up

I am a bit behind with relaying news which I found exciting, the last update was also late at the time, the one about new Ordovician species. Well, I thought seeing as I have not reported anything new since the end of May and am going away from Wednesday to Monday, I would relay the stories I find most interesting. Lazily I went to and found the most interesting stories, but at least I am trying. Here are my favourite science news stories of the last few weeks:

Archaeopteryx was a poor flyer.

A study into the feathers of Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis has found that they were poorly suited for flight. These early birds were unlikely to have used powered flight, if they even flew at all. This shows that the evolution of flight was slower than previous thought. The feathers were likely evolved in dinosaurs for insulation and display, but when elongated they provided a parachuting surface and later a gliding surface. For the ScienceDaily article see here. For the published paper in Science see here.

The mystery of Nectocaris is solved

In the famous Burgess shale was a problematic organis called Nectocaris (meaning "swimming crab")which was first described by Simon Conway Morris in 1976. With only a single specimen it was difficult to classify and was sometimes seen as an arthropod due to some features, though others made it difficult to support this view. One palaeontologist actually tried to class it as a chordate. Recently, 91 new specimens were found and described, allowing Nectocaris to finally be classified. Their analyses show that it was a cephalopod and pushes the origins of cephalopods back 30 million years and has refined understanding about the origins of this group. I will be tempted to write about this critter in future, but for now here is the ScienceDaily article, and here is the paper in Science.

The brown algal genome is completed

Great news for comparative genomics as we now have a completed genome for each multicellular group (animals, plants, fungi, red algae and brown algae). This project, which took 5 years to complete, will allow the genomes to be compared and will shed light on two key evolutionary events: multicellularity and photosynthesis. Here is the ScienceDaily article for more.

I thought I had selected more to discuss than this to be honest. Ah well, what I have presented is thrilling stuff, for me at least.

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