Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mini News Round-Up

I am resisting temptation to write detailed posts about any of these, just go out and read about it for yourself, as some fascinating stuff has been discovered recently.

The Burgess Shale "Tulip creature"

A new species, Siphusauctum gregarium, has been discovered in abundance in the famous Burgess Shale Lagerstatte. They have a unique filter feeding system and superficially resemble crinoids (though I can imagine a few other comparisons being made). Its relationship with other organisms is unknown, just like when the classic Burgess Shale beasties were being discovered. For more, see here or here, though both say exactly the same thing.

Half Animal, Half Plant?

Another new species, Mesodinium chamaeleon, has been found which is an unusual combination of animal and plant (or so it is being reported). These single celled organisms use cilia to move around as they eat other organisms, making them rather animal-like. This particular species, however, engulfs types of algae and forms a union with it, where the algae photosynthesises and provides energy, and the host provides protection. Endosymbiosis has been known for a while now, so this is no surprise, but it is pretty cool. See here for more.

Multicellularity Observed Evolving

A group of biologists attempted to recreate the origin of multicellularity, a key step in the evolution of life on Earth, and actually found that it is not too difficult. Using yeast, they managed to demonstrate that they were forming genetically similar clusters, instead of random clusters, and some were even undergoing programmed suicide (apoptosis) to allow offspring to separate. See here for more.

Darwin's Thin Sections Found

The British Geological Survey have found lots of lost specimens in their vaults, including some fro Charles Darwin. Thin sections are thin slices of rock placed on a slide so that they can be viewed under a light microscope. Some of the slides come from samples Darwin collected on his famous Beagle voyage. See here for some more information.

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