Now I had an undamaged example I could study.
As I sealed the tick into a tube and put it in the freezer, I reflected on how it had come to stow itself away undetected. It must have been waiting in ambush on the forest floor as I passed, then made its way right up my body. Discovering it in my nose had been alarming enough, but thinking about it crawling across my face to get there was truly disturbing.
Once I got the genetics report back from the lab, though, my unease turned to excitement. The DNA sequence of the tick could not be matched with any existing database. At the very least, my specimen was a member of a species that had never been genetically tested before, but it could well be of a type previously unknown to science.
A colleague who’d been studying high-resolution photographs of the chimps I’d been researching found that many of them had ticks of the same type up their noses. No evidence of this phenomenon had been found before, and I now believe these particular ticks have evolved specifically to hide inside the nostril cavities of chimps, where they can feast in safety, away from their host’s habitual grooming regimes.
It could well be that the Ugandan nostril ticks have yet to spread beyond the particular park where we conducted our research. We now have to return and set traps to catch more, so we can do further study. It’s a tremendously exciting project for me, and could prove vitally important: we know my tick managed to latch on to me undetected, and we need to ensure others don’t stow away on international flights and establish colonies in other countries, where they could potentially spread exotic diseases.
A biologist can spend a whole career hoping to make such a breakthrough, and there’s a special kudos attached to being able to carry out a study on a subject of which you have personal experience. The discomfort and revulsion I went through is a very reasonable trade-off. I feel genuinely grateful to the tick for choosing me as its host.
Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category
Posted by Xeno on December 10, 2013
Posted by Xeno on December 9, 2013
For several species mortality increases with age — as expected by evolutionary scientists. This pattern is seen in most mammal species including humans and killer whales, but also in invertebrates like water fleas. However, other species experience a decrease in mortality as they age, and in some cases mortality drops all the way up to death. This applies to species like the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) which experiences the highest mortality early on in life and a steadily declining mortality as it ages. Many plant species, e.g. the white mangrove tree (Avicennia marina) follow the same pattern.
Amazingly, there are also species that have constant mortality and remain unaffected by the aging process. This is most striking in the freshwater polyp Hydra magnipapillata which has constant low mortality. In fact, in lab conditions, it has such a low risk of dying at any time in its life that it is effectively immortal.
\”Extrapolation from laboratory data show that even after 1400 years five per cent of a hydra population kept in these conditions would still be alive,\” says Owen Jones.
Several animal and plant species show remarkably little change in mortality throughout their life course. For example, these include rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), great tit (Parus major), hermit crab (Pagurus longicarpus), common lizard (Lacerta vivapara), collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis), viburnum plants (Viburnum furcatum ), oarweed (Laminaria digitata), red abalone (Haliotis rufescens), the plant armed saltbush (Atriplex acanthocarpa), red-legged frog (Rana aurora) and the coral red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata).
When you look at the fertility patterns of the 46 surveyed species, there is also a great diversity and some large departures from the common beliefs about aging. Human fertility is characterized by being concentrated in a relatively short period of life, and by the fact that humans live for a rather long time both before and after the fertile period.
A similar pattern of a concentrated fertile period is also seen in other mammals like killer whales, chimpanzees, and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), and also in birds like sparrow hawks (Accipiter nisus).
However, there are also species that become more and more fertile with age, and this pattern is especially common in plants such as the agave (Agave marmorata) and the rare mountain plants hypericum (Hypericum cumulicola) and borderea (Borderea pyrenaica).
On the contrary fertility occurs very early in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Actually this species starts its life with being fertile, then it quite quickly and quite suddenly loses the ability to produce offspring.
To sum up there is no strong correlation between the patterns of aging and the typical life spans of the species. Species can have increasing mortality and still live a long time, or have declining mortality and still live a short time.
“It makes no sense to consider aging to be based on how old a species can become. Instead, it is more interesting to define aging as being based on the shape of mortality trajectories: whether rates increase, decrease or remain constant with age,” says Owen Jones.
If scientists are correct, jellyfish may hold the key to immortality.
That’s the premise of a New York Times Magazine article that examines a species of jellyfish (appropriately) nicknamed the “immortal jellyfish.”
Known officially as Turritopsis nutricula (and sometimes as Turritopsis dohrnii), the minute creature has the ability to transform its cells back into a youthful state. As National Geographic puts it, the jellyfish transforms “into a blob-like cyst” that grows into a polyp colony — the first stage of life.
From there, the jellyfish continues a conventional lifecycle, maturing and mating. Instead of dying, however, the immortal jelly reverts, time and again, back into the polyp colony. That ability “allows the jellyfish to bypass death, rendering [it] biologically immortal,” notes Hongbao Ma, a researcher at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
According to a study published in “Nature and Science,”the jellyfish accomplishes this unique feat via “transdifferentiation.” Essentially, the creature absorbs its cells, then transforms them into cells of any other type.
With life skills this advanced, it’s no surprise the jellyfish has populated the globe in what’s been termed “a worldwide silent invasion,” the Telegraph notes. ..
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
A type of brain cell once thought to be little more than the neuron’s supportive sidekick may have a lead role in pruning the electrochemical connections that are crucial to brain development, learning, memory and cognition, a new study suggests.
Astrocytes, a type of glial cell, turn out to be veritable Pac-men, steadily gobbling up weak, extraneous and redundant synapses that are the vital link between neurons, according to a study published online Sunday in the journal Nature.
“Excess synapses are generated during development, and then they’re pruned back,” said Dr. Ben A. Barres, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Some synapses are selected, and survive, but a lot of synapses are just removed. But it wasn’t clear how that synapse elimination happened.”
That brain trimming has been made more clear, at least in a mouse visual circuit commonly used to study the human brain.
Barres has been focusing on glial cells – the name comes from the Latin word for glue – for three decades. “They’re very disrespected cells,” he said.
Over those years, Barres’ lab found found that without the star-shaped glial cells known as
astrocytes, synapses fail to send strong signals. That only qualified glial cells for best-supporting-cell nominee, at most. But then Barr reported, in 2001, that neurons weren’t as good at creating new synapses without the astrocytes.
A growing number of neuroscientists have added to these findings and are suggesting that glial cells perform lead-actor role in shaping the brain’s signal-relaying architecture.
While figuring out how astrocytes affect synapse formation, Barres found that the cells had some intriguing genes – ones that turn it into a synapse destroyer.
“One of the most surprising things that we found was the astrocytes were very highly expressing several complete phagocytic pathways – they’re the cells that eat,” Barres said.
Postdoctoral researcher Won-Suk Chung, lead author of the current study, created experiments to test how that genetic pathway worked to trim a rodent’s lower-level visual circuitry in early stages of brain development. Synapses in that circuit must be eliminated so that each neuron from the retina connects with just one in the thalamus, which relays those signals to higher visual processing centers.
Chung showed that astrocytes surrounded and ingested functioning synapses via a chemical pathway centered on a pair of proteins coded by its Pac-man genes. Something about these proteins appeared to help the cell find a weak target.
The pair then showed how this activity varied at different stages of development and continued into adulthood.
If the same pruning of synapses can be demonstrated in human astrocytes, it could carry important implications for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for psychiatric disorders, and for the nagging loss of memory that comes with aging.
“Everyone is always assuming if there’s something wrong, the problem is in the neuron,” Barres said. “If the astrocytes are in the driver’s seat in terms of controlling synapse formation and synapse function, maybe those processes go awry in human disease.” …
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
This will change your whole concept of dead sexy: The chemical attractant wafting from a female fruit fly shortened the lifespan of male flies when the femme fatale didn’t deliver on the signal’s promise, according to a new study.
Male fruit flies who pick up on the female pheromone will decrease their fat stores and lose resistance to starvation, according to the study published online Thursday in the journal Science.
The results shed light on the complex and largely hidden ways that perceptions of peers and environment can affect the chemical pathways involved in aging, said Scott D. Pletcher, a molecular physiologist at the University of Michigan, and one of the authors of the study.
The lowly Drosophila melanogaster has proved a worthy model for many neurological functions among humans, including learning, memory, epilepsy, circadian rhythm, even addictive behavior.
Last year, a UC San Francisco team showed that sexually jilted flies will resort to drinking alcohol (fruit flies like alcohol and will become addicted). That behavior was mediated through a brain chemical called neuropeptide F, which helps drive the brain’s reward circuitry and has an equivalent in human brains.
The same brain chemical appears to play a prominent role in the current findings, according to the researchers.
“The brain is receiving information from its surroundings,” Pletcher said. “That information can be powerful, because it can drive these physiological changes from just a small number of neurons.”
The activity of at least 188 genes, in fact, appeared to be affected by exposure to the pheromones, the study found. Several were linked to odor detection, lipid processing, and immune and stress responses.
The researchers were driven to look at sexual stimuli after finding that exposing flies to the odor of food — without them eating it — could reverse anti-aging effects of calorie restriction, which has been shown to promote longevity in humans.
“That argued that it’s not the energetic component of the food, but the fly’s interpretation of its food environment that’s important for at least some significant component of the longevity effect,” Pletcher said.
The researchers cast about for another stimulus to test, and opted for sex pheromones. They exposed male fruit flies to the female pheromones via other males whose chemistry was altered to mimic females. That put pheromones on the table, but took copulation off, and it clearly left the guys frustrated.
By letting the male consort with a female, researchers observed a reversal of the age signaling in the fly brain — a recovery made more prominent when male flies hung out with five females (five times in a row is the magic number before male flies need a bowl of Wheaties).
“So, sex is good for the flies if they’re expecting it, and it’s particularly bad if they’re expecting it and they don’t get it,” Pletcher said.
The results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that signaling fitness for reproduction can come at a cost, a trade-off apparent across many species. That can cause a feedback loop affecting not just individuals, but a population, a phenomenon that could help clarify how sexual selection drives evolution.
Pletcher and his colleagues showed last year that increased insulin signaling heightened sexual attractiveness in female fruit flies, via mechanisms that involve pheromone production. But it also lowered longevity.
Now, Pletcher’s data suggest that males picking up on the strong pheromone production typical of these attractive females will risk long-term survival for a shot at reproduction. …
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
The beautiful creatures are famously bad swimmers, but they have a secret weapon to sneak up on their prey.
Their peculiar snouts are shaped to create very few ripples in the water, effectively cloaking them as they creep up and pounce on tiny crustaceans.
To their victims, seahorses are more like sea monsters, say scientists from the University of Texas at Austin.
“The seahorse is one the slowest swimming fish we know of, but it’s able to capture prey that swim at incredible speeds,” said Brad Gemmell, author of the study in Nature Communications. The prey, in this case, are copepods – extremely small crustaceans that are a favoured meal of seahorses, pipefish and sea dragons (Syngnathidae). When copepods detect waves from predators, they jolt away at speeds of more than 500 body lengths per second – the equivalent of a 6-foot human swimming at 2,000 mph.
“Seahorses can overcome one of the most talented escape artists in the aquatic world,” said Dr Gemmell.
“In calm conditions, they catch their intended prey 90% of the time. That’s extremely high, and we wanted to know why.”
Seahorses dine by a method known as pivot feeding. Their arched necks act as a spring – allowing them to rapidly rotate their heads and suck their prey in. But this suction only works at short distances. The effective strike range for seahorses is about 1mm. And a strike happens in less than 1 millisecond. Until now, it was a mystery how such apparently docile creatures managed to get close enough to their prey without being spotted. To find out, Dr Gemmell and his colleagues studied the dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, which is native to the Bahamas and the US. They filmed the movement of water around the fish in 3D using holography – a technique where a microscope is fitted with a laser and a high-speed digital camera. They found that the seahorse’s snout is shaped to minimise the disturbance of water in front of its mouth before it strikes. Above and in front of its nostrils is a “no wake zone” and it angles its head precisely to attack its prey. Other small fish with blunter heads, such as the three-spine stickleback, have no such advantage, the researchers found.
“It’s like an arms race between predator and prey, and the seahorse has developed a good method for getting close enough so that their striking distance is very short,” said Dr Gemmell.
“People don’t often think of seahorses as amazing predators, but they really are.”
Posted by Xeno on November 28, 2013
Many once thought that mushrooms spread by passively dropping their spores, after which the reproductive packets would hopefully get picked up by a gust of wind, and carried thither and yon.
But new research shows mushrooms take a more active role in spreading their seed: They “make wind” to carry their spores about, said UCLA researcher Marcus Roper.
Mushrooms create air flow by allowing their moisture to evaporate. “A mushroom is essentially doing less than nothing to protect its water from evaporating off,” Roper told LiveScience.
This evaporation allows them to cool off, as the phase change from liquid water to vapor uses up heat energy. Cold air is more dense than warm air, and has a tendency to flow and spread out, he added. The evaporation also creates water vapor, which is less dense than air. The two forces help carry spores out of the mushroom, and give them a little lift, he said. The lift can carry spores up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) horizontally and vertically, he said.
Mushrooms often live on the forest floor, under logs or in very tight quarters where wind wouldn’t be expected to reach, Roper said. The ability to “create wind” helps give spores a better chance at finding a new, moist location to land and begin growing, he added.
Roper and colleague Emilie Dressaire, a professor of experimental fluid mechanics at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., visualized the spread of spores from mushrooms with laser light and a high-speed camera. They combined the imagery with calculations of water loss and temperature readings of mushrooms to show how the fungi create their own air flow, Roper said. They created images of spores issuing forth from a variety of species, including Amanita muscaria mushrooms, a type of hallucinogenic mushroom. [Tales of Magic Mushrooms & Other Hallucinogens]
The study, presented today (Nov. 25) at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Pittsburgh, suggests all mushroom-producing fungi may have the ability to spread their spores in this way, Roper said.
Recent work by Anne Pringle, a mycologist at Harvard University, has found that fungi actively spread their spores in other ways, for example by shooting them out at high speeds in rapid succession.
This study by Roper and Dressaire presents another example of how “fungi are actively manipulating their environment,” said Pringle, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Even though we perceive them to be passive, they are quite active in moving themselves around.” …
Posted by Xeno on November 27, 2013
Once viewed as an “outlandish morally objectionable” concept with science-fiction overtones, face transplantation is now accepted as a “feasible and necessary treatment” for severely disfigured patients. The evolving ethical debate over face transplantation is analyzed in a special topic paper in the December issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Harriet Kiwanuka and colleagues of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, analyzed published articles on the ethics of face transplantation, focusing how the ethical debate has changed over time. Their review shows that initial concerns over the impact on patients’ identity have faded, as experience shows the benefits of facial transplants in helping patients with severe facial disfigurement return to a more-normal life.
Ethics of Facial Transplant—From Concerns about ‘Identity Issues’…
In a review of the medical literature, Kiwanuka and coauthors identified 110 articles discussing the ethics of face transplantation. Published from 2002 to 2012, nearly half of the papers appeared in the year before and after the first facial transplant—performed by a French team in 2005. Since then, the number of ethical discussions on face transplantation has gradually decreased.
The papers showed a “time-related trend” in ethical positions. All of the articles published in 2002 concluded that face transplantation was not ethically justified. By 2008, all published papers acknowledged the ethical concerns, but concluded that they were outweighed by the benefits of successful facial transplant.
The researchers identified a core group of 15 topics that recurred through the years. The most common issues were related to “identity change/psychological effects,” the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted face, and the risks versus benefits of face transplantation.
Many of the early concerns over identity focused on the idea of “wearing someone else’s face”—perhaps reflecting the influence of the 1997 science fiction movie Face Off, in which an FBI agent and a criminal switch faces. But these concerns faded, as experience showed that facial transplant recipients gain a new appearance that is “neither identical to the recipient’s nor the donor’s [face],” write the researchers, who were led by senior author Bohdan Pomahac, MD.
…To Practical Issues Informed by Experience
To date, 25 facial transplants have been performed worldwide, and the procedure is expected to be more common in the years ahead. In more recent ethical discussions, some new issues have become prominent, such as patient selection for face transplantation, the inability of severely disfigured patients to lead normal lives, and the high costs of face transplantation.
Many recent papers focus on characteristics of the “ideal recipient” for facial transplant. One report cites the “Catch-22″ of face transplantation: the patients who are most capable of coping with face transplantation may be those who need it least, because they are coping well with their disfigurement.
Would you be okay with someone using your face after you are done with it?
Posted by Xeno on November 23, 2013
I started researching oxygen because my adventurous fiancé is having ozone gas injected into her blood as a therapy. The woman knows no fear. I have to admire her faith in alternative therapies, but at the same time, WTH!??!
After some research, I’m concerned about her risk of death from an embolism in the lungs, general oxidative damage to her epithelial cell membranes, potential vasculitis and death by aneurism. I think ozone therapy will age her more quickly from the inside for the same reason meditation ages us slower: 0yxgen rusts us.
Many people promote ozone therapy. I think I now understand why: She felt bad at first, but plans on 10 to 15 treatments after surviving the first one and feeling good for a day. Why?
When the extra oxygen starts rusting you, T-cells are mobilized as the immune system starts to clean up all the damage. At the right concentration you get an increase in the production of interferon and interleukin-2 which launches a cascade of immunological reactions. – link. This is because your body is under attack from the extra oxygen which creates highly reactive free radicals. In addition to other free radicals, the extra oxygen in your blood reacts to quickly form hydrogen peroxide which is an irritant. Your cells have protective barriers, cell membrades made of lipids. Hydrogen peroxide in your blood results in lipid peroxidation where electrons are stolen from the cell membrane damaging the cell and creating more free radicals. This damage constricts your blood vessels and you then get less oxygen and nutrients to your cells, so you get a “high”, like right before you black out from holding your breath.
Another result is the release of neurotransmitters, some of which elevate the mood. If it feels good, it must be good for you? Not in this case.
Ozone IV or Direct Injection is generally done with a 27g butterfly needle and 20 – 50 cc’s of ozone gas infused directly in a vein at a normal rate of 1 – 2 cc’s a minute. – link
My fiance laughs this off. The treatment is being given by a pre-med microbiology major who went to UCLA. She was told that IV Ozone is legal here and that doctors and naturopaths can administer it. What is a naturopath?
Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs. Among naturopaths, complete rejection of biomedicine and modern science is common. – wiki
Interesting. So it is legal for a person who rejects modern science, a person without a medical license of any kind, to injecting a gas into someone’s vein while making a claim that this will have a positive medical benefit? Even if this is legal, it seems like a mind bogglingly bad move. People take anti-oxidants and even sleep on earthing sheets to prevent oxidative stress. Why would anyone introduce oxidation stress directly into the body?
Remember that song by the band Sweet titled “Love is like Oxygen“? The main hook says it well: “You get too much you get too high, not enough and you’re going to die.”
As I said, ozone injected into the bloodstream quickly forms hydrogen peroxide when it reacts with water in your blood. A serious complication can result: Intravenous hydrogen peroxide’s rampage can cause vasculitis.
Vasculitis occurs when your immune system mistakenly sees blood vessel cells as foreign. The immune system then attacks those cells as if they were an invader, such as a bacteria or virus. It’s not always clear why this happens, but an infection, some cancers, certain immune system disorders or an allergic reaction may serve as the trigger.
Blood vessels affected by vasculitis become inflamed, which can cause the layers of the blood vessel wall to thicken. This narrows the blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood — and therefore oxygen and vital nutrients — that reaches your body’s tissues. In some cases, a blood clot may form in an affected blood vessel, obstructing blood flow. Sometimes instead of becoming narrower, a blood vessel may weaken and form a bulge (aneurysm), a potentially life-threatening condition.
Here’s more on the damages of hydrogen peroxide. Some people have that injected or they drink it. Bad idea. Don’t be fooled by the term “Food grade” hydrogen peroxide. That doesn’t mean you can drink it! It means it is strong enough to use on cooking surfaces to kill germs. It will also cause serious damage if you try to drink it. Don’t.
Hydrogen peroxide can be harmful if swallowed, especially the concentrated solutions sold in some health food stores. “Food grade” peroxide is a very strong corrosive solution. It contains 35% hydrogen peroxide, a concentration that is more than ten times stronger than the 3% peroxide approved for use on the skin. Food grade hydrogen peroxide is approved by the FDA to clean food surfaces and for certain bleaching and disinfecting tasks in food production. The FDA requires that any peroxide that might remain in food be broken down into oxygen and water before the food reaches the consumer. Drinking food grade hydrogen peroxide can cause vomiting, severe burns of the throat and stomach, trouble breathing, bleeding in the stomach or intestine, symptoms of stroke, and even death. As it absorbs from the stomach or intestine, it can sometimes form bubbles in the blood vessels and block blood flow to parts of the body or brain. If it gets in the eyes, it can damage the corneas and even cause blindness. Direct skin contact with food grade hydrogen peroxide can cause blistering or burns, and breathing its vapors can cause serious breathing problems up to 72 hours later.
Hydrogen peroxide injections can have dangerous side effects. High blood levels of hydrogen peroxide can create oxygen bubbles that block blood flow and cause gangrene and death. Destruction of blood cells has also been reported after intravenous injection of hydrogen peroxide. A few people can also have serious allergic reactions to hydrogen peroxide. A 1993 review article also found some research evidence that too much oxygen in the body’s tissues may damage genetic material and promote abnormal growth. – link
Claims that diluted hydrogen peroxide may be taken intravenously or even orally for treating various sicknesses, including cancer, have been shown to be fraudulent, dangerous, and illegal, using “misbranding” and language explicitly prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulations, and have caused several deaths. – link
So, if you want to age quickly from the inside or possibly die from a blood clot in your lung or a burst blood vessel, try some IV ozone therapy! Hey, it might cure you of something. Might.
Posted by Xeno on November 21, 2013
It may look like something straight from a toy store but this bizarre creature is a new species of insect found living in the South American rainforest.
The 7mm-long creature is golden and its elongated body is covered in orange dots and stripes.
It has hair-like feelers sticking out of its rear which resemble the fuzzy hair of the colourful Troll Dolls, a popular toy in the 1990s.
Researchers believe the bug is an immature insect called a nymph, possibly fitting into one of four nymph families: Dictyopharidae, Nogodinidae, Lophopidae, and Tropiduchidae.
Teams from the University of Harvard and museums around the world trekked for three weeks to explore the untouched rainforest of southeast Suriname.
The new nymph was one of 60 new species recorded during the trek.
Princeton’s Dr Trond Larsen, who is a tropical ecologist and conservation biologist, spent days studying the creature.
Dr Larsen said: ‘I have spent hours searching drawers of nymphs to compare it to other species, but have only been able to narrow it down from 16 to four.’
In insects that undergo a gradual metamorphosis, the stage of the life cycle that hatches from the egg is called the nymph. These insects do not pupate like a butterfly.
The iridescent ‘tail’ that grows from the bottom of some nymphs is in fact made of wax. It is produced by specialised glands in the abdomen.
The wax serves a variety of purposes – in some species it grows into a fan shape and can slow descent while falling. It can also act as a distraction for predators.
‘I couldn’t match it with anything we have discovered before. I can’t get it into a family with certainty,’ continued Dr Larsen.
‘It could be any of these four we know about – but it is very difficult to tell.’
The international team of field biologists studied the mountainous region of southeastern Suriname – a wilderness area that has been relatively unexplored.
It is among the most remote and unexplored tracts of rainforest left on Earth.
Suriname is located in the Guiana Shield, a vast area of South America that contains more than 25 per cent of the world’s rainforest.
The country has a relatively low population and still maintains 95 per cent of its forest cover, but faces pressure from mining, road and dam projects.
The scientists collected data on water quality and a total of 1,378 species, including plants, ants, beetles, katydids, fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals.
Dr. Leeanne Alonso, the expedition’s leader, said: ‘I have conducted expeditions all over the world, but never have I seen such beautiful, pristine forests so untouched by humans.
‘Southern Suriname is one of the last places on earth where there is a large expanse of pristine tropical forest.
‘The high number of new species discovered is evidence of the amazing biodiversity of these forests that we have only just begun to uncover.’
Posted by Xeno on November 21, 2013
When scientists inadvertently killed what turned out to be the world’s oldest living creature, it was bad enough.
Now, their mistake has been compounded after further research found it was even older – at 507 years.
The ocean quahog – a type of deep-sea clam – was dredged alive from the bottom of the North Atlantic near Iceland in 2006 by researchers. They then put it in a freezer, as is normal practice, unaware of its age.
It was only when it was taken to a laboratory that scientists from Bangor University studied it and concluded it was 400 years old.
The discovery made it into the Guinness Book of World Records however by this time, it was too late for Ming the Mollusc – named after the Chinese dynasty on the throne when its life began.
Now, after examining the ocean quahog more closely, using more refined methods, the researchers have found the animal was actually 100 years older than they first thought.
Dr Paul Butler, from the University’s School of Ocean Sciences, said: “We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we’ve got the right age now.”
A quahog’s shell grows by a layer every year, in the summer when the water is warmer and food is plentiful. It means that when its shell is cut in half, scientists can count the lines in a similar way trees can be dated by rings in their trunks.
The growth rings can be seen in two places; on the outside of the shell and at the hinge where the two halves meet. The hinge is generally considered by scientists as the best place to count the rings, as it is protected from outside elements.
When researchers originally dated Ming, they counted the rings at the hinge.
However because it was so old, many had become compressed. When they looked again at the outside of the shell, they found more rings.
It means the mollusc was born in 1499 – just seven years after Columbus discovered America and before Henry VIII had even married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon in 1509.
Scientists say they can study the clam’s layers to find out about sea temperatures and water masses from thousands of years ago.
Jan Heinemeier, associate professor at the University of Denmark, who helped date Ming, told Science Nordic: “The fact alone that we got our hands on an animal that’s 507 years old is incredibly fascinating, but the really exciting thing is of course everything we can learn from studying the mollusc.”
Sad. Such a great run. Anyway, with all due respect, it is highly unlikely that this 507 year old mollusk was the “oldest living creature”. This Giant Sponge (“Scolymastra joubini”) is estimated to have lived 10,000 to 15,000 years in the Antarctic sea.
- Some species of sponges in the ocean near Antarctica are thought to be 10,000-15,000 years old.
Animals of this and similar species of Antarctic sponges grow extremely slowly in the low temperatures. Estimates based on growth rates suggest a very long lifespan in this and similar animals. One two meter high specimen in the Ross Sea was estimated to be 23,000 years old, though because of sea level fluctuations in the Ross Sea it is unlikely that such an animal could have lived for more than 15,000 years . Even if 15,000 years is an overestimate, which may well be the case, this specimen appears to be the longest-lived animal on earth.” – link
- Specimens of the black coral genus Leiopathes are among the oldest continuously living organisms on the planet: around 4,265 years old. Corals are animals classified in the phylum cnidaria, pronounced “Nid-air-ee-ah”
- The giant barrel sponge Xestospongia muta is one of the longest-lived animals, with the largest specimens in the Caribbean estimated to be in excess of 2,300 years.
- The black coral Antipatharia in the Gulf of Mexico may live more than 2000 years.
- The Antarctic sponge Cinachyra antarctica has an extremely slow growth rate in the low temperatures of the Southern Ocean. One specimen has been estimated to be 1,550 years old.
- Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish, is known to be the longest-living creature which could live on forever without dying of old age. Most may be aged a few hundred years.