Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Electric Life Forms Discovered

New Electric Bacteria Discovered : Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity. At the Goldschmidt geoscience conference in Sacramento, California, last month, Shiue-lin Li of Nealson's lab presented results of experiments growing electricity breathers in sediment collected from Santa Catalina harbour in California. Yamini Jangir, also from the University of Southern California, presented separate experiments which grew electricity breathers collected from a well in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in California.
Over at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, Daniel Bond and his colleagues have published experiments showing that they could grow a type of bacteria that harvested electrons from an iron electrode (mBio, That research, says Jangir's supervisor Moh El-Naggar, may be the most convincing example we have so far of electricity eaters grown on a supply of electrons with no added food.
But Nealson says there is much more to come. His PhD student Annette Rowe has identified up to eight different kinds of bacteria that consume electricity. Those results are being submitted for publication.
Nealson is particularly excited that Rowe has found so many types of electric bacteria, all very different to one another, and none of them anything likeShewanella or Geobacter. "This is huge. What it means is that there's a whole part of the microbial world that we don't know about."
That should not come as a complete surprise, says Kenneth Nealson at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. We know that life, when you boil it right down, is a flow of electrons: "You eat sugars that have excess electrons, and you breathe in oxygen that willingly takes them." Our cells break down the sugars, and the electrons flow through them in a complex set of chemical reactions until they are passed on to electron-hungry oxygen.
In the process, cells make ATP, a molecule that acts as an energy storage unit for almost all living things. Moving electrons around is a key part of making ATP. "Life's very clever," says Nealson. "It figures out how to suck electrons out of everything we eat and keep them under control." In most living things, the body packages the electrons up into molecules that can safely carry them through the cells until they are dumped on to oxygen.
"That's the way we make all our energy and it's the same for every organism on this planet," says Nealson. "Electrons must flow in order for energy to be gained. This is why when someone suffocates another person they are dead within minutes. You have stopped the supply of oxygen, so the electrons can no longer flow."
The discovery of electric bacteria shows that some very basic forms of life can do away with sugary middlemen and handle the energy in its purest form – electrons, harvested from the surface of minerals. "It is truly foreign, you know," says Nealson. "In a sense, alien."
Nealson's team is one of a handful that is now growing these bacteria directly on electrodes, keeping them alive with electricity and nothing else – neither sugars nor any other kind of nutrient. The highly dangerous equivalent in humans, he says, would be for us to power up by shoving our fingers in a DC electrical socket.
To grow these bacteria, the team collects sediment from the seabed, brings it back to the lab, and inserts electrodes into it.
First they measure the natural voltage across the sediment, before applying a slightly different one. A slightly higher voltage offers an excess of electrons; a slightly lower voltage means the electrode will readily accept electrons from anything willing to pass them off. Bugs in the sediments can either "eat" electrons from the higher voltage, or "breathe" electrons on to the lower-voltage electrode, generating a current. That current is picked up by the researchers as a signal of the type of life they have captured.

520 Million Year Old Sea Monster Discovered

Sea Monster Discovered : A spectacularly well-preserved sea monster that once prowled the oceans during the Cambrian Period has been unearthed in China.
The 520-million-year-old creature, one of the first predators of its day, sported compound eyes, body armor and two spiky claws for grabbing prey.
The fossils of the new species were so well preserved that the nervous system and parts of the brain were still clearly defined. 

Before the Cambrian Period, which lasted between 543 million and 493 million years ago, most life resembled simple algae and stationary jellyfishlike creatures, but during the Cambrian explosion, a period of rapid evolution when biodiversity exploded, swimming sea creatures with compound eyes, jointed legs and hard exoskeletons emerged.
The period also saw the rise of an iconic group of shrimplike creatures known as anomalocaridids. These ancient sea monsters were the top predators of the Cambrian seas, and sported bladed body armor and a cone-shaped mouth made of concentric plates. Some of the biggest of these bizarre creatures could grow to be up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long.
But most anomalocaridid specimens paleontologists found have been poorly preserved, making it difficult to know precisely where they fit in the tree of life, said  co-author Peiyun Cong, a researcher at Yunnan University in China.
Some scientists thought anomalocaridids belonged to a group that split off before the most recent common ancestor of all living arthropods, while others thought the animals were part of a group called chelicerates that includes spiders and scorpions. Still others thought anomalocaridids had converged upon similar features to those of modern arthropods but didn't evolve from the same lineage, Cong said.

Well-preserved specimens
In the last several years, the researchers unearthed three spectacularly preserved specimens of a new species of anomalocaridid in fossil sediments in China. The sediments had frozen these creatures in time so perfectly that the entire nervous system, as well as the gut and some muscles, were still visible.
The creature, dubbed Lyrarapax unguispinus, was about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
"The three known specimens may represent immature stages of the animal, so it might be larger," Cong wrote in an email to Live Science.
L. unguispinus had a tail that looked a bit like that of a lobster, and two giant pincers for grasping prey. As it grew, the creature molted, shedding its outer cuticle.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Earths Oldest Known Fragment Discovered

Oldest Zircon Crystal Fragment on Earth Discovered : By zapping single atoms of lead in a tiny zircon crystal from Australia, researchers have confirmed the crystal is the oldest rock fragment ever found on Earth 4.375 billion years old, plus or minus 6 million years.

"We've proved that the chemical record inside these zircons is trustworthy," said John Valley, lead study author and a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The findings were published yesterday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Confirmation of the zircon age holds enormous implications for models of early Earth. Trace elements in the oldest zircons from Australia's Jack Hills range suggest they came from water-rich, granite-like rocks such as granodiorite or tonalite, other studies have reported. That means Earth cooled quickly enough for surface water and continental-type rocks just 100 million years after the moon impact, the massive collision that formed the Earth-moon system. 
"The zircons show us the earliest Earth was more like the Earth we know today," Valley said. "It wasn't an inhospitable place."
Dubious historyZircons are one of the toughest minerals on the planet. The ancient Australian crystals date back to just 165 million years after Earth formed, and have survived tumbling trips down rivers, burial deep in the crust, heating, squeezing and a tectonic ride back to the surface. The Australian zircons, from the Jack Hills, aren't the oldest rocks on Earth those are in Canada but about 3 billion years ago, the minerals eroded out some of Earth's first continental crust and became part of a riverbed.
Geologists have carefully sorted out more than 100,000 microscopic Jack Hills zircons that date back to Earth's early epochs, from 3 billion to nearly 4.4 billion years ago. (The planet is 4.54 billion years old.) The crystals contain microscopic inclusions, such as gas bubbles, that provide a unique window into conditions on Earth as life arose and the first continents formed.
Just three of the very oldest zircons have been found, ones that date back to almost 4.4 billion years ago. Their extreme age always makes the dates suspect, because of possible radiation damage. The radiation damage means the zircons could have been contaminated during their long lifetime.
Zircons hold minute amounts of two naturally occurring uranium isotopes isotopes are atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons. Uranium radioactively decays to lead at a steady rate. Counting the number of lead isotopes is how scientists date the crystals. But as the uranium kicks out lead atoms, the radioactive decay releases alpha particles, which can damage the crystals, creating defects. These defects mean fluids and outside elements can infiltrate the crystals, casting doubt on any conclusions about early Earth based on the zircons.
More important, uranium and lead can move around within a crystal, or even escape or enter the zircon. This mobility can throw off the lead isotope count used to calculate the zircon ages, and is the source of the decades-long controversy over the Jack Hills zircons' Methuselah lifespan.
"If there's a process by where lead can move from one part of the crystal to another place, then the place where lead is concentrated will have an older apparent age and the place from where it moves will have a younger apparent age," Valley said.
Atom by atomValley and his co-authors hope to end the debate by showing that even though one of the oldest Jack Hills zircons suffered radiation damage, the lead atoms stayed in place. The researchers painstakingly counted individual lead atoms within the oldest-known zircon with a recently developed technique called atom-probe tomography. Inside the zircon, lead atoms clustered together in damage zones just a few nanometers wide. Imagine cliques of teens during high school lunch like teenagers, no lead atoms had left their zones.
"We've demonstrated this zircon is a closed geochemical system, and we've never been able to do that before," Valley said. "There's no question that many zircons do suffer radiation damage, but I think relative to these zircons, this should settle it once and for all," Valley told Live Science's Our Amazing Planet.
The key finding, that lead atoms stick close to home inside this primeval zircon, means age estimates based on uranium-lead dating techniques are accurate, the researchers report. The lead hasn't wiggled around enough to throw off the ages. A typical age measurement, made with a machine called an ion probe, zaps zircon segments that are thousands of times larger than the damage clusters.
"This careful piece of work should settle the debate because it shows that indeed there is some mobility of lead, which was hypothesized to result in dates that were too old, but the scale of mobility is nanometers," said Samuel Bowring, a geochemist at MIT, who was not involved in the study."Even the smallest volumes analyzed with the ion probe average out the heterogeneities," or variations within the zircon.
The new atom-probe technique, while extremely laborious, can also be used to address questions of reliability at other sites where extremely old rocks have been found, the researchers said.
"Good zircons are forever, and what this does is help us separate the wheat from the chaff in a way we could never do before," Valley said.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Hawaiian Night Marchers

Night Marchers / Huaka'i Po : Night Marchers are Hawaiian ghostly apparitions who move around the Hawaiian islands to the beat of primitive pounding drums. Some say they are armed spirit warriors, toting weaponry and clothed in ancient Hawaiian attire. Other accounts tell of high-ranking alii (ruler) spirits being guided to places of great importance or to welcome new warriors to join in battle. Maybe these restless souls are looking to reclaim their territory, replay a battle gone awry, or avenge their own deaths. Some say the Night Marchers are searching methodically for an entrance into the next world.
Huaka'i Po / Night Marchers are said to roam through very specific locations throughout the Hawaiian islands, between seashore and mountains and are often recognized by their raised torches and repeated olis, or chants. Although there have been a few scattered reports of daytime marches, these apparitions appear to be most active at night and are said to march on certain nights designated by the moon. And although the Night Marchers allegedly float a few inches off the ground, some local accounts tell of seeing mysterious footprints in their path after they’ve passed.
There are two different processions, it seems, according to legend, who march on two separate nights.  The first consists of kings, chieftains, priests, and their attendants.  Each chief is carried in a sling, befitting his station, though the warrior chiefs are prone to walk between two of their warriors.  They are most often reported near old temples, with flutes and drums heralding them, as well as laughter.
The second type of procession is seen just after sunset and lasts until sunrise the next morning.  Comprised of warriors, chiefs, and the gods themselves, this phenomenon is marked by high winds that seem to snap branches off trees, with bright torches to honor the gods.  They are also often associated with sudden lightning storms and rough surf. 
Legend has it, meeting their eyes will result in them claiming the soul of yourself, relatives or friends and taking it with them to march for all eternity. Any sound or movement could invite a Night Marcher’s deadly glance.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Catholic Church Increases Exorcists

The Roman Catholic Church is training new exorcists, because of increases in possible demonic cases.
Dioceses across Italy, as well as in countries such as Spain, are increasing the number of priests schooled in administering the rite of exorcism, fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.
The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.
The increase in the number of priests being trained to tackle the phenomenon is also an effort by the Church to sideline unauthorised, self-proclaimed exorcists, and its tacit recognition that belief in Satan, once regarded by Catholic progressives as an embarrassment, is still very much alive.
The trend comes four decades after the 1973 release of The Exorcist, the American horror film based on the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and attempts to exorcise her by two priests.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Arctic Sea Species Found

Cryptozoology News : A new species of sea anemone has been found on the underside of Antarctica's ice sheets. This newly found sea species are the only marine animals known to live embedded in the ice, and no one is sure how they survive.
Frank Rack of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and colleagues made the surprise find when they drilled through the ice for a geological study. They were using a camera attached to a remote-controlled drill to explore the underside of the Ross Ice Shelf when they discovered large numbers of the white anemones, which they christened Edwardsiella andrillae, burrowed inside the ice with only their tentacles dangling into the water.
Marymegan Daly at the Ohio State University analysed samples, but dissecting the creatures revealed little – they looked just like any other anemone.
"I would never have guessed that they live embedded in the ice because there is nothing different about their anatomy," she says.
Other species burrow into surfaces by inching their bodies in or digging with their tentacles, but ice should be too hard, says Daly, who thinks the new species may secrete chemicals to dissolve the ice. It is also unclear how they survive without freezing, and how they reproduce.
"We would like to have some genetic information so we can answer some of these questions," Daly says. Unfortunately, as the team were not expecting to find animal life, they only had a preservative with them that could fix the animals' anatomy but destroyed their DNA. 

New Sea Creature Discovered

Cryptozoology News : New sea creatures discovered in the North Atlantic off the Scottish coast. Surveys off the continental shelf in the North Atlantic have uncovered a brand new species of large sea snail, two kinds of clams and a marine worm.
International experts have now confirmed that they are completely new to science — meaning the mysterious molluscs have managed to avoid detection during decades of underwater research around the Rockall plateau.
The finds a could indicate the presence of a cold seep, where hydrocarbons are released from the sea bed. If confirmed, it would be the first cold seep to be discovered in the vicinity of Rockall.
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Our oceans are often called Earth’s final frontier and these new species prove just how much we still have to learn about this rich marine habitat.
“Scottish waters cover an area around five times bigger than our land mass and are miles deep in places, and these hidden gems offer a fascinating glimpse of the treasures that still await discovery under the waves.
“While understanding more about these great depths is clearly very challenging, we know that Scotland’s seas are home to a diverse range of precious sea life and it is our responsibility to protect this fragile environment.
“The area where these species were found is not currently fished and the confirmation of a cold seep is likely to result in the region being closed to bottom contact fishing.”
Jim Drewery from Marine Scotland Science, who oversaw the research on the deep water invertebrates, said: “The discovery of these new species is absolutely incredible, especially when you consider that the sea snail measures a relatively large 10cm, yet has gone undetected for decades.
“Its capture on these surveys could be due to the new techniques we are now employing at Marine Scotland Science in our research on the deep sea floor.”
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Scotland’s seas have once again thrown up some truly amazing new wildlife. These surveys highlight that we’ve still so much to learn when it comes to life beneath the waves.
“These latest discoveries underline the need for a precautionary approach in the management and use of our seas.
“The location where these species were found is not currently fished and we hope it stays that way. However, we now know enough to say that the area should certainly be put off limits to any future plans for oil and gas exploration.”