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The oldest fossil forest in Asia has been discovered

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The group of fossilized trees discovered in the Chinese province of Anhui has been defined as the most ancient fossil forest ever found in Asia and one of the greatest examples of Devonian forests. It is 250,000 m² of a fossil forest that lived mostly during the Devonian period, ie between 419 and 359 million years ago. It is a period also referred to as “the age of the fish” but which, however, has seen progress at the evolutionary level very important even in plants.

The study, published in Current Biology, describes how these trees should look: they resembled palm trees with trunks without branches and with upper leafy parts. They lived in an environment near the coast very often subject to flooding.

The trees were on average 3.2 meters high (the height of one of the found fossil trunks was however estimated at 7.7 meters) and were inserted into a new species called Guangdedendron micron. The researchers think it could be one of the trees that provided the largest amount of biomass that then formed the coal we extract today.

The first fossils of trunks of licopsid trees have been found in these places in 2016 but research in these quarries is still ongoing. This is the third Devonian fossil forest of this size found after one in the United States and one in Norway.

The trees were quite tall and the relatively small size of the trees could make Xinhang forest “very similar to a sugarcane field” as noted by Deming Wang, a professor at Peking University and one of the authors of the study with Min Qin of Linyi University.

The fossils were formed on the walls of various clay quarries in this region of China, near a four-meter thick sandstone bed. The height of the trees was estimated by analyzing the diameters of the fossilized trunks.

Bill Stern

I am a professor of Biology at Marquette University and the founder of Jubobarta News. Throughout my life I have always had a strong interest in science and learning more about how the world works, and have always wanted to eventually become a science popularizer and educator myself. Jubobarta News, along with my responsibilities as a professor, is my attempt at improving science education and literacy.

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A new species of turtle in Texas that lived almost 100 million years ago has been classified

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Analyzing the remains found at the Arlington Archosaur Site, a site with various fossil remains from the late Cretaceous period in Texas, a team of researchers described four species of extinct turtles, one of which is named after paleontologist Derek Main.

This site was discovered in 2003 and proved to be a prolific location for late Cretaceous remains, remnants of life forms that lived more than 90 million years ago. It is a wetland located near the shore of a peninsula and already in the past has provided several fossils of ancient crocodiles, dinosaurs, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and even plants.

However, the turtle fossils discovered at this site had proved quite rare, at least until this study that was published in Palaeontology Electronica. The new species was named Trinitichelys maini. It is a Baenidae turtle, an extinct group of North American aquatic turtles that lived from the Cretaceous to the Eocene era.

Of medium size, these turtles showed strongly fused bones and upper shell and lived near rivers. The Trinitichelys maini is the oldest turtle of this group found in the North American subcontinent of Appalachia, a region that during the Cretaceous period was separated from Laramidia, the western subcontinent of North America.

In addition to the new classification, researchers described three other turtles, one of which is the oldest side-necked turtle (Pleurodira order) ever found in North America. These turtles are characterized by the particular way they withdraw their heads inside their shells: they do so by bending their necks on the horizontal plane.

The other two turtles described are one belonging to the group of trionichids (Trionychidae), or soft-shelled turtles, and another belonging to the genus Naomichelys (family Helochelydridae ).

Bill Stern

I am a professor of Biology at Marquette University and the founder of Jubobarta News. Throughout my life I have always had a strong interest in science and learning more about how the world works, and have always wanted to eventually become a science popularizer and educator myself. Jubobarta News, along with my responsibilities as a professor, is my attempt at improving science education and literacy.

3560 Sycamore Lake Road, Mayville Wisconsin, 53050
920-387-9926
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Bill Stern
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Key mechanism of epilepsy in Angelman syndrome discovered by researchers

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In the course of research defined as “innovative,” a team of researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, discovered a mechanism considered to be basic with regard to epilepsy in Angelman syndrome. This discovery, according to the researchers themselves, could lead to new therapies in the future.

Angelman’s syndrome (AS) is a rare genetic disease due to a defect in the process of chromosome duplication, often accompanied by delays in psychological and motor development, cognitive disabilities and other symptoms including epilepsy. In the course of the study, researchers at the Singapore Institutes used a new experimental methodology with human neural cells and brain organelles to understand the mechanism of epileptic seizures in this syndrome.

The researchers discovered the role of the ion channel in the hyperactivity of the brain network that triggers convulsions. The latter would be linked to gene deficiency of the ubiquitin ligase protein E3A (UBE3A) within neurons. As this is a syndrome that cannot be treated at present, this discovery could, therefore, be very important.

“Our study used 2D human neuronal cultures that allowed the accelerated discovery of functional differences at the single-cell level in the brain of normal individuals compared to those with AS,” explains Hyunsoo Shawn Je, the senior author of the study. “The use of mini 3D human brains allowed us to monitor spontaneous network activities, linking the results of abnormal firing from individual neurons and convulsive-like activities, just like those observed in the brains of AS patients.”

Bill Stern

I am a professor of Biology at Marquette University and the founder of Jubobarta News. Throughout my life I have always had a strong interest in science and learning more about how the world works, and have always wanted to eventually become a science popularizer and educator myself. Jubobarta News, along with my responsibilities as a professor, is my attempt at improving science education and literacy.

3560 Sycamore Lake Road, Mayville Wisconsin, 53050
920-387-9926
[email protected]
Bill Stern
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Psilocybin produced by Escherichia coli modified with magic mushroom genes

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A team of researchers at Miami University in Ohio has managed to engineer Escherichia coli bacteria to produce psilocybin, a psychedelic substance usually produced by so-called “magic mushrooms” and which in recent years is proving increasingly interesting in the treatment of people suffering from depression or other mental illnesses such as addiction.

Since mushroom cultivation can be quite difficult and can take months, it has never proved to be very practical for the production of drugs. On the other hand, the synthetic production of psilocybin itself is equally difficult and the process is very expensive. The researchers have therefore thought of modifying these microbes so that they can generate up to 1.16 grams of psilocybin per litre of culture medium. This is the highest yield to date for engineered microorganisms producing this substance and opens the door to more widespread therapeutic use.

They have in particular ensured that the Escherichia coli bacteria incorporated three genes of the fungus Psilocybe cubensis. In this way the bacteria began to synthesize psilocybin from the 4-hydroxyindol molecule.

As Alexandra Adams, a chemical engineering student at the above mentioned university and one of the authors of the study published in Scientific American, explains, the main advantage of this procedure is that it is much cheaper than all the other methods.

Currently the only limit is represented by the danger that these bacteria could also generate toxic or allergenic microbial material and the latter must be absolutely removed before any possible use of the resulting psilocybin but in any case the results seem impressive.

Bill Stern

I am a professor of Biology at Marquette University and the founder of Jubobarta News. Throughout my life I have always had a strong interest in science and learning more about how the world works, and have always wanted to eventually become a science popularizer and educator myself. Jubobarta News, along with my responsibilities as a professor, is my attempt at improving science education and literacy.

3560 Sycamore Lake Road, Mayville Wisconsin, 53050
920-387-9926
[email protected]
Bill Stern
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