Thursday, 11 February 2016

Fossil discovery: Extraordinary 'big-mouthed' fish from Cretaceous Period

February 8, 2016

An international team of scientists have discovered two new plankton-eating fossil fish species of the genus called Rhinconichthys (Rink-O-nik-thees) from the oceans of the Cretaceous Period, about 92 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the planet.

One of the authors of the study, Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University, said Rhinconichthys are exceptionally rare, known previously by only one species from England. But a new skull from North America, discovered in Colorado along with the re-examination of another skull from Japan have tripled the number of species in the genus with a greatly expanded geographical range. According to Shimada, who played a key role in the study, these species have been named R. purgatoirensis and R. uyenoi, respectively.

"I was in a team that named Rhinconichthysin 2010, which was based on a single species from England, but we had no idea back then that the genus was so diverse and so globally distributed," said Shimada.

The new study, "Highly specialized suspension-feeding bony fish Rhinconichthys (Actinopterygii: Pachycormiformes) from the mid-Cretaceous of the United States, England and Japan," will appear in the forthcoming issue of the international scientific journal Cretaceous Research.

The research team includes scientists from government, museum, private sector and university careers. They include Bruce A. Schumacher from the United Sates Forest Service who discovered the new specimen. It also includes researchers, Jeff Liston from the National Museum of Scotland and Anthony Maltese from the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.

Morbid attraction to leopards in toxoplasmosis parasitized chimpanzees

February 9, 2016

Researchers from the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive (CNRS/Université de Montpellier/Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3/EPHE) have shown that chimpanzees infected with toxoplasmosis are attracted by the urine of their natural predators, leopards, but not by urine from other large felines. The study, published on 8 February 2016 in Current Biology, suggests that parasite manipulation by Toxoplasma gondii is specific to each host. It fuels an ongoing debate on the origin of behavioral modifications observed in humans infected with toxoplasmosis: they probably go back to a time when our ancestors were still preyed upon by large felines.

Parasites such as those that cause toxoplasmosis take various pathways, some of them complex, in order to develop into their adult form and reproduce in a so-called definitive host. These pathways may include stages consisting in the infection of an intermediary host. In order to pass from one such host to another, some parasites are able to induce behavioral changes in their hosts. However, this process, known as parasite manipulation, is rarely observed in mammals.

Asian gudgeon bring new terror to rivers

February 9, 2016

Small in size but significant in terms of the ecological and economic damage they cause, Asian gudgeon are invading a great number of water courses across the world, particularly in Europe. These fish carry a half-animal/half-fungal parasite, which has very likely been present in China for millions of years and which is fatal to most other fish species. Having discovered this pathogen 10 years ago, IRD researchers and their partners have recently demonstrated how quickly it can spread in a Turkish catchment area. Three years after the arrival of the gudgeon, between 80 and 90% of fish were contaminated, including farmed bass, a species of great economic importance in the Mediterranean.

Arriving from China 50 years ago, a small fresh water fish from the carp family, known as the 'Asian gudgeon', has since caused devastation in the rivers of Europe and North Africa. This creature has successfully colonised various aquatic environments due to its highly efficient strategy for reproduction. But most importantly, as demonstrated in a study by the IRD and its partners, published in Emerging Microbes and Infections (Nature), it is propagating a devastating mycosis, a cousin of the well-known chytrid fungus, which has decimated frogs and toads throughout the world over the last few decades.

A parasite from another age
This small invasive fish is the healthy carrier of a parasite named Sphaerothecum destruens, bordering between the animal and fungal kingdoms. This organism, the type of which was only discovered recently, emerged several million years ago when animals and fungi became differentiated. The research team discovered this parasite in the Asian gudgeon in 2005 and subsequently observed its damaging effects on other fish species under laboratory conditions.

Basilewsky’s cranefly: Insect thought to be extinct for decades lands on expert sent to hunt for it

The tiny island of St Helena has been dubbed the Galapagos of the South Atlantic because its animals and plants have evolved in isolation from the rest of the world

Thursday 4 February 2016

When a British entomologist was sent to the tiny island of St Helena to search for a cranefly feared extinct for decades, it might have sounded like a Herculean task.

So Liza Fowler, of the Bugs on the Brink project, was somewhat taken aback when one flew in the window of her car and landed on her, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The island has been dubbed the Galapagos of the South Atlantic because its animals and plants have evolved in isolation from the rest of the world, resulting in more than 400 invertebrate animals which are found nowhere else.

Basilewsky’s cranefly, which looks a bit like a mini daddy long legs, had not been seen for nearly 50 years – until Ms Fowler arrived to carry out an audit of the island’s insect life..

“Capturing the Basilewsky’s cranefly was a real stroke of luck, one flew into the car at High Peak and landed on me,” she said.

However, Ms Fowler also found a large number of alien species on St Helena, where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last days after defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

“Unfortunately most of the new bugs are not such good news to the island as they are invaders from other places and may turn out to be detrimental to the indigenous bugs, flora or crops, but it is good that we now know about them,” she said.

Salamander skin for surgery repairs? A group of Buffalo investors thinks so – via Herp Digest

By Stephen T. Watson | News Staff Reporter |Buffalo News
on January 29, 2016 - 9:03 AM

A group of Buffalo-based investors has put $1 million into a startup company in Florida that is creating novel medical products made from the skin of a Mexican salamander known for the ability to regenerate lost limbs and other body parts.

The products in development by NeXtGen Biologics show promise in the field of post-surgery wound treatment and the initial approval from federal regulators could come by the end of this year, said Mark Hamister, chairman and CEO of the Hamister Group.

“We think this product will eventually replace surgical mesh,” he said.

Hamister is one of the founders of Buffalo Capital, formed to bring investment opportunities to the attention of its members. Scott E. Friedman, an attorney who is chairman and CEO of the Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman law firm, typically identifies the potential investments, Hamister said.

In addition to Hamister and Friedman, the investors include: Jerry Jacobs Jr., co-CEO of Delaware North; Dr. Elad Levy, a neurosurgeon; Brian J. Lipke, former chairman of Gibraltar Industries; Buffalo attorney Gerald Lippes; and Ted Pierce, a Florida-based investor whose family owned the former Niagara Envelope Co.

Friedman initially was contacted about NeXtGen. The company explores uses for medical products made from the skin of the Mexican axolotl – pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl – salamander. It was formed in Gainesville, Fla., in April 2014 by CEO Jonelle Toothman and Jamie Grooms, and relies on the work of researcher Ryanne Early, according to the Gainesville Sun.

The company is working on a soft-tissue-healing mesh, based on the skin of the axolotl, which can regenerate its skin and limbs. The mesh would be used in surgeries such as abdominal and hernia repair, dermal replacement or a heart graft, the newspaper reported.

NeXtGen outsources the raising and harvesting of the salamanders to the University of Kentucky, according to Hamister and the Sun.

Hamister said the group was drawn to NeXtGen and its products because this was an area without a lot of competition, it was a product that filled a real need, it could improve people’s lives, it had enormous potential for growth and it could provide a high return on their investment.

“We thought the product was extremely novel,” he said.

The members invested with NeXtGen directly and not through Buffalo Capital, he said.

They provided $1 million of the $1.28 million raised in this round, the third round of fundraising brought in by NeXtGen since the startup’s founding. NeXtGen has raised just under $3 million in all, Hamister said.

In addition to their investment, Hamister and Levy took seats on the board of the company.
If all goes well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could approve the first NeXtGen products for use in humans by the end of this year, and the first products could be available for commercial use by the first half of 2017, Hamister said.

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