Facts, not Fantasy

Friday, July 31, 2009

Today in the News (31 Jul 09)

First of all, sorry about the lack of update yesterday. I decided to spend some time with the family, and it just got too late.

Discovery Of Elephants' Oldest Known Relative. Emmanuel Gheerbrant, paleontologist at the Paris Museum (1), discovered one of the oldest modern ungulates related to the elephant order. The beginnings of the radiation (diversification) of the modern mammals (placental orders) remain poorly known because of fossil gaps, and especially in some key Southern continents such as Africa. Emmanuel Gheerbrant, researcher at the CNRS (2), reports(3) the discovery of one of the oldest known modern ungulates in Paleocene beds from Morocco. Dated to about 60 millions years ago, this fossil mammal belongs to a new species called Eritherium azzouzorum. It comes from the same Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin which yielded Phosphatherium escuilliei (4), which was until the Eritherium's discovery the oldest and most primitive proboscidean found. This is the oldest known African ungulate (called paenungulates), and among them the oldest known member of the elephant order (proboscideans) (5).

This seems like a repeat, but the dateline on it is today: Parasites May Have Had Role In Evolution Of Sex. What's so great about sex? From an evolutionary perspective, the answer is not as obvious as one might think. An article published in the July issue of the American Naturalist suggests that sex may have evolved in part as a defense against parasites. Despite its central role in biology, sex is a bit of an evolutionary mystery. Reproducing without sex—like microbes, some plants and even a few reptiles—would seem like a better way to go. Every individual in an asexual species has the ability to reproduce on its own. But in sexual species, two individuals have to combine in order to reproduce one offspring. That gives each generation of asexuals twice the reproductive capacity of sexuals. Why then is sex the dominant strategy when the do-it-yourself approach is so much more efficient?

Ongoing evolution you say? Rodent Size Linked To Human Population And Climate Change. You probably hadn't noticed -- but the head shape and overall size of rodents has been changing over the past century. A University of Illinois at Chicago ecologist has tied these changes to human population density and climate change. The finding is reported by Oliver Pergams, UIC research assistant professor of biological sciences, in the July 31 issue of PLoS One. Pergams said that such size-and-shape changes in mammals, occurring around the world in less than a century, are quite substantial.

So, do you think this would be possible without all that stuff we learn by knowing EVOLUTION: Scientists Decoding Genomic Sequences Of H1N1 Using Isolates From Outbreak In Argentina. Researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health are working with Argentina's National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the National Administration of Laboratories and Health Institutes (ANLIS), and Roche 454 Life Sciences to decode the complete genomic sequences of influenza pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus from patients with severe respiratory disease. The scientists will be comparing sequences of viruses associated with the current outbreak in Argentina with those found in other locations to determine if there are differences that may be linked to higher mortality rates or provide insights into virus evolution.

College Students Who Feel 'Invincible' Unlikely To Accept STD Vaccines. Vaccines to protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and herpes, are being developed and may soon be available to college students. However, limited research has been conducted to determine if students will accept the vaccines once they are available. In a new study, a University of Missouri researcher has found that students who feel invulnerable, or invincible, to physical harm are unlikely to get an HIV vaccine. Alternately, students who feel invulnerable to psychological harm are more likely to get the vaccine.

Will fear of autism keep swine flu vaccinations down? Despite all the actual evidence that should calm those irrational fears? The frustrated and callous part of my mind would say good riddance to that populations, but sadly it's generally not the irresponsible adults that pay the price, but rather the children and those around the irresponsible adult.

Here is an interesting article on "Learning from Aspergers". Since this is my daughter's diagnosis, I could really relate!

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