Grizzly - The Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia | image by Orpelli Massimiliano
Think crayfish and you probably think supper, perhaps with mayo on the side. You probably don’t think of their brains. Admittedly, crayfish aren’t known for their grey matter, but that might be about to change: they can grow new brain cells from blood.
Humans can make new neurons, but only from specialised stem cells. Crayfish, meanwhile, can convert blood to neurons that resupply their eyestalks and smell circuits. Although it’s a long way from crayfish to humans, the discovery may one day help us to regenerate our own brain cells.
Olfactory nerves are continuously exposed to damage and so naturally regenerate in many animals, from flies to humans, and crustaceans too. It makes sense that crayfish have a way to replenish these nerves. To do so, they utilise what amounts to a “nursery” for baby neurons, a little clump at the base of the brain called the niche.
Nearly 50 skeletons of a new species of ancient flying reptile have been unearthed in southern Brazil, an “absolutely unprecedented” discovery, one expert says.
Varying ages of the newfound species, dubbed Caiuajara dobruskii, fill the rare boneyard, which was once part of a desert lake in the late Cretaceous period, about 100 million to 66 million years ago. With a wingspan of up to 7.7 feet (2.35 meters) C. dobruskii had a head that was shaped differently from those of other pterosaurs, including a bony protrusion in front of its eyes. (See “New Golden Age for Pterosaurs, Flying Reptiles of the Dinosaur Era.”)
The discovery offers the “best evidence ever uncovered” that the extinct dinosaur-era animals, called pterosaurs, may have lived in colonies, said study author Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
It also offers a new window into how the animals—the first vertebrates to fly—developed into adults.
Finding such an intact fossil site is unusual—though pterosaurs were found on every continent, their fragile wing bones do not preserve well. What’s more, most pterosaur remains have been found near what was once oceans or lagoons, not desert.
| Illustration by Maurilio Oliveira
A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another.
The finding by Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.
His findings were published on Aug. 15 in the journal Science.
"The discovery of this novel form of inter-organism communication shows that this is happening a lot more than any one has previously realized," said Westwood, who is an affiliated researcher with the Fralin Life Science Institute. "Now that we have found that they are sharing all this information, the next question is, ‘What exactly are they telling each other?’."
Westwood examined the relationship between a parasitic plant, dodder, and two host plants, Arabidopsis and tomatoes. In order to suck the moisture and nutrients out of the host plants, dodder uses an appendage called a haustorium to penetrate the plant. Westwood has previously broken new ground when he found that during this parasitic interaction, there is a transport of RNA between the two species. RNA translates information passed down from DNA, which is an organism’s blueprint.
image | Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sceinces