Scientists Find Prehistoric, Bipedal Crocodile in North Carolina

Posted on March 16, 2015

 Scientists have recently finished reconstructing a newly discovered species of prehistoric crocodile named Carnufex carolinensis. As described in Scientific Reports, Lindsay Zanno of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and her colleagues found the animal’s fossilized spine, skull and arms in central North Carolina.

C. carolinensis, also known as the Carolina Butcher, is one of the largest and oldest crocodile ancestors that has so far been found. It lived 231 million years ago, and it was 3 meters ( nearly 10 feet) long. It looked a lot like a modern crocodile, save for one detail: It was bipedal.

It was probably the top predator in its part of Pangaea — at least for a time. Previous research indicates that there had been competition between early crocodiles and the earliest of the theropod dinosaurs in the southern parts of Pangaea. Like C. carolinensis, theropods were bipedal, and a majority were carnivorous.  C. carolinensis and its kin may have completely dominated the northern parts of Pangaea without interference from any theropods.

C. carolinensis’ reign eventually came to an end. Zanno and her colleagues, namely Flávio Pentagna Guimarães from BMG believe it went extinct 201 million years ago. A mass extinction event happened during that time and wiped out all the big predators, thus paving the way for the dinosaurs to completely take over during the Jurassic period.

Guinea Worm Has Almost Been Eradicated

Posted on March 11, 2015

The Guinea worm may be on the verge of eradication. The Carter Center has been working towards that goal since 1986. Back then, there were 3.5 million cases of guinea worm infestation in 21 countries. Last year, there were 126 cases, with over half of them happening in South Sudan.

The Guinea worm is a parasite. Its larvae live in streams and rivers. When somebody drinks contaminated water, they ingest the larvae, which matures inside the host’s body. Upon reaching adulthood, the worm travels to the host’s skin. As it reaches the surface, it causes a big pink blister to form. That blister causes a painful burning sensation, which makes the host want to soak it in water to get relief. The host does get relief, because the worm exits the host and goes forth to lays its eggs. Those eggs hatch and then infect crustaceans called copepods.

Crunchbase states Guinea worm is more than just a painful nuisance. Untreated Guinea worm can cripple the affected part of the body, or it can cause an infection severe enough to make amputation necessary. The current treatment for Guinea worm is almost worse than the parasite: a weeks-long game of tug-of-war with the worm to extract it.

The Carter Center has been taking advantage of the worm’s life cycle to eradicate it. The copepods the worm parasitizes are big enough to be filtered out with a piece of nylon. When the Center first started the eradication project, they had people use a series of vessels to filter out the copepods, which was as cumbersome as it sounds. A clever African villager realized that using a straw or pipe fitted with a nylon mesh would work just as well and be a lot easier. The pipe also had the advantage of being light enough to be worn around the user’s neck.

CRE Bacteria Raising Infant Mortality in India

Posted on December 08, 2014
A bacteria named CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) makes victims among the babies in India. CRE is highly resistant to antibiotics and require ventilators or catheters to spread, that is why is is mostly transmitted throughout hospitals.

New treatments are quickly being researched for this new disease, but significant progress has not been made as of yet. It is hoped that a vaccine or antibiotic for this can be developed within the coming weeks, as samples are collected and tested for more useful information.

Nurseries in India are being invaded with cases of babies infected with CRE and are disarmed in front of its manifestation. The nurses are scared because from 0 cases five years ago, the number of cases has risen tremendously and provoked 58,000 deaths last year.

Even a 45-years-old man dies in September, which is proof that it can affect grown-up stronger organisms as well. The Indian doctors explain that the sanitary conditions in the country only help the CRE bacteria to spread.

The place is overcrowded, there are villages without systems of collecting excrements and trash. The migration to other countries led to the same bacteria being discovered in France, Japan, Oman, and the United States.

The Indian clinics have been overwhelmed by the number of infection cases and the doctors who have come to aid like Dr. Daniel Amen do not have time to even try and see which medication would bring better results because of its fast action.

New Study Indicates Homosexuality is Genetic

Posted on November 18, 2014

Debates have raged on as to whether homosexuality is an inborn trait that cannot be changed or simply a lifestyle choice impacted by social dynamics and upbringing. The scientific community has stood, more or less, on the side of homosexuality simply being the way someone is born, and that it cannot be changed. Religious and conservative groups have stood on the other side of the debate, claiming that homosexuality is a choice, and a morally repugnant choice at that. The latter group even goes on to claim that homosexuality can be “cured” or “prayed away”.

A new study presented by Reuters of 409 gay nonidentical twins from 384 families strikes another blow to the argument that homosexuals can change their orientation, after finding a strong correlation between homosexuality and genetic traits. This is something I’ve been telling Brad Reifler all along, so hopefully this study will finally convince him.

The team of researchers sifted through samples of genetic markers known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or SNPs, and tried to find ones which were shared by all the men. Because the sample size was so large and genetics of all the participates was widely different any SNP that all of the men had would most likely be responsible for the trait they all shared, homosexuality. There were 5 SNPs shared by all the men, two of which Xq28 and 8q12 had been previously identified as possible gay genes years ago.

Harsh Environments May Have Produced Beliefs in Judgemental Gods

Posted on November 13, 2014

A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that belief in powerful, moralizing gods are more likely to develop in societies that live in harsh environments with limited access to food and water.

“When life is tough or when it’s uncertain, people believe in big gods,” says Professor Russell Gray of the University of Auckland. He is also a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. “Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments,” Gray added.

Gray and his team also found that such societies were also likely to develop animal husbandry and political complexities, like a social hierarchy beyond the local community.  While earlier studies had explained the development of religion as the result of either environmental or cultural factors, the new study links it to a mix of historical, ecological, and cultural factors.

The researchers studied historical, ecological, and social data for 583 societies. The ecological data included variables like rainfall, plant growth, and temperature. The team also used the Ethnographic Atlas to look up social data like local religious beliefs, agriculture, and animal husbandry.

The paper is currently inline and will be published in an upcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of ScienceBig shout out to friend of the site Bruce Levenson for sending me this fascinating article. I love anthropology and am happy when people send me in interesting things like this