Current Event Summaries by Jeff L.

5 Responses to Current Event Summaries by Jeff L.

  1. Jeff Liang says:

    Title: T. Rex had an air conditioner in its head, study suggests
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190904125337.htm
    Author(s): University of Missouri-Columbia
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date:

    Article Summary: Scientists at the University of Missouri, Ohio University, and the University of Florida are claiming that the Tyrannosaurus Rex had an air conditioner in its head, which is contrary to what many scientists believe. Tyrannosaurus Rex had two holes called dorsotemporal fenestra at the roof of its skull. Scientists used to believe the holes were where muscles that help with jaw movements were contained. However, it is unusual for a muscle to go up from the jaw and then make a 90-degree turn and go along the roof of the skull. Recently, a lot of evidence has been discovered that shows blood vessels were contained there, based on works from researching other reptiles. Scientists compared the holes to the holes alligators have at the roof of their skulls. Scientists used thermal imaging to examining alligators at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. When it is cold, thermal imaging shows that the holes in an alligator skull produce heat and when it is hot later in the day, the holes appear as dark spots. This adds to the evidence that alligators have a built-in thermostat. Scientists then proceeded to compare how the holes evolved over time by analyzing fossilized skulls of dinosaurs and alligators. By analyzing the anatomy of current animals, scientists can start debunking many older hypotheses about T. rex.

    Personal Reaction: It is intriguing that some reptiles like alligators have body parts that can function like air conditioners. What is also interesting to me was that scientists can use animals that are around today such as alligators as a reference to know more about dinosaurs. I believe this study can lead to more paleontologists researching deeper into the anatomy of dinosaurs. This study already challenges some of the things we thought were true and I believe that more things will be challenged when more discoveries are made. This study can potentially lead to more scientists starting to make more connections between the anatomy of animals that are around today and the anatomy of prehistoric animals like dinosaurs to know more about the anatomy of dinosaurs.

  2. Jeff Liang says:

    Title: Electric eel produces highest voltage discharge of any known animal
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190910134323.htm
    Author(s): Smithsonian
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: 10 September 2019

    Article Summary:

    There are three different species of electric eels that inhabit the rivers of northern South America. A newly discovered species produces the highest electrical discharge of any known organism. Scientists have known about electric eels for more than 250 years. Electric eels were believed to all be part of a single species. However, a new study revealed that there were two more species. Researchers at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have recently discovered that the three different species of electric eels evolved from the same common ancestor millions of years ago. The two new species are just the tip of the iceberg of things in the Amazon that are yet to be discovered. According to an estimate, 250 species of fish generate electricity in South America, but only electric eels discharge electricity for self-defense or hunting. All of these species use electricity to navigate or to communicate. As researchers studied how electric eels generated electricity, the first battery design, created in 1799, was inspired by electric eels. Scientists and researchers have ideas that are inspired by the electric eel that are about how to advance technology and even ways to treat certain diseases. On the outside, all the species appeared to look alike. However, genetic differences indicate that there are three different species. Faint physical differences such as differences in skull shape were also discovered. About 7.1 million years ago, electric eels evolved into two different species. Around 3.6 million years ago, one of these groups diverged into two different species, creating the three species we know of today. One of the newly discovered species, E. voltai, can generate 860 volts of electricity, the largest known amount that can be generated by an organism. E. voltai can potentially contain compounds and enzymes that can be used to further advance medicine or technology.

    Personal Reaction:

    I am surprised that there are actually three different species of electric eels. Before I read this article, I thought there all electric eels were part of one species. If the discovery of the existence of two more species of electric eel was so recent, who knows what can lurk deeper in the Amazon. There could be even more intriguing things yet to be discovered that are lurking in the Amazon. I think it is interesting that the first battery design was inspired by the electric eel. It is amazing how the electric eel can inspire ideas that scientists and researchers can use to further advance technology and medicine. I think if there are ideas that can be utilized to make advances then it is a good idea to build upon and potentially find new ways to treat certain diseases.

  3. Jeff Liang says:

    Title: Did mosasaurs do the breast stroke?
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190923140812.htm
    Author(s): Geological Society of America
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: 29 September 2019

    Article Summary:

    During the Cretaceous period, giant aquatic lizards called mosasaurs dominated the seas. They grew up to 50 feet in length. Recent research has suggested that the motions they used to swim are similar to breaststroke. Paleontologists know that mosasaurs used their tails to help them move, but new evidence has suggested that they used their forelimbs in conjunction with their tail for movement, which is a trait that is unique for tetrapods or four-limbed creatures. Previous studies just assumed that mosasaurs used their tails for movement like alligators and whales do today. It was believed that mosasaurs swam in a smooth manner rather than in a burst manner. However, further studies of its pectoral girdles, bones that support its large forelimb muscles, have suggested that their forearm muscles helped the mosasaurs swim in a fashion that is similar to breaststroke. Their forearms allowed bursts of force to help the mosasaur propel itself. It is noteworthy that it is more difficult to study the motions of extinct animals because their muscles, skin, and even some bones have disappeared.

    Personal Reaction:

    My initial reaction was that I was intrigued by this. I wondered how did mosasaurs swim in a similar manner to breaststroke. I used to think that they swam in a similar manner to whales. I think there are plenty of facts in which we currently believed to be true may become challenged within the near future. I think that because what we know about extinct prehistoric creatures are mostly educated guesses. Their muscles and skin have long disappeared so we can only have access to their bones which can limit what we can find out about them.

  4. Jeff Liang says:

    Title: New species of giant salamander is world’s biggest amphibian
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190916212513.htm
    Author(s): Zoological Society of London
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: 29 September 2019

    Article Summary:

    Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and London’s Natural History Museum discovered two new species of giant salamanders. Chinese giant salamanders are now deemed critically endangered. They were once common in central, southern and eastern China. Previously, it was accepted that there was once one species. However, evidence from studying 17 museum specimens and tissue from wild specimens is challenging this. The three different branches of giant salamander live in different rivers and mountain ranges throughout China. These branches are genetically dissimilar enough to be deemed different species. The names of two of the species are Andrias davidianus, Andrias sligoi. The third species is yet to be named. One of the species was proposed to be different from the rest in the 1920s but was debunked. However, new evidence today proves this is true. A professor at ZSL stated that their study reveals that a diversion happened 3.1 and 2.4 million years ago, which is around the same time that mountains started forming in the Tibetan Plateau started to rise. The giant salamander has been on the decline from overexploitation to cater to the luxury food market. Mountains could spawn new species when certain groups of the same species are isolated from the others. The discovery of three new species requires conservation plans to be revised to prevent disease transfer, competition, and hybridizing. The newly discovered South China giant salamander can reach 2 meters long and is the largest of the know 8,000 species of amphibians. ZSL contributes to the conservation of giant salamanders in China. The new discoveries just happened to occur at a time where conservation of the species is critical. Conservation methods need to adapt in order to preserve each individual species.

    Personal Reaction:

    My first reaction was that it is intriguing that a discovery like this happened relatively recent. It is surprising that it takes this long to come to the realization that the giant salamander is not one single species. I remember learning that in 7th grade that when groups of the same species become separated, over time they will evolve into separate species. The connection I made to this from the article is that the giant salamander diverged into different species around the time mountains started to rise in the Tibetan Plateau. It is interesting to read about how three species were previously mistaken for one single species.

  5. Jeff Liang says:

    Title: Engineered viruses could fight drug resistance
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191003114034.htm
    Author(s): Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: 6 October 2019

    Article Summary:

    Bacteria have been becoming more resistant to antibiotics in recent years. Scientists are attempting to utilize viruses called bacteriophages that can infect and kill other bacteria. Phages kill bacteria with methods that differ from how antibiotics kill bacteria. Phages can target specific strands of bacteria, which makes them an ideal solution against the rising threat of the ineffectiveness of antibiotics. However, it is difficult to find phages that target specific strands of bacteria. Recently, engineers at MIT have found a way to program phages to attack specific strands of E. coli by planting mutations in the infectious proteins. The lab-engineered phages are less likely to trigger bacterial resistance. One of the phages the engineers created could kill two strains of E. coli that are resistant to naturally-occurring phages. The FDA has already approved of select phages to sanitize food. However, phages are not used often because it can be time-consuming to find naturally-occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria. Researchers showed that program phages into targeting particular types of bacteria by altering the genes in the tail fibers, the protein that phages use to lock onto targeted cells. Phages with over 10,000,000 different tail fibers have been synthesized. They were tested against E. coli strains that had developed a resistance to naturally-occurring phages. A way that E. coli can become resistant to naturally-occurring phages is by shortening or completely getting rid of their LPS receptors. However, the engineered phages can kill E. coli strains with shortened or missing LPS receptors. The researchers are also interested in engineering phages that target bacteria that cause problems for the digestive system. The researchers received funding from groups like the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

    Personal Reaction:

    This article was quite an intriguing one to read. In my opinion, the research into phages is crucial in preventing the spread of disease. As the threat of antibiotic resistance rises, using phages for medicine is becoming more crucial. However, certain strands of bacteria could not be killed by naturally-occurring phages. Recently, researchers at MIT have found a way to successfully engineer phages that are more powerful than naturally-occurring phages. They also figured out ways to reprogram phages into targeting specific strands of bacteria. Without phages, antibiotics will eventually become ineffective and treating certain diseases will become undoubtedly harder. I think that it is a great idea to start researching more into phages in the next few decades due to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance.

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