Science News

4 new long-lived neurological proboscis insects discovered that lived 100 million years ago

In a study published in Cretaceous Research, a group of researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences announces the discovery of four new species, and its four new genera, of extinct insects found fossilized in amber.

These are four insects with proboscis that fed by sucking from the first flowers of angiosperms almost 100 million years ago. They were found in pieces of amber from the Upper Cretaceous in northern Myanmar. The researchers included them in the group of Paradoxosisyrinae, a subfamily of sisirids (sisyridae).

According to Russian researchers, these insects used their proboscis to suck nectar from plants. However, in the past scientists had carried out in-depth studies of this organ of Paradoxosisyrinae, understanding that it was shorter than other species of insects, which led them to suck less nectar from the flowers and that most likely contributed to the evolutionary failure and to the extension of the neurotters (Neuroptera) to a long proboscis.

Precisely the discovery of these four new species of Paradoxosisyrinae in amber expands the knowledge we can now have of this group of insects and probably also corroborates the hypothesis described above. One of the species has been called Buratina truncate , in honor of Buratino, the Russian analogue of Pinocchio.

This flying insect was covered, like the other newly discovered species, with many hairs, a condition that is observed today in today’s pollinators. It is precisely these hairs that allow pollen grains to be transported with more agility.

However, precisely because of the problem described above related to the proboscis, the insects of the Paradoxosisyrinae group could suck nectar only from shallow flowers. The other three species classified are Sidorchukatia gracilisProtosiphoniella anthophila and Khobotun elephantinus.

Science News

An important discovery was made about trypanosomes, parasites that cause serious diseases

“Elusive” proteins have been defined as those identified by a group of researchers at the University of Alberta, a discovery that could lead to new therapies that are less painful and more efficient with regard to African sleeping sickness and Chagas disease.

In the study, published in the Life Science Alliance, the discovery of the PEX3 protein is described. Until this study it was believed that this protein did not exist in the trypanosome, a kind of parasite that leads to various infections as well as to the aforementioned diseases.

This protein is an essential component for many living things, including humans as well as the trypanosomes themselves. Its task is to manage peroxisomes, particular cells that break down fatty acids and amino acids, an essential process to obtain energy.

The interruption of the action of PEX3 in the parasites could in fact be a more than efficient method to kill them without damaging the patient.

Rick Rachubinski, cell biologist and one of the authors of the study together with colleagues Hiren Banerjee and Barbara Knobloch, commented on the discovery: “Finding PEX3 in trypanosomes was very difficult. People have been looking for years and couldn’t find it. Some people said it didn’t exist, that it was a different mechanism, but we thought the simplest answer was that we hadn’t found it yet.”

Science News

The world’s first floating nuclear power plant starts traveling to the Arctic

The first floating nuclear reactor in the world, built by Russia, began its journey in the Arctic Sea on Friday amid the growing concern of environmentalists who have already called this sort of floating nuclear power plant the “Chernobyl on the ice” or the “Titanic nuclear.”

This floating nuclear power plant, named Akademik Lomonosov, began its journey through the Arctic with its cargo of nuclear fuel. It left the port of Murmansk and made his way into the sea, among the ice, starting a journey of more than 3000 miles to reach Pevek, a city located in the Siberian region of Chukotka.

Here it should replace a fixed nuclear power plant that will soon be closed down and a coal-fired power plant that has been closed for some time. Its job will mainly be to supply energy to the oil platforms in the Arctic. According to the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, this is the best solution to build a nuclear power plant in the Arctic area of ​​the country.

In this region, in fact, consisting essentially of isolated places with almost always frozen ground, a “classic” power plant would not be very simple to build. The new nuclear power plant will help Russia in “carrying out large infrastructure projects,” as declared by the agency itself.

Statements that have certainly not dampened the complaints launched by environmental groups that fear for the Arctic environment, already put to the test in recent years due to the melting of ice and global warming. A nuclear accident on this floating platform would cause a radioactive wave and according to environmentalists themselves, such a power plant would be more vulnerable to atmospheric agents, particularly storms.

“A floating nuclear power plant is too risky and too expensive to produce electricity,” Rashid Alimov, a Greenpeace representative in Russia, told AFP.

Science News

Three deformed skulls from 1500 years ago found in Croatia

New and more in-depth analyses of three deformed human skulls, whose discovery had been made in a sepulchral trench at an archaeological site in Croatia in 2013, were carried out by a group of scholars.

The finding had occurred at Hermanov’s site; the researchers had found deformed skulls, most likely the result of a tribal or social practice as found for other similar findings, in other parts of the world. These findings testify that different populations of the past used to modify the skulls of certain people, for example by using narrow headgear or more rigid wooden instruments worn for a long time, for various reasons, for example to show their status to other members of the group.

Returning to the skulls found in Croatia, the new analyzes showed that these were boys who died when they were between 12 and 16 years, probably due to an illness, perhaps the plague, as Mario Novak, a bioarchaeologist of the Institute of Anthropological Research points out.

No objects were found near the burial site, but DNA analysis showed that these three boys lived between 415 and 560 d. C., a period that according to Novak himself defines as “very turbulent” following the strong migration of different populations also facilitated by the dissolution of the Roman Empire.

The same DNA analysis also showed that these boys were of Eastern origin. The skulls have a particularly pronounced height while the frontal bone of the forehead is flattened.

One of the boys, showing a lineage from Western Eurasia, shows instead an “oblique” deformation with the skull that seems to stretch diagonally towards the other.

Science News

Deep learning allows us to identify blood cancer cells in milliseconds

A device capable of detecting cancer cells in seconds was developed by a group of researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles and NantWorks, a private US company.

The possibility of detecting cancer cells in the blood practically in real-time could allow them to be extracted in time, which would help prevent the spread of the disease.

The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, explains how the technique that is based on two technologies works: artificial intelligence based on deep learning (deep learning), used to classify and generally analyze the data obtained, and time stretch (temporal extension) photonic.

The latter is an ultra-fast measurement technology invented by scientists from the Californian University that sees the use of ultra-short laser flashes to capture trillions of data points per second, a speed 1,000 times faster than today’s fastest microprocessors.

In addition to these two basic technologies, the method also uses a third technology called image flow cytometry. Cytometry is the science that measures the characteristics of cells and in flow cytometry of images these characteristics are measured by a laser for image acquisition while the cells themselves flow one at a time through a vector fluid.

Yueqin Li, a doctoral student and first author of the study, explains the system: “We optimized the design of the deep neural network to manage the large amounts of data created by our temporal extension cytometer, improving performance both the software and the tool.”