In the age of climate crisis, survival isn’t easy. Some warm-blooded animals, like birds and elephants, are responding to this reality by changing the size of their appendages, according to a new analysis. That is, some may evolve to have bigger beaks, tails, or legs in the future.
Warm-blooded animals, including humans and birds, maintain a constant internal body temperature. They regulate the temperature through these appendages to adapt to extreme climates. If animals fail to control this, however, they can overheat and die.
This makes climate change disruptive for animals in multiple ways. Some move to cooler climates; some change the timing of their breeding and migration; others evolve to change body sizes to cool down. The research, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution on Tuesday, shows how some warm-blooded animals change the size of their legs, ears, tails, beaks, and other parts to regulate their body temperatures. Historically, some animals have evolved to have larger beaks or ears to get rid of heat; these changes are becoming more pronounced with a warming climate.
The researchers looked at existing research of appendage sizes in more than than 30 animals. The “shape-shifters” responded to a common pattern of fundamental changes in their form. The most notable difference so far was observed in some birds. The Australian parrot species, for instance, saw their beak size increase by 4% to 10% since 1871. The bill size of the North American dark-eyed juncos (a type of small songbird) was linked to shorter durations of a cold environment. Wood mice reportedly had longer tail lengths; bats in warm climates were growing to have increased wing sizes.
Naturally, the shifts are too small to be increasingly noticeable. So far, the change in sizes of tails, beaks, and other parts is less than 10%. “However, prominent appendages such as ears are predicted to increase, so we might end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-so-distant future,” Sara Ryding and Matthew Symonds, researchers at the Deakin University and co-authors of the paper, noted in The Conservation.
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How animals use appendages to regulate body temperatures is a pattern understood through Allen’s rule. In the 1870s, American zoologist Joel Allen noticed warm-blooded animals tended to have smaller appendages in colder climates; they had larger appendages in warmer climates. The advantage of having say, a bigger beak or ears, is that the larger size helps to disperse warmth when animals’ bodies overheat. Beaks, for instance, are not insulated and become a site of heat exchange; the blood flow is diverted to the bill when the bird is hot, which renders the beak warmer than the rest of the body. Similarly, ears, tails, and legs in mammals allow easy dispersal.
This pattern is noticed in several studies of birds and mammals. “African elephants, for example, pump warm blood to their large ears, which they then flap to disperse heat,” the researchers noted. In the present analysis, birds with smaller beaks were less likely to survive hotter climates.
Allen’s rule has helped researchers identify biological patterns in the past. Experts believe this trend can also be useful in predicting changes in animals as the climate warms. “These include (with some caveats) starlings, song sparrows, and a host of seabirds and small mammals, such as South American gracile opossums,” the study notes.
This shapeshifting is happening in myriad ways currently; animals with different appendages may grow and change globally. How larger beaks or tails may impact the animal is something the researchers plan to study in the future.
For now, however, evidence of evolution is not necessarily a comforting finding. “It means animals are evolving, but it does not necessarily mean that they are coping with climate change. We can see that some species have increased in appendage size so far, but we don’t know if they will be able to keep up as the climate crisis worsens,” Sara Ryding told CNN. It is possible some animals may not be able to evolve in time.
Several studies, along with the latest report on climate impact by the International Panel on Climate Change, predict a sordid tale of extinction for many animal species. How Allen’s rule and climate warming impact animals can piece together a puzzle of sorts. Researchers can identify the tangible consequence of global warming, and also trace which species are most vulnerable to the changes, and redirect conservation policies.
A 900-year-old cosmic mystery has been solved by astronomers – CTV News
The mystery behind the origins of a supernova first spotted by 12th-century Chinese and Japanese astronomers has been solved, according to an international team of 21st-century astronomers.
New research, published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, has linked astronomical reports from more than 800 years ago with a faint, fast-expanding nebula surrounding Parker’s Star, one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
The nebula, dubbed Pa30, fits the profile, location and age of the supernova, which was originally documented in 1181 AD.
“The historical reports place the guest star between two Chinese constellations, Chuanshe and Huagai,” Albert Zijlstra, astrophysics professor at the University of Manchester, said in a news release. “Parker’s Star fits the position well. That means both the age and location fit with the events of 1181.”
The first astronomers to lay eyes on the supernova, referred to as SN 1181, described it being as bright as the planet Saturn and remaining visible for six months, the authors of the study said.
Previous research has suggested Parker’s Star and the Pa30 nebula may be the result of the merging of two white dwarf stars. Such events are thought to lead to a rare and faint type of supernova called a “Type Iax” supernova.
“Only around 10 per cent of supernovae are of this type and they are not well understood. The fact that SN 1181 was faint but faded very slowly fits this type,” Zijlstra said. “It is the only such event where we can study both the remnant nebula and the merged star, and also have a description of the explosion itself.”
The key to unlocking the mystery of this historical supernova was the discovery that the Pa30 nebula is expanding at a velocity of more than 1,100 kilometres per second. From this, researchers were able to calculate the nebula’s age to be around 1,000 years old, which coincides with the events of 1181 AD.
“Combining all this information such as the age, location, event brightness and historically recorded 185-day duration, indicates that Parker’s Star and Pa30 are the counterparts of SN 1181,” Zijlstra said. “This is the only Type Iax supernova where detailed studies of the remnant star and nebula are possible.”
There have been five supernovae in the Milky Way in past millennium, and up until now, SN 1181 was the only one whose origins remained unknown.
“It is nice to be able to solve both a historical and an astronomical mystery,” Zijlstra said.
The team of astronomers who made the discovery hail from Hong Kong, the U.K., Spain, Hungary and France.
SpaceX launches amateur crew on private Earth-circling trip – Al Jazeera English
SpaceX’s first private flight has been launched into orbit with two contest winners, a healthcare worker and their rich sponsor on board, the most ambitious leap yet in space tourism.
The launch on Wednesday night was the first time a spacecraft circled Earth with an all-amateur crew and no professional astronauts.
“Punch it, SpaceX!” the flight’s billionaire leader, Jared Isaacman, urged moments before liftoff.
The Dragon capsule’s two men and two women are looking to spend three days circling the planet from an unusually high orbit – 160km (100 miles) higher than the International Space Station – before splashing down off the Florida coast this weekend.
It is SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s first entry in the competition for space tourism dollars.
Isaacman is the third billionaire to launch this summer, following the brief space-skimming flights by Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos in July. Only 38, Isaacman made his fortune from a payment-processing company he started in his teens.
Joining Isaacman on the trip dubbed Inspiration4 is Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a childhood bone cancer survivor who works as a physician assistant where she was treated – St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Isaacman has pledged $100m out of his own pocket to the hospital and is seeking another $100m in donations.
Arceneaux became the youngest American in space and the first person in space with a prosthesis, a titanium rod in her left leg.
Also along for the ride are sweepstakes winners Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona.
Once opposed to space tourism, NASA is now a supporter.
“Low-Earth orbit is now more accessible for more people to experience the wonders of space,” tweeted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who was a congressman when he hitched a ride on a space shuttle decades ago.
Researchers create a novel method of bioprinting neuron cells – Medical Xpress
A group of researchers including a Concordia Ph.D. student have developed a new method of bioprinting adult neuron cells. They’re using a new laser-assisted technology that maintains high levels of cell viability and functionality.
Ph.D. candidate and 2020-21 Public Scholar Hamid Orimi and his co-authors present the feasibility of a new bioprinting technology they developed in a recent paper published in the journal Micromachines. They demonstrate how the methodology they created, called Laser-Induced Side Transfer (LIST), improves on existing bioprinting techniques by using bioinks of differing viscosities, allowing for better 3D printing. Orimi, his Concordia co-supervisor Sivakumar Narayanswamy in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, CRHMR co-supervisor Christos Boutopoulos and co-authors at the Université de Montréal first presented the method in the Nature journal Scientific Reports in 2020.
Orimi co-wrote the newer paper with lead author Katiane Roversi, Sebastien Talbot and Boutopoulos at UdeM and Marcelo Falchetti and Edroaldo da Rocha at Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. In it, the researchers demonstrate that the technology can be used to successfully print sensory neurons, a vital component of the peripheral nervous system. This, they say, is promising for the long-term development of bioprinting’s potential, including disease modeling, drug testing and implant fabrication.
Viable and functional
The researchers used dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from the peripheral nervous system of mice to test their technology. The neurons were suspended in a bioink solution and loaded into a square capillary above a biocompatible substrate. Low-energy nanosecond laser pulses were focused on the middle of the capillary, generating microbubbles that expanded and ejected a cell-laden microjet onto the substrate below it. The samples were briefly incubated, then washed and re-incubated for 48 hours.
The team then ran several tests to measure the printed cells’ capacities. A viability assay found that 86 percent of the cells remained alive two days after printing. The researchers note that viability rates improved when the laser used lower energy. The thermomechanics associated with higher laser energy use was more likely to damage the cells.
Other tests measured neurite outgrowth (in which developing neurons produce new projections as they grow in response to guidance cues), neuropeptide release, calcium imaging and RNA sequencing. Overall, the results were generally encouraging, suggesting that the technique could be an important contribution to the field of bioprinting.
Good for people and animals
“In general, people often leap to conclusions when we talk about bioprinting,” Orimi says. “They think that we can now print things like human organs for transplants. While this is a long-term objective, we are very far from that point. But there are still many ways to use this technology.”
Nearest at hand is drug discovery. The team hopes to get approval to continue their research into cell grafting, which can assist greatly in drug discovery, such as for nerve recovery medicines.
Another advantage to using this technology, Orimi says, is a decrease in animal testing. This not only has a humanitarian aspect—fewer animals will be euthanized to carry out experiments meant to benefit humans—but it will also produce more accurate results, since testing will be carried out on human, not animal, tissue.
Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi et al, Drop-on-demand cell bioprinting via Laser Induced Side Transfer (LIST), Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-66565-x
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