A team led by Carleton University’s Hillary Maddin has discovered the earliest fossil evidence of parental care. The fossil predates the previous oldest record of this behavior by 40 million years and is featured in an article in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
“This is the earliest evidence of prolonged postnatal care in a vertebrate,” said Maddin, professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. “The adult animal appears to be concealing and protecting a juvenile in a den. This behavior is very common in mammals today. It is interesting to see this animal, which is on the evolutionary line leading to mammals, exhibiting this behavior so early.”
Maddin’s team recently discovered the specimen of a varanopid synapsid inside a lithified tree stump on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The preserved articulated partial skeleton has a unique combination of features and represents a new species. The preserved remains are of a small individual close to a large individual of the same species in a position resembling a parent denning with an offspring.
The varanopid synapsid is lizard-like in appearance, but is nowhere near lizards in its evolutionary position. Once animals were able to lay eggs on land, they split into two distinct evolutionary branches, one that led to reptiles, birds and dinosaurs and the other, which included the varanopid synapsid, led to mammals.
Parental care is a behavioral strategy where parents make an investment or divert resources from themselves to increase the health and chances of survival for their offspring. While there are a variety of parental care strategies, prolonged postnatal care is amongst the most costly to a parent. This form of parental care is particularly common in mammals, as all mammalian offspring demand nourishment from their mothers. However, there is still little understanding of the evolutionary history of this behavior.
Scientists have attempted to answer questions about the origin of parental care by studying fossils. Evidence of parenting has been generally limited to finding groups of preserved specimens of varying ages of the same species.
Varanopid from the Carboniferous of Nova Scotia reveals evidence of parental care in amniotes. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 50–56 (2020) DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-1030-z , https://nature.com/articles/s41559-019-1030-z
Researcher discovers earliest fossil evidence of parental behavior (2019, December 24)
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One new case of COVID-19 reported Sunday in Newfoundland and Labrador – Squamish Chief
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting one new confirmed case of COVID-19.
The new case, announced Sunday, involves a man between 20-39 years of age in the Eastern Health region.
They say the case is travel-related.
The man was returning home to the province from Manitoba.
Officials say he has been self-isolating since arrival and following Public Health guidelines.
However, the Department of Health and Community Services is asking people who travelled on WestJet Flights 306 and 328 departing Winnipeg and Toronto for St. John’s on Monday, Sept. 21 to call the 811 non-urgent health line to arrange for COVID-19 testing.
They say the request is out of an abundance of caution.
The province has two active cases of COVID-19 and 268 people have recovered from the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2020.
Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Theoretically Possible, Researchers Say – WBFO
“The past is obdurate,” Stephen King wrote in his book about a man who goes back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. “It doesn’t want to be changed.”
Turns out, King might have been onto something.
Countless science fiction tales have explored the paradox of what would happen if you do something in the past that endangers the future. Perhaps one of the most famous pop culture examples is Back to the Future, when Marty McFly went back in time and accidentally stopped his parents from meeting, putting his own existence in jeopardy.
But maybe McFly wasn’t in much danger after all. According a new paper from researchers at the University of Queensland, even if time travel were possible, the paradox couldn’t actually exist.
Researchers ran the numbers, and determined that even if you make a change in the past, the timeline would essentially self-correct, ensuring that whatever happened to send you back in time would still happen.
“Say you travelled in time, in an attempt to stop COVID-19’s patient zero from being exposed to the virus,” University of Queensland scientist Fabio Costa told the university’s news service.
“However if you stopped that individual from becoming infected — that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place,” said Costa, who co-authored the paper with honors undergraduate student Germain Tobar.
“This is a paradox — an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our universe.”
A variation is known as the “grandfather paradox” — in which a time traveler kills their own grandfather, in the process preventing the time traveler’s birth.
The logical paradox has given researchers a headache, in part because according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, “closed time-like curves” are possible, theoretically allowing an observer to travel back in time and interact with their past self — and potentially endangering their own existence.
But these researchers say that such a paradox wouldn’t necessarily exist, because events would adjust themselves.
Take the coronavirus patient zero example. “You might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would,” Tobar told the university’s news service.
In other words, a time traveler could make changes — but the original outcome would still find a way to happen. Maybe not the same way it happened in the first timeline; but close enough so that the time traveler would still exist, and would still be motivated to go back in time.
“No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you,” Tobar said.
The paper, “Reversible dynamics with closed time-like curves and freedom of choice,” was published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. The findings seem consistent with another time travel study published this summer in the peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Letters. That study found that changes made in the past won’t drastically alter the future.
Best-selling science fiction author Blake Crouch, who has written extensively about time travel, said the new study seems to support what certain time travel tropes have posited all along.
“The universe is deterministic and attempts to alter Past Event X are destined to be the forces which bring Past Event X into being,” Crouch told NPR via email. “So the future can affect the past. Or maybe time is just an illusion. But I guess it’s cool that the math checks out.”
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