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Researchers find oldest ancestor of all animals so far – ZME Science



A team led by researchers at UC Riversidereports finding the oldest known ancestor of most animals today, humans included. It’s quite tiny.

Image credits Scott Evans et al., (2020), PNAS.

The new species has been christened Ikaria wariootia in honor of Australia’s original inhabitants. The genus name comes from Ikara (“meeting place”) in the Adnyamathanha language, and it’s their name for a group of mountains known in English as Wilpena Pound. The species name comes from the Warioota Creek.

All in all, the organism is a tiny wormlike creature, but it is the earliest one we’ve found that has a front and a back side (‘bilaterianism’), two symmetrical sides (left and right), and a gut connected to openings at the front and back. In essence, this organism set the blueprint for how most animals are structured today.



“This is what evolutionary biologists predicted,” said Mary Droser, a professor of geology and co-author of the paper. “It’s really exciting that what we have found lines up so neatly with their prediction.”

The first multicellular organisms to spawn on Earth, such as sponges and algae, are collectively known as the Ediacaran Biota. While it was undoubtedly rich, very few animals living today can find their roots in these animals. One which can is a lily pad-shaped creature known as Dickinsonia — it lacks basic features we associate with animals today, such as a mouth or gut.

Most animals today employ bilateral symmetry, i.e. they have a right and a left side that are mirrored. This property was first developed after the Ediacaran Biota, and the blueprint it set down has been in use ever since, from worms to dinosaurs to humans.

Scientists have suspected that burrows found in 555 million-year-old Ediacaran Period deposits in Nilpena, South Australia, were made by bilaterian animals, perhaps even the first ones. Since no sign of any of their fossils could be seen, it remained just a hypothesis.

But Scott Evans , a recent doctoral graduate from UC Riverside and Prof. Droser noticed tiny, oval impressions near some of the burrows. With funding from a NASA exobiology grant, they analyzed them using a three-dimensional laser scanner, finding the shape of a cylindrical body with a distinct head and tail and faintly grooved musculature. Based on the impressions, the animals ranged between 2-7 millimeters long and about 1-2.5 millimeters wide, being roughly the size of a grain of rice.


“We thought these animals should have existed during this interval, but always understood they would be difficult to recognize,” Evans said. “Once we had the 3D scans, we knew that we had made an important discovery.”

“Burrows of Ikaria occur lower than anything else. It’s the oldest fossil we get with this type of complexity,” Droser adds. “Dickinsonia and other big things were probably evolutionary dead ends.”

The tiny animal was very complex by the standards of its day, the team explains. It likely lived by burrowing between layers of well-oxygenated sand on the seafloor where it would use its rudimentary sensory organs to find food. They have distinct front and rear ends, as indicated by a sloping body that helps direct movement. V-shaped ridges in the burrows suggest that the animal moved by contracting muscles across its body like a worm

The paper “Discovery of the oldest bilaterian from the Ediacaran of South Australia” has been published in the journal PNAS.

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CINDY DAY: Venus shows us the way – The Telegram



Early spring days are not always the brightest here on the coast and this past week certainly didn’t go against the grain. 

A huge blanket of heavy, low cloud positioned itself between us and sun.  Backyard astronomers didn’t fare any better but that’s about to change and the timing is great. 

This weekend, we’ll be treated to something quite special – something that only happens once every eight years and it will be best seen this evening.

I’m not an expert, but thanks to mom’s love of the night sky, I can identify planets, some star clusters and constellations. One of my favourites is the Pleiades. 

The Pleiades is an open star cluster containing middle-aged stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the star clusters nearest Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The brightest stars look a bit like a small “Big Dipper.” Even so, it can be tricky to locate.

Look for Venus in the western sky – after sunset but before it sets at 11 p.m. ADT.


Venus to the rescue! One of the easiest astronomical objects to identify in the night sky is the planet Venus – the second planet from the sun and the second-brightest natural object in the night sky after the moon.

Tonight, brilliant Venus will introduce us to the cluster of stars. The Pleiades have another name, which I love – the Seven Sisters. In Greek mythology, they are the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid Pleione: Maia, Electra, Taygete, Celaeno, Alcyone, Sterope, and Merope.

This showy open cluster contains more than a thousand stars that are loosely bound by gravity, but it is visually dominated by a handful of its seven  brightest members – the Seven Sisters.

This is the perfect time to let the universe remind us of its wonders.

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network

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NASA astronauts share their workout routine aboard the ISS to help motivate those on Earth living in isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic – msnNOW



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Billions of people are under lockdown orders to limit the spread of coronavirus, forcing them to find creative ways to stay in shape at home -and a group who spends months in isolation has come to their aid.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) posted a video on Twitter sharing their workout routine from 250 miles above the Earth.

NASA’s Jessica Meir took the public on a tour of their makeshift equipment which includes a vacuum system that is similar to free-weights, a treadmill with bungee cords and a stationary bike without a seat or handlebars.

‘Studies have shown that exercise is vital only to your physical health but also to your mental well-being,’ Meir said in the clip.

‘You may need to get a little bit creative to get that heart rate elevated while at home without heading to the gym, but we are confident you can come up with something.’

The coronavirus, which began in China December 2019, has forced around 20 percent of the world’s population into their homes either by way of stay-at-home or quarantines.

Nearly every country has been infected by the disease – there are more than one million cases in the world and the death toll has surpassed 55,700.

During this anxious time, many are looking for ways relieve stress and have turned to exercise.

However, being stuck at home can be difficult to get a great workout in, but Meir and her team have shared their routine while they are also spending time in isolation. 

Exercising in space poses unique challenges, but without exercise, astronauts can lose up to 15 percent of their muscle mass, some of it permanently.

Aboard the ISS is the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED), which, according to Meir, is the crew’s one-stop weight machine that uses two large vacuum tubes to generate the resistance.

The system uses a piston and flywheel system to simulate free-weight exercises in normal gravity to work all the major muscle groups through squats, dead lifts and calf raises.

Astronauts have reported see similar results to using free-weights.

‘While aRED’s primary goal is to maintain muscle strength and mass, resistive exercise also helps astronauts increase endurance for physically demanding tasks such as space walks, NASA explained in a statement.

The crew also needs to do some cardiovascular exercises, which is done using a small treadmill or stationary bike –but they are different than what you see at your own gym.

The treadmill aboard the ship is designed to allow astronauts to run without vibrating the equipment.

It is also equip with a harness that is connected to bungee cords, which keep the runner in place while in the microgravity.

‘One of the interesting thing we like to point to people on the ground that it is a bicycle, but we don’t’ have a seat and we don’t have handle bars,’ Meir said as she strapped herself into the bike and grabbed onto handles attached to the wall. 

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly who spent nearly a year on the ISS has also shared his best advice for surviving isolation.

The retired astronaut spent a total of 520 days on the space station, with his longest mission lasting 340 days from March 27, 2015 to March 1, 2016.

Kelly says the one thing he missed the most during his year on the ISS was being able to go outside, particularly the smell, sound and sights of nature.

He says people should also follow a schedule, have a hobby, keep a journal, binge-watch TV series and ‘get plenty of sleep’ when forced to stay indoors.

He said other astronauts on the ISS would play recordings of Earth sounds, like birds and resulting trees on a loop to bring themselves back to Earth.

‘I actually started to crave nature – the color green, the smell of fresh dirt, and the feel of warm sun on my face,’ he told the New York Times.

‘You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others),’ he added.

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Earth Is Vibrating Substantially Less Because There's So Little Activity Right Now – ScienceAlert



Flights are grounded. Fewer trains are running. Rush hour is gone. The world – particularly in cities – is looking drastically different during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to seismologists, that drastic reduction in human hustle and bustle is causing the Earth to move substantially less. The planet is ‘standing still’.

Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, noticed that the country’s capital Brussels is experiencing a 30 to 50 percent reduction in ambient seismic noise since the lockdowns began, as CNN reports.

That means data collected by seismologists is becoming more accurate, capable of detecting even the smallest tremors – despite the fact that many of the scientific instruments in use today are near city centers.

“You’ll get a signal with less noise on top, allowing you to squeeze a little more information out of those events,” Andy Frassetto, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington DC told Nature.

Researchers in Los Angeles and in West London, UK noticed a similar trend.

But seismologists collecting data from remote stations far away from human civilization might not see a change at all, according to Nature.

Regardless, a significant drop in seismic noise also shows that we’re at least doing one thing right during the current pandemic: staying in the safety of our own homes as we wait for the virus to run its course.

This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.

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