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Scientists discover 1st animal that doesn't breathe oxygen – CBC.ca

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Scientists have discovered something they didn’t think existed: an animal that can’t breathe oxygen, and obviously doesn’t need to.

That animal is a parasite called Henneguya salminocola, distantly related to jellyfish. It lives in the muscles of salmon and trout, causing unsightly little white nodules known as “tapioca disease.” 

The parasite has just 10 cells and is smaller than many of the cells in our bodies, but it has an extraordinary superpower — the ability to live without the machinery to turn oxygen into energy, researchers reported this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In a way, it changes our view of animals,” said senior author Dorothée Huchon, a zoology professor in the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University, who worked with collaborators in Israel, the U.S. and Canada.

While many microbes have evolved the ability to live without oxygen, animals tend to be much more complex, with many different kinds of cells and tissues combined in one organism. 

As far as scientists knew until now, all animals were powered by organelles called mitochondria, which convert sugar and oxygen into energy through a process called respiration, and have their own “mitochondrial” genes.

The parasites used in the study were removed from a chinook salmon, the species pictured above. The parasite also infects coho, chinook, pink, sockeye and chum salmon as well as rainbow trout. But it also spends part of its life cycle in a worm. (Robin Loznak/The News-Review via Associated Press)

Huchon was sequencing the genomes of Henneguya extracted from a Chinook salmon and related fish parasites when she noticed Henneguya’s mitochondrial genes were missing.

“At first I thought, ‘Oh, we made an error,'” she said. 

But when the cells were stained with a dye that makes DNA fluorescent, only the the cells’ nucleus was stained — no mitochondria appeared, as they did in related fish parasites.

The mitochondrial DNA wasn’t the only thing missing. So were genes for many enzymes involved in respiration normally found in the nucleus.

But where does the energy come from?

The cells still had organelles that looked like mitochondria and made other enzymes that mitochondria make. They just didn’t do respiration anymore.

What the researchers don’t yet know is how the organism gets energy without breathing oxygen.

Some microbes that don’t breathe oxygen breathe hydrogen instead, but there’s no evidence Henneguya does this.

Some parasitic microbes don’t breathe themselves, but steal energy molecules called ATP from their hosts. 

“We believe this is what our parasite is doing,” Huchon said.

Henneguya cells still have organelles, such as the one in this electron micrograph, that look like mitochondria and make other enzymes that mitochondria make. They just didn’t do respiration anymore. (American Friends of Tel Aviv University)

Henneguya and its relatives spend part of their life cycle in a fish and part of their life cycle in a worm, although each organism is specialized in terms of what kind and part of the fish it chooses and what kind of worm it lives in. In the case of Henneguya, it lives in the muscles of coho, chinook, pink, sockeye and chum salmon as well as rainbow trout.

While it’s related to jellyfish, it doesn’t look anything like one. In the spore stage, it is somewhat tadpole-like.

“Otherwise, it’s just a big blob,” Huchon said.

The parasite doesn’t appear to bother the fish much, she said, but tapioca disease can make its meat unmarketable and also cause the meat to spoil more quickly, making it a nuisance for the seafood industry: “No one wants to eat salmon full of white dots inside.”

She suspects that both the salmon muscle and Henneguya‘s host worm are low-oxygen environments, making the ability to breathe oxygen useless to the organism.

These two white cysts in a salmon fillet are typical of the kind the parasite Henneguya forms in the fish muscle. The infection is known as “tapioca disease.” (Stephen Douglas Atkinson)

Andrew Roger, a Dalhousie University biology professor who was not involved in the study but was part of a team that discovered the first eukaryote (organism with complex cells) without mitochondria, said he was surprised by the discovery, but found the evidence convincing.

“There was a belief that all animals should have mitochondrial DNA and be able to do aerobic metabolism,” he said. “This one can’t. It changes the textbook account of what you see in the animal kingdom.”

However, he believes “it’s inevitable” that scientists will find more animals like Henneguya among those that are adapted to living in places with almost no oxygen, such as the bottom of the ocean.

In fact, scientists have already proposed that one such group of animals called loriciferans can do that, though it hasn’t been proven.

Roger says animals can actually use an oxygen-free process to produce energy from sugar, but it’s far less efficient. He suspects this may be what Henneguya is doing.

Patrick Keeling, a biology professor at the University of British Columbia has also studied parasitic microbes that don’t breathe oxygen, but wasn’t involved in the research.

He said it’s hard to prove that something doesn’t exist, but said Huchon and her team have done that.

He added that the ability to live without breathing oxygen has evolved many times among microbes in environments with little or no oxygen.

“In a way, it’s not surprising,” he said. “But it’s pretty cool that animals can do it too.”

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Here's what the only total solar eclipse of 2021 was like from a cruise ship near Antarctica – Space.com

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Editor’s note: The only total solar eclipse of 2021 occurred Saturday, Dec. 4, over Antarctica, where few people could see it. Some intrepid explorers, like our columnist Joe Rao, attempted to see the eclipse from cruise ships near Antarctica. Here’s what Joe and his ship saw.

FROM THE LE COMMANDANT CHARCOT IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN OFF OF ANTARCTICA — Approximately 200 passengers on board this exploration cruise ship, owned by the French cruise line, Ponant, sadly suffered a complete cloud out of this total solar eclipse, which swept across a part of the frozen Antarctic continent on Saturday.

Late Friday evening, Captain Etienne Garcia, Master of the Le Commandant Charcot, reversed the course of the ship. It had been previously heading on a southeast trajectory just to the east of the center-line of the eclipse track, but based on a check of satellite imagery, Captain Garcia decided to turn and head on a northwest trajectory and maneuver the ship closer to the eclipse center line. The satellite images had shown a more-or-less general cloud cover, but the search was on for some thin spots which might have provided some partial visibility.

Photos: Amazing 2021 total solar eclipse views from Antarctica

Image 1 of 1

A view from the stern of Le Commandant Charcot looking up toward the ship’s bridge under overcast skies prior to the start of the total solar eclipse of 2021. (Image credit: Joe Rao)

Solar Eclipse Photography Guide

Unfortunately, during the overnight hours as the temperatures cooled the overcast only became thicker. And the passengers and crew who gathered at the stern of the ship after 3 a.m. (“Chilean Summer Time”) only saw gray skies.

At the time it encountered the moon’s dark umbral shadow, the 30,000-ton exploration vessel was located near 57.72 degrees south and 44.02 degrees west, to the northeast of the South Orkney Islands. About 20 minutes before second contact, the start of the total phase of the eclipse, passengers began to notice a subtle diminution of the light levels and it really began accelerating toward darkening in the final couple of minutes before totality as the moon’s shadow raced toward us from the northeast at 3,100 mph.

Related: The 8 most famous solar eclipses in history

The moment of totality of the total solar eclipse of 2021 from the deck of the  Le Commandant Charcot in the sea near the coast of Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021. The sky was clouded out, but is considerably darker and lights can be seen shining on the ship’s bridge. (Image credit: Joe Rao)

A number of petrels — tube-nosed seabirds indiginous to this part of the world —were flying and swooping around the ship as the darkness was coming on and we also caught sight of two whales that breached the sea surface alongside our ship. Whether they were all reacting to the darkening sky is debatable, but certainly a possibility.

Totality lasted 97 seconds. No distinct shadow or cone of darkness was noted. Rather, just an amorphous darkening of the sky — like someone turning down a rheostat or dimmer switch. No colors were seen and the end of totality seemed more pronounced as the light seemed to come back quicker than it when it faded away.

During totality, it actually began to drizzle very lightly and a few minutes after third contact it actually started to snow lightly. The air temperature hovered at around 0C (32F), but factoring in the winds made it feel noticeably colder.

Related: The stages of the 2021 total solar eclipse explained

Captain Etienne Garcia, Master of the Le Commandant Charcot, making last-minute course corrections in an attempt to locate a break in the clouds for a view of the total eclipse. (Image credit: Joe Rao)

Well … we gave it our best shot, but unfortunately came up empty. Those who had never experienced a total solar eclipse, were impressed by the dramatic darkening of the sky, but for those like myself, who knew what was hidden from our view behind the cloud deck, it was quite disappointing.

I knew when I accepted this assignment to work with Captain Garcia and his staff, that the weather odds were long for success based on long-term climate records for this part of the world. It is nonetheless hard to take, considering how brilliantly sunny our skies were in the two days prior to the eclipse.

This was eclipse number 13 for me . . . the very first dating back to July 1972; only my second cloud-out (the first was 44 years ago in Colombia, October 1977). My batting average for eclipse success is 84.7%, so I really have little to complain about — but a bitter defeat nonetheless.

On a bright note, with today’s 97 seconds, I have now spent over 30 minutes “basking” in the shadow of the moon. 

Back in 1973, I was at a gathering of eclipse chasers at the Hayden Planetarium where Dr. Charles Hugh Smiley of Brown University was attending. The Director at Hayden, Mark Chartrand said that Dr. Smiley had spent more than 30 minutes in the Moon’s umbra, “An unprecedented total!” gushed Dr. Chartrand. I thought to myself at that time that I would never come remotely close to Dr. Smiley’s record, but with today’s eclipse I have. 

Dr. Smiley (who passed away in 1977), ended his career having observed 14 eclipses. Today, many veteran eclipse chasers have seen more than 20 total eclipses and a few individuals, such as solar physicist, Dr. Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Massachusetts and Dr. Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, have seen more than 30!

Sadly ironic that on the day before the eclipse, the skies were brilliantly sunny.  Here is Renate Rao (my wife), enjoying the cold Antarctic sunshine.  Note the large iceberg in the Southern Ocean behind her.  (Image credit: Joe Rao)

At least one cruise ship did get a view of the totally eclipsed sun. Word reached us that National Geographic’s ship “Endurance” managed to sight the sun’s corona between clouds at a position near the beginning of today’s totality path. There were also chartered flights that took observers about 33,000-feet above the cloud cover for airborne views of this morning’s celestial spectacle.

In all, it is estimated that fewer than 3000 people attended observation of today’s total eclipse. 

Another member of the Ponant cruise ships, the Le Boreal, passed our ship on its way north to position itself along the totality path.  A wayward petral photobombed it in this view. (Image credit: Joe Rao)

Related stories:

The next total eclipse on April 20, 2023, will actually be an unusual annular-total, or “hybrid” eclipse, in which along part of the eclipse path an annular or ring eclipse is seen, while along other parts of the eclipse path the eclipse is total. Most eclipse watchers are likely to converge on Cape Range National Park in Western Australia, where totality will last for 62 seconds.

On April 8, 2024, a total eclipse will cross parts of Northern Mexico and the Southern and Eastern United States and Eastern Canada. About 35 million people live in the totality path of this eclipse with the total phase in some cases exceeding 4 minutes.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing solar eclipse photo and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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Scientists observe total solar eclipse in Antarctica – Global Times

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Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 
Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

 

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Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species – NDTV

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Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton.

Santiago:

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms — structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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