Placental mammals had long been thought to have come well after the extinction of the dinosaurs, but fossils of Kulbeckia, a long snouted animal from 85 million years ago, shows signs of being an ancestor of modern rabbits and rodents. Including the possibility of having developed its young in its uterus instead of a pouch or eggs.
For all the amateur astromomers out there, this year's Leonid show promises to be spectacular.
In North America, the show will start at 11:00 pm EST on November 17th, and peak at 5:00 am EST. At 4000 meteors predicted per hour, that'll be pretty spectacular, but if you live in Australia, Japan or other parts of the Pacific rim, tune in at about 1:00 am to 4:00 am on the 19th because 8000 to 14000 are predicted per hour at that peak (but it'll be morning in North America, so we won't see them).
The Leonids peak every 33 years, but after next year (which will be marred by a full moon) we won't seen this sort of display until the end of the century, as the pattern is broken by Jupiter's effect on the comet trails that cause these yearly desplays.
BBC News Online also reports that new accelerator mass spectrometry tests on the carbon atoms from the ancient charcoal drawings of horses on the wall of a cave near Chauvet, France, date the pictures at 30,000 years old. The spectacular pictures have been described as intricate and sophisticated, indicating that early humans began developing art techniques far earlier than previously thought. The article includes a photograph of a portion of the cave drawings.
At its Stanford convention, the Mars Society resolved to commit its resources to initiate the Translife Mission as its first spaceflight mission project. The Translife mission will consist of a Mars-level (0.38 g)artificial gravity spacecraft carrying a crew of mice
"What do you want to do Tonight Brain?" "Same thing we do everynight Pinky, plan to take over Mars!"
ABC News has posted an AP article about an Iowa State University study which found catnip oil up to ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the most common ingredient in repellent sprays. The story also briefly mentions and earlier study which showed catnip repelled cockroaches. Note from Gene: no wonder mosquitoes almost never bit me back when I lived in mosquito country.
According to this article in the Washington Post, most stem cell lines have been nurtured with embryonic mouse cells. Therefore, they're likely to be transgenic: cells with mixtures of human and animal DNA. Any transplanting of them into humans would be considered xenotransplanting: bringing animal cells into patients.
Never really thought about how quickly dinosaurs must have grown, given their size... the recent Nature had an article on the growth rate of dinosaurs, which is summarized in this Yahoo newsbit. Apparently they didn't grow at the same rate that modern reptiles do.
I certainly wasn't expecting to see this after my last post about the injured right whale, one of only 300 right whales remaining... but apparently scientists are going to go after him again, this time with a different sedative to see if they can untangle him. I wish them the best success, and will keep an eye out for more news about their venture. Also on the ocean-front, New Scientist reports that there are fish that try to apologize to other fish by petting them with their fins.
The NY Times reports an entrepreneur in upstate New York wants to engineer a cat without the protein that causes allergic reactions in 60 to 90 percent of sensitive people. He plans to sell sterilized animals for up to $1000. (Free registration required to access that site.)
On MSNBC, they reported on an Experiment that combined Human and Cow DNA.
While this story is a bit old, I hadn't seen it anywhere else. An interesting read, if only to gauge the ethics debate that will undoubtedly spawn if/when it becomes viable to create actual Furs at a Genetic Level.
Here's one from left field. New Scientist just posted a news article about the occupational hazards of mascots in furry costume. Apparently some research was done by Johns Hopkins on the subject.
New Scientist had an interesting article on the possible evolution of sharper hearing being due to the small size of ancient mammals. Includes a photograph of a recently unearthed skull that's really amazing to look at. Check it out.
According to a Wired Article, scientists are attempting to develope a common language for humans to use in communicating with dolphins. This sound-based language will likely be examined as closely as the sign-language that are used with our simian cousins... although, from the statements in the article researches don't expect it to ever reach that level of sophistication.