New species of cephalopod with ten arms discovered in Montana
Vampyropods are soft-bodied cephalopods that have eight arms and an internalized chitinous shell.
Researchers discovered an exceptionally well-preserved vampyropod from the Carboniferous Bear Gulch Lagerstätte of Montana in the United States.
The newly discovered vampyropod was named Syllipsimopodi bideni gen. et sp. nov.
The specimen has an internalized shell and ten arms with suckers arranged in two rows.
It is the only known vampyropod to retain the ten arms from its ancestor.
Syllipsimopodi is the oldest conclusive vampyropod and crown coleoid which pushes back this animal group’s fossil record by about 82 million years.
Researchers showed that Syllipsimopodi is the earliest-diverging known vampyropod.
This idea disputes the common hypothesis that vampyropods descended from Phragmoteuthid belemnoid of the Triassic period.
As early as the Mississippian, vampyropods were characterized by the loss of the chambered phragmocone and primordial rostrum.
Phragmocone is the chambered portion of the cephalopod’s shell.
Evidence suggests that the specimen may have elongated arms which when combined with certain structures such as the terminal fins, shows that the earliest vampyropods appeared to be similar to extant squids.
Whalen, C.D., Landman, N.H. Fossil coleoid cephalopod from the Mississippian Bear Gulch Lagerstätte sheds light on early vampyropod evolution. Nat Commun 13, 1107 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28333-5
 American Museum of Natural History. (2022, March 8). New species of extinct vampire-squid-like cephalopod is the first of its kind with 10 functional arms: Description of exceptionally preserved fossil pushes back age of Vampyropoda by nearly 82 million years. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 8, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220308115650.htm
We can “teach” corals how to withstand the increasing temperature
Global warming is the greatest threat to coral reefs.
Projects about coral restoration have expanded around the world to replenish habitats with corals affected by different stressors.
However, these restoration efforts will be of no use if outplanted corals cannot withstand the warmer oceans and high-temperature events.
Stress hardening is one of the approaches to increase the temperature tolerance of corals currently grown for restoration.
Scientific evidence suggests that environments with varying temperatures can reduce coral bleaching during exposure to thermal stress.
However, it is still unclear if this localized adaption to varying temperatures can be used to enhance coral restoration efforts.
Researchers treated fragments of Caribbean staghorn coral with variable and static temperatures in the laboratory for 89 days.
The variable temperatures oscillated two times per day from 28 °C to 31 °C, while the static temperature was set to 28 °C.
The fragments were then exposed to heat stress at 32 °C for 2 weeks.
Corals in the variable temperatures showed signs of severe thermal stress later than corals in the static temperature and untreated field controls.
Additionally, corals in the field control groups showed a higher incidence of tissue degradation while corals in the variable temperatures give way to bleaching at a slower pace.
The study highlights the importance of variable temperature exposure to improve thermal tolerance of corals.
The discovery will be important for future research and restoration of corals affected by climate change.
DeMerlis, A., Kirkland, A., Kaufman, M.L. et al. Pre-exposure to a variable temperature treatment improves the response of Acropora cervicornis to acute thermal stress. Coral Reefs (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-022-02232-z
Pfizer’s paxlovid drug has the potential to treat high-risk COVID-19 patients
Paxlovid is an investigational antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19 in both adults and children.
Pfizer’s oral version of paxlovid significantly reduced hospital admissions and deaths in people infected with SARS-CoV-2.
The study included 1219 adults who were registered by September 29, 2021.
Participants who received paxlovid within 3 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms had an 11 percent chance of getting admitted to a hospital or death related to COVID-19.
In contrast, participants who received the placebo had an 89 percent chance for the same consequences.
Paxlovid contains two medications namely nirmatrelvir and ritonavir which are protease inhibitors.
Participants treated with paxlovid within 5 days of the onset of symptoms had only 1 percent chance of getting admitted up to day 28 with no deaths while participants in the placebo group had 6.7 percent with 10 deaths.
Safety analysis revealed that people treated with paxlovid had 1.7 percent chance of experiencing serious adverse events while people treated with placebo had 6.6 percent chance.
Mahase E. (2021). Covid-19: Pfizer’s paxlovid is 89% effective in patients at risk of serious illness, company reports. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 375, n2713. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2713
Earthworms can enrich the soil, faster than previously thought
Nutrient cycling is a process by which nutrients are transferred from the environment to living organisms and back to the environment.
Usually, nutrient cycling involving soil decomposers, such as earthworms, is slow and cumulative.
Researchers show that it is possible to have a rapid movement of nitrogen and carbon from earthworms to plants and herbivores.
They performed two experiments, one under a laboratory and the other in the field.
Researchers used chemical tracers to monitor the movement of nutrients from earthworms to the soil, plant seedlings, and sap-sucking bugs.
Nitrogen and carbon derived from the earthworms were obtained by the bugs after only two hours under laboratory conditions, and nitrogen after 24 hours in the field.
Researchers speculated that the source of this nitrogen and carbon was the earthworms’ labeled mucus on their skin.
Based on the rapid tracer appearance in herbivores, researchers suggest that an amino acid compound excreted by earthworms may have been involved.
The results suggest a previously unknown shortcut in the nitrogen and carbon cycle.
Ganna S. Shutenko, G. S. Shutenko, Walter S. Andriuzzi, W. S. Andriuzzi, Jens Dyckmans, J. Dyckmans, Yu Luo, Y. Luo, Thomas L. Wilkinson, T. L. Wilkinson, & Olaf Schmidt, O. Schmidt. (2022). Rapid transfer of C and N excreted by decomposer soil animals to plants and above-ground herbivores. Soil biology & biochemistry, 166, 108582. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2022.108582
Severed pieces of planarian behave like a whole animal
Planarian is a free-living flatworm known for its soft, broad, leaf-shaped ciliated body and a three-branched digestive tract.
Planarian is well-known for its regeneration capabilities.
The behaviors of freshwater planarians have been extensively studied for many years.
Planarian behavior has been used to study the animal’s development, regeneration, molecular evolution, memory, and many more.
The nervous system of the planarian is one of the simplest of bilaterally symmetric animals.
Bilateral symmetry is an animal with body shapes that are mirror images along a midline, such as a butterfly.
Planarian has an anterior brain connected to ventral nerve cords interconnected by multiple commissures.
Commissures are nerve tissues that connect the hemispheres of the brain and the two sides of the spinal cord.
Researchers found that when an intact planarian is stimulated by mechanical means and electromagnetic radiation, the head turns, the tail contracts, and the trunk elongates.
When the planarian was cut into three pieces, the front of the headless middle part behaved like the head and started to turn instead of elongating.
Additionally, the end of the head and midbody sometimes contracts instead of elongating.
Each of the body pieces seems to behave like a whole animal.
The results suggest that the planarian nervous system can quickly reorganize to fix functional problems complementing the slower regeneration processes.
The reorganization allows the planarian to survive while regenerating the other tissues.
Le, D., Sabry, Z., Chandra, A., Kristan, W. B., 3rd, Collins, E. S., & Kristan, W. B., Jr (2021). Planarian fragments behave as whole animals. Current biology : CB, 31(22), 5111–5117.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.056
Successful development of lake whitefishes depends on a narrow range of temperature
Lake whitefish is a species of freshwater fish found in North American lakes including all of the Great Lakes.
It is considered highly valuable in commercial fishing and occasionally used in sports fishing.
Lake whitefish embryos usually develop during the winter season; thus, these embryos may be susceptible to changes in temperature.
Researchers incubated whitefish embryos in different but constant temperatures and in varying temperatures.
They discovered that hatchlings had a lower survival rate in 8 °C and varying temperatures than in 2 °C and 5 °C temperatures.
Additionally, lake whitefish eggs tend to hatch earlier in 8 °C and varying temperatures compared to eggs in 2 °C and 5 °C temperatures.
Researchers also found that hatchlings in 8 °C and varying temperatures were significantly smaller than in 2 °C and 5 °C temperatures.
The study highlights the effect of temperature during embryonic development in lake whitefishes.
Eme, J., Mueller, C. A., Lee, A. H., Melendez, C., Manzon, R. G., Somers, C. M., Boreham, D. R., & Wilson, J. Y. (2018). Daily, repeating fluctuations in embryonic incubation temperature alter metabolism and growth of Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A, Molecular & integrative physiology, 226, 49–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2018.07.027
Sucking liquid food is common among certain insects such as the nectar-sucking butterflies and blood-sucking mosquitoes.
This food-sucking mechanism has been observed in tardigrades, velvet worms, spiders, crustaceans, and insects.
Millipedes are a group of invertebrates having two pairs of legs on most of their segment.
Researchers discovered a fluid feeding mechanism using a sucking pump among millipedes.
They studied nine millipede species in the clade Colobognatha and found that the head of these millipedes has a pumping chamber.
Colobognatha has been suspected to have a food-sucking mechanism because of their pointed heads and the largely reduced mandibles.
The pumping chamber acts as a positive displacement pump which is similar to other insects.
A positive displacement pump is a pump that adds energy to a fluid by applying force to the liquid using either a piston or plunger.
The millipede’s sucking pump works with protractible mouthparts and saliva to acquire liquid food.
Fluid feeding is one of the great capabilities of land invertebrates.
The study suggests that fluid feeding evolved with similar biomechanical solutions convergent across major invertebrate taxa.
Fluid feeding among insects is highly diverse today; however, it is still unclear why other invertebrates such as Colobognatha contain only a few food-sucking species.
Moritz, L., Borisova, E., Hammel, J. U., Blanke, A., & Wesener, T. (2022). A previously unknown feeding mode in millipedes and the convergence of fluid feeding across arthropods. Science advances, 8(7), eabm0577. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abm0577