Scientists have found a potential building block for life in a Martian meteorite recovered from Antarctica.
Parts of the rock contain rich concentrations of boron, which biochemists suspect played a key role in the development of ribonucleic acid, or RNA.
RNA is a biological molecule, which scientists believe was the stepping stone for life on Earth. It, like deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which evolved later, can store and transmit information to cells.
What does this mean for Curiosity on the Red Planet?
Squid could be in trouble as the oceans grow more acidic, new research finds.
As humans pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans absorb about a third of the greenhouse gas. This buffers terrestrial creatures from even more extreme effects of climate change — without the oceans, Earth’s atmosphere would contain far more than the approximately 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide that it does today. However, the dissolved carbon dioxide makes the oceans more acidic, possibly affecting thousands of marine species.
Squid, it seems, may be among the most vulnerable, with consequences that could trickle through the marine ecosystem. A new study published today (May 31) in the journal PLOS ONE finds that squid raised in more highly acidified ocean water hatch more slowly and are smaller when they hatch than squid raised in ocean water at today’s pH levels…
After several days of lost dives due to bad weather and making dives under difficult conditions, we are today in calm seas exploring an area that was discovered last year during a NOAA mapping cruise. While conducting a seafloor survey, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer found bubbles coming from the seafloor at a site south and offshore of Norfolk Canyon; they thought these bubbles may indicate a new methane seep site, but they had no way of verifying this idea.
Today, we deployed the Jason remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the NOAA Ship Ron Brown to 1,600 meters (nearly a mile deep—our deepest dive yet!) to explore the area around those bubbles. After transecting over soft sediment for a short time, we saw some indications that we were getting close to a probable methane seep. These indications included white patches of bacteria on the sediment surface that feed on the methane and sulfides, plus shells of dead mussels, which are the dominant animals of methane seep communities…
Remnants of supernova explosion found in ancient magnetotactic bacteria
by John Hewitt
Back in 2004, German scientists discovered traces of supernova ejecta that had been deposited in the deep-sea ferromanganese crust of the pacific ocean. They dated the supernova event to 2.8 million years ago (Mya), using estimates from the decay of iron-60 radioisotope. They were also able to estimate the distance of the supernova event to 10 parsecs (pc) from our sun, based on the amount of iron-60 deposited.
At the April 14th meeting of the American Physical Society, a Canadian scientist, Shawn Bishop, reported finding traces of iron-60 of supernova origin in the fossilized remains of a common bacteria. By accurately dating the sediment cores in which the samples were found, Bishop appears to have discovered the first biological signature of an ancient supernova event, and may even be able to link it to a specific exploding star…
A group of amateur cave explorers discovered a river in Mexico with banks, trees and leaves just like an ordinary river, but with an additional metric shit ton of “WTF,” because they were hovering 25 feet over it in scuba gear when they discovered it.
While underwater water doesn’t seem possible, the “river” is actually a briny mix of salt water and hydrogen sulfide. It’s much more dense than regular salt water, so it sinks to the bottom and forms a distinct separation that acts and flows like a river.
Deep sea lakes look like normal lakes, complete with sandy and rocky shores. Scientist call these lakes “cold seeps,” but they’re a hotbed for life, because apparently waterfront real estate is a hot commodity under water, too. The “rocky” shores are actually made up of hundreds of thousands of mussels. Even weirder, the lakes under the waves have waves of their own.
Scientists a step closer toward creating biofuels directly from atmospheric CO2
Researchers have taken a step closer to using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a biofuel, potentially helping mitigate climate change while at the same time meeting rising energy demand, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists at the University of Georgia and the North Carolina State University are working with the bacteria Pyrococcus furiosus to convert CO2 into directly biofuels…
Rock that Ended Reign of the Dinosaurs Was a Comet
by Paul Rincon
The space rock that hit Earth 65 million years ago and is widely implicated in the end of the dinosaurs was likely a speeding comet.
That is the conclusion of research which suggests the 180km-wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico was carved out by a smaller object than previously thought. Many scientists consider a large and relatively slow moving asteroid to have been the likely culprit.
But other researchers were more cautious about the results.
“The overall aim of our project is to better characterise the impactor that produced the crater in the Yucatan peninsula [in Mexico],” Jason Moore, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, told BBC News.
The space rock gave rise to a global layer of sediments enriched in the chemical element iridium, in concentrations much higher than naturally occurs; it must have come from outer space…
Researchers are finding new drugs for chronic pain and autoimmune diseases by modifying animal venom-derived molecules that target the nervous and immune systems.
by Dan Cossins
Animal venoms are a veritable treasure trove of proteins and peptides fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution to kill or incapacitate both predator and prey. Usually delivered via injection—through an assortment of fangs, barbs, spines, and stingers—venom toxins evade the body’s defenses to seek out target cells, where they prevent blood cells from clotting, for example, or block ion channels on nerve cells to shut down or subvert their function.
Such high molecular specificity and potency has long made venom a promising source of drug candidates. More than 30 years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first venom-derived drug—a therapy for hypertension, called Capoten, copied from a pit viper venom peptide…
Cold temperatures, chlorine and a stagnant atmosphere caused a thinning in the ozone layer over the Arctic in 2011, a new NASA study finds.
This ozone loss is not the more famous ozone hole, found seasonally over Antarctica, which has been shrinking since the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that interact with ozone molecules in the atmosphere. These ozone molecules are made of three oxygen atoms bound together. Their high concentration in the stratosphere about 12 miles to 19 miles (20 to 30 km) above the Earth’s surface blocks harmful ultraviolet light from the sun.
Arctic ozone depletion is typically not as severe as that in the Antarctic. Over the South Pole, the sun barely or never sets around Christmas, creating a confluence of sunlight and cold in the atmosphere. Under these conditions, chlorine from CFCs eats away at ozone molecules…
Limacina helicina is a free-swimming planktonic snail.
These snails, known as pteropods, form a calcium carbonate shell and are an important food source in many marine food webs. As levels of dissolved carbon dioxide in seawater rise, skeletal growth rates of pteropods and other calcium-secreting organisms will be reduced due to the effects of dissolved carbon dioxide on ocean acidity.
At some point, you probably learned about photosynthesis — the process by which plants make food using sunlight. But did you ever learn about chemosynthesis? Chemosynthetic organisms use chemical energy to make food. Chemosynthesis is at the heart of deep-sea communities, sustaining life in absolute darkness, where sunlight does not penetrate.
Our knowledge of chemosynthetic communities is relatively new, brought to light by ocean exploration. The thriving communities associated with hydrothermal vents shocked the scientific world when humans first observed a vent on the deep ocean floor in 1977.
The discovery of hydrothermal vents and cold-water methane seeps gave us a new vision of primary production in the deep sea. The irony is that once scientists knew what to look for, they went to other well-known ecosystems that were rich in hydrogen sulfides, such as salt marshes, and found the same mutualistic association of chemosynthetic bacteria and animals that had stunned them in the deep vents.
No one had ever thought to look for them, but these communities were there all along. Never stop searching…
Antivenoms for Snake & Spider Bites Get Much Needed Makeover
Among the oldest type of drug in the medical arsenal, new antivenoms are being developed by researchers in Mexico, who have become global leaders in creating drugs to treat poisonous bites
By Erik Vance
Over the past few years researchers in Mexico have become global leaders in developing drugs to treat bites from poisonous spiders and snakes. Several of their remedies are clearing the hurdles of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the scorpion antivenom Anascorp, which was approved by the FDA in 2011, and black widow drugs that are in advanced clinical trials.
Antivenoms are among the oldest drugs in the medical arsenal. They were first produced in the late 1800s at France’s Pasteur Institute, and since the 1930s pharmaceutical company Merck has been manufacturing antivenom for black widow bites. But Merck limited distribution in 2009 because of side effects and poor drug sales, and compounds that counteract venom from scorpions and snakes have also been in short supply. The team at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, led by molecular biologist Alejandro Alagón, has introduced a new generation of antivenoms that are safer and less expensive to produce…