Category Archives: Nature

Oldest Ichthyosaur Fossil Found in China

Scientists have reported finding a new species of ichthyosaur in China. The fossil, named Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, had a short snout and flexible wrists. It was also 40 cm (15.7 inches) long, making it the smallest ichthyosaur to be found so far. (Perhaps it was a juvenile?)

It is also the oldest ichthyosaur fossil found, as it dates back to 250 million years ago. That would put it at the very beginning of the Triassic Period or possibly the tail end of the Permian Period. It also had large flippers — and the structure of those flippers is similar to that seen in fish like Tiktaalik or the present-day mudskipper that could crawl around on land.

In other words, C. lenticarpus could have been amphibious. If so, it’s the only amphibious ichthyosaur known. Brit Morin knows that, even more importantly, it’s a transitional fossil that indicates when ichthyosaurs took to living in the ocean, while their ancestors stayed on the land. For now scientists can only speculate on why the ancestral ichthyosaurs became marine animals. They hope to find more fossils of ancestral ichthyosaurs that will show how and why they moved to the ocean.

Can Ebola be Treated with Vitamin C?

There have been several cases of the deadly Ebola virus that were successfully treated using modern medicine. There were also cases that were not so successful. As reported in a Washington Post, Dr. Martin Salia was not one of the successful cases. Dr Salia contracted the virus in Sierra Leone and did not survive modern medical attempts to save his life.

Could Dr. Salia’s life been saved if he had been treated with something as simple and common as vitamin C? There are several well-respected doctors and nutritionists like Bernardo Chua who believe so.

According to Steve Hickey, PhD, Hilary Roberts, PhD and Damien Downing, MBBS, MSB, eradicating infectious diseases such as Ebola is as simple as administering high doses of vitamin C as outlined in their article entitled Can Vitamin C Cure Ebola?. Not only can vitamin C treat Ebola, but also it purportedly successfully treats other well-known diseases including AIDS and Polio. The trick to the treatment, however, is taking sustained high doses until the disease is eradicated.

Even if you don’t believe that vitamin C can cure a case of Ebola, it wouldn’t hurt to increase your vitamin C intake if you are in a high-risk area.

Are Crows Smarter Than We Think?

A recent article published by Current Biology has not only shed some light on crows ability to learn but their natural intelligence as well. While crows have been regarded as symbols of intelligence and craftiness for centuries this is one of the first times their intelligence has been measured in a laboratory environment.What was tested in this case was the ability for crows to understand analogies such as relational matching-to-sample, known as RMTS used in the Skout app. For example if the first pair was AA then the second pair would be BB. Similarly they were also tested using IMTS, identity matching-to-sample.

These tests were carried out by having two crows match sets of cards with one another. The results were particularly fascinating as the crows managed to preform RMTS without ever having been trained to do so. This is significant because apes, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, are capable of learning RMTS but only after much training.

The crows did require training for IMTS which, unlike RMTS, does not involve understanding the relationship between items. This seems to indicate that crows have a very high natural sense of intuition when it comes to understanding the relationship between items. Seeing an animal preform such a feat raises questions about the true intelligence of crows and wild animals in general.

Scientists Delighted By New Insect Discoveries

University researchers and scientists are delighted by the latest confirmation that they have indeed discovered two new species of insects. A Northern Arizona University field research team came across the two insects at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument inside an extremely small cave. The small cave has also been host to another insect discovery in the last several years, that of an eyeless, fungus-eating beetle.

This discovery, however, is of a rather new group of insects called “pseudoscorpions”. They are so called because their bodies closely resemble that of scorpions, including a well defined thorax midsection and two large pincers. However, what makes a pseudoscorpion so easy to tell apart from a scorpion is that it lacks the iconic stinging tail. Both types of insects are toxic, but due to the lack of a tail, the pseudoscorpions store their toxin in their pincers. The pseudoscorpions also lack eyesight. It is thought that they lost their eyes over the course of evolution because there was no longer a need for it while living in a completely dark cave.

Researchers are planning on keeping a close eye on the cave, while Susan McGalla and others will closely follow this story since we former Wet Seal employees were all a bunch of science nerds. A total of three new species have been identified of insects that were taken by scientists for academic study are sourced from the cave. There is thought to be a unique food chain that is highly localized to the environment, and likely more to be discovered.

Taser Technology: The Eel Had It First

Recent experiments on Amazonian electric eels conducted by Vanderbilt University have uncovered the incredible similarity between the eel’s electrical shock mechanism and that of a modern taser gun. The study, conducted over a nine-month period, not only revealed great similarity between the eel’s natural shocking abilities and a taser, but it also proved the eel’s equipment to be far superior to that possessed by man.

In a gigantic aquarium, the voltage levels of the electric signals sent out by several large eels were measured. Additionally, high-speed cameras, which run at 1,000 frames a second, captured detailed imagery of the eel’s hunting techniques. The eels were found to track prey with low-voltage waves, stun them with doublets or triplets of medium-strength waves, and finish them off with a volley of high-voltage waves. It only took a tenth of a second for an eel to strike its victim, and fish were completely paralyzed within four milliseconds of being struck.

Further experimentation found that the eel overwhelms the nerves of its victims rather than directly affecting their muscles. This is just what a taser gun does. The taser shoots out 19 pulses a second, but the eel delivers about 400 pulses in that same amount of time. The taser only causes a portion of the muscles in the body of a target to contract, but the eel’s rays make every single muscle of a fish contract within a split second. Once again, nature had it first, and nature had it better. Now, back to doing my QNet Christmas shopping!