Earliest land vertebrates were more diverse than earlier believed

Washington, July 7 (ANI): A new study of ancient fossils has determined that the earliest land vertebrates, also known as tetrapods, were more diverse than we could possibly imagine.

The study was done by Jennifer Clack, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, who has studied the fossils of these extinct creatures for more than two decades.

Long before mammals, birds, and even dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the first four-legged creatures made their first steps onto land, and quickly inhabited a wide range of terrestrial environments.

“These early land vertebrates varied considerably in size and shape,” said Clack.

To understand the anatomical changes that accompanied this diversity, Clack teamed up with two biologists who work on living fishes – Charles Kimmel of the University of Oregon, and Brian Sidlauskas of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.

The researchers focused on 35 early tetrapods that lived between 385 and 275 million years ago.

As a proxy for body size and shape, they examined the dimensions of a number of bones in a region of the skull known as the palate.

By tracing changes in the length and width of interlocking bones in this part of the skull, the researchers hoped to get a more fine-grained picture of skeleton evolution as a whole.

“I tend to think the genetic instructions for making a skeleton come from how you make individual bones first, and then how you fit those bones together as a refinement of that,” said developmental biologist Charles Kimmel.

When they mapped the changes in bone length and width onto the tetrapod family tree, the researchers discovered that not all bones changed size at the same rate or in the same direction.

This phenomenon can result in an overall reshaping from one lineage to the next, explained Sidlauskas.

“Sometimes a change in size can have indirect consequences for the shape of the animal. When different parts of an animal’s body change size at different rates over evolutionary time, that can generate changes in body shape from one species to another,” he added.

Moreover, some changes are consistent with an evolutionary quirk known as paedomorphosis, in which species retain in adulthood the youthful dimensions that their ancestors had as juveniles.

“Paedomorphosis is definitely there – the descendents of some groups are retaining the proportions that their juveniles had in the past,” said Clack.

These results not only help explain why early tetrapods were so diverse in size and shape, but also shed light on an important chapter in the evolution of life on land – the transition from fish to amphibians. (ANI)

Spider that makes life-sized decoys of itself to escape predators identified

London, July 7 (ANI): Scientists have identified a species of spider that builds models of itself that it uses as decoys to distract predators, which may be the first example of an animal building a life-size replica of its own body.

Many animals try to divert the attentions of predators by becoming masters of disguise.

Some try to avoid being seen altogether by using camouflage to blend in against a background, such as the peppered moth evolving motley wings that blend into tree bark, or stick insects that look like sticks.

Others evolve more conspicuous ornaments designed to distract a predator, such as butterflies that grow large eyespots or lizards that quickly move colourful tails, which they detach from their bodies if grabbed.

But, animals do not tend to actually build life-like replica models of themselves to act as decoys.

According to a report by BBC News, that is exactly what a species of orb spider called Cyclosa mulmeinensis does, biologists Ling Tseng and I-Min Tso of Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan, have discovered.

This and other related spiders in the same genus decorate their webs with material such as detritus, plant parts, prey remains or egg sacs.

Because such detritus is often of a similar colour to the spider, researchers suspected it might help camouflage the arachnid.

Cyclosa mulmeinensis, which lives on Orchid Island off the southeast coast of Taiwan, decorates its web with both the remains of dead insect prey and egg sacs.

Intriguingly, the spiders make prey pellets and egg sacs that were the same size as its own body.

The researchers also found that these decorations appeared to wasps to be the same colour, and reflect light in the same way, as the spider’s body.

In short, the spider made decorations that were of the same size, shape and appearance as itself.

“Our results show that this vulnerable spider protects itself from predator attacks by constructing decoys that increase the conspicuousness of the web, and resemble its own appearance in size and colour,” according to the researchers.

“When both spiders and web decorations are present on the same web, they look like a string of nearly identical oval objects to the predators,” said Tso.

“I don’t know of any animal that actively builds a decoy of itself. Our study seems to be the first to empirically demonstrate the function of animal-made decoys,” he added. (ANI)

Tribal children being trained as boxers in Jharkhand

Dhanbad, July 6 (ANI): Several tribal boys and girls are being motivated to develop skills in boxing sport at a boxing club at Chalkari in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad region.

These teenaged boys and girls belong to Birhor, a tribal community of Jharkhand.

Under the auspices of the Dhanbad District Amateur Boxing Association (DDABA), the club has been instituted as part of a plan to take the sport to the village-level.

The boxing coach at the club believes that these kids are much stronger than urban kids and capable of performing well in the competitive ring, if trained and groomed well.

“I think the village children especially the tribal children are stronger than the city children. I chose the Birhor children because they are the least educated and deprived. I want to help them in getting noticed and bring them onto the map of India through boxing,” says Paritosh Kumar, Coach-cum-Secretary, DDABA.

The coach hopes to train the kids for district and State-level boxing competitions and further help them find a platform to showcase their talent as scientific boxers.

Each trainee has been provided with a boxing kit worth rupees a thousand rupees, including two pairs of mittens and gloves, two head-guards and two punching bags.

Budding pugilists are thrilled to learn the sport for professional purpose in future. They believe that even they can do something remarkable in the ring, if given an opportunity.

“We learn boxing in the mornings and evenings. This is going to help us move ahead in life,” said Mahesh, a trainee from Birhor community, Chalkari.

On their part, the parents too are a delighted lot. Sharing their enthusiasm, they believe that learning the sport is supplementing their children’s education.

“Our children are studying and also learning the sport of boxing. Such things were not there earlier. It feels very good,” said Phoolchand, a local resident of Birhor.

Birhor tribe is one of the primitive tribes of Jharkhand. Today, it is a small, nomadic tribe which is on the verge of extinction.

The members of the tribe make a living by hunting, gathering honey and making ropes from tree fibres. Life expectancy among the Birhors is as low as 38 years. (ANI)

Chimps can learn to make their own tools watching video demos

London, July 1 (ANI): St Andrews University researchers in Scotland have shown that chimpanzees can be learn how to make their own tools by watching demonstrations on video.

For this work, the researchers trained a chimpanzee to make a long pole for prizing out-of-reach fruit from a tree, and then filmed the animal constructing the handy tool from a variety of different parts.

They say that watching a video of the feat, other chimps were also able to make their own similar tools.

Elizabeth Price, who led the study at the university’s School of Psychology, said that she wanted to discover whether chimps could learn to make a tool from separate parts after watching other animals use materials to improve their lives.

She pointed out that some birds are able to use twigs to pull grubs out of hiding places, and monkeys have been known to strip leaves from branches to fish for termites.

According to her, the findings of her study are “the first evidence that chimpanzees can socially learn how to construct tools,” and show that the animals are more intelligent than previously thought.

“It is very exciting as we didn’t know chimps could do this,” the Scotsman quoted her as saying.

“You could say the videos were like Blue Peter and ‘Here’s one I made earlier’.

“The chimps really needed to see the full instructional video to learn how to make the long tool and gain the reward.

“Most of those who didn’t watch the video, couldn’t make the tool,” she added.

Along with Professor Andrew Whiten of St Andrews University, Elizabeth led an international team of primate experts to uncover the remarkable learning feats of the chimpanzees.

The researchers presented chimpanzees in a primate centre at the University of Texas with a grape that was just out of reach.

They showed some chimps a video of another chimpanzee expertly slotting one stick into another to create a rake, and then using the tool to get the fruit.

Others were shown a shorter video showing a chimpanzee using a ready-made tool.

The researchers found chimpanzees that watched the full video demonstration were able to copy what they saw, and make the tools themselves.

In a follow-up test, since the grapes were put within reach, the use of a longer tool was unnecessary.

The researchers observed that the chimps that had learnt the skill by watching the full video persisted in making the rake, which in the new scenario was more awkward to use.

However, a few individual chimps that had watched the shorter video still managed to make a tool, did not do so when the grape was close enough to reach without help.

Elizabeth said: “These results are important not only because they provide the first evidence that chimpanzees can socially learn how to construct tools, but also because they suggest that social learning can have a potent effect on how an individual approaches related problems later.”

Based on the observations made during the study, she came to the conclusion that learning from others can lead to a less flexible approach to novel situations.

She and her colleagues are now planning to discover the extent to which our own species is vulnerable to a similar effect, by looking at children’s abilities.

Elizabeth added: “Social learning plays a major role in the spread of complex technologies in humans.”

The research has been published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

Primates evolved larger brains to hop between trees

Washington, July 1 (ANI): A new study, in which scientists scanned a 54-million-year-old skull roughly the size of a walnut, has suggested that primates such as lemurs, monkeys, apes, and humans might have evolved larger brains as a result of the need to move quickly from tree to tree.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the 1.5-inch-long (4-centimeter-long) skull belongs to the long-gone Ignacius graybullianus, described as a cousin of our earliest ancestors, which arose less than ten million years after the dinosaurs vanished.

Discovered in Wyoming roughly 25 years ago, the fossil “is the most complete early primate skull known,” said study co-author Jonathan Bloch, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Florida.

Due to its completeness and age, the skull gives us the clearest idea yet what early primates were like, according to the researchers.

After taking more than 1,200 detailed X-ray images of the skull, researchers combined them to help create a 3-D model of Ignacius’ brain.

The model showed a brain just one-half to two-thirds the size of the smallest modern primate brain, the study said.

It seems that such a small brain was enough for tree dwelling and fruit seeking.

Ignacius’ teeth, for example, suggest it had a fruit diet, while the animal’s claws and flexible joints hint at tree dwelling.

The finding therefore reopens the question of what triggered the evolution of large brains in later primate species, if not branch living or fruit eating?

One activity Ignacius seems unsuited for is jumping from tree to tree, as opposed to simply climbing branches.

In primates, this type of leaping generally requires long hind limbs, large inner-ear organs linked to balance-and strong visual processing.

Instead of a robust center of vision, Ignacius’ brain had large lobes dedicated to smelling, the model suggests.

The prehistoric primate “was mostly a nose-first animal that relied on smell instead of sight, unlike modern primates, which have far more developed visual processing areas,” explained lead study author Mary Silcox, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Winnipeg.

“For primates, stepping up vision would have been key for leaping safely,” she surmised.

But, to do that, the brain had to be larger, which eventually happened as a result of evolution. (ANI)

Space and robotics technology used to improve forest planning and harvesting

Washington, June 30 (ANI): Space and robotics technology have been combined to develop an advanced Precision Forestry Positioning System, which allows more efficient forest planning and harvesting.

Invented by researchers at the Institute of Man-Machine-Interaction at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany, the system has helped catalogue 240 million single trees in the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia. he system combines remote-sensing maps from airplanes with satellite navigation data to map each tree in a forest.

This information is then used to plan which trees are to be cut, and when.

Finally, the plan is used on harvesters to identify which trees to cut. This helps make the harvesting more efficient, optimises overall wood production and reduces costs.

The system won the North Rhine-Westphalia Region’s 2008 European Satellite Navigation Competition, which was supported by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office.

“We already have one harvester in operation with our system onboard. As the prototype works well, we are fairly close to the stage where we can go into production. Another 6 to 12 months, and we should be there,” said Professor Dr Jurgen Rossmann from RWTH Aachen University, who developed the system together with Petra Krahwinkler, Arno Bucken and Dr Michael Schluse.

The objective of the Precision Forestry Positioning System is to automate and optimize all the work involved in foresting, from the early planning of the forest to the final cutting of single trees, in order to be competitive on the worldwide market, and to overcome efficiency problems related to the forest ownership structure of the region.

“Precision farming is important in today’s agriculture, where farmers can save money with the use of satellite navigation systems,” explained Arno Bucken.

“However, the accuracy of the GPS navigation system, which is of 20 to 30 m, is not enough to identify single trees in a forest. Much higher accuracy is needed,” he added.

“We found a solution to this problem, which increases the accuracy to 50 cm, by using GPS as the initial reference position, and then taking remote-sensing data to identify the single trees in the forest,” he explained.

To help the planning, a virtual computer-based forest has been developed with all trees being identified by their location, based on the GPS and remote-sensing data.
In addition, a fourth dimension, ‘time’, has been added, and is of the utmost importance for this system.

“All trees are not only known by their geo-coordinates, but they are also time-stamped, and all measurement data are archived.

This makes it possible to see ‘how trees grow’, as well as look back to learn from the past,” said Rossmann. (ANI)

How ferocious piranhas got their fearful bite

Washington, June 26 (ANI): Researchers from Argentina, the US and Venezuela have uncovered the jawbone of a striking transitional fossil that sheds light on how the ferocious piranhas got their teeth.

Named ‘Megapiranha paranensis’, this previously unknown fossil fish bridges the evolutionary gap between flesh-eating piranhas and their plant-eating cousins.

Present-day piranhas have a single row of triangular teeth, like the blade on a saw, explained the researchers.

But, their closest relatives – a group of fishes commonly known as pacus – have two rows of square teeth, presumably for crushing fruits and seeds.

“In modern piranhas, the teeth are arranged in a single file,” said Wasila Dahdul, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.
But, in the relatives of piranhas, which tend to be herbivorous fishes, the teeth are in two rows,” said Dahdul.

Megapiranha shows an intermediate pattern: it’s teeth are arranged in a zig-zag row, which suggests that the two rows in pacus were compressed to form a single row in piranhas.

“It almost looks like the teeth are migrating from the second row into the first row,” said John Lundberg, curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and a co-author of the study.

If this is so, Megapiranha may be an intermediate step in the long process that produced the piranha’s distinctive bite.

To find out where Megapiranha falls in the evolutionary tree for these fishes, Dahdul examined hundreds of specimens of modern piranhas and their relatives.

“What’s cool about this group of fish is their teeth have really distinctive features. A single tooth can tell you a lot about what species it is and what other fishes they’re related to,” said Dahdul.

Her phylogenetic analysis confirms their hunch that Megapiranha seems to fit between piranhas and pacus in the fish family tree.

Cione’s find suggests that Megapiranha lived between 8-10 million years ago in a South American river system known as the Parana.

By comparing the teeth and jaw to the same bones in present-day species, the researchers estimate that Megapiranha was up to 1 meter (3 feet) in length, which is at least four times as long as modern piranhas.

“Although no one is sure what Megapiranha ate, it probably had a diverse diet,” said Cione. (ANI)

Friends and fans ‘devastated’ by Jacko’s sudden death

London, June 26 (ANI): King of Pop Michael Jackson’s sudden death on Thursday has left his friends and fans absolutely devastated.

The 50-year-old singer is said to have died after suffering a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles.

“Like the whole world I’m absolutely devastated and lost for words because everyone expected him to come to London for the concerts,” Sky News quoted his friend Uri Geller, the self-proclaimed psychic, as saying.

“He was in good health, he was rehearsing, dancing , practising for the shows in England. I am shocked. I cannot – I do not want to – believe what I’m hearing or seeing,” Geller added.

Another pal and former PR representative Jonathan Morrish said: “I worked with him for over 25 years. It was a complete privilege.”

“I last saw him when he was last in London, which was for the World Music Awards, and he was his usual, lovely gentlemanly self.

“He was fine (health-wise). You don’t get to the top of the tree like he did without being incredibly strong – mentally and physically,” Morrish added.

Music legend Quincy Jones, who produced Jackson’s legendary “Thriller” album, said: “I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news.

“To this day, the music we created together on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all…talent, grace, professionalism and dedication.

“He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever.

“I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him,” Jones added.

Actor Ashton Kutcher has posted a message on his Twitter blog: “RIP. Sending love and light to family and friend but especially his kids.” (ANI)

Rain ritual in Akola

Akola (Maharashtra) June 23 (ANI): The delay in onset of monsoon is giving sleepless nights to farmers in Akola district of Maharashtra, as their plants are dying due to water scarcity.

Children of the region are seeking divine help by performing traditional rituals to end the continuing dry spell.

As per the ritual, children tie neem tree leaves around their waist and beg for rain.

Semi-clad children tying frogs with tree leaves also hopped around the entire village, chanting couplet as “Dhondi, Dhondi pani de (God give us rain).

Farmers said that this traditional ritual was meant to please the rain Gods.

Akola falls under Vidarbha region of Maharshtra, where hundreds of farmers committed suicide due to debt-burden and poverty in recent years. Now delay in monsoon rains have added to their woes.

Meanwhile, the weather department said that monsoon might cover Maharashtra by first week of July. By Ravi Patil(ANI)

Honey stolen from Corbett National Park

Nainital, June 23 (ANI): Forest Department officials and rangers of Jim Corbett National Park have arrested three persons on charges of setting fire in the forest for scaring away the bees from their hives and collect honey.

“When our staff members woke up, they saw smoke coming out of the forest. When they went out to check they saw two persons sitting under a tree and another one on the tree, who was extracting honey from the beehive. They then held those persons,” said D S Rawat, Superintendent, Corbett National Park, Ramnagar, Uttarakhand.

Admitting their guilt, one of the arrested persons said that the smoke emitted by the fire would keep the bees at bay and let them collect honey from the hives on treetops.

“We take some green leaves and then light them, after which smoke comes out, which chases the bees away and we take out the honey,” said Lalan, one of the arrested persons.

Officials also recovered three kilograms of fresh honey from the nabbed persons.

In the recent past there had been several instances of fire raging in the forestlands posing a grave threat to the flora and fauna of the famed Jim Corbett National Park. (ANI)

Scientists claim discovery of largest carnivorous dino tooth in Spain till date

Washington, June 23 (ANI): A team of paleontologists has claimed to have discovered the largest carnivorous dinosaur tooth in Spain till date.

The features and size of the 9.83cm tooth provide key information needed to identify its former owner.

The researchers are in no doubt that it was a large, predatory, carnivorous dinosaur (theropod) belonging to the Allosauroidea clade (one of the branches of the phylogenetic tree), a group that contains large carnivorous dinosaurs measuring between six and 15 meters.

“Given the great variations between the teeth of different kinds of allosauroids, it would be prudent for us to assign this fossil to an indeterminate Allosauroidea,” said Luis Alcala, one of the researchers involved in the study.

The tooth, found by local residents in Riodeva, Teruel, in the Villar del Arzobispo Formation, has been compared with other samples from the Allosauroidea group from the Iberian Peninsula – in particular with a large tooth from Portugal (measuring 12.7cm) and another belonging to an Allosauroidea indet in Spain, until now described as the largest in Spain at 8.27cm.

According to the paleontologists, “the presence of a large Allosauroidea is a great addition to the faunal record of the dinosaurs described in the Villar del Arzobispo Formation in Riodeva.”

Plant-eating dinosaur groups (phytophages) discovered in the deposit to date have been identified as sauropods, stegosaurids and basal ornithopods (from tooth remains and a complete rear leg).

“Now the carnivorous dinosaurs are also represented, at least by two medium-sized theropods and a large predator belonging to the Allosauroidea clade,” said Alcala.

Carnivorous dinosaurs grew new teeth over their lifetimes, which increase the likelihood of finding them.

In this case, the condition of the crown of the tooth found (without any reabsorption surfaces) indicates that it was not a discarded tooth.

The palaeontologists hope to discover the remains of this large predator, which could have attacked Turiasaurus riodevensis, the ‘European giant’. (ANI)

Lightning-struck girl saved by her iPod

London, Jun 19 (ANI): A teenage girl, who was sheltering from a storm beneath a tree, survived a devastating lightning strike after her iPod, which was round her neck, diverted the 300,000-volt surge that hit her.

Sophie Frost, 14, received just minor burns and singed hair as the bolt zipped through the headphone wire hanging from her school uniform, scorching her clothes but missing all her vital organs.

She was rushed to a specialist burns unit, where doctors said that they were confident she would make a full recovery, and that too without even a scar.

“I don’t remember a thing about what happened, but from what everyone tells me it’s a miracle I’m still here,” the Sun quoted Sophie as saying on June 18.

“Everybody’s said the iPod must have diverted the lightning away from my body, which probably saved my life. I’ve got a few burns, but it’s all healing OK,” she said.

Sophie, of Southend, Essex, was holding hands with boyfriend Mason Billington, 14, when the lightning struck them in Rayleigh.

Both were knocked unconscious and Mason suffered eye damage, although it is hoped this will not be permanent.

“I just thank God my daughter is still alive,” Sophie’s mum Julie said.

“The doctors say her iPod saved her. Her nan only bought it a few days ago. Luckily, she wasn’t actually wearing the headphones. If she had been, she might not be here today.

“Mind you, the only thing Sophie seemed worried about was that her new iPod was frazzled,” she added. (ANI)

Landslides disrupt toy train service in West Bengal

Siliguri, May 28 (ANI): Landslides in West Bengal have disrupted the movement of the world famous toy train, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The famous Darjeeling toy train runs between Siliguri and Darjeeling.

The train stopped operation from Tuesday as heavy rains and severe landslides washed away a huge portion of the railway track. A huge pile of debris has accumulated on the tracks, halting the operation of the toy train.

“In 80 km route from Siliguri junction to Darjeeling, we have got landslides at 41 spots and total amount of muds and boulders is about 3500 cubic metres. We also have tree fallen on tracks at 16 spots. Out of the 16 spots, two spots are very heavy because very big tree trunk has fallen on track. We have got one location near Ghum where a portion of our track is washed away in between two buildings,” said Subrata Nath, director, Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR).

The DHR is trying hard to resume the journey at the earliest, but the service is expected to resume not earlier than seven to ten days.

“We are trying our best to resume the services between new Jalpaiguri, Siliguri to Kerseong by Saturday. That will cover around 50 km of our track. So around 60 km, we will be able to make operational by this Saturday. And for the other one it may take another seven to ten days,” added Nath.

The DHR toy train was started in 1896 by the then British Lieutenant Governor Ashley Eden, offering riders an opportunity to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature along the Darjeeling hills.

At the beginning, this railway was named as the Darjeeling steam Tramway Co. Later when India gained independence in 1947, the railway was named as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).

DHR was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO on December 5 at their 23rd session. (ANI)

Wooden ornaments of Jorhat

Jorhat (Assam), May 28 (ANI): Fifty-year-old Jadab Mahanta in Assam’s Jorhat district is drawing attention from all over India for his skills in traditional arts, crafts and wooden ornaments.

Hailing from a small village in Assam, Mahanta carves fascinating wooden ornaments, masks and wooden craftwork at his home in Bor Alengi Village of Jorhat.

Mahanta creates facemasks for different characters of traditional dramas. By putting material like bamboo, wood, gray clay, cow dung and natural color paints to good use, he creates the wonderful masks.

Mahanta’s wooden ornaments are not just popular in India but abroad as well.

“My products are exported outside the country to Denmark, Thailand, USA. In India, it goes to Delhi, Kolkata and all over the country. I made different designs of lockets, pendants, chain, ring and bangles,” said Jadab Mahanta.

His skill and creativity in mask-making has earned him recognition by the Assam State Museum, Jorhat Museum and National Museum, New Delhi.

His work is quite popular in north eastern India and people from different districts of Assam come to him for placing their orders.

“I always help him (husband) in making mask and wooden ornaments. Though, it’s a time consuming work, lots of demands pour in from outside the state (specially wooden ornaments) and as well as from the state. For this (wooden ornaments) my husband is very popular in the region. Through this additional income, we look after the needs of our children’s studies,” said Reenu Mahanta, his wife.

“I was an unemployed youth. I realized that learning these arts would give benefits in future, so I requested him to train me. He readily agreed. Through him, my life has changed into a productive youth and now I am permanently engaged in painting and making of mask in our Satra (Vaishnavite Temple). I am regularly saving some amount from my income for my future,” says Porag Jyoti.

Mahanta says that he has used his expertise to preserve Sanchipat, a sheet made of bark from Agar tree. It was used in Assam for writing purposes, before the advent of paper.

With ‘Look East’ policy bringing the South East Asian market closer to north east; craftsmen like Mahanta will be able to find bigger markets for their products.

He is today a source of inspiration for the youth in the state who want to create a niche for themselves in the world. By Vaschipem Kamodang (ANI)

A Gorakhpur boy plays a dutiful son to his blind mother

Gorakhpur, May 27 (ANI): In a unique case of son’s dedication towards his mother, Kailesh Giri Brahamchari, has been carrying his mother on his shoulders and taking her all over the country to visit places of Hindu worship.

He left his house at a young age of 23 years. He has been traveling continuously for over 13 years to accomplish his mother’s desire of undertaking a pilgrimage to the four most prominent abodes of Hindu Gods, spreading across length and breadth of India.
he four abodes are the Badrinath Temple located in Badrinath in Uttarkhand, the Dwarakadheesh Temple in Dwarka, located in Gujarat, the Jagannath Temple in Puri, located in Orissa and Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameswaram, located in Tamil Nadu.

In the past 13 years, he has nearly covered the lengths and breadth of entire India traveling from one holy place to the other carrying his blind mother on his shoulders.

Kailesh says that every one should respect their parents and have a loving attitude towards them instead of ill-treating.

He says that it’s his duty to fulfill his mother’s desire of visiting the four abodes in India as his mother undertook the pledge after he had fallen off a tree.

“I am doing this because I had fallen down from the tree. So my mother had taken a pledge to go on a pilgrimage to all the four abodes of Hindu god. So I am helping her fulfill her pledge. Its been 13 years five months and 21 days since I have been traveling. I would be going to Badrinarayan, Dwarka and then to Ujjain from here and would be visiting all the holy places that I will cross on the way,” he said.

Kailesh has been getting a lot of praise from people who have seen him take his mother around. People are happy that even in modern times there exists a son who has devoted his life to his mother.

People do admit candidly that the son’s gesture is indeed rare. He is also being referred to as the modern day ‘Shravan Kumar’.

“We had read in the books about Shravan Kumar, but today I have seen him. We should take inspiration from the way he has been roaming around for the past 13 years carrying his mother on his shoulders. Nowadays, people hit their parents at home. By seeing this, we should get inspired to take care of our father and mother,” said Namrata Singh, a resident.

Shravan Kumar is a character in the great Hindu epic Ramayana who took his disabled parents on his shoulders for a pilgrimage.

The mother-son duo are being sought after everywhere, the people seek the blessings of the mother and give her offerings as well. By Pawan Shah (ANI)

Yew tree enters record books for having canopy as big as Royal Albert Hall

London, May 20 (ANI): A yew tree, whose canopy is said to be as big as the size of London’s Royal Albert Hall, has entered the record books as the widest tree in the UK.

The tree, which was discovered in the grounds of Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire, and which has engulfed a National Trust garden, is 50 metres wider than its nearest rival, and has a crown circumference of 175.5 metres.

Experts believe that the 350-year-old Yew may even be the widest in Europe, and it has now been recorded in the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI) as the largest spreading crown of any tree in Britain and Ireland.

“This remarkable tree has spent most of its life growing naturally sideways rather than upwards,” the Telegraph quoted David Alderman, from TROBI, as saying.

“Many of its branches have rooted themselves, providing even more vigour as it has engulfed other trees originally planted 25 metres away.

“As yew can live for 1,000 years or more, if left unchecked, this tree could potentially keep growing ever wider and eventually cover the whole estate,” he added. (ANI)

47-mln-yr-old fossil “missing link” between humans and lemurs

Washington, May 20 (ANI): The analysis of a 47-million-year-old fossil, dubbed “Ida”, has led paleontologists to suggest that it is a critical “missing link” species in primate evolution, which connects humans and lemurs.

According to a report in National Geographic News, in a new book, documentary, and promotional Web site, paleontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the team that analyzed the 47-million-year-old fossil, suggests that the fossil bridges the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distant relatives such as lemurs.

“This is the first link to all humans,” said Hurum, of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway. “Ida represents the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor,” he added.

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy.

The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs.

“This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us,” said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Richmond noted that there’s a big gap in the fossil record from this time period.

Researchers are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs.

“Ida is one of the important branching points on the evolutionary tree, but it’s not the only branching point,” Richmond said.

At least one aspect of Ida is unquestionably unique: her incredible preservation, unheard of in specimens from the Eocene era, when early primates underwent a period of rapid evolution.

“From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to be an isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there,” Richmond explained.

“So you can’t say a whole lot of what that (type of fossil) represents in terms of evolutionary history or biology,” he added.

In Ida’s case, scientists were able to examine fossil evidence of fur and soft tissue and even picked through the remains of her last meal: fruits, seeds, and leaves.

What’s more, the newly described fossil was unearthed in Germany’s Messel Pit.

According to Richmond, Ida’s European origins are intriguing, because they could suggest-contrary to common assumptions-that the continent was an important area for primate evolution. (ANI)

How flowering plants originated about 130 million years ago

Washington, May 19 (ANI): A new study is helping shed light on the mystery of the sudden origin of flowering plants about 130 million years ago, with information about what the first flowers looked like and how they evolved from non-flowering plants.

“There was nothing like them before and nothing like them since,” said Andre Chanderbali, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral associate at Unifersity of Florida’s (UF’s) Florida Museum of Natural History.

“The origin of the flower is the key to the origin of the angiosperms (flowering plants),” he added.

The flower is one of the key innovations of evolution, responsible for a massive burst of evolution that has resulted in perhaps as many as 400,000 angiosperm species.

Before flowering plants emerged, the seed-bearing plant world was dominated by gymnosperms, which have cone-like structures instead of flowers and include pine trees, sago palms and ginkgos.

Gymnosperms first appeared in the fossil record about 360 million years ago.

The new study provides insight into how the first flowering plants evolved from pre-existing genetic programs found in gymnosperms and then developed into the diversity of flowering plants we see today.

The study compares the genetic structure of two vastly different flowering plants to see whether differences exist in the set of circuits that create each species’ flower.

Researchers examined the genetic circuitry of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant commonly used as a model organism in plant genetics research, and the avocado tree Persea americana, which belongs to an older lineage of so-called basal angiosperms.

“What we found is that the flower of Persea is a genetic fossil, still carrying genetic instructions that would have allowed for the transformation of cones into flowers,” Chanderbali said.

Advanced angiosperms have four organ types: female organs (carpels), male organs (stamens), petals (typically colorful) and sepals (typically green).

Basal angiosperms have three: carpels, stamens and tepals, which are typically petal-like structures.

The researchers expected each type of organ found in Persea’s flowers would have a unique set of genetic instructions. Instead they found significant overlap among the three organ types.

“Although the organs are developing to ultimately become different things, from a genetic developmental perspective, they share much more than you would expect,” Chanderbali said.

According to Virginia Walbot, a biology professor at Stanford University who is familiar with the research, the selection process arrived at a “narrow solution in terms of four discrete organs, but with fantastic diversity of organ numbers, shapes and colors that provide the defining phenotypes of each flowering plant species.” (ANI)

Inexpensive plastic used in CDs could improve aircraft, computer electronics

Washington, May 16 (ANI): An inexpensive plastic used to manufacture CDs and DVDs will one day soon be put to use in improving the integrity of electronics in aircraft, computers and iPhones.

Thanks to a pair of grants from the US Air Force, Shay Curran, associate professor of physics at UH, and his research team have demonstrated ultra-high electrical conductive properties in plastics, called polycarbonates, by mixing them with just the right amount and type of carbon nanotubes.

Curran, who initially began this form of research a decade ago at Trinity College Dublin, started to look at high-conductive plastics in a slightly different manner.

Curran’s team has come up with a strategy to achieve higher conductivities using carbon nanotubes in plastic hosts than what has been currently achieved.

By combining nanotubes with polycarbonates, Curran’s group was able to reach a milestone of creating nanocomposites with ultra-high conductive properties.

“While its mechanical and optical properties are very good, polycarbonate is a non-conductive plastic. That means its ability to carry an electrical charge is as good as a tree, which is pretty awful,” Curran said.

“Imagine that this remarkable plastic can now not only have good optical and mechanical properties, but also good electrical characteristics. By being able to tailor the amount of nanotubes we can add to the composite, we also can change it from the conductivity of silicon to a few orders below that achieved by metals,” he added.

Making this very inexpensive plastic highly conductive could benefit electronics in everything from military aircraft to personal computers.

Computer failure, for instance, results from the build up of thermal and electrical charges, so developing these polymer nanotube composites into an antistatic coating or to provide a shield against electromagnetic interference would increase the lifespan of computing devices, ranging from PCs to PDAs.

The next step of this research is to develop ink formulations to paint these polycarbonate nanocomposites onto various electrical components. (ANI)