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Neanderthal’s legacy lives on…in us.Many convergent genetic studies over the last decade have shown that Eurasian peoples contain a contribution from out Neanderthalian cousins (estimated at 2-3%), with whom Europeans seem to have interbred between 80 and 40,000 years ago. Several teams are now exploring the implications of this legacy, and working to tease out the precise contributions and their effects on subsequent human development, and we share here some of the results.One team from Harvard Medical School who published in Nature last January compared the genomes of 846 varied non-African people (ie from the diaspora that left our cradle around 80,000 years back), 176 diverse people from sub-Saharan Africa and the best Neanderthal genome published to far, dated at 50,000 years old. If a variant gene only appeared in non-Africans and Neanderthalians, a potential connection was implied.Some areas of the modern genomes were rich in Neanderthal gene sequences, maybe helping our ancestors to survive the pressures of natural selection, while others are nearly void of any contribution, implying that any Neanderthal sequences in these areas have been winnowed out by natural selection. These voids were particularly intense in those genes active in the male germ line and in the X chromosome.Similar patterns in animals have been shown to be caused by the problem known as male hybrid sterility/ low fertility, in which a viable offspring is produced, but cannot reproduce or only to a small degree, suggesting that we were at the limit of full speciation when we met and interbred. New species are defined by the inability to interbreed with close relatives, and this genetic evidence suggests that us and our cousins were at the edge of biological incompatibility when we met, but still managed to get it on somehow, though the genes mostly passed down the female line. East Asians also turned out to have more Neanderthal DNA than Europeans.Neanderthal’s legacy influences many aspects of modern humans, such as the genes that produce the protein keratin (a major part of skin, hair and nails). The researchers suggest that they may have included adaptations useful for surviving in the cold ice age environments (including pale skin) that Neanderthal evolved in, and that we were to shortly live through, thus showing the link between selection pressure and the survival of an adaptation. Other Neanderthal contributions influence smoking behaviour and include some genes that affect diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Chrohn’s and lupus.So far, this research has only scratched the surface of a fascinating topic. Further work is ongoing, including similarly structured research into the contribution of Denisovan man to some of the Polynesian and Asiatic peoples.LozImage credit: Wikipediahttp://hms.harvard.edu/news/neanderthals-genetic-legacy-1-29-14http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129542.600-neanderthalhuman-sex-bred-light-skins-and-infertility.html#.UzIOm4XJGlghttp://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/01/neanderthals-genetic-legacy/101858http://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/01/the-genomic-landscape-of-neanderthal-ancestry-in-present-day-humans/101862http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/23/neanderthals-and-me-go-back-a-long-way-alice-robertshttp://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/29/fifth-neanderthals-genetic-code-lives-on-humansOriginal paper, paywall access: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/nature12961/metrics/news

Neanderthal’s legacy lives on…in us.

Many convergent genetic studies over the last decade have shown that Eurasian peoples contain a contribution from out Neanderthalian cousins (estimated at 2-3%), with whom Europeans seem to have interbred between 80 and 40,000 years ago. Several teams are now exploring the implications of this legacy, and working to tease out the precise contributions and their effects on subsequent human development, and we share here some of the results.

One team from Harvard Medical School who published in Nature last January compared the genomes of 846 varied non-African people (ie from the diaspora that left our cradle around 80,000 years back), 176 diverse people from sub-Saharan Africa and the best Neanderthal genome published to far, dated at 50,000 years old. If a variant gene only appeared in non-Africans and Neanderthalians, a potential connection was implied.

Some areas of the modern genomes were rich in Neanderthal gene sequences, maybe helping our ancestors to survive the pressures of natural selection, while others are nearly void of any contribution, implying that any Neanderthal sequences in these areas have been winnowed out by natural selection. These voids were particularly intense in those genes active in the male germ line and in the X chromosome.

Similar patterns in animals have been shown to be caused by the problem known as male hybrid sterility/ low fertility, in which a viable offspring is produced, but cannot reproduce or only to a small degree, suggesting that we were at the limit of full speciation when we met and interbred. New species are defined by the inability to interbreed with close relatives, and this genetic evidence suggests that us and our cousins were at the edge of biological incompatibility when we met, but still managed to get it on somehow, though the genes mostly passed down the female line. East Asians also turned out to have more Neanderthal DNA than Europeans.

Neanderthal’s legacy influences many aspects of modern humans, such as the genes that produce the protein keratin (a major part of skin, hair and nails). The researchers suggest that they may have included adaptations useful for surviving in the cold ice age environments (including pale skin) that Neanderthal evolved in, and that we were to shortly live through, thus showing the link between selection pressure and the survival of an adaptation. Other Neanderthal contributions influence smoking behaviour and include some genes that affect diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Chrohn’s and lupus.

So far, this research has only scratched the surface of a fascinating topic. Further work is ongoing, including similarly structured research into the contribution of Denisovan man to some of the Polynesian and Asiatic peoples.

Loz

Image credit: Wikipedia

http://hms.harvard.edu/news/neanderthals-genetic-legacy-1-29-14
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129542.600-neanderthalhuman-sex-bred-light-skins-and-infertility.html#.UzIOm4XJGlg
http://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/01/neanderthals-genetic-legacy/101858
http://www.heritagedaily.com/2014/01/the-genomic-landscape-of-neanderthal-ancestry-in-present-day-humans/101862
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/23/neanderthals-and-me-go-back-a-long-way-alice-roberts
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/29/fifth-neanderthals-genetic-code-lives-on-humans

Original paper, paywall access: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/nature12961/metrics/news

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The Tunnel of Love
A few kilometers outside the city of Klevan in the Ukraine sits what was once an unassuming railway. This rail line runs for just a couple of kilometers and was cut through this forest to allow trains to carry goods to and from a nearby factory.
The trains still use these tracks three times a day. But with time, something lovely happened; the trees that still stood took up the space vacated by their departed brethren, creating a natural arch of leaves and wood that surrounds the railway.
The tunnel has become popular with tourists and superstitions have spread regarding its ability to grant wishes for couples that cross it while holding hands…leading to its nickname as the tunnel of love.
-JBB

Image credit:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Green_Mile_Tunnel,_Rivne.jpgTourist links:http://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/11/tunnel-of-love-in-kleven-ukraine.htmlhttp://www.boredpanda.com/train-love-tunnel-ukraine/

The Tunnel of Love

A few kilometers outside the city of Klevan in the Ukraine sits what was once an unassuming railway. This rail line runs for just a couple of kilometers and was cut through this forest to allow trains to carry goods to and from a nearby factory.

The trains still use these tracks three times a day. But with time, something lovely happened; the trees that still stood took up the space vacated by their departed brethren, creating a natural arch of leaves and wood that surrounds the railway.

The tunnel has become popular with tourists and superstitions have spread regarding its ability to grant wishes for couples that cross it while holding hands…leading to its nickname as the tunnel of love.

-JBB

Image credit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Green_Mile_Tunnel,_Rivne.jpg
Tourist links:
http://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/11/tunnel-of-love-in-kleven-ukraine.html
http://www.boredpanda.com/train-love-tunnel-ukraine/

Video

Showtime will soon be broadcasting a documentary called “Years of living dangerously” - a Hollywood-produced look at climate change. They’ve made the first episode available for free online.

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Skolithos - Western AustraliaThe vertical structures which you can see weathering out of the sandstone are fossilised burrows, perhaps made by an ancient worm. Skolithos, as these burrows are called, are relatively common trace fossils, and generally indicate that the environment was high energy. The presence of sandstone, rather than mudstone, would support this interpretation.SedgImage credit (non-commercial): Eric Baker (https://flic.kr/p/dfpnRt)
Skolithos - Western Australia

The vertical structures which you can see weathering out of the sandstone are fossilised burrows, perhaps made by an ancient worm. Skolithos, as these burrows are called, are relatively common trace fossils, and generally indicate that the environment was high energy. The presence of sandstone, rather than mudstone, would support this interpretation.

Sedg

Image credit (non-commercial): Eric Baker (https://flic.kr/p/dfpnRt)

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The Rubens vaseSince antiquity, the civilisations around the Mediterranean prized cups, vases and plates carved out of agate as ornamental objects. The Rubens vase is a Byzantine piece carved from a single chunk of chalcedony dating from the decadence of the Roman Empire around 400 CE. The quality suggests it was made in the imperial workshop for the emperor’s household. It has moved around alot since its creation. It was probably looted by crusaders during the fourth crusade in 1204, when they ‘mistook’ their fellow Christians in the richest city in the western world for enemies and ruthlessly sacked it on their way to carve out fiefs in the Holy Land, an act of barbarity well attested in Eastern histories of the crusades. This marked the true cultural end of both Ancient Greece and the Western Roman empire, and so weakened Byzantium that they paved the way for the conquest of the Turks over the next couple of centuries.Its European provenance is filled with famous names, such as the Anjou dukes and Charles 5 of France. The Flemish painter Rubens purchased it in 1619, after which it disappeared from view until the 19th century when a hallmark on the gold rim from the French department of Ain was indented.The piece measures 18.6 x 18.5 x 12 cm)= and is now in the Walters Museum.LozImage credit: The Walters Museumhttp://art.thewalters.org/detail/10284/the-rubens-vase/For those in need of a little history, Aamin Malouf’s ‘The crusades through Arab eyes’ makes for peeper opening reading.

The Rubens vase

Since antiquity, the civilisations around the Mediterranean prized cups, vases and plates carved out of agate as ornamental objects. The Rubens vase is a Byzantine piece carved from a single chunk of chalcedony dating from the decadence of the Roman Empire around 400 CE. The quality suggests it was made in the imperial workshop for the emperor’s household. It has moved around alot since its creation. It was probably looted by crusaders during the fourth crusade in 1204, when they ‘mistook’ their fellow Christians in the richest city in the western world for enemies and ruthlessly sacked it on their way to carve out fiefs in the Holy Land, an act of barbarity well attested in Eastern histories of the crusades. This marked the true cultural end of both Ancient Greece and the Western Roman empire, and so weakened Byzantium that they paved the way for the conquest of the Turks over the next couple of centuries.

Its European provenance is filled with famous names, such as the Anjou dukes and Charles 5 of France. The Flemish painter Rubens purchased it in 1619, after which it disappeared from view until the 19th century when a hallmark on the gold rim from the French department of Ain was indented.

The piece measures 18.6 x 18.5 x 12 cm)= and is now in the Walters Museum.

Loz


Image credit: The Walters Museum

http://art.thewalters.org/detail/10284/the-rubens-vase/
For those in need of a little history, Aamin Malouf’s ‘The crusades through Arab eyes’ makes for peeper opening reading.

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Above is a picture of the Great Fountain Geyser. This geyser is located in Yellowstone National Park just off of the Lake Firehole Drive. Its eruptions range from 30 to 60 meters up into the air for about an hour. During the eruptions, the water generally spurts out in a series of bursts, (from 4 to 7), and usually the first burst is the tallest. One of the more scenic aspects of this geyser is its terraced sinter cone that is roughly 45 meters in diameter with a 4.2 x 6 meter crater. Just before the geyser erupts, water fills the crater and overflows onto the terraces. This gives the fountain geyser an almost man-made look (keep in mind, this is all natural). The Great Fountain Geyser’s plumbing system and terraces are silica based. This differs to the travertine (calcium carbonate) terraces of Mammoth Hot springs in the northern parts of the park. (For more information on Mammoth Hot springs, refer to the link of one of our earlier posts below.) Mammoth’s travertine terraces form within only several years while the silicate terraces of the Great Fountain Geyser took hundreds of years to create because the silicate minerals are not dissolved or deposited as easily as the calcium carbonate ones. -CS Our earlier post on Mammoth Hot Springs: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=397110443683339&set=a.352867368107647.80532.352857924775258&type=1&theater Photo Credit: Michael Melford More Info: http://mms.nps.gov/yell/ofvec/exhibits/eruption/prediction/predict6.htm

Above is a picture of the Great Fountain Geyser. This geyser is located in Yellowstone National Park just off of the Lake Firehole Drive. Its eruptions range from 30 to 60 meters up into the air for about an hour. During the eruptions, the water generally spurts out in a series of bursts, (from 4 to 7), and usually the first burst is the tallest. One of the more scenic aspects of this geyser is its terraced sinter cone that is roughly 45 meters in diameter with a 4.2 x 6 meter crater. Just before the geyser erupts, water fills the crater and overflows onto the terraces. This gives the fountain geyser an almost man-made look (keep in mind, this is all natural). The Great Fountain Geyser’s plumbing system and terraces are silica based. This differs to the travertine (calcium carbonate) terraces of Mammoth Hot springs in the northern parts of the park. (For more information on Mammoth Hot springs, refer to the link of one of our earlier posts below.) Mammoth’s travertine terraces form within only several years while the silicate terraces of the Great Fountain Geyser took hundreds of years to create because the silicate minerals are not dissolved or deposited as easily as the calcium carbonate ones.


-CS

Our earlier post on Mammoth Hot Springs: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=397110443683339&set=a.352867368107647.80532.352857924775258&type=1&theater

Photo Credit: Michael Melford
More Info: http://mms.nps.gov/yell/ofvec/exhibits/eruption/prediction/predict6.htm

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Spiral clouds.Snapped from the highest possible human viewpoint aboard the space station, these swirling patterns testify to the eddying of large masses of air somewhere off the African coast.LozImage credit: Luca Parmitano

Spiral clouds.

Snapped from the highest possible human viewpoint aboard the space station, these swirling patterns testify to the eddying of large masses of air somewhere off the African coast.
Loz


Image credit: Luca Parmitano

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Fossil GroveLurking in a building in Glagow’s Victoria Park is a memory of a different, tropical Scotland, unafflicted by snow, wind, or bitterly cold driving rain. Freshly joined to its new home of Avalonia to form the nascent land of Britain during the Caledonian Orogeny, the area was a swampy and steamy place back in the Carboniferous, in which peat accumulated in large forested river deltas into the coal that would much later fuel an industrial revolution. The surrounding tropical seas were filled with coral reefs. The sea level oscillated, leaving a variety of shallow marine, coastal and terrestrial sediments that were later transformed into rock (a complex process known as diagenesis).A rainforest of ‘trees’ (actually giant mosses called Lepidodendron) grew where Glasgow is now, and in 1877, eleven stumps of these 330 million year old trees were uncovered from the surrounding sandstone and shale during the transformation of an abandoned quarry into the park as the newly industrial city expanded.LozImage credit: Visit Scotlandhttp://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/member/fossil-grovehttp://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/rocks-soils-and-landforms/rocks-and-minerals/rocks-formed-after/carboniferous/

Fossil Grove

Lurking in a building in Glagow’s Victoria Park is a memory of a different, tropical Scotland, unafflicted by snow, wind, or bitterly cold driving rain. Freshly joined to its new home of Avalonia to form the nascent land of Britain during the Caledonian Orogeny, the area was a swampy and steamy place back in the Carboniferous, in which peat accumulated in large forested river deltas into the coal that would much later fuel an industrial revolution. The surrounding tropical seas were filled with coral reefs. The sea level oscillated, leaving a variety of shallow marine, coastal and terrestrial sediments that were later transformed into rock (a complex process known as diagenesis).

A rainforest of ‘trees’ (actually giant mosses called Lepidodendron) grew where Glasgow is now, and in 1877, eleven stumps of these 330 million year old trees were uncovered from the surrounding sandstone and shale during the transformation of an abandoned quarry into the park as the newly industrial city expanded.

Loz

Image credit: Visit Scotland
http://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/member/fossil-grove
http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-scotlands-nature/rocks-soils-and-landforms/rocks-and-minerals/rocks-formed-after/carboniferous/

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Photogenic Earth! Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite MSG-3 took this picture of Earth shortly after it was launched in 2012. The photo was captured using SEVIRI; the spinning enhanced visible and infrared imager instrument. The satellite was launched on the 5th of July, 2012 by the European Space Agency, the MSG-3 is performing well to this day. The Metostat Second Generation (MSG-3) is the third in a series of four satellites, the first was launched in 2002 and the 4th is slated to be launch in 2015.  The satellites deliver enhanced weather coverage of Europe and Africa with the aim of improving short range forecasts. It is mainly used to detect rapidly developing thunderstorms, the satellite scans the Earth’s surface every 15 minutes in 12 different wavelengths; infrared and visible, to track cloud cover.  The satellite also carriers an Earth Radiation Budget sensor. This measures both the amount of solar energy that is reflected back into space and the infrared energy radiated by the Earth system; this will aid to better understand climate processes. The MSG satellites were built in Cannes, France, by a European industrial team. More than 50 subcontractors from 13 European countries are involved in the building of these satellites. -Jean Image courtesy of: European satellite MSG-3, released on Aug. 7, 2012. (European Space Agency)

Photogenic Earth!

Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite MSG-3 took this picture of Earth shortly after it was launched in 2012. The photo was captured using SEVIRI; the spinning enhanced visible and infrared imager instrument.

The satellite was launched on the 5th of July, 2012 by the European Space Agency, the MSG-3 is performing well to this day.

The Metostat Second Generation (MSG-3) is the third in a series of four satellites, the first was launched in 2002 and the 4th is slated to be launch in 2015.

The satellites deliver enhanced weather coverage of Europe and Africa with the aim of improving short range forecasts. It is mainly used to detect rapidly developing thunderstorms, the satellite scans the Earth’s surface every 15 minutes in 12 different wavelengths; infrared and visible, to track cloud cover.

The satellite also carriers an Earth Radiation Budget sensor. This measures both the amount of solar energy that is reflected back into space and the infrared energy radiated by the Earth system; this will aid to better understand climate processes.

The MSG satellites were built in Cannes, France, by a European industrial team. More than 50 subcontractors from 13 European countries are involved in the building of these satellites.

-Jean

Image courtesy of: European satellite MSG-3, released on Aug. 7, 2012. (European Space Agency)

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Subarctic T-RexWith a little bit of imagination you could actually see a T-Rex in this image. However, this havocked and rugged archipelago is collectively known as the Auckland Islands, located 461km from the South Island of New Zealand. They consist of Auckland Island (the biggest), Disappointment Island, Adams Island, Rose Island, Ewing Island, Dundas Island, Endeby Island and Green Island. The Māori call the islands Motu Maha or Maungahuka. The climate is wet, cool and very windy. In 1865 ship-wrecked Thomas Musgrave described being stranded on Auckland Island as constant hail, pelting rain and incessant gales.Although currently not permanently inhabited archaeologists (who together with other scientists sporadically visit the islands) discovered prehistoric middens and ovens in Sandy Bay on Enderby island in 1998 and 2003. These could date to the 13th and 14th century and point to Polynesian presence. Sandy Bay is known as an area that is sheltered from the prevailing winds that usually roam around the islands. Of the entire archipelago this would be the best place to settle. It was not until 1806 that Europeans rediscovered the islands and established sealing stations. New Zealand fur seals skins were used for hats mostly and it was preferred to kill six-month-old cubs. In 1830 not a single fur seal was to be found. Again, in the mid-19th century a group of Māori settled and survived on the archipelago for 20 years.How did the island become so havocked and rugged? Most of the land was formed through volcanic activity. They consist of eroded (marine, subaerial and glacial) shield volcanoes from the Miocene. This extreme erosion has given the Island its steep cliffs and rugged terrain. On the eastern side of the archipelago lava flows and glaciers have created fiord, U-shaped valleys and natural harbors. The latter are known as the best natural harbors in the world. Especially on Adams Island thick sequences of lava are exposed.-OW-Image: NASA 1998. The archipelago as seen from the west. The top of the image is actually the southwest (I bet to make it look more like a T-Rex!).References:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00288306.1985.10422275#.U0mQsPl_spohttp://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/scripts/sseop/photo.pl?mission=STS089&roll=743&frame=5http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/subantarctic-islands/page-2

Subarctic T-Rex

With a little bit of imagination you could actually see a T-Rex in this image. However, this havocked and rugged archipelago is collectively known as the Auckland Islands, located 461km from the South Island of New Zealand. They consist of Auckland Island (the biggest), Disappointment Island, Adams Island, Rose Island, Ewing Island, Dundas Island, Endeby Island and Green Island. The Māori call the islands Motu Maha or Maungahuka. The climate is wet, cool and very windy. In 1865 ship-wrecked Thomas Musgrave described being stranded on Auckland Island as constant hail, pelting rain and incessant gales.

Although currently not permanently inhabited archaeologists (who together with other scientists sporadically visit the islands) discovered prehistoric middens and ovens in Sandy Bay on Enderby island in 1998 and 2003. These could date to the 13th and 14th century and point to Polynesian presence. Sandy Bay is known as an area that is sheltered from the prevailing winds that usually roam around the islands. Of the entire archipelago this would be the best place to settle. It was not until 1806 that Europeans rediscovered the islands and established sealing stations. New Zealand fur seals skins were used for hats mostly and it was preferred to kill six-month-old cubs. In 1830 not a single fur seal was to be found. Again, in the mid-19th century a group of Māori settled and survived on the archipelago for 20 years.

How did the island become so havocked and rugged? Most of the land was formed through volcanic activity. They consist of eroded (marine, subaerial and glacial) shield volcanoes from the Miocene. This extreme erosion has given the Island its steep cliffs and rugged terrain. On the eastern side of the archipelago lava flows and glaciers have created fiord, U-shaped valleys and natural harbors. The latter are known as the best natural harbors in the world. Especially on Adams Island thick sequences of lava are exposed.

-OW-

Image: NASA 1998. The archipelago as seen from the west. The top of the image is actually the southwest (I bet to make it look more like a T-Rex!).

References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00288306.1985.10422275#.U0mQsPl_spo

http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/scripts/sseop/photo.pl?mission=STS089&roll=743&frame=5

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/subantarctic-islands/page-2