Displaying items by tag: Science

For seed beetles, the pain of sex

  • Published in Tech

PARIS—Evolution works in mysterious ways, especially when it comes to sex.
Behold the humble and homely seed beetle, an insect that has successfully spread to every continent on the planet except Antarctica.
The male of the species, it has long been known, boasts an imposing sexual organ resembling a medieval, spike-studded ball mounted on a metal shaft.

“The penis is covered in hundreds of sharp spines which pierce the female reproductive tract during mating,” explained Liam Dougherty, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia in Crawley, and lead author of a study that asks a deceptively simple question: How do females cope?
The answer based on a decade of laboratory experiments spanning 100 seed beetle generations reveals a remarkable story of adaptation, and an evolutionary tit-for-tat that Dougherty likens to a “sexual ‘arms race.’”
“When males evolved to increase male harm, the females also evolved to reduce that harm,” and in more ways than one, Dougherty told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
To begin with, the female tract grew thicker across generations, “making the spines less able to pierce the tissue,” he explained.
Immune response
Lady beetles confronted with ever more dangerous male gear also developed new immune responses, one giving them more protection against infection, and another allowing their damaged tissue to heal faster.
The findings, published on Wednesday in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B, provide rare evidence of how “traumatic mating,” as it is sometimes called, can simultaneously drive adaptive mutations in both sexes.

But this fascinating evolutionary pas de deux still leaves begging a fundamental question: What is the raison d’etre of a male sex organ that reduces female life span and perhaps reproductive output?
What, in other words, would Darwin have to say?
Some biologists have suggested that the weaponized genitalia reduce the chances of females coupling with other males.
Pain sex
But female seed beetles do, in fact, mate with more than one partner.
More likely, according to Dougherty, is that spines on the male organ changed to increase the number of eggs fertilized compared to competitors.
In either case, “the female well-being is sacrificed at the expense of male fitness,” he added. “Traumatic mating has evolved because it increases male fertilization success.”
The scientists also speculated that deeper holes made by longer spines allow chemicals ejaculated by the male that influence female behavior, and make her more pliant, to more quickly find their way to the brain.
Seed beetles are not the only creatures prone to male-on-female pain sex.
The best known example is probably the bed bug. Its penis that looks like a hooked hypodermic needle pierces the females abdomen, injecting sperm directly into the body cavity.
Nor are females always on the receiving end. Several species of spider practice sexual cannibalism in which larger lady arachnids eat their mates but only after the deed is done.
Changes interdependent
For the seed beetle experiment, the insects were gathered from 13 locations around the world including Benin, Brazil, California, Nigeria, South India and Yemen. They were raised separately under identical laboratory conditions.
The scientists were thus able to show that changes across generations in each sex’s genitalia, which varied from population to population, were interdependent.
Many animal species display low levels of sexual conflict, but such behavior rarely leads to the full-on “arms race” escalation seen in seed beetles, Dougherty noted. —AFP


Dinosaur fossil found to still have skin and more

  • Published in Tech


For archeologists, discovering a nearly complete set of dinosaur bones in a dig is already considered a great find. Imagine how happy they are now to find the fossilized remains of a nodosaur (heavily armored plant-eating dinosaurs) that still has bits of skin and other organic matter intact.

The nodosaur remains were actually discovered back in 2011 by a miner and only revealed to the world on May 12, 2017, reports National Geographic.

This fossil specimen was so well-preserved that patches of its skin, armor and even what archeologists speculate to be its last meal remained, after being entombed in the earth for 110 million years.

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

“It was like a ‘Game of Thrones’ dragon,” says photographer Robert Clark. “It was so dimensional, like a prop from a movie.”

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

Clark has been shooting stories for National Geographic for a long time but he describes this fossil to be “kind of another level.”

Gizmodo reports that Caleb Brown, one of the paleontologists who has been studying the fossil since 2011 said, “This is one of the best preserved dinosaurs in the world.”

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

Image: Robert Clark/National Geographic

Brown and his team are currently doing CT scans to help analyze the preserved innards of the nodosaur.

Brown also explained that the nodosaur was so beautifully, preserved thanks to being submerged in an ocean and then covered with layers of sediment.

“It’s not just the texture of the skin, some of the organics are still there,” said Brown.

The nodosaur fossil is currently being displayed at Alberta’s Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology. Clark’s photos of the fossil will be released on the June 2017 issue of National Geographic. Alfred Bayle/JB

Read more: https://technology.inquirer.net/62706/dinosaur-fossil-found-to-still-have-skin-and-more#ixzz4hJOn5xy6 
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US awards science, technology, and innovation grants to Filipino scholars, universities

Manila – The United States government, through the US Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recognized 10 research scholars and 37 grant recipients in science, technology, and innovation who support the Philippine government’s push for innovation-led and inclusive growth.

The grants and scholarships are awarded by USAID’s Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) project, which boosts science and technology research in the Philippines to stimulate inclusive economic growth.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim personally acknowledged the individual scholars and the research grant recipients. “Our grantees represent the best scientific minds in the Philippines,” said Ambassador Kim. “We look forward to the results of their research projects that will upgrade industries, generate jobs and investments, and build skills and capacities in communities, academic institutions, and companies.”
The awards included 24 P5 million ($100,000), one-year research grants to Philippine universities to undertake collaborative research with US universities on disciplines that contribute to high-growth sectors, including electronics, chemical industries, alternative energy, agri-business, and information technology.

USAID also funded 10 prototype development research grants, valued at P1.15 million ($23,000) each, and three innovation development grants that address human development challenges, valued at about P4 million ($80,000) each.

The universities who received research grants include University of the Philippines Diliman, Western Philippines University, University of Southeastern Philippines, and the Technological Institute of the Philippines.
USAID’s $32 million Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Project is the US government’s largest higher education project in the Philippines. The five-year project strengthens the Philippines’ capacity for innovation-led inclusive growth through strengthening applied research capabilities in Philippine universities and industries, and bolstering human capacity development in science, technology and innovation (STI).

To date, the project has awarded approximately $5.5 million in collaborative science, technology, and innovation research grants to more than 20 universities around the country. It has awarded 56 scholarships to Filipinos to study in US universities, provided advanced technical training to scientists and researchers, and brought 28 U.S. professors to visit the Philippines. STRIDE is also establishing 10 knowledge and technology transfer offices at select universities in the Philippines.

USAID’s STRIDE project is implemented by RTI International, in collaboration with sub-grantees including the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, Florida State University, Rutgers University, and local non-profit Philippine Business for Education.

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