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Mon, 22 Apr 2019
The World for People who Think



Giant prehistoric lion fossil discovered hiding in Kenya's museum

Ancient Lion
© Mauricio Anton
An artist's rendering of Simbakubwa kutoaafrika, which lived 22 million years ago and had a huge skull, as large as a rhinoceros.
Matthew Borths discovered a giant prehistoric lion on his lunch break.

While examining drawers at the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya, Borths, a carnivore paleontologist, opened a drawer of Ice Age specimens and noticed a row of huge teeth staring back at him. He immediately realized the gigantic jaw was not an Ice Age specimen at all. A few years earlier, Nancy Stevens, a paleontologist at Ohio University, had opened the same drawer and noticed the same set of teeth.

The fossils, which date back 22 million years, were originally unearthed when Kenyan researchers were scouring the African plains looking for ancient ape bones decades ago. They'd been hidden away in the wrong museum drawer for years. When Borth and Stevens came along, the duo quickly realized they had found a new species of prehistoric lion. The team were able to examine portions of the creature's skull, its jaw and parts of its skeleton and discovered it is the oldest specimen of a group of mammals known as hyaenodonts.

The new carnivore has been dubbed Simbakubwa kutoaafrika, which is Swahili for "big lion from Africa". It is described in a study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on April 18, which suggests the beast was bigger than a polar bear and had canine teeth as big as an adult foot.


Biologist study finds mercury in predator peregrine falcons

Peregrine falcon
A Nevada wildlife researcher has found that not even the fastest bird on Earth can escape mercury contamination.

The toxic element is turning up in feathers of peregrine falcons from coast to coast, including those at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, state Department of Wildlife biologist Joe Barnes .

Over the past decade, Barnes has tested for mercury in 700 individual peregrines in southern Nevada, Washington, Maryland and the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Every single one of them was impacted, regardless of whether they live in wide-open desert or Lake Mead or Greenland or coastal British Columbia, he said.

Comment: See also: Famous falcon family returns to FM building spire in Moscow


The fabella, tiny knee bone once lost in humans, is making a comeback

The Fabella
The fabella (small dot on the right of each scan) is a little bone embedded in a tendon of the knee in some people.
Textbooks will tell you that the human body contains 206 bones. But sometimes, there are 207. The fabella, a small bone in a tendon behind the knee, was lost over the course of early human evolution, but these days it's becoming more common, according to a study published this week (April 17) in the Journal of Anatomy.

The bone has been linked to knee problems, and the authors argue that the fabella should be taken into account when treating people with knee pain.

Michael Berthaume of Imperial College London and his colleagues gathered data from more than 21,000 studies of the knee spanning the past 150 years, and found that between 1918 and 2018, the fabella has become more than three times more common. In 1918, the bone was found in just 11 percent of the world population, according to their data. Last year, it was present in 39 percent of people. The researchers' analyses controlled for the method of data collection, which included X-rays, dissection, and MRI scans, as well as country of origin.

"The average human, today, is better nourished, meaning we are taller and heavier," Berthaume says in a press release. "This came with longer shinbones and larger calf muscles-changes which both put the knee under increasing pressure. This could explain why fabellae are more common now than they once were." The researchers suggest that genetics may influence whether people have the ability to develop fabellae, but if they do, environmental factors such as the mechanical forces that the knee experiences likely drive the bones' formation.

Black Cat 2

Man attacked by bobcat on Connecticut golf course

A bobcat that attacked a golfer in Connecticut was beaten off by golf clubs before environmental police tracked it down and killed it, authorities said.

The bobcat attacked the golfer at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday on the Mohegan Sun Golf Course in the Baltic section of Sprague, according to a statement from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

General manager Philip Krick Jr. a foursome was near a fairway bunker on the seventh hole when the cat jumped on one mans back. Krick and police said the man in his 60s and another golfer in his group used their clubs to beat the cat away.

Comment: See also: 'I wasn't dying today:' Grandmother kills rabid bobcat with her bare hands


Sleeping toddler dragged from camper van by dingo on Fraser Island, Australia - third attack on a child this year

A dingo on the beach a Fraser Island.
© Lachie Millard
A dingo on the beach a Fraser Island.
A Brisbane father has saved his son from a dingo attack in Queensland after the animal dragged the sleeping child from a campervan.

The 14-month-old was asleep with his parents on a remote part of Fraser Island when the dog entered the vehicle and bit the toddler's neck on Thursday night.

The toddler began crying when the dingo dragged him away, alerting his parents.

The child's father fought off the dog, snatching him from its jaws before chasing off several other dingoes.


Husband killed, wife fighting for life after being attacked by pet deer in Victoria, Australia

Moyhu deer attack

Moyhu deer attack
A 47-year-old man has died and his wife is fighting for life after they were attacked by their pet deer in north-east Victoria.

Paul McDonald was feeding the deer at his property in Moyhu, near Wangaratta, about 8.20am today when the animal attacked.

"At some point while he was in the enclosure he was attacked by the deer," Acting Senior Sargent Paul Purcell said.

Mr McDonald's wife, Mandi, 45, and their son rushed to provide assistance when they heard a noises.

Mandi entered the enclosure and was also attacked before the couple's son dragged her away from the family pet.


2 dead whales wash up on San Francisco Bay area shores in a day - 5 since March

The dead whale’s body resting on the shore
© North County Fire Authority
The dead whale’s body resting on the shore
Two dead whale carcasses washed up on Bay Area shores on Tuesday afternoon, one in Richmond and one near Manor Beach in Pacifica. This marks five dead whales on the region's shores since March.

Pacifica police said they received a call about a dead whale around noon on Tuesday. They estimated the whale was approximately 35 feet long, but didn't yet specify what type of whale it was. The location of the whale was 500 Esplanade Drive.

Comment: Single dead whales have also washed up recently in Seattle, Washington and Oyster, Virginia. (On April 14th and 16th respectively.)


Researchers restore partial brain function in pig brains hours after death

Reanimated Pig
© Monika Skolimowska/Picture alliance via Getty Images
There is no threat of reanimated dead pigs terrifying passers-by, at least yet, but porcine brain function has been revived hours after death and decapitation.
Neuroscientists have succeeded in restoring partial function to the brains of decapitated pigs, hours after they were killed.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers led by Zvonimir Vrselja from the Yale School of Medicine in the US report "the restoration and maintenance of microcirculation and molecular and cellular functions of the intact pig brain" up to four hours after death.

The findings, they write, "demonstrate that under appropriate conditions the isolated, intact large mammalian brain possesses an underappreciated capacity" for restoration. The results are at once extraordinary and, legal experts and bioethicists say, deeply concerning.

In effect, Vrselja and colleagues have created the world's first zombie pigs.

They did so by first making a fluid, dubbed BrainEx, which was fed into the vascular system of the brains of the pigs. The animals had earlier been slaughtered for meat production.

The fluid is haemoglobin-based, but contains no cells and does not coagulate. It is propelled through brain veins, arteries and capillaries in a way that mimics the pulsation of proper blood at standard body temperature.

The researchers say BrainEx promotes tissue recovery from anoxia - a lack of oxygen - reduces vascular injury, prevents fluid build-up and "metabolically supports the energy requirements of the brain".


Scientists in China add human gene to Rhesus monkey DNA, making them smarter

Smart Apes
© Composite adapted from Pixabay images
The 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins with concerned scientists attempting to cure Alzheimer's Disease with an experimental drug that they're testing on chimpanzees. Naturally, things spiral out of control, eventually leading to a super-intelligent chimps, a pandemic, and two sequels that deal with the dystopia that follows. Given that film made $481.8 million at the box office, you'd think that scientists in China - a country that has already given the world its first set of genetically-altered twins and at least 86 cases of testing CRISPR technology on humans, despite warnings from the global scientific community - would know that perhaps it's not a good idea to monkey about with primate brains.

Well, if you thought that, you're wrong. Scientists in China have successfully added Microcephalin (MCPH1) - a human gene responsible for fetal brain development - to the genome of 11 rhesus monkeys and it seems to be making them smarter. Yes, you read that correctly. According to the scientists, whose research was published in National Science Review, "the transgenic monkeys exhibited better short-term memory and shorter reaction time compared to the wild type controls in the delayed matching to sample task. The presented data represents the first attempt to experimentally interrogate the genetic basis of human brain origin using a transgenic monkey model, and it values the use of nonhuman primates in understanding human unique traits." According to MIT Technology Review, 11 embryonic monkeys were exposed to a virus carrying human MCPH1. The five that survived ended up with between two and five copies of the gene.


Aegean Sea sees 'Very unusual' spike in dolphin deaths

In this photo provided by Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation members of Archipelagos institute carry a dead dolphin at a beach of Samos island, Aegean sea, Greece, on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.
In this photo provided by Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation members of Archipelagos institute carry a dead dolphin at a beach of Samos island, Aegean sea, Greece, on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.
Fifteen dead dolphins have washed up on Greece's Aegean coastline, compared to "one or two" in the same period last year.

The Aegean Sea has seen a "very unusual" spike in dolphin deaths over the past few weeks, a Greek marine conservation group said Monday.

The Archipelagos Institute said while it's still unclear what caused the deaths, the spike followed Turkey's largest-ever navy drills in the region — the Feb. 27-March 8 "Blue Homeland" exercises that made constant use of sonar and practiced with live ammunition.