Scientists have uncovered the earliest fossilized evidence of an insect caring for its young.
The findings, published in the journal eLife, push back the earliest direct evidence of insect brood care by more than 50 million years, to at least 100 million years ago. The new fossil is the only record of an adult female insect from the Mesozoic, an era that spanned roughly 180 million years. The Mesozoic era was the age of the reptiles and saw both the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, as well as the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea.
The female ensign scale insect is preserved in a piece of amber retrieved from a mine in northern Myanmar (Burma). The specimen was trapped while carrying around 60 eggs and her first freshly hatched nymphs. elifesciences.org
Mathematician forecasts MLB regular-season victors
This is the 18th year New Jersey Institute of Technology mathematical sciences professor and associate dean Bruce Bukiet has published his model’s projections of how Major League Baseball standings should look at the end of the regular season. Over the years, Bukiet has applied mathematical analysis to compute the number of regular season games each team should win. Though his expertise is in mathematical modeling rather than baseball, his projections have consistently compared well with those of so-called experts.
In the American League, Bukiet predicts the Seattle Mariners (90 wins), Detroit Tigers (94) and Toronto Blue Jays (a mere 85 wins) will win the West, Central and East divisions, respectively. In the National League, the Washington Nationals (99 wins and the best record in baseball), St. Louis Cardinals (92 wins) and Los Angeles Dodgers (93 wins) should repeat as winners of the East, Central and West, respectively.
Bukiet makes these projections to demonstrate and promote the power of math. njit.edu
Are specialized brain cells responsible for those food cravings?
The little voice inside your head that tells you to eat, or stop eating, isn’t a little voice – it’s actually a cluster of about 10,000 specialized brain cells. And now, an international team of scientists has found tiny triggers inside those cells that give rise to this “voice” and keep it speaking throughout life.
The new research, done in fish and mice, can’t yet be applied to humans who eat too much or too little. But it reveals how tiny bits of DNA can have a big influence on how the body regulates appetite and weight. It’s the first documentation of exactly how a brain cell gene involved in weight regulation is controlled.
In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a recent paper in PLoS Genetics, the team reports their discoveries on genetic factors key to the brain cells (neurons) called POMC cells.
Deep inside the brain, in the hypothalamus, the cluster of POMC neurons act as a control center for feelings of fullness or hunger. They take in signals from the body, and send out chemical signals to regulate appetite and eating.
When POMC neurons are absent, or not working correctly, animals and humans grow dangerously obese. The new findings show in animals that the same thing happens when certain genetic triggers inside the POMC cells aren’t working. umich.edu