Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Giant prehistoric dinosaur cousin of T. rex identified

Giant prehistoric dinosaur cousin of T. rex identified
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Artist’s impression of Zhuchengtyrannus magnus courtesy of Robert Nicholls
Zhuchengtyrannus magnus weighed approximately six tonnes

A giant predatory theropod dinosaur, similar in size and stature to Tyrannosaurus rex, has been identified by palaeontologists.

The new dinosaur, named Zhuchengtyrannus magnus, probably stood four metres tall, was 11 metres long and weighed around six tonnes.

Like T. rex, it was a carnivore with huge powerful jaws.

It ran on strong back legs, with puny front limbs, scientists report in the journal Cretaceous Research.

"There is no doubt that Zhuchengtyrannus was a huge tyrannosaurine," says Dr David Hone from University College in Dublin, Ireland, who led the team that discovered and named it.

"With only some skull and jaw bones to work with, it is difficult to precisely gauge the overall size of this animal.

"But the bones we have are just a few centimetres smaller than the equivalent ones in the largest T. rex specimen."

The newly discovered creature's name means "Tyrant from Zhucheng", as its bones were found in the city of Zhucheng, in eastern China's Shandong Province.

Tyrannosaurines are a specialised group of gigantic theropods - a group of dinosaurs that likely evolved into modern birds.

Jaw bones discovered
The dinosaur's jaws lower jaw and teeth revealed clues about its diet

They existed in North America and eastern Asia during the Late Cretaceous Period, which lasted from about 99 to 65 million years ago.

The group, which includes T. rex and its closest relatives, such as the Asian Tarbosaurus, were huge carnivores characterised by small arms, two-fingered hands, and large powerful jaws that could have delivered a bone-crushing bite.

They were likely both predators and scavengers.

However, Zhuchengtyrannus stands apart from other tyrannosaurines due to a combination of unique features in the skull not seen in any other theropod.

As well as a piece of lower jaw containing seven partly to fully erupted teeth, scientists found another piece of jaw bone containing eight teeth.

The size and character of the bones strongly suggest that the specimen was an adult.

For example, the teeth in the predatory dinosaur measure 10cm long.

Fossil flood

Among the international team of scientists involved in the study was Professor Xu Xing of the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology in China, who has named more than 30 dinosaurs.

The skull and jaw bones were found in a quarry, which contains one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur bones in the world.

Most of the specimens recovered from the quarry belong to a gigantic species of hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.

Research suggests that the area contains so many dinosaur fossils because it was a large flood plain where many dinosaur bodies were washed together during floods and fossilised.

Tens of thousands of bristle worms invade Florida beach in 'mating frenzy'

Tens of thousands of bristle worms invade Florida beach in 'mating frenzy'

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:28 PM on 4th April 2011

It's enough to put you off paddling for life.

Fishermen in Vilano Beach, Florida, woke up to a red sea this morning after it was invaded by tens of thousands of wriggling bristle worms.

The sea seethed with the slimy creatures, which appeared after what scientists called a 'classic mating frenzy'.

Creepy crawlies: Tens of thousands of bristle worms invaded Vilano Beach, Florida last night after their annual mating frenzy

Creepy crawlies: Tens of thousands of bristle worms invaded Vilano Beach, Florida last night after their annual mating frenzy

Corporal Brandon Embrey, of St Augustine Police, said: 'There had to be millions of them, I couldn't see the bottom. All I could see was red.'

Locals told Channel 4 the worms are an annual fixture - but this was the biggest swarm they'd seen in more than a decade.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was a common occurrence, and beachgoers had no need to worry.

Worms with bite: The slimy creatures have strong jaws which can give a painful sting, but they are not harmful to humans

Worms with bite: The slimy creatures have strong jaws which can give a painful sting, but they are not harmful to humans

Brunch time: The swarm of worms had mostly disappeared by mid-afternoon, after mullet fish tucked into an all-day feast

Brunch time: The swarm of worms had mostly disappeared by mid-afternoon, after mullet fish tucked into an all-day feast


Bristle worms (polychaete) are segmented worms which can grow in size from one inch to 20 inches.

The smaller worms are an orange colour, but the bigger ones are grey or brownish.

They are nocturnal, and usually live in sand or inside the live rock. They are rarely seen during the day.

Bristle worms are known as roving carnivores, and have long been considered as bad for other fish, especially in a tank.

They have bristles which can sting, and have strong jaws when feeding which can give you a sharp pinch.

The larger worms are aggressive predators which can attack clams, anemones, corals and even fish.

But some experts say they are harmless scavengers, who clean up fish tanks by eating dead animals.

They go through their spawning ritual each year, in a certain moon phase or when the water reaches a warm enough temperature.

And by mid-afternoon, most of the worms had disappeared as mullet fish enjoyed a feast for breakfast - and lunch. The rest died off quite quickly.

The worms, which have bristles along their entire length, aren't harmful to humans but the bigger ones can give you a sharp pinch.

They can range in size from an inch to 20-inches in length, and are a deep orange colour.

Dr Quinton White, a professor of marine biology, told WXJTV the frenzy happens every year, when the salt water warms up enough.

A local fisherman told First Coast News they can be bad for fishing because mullets eat so many worms they're too full to take the bait.

But charter boat captain Dennis Goldstein said: 'People who fish all the time, they're used to it and kind of welcome seeing this, 'cause you know it's coming into spring time.

'This shows up and your cobia will be showing up right after that. They ought to have a big festival for it or something you know, a big worm festival.'

Fishing is likely to be affected for a few days while the mullet finish off the rest of the swarm.

Read more:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Scientists have created genetically modified cattle that produce "human" milk in a bid to make cows' milk more nutritious.

Scientists have created genetically modified cattle that produce human milk in a bid to make cows' milk more nutritious.
Researchers say they are able to create cows that produce milk containing a human protein called lysozyme Photo: PA

The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.

Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.

The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute.

They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.

The work is likely to inflame opposition to GM foods. Critics of the technology and animal welfare groups reacted angrily to the research, questioning the safety of milk from genetically modified animals and its effect on the cattle's health.

But Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows.

He said: "The milk tastes stronger than normal milk.

“We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”

China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.

The researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before the genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows.

Writing in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers said they were able to create cows that produced milk containing a human protein called lysozyme,

Lysozyme is an antimicrobial protein naturally found in large quantities in human breast milk. It helps to protect infants from bacterial infections during their early days of life.

They created cows that produce another protein from human milk called lactoferrin, which helps to boost the numbers of immune cells in babies. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also produced by the cows.

The scientists also revealed at an exhibition at the China Agricultural University that they have boosted milk fat content by around 20 per cent and have also changed the levels of milk solids, making it closer to the composition of human milk as well as having the same immune-boosting properties.

Professor Li and his colleagues, who have been working with the Beijing GenProtein Biotechnology Company, said their work has shown it was possible to "humanise" cows milk.

In all, the scientists said they have produced a herd of around 300 cows that are able to produce human-like milk.

The transgenic animals are physically identical to ordinary cows.

Writing in the journal, Professor Li said: "Our study describes transgenic cattle whose milk offers the similar nutritional benefits as human milk.

"The modified bovine milk is a possible substitute for human milk. It fulfilled the conception of humanising the bovine milk."

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, he added the “human-like milk” would provide “much higher nutritional content”. He said they had managed to produce three generations of GM cows but for commercial production there would need to be large numbers of cows produced.

He said: “Human milk contains the ‘just right’ proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins for an infant’s optimal growth and development.

“As our daily food, the cow’s milk provided us the basic source of nutrition. But the digestion and absorption problems made it not the perfect food for human being."

The researchers also insist having antimicrobial proteins in the cows milk can also be good for the animals by helping to reduce infections of their udders.

Genetically modified food has become a highly controversial subject and currently they can only be sold in the UK and Europe if they have passed extensive safety testing.

The consumer response to GM food has also been highly negative, resulting in many supermarkets seeking to source products that are GM free.

Campaigners claim GM technology poses a threat to the environment as genes from modified plants can get into wild plant populations and weeds, while they also believe there are doubts about the safety of such foods.

Scientists insist genetically modified foods are unlikely to pose a threat to food safety and in the United States consumers have been eating genetically modified foods for more decades.

However, during two experiments by the Chinese researchers, which resulted in 42 transgenic calves being born, just 26 of the animals survived after ten died shortly after birth, most with gastrointestinal disease, and a further six died within six months of birth.

Researchers accept that the cloning technology used in genetic modification can affect the development and survival of cloned animals, although the reason why is not well understood.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said the organisation was "extremely concerned" about how the GM cows had been produced.

She said: "Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern.

"Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven't already got."

Helen Wallace, director of biotechnology monitoring group GeneWatch UK, said: "We have major concerns about this research to genetically modify cows with human genes.

"There are major welfare issues with genetically modified animals as you get high numbers of still births.

"There is a question about whether milk from these cows is going to be safe from humans and it is really hard to tell that unless you do large clinical trials like you would a drug, so there will be uncertainty about whether it could be harmful to some people.

"Ethically there are issues about mass producing animals in this way."

Professor Keith Campbell, a biologist at the University of Nottingham works with transgenic animals, said: "Genetically modified animals and plants are not going to be harmful unless you deliberately put in a gene that is going to be poisonous. Why would anyone do that in a food?

"Genetically modified food, if done correctly, can provide huge benefit for consumers in terms of producing better products."

Are U.S. government microwave mind-control tests causing TV presenters' brains to melt down?

A bizarre spate of television presenters dissolving into on-air gibberish has sparked claims that the U.S. military could be to blame.

In four high-profile cases, the latest involving fast-talking Judge Judy, the presenters have started off speaking properly but have then descended into undecipherable nonsense - looking confused and unstable.

The frequency of the 'attacks' - and the fact that recorded examples of the mental meltdowns have been popular on websites - has led to conspiracy theorists pointing the finger at shadowy government experiments.

Judge Judy

Latest victim: Judge Judy Sheindlin had to stop her courtroom TV show on Wednesday after descending into nonsensical language

A popular theory being circulated online blames the U.S. Military’s supposed research into using microwaves as a mind control weapon.

America has never admitted conducting such research but proponents say the effects - produced by microwave signals stimulating the brain with fake images and voices - exactly mimic those displayed in the recent on-air breakdowns.

As to why the Pentagon might be targeting U.S. television presenters, the microwave theorists are less clear.

The phenomenon, which has provided internet video sites with some of the oddest footage for months, has now claimed one of America’s most highly paid broadcasters.

Serene Branson
Sarah Carlson

Targeted? Serene Branson's garbled Grammys report became an internet sensation, while WISCTV's Sarah Carlson suffered a similar meltdown in January

Judith Sheindlin, the fast-talking judge on Judge Judy, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after she began speaking a nonsensical string of words during a live recording of her courtroom TV show.

Studio insiders said Sheindlin, who earns £28 million a year for a show that is the most watched programme on American daytime TV, was sitting on camera and 'started saying things that didn’t make any sense'.

Sheindlin then announced she needed to stop as she didn’t feel well and asked a crew member to call an ambulance.

The 68-year-old lawyer was released from hospital the following day but a spokesman said medical tests had not revealed what caused her garbled speech and double vision.

Marl McAllister

Over the border: Mark McAllister, of Canadian Global Toronto News, soldiered on with his report on Libya, despite his words being unintelligible

Her verbal breakdown is the fourth such recent case and the odd coincidence has prompted feverish speculation over the cause.

No video has been released of the Judge Judy incident but footage of the other three has rapidly gone viral on the internet.

The first victim was Serene Branson, a Los Angeles reporter for CBS, who delivered a completely incoherent piece to camera on the Grammy music awards last month.

The presenter was unable to get out her words and continued to struggle to speak for around 10 seconds outside the Staples Centre before producers cut to a video.

She said later: 'My head was definitely pounding and I was very uncomfortable, and I knew something wasn’t right. I was terrified and confused.'

'My head was definitely pounding and I was very uncomfortable, and I knew something wasn’t right. I was terrified and confused'

Her doctor later said she had suffered a complex migraine whose symptoms mimic a stroke.

Her case was followed by a Canadian news reporter whose report on his country’s contribution to the military campaign in Libya suddenly collapsed into gibberish.

Mark McAllister of Global Toronto News told viewers that the Canadian defence minister had confirmed that 'more than sifty four 18 fighter jets are spending about as much as 20 and ready to assist 600 hundred, hundred deployed over the an-amount needed'.

His piece-to-camera went on to become even more odd before he signed off.

His employers later confirmed there had been no problem with the autocue but McAllister had also suffered from a migraine.

In January, Sarah Carlson of WISC-TV in Wisconsin was also struck. She started out fine in her report on Wisconsin’s challenge to Barack Obama’s health care reforms, but it soon became apparent that she was having trouble forming words and the camera switched to a startled-looking co-presenter.

Unlike the others, Carlson, 35, has a history of seizures, but America’s army of conspiracy theorists are unconvinced by the medical explanations.

Read more: