Oldest ‘animal’ fossil ever

National Geographic reported this week on the discovery, in Namibia, of the oldest fossils yet found of a multicellular animal.

At 760 million years old, Otavia antiqua is described as a sponge-like multicellular organism about the size of a grain of rice. These organisms were incredibly hardy, remaining relatively unchanged for 200 million years, and surviving at least two ‘Snowball Earth‘ events.

The previous oldest organism was also a sponge, and had been dated to 650 million years.

These organisms represent the earliest ancestors of all the multicellular organisms which have arisen since, from Dinosaurs to Humans.


Image courtesy Anthony Prave, University of St. Andrews


Sea-grass clones older than recorded history

The BBC reports on research into a species of sea grass found in the Mediterranean Sea that may be tens of thousands of years old.

This grass, Posidonia oceanica, reproduces in such a way as to avoid the normal problems with cloning that introduce so-called ‘copy errors’ resulting in mutations which would otherwise limit the survivability of successive generations. By combining both asexual and sexual reproduction Posidonia has been able to grow in colonies up to 15km across on the sea floor for tens of thousands of years.

This research sheds light on how an organism can avoid damaging mutations from one generation to the next while adapting to changing environmental conditions.

BBC’s story here. Original abstract here. Photo via Wikipedia.

An overview of eLearning

Professional Learning Activity

The links below have been compiled with the intent to provide an overview of trends and opinions, as well as some hard advice and useful resources, across a spectrum of transformative effects in education as a result of the impact of technology.

Skim through and, with an idea of your own skill level and areas of interest, sample the least disruptive trends (like the replacement of paper texts with electronic ones), through the introduction of new T&L models (such as ‘flipping’) to wholesale re-imagining of the learning environment where all communication is mediated by communication technologies. Read the rest of this entry »

Near miss? I hope so…

I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories but why have I only just heard about this massive asteroid – about 400m long – predicted to pass Earth inside the Moon’s orbit on the 8th of November?

We can rest assured there is nothing to worry about. The path of this potential harbinger of doom is well understood and highly predictable. No danger at all. This time.

More from NASA. Or Google it – news outlets have started to pick up on it.

That’s not something you see every day.

A star with spiral arms!

This is a young star, surrounded by a ‘circumstellar’ disk of dust twice the diameter of Pluto’s orbit around our Sun. The disk itself has a number of clearly visible arms, much like those we are familiar seeing in the much larger structures of galaxies.

I’m reminded of the quote attributed to J. B. S. Haldane : “the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

via NASA

Hello, beautiful!

A magnificent fossil find in Germany as researchers uncovered an Archaeopteryx specimen missing only its head!

The impression of feathers is particularly clear.

The discovery is outlined in some detail at the i09 blog or you can read about the find at Nature and the Smithsonian’s Dinosaur Tracking page.

Ibuprofen may reduce the risk of Parkinson disease

There are indications, from this research, that ibuprofen reduces the risk of a person developing Parkinson by almost 40%. It is a very large study spread over 6 years, so the results at face-value are worthy of being taken seriously.

I know someone whose regular cure for a headache is to wash down a couple of Nurofen tablets with a tall, strong latte (2 sugars, please) so this news’ll be unlikely to dissuade her from that habit!