Unravelling the mystery of parrot longevity: Relatively large brain size

Parrots are famous for their intelligence among birds. Among them, species such as sunflower cockatoos and macaws are quite long-lived, and the lifespan in captivity can reach 80 years. Why do they live so long? A new study proves why these parrots live so long: their relatively large brain size.

Scarlet macaw (scarlet macaw, scientific name: Ara macao) and sunflower cockatoo (Sulphur-crested cockatoo) are the longest-lived species among parrots, with an average of 30 years. While large birds such as eagles can live this long, parrots are relatively small and live almost as long as primates.

Why do they live so long? A team from the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated for the first time that parrot brain size is positively associated with longer lifespan, or that improved cognitive abilities may help parrots cope with environmental threats and thus live longer.

The researchers pointed out that more active parrots must be studied in order to obtain better data. After compiling data from more than 130,000 parrots in more than 1,000 zoos, the team found for the first time the average lifespan of 217 parrot species. The average lifespan of medium-sized fig parrots is about 2 Years, the average lifespan of the Scarlet Macaw is 30 years, and the average lifespan of the Sunflower Cockatoo is about 25 years.

Next, the team wanted to test the two hypotheses that “a relatively large brain can prolong lifespan” and “a relatively large brain takes longer to grow, so it also requires a longer lifespan”, so they collected the relative size, average size and average size of the parrot brains of various species. Data such as weight and development were computerized, and the results confirmed that a relatively large brain size could prolong parrot life.

Studies have shown that parrots with relatively large brains have higher cognitive abilities, are more problem-solving in the wild, and therefore live longer. In the future, the team intends to see if social and cultural learning in parrots also contributes to longer lifespan.

The new paper is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

East Antarctica’s first ice shelf collapses

East Antarctica experienced record-breaking heat last week, and new satellite images show an ice shelf the size of Rome has collapsed completely at the same time.

East Antarctica experienced an abnormally high temperature last week. The scientific research station Convoy monitored the temperature in the area to soar to minus 11.8 °C on March 18, which was more than 40 °C higher than the average temperature in the past March. A stream of heat from an atmospheric river is trapped over the Antarctic continent.

Meanwhile, satellite imagery showed the complete collapse of the 1,200-square-kilometer Conger Ice shelf around March 15.

Since the satellites were put into observation in the 1970s, the Kanger Ice Shelf has gradually disintegrated, gradually shrinking into an ice belt 50 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide, one end is connected to the Antarctic continental ice sheet, and the other end is connected to the waters of the Antarctic Ocean. It was connected to Bowman Island until it finally collapsed in March of this year.

The Conger Ice Shelf is small compared to the Larsen B Ice Shelf (3,250 square kilometers) that collapsed more than a decade ago, but ice shelf collapses typically occur in the fast-moving West Antarctica, and East Antarctica is often considered a Larger and more difficult to move stable ice, so it is surprising that the collapse of the Conger Ice Shelf has been observed for the first time since January 2020.

Scientists said that the Conger Ice Shelf is not an important support gateway for the upper ice layer, and it is impossible to say what caused the collapse of the Kanger Ice Shelf, and it will not have a significant impact on the world. The impact of sea level rise can be measured in tens of meters.

A new alternative to palm oil? Microalgae edible oil may reduce cardiovascular disease risk

Palm oil has a low price and high stability. In addition to being one of the most common edible oils at present, it can even be found in daily necessities such as shampoo, detergent and cosmetics. Alternatives to fat are available, and oils made from algae may be able to replace them.

At present, the world’s largest producer of palm oil is Indonesia, followed by Malaysia. Deforestation is just for the economic benefits of palm oil, causing environmental damage and impacting biodiversity. Even if it contributes to the economy, it is putting the cart before the horse; on the other hand Palm oil is also 52% saturated fat, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease or other health problems.

To that end, a scientific team from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the University of Malaya in Malaysia set out to study an oil-producing microalgae called Chromochloris zofingiensis.

Compared with palm oil, microalgae oil contains more polyunsaturated fatty acids and less saturated fatty acids, which helps reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

The process is not difficult. The team first added pyruvate to the microalgae solution, and then placed it under a laboratory UV lamp to stimulate photosynthesis. After 14 days, the algae were removed, cleaned and dried, and then methanol was used to break the algal protein and photosynthesis. The role of the algae protein in the production of oil, and ultimately the production of a new generation of edible oil.

Fortunately, scientists have also discovered that pyruvic acid can also be produced by fermenting organic agricultural wastes such as soybean residue and fruit peels. In large-scale production facilities, ultraviolet rays can also be used to replace sunlight, and algae can also absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide during the growth process and convert it into biomass.

The team claims that the quality of the new algal oil is comparable to that of palm oil, but the current 160 grams of microalgae oil can only satisfy a 100-gram chocolate bar.

William Chen, Chair Professor of Food Science and Technology at NTU, said the team hopes to find potential uses of waste through the concept of circular economy, and finally return the waste back to the food chain. Today we rely on nature’s key process of “fermentation” to convert organic matter into a nutrient-rich solution that can be used to cultivate algae, which not only helps reduce palm oil dependence, but also reduces carbon.

New lander version split in two, Perseverance Mars samples delayed until 2033

In order to bring the samples collected by the Perseverance rover back to Earth, NASA has plans to launch new landers, rovers and Mars ascent vehicles to connect the samples. But after some thought, NASA and ESA decided to revise the lander design to reduce the risk of failure and postpone the sample return mission to 2033.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is wandering around the Jezero crater and is expected to collect dozens of surface samples during its work period, waiting for the SRL lander (Sample Retrieval Lander) to take the Mars Ascent Vehicle (Mars Ascent Vehicle) in a few years. , MAV) arrived with another fetch rover, took these samples and handed them over to MAV, which then launched from the surface of Mars into Mars orbit, transferred the samples to the ERO orbiter, and finally brought the material back to Earth in 2031.

However, after further analysis, since a single lander needs a larger heat shield protection, the diameter is estimated to be 5.4 meters, which in turn requires a larger fairing to fit into the lander; in addition, whether the large lander can enter smoothly , descent and landing on Mars “unproven”, so NASA and ESA decided to change the design and split the SRL lander into two, one to carry the rover and the other to carry the MAV, so that the dual lander can be designed to carry the same The same system on Perseverance and Curiosity.

After the design change, the launch of the dual lander will be postponed to 2028, the launch of the ERO orbiter will be postponed from 2026 to 2027, and the Mars sample return mission will be postponed to 2033. NASA has yet to decide who will build the SRL2 lander that will carry the rover, which is expected to be announced in June.

Earth’s toughest superbug can survive in space for 3 years

70 years ago, scientists discovered the existence of “Deinococcus radiodurans” in a high-dose gamma radiation disinfection experiment, which was later rated as the strongest microorganism on the surface by the Guinness World Records (water bears are the strongest organisms on the surface). Scientists then want to know how long it can survive in space. According to the report after being sent to the International Space Station, Deinococcus radiodurans can survive in space for nearly 3 years.

Deinococcus radiodurans (D. radiodurans) is an extremophile that is immune to radiation and can withstand up to 10,000 times the dose of radiation that kills humans and 15 times that of cockroaches, although D. radiodurans Each cell is cut into 1,000 to 2,000 DNA fragments under high doses of radiation, but it heals on its own within 24 hours.

So scientists naturally wondered what would happen if Deinococcus radiodurans migrated to outer space. In 2015, scientists sent dehydrated Deinococcus radiodurans to the International Space Station for experiments. After a year of radiation bombardment, severe temperature changes and a weightless environment experiment, they brought it back to Earth. Finally survived for up to 3 years.

Considering that Deinococcus radiodurans is resistant to overdose radiation, scientists believe that if this superbug can be genetically modified to evolve into digestible nuclear waste, it may one day become a solution to the nuclear waste problem.

Thousands evacuated in Philippines as Taal volcano briefly erupts

The Taal volcano on the island of Sonlu in the Philippines erupted on the morning of the 26th, sending out 1,500 meters of steam and ash that forced thousands of people to evacuate.

Located about 50 kilometers from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, Sonlu Island is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. It has recorded 33 volcanic eruptions since 1572. The eruption in 1911 killed more than 1,000 people, and the eruption in January 2020 also caused Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and ash drifted up into Manila, temporarily closing the airport.

Taal volcano is located in the center of Taal Lake. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said it erupted “briefly” at 7:22 a.m. After the magma came into contact with the volcanic lake, it triggered a steam explosion and earthquake.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also issued a three-level alert, indicating that magma has invaded the main crater and may cause the next eruption. More than 12,000 people in five villages in Hukou have been ordered to evacuate, the regional civil protection agency said, with attention to a “volcanic tsunami” of volcanic gas, ash and debris.

Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, pointed out that this was a strong eruption, but now the volcano has calmed down, but it is not clear whether there will be a next eruption. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology may lower the alert level if there is no rise or a downward trend after two weeks of close monitoring.

Taiwan sends swine fever-like virus to outer space for the first time, paving the way for the development of vaccine drugs

“Five, four, three, two, one, launch!” The space station gave an order. The SpaceX rocket spewed a lot of fuel, raised billowing smoke and dust, and lifted off with swine fever-like virus particles. This is the first time Taiwan has launched a Virus particles are sent to outer space, and the virus has to go on a one-month “crystal growth journey” in space before returning to Earth.

It is difficult for the public to imagine that this batch of swine fever-like viruses first crossed the sea to Japan, and then sent to the United States for launch, a journey of tens of thousands of kilometers. It took more than 8 months before and after the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center to complete. It took a lot of effort to send it to outer space, Chen Junrong, deputy director of the National Radiation Center explained, in order to “see clearly” the structure of the virus.

Chen Junrong said that before developing vaccines or drugs, the first task is to understand the virus first. Mastering the structure of the virus has always been the focus of scientists, but the earth has gravity, temperature, humidity and other factors that affect the formation of virus crystals, which will affect research to some extent. In space, there is no interference factor, which helps the virus to form large perfect crystals, which is beneficial to understand the fine structure of the virus.

In fact, biotechnology companies in the United States, Japan and other countries have already sent proteins to outer space for the purpose of developing targeted vaccines or drugs. Chen Junrong studied in the United States when he was young, and he also participated in similar space experiments. The idea of ​​space is not unfamiliar at all. After returning to Taiwan, there was no chance until Zhang Huaiqian, the founder of Sunwing Advanced Technology, came to the door and offered to cooperate, and started the project.

As the saying goes, “Everything is difficult at the beginning”, which is also reflected in the first virus sailing mission. The National Radiation Center can purify the swine fever virus protein and assemble it into virus-like particles, which do not contain genetic material, making it non-infectious, but space crystal growth. Handling skills and methods, the Taiwanese team has no experience and no relevant equipment.

Yangyi, as the Taiwan general agent of Japan Space BD Co., Ltd., Chen Junrong’s team asked Japan to send equipment to simulate the test in the Taiwan laboratory.

However, the crystal growth effect in the first test was not good, and the device was used up. Chen Junrong had to ask Space BD to send another batch of equipment for the second test. After more than a month, he finally found suitable parameters. Chen Junrong admitted that the environment is different, and the experimental conditions need to be re-explored.

In the end, the National Radiation Center used Space BD equipment and methods to send out 5 tubes of viral proteins and 5 tubes of specific liquids, a total of 10 test tubes were sent to the Space BD headquarters in Japan, and were sent to the United States by Japanese businessmen. The final assembly was placed in a special device. Once sent to the International Space Station in outer space, the virus-like particles and the uniquely formulated chemical solution slowly fuse in a gravity-free environment to further grow crystals.

However, the virus protein has to travel far to Japan, which is another test. Chen Junrong specially negotiated with a courier company that can guarantee the whole process of low temperature. The purpose is to ensure that the samples are fresh and pass through customs smoothly and directly to Japan. The package also has a tracking code attached, so that you can always grasp it. Latest News. Even the delivery date is deduced from the sand table.

Chen Junrong said that if it was sent on Tuesday, it might arrive in Japan on the weekend, and the Japanese business might not receive the sample package. If it was processed two days later, no one could tell what would happen, so he insisted that the courier company would get the package on Monday. goods. “During the transportation of the samples, the treatment specifications are better than people’s,” he said with a smile.

This batch of swine fever-like virus particles was successfully sent to space in December last year. After a month of “crystal growth journey”, they returned to Earth. The crystal samples were processed by Japan’s Space BD and then rapidly frozen at liquid nitrogen temperature before being sent to China. spoke center. In the follow-up, the National Radiation Center will use high-intensity X-rays to inspect the crystal quality and identify the structure, and plan to cooperate with the school on the research of swine fever virus particles, and ultimately hope to develop vaccines or drugs.

After having this experience, Chen Junrong said that the team also plans to send another batch of different virus-like particles into space in the third quarter of this year, and conduct space crystal growth experiments for more than 4 months, hoping to increase the number of crystals by extending the experimental time. Growth opportunities and effects.

Why does nature generally evolve symmetry?

In biology and nature, symmetry is often the rule rather than the exception. For example, the human body has symmetrical organs, butterflies have symmetrical wings, and even proteins and RNAs have symmetrical structures. Why does evolution favor symmetry so much? Biologists can’t explain it, but the field of computer science may be able to answer the question: Simulations show that symmetric structures work best.

While symmetric structures don’t necessarily seem as mathematically rigorous, and asymmetries do exist in nature and in living organisms (such as the heart), asymmetry is rarer than symmetry. Why does evolution favor symmetrical structures? Obviously the reason is not good-looking, according to the research team of Iain Johnston, a professor of mathematics at the University of Bergen in Norway, the reason is “simple, easy to do”.

Natural selection automatically preserves survival-friendly traits during evolution. The research team analyzed thousands of protein complexes and RNA structures, molecular models that control the way genes switch on and off, and found that evolution particularly favors symmetry, because it produces symmetric Instructions are more easily embedded in the genetic code, making molecules work more skillfully.

Iain Johnston explains: “Imagine asking a worker to quickly lay the floor. You wouldn’t say rectangles here, diamonds there, diamonds here, wood there; instead you would say: square tiles all.” This simple and easy-to-handle configuration produces highly symmetrical results.

The simulations showed that if simple structures were enough to get the job done, natural selection would take over and take advantage of those structures, with evolution favoring low-complexity, high-symmetry structures over low-symmetry complex structures.

The new paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Not a dinosaur? Peruvian paleontologists discover 36-million-year-old sea monster skull

Paleontologists are happy to say that ancient fossil skulls of sea monsters have been dug up in the rock formations of the Peruvian desert. This is a ferocious-looking sea monster, and it is likely to be a species that has not been found in the past.

Dig a sea monster
On March 17, Peruvian paleontologists announced that they had unearthed the fossilized skulls of ancient marine predators in the dry rock layers of the Ocucaje Desert.

Ancestors of whales and dolphins
Similar to the ancient sea monsters described by people, this large marine creature living in prehistoric times not only has a terrifying sharp tooth, but also has four feet about 1.2 meters long and a body length of 12 meters. The bus is big.

It lived in the ocean 36 million years ago, probably in the geological age of the Eocene epoch, and was the top and most ferocious predator at that time, as well as the ancient ancestor of modern whales and dolphins.

Destructive Creature
Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, who studies paleo-spine zoology at the Museum of Natural History Lima, Peru, said: “This is a sea monster! When it goes out to feed , it must have done a lot of damage.”

One-of-a-kind discovery
Paleontologist Mario Urbina, who is also the discoverer of this skull fossil, said that the skull is in a very good state of preservation. The skull fossil was dug up at the end of 2021, and it is speculated that it is derived from tuna, sharks and adults. Group of sardines for food.

Urbina stressed: “This discovery is very important because no specimens of similar species have been seen before.”

Gismondi added: “It has a different body size and teeth from the ancient whale species, and from these clues, it is at the top of the food chain.”

Thinking about ancient Peru
“Thanks to these fossils, we know that the Peruvian ocean was warm at the time, and we can reconstruct what the historical Peruvian ocean looked like,” Gismondi said.

The Okucaye Desert in Peru is rich in fossil remains, where whale ancestors, dolphins, sharks and other ancient creatures have been unearthed.

Tentative name: Predator of Okukaye
Paleontologists call this prehistoric creature “Ocucaje Predator” for now, and first classify it as a species of Basilosaurus. In the future, the research team will publish a scientific report on this species. And after peer review, further official names will be given.

Ancient dragon king whale
The researchers said that the Peruvian desert is now a shallow sea in ancient times. About 41 million to 34 million years ago, the dragon king whale and its ferocious relatives were the top predators in that area, appearing like a giant snake in the ocean.

However, the dragon king whale does not look like a snake at all. The difference between it and the snake is that it has two huge webs near the head.

Snake whales are difficult to distinguish?
Researchers in the past have also made similar mistakes, mistaking it for a reptile because its skeleton is too similar to a sea snake. According to the Smithsonian (Smithsonian), the scientific name of the dragon king whale, Basilosaurus, actually means the king lizard, but fortunately, researchers later figured out its true identity and learned that it is a marine mammal: the aquatic cetacean family (aquatic cetacean family). cetacean family).

Millions of years of evolution
The most ancient mammalian ancestors of whales lived on land and evolved into a semi-aquatic state after millions of years of evolution. Ten million years after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, these ancestors eventually evolved into fully aquatic marine life, and the first cetaceans were born, and gradually developed into the 90 species of whales and dolphins known today.

Large-scale coral bleaching observed again on Great Barrier Reef in rare anti-Christian year

The adverse effects of global warming and climate change on the environment continue. Even though this year is an anti-El Niño year with cooler sea temperatures, Australian government officials have confirmed that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is facing another large-scale coral bleaching event; there is also a large iceberg in Antarctica. Shelf collapsed.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest and longest coral reef group in the world, covering an area of ​​345,000 square kilometers and home to more than 1,600 species of fish and more than 600 types of coral, but due to climate change, over-tourism and other reasons, the condition of the Great Barrier Reef is deteriorating, and the coral bleaching crisis is increasing day by day. Serious day.

Rising sea temperatures have led to large-scale coral bleaching, and this is the fourth time in six years that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has observed such severe and large-scale bleaching. Scientists believe that if the world’s largest coral reef system is to be protected, Action on climate change is needed as soon as possible.

What is worrying is that this year is still the anti-elius phenomenon, that is, the sea level in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean is colder than usual, which means that even though the sea temperature is relatively cold, coral reefs are still bleached. What degree of damage will be caused to corals in the year of the Holy Child, when the temperature is abnormally warmed?

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has warned that water temperatures on some reefs are 4 degrees warmer than the March average, and weather in the coming weeks will also affect the severity of bleaching.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was heartbreaking to see mass coral bleaching again, and the ongoing bleaching events have hit tourism hard, as well as everyone who loves the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

For the record, scientists first observed mass bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and have since become more frequent, with observations in 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

On the other hand, hot weather is also affecting the Antarctic below Australia. Satellite imagery shows another massive ice shelf collapsed in Antarctica after a record-breaking heat of 40 degrees higher than usual.

The US National Ice Center said on March 17 that the Concordia Research Station, just a few thousand kilometers from the South Pole, observed a record high of -11.8 degrees Celsius, iceberg C-38 Conger (Conger) Ice The rack is detached from Wilkes Land. It is reported that the area of ​​the Conger Ice Shelf is about 1,200 square kilometers, which is the size of Los Angeles.