January 2020

Parioscorpio venator is the oldest known scorpion and could show the transition between aquatic and land life

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” illustrates the identification of the oldest known scorpion species, which lived about 437 million years ago, in the Silurian period. A team of researchers named it Parioscorpio venator after examining fossils discovered in a quarry in Wisconsin in 1985. This species had some anatomical features that are practically identical to those of modern scorpions but the most interesting discovery is in the respiratory structures that indicate that it could live on the mainland. This is the oldest evidence that an animal could survive out of the sea and indicates that at the time at least a part of arachnids had already colonized the mainland.

Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale

The novel “Prisoner of the Daleks” by Trevor Baxendale was published for the first time in 2009.

The Tenth Doctor arrives on the planet Hurala in an area that seems completely deserted. When he finds a computer room, he gets trapped in it and has to wait some days, when a group of bounty hunters arrive in search of fule for their spaceship and free him. There’s very little time for pleasantries because a Dalek patrol soon arrives and the Doctor is forced to abandon the Tardis to flee aboard the bounty hunters spaceship.

One of the Daleks manages to penetrate the spaceship before it takes off and kills the youngest of the bounty hunters before being immobilized by the Doctor. From the bounty hunters’ tales, he realizes that he ended up in a time when the Daleks are engaged in a war against the first Earth empire so there are strong chances of stumbling upon more Daleks.

A spectacled cobra (Photo Saleem Hameed)

An article published in the journal “Nature Genetics” reports the DNA sequencing of the spectacled cobra, one of the so-called “Big Four”, the four most venomous and dangerous snakes in India. A team of researchers employed a number of genetic techniques that led to the identification of 23,248 genes that encode proteins, including 12,346 genes that regulate its venom glands. The knowledge of this snake’s genome will help develop better antidotes for its deadly venom and the proteins contained in that venom could also be useful for developing various types of drugs.

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The novel “The Long Mars” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter was published for the first time in 2014. It’s the third book of The Long Earth series and follows “The Long War”.

The explosion of the Yellowstone supervolcano devastated North America with global consequences. The migration to other worlds of the Long Earth had a remarkable peak, bringing further changes to humanity. A new expedition aims to explore the Long Earth by going further than ever, finding worlds that are profoundly different from Datum Earth.

Years after the catastrophe, some children start showing intellectual skills superior to those of any human being. Growing up, they start working together and this causes the first serious reactions from common humans. The options under discussion are different but there are some people who want the genocide of this new species.

Cloudinid fossils

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports a study of fossils of organisms belonging to the group of cloudinids that show the oldest traces of a digestive tract. A team of researchers led by the paleobiologist James Schiffbauer of the University of Missouri subjected fossils discovered in Nevada dating back to about 550 million years ago to a micro-CT scan that allowed to recreate a 3D image thanks to which it was possible to examine their internal parts. Among the anatomical structures there’s also a primitive digestive tract, a discovery that helps to understand something more about the relationships between the large groups of today’s animals.