Asgard archaea in the tree of life (Image courtesy Eva Fernandez-Caceres)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of new microorganisms that provide more information on the evolution of eukaryotic organisms, the ones formed by complex cells. The new species discovered are archaea that were called Thor, Odin and Heimdall, simpler organisms that however have some characteristics found only in eukaryotes and together with another archaea family called Loki whose discovery was announced in September 2015, form a group that was called the Asgard archaea.

Denisova Molar (Photo Thilo Parg / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

An article published in the journal “Molecular Biology and Evolution” describes a genetic research on Greenland Inuits. A team of researchers led by Dr. Fernando Racimo of the New York Genome Center used genomic information of about 200 people and comparing them with those of a number of hominids concluded that in particular two key genes for cold adaptation were inherited from hominids called Denisovans or their close relatives.

Artist's concept of the CALIPSO satellite using its CALIOP instrument (Image NASA/Timothy Marvel)

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” describes the analysis of data collected between 2006 and 2015 on phytoplankton in the polar regions, which allowed to reconstruct their changes and cycles. A team of researchers led by Michael Behrenfeld, an expert on plankton at Oregon State University, obtained this information through NASA’s CALIPSO satellite.

The valves of an ocean quahog

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes a research on the climate changes in the last millennium in the north Atlantic Ocean studied by the shells of ocean quahog (photo ¬©Hans Hillewaert). This species, scientifically called Arctica islandica, is the longest-living animal in the world, therefore the growth rings of its shells can provide a lot of information on the environment in which they formed.

Invertebrate schematic (Image courtesy University of Sydney)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of 1,445 new RNA viruses, or retroviruses, including some previously unknown families. A team from the University of Sydney and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing focused on invertebrates to discover the viruses that infect them. The use of new technologies allowed to extend the knowledge of virus families but also of for ways to determine what cause human diseases.