Biology

A Klosneuvirus seen with an electronic microscope (Image courtesy Schulz et al.)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the identification of a new group of giant viruses that were called Klosneuviruses. A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the University of Vienna believe that they evolved from normal-sized viruses acquiring genes from their host organisms growing abnormally for viruses.

Mertensia ovum, a species of ctenophores (Photo courtesy Arctic Exploration 2002, Kevin Raskoff, MBARI, NOAA/OER)

An article published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” offers an answer to the arguments about the most ancient group of animals appeared on Earth. According to a team of evolutionary biologists at Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison ctenophores were the first animals and not sponges, as many believe. This conclusion was reached by comparing a set of genes of 18 branches of the living beings’ family tree using 6 of animals, plants and fungi as a control branches.

An article published in the journal “Cell” describes a research on cephalopods that revealed that in particular in the coleoids (Coleoidea) subclass that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish there can be an RNA editing that allows a better adaptation to the environment and in particular to cold. According to the researchers this mechanism comes at the expense of the evolution of DNA.

Crystals of the Naica cave

At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute Penelope Boston announced the discovery of microorganisms in the Naica cave in Mexico, also known as the Cave of the Crystals because of the enormous gypsum crystals in which the bacteria were found. Those might be unique extremophile bacteria that adapted to the conditions existing in the cave.

Quinoa plants

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the DNA sequencing of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). A team of researchers led by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia made a genetic mapping of this plant highly regarded for its high nutritional content. The knowledge obtained is already used by farmers to improve its varieties and could allow to expand its cultivation.