An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes a research showing that there was a rapid evolution of mammals during the Jurassic period, between 200 and 145 million years ago. That period and in general the Mesozoic era, between 252 and 66 million years ago, were the dinosaurs era so we tended to think that mammals lived in their shadow, in ecological niches, such as nocturnal insectivores. Instead, the discovery of new fossils in recent years showed a series of adaptations with a previously unknown diversification.
An article recently published in the “Journal of the Geological Society” describes a research on the fossils of the Lower Fezouata formation in the south-east of Morocco, a deposit discovered only five years ago. These fossils shed light on the evolution of many families of animals in the Ordovician period, between 485 and 444 million years ago. In particular, it shows that some of the oldest animals survived millions of years longer than it was inferred from previously found fossils.
In an article published in the journal “Nature”, an international team of researchers described the discovery of new microbes that constitute a missing link in the evolution of complex cells, those of eukaryotes. They were called Lokiarchaeota because they were found in a hydrothermal vent in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and Norway called Loki’s Castle.
An article published in the journal “Genome Biology” shows that many animals, including humans, acquired genes from microorganisms present in their environment in ancient times. This occurred through horizontal gene transfer (HGT), which transfers genetic material to cells that are not their descendants. The analysis of the genes of various species confirmed 17 genes previously identified as acquired in this way and identified another 128 in the DNA of humans.
Horizontal gene transfer has been known for a long time especially among microorganisms. It’s been identified in primitive multicellular creatures such as nematode worms and even in insects. Only in recent years studies started to assess it among complex plants and animals.
An international team of researchers discovered a type of deep-sea microorganism that appears to have remained unchanged for over 2 billion years. There are many species considered living fossils because they remained very similar in the course of many million of years but this is a really extreme case. Those are sulfu-cycling microorganisms that are now found in mud off the coast of Chile and are indistinguishable from fossils that date back to different past eras.