The scientific community is stunned by research which backs an Australian Aboriginal legend on how coastal palm trees got to Central Australia. Tasmanian ecologist Professor David Bowman did DNA tests on palm seeds from the outback, and his conclusion is startling ::::
Professor Bowman read an Aboriginal legend recorded in 1894 by pioneering German anthropologist and missionary Carl Strehlow, which was only recently translated, describing the “gods from the north” bringing the seeds to Palm Valley.
In 2012 Professor Bowman and a team of Australian and Japanese researchers set-out to answer the age-old puzzle, ‘how did a the red cabbage palm, Livistona Mariae end up in the middle of the sunburnt country?
In their previous research the scientists found Australian palms came from a Southeast Asian ancestor that was adapted to growing in dry environments, and only adapted to growing in rainforests later on.
However, Professor Bowman and colleagues used a genetic analysis to conclude that L. mariae is actually the same species as another Livistona palm, L. rigida, which grows in two pockets some 1000 kilometres away in northern Australia. The findings feed into a long-standing debate over whether the two are actually the same species or not.
In their study the researchers examined the genetic relationship between the L. mariae and L. rigida in more detail. They compared genetic fingerprints called nuclear microsatellite loci in 14 populations of L. mariae and L. rigida.
The researchers looked at L. mariae from the Finke Gorge’s Palm Valley oasis, and L. rigida from Mataranka, just south of Katherine, and from Lawn Hill near Mount Isa.
They found L. mariae was most closely related to the L. rigida from Mataranka, but the most surprising discovery was how recently the two diverged.
The research estimated that the L. mariae and L. rigida became separated just 15,000 years ago, completely ruling out that the palms in Palm Valley oasis are relics from Gondwana.
“What was shocking for us is that divergence was so recent, within the time period humans have been in Australia. We thought, ‘Yikes, that’s amazing’,” Professor Bowman said in 2012. “The results tell us something transported seeds from Mataranka which is just south of Katherine to Palm Valley 15,000 years ago.”
The results led him to conclude the seeds were carried to the Central Desert by humans, and not relics of a long gone landscape.
Professor Bowman read an Aboriginal legend recorded in 1894 by pioneering German anthropologist and missionary Carl Strehlow, which was only recently translated, describing the “gods from the north” bringing the seeds to Palm Valley. Professor Bowman said he was amazed.
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“We’re talking about a verbal tradition which had been transmitted through generations possibly for over 7,000, possibly 30,000 years,” Professor Bowman said. “Just an amazing coincidence that we’d independently concluded that the seeds had been transported and then subsequently we discover an Aboriginal legend is exactly what we found scientifically.
“The concordance of the findings of a scientific study and an ancient myth is a striking example of how traditional ecological knowledge can inform and enhance scientific research.
“It suggests that Aboriginal oral traditions may have endured for up to 30,000 years, and lends further weight to the idea that some Aboriginal myths pertaining to gigantic animals may be authentic records of extinct megafauna.”
Professor Bowman says that genetics is repeatedly showing how often outlying populations are not relics, but a product of long-distance dispersal instead. Another dispersed plant which was mistakenly believed to be a Gondwanan relic is the baobab.
Back in 2012, Professor Bowman mused that while a river might have been responsible for dispersing the seeds to Mt Isa via the Gulf of Carpentaria, there are no rivers to connect Mataranka to Finke Gorge.
A bird may have flown the tree to Central Australia and yet there is no evidence birds spread L. rigida to jungles nearby current established populations.
Another possibility that Professor Bowman supposed back in 2012 was that the spread of seeds was by Aboriginal people who ate parts of the palm and use other parts for weaving, says Bowman. But why would take them 1000 kilometres and nowhere else?
“It’s a beautiful mystery,” Professor Bowman mused. The teams research has been published in the Nature magazine.
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A seven-pronged starfish, a mysterious pale octopus and a new kind of ‘yeti’ crab are among a teeming community of previously undiscovered life on the sea floor near Antarctica, British researchers said.
The species, described this week on the online journal PloS Biology, were first glimpsed in 2010 when researchers lowered a robotic vehicle to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean, between Antarctica and the tip of South America.
The dark and remote area is home to hydrothermal vents, which are deep-sea springs that spew liquid at temperatures of up to 382 degrees Celsius, and have previously been found to host unusual life forms in other parts of the world.
“Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide,” said lead researcher Alex Rogers of Oxford University.
“The first survey of these particular vents, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, has revealed a hot, dark, ‘lost world’ in which whole communities of previously unknown marine organisms thrive.” :: Read the full article »»»»
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Ageing, it’s one of those things we’ve simply grown accustomed too: we’re born, we live, we get old and we cease to live. Ageing is a complex process that involves every cell and organ in the body and that leads to the deterioration of many body functions over the lifespan of an individual.
With age, for example, the skin loses its elasticity and injuries heal more slowly than in childhood. The same holds true for bones, which turn brittle with age and take much longer to heal when fractured :: Read the full article »»»»
REBLOG! Extra Brain Cells May Explain Autism
Children with autism appear to have too many cells in a key area of the brain needed for communication and emotional development, say US researchers. Their findings help explain why young children with autism often develop brains that are larger or heavier than normal.
Dr Eric Courchesne says the finding of excess brain cells in the prefrontal cortex explains brain overgrowth in autism, and hints at why brain function in this area is disrupted. Courchesne, of the University of California San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, and colleagues, have also found dozens of genes that may raise the risk of autism.
But genetic causes only explain 10 per cent to 20 per cent of cases, and recent studies have pointed to environmental factors, possibly in the womb, as a potential trigger. The team found excess brain cells in each child with autism they studied, says Courchesne. And the brains of the autistic children also weighed more than those of typically developing children of the same age.
Researchers searching for an early indicator of autism say they’ve discovered a promising possibility, an impairment in the ability of the brain’s right and left hemispheres to communicate with each other.
The researchers did brain imaging scans – fMRIs – on 29 sleeping toddlers with autism, 30 typically developing kids and 13 children with significant language delays, but not autism. All were between 1 and 4 years old.
The scans showed that the language areas of the left and right hemispheres of the autistic toddlers’ brains were less “in sync” than the hemispheres of the typical kids and the children with other language delays. The weaker the synchronization, the more severe the autistic child’s communication difficulties :: Read the full article »»»»
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