Science

500m Year-Old Embryo of Unknown Animal Found

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A Cambrian embryo fossil exposed by acid etching on rock. The polygonal pattern suggests that the embryo was in the multicellular blastula stage of development. Tiny, spherical fossils found in southern China appear to be the embryos of a previously unknown animal.

The fossils come from the Cambrian, a period dating from 540 million to 485 million years ago and known for an explosion of diversity. Some of the organisms that appeared during the Cambrian, such as the bug-like trilobite, had exoskeletons and other hard parts that fossilized nicely. Others, including sponges and worms, were made of soft tissue that rarely preserves.

Researchers Jesse Broce of Virginia Tech, James Schiffbauer of the University of Missouri and their colleagues were searching for these rare soft-tissue fossils in limestone from the Hubei province of southern China when they found something even more rare: tiny spheres, including some with polygonal patterns on their surfaces. These itsy-bitsy fossils are most likely fossilized embryos, the researchers report in the March issue of the Journal of Paleontology. The fossils come from the third stage of the Cambrian, dating back to around 521 million to 541 million years ago. [See Images of a Giant Cambrian Creature]

“We found over 140 spherically shaped fossils, some of which include features that are reminiscent of division-stage embryos, essentially frozen in time,” Schiffbauer said in a statement.

The researchers began their investigation by attempting to dissolve fossils out of the limestone from China’s Shuijingtuo formation with acid, but that method seriously damaged or destroyed the spherical fossils. Researchers then hand-chiseled the rock into millimeter- or centimeter-sized chunks, exposing the fossil surfaces manually.

From there, the researchers investigated the spheres with a variety of techniques, including slicing them into thin sections, which can be viewed under a microscope. The scientists also imaged the fossils with X-ray and scanning electron microscopy and X-ray techniques.

The results showed specimens with a phosphate-rich envelope surrounding a ball of calcite. (The organic compounds that once made up the embryos have long since mineralized.) Some of the spheres had polygonal patterns that look very similar to those seen on fossilized embryos from Markuelia, a Cambrian worm-like creature. The researchers believe that these specimens are blastulas, which are an early, multicellular stage of embryonic development.

It remains a mystery what these embryos would have grown up to become. Fossilized embryos from a variety of species pop up occasionally in the fossil record, from a 380-million-year old fish with an embryo still in her belly to dinosaur embryos still curled up inside their eggs.

(Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer/ LiveScience.com)

Russian City Sees Fireball In The Sky

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Residents of Murmansk, a city in Northern Russia, reported seeing a huge fireball tearing through the night-sky. The event occurred at 2.10am local time Saturday and was caught by several dashboard cameras, according to Russia Today. The authenticity of the videos hasn’t been confirmed yet.

The bright object was seen just days before the annual Lyrid meteor, which is expected to peak April 21 and 22, according to The International Business Times.Meteors, the bright flashes of light streaking across the sky, are fairly common. However, several of these meteors are never observed as they occur during the day or at remote places on Earth.

A meteor making it to the earth’s surface is a very rare event. About 99.99 percent of meteors completely disintegrate before reaching the surface, according to The American Meteor Society.Last year, a large rock landed near Chelyabinsk in Russia. The meteorite explosion injured over 1,000 people. The radiation caused skin and retinal injuries in several people.The Chelyabinsk explosion was the largest meteorite explosion in the world since 1908, according to IBT.

Several studies have been conducted on the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Russian Academy of Sciences researchers have reported that the rock that hit Russia last February exploded with an energy of nearly 500 kilotonnes of TNT, according to the Guardian.Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic researchers published a paper November, 2013. The study reported that the Chelyabinsk meteorite might have been a part of the asteroid 86039.

Fellatio and Ingesting Sperm Help Prevent Breast Cancer

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Having sex is a physical activity that has many health risks associated with it, especially when had unprotected. Yet there are several benefits that can arise from sex as well. Apparently certain forms of sex can decrease your chances of developing cancer, more specifically breast cancer.

Some throwback health news courtesy of CNN reveals that performing oral sex, fellatio more specifically, and swallowing sperm can stop women from getting breast cancer.

A research team at North Carolina State University collected data from 15,000 women, all of whom were thought to have practiced fellatio frequently and swallowed semen as well within a ten year span. Dr. A.J. Kramer of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said that positive results from this study should lessen the fears or reservations that women have about performing the sexual act:

“I think it removes the last shade of doubt that fellatio is actually a healthy act,”

Dr. Kramer was not involved in the research but was most ecstatic about what had been discovered:

“I am surprised by these findings, but am also excited that the researchers may have discovered a relatively easy way to lower the occurrence of breast cancer in women.”

Dr. Len Lictepeen hopes that after women gain knowledge about these findings that they will be more willing to engage in this form of oral sex because the health improvements are quite impressive:

“This will hopefully change women’s practice and patterns, resulting in a severe drop in the future number of cases,”

So what did the female researchers have to say about all this?

Dr. Helena Shifteer, a female researcher involved with the study, is all for it, as she said that women should make it a point to squeeze fellatio into their schedule each and every day:

“Only with regular occurrence will your chances be reduced, so I encourage all women out there to make fellatio an important part of their daily routine,”

Because she does it herself:

“Since the emergence of the research, I try to fellate at least once every other night to reduce my chances.”

Researchers and doctors associated with the study or who followed it closely urged, and are probably still urging women to abandon their fellatio fears and anti-swallowing ways for they may be adding some years to their lives by doing so.

Whoever knew performing fellatio on the regular and swallowing sperm could possibly be life saving. (Taren Vaughan/urbanbellemag.com)