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World’s oldest sperm is around 100 million years old, and is trapped in amber

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week.

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New Delhi: Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science have discovered the world’s oldest animal sperm inside a tiny type of crustacean trapped in amber around 100 million years ago in Myanmar.

The new species, which the scientists have named Myanmarcypris hui, is believed to have mated just before the female’s got trapped in amber.

The team was also able to make detailed 3-D reconstructions of the animals, which are less than a millimetre long. More on Independent.

Sea levels could rise 15 inches by end of century

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could together contribute more than 15 inches to sea levels by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.

More than 60 scientists from across the globe came together as part of the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project, led by NASA’s Godard Space Center, to assess the impact of the loss of these two ice sheets.

Meltwater from both ice sheets together are believed to make up one third of the total rise in global sea levels. More on Slash Gear.

Also read: India & Pakistan to get Ig Nobel Peace Prize, PM Modi among ‘Medical Education’ winners

120,000-year-old footprints revise understanding of Arabia, its place in human prehistory

Researchers have discovered a set of footprints in Saudi Arabia, including those of humans, elephants and horses, among other animals, dating back to roughly 120,000 years ago. The discovery represents the earliest dated evidence for human movements into this part of the world.

Given that the Arabian Peninsula is characterised by large, hyper-arid deserts inhospitable to early humans and the animals they relied on, Arabia in the past has not thought to have been vital to understanding human prehistory. However, emerging evidence shows that in the past, these deserts may been transformed into grasslands with permanent freshwater lakes and rivers.

The recently discovered footprints were found at a site that was an ancient lake. The dense concentration of footprints and evidence from the lake sediments suggests that animals may have been congregating around the lake in response to dry conditions and diminishing water supplies. Humans, too, may have been using the lake for water and the surrounding area for foraging. More on NPR.


Australian trees with gympie-gympie leaves have scorpion-like sting

Australia’s stinging trees, which can cause pain that sometimes lasts for weeks, produce toxins similar to those produced by spiders and scorpions, according to researchers from University of Queensland.

The leaves of the tree, known as gympie-gympie, are covered with fine hair-like needles that inject toxins into the skin. Getting stung by the tree first causes an intense burning. After several hours, a throbbing develops in the affected area, which may last for days or even weeks.

Studying the molecular structure of the venom, researchers found that the toxin has a tangled form that allows it to repeatedly target pain receptors in the victim. Understanding how this toxin works can help find treatments that can ease the pain. More on CNN.

Jupiter has new storm forming & Red Spot Jr is changing colour

The Hubble Space Telescope has beamed back the latest image of Jupiter taken in August this year, revealing two significant things — that a new storm is brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region is gearing up to change colour, again. The Great Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in Jupiter’s atmosphere, an anticyclonic storm that’s been swirling for more than a century.

At the mid-northern latitudes of the gas giant, a bright, white, stretched-out storm travelling around the planet at 560 km per hour has formed. While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region every six years or so, the Hubble observations show the early stages of evolution of the storm. Trailing behind the plume are small, rounded features with complex “red, white, and blue” colours.

The image also shows that the famous and much-researched high-pressure region of the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere, has shrunk to about 15,771 km across, though it’s still big enough to swallow Earth.

Another feature researchers are noticing has changed is Oval BA, a storm nicknamed by astronomers as Red Spot Junior, which appears just below the Great Red Spot in this image. For the past few years, Red Spot Jr. has been fading in colour to its original shade of white after appearing red in 2006. However, now the core of this storm appears to be darkening slightly.

The image is part of yearly maps of the entire planet that look for changes in their storms, winds, and clouds. More on CBS.

Also read: In Venus’ clouds, scientists find gas that suggests life, but say it’s hint, not evidence


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