Science Reporting

New small feathered dinosaur that lived 120 million years ago discovered in China

The study that announced the discovery of a new species of a small feathered dinosaur, which lived about 120 million years ago, was published in the Anatomical Record. It was carried out through the analysis of a fossil that provided several important details regarding bones and feathers. Fossils of feathered dinosaurs have always been among the most important to understand the evolutionary transition phase that took place between the dinosaurs themselves and the advent of birds.

This is also the case of this study, as Ashley Poust, a researcher at the Museum of Natural History in San Diego who has been studying these finds for several years. The study of the feathers and the body of this new small dinosaur could be very useful, among other things, to understand how flight developed in the distant past of the first birds.

The new species of feathered dinosaur has been named Wulong bohaiensis: the first term is a Chinese word for “dancing dragon.” The fossil, in the form of an imprinted trace, was found more than 10 years ago by a Chinese farmer in the province of Jehol, an area known for its fossil findings.

The dinosaur was slightly larger than a modern-day crow and had a characteristic bony tail that more than doubled in length. The mouth was full of sharp teeth and the bones were quite thin and relatively small. It was a feathered animal and had two long plumes right at the end of its tail.

According to the researchers, it was one of the first ancestors of the Velociraptor, the well-known teropod dinosaur that lived 75 million years ago. However, the closest relative of the Wulong is the Microraptor, a kind of four-winged bird that lived in about the same era as the Wulong. Researchers have used the technique of bone histology, a technique that is increasingly used by paleontologists to analyze fossils of this kind but which requires the removal and a much more direct study of the findings, something that museums and those responsible for the fossils themselves do not always allow.

The researchers have discovered that it was a young specimen, something which has partly surprised researchers as this specimen showed a remarkable amount of feathers, even of the showy ones, something unusual, at least for what the young birds of today are concerned, where the showiest feathers grow up only in old age, when the animal is ready for the mating.

Science Reporting

Pregnancy in old age: journals contribute to the belief that it is possible

A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health shows that the most popular journals are used to showing pregnant celebrities at an advanced age without mentioning any risk regarding the same pregnancy in old age or related to the technologies and methods used today to achieve pregnancy when you are a certain age.

According to the study, these journals unconsciously contribute to the diffusion of the belief, on the part of women, that they can safely give birth even after a certain age and therefore to be able to postpone conception too easily.

“Age is just a number”: this is the cover title of one of these journals that, for example, is mentioned in the article presenting the study. In fact, as far as conception is concerned, age is not just a number but a risk factor well certified by various studies.

In this case, researchers looked at 416 journals, mostly aimed at women of reproductive age, and found that more than 120 different pregnant and elderly celebrities were mentioned on the cover. However, only two mentions of the risks with regard to pregnancy in old age were found.

One-third of advanced pregnancies concerned celebrities aged forty years or more and in almost all cases there was no mention of the interventions or methods used to achieve this pregnancy, such as in-vitro fertilisation or the need to donate gametes.

“It is often not reported that there are expensive and extraordinary measures, assisted reproduction technologies and risks associated with these pregnancies in old age,” reports Susan G. Kornstein, editor of the Journal of Women’s Health, in relation to the study.

Science Reporting

Drinking alcohol, even during conception, can damage the placenta

That alcohol can be a strongly negative factor for the development of the fetus during pregnancy has been ascertained by various studies but few of them have analyzed the effects that the same alcohol can have in the period related to conception (immediately before and shortly after fertilization).

A new study, conducted by the researchers Jacinta Kalisch-Smith and Karen Moritz of the University of Queensland in Australia, tries to fill this gap by studying the impact that alcohol can have on the fetus and in general on pregnancy if taken during the period of conception. Precisely for this reason, the two researchers performed experiments on rats by having the females consume alcohol during the period of conception, specifically between four days before and four days after fertilization.

The results of the study, published in Development, showed that the placenta was significantly reduced. Alcohol, in fact, reduced the formation of blood vessels in the placenta and this, in turn, caused a lower intake of nutrients to the embryo. The size of the placenta was reduced by up to 17% and blood vessel formation by up to 32%.

This is important information about understanding the various often undetected causes behind the low birthweight of the child, which in turn is a risk factor for various diseases in adulthood.

Science Reporting

Predicting seizures and epileptic seizures is possible according to researchers

A new discovery, the results of which have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows that it is possible to predict seizures before they occur by analyzing particular molecules that are fragments of RNA transfer (tRNA). The latter is a particular chemical substance, related to DNA, which makes it possible to construct proteins within cells.

When cells are “stressed,” the tRNAs are cut into small fragments. These fragments, present in the blood, can reach high concentrations and this reflects the fact that brain cells are under stress. This state, if detected, can be considered as a symptom of an impending epileptic attack. This information could lead to the creation of an early warning system, something that could be of strong help to all people suffering from epilepsy as they might know in advance when they are at high risk of attack.

As Marion Hogg, lead author of the study and researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), points out, “people with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when an attack will occur.”

On the basis of this research, scholars now hope to be able to create an alert system, similar to that of a trivial blood glucose meter, to predict seizures.