Archive for June, 2015

Everyone Loses In This Python vs. Porcupine Battle

Posted in News with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Everyone Loses In This Python vs. Porcupine Battle


The life of a python in South Africa came to a thorny end last week.

A mountain biker at the Lake Eland Game Reserve in a coastal part of KwaZulu-Natal province reportedly spotted the snake with a full belly on June 14. Last Saturday, the snake — of which there are some graphic photos below — was found dead not far from the original sighting.


Experts at the game preserve autopsied the python and discovered a 32-inch, 30-pound porcupine inside of it.

While a snake swallowing a spiky porcupine whole may sounds like a classic case of mutually assured destruction, it’s actually not that uncommon.

“The porcupine did not injure the snake at all and eating the porcupine should not have caused the snake to die,” Lake Eland Game Reserve general manager Jennifer Fuller told The Huffington Post in an email. “The real cause of death is unknown.”

She said the stress from human interaction may have prompted the snake to try to regurgitate the porcupine but it got stuck.


Fuller said the snake fell off a rocky ledge, according to The Telegraph, but it was unclear if the snake was already dead when it did or if the fall caused some of the quills to puncture its digestive tract.


A wall in Bolivia is covered in thousands of dinosaur footprints, and it’s becoming a major tourist attraction

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY with tags , on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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A wall in Bolivia is covered in thousands of dinosaur footprints, and it’s becoming a major tourist attraction

Business Insider

Cal Orcko, located 3 miles south of downtown Sucre in Bolivia, is home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of dinosaur footprints from the Cretaceous Period.

.cal orcko

The limestone cliff hosts about 5,000 dinosaur footprints, with many dating back 68 million years.

Discovered on the grounds of the local cement company Fancesa in 1985, the cliff was closed off to tourists after mining conditions and erosion began damaging the area.

After eight years of closures, tours started last year to allow visitors the opportunity to marvel at these footprints.


cal orcko

(Flickr/Ryan Greenberg)
From the Parque Cretacico, which hosts a museum and dinosaur models, fossils, and paleontological information, you can take a one-hour guided tour to select areas of the wondrous paleontological site.


Cal Orcko

The tour starts in the Parque Cretacico, where you’re given a helmet as a safety requirement from the cement factory before going to the south part of the cliff, which hosts footprints of Theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs).

Then you’re taken through the cliff with your guide, who explains the history behind the Sauropod (long-neck herbivores) footprints you’ll see. There are tracks from entire herds of Sauropods, ranging from 26 feet long to an impressive 65 feet.


Cal Orcko

You’ll also get to peak at “under footprints,” the oldest layer of prints, which date back 70 million years.

The site contains the footprints of at least eight different species and stands as an ever-changing record of history in the Cretaceous era.


Cal Orcko

(Flickr/Jenny Mealing)
As parts become eroded, new prints are continuously being found in the area, which is why the park has submitted Cal Orcko to the Unesco World Heritage list in an effort to continue preserving the footprints.

Guided tours are offered Monday through Saturday at noon and at 1 p.m. Tours cost $4.35.

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Posted in HEALTH, SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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George Dvorsky

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Several months ago, the UK approved a groundbreaking reproductive technique in which babies are created from the genetic material of three people. The US is now considering the procedure, but Congress’s new spending bill will require religious experts to review a forthcoming report.

As Sara Reardon reports in Nature News, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is being asked to create an evaluation committee — a committee that must include religious experts — to review a forthcoming report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The technique under consideration produces embryos that, technically speaking, have three genetic parents, even though a scant 0.1% of genetic information is extracted from the donor. The reproductive technique eliminates rare but severely deadly or debilitating mitochondrial diseases.

If it likes what it sees in the IOM report (which is expected this winter), the FDA will permit clinical trials on mitochondrial replacement. But in the latest development, the U.S. House of Representatives is demanding another layer of review — an “independent panel of experts, including those from faith-based institutions with expertise on bioethics and faith-based medical associations.” The panel will have 30 days to evaluate the report and submit its recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee.

More from Reardon’s report:

William Kearney, a spokesman for the IOM’s parent organization, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington DC, declined to comment on the House bill. But he says that the NAS has occasionally included religious specialists on its committees when appropriate. “We always strive to balance our committees with the expertise necessary to carry out the study in a scientific manner in order to produce an evidence-based report.”

In fact, the IOM committee that is evaluating mitochondrial transfer includes a bioethicist, James Childress, who teaches religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

But experts who have served on committees that were convened by the IOM or the NAS, say that the House bill’s provisions are highly unusual.

“It’s hard for me to understand what Congress thinks can be added by another layer of taxpayer-supported ethics reflection,” says Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “You don’t have to be a faith-based bioethicist to recognize that there’s some global responsibility for modifying the human germline.”

This “added layer” will almost certainly serve as a hindrance to getting this technique sanctioned. It could be years before this procedure is introduced to the United States—if it ever is, at all.

But that’s not all; the spending bill will prohibit the FDA from spending any money to evaluate research or clinical applications for any product or intervention in which human embryos are modified to introduce heritable traits. The effort to block human-embryo editing comes in the wake of news that scientists in China have edited the genomes of human embryos. This move will make it considerably harder to test embryo editing in clinical trials.

Much more at Nature.

Contact the author at and @dvorsky. Top image by Ekem/cc.

“Light Echoes” Prove That This Neutron Star is Weirdly Like a Black Hole

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Mika McKinnon

Giant Plant Eats Rodents

Posted in SCIENCE with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Giant Plant Eats Rodents

Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

Posted in HEALTH with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Recluse Spider Bite Eats Hole in Young Woman’s Ear

The case is the first evidence that recluse-spider venom can also destroy ear cartilage, said van Wijk, a co-author of the case report, published last month in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery.

Venom from recluse spiders, including the American brown recluse and its Mediterranean cousin, kills skin and fat with a mixture of chemicals, including substances that break down proteins. The complex nature of the venom makes the bites hard to treat, van Wijk said. A drug called Dapsone has been used, but there is no proof that it works to treat these bites, she added.

Therefore, the recommended treatments for these spider bites are icepacks and painkillers, van Wijk told LiveScience.

In this case, van Wijk and her colleagues removed the dead tissue, and recreated it using cartilage from the woman’s ribs.

Recluse spiders rarely bite people, and when they do, the bites don’t usually inflict serious damage or large scars. Most bites occur when people roll over onto a spider while asleep, or when they put their foot into a shoe in which a recluse is found. It’s difficult to diagnose a brown-recluse-spider bite, and many suspected bites actually come from stinging insects, or are caused by other things, such as bacterial infections.

The restored ear, made in part from cartilage taken from the woman’s ribs.
Credit: Marieke van Wijk et al

The spiders are “not that dangerous,” van Wijk said. “I wouldn’t take precautions, but if one develops a mysterious red-white-and-blue and swollen lesion in summer, in an endemic region, keep the brown recluse in mind,” she added.

In a small minority of cases of recluse bites, the venom can cause a severe immune reaction that destroys blood cells. A recent study found that adrug used to treat unrelated rare blood disorders, eculizumab, may be able to reduce the destruction of blood cells in these patients by 80 percent.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us@livescience,Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.


Girl’s Brown Recluse Spider Bite Turns Into Open Wound

Posted in HEALTH with tags on June 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Girl’s Brown Recluse Spider Bite Turns Into Open Wound