Wednesday, January 25, 2012

* Dinosaurs did not have feathers
The fossil of a small, predatory dinosaur discovered in Germany has experts rethinking how feathers developed among the dinosaurs that likely gave rise to birds.
The authors say the new species undermines the notion that a covering of simple, hairlike feathers was characteristic of such early theropods as was previously believed.
Given its position in the dinosaur family tree, Juravenator "should bear filamentous feathers," Xing Xu said in an interview. But Chiappe says the new fossil didn't seem to bear any physical evidence of feathers, missing or not. "You could expect to see follicle [in the skin], small pits that contain feather buds. We don't see them in Juravenator," Chiappe said.
Juravenator is a genus of small (70 cm long) coelurosaurian [Compsognathidaedinosaur, which lived in the area which would someday become the Jura mountains of Germany, about 151 or 152 million years ago.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Taking a break from pterosaurs

Here is a study:
The face of a frog: Time-lapse video reveals never-before-seen bioelectric pattern
For the first time, Tufts University biologists have reported that bioelectrical signals are necessary for normal head and facial formation in an organism and have captured that process in a time-lapse video that reveals never-before-seen patterns of visible bioelectrical signals outlining where eyes, nose, mouth, and other features will appear in an embryonic tadpole.
Using voltage and pH reporter dyes, we have discovered a never-before-seen regionalization of the Xenopus ectoderm, with cell subpopulations delimited by different membrane voltage and pH. We distinguished three courses of bioelectrical activity. Course I is a wave of hyperpolarization that travels across the gastrula. Course II comprises the appearance of patterns that match shape changes and gene expression domains of the developing face; hyperpolarization marks folding epithelium and both hyperpolarized and depolarized regions overlap domains of head patterning genes. In Course III, localized regions of hyperpolarization form at various positions, expand, and disappear. Inhibiting H+-transport by the H+-V-ATPase causes abnormalities in: (1) the morphology of craniofacial structures; (2) Course II voltage patterns; and (3) patterns of sox9, pax8, slug, mitf, xfz3, otx2, and pax6. We conclude that this bioelectric signal has a role in development of the face. Thus, it exemplifies an important, under-studied mechanism of developmental regulation. Developmental Dynamics 240:1889–1904, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

In developmental and evolutionary biology, particular emphasis has been given to the relationship between transcription factors and the cognate cis-regulatory elements of their target genes. These constitute the gene regulatory networks that control expression and are assumed to causally determine the formation of structures and body plans. Comparative analysis has, however, established a broad sequence homology among species that nonetheless display quite different anatomies. Transgenic experiments have also confirmed that many developmentally important elements are, in fact, functionally interchangeable. Although dependent upon the appropriate degree of gene expression, the actual construction of specific structures appears not directly linked to the functions of gene products alone. Instead, the self-formation of complex patterns, due in large part to epigenetic and non-genetic determinants, remains a persisting theme in the study of ontogeny and regenerative medicine. Recent evidence indeed points to the existence of a self-organizing process, operating through a set of intrinsic rules and forces, which imposes coordination and a holistic order upon cells and tissue. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in experiments on regeneration as well as in the autonomous formation of structures in vitro. The process cannot be wholly attributed to the functional outcome of protein–protein interactions or to concentration gradients of diffusible chemicals. This phenomenon is examined here along with some of the methodological and theoretical approaches that are now used in understanding the causal basis for self-organization in development and its evolution.
Bioelectrical Signals Can Stunt or Grow Brain Tissue
Bioelectric signals spark brain growth