Climate-driven permafrost thaw

In bitter cold regions like northwestern Canada, permafrost has preserved relict ground-ice and vast glacial sedimentary stores in a quasi-stable state. These landscapes therefore retain a high potential for climate-driven transformation, say researchers.

Redescription of Potamonautes sidneyi (Rathbun, 1904) (Decapoda, Potamonautidae) and description of a new congeneric species from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

ZooKeys 657: 1-28

DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.657.11623

Authors: Nasreen Peer, Gavin Gouws, Eric Lazo-Wasem, Renzo Perissinotto, Nelson A.F. Miranda


A new species of freshwater crab, Potamonautes danielsi sp. n., is described from the southern region of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Potamonautes danielsi most closely resembles P. sidneyi which is re-described here, but can be distinguished by a suite of key morphological characters including carapace shape and width, slim pereopods, inflated propodi of the chelipeds, and the shape and terminal segment length:subterminal segment length ratio of the 1st gonopod. In a previous study (Gouws et al. 2015), a 9.2–11.8 % divergence was found in the mitochondrial COI and 16S genes of the P. sidneyi clade, allowing for the delineation of a new species. Despite the clear molecular distinction between the two species, it is difficult to separate them based on individual morphological characters, as there is a great deal of overlap even among key features. The new species is found in slow-moving mountain streams and pools at high altitudes between Umhlanga and Mtamvuna, in KwaZulu-Natal.




New Report Examines Role of Engineering Technology, Calls for Increased Awareness of Field of Study and Employment

While workers in the engineering technology (ET) field play an important role in supporting U.S. technical infrastructure and the country's capacity for innovation, there is little awareness of ET as a field of study or category of employment in the U.S., says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering. There are numerous similarities between traditional engineering and engineering technology. Though, in comparison, if engineers are viewed as being responsible for designing the nation's technological systems, engineering technicians and technologists are those who help build and keep those systems running. In 2014, there were nearly 94,000 four-year engineering degrees, nearly 18,000 four-year ET degrees, and more than 34,000 two-year ET degrees awarded in the U.S. Read More

Materials science: Organic analogues of graphene

Chemists have long aspired to synthesize two-dimensional polymers that are fully conjugated — an attribute that imparts potentially useful properties. Just such a material has been prepared using a solid-state polymerization reaction.

Nature doi: 10.1038/nature21503

When genome mapper Craig Venter made clear he doubted universal common descent…


We’d heard about Craig Venter’s dissent before but you should read the whole story: From Tom Bethell in Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates,

This was publicized in a science forum held at Arizona State University in February 2011, a little over a year after Dawkins’s Greatest Show
was published. The physicist Paul Davies and others, including two Nobel Prize winners, participated in the event, which was videotaped. Richard Dawkins himself was on the panel. The forum addressed the question, “What is life?”

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Venter, 2007/Liza Gross, PLOS

Most of the panelists accepted that all organisms on Earth represent a single kind of life because they believed that the genetic code is universal. The NASA scientist and panelist Chris McKay made the case that this single form of life—a “sample of one”—should encourage us to further explore Mars and other planets for signs of life.

Craig Venter then disputed the premise. He challenged the claim “that there’s only one life form on this planet.” We have “a lot of different types of metabolism, different organisms,” he said. He turned to Paul Davies and added: “I wouldn’t call you the same life form as the one we have that lives in pH 12 base. That would dissolve your skin if we dropped you in it.” (pp. 53–54)

Venter went on to doubt that there is a single “tree of life” and evolutionary bioinformatics specialist W. Ford Doolittle noted that “the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree.”

Guy to watch. In a world where so many people are defending themselves from shadows and rumours, he wants to look at reality. He should be banished from pop science coverage as a bad influence.

What if it turns out that there are multiple streams of life arising from a single era? How would that change the picture of the origin of life?

See also: Venter: We are missing a third of essential biology


Craig Venter’s minimal cell is a parasite

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