Month: December, 2017

Over 200 Pterosaur Eggs And Embryos Has Been Found At A Site In China

An ancient site containing more than 200 fossilised eggs belonging to ancient flying reptiles known as pterosaurs has been found.

The eggs belong to a species called Hamipterus tianshanensis, which soared over what is now north west China about 120 million years ago.

The palaeontologists who made the discovery note both the “extraordinary quantity of eggs”, and the fact some of them contain “the first pterosaur three-dimensional embryos”.

This level of preservation allows researchers to learn more about the behaviour of these prehistoric creatures.

Previous evidence of pterosaur reproduction has been rather lacking, limited to a handful of eggs from Argentina and China identified in 2004.

Prior to this, there was no evidence at all these reptiles laid eggs.

But the new discovery, which consists not only of eggs but the bones of adults as well, paints a vivid picture of a nesting colony.

The findings were published in a paper led by Dr Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the journal Science.

Dr Wang and his collaborators outline how they used CT scans to look inside the eggs, 16 of which contained embryos that were somewhat intact.

From these embryos, the scientists could see that the structures supporting the pectoral muscles – crucial for flight – were noticeably underdeveloped.

This allowed the scientists to infer that when these animals hatched, they were unable to fly. The newly hatched pterosaurs would therefore have required care and attention from their parents if they were to survive.

The fossils also reveal more secrets about pterosaur lifestyles.

“The find reinforces the view that pterosaur eggs were soft-shelled and needed to be buried,” said Dr Charles Deeming, a biologist at the University of Lincoln who was not involved in the study.

This draws comparison with modern day lizard eggs, and suggests that while the pterosaurs may have cared for their offspring, they didn’t incubate them like birds. Instead, they relied on the earth to keep their eggs warm.

The rarity of such a fossilisation event makes this discovery, and the knowledge gained from it, all the more precious.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Really Good For You?

People have been writing books on the subject at least since that era, and apparently they haven’t stopped.

A quick search on Amazon revealed more than 20,000 results for publications on apple cider vinegar, many written in the past several years and most subtitled with words such as “natural miracle cure,” “detox,” “weight loss,”healing power” and “anti-aging.”

Clearly, this gold-amber liquid still has some allure, so I decided to investigate whether there is any research to back it up.

It turns out there is substantial evidence that consuming vinegar can help keep blood sugar under control, which in turn may ultimately decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease, among other benefits.

Carol S. Johnston, associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, who has been studying the effects of vinegar for more than 10 years, says, “Vinegar appears to inhibit the enzymes that help you digest starch.”

When starch is not completely digested, you get a smaller blood sugar (glycemic) response — “20-40% less in healthy people and in diabetics” — after eating a high-glycemic food such as a bagel, according to Johnston’s findings.

The vinegar has a more moderate blood-glucose impact when a fiber-rich whole grain is eaten (because there is less of a spike to begin with) and no effect when no starch is eaten.

On top of that, undigested starch may have a prebiotic effect, meaning as it passes through the intestines it becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut.

Well-fed gut bacteria generally translate to a healthier you because these microorganisms help support good digestion and our immune systems, among other benefits.

Those undigested starch calories may also add up over time to some weight loss, plus, according to Johnston, “there is emerging research that vinegar might increase fat oxidation.

She stresses, however, that contrary to many of those popular book titles, “vinegar is not a magic bullet for weight loss.  I have seen very modest weight loss in my studies, of one to two pounds after 12 weeks.”

In the one study published, in Japan in 2009, that specifically examined vinegar’s impact on weight, subjects lost two to four pounds in 12 weeks.

Better blood-sugar control, possible modest weight loss and better gut health seem like valid, if not exactly miraculous, benefits.

Maybe there is something to this apple cider vinegar thing after all? But wait — there is a catch.

There is great marketing behind apple cider vinegar, and it works to lower the glycemic response, but it doesn’t have to be apple cider vinegar,” Johnston says.

She says the active starch-inhibiting ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, which is in all vinegars. She personally prefers the taste of red wine vinegar, which she says works just as well, as does white distilled vinegar, for example.

Apple cider vinegar aficionados boast about the unique attributes of the unfiltered, unpasteurized product — which still has the “mother” in it, the weblike blob of bacteria that is actually the starter (like a sourdough starter) used to ferment wine into vinegar.

Many commercial brands filter this out so the vinegar is crystal clear and more appealing to look at, but health food brands generally retain it.

The “mother” is harmless and may offer some benefits, such as polyphenols and probiotics, but there is no research to back up health claims about it.

And there is not an appreciable amount of vitamins, minerals or pectin in apple cider vinegar, as is often advertised. If those are the qualities you are seeking, you’d be better off eating an apple.

If you want to try to reap the benefits of vinegar — apple cider or any other variety — make sure you do it right, not only to get the most out of it, but because it can be harmful otherwise.

Johnston suggests diluting 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of water and drinking it right before eating, once or twice a day, perhaps before lunch and dinner.

It’s important to take the vinegar just prior to eating so it is in your stomach before any starch reaches it.

Also, never drink vinegar straight. It is a potent acid that can be dangerous if aspirated, may cause burns to the tender tissue of the mouth and esophagus, and can lead to tooth erosion.

And because vinegar could interact with medications, and its anti-glycemic effect may be dangerous to diabetics taking insulin, talk to your doctor before using it therapeutically if these are concerns for you.

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Pass it on: Popular Science