A rush by residents of the Russian city of Novosibirsk to snap selfies in and around a nearby toxic reservoir dubbed the ‘Siberian Maldives’ has prompted the power company that uses it as a dump to set up a 24-hour guard.
The now turquoise waters of the artificial lake, which contains chemical ash residue from a coal-generated power station, have attracted thousands of locals who’ve been posting their photographs on Instagram and other social media, fueled by media coverage of the phenomenon.
Inhabitants of the 1.6-million-strong city, the third largest in Russia, in some cases have hired professional photographers for wedding shoots and others have come on organized tours, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Saturday. Even though the water is harmful to the skin and can cause severe rashes, some people have entered the reservoir.
The craze started after a local photographer posted a picture of a woman next to the picturesque-seeming lake. One Novosibirsk resident who gave his name as Georgy told Kommersant he saw about 80 people there when he visited recently. “Doesn’t seem like a good idea to swim there,” he said. “I still need my skin.”
The University of Adelaide has launched an investigation in to the work environment of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. The lab is run by an evolutionary molecular biologist Alan Cooper; it’s the second time a university has investigated allegations of misconduct in a lab he has led.
A University of Adelaide spokeswoman tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the investigation would provide “an informed and accurate picture of the culture within the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.” At least one former lab member, Nic Rawlence, currently the director of the University of Otago's paleogenetic laboratory in the Zoology Department, has come forward saying the center was damaging for both his physical and mental health. It was “cut throat” and “everyone was in it for themselves,” he tells ABC.
During his time in the Adelaide lab, Rawlence says, he developed severe, debilitating stomach problems and that the atmosphere made it difficult for him to speak and write publicly about his work. He apparently was not alone in feeling frustrated by the lab culture. “We had people leave left, right and centre when I was there—we put in official complaints . . . we talked to the higher-ups,” he tells ABC. “And we were constantly told from up the chain, ‘yeah, we know all about it, but nothing is going to happen’.”
His and others’ concerns apparently went unheeded until July 3 when employees of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA received an email from Megan Lewis, head of the School of Biological Sciences at the university, encouraging them to participate in the “culture check” of the center, according to a blog post written by journalist Michael Balter. The culture check, Balter writes, is a euphemism for allegations of bullying, harassment, and other misconduct by Cooper.
It is not the first time Cooper has been accused of misconduct. In 2005, he resigned as director of the University of Oxford’s Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre after the university conducted an internal investigation of allegations that he fabricated data in grant applications.
Heavy rain has caused an inundation of rodents in the Red Centre with the long-haired rat reaching Alice Springs for the first time in 25 years.
Hungry foxes are being lured to residential Sydney suburbs in search of rats and rubbish, experts believe.
Spring sightings of the feral animals are on the rise as Sydney councils battle to wipe out an estimated one billion rats flooding the city.
Rats were probably introduced to Sydney with the First Fleet from Britain in 1788. Rats, and parasites such as bedbugs, lice, cockroaches and fleas, tormented the convicts, officers and marines.
These pests most probably entered the country accidentally when cargo was unloaded in Sydney Cove, by the First Fleet. In the past 12 months, more than 330 complaints have been made.
This rat was probably introduced to Sydney with the First Fleet.
Identification Despite its name, the Black Rat is usually brown or grey. A distinctive characteristic of rats that helps distinguish them from similarly sized carnivorous marsupials is their front teeth: a pair of chisel shaped incisors with hard yellow enamel on the front surfaces. Other characteristics that identify a Black Rat from other rats include the following:
Long pointed head (can be more rounded in juvenile). Large thin ears (20mm+) which reach middle of eye when bent forward. Charcoal grey to black or light brown above, cream or white below; sleek smooth coat. Scaly tail, much longer than head and body. Similar species Brown Rat; also, juveniles sometimes mistaken for marsupials or mice.
Habitat The Black Rat lives in urban areas. They prefer to live in roofs, cavity walls, trees, scrapes or burrows around farms, making nests of shredded materials. Black Rats are very closely associated with humans, common in urban areas, and are very agile climbers.
A Senate committee tasked with reviewing a bill to criminalise cash transactions over A$10,000 has reportedly thrown its support behind the proposed legislation.
A Senate inquiry has reportedly backed a controversial bill to criminalise cash payments of AUD 10,000.
Under the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019, cash transactions beyond this limit would carry a fine of up to AUD 25,500 and two years’ jail.
The bill was introduced as a draft last August, and passed the House of Representatives last October. It was expected to come into effect on 1 January this year, but was referred to a Senate committee for further debate.
The committee received over 2,600 submissions by early December, with the majority of submissions opposing the bill.
The opposition argues that the bill encroaches on privacy and civil liberties, may leave bank deposits vulnerable to negative interest rates, gives major banks and payment processors more power, and hurts small businesses that rely on cash payments.
The government argues the measure is intended to fight the black economy, by stamping out tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes. According to the government’s Black Economy Taskforce, illegal activity could be worth as much as 3 percent of GDP and costs the Australian economy up to AUD 50 billion a year.
The committee has now recommended that the bill be passed, with some changes.
These include an extension to the start date to give businesses sufficient time to comply, and a review of the bill’s penalty provisions to ensure they are not “overly harsh”.
The committee, though recognising that the majority of submissions it received opposed the bill, said many of them were based on hypothetical scenarios such as a situation of negative interest rates in Australia.
The committee also dismissed concerns about privacy and civil liberties, saying, “this must be balanced against the concerns raised by other stakeholders who described the negative impacts of criminal activity and tax evasion”.
The bill has been introduced to the Senate and is making its way through Parliament.
A team led by UC Riverside geologists has discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most familiar animals today, including humans.
The tiny, wormlike creature, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut. The paper is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The earliest multicellular organisms, such as sponges and algal mats, had variable shapes. Collectively known as the Ediacaran Biota, this group contains the oldest fossils of complex, multicellular organisms. However, most of these are not directly related to animals around today, including lily pad-shaped creatures known as Dickinsonia that lack basic features of most animals, such as a mouth or gut.
The development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life, giving organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies. A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organized around this same basic bilaterian body plan.
Evolutionary biologists studying the genetics of modern animals predicted the oldest ancestor of all bilaterians would have been simple and small, with rudimentary sensory organs. Preserving and identifying the fossilized remains of such an animal was thought to be difficult, if not impossible.
For 15 years, scientists agreed that fossilized burrows found in 555 million-year-old Ediacaran Period deposits in Nilpena, South Australia, were made by bilaterians. But there was no sign of the creature that made the burrows, leaving scientists with nothing but speculation.
Scott Evans, a recent doctoral graduate from UC Riverside; and Mary Droser, a professor of geology, noticed miniscule, oval impressions near some of these burrows. With funding from a NASA exobiology grant, they used a three-dimensional laser scanner that revealed the regular, consistent shape of a cylindrical body with a distinct head and tail and faintly grooved musculature. The animal ranged between 2-7 millimeters long and about 1-2.5 millimeters wide, with the largest the size and shape of a grain of rice—just the right size to have made the burrows.
"We thought these animals should have existed during this interval, but always understood they would be difficult to recognize," Evans said. "Once we had the 3-D scans, we knew that we had made an important discovery."
The researchers, who include Ian Hughes of UC San Diego and James Gehling of the South Australia Museum, describe Ikaria wariootia, named to acknowledge the original custodians of the land. The genus name comes from Ikara, which means "meeting place" in the Adnyamathanha language. It's the Adnyamathanha name for a grouping of mountains known in English as Wilpena Pound. The species name comes from Warioota Creek, which runs from the Flinders Ranges to Nilpena Station.
"Burrows of Ikaria occur lower than anything else. It's the oldest fossil we get with this type of complexity," Droser said. "Dickinsonia and other big things were probably evolutionary dead ends. We knew that we also had lots of little things and thought these might have been the early bilaterians that we were looking for."
In spite of its relatively simple shape, Ikaria was complex compared to other fossils from this period. It burrowed in thin layers of well-oxygenated sand on the ocean floor in search of organic matter, indicating rudimentary sensory abilities. The depth and curvature of Ikaria represent clearly distinct front and rear ends, supporting the directed movement found in the burrows.
The burrows also preserve crosswise, "V"-shaped ridges, suggesting Ikaria moved by contracting muscles across its body like a worm, known as peristaltic locomotion. Evidence of sediment displacement in the burrows and signs the organism fed on buried organic matter reveal Ikaria probably had a mouth, anus, and gut.
"This is what evolutionary biologists predicted," Droser said. "It's really exciting that what we have found lines up so neatly with their prediction."
Significance The transition from simple, microscopic forms to the abundance of complex animal life that exists today is recorded within soft-bodied fossils of the Ediacara Biota (571 to 539 Ma). Perhaps most critically is the first appearance of bilaterians—animals with two openings and a through-gut—during this interval. Current understanding of the fossil record limits definitive evidence for Ediacaran bilaterians to trace fossils and enigmatic body fossils. Here, we describe the fossil Ikaria wariootia, one of the oldest bilaterians identified from South Australia. This organism is consistent with predictions based on modern animal phylogenetics that the last ancestor of all bilaterians was simple and small and represents a rare link between the Ediacaran and the subsequent record of animal life.
Abstract Analysis of modern animals and Ediacaran trace fossils predicts that the oldest bilaterians were simple and small. Such organisms would be difficult to recognize in the fossil record, but should have been part of the Ediacara Biota, the earliest preserved macroscopic, complex animal communities. Here, we describe Ikaria wariootia gen. et sp. nov. from the Ediacara Member, South Australia, a small, simple organism with anterior/posterior differentiation. We find that the size and morphology of Ikaria match predictions for the progenitor of the trace fossil Helminthoidichnites—indicative of mobility and sediment displacement. In the Ediacara Member, Helminthoidichnites occurs stratigraphically below classic Ediacara body fossils. Together, these suggest that Ikaria represents one of the oldest total group bilaterians identified from South Australia, with little deviation from the characters predicted for their last common ancestor. Further, these trace fossils persist into the Phanerozoic, providing a critical link between Ediacaran and Cambrian animals.