Life as we know it

Boron

Beginning of October I noted the Media covered the topic of Boron from different areas of scientific discovery. As a human being, I cannot help looking up at the wonderful display of stars over our cottage and wondering about the origins of life. All I can do is wonder, but I was excited to read about Boron in two different scientific areas, which reveals October 2013 as the month of amazing Boron related findings.

First:
4000 year old brains have been excavated from the Seyitömer excavation site,in Turkey’s western province of Kütahya this October.

Altinöz, one of the scientists at the site, said:

“four preserved brains and seven skeletons had been found at Seyitömer, and a fault line had also been found nearby along with traces suggesting the wood lying together with the skeletons had been burning. Building on these premises, Altinöz said they assumed that an earthquake had taken place during a fire, burying the bodies deep in the soil and boiling brains in their own juices, thus creating the necessary conditions to preserve the brains…….. it was not only the high temperatures and anoxia, but also the soil’s main elements that helped conserve the brains for 4,000 years…….

“We found hefty amounts of elements, all alkaline, within the soil that the skeletons and brains were buried in. These elements such as sodium, potassium, aluminum and manganese, both drain the water in the tissues and help the brain’s oil to saponify,” said Altžnöz. He added that the soil was full of the boron mineral, which is known for its high temperature resistance, and Turkey had the biggest reserves of this mineral in the world.

Besides building resistance against high temperatures, boron also has the effect of sending bugs away, as well as killing microbes and bacteria.

He went on to say “Due to boron’s characteristics, we have specified that this mineral is also a factor in the conservation of the brains, as we have found plenty of boron both in the skeletons and the soil” For more see:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/bronze-age-boiled-brains-shake-science.aspx?pageID=238&nID=56024&NewsCatID=375

Secondly:

Whilst we have been absorbed with watching meteor showers in August, we now learn that meteors arriving from Mars contain boron.

http://Discoverynews.com reported that, at the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaii, biologist James Stephenson, understood how important boron could have been in the origins of life, stabilizing a part of RNA. In 2004, chemist Steven Benner, with the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla., proposed that ribose’s secret helper was boron.

And what is ribose ask I?

The article answers:

RNA is comprised of three basic components: phosphate, a ribose, which is a five-carbon sugar, and a nucleobase. Both phosphates and nucleobases have been found in meteorites previously. Ribose has never been found beyond Earth.

RNA is a biological molecule, which scientists believe was the stepping stone for life on Earth. It, like deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which evolved later, can store and transmit information to cells.

Of the three parts that make RNA, the ribose is the tricky part. We haven’t been able to explain how it could form naturally,” Stephenson said.

“If one thinks that life originated with RNA that formed pre-biotically, we know of no other way of getting ribose in adequate amounts other than to use borate,” Benner wrote in an email to Discovery News.

“It’s the unique size of the boron which is able to stabilize the ribose ring structure. No other element has been shown to have that effect,” Stephenson added.

After reading Benner’s paper, Stephenson asked a geologist colleague if any of the Mars meteorites recovered on Earth had been analyzed for boron. They hadn’t, so Stephenson arranged a study.

The team hit the boron lottery in the final hours of their assigned time on a highly specialized ion microprobe at the University of Hawaii.

The scientists next plan to test if an Earth clay with the same amount and configuration of boron found in the meteorite can actually stabilize ribose.

Parts of the rock contain rich concentrations of boron, which biochemists suspect played a key role in the development of ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

Source:
http://news.discovery.com/space/asteroids-meteors-meteorites/mars-meteorite-
life-building-blocks-130617.htm

Look up Boron and you will find Turkey is sitting on an amazingly rich deposit which lends itself to so many uses, Turkey is likely to become suddenly very rich, like Mongolia with its massive resources of the precious rare earth neodymium. The world of electronics is devouring boron and neodymium, never mind all the other implications for boron.

Then the remarkably named ‘Fossil Fish Face’

Back in September it was reported widely in the media (for eg.
http://news.sky.com/story/1146869/fossil-fish-face-find-stuns-scientists)
that the finding of this fossilised fish (ostheichthyans – bony fish) did not independently acquire their bony skeletons, they simply inherited them from their ancestors.” And this is “the most exciting news in palaeontology since Archaeopteryx or Lucy,”
referring to two fossil discoveries crucial to our understanding of the evolution of birds and humans.

This might make us consider the skeleton of the fish we may be about to cook for our tea, and wonder at this possible descendant of the ancient armoured placoderms (prehistoric fish) now evidenced in this amazing find.

Near the southern Chinese town of Quijing a 20cm-long fossil, now named Entelognathus primordialis (meaning primordial complete jaw) was found. It has caused controversy as theories that modern vertebrates with bony skeletons evolved from a shark-like creature with a frame of cartilage may be disproved as a consequence. This prehistoric fish has a jaw and skull-like features similar to humans. The fish lived in the seas of China during the Late Silurian period around 420m years ago. Matt Friedman and Martin Brazeau said the implications were “stunning”.

Commenting on the find, palaeontologists “It will take time to fully digest the implications of such a remarkable fossil, but it is clear that a major reframing of our understanding of early jawed vertebrate evolution is now in full swing,” they wrote in Nature magazine.

Brian Choo from Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and
Palaeoanthropology said: “This astounding discovery does throw a spanner in the works of some long-held ideas about vertebrate evolution. The implications are clear: ostheichthyans (bony fish) did not independently acquire their bony skeletons, they simply inherited them from their ancestors.”

John Long, a professor of palaeontology at Flinders University in Australia said: “This finally solves an age-old problem about the origin of modern fishes. “We now know that ancient armoured placoderms (prehistoric fish) gave rise to the modern fish fauna as we know it.” Prof Long described the discovery as “the most exciting news in palaeontology since Archaeopteryx or Lucy,” referring to two fossil discoveries crucial to our understanding of the evolution of birds and humans.

Migrating Geese

Whilst geomagnetic storms interfered with GPS signals in parts of the world, the Barnacle and Pink Footed Geese crossed the North Sea . The entire population of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago spend the winter along the Solway Firth, the majority within Dumfries and Galloway. They fly over our cottage, and without fail arrive on time, despite the space weather storms.

What must they think of the Aurora Borealis they must see as they sweep across the northern hemisphere? Hearing their calls, like screaming women having a night out, warns me they will soon be here, hundreds flying in their familiar ‘V’ across the grey sky (as it happened to be low cloud both days they came over).

Broom Moth, Ruby Tiger moth

The Ruby Tiger Moth and Broom Moth Larvae used the warmer parts of the day to move purposefully across my path as I walked up the glen. I was careful to look for them, so many making their journey to safety for the winter, so instinctive their desire to complete that act, perhaps aware to be quick and be soon out of sight of predators.

The Hunting Calendar

The medieval custom of preserving the privileged class’s right to hunt is now under way. Archaic laws are updated to sound modern, using words like ‘conservation’ to defend the right of landowners to police their land against anyone who might ‘poach game’. They have powers of arrest of anyone they think are misbehaving on their land. Monarchy leads the way and their hobnobber’s create a network of ‘hunter by association’. They wear the mantle of royal protection to commit dreadful crimes against the wildlife which tries in vain to manage its own survival in areas targeted for hunting.

The Pheasant shooting began from the 1st October – 1st February. All rural locals look forward to earning a living as beaters, frightening the birds toward the guns, the guns being shot by those who pay for the ‘fun’ of it, thousands of birds dying in this man-created ‘sport’. This activity is part of the agricultural livestock industry and is defended by those who do it as a vital income generator, and a supplier of game birds to the food outlets in the area. When the guns are out, any animal is fair game, so hares, rabbits, badger, squirrel and anything moving may be caught up in the ‘excitement’. It pains me to think we continue to call this ‘sport’.

Fox hunting, (now a ‘pest control service’) began 4th August when the hounds came out and went on a killing spree of fox cubs, out in the early hours to locate them. As a ‘service’ the registered hound business near us sets off with the hounds in an animal wagon, to be taken to the landowner’s chosen spot for their early ‘recreation’. This continues to November when the adult foxes are hunted down until the season ends on 1st May and the farmers are caught up in lambing. This makes for a calendar of activities bringing in further income for tenant farmers, and attracting income to landowners offering their land for hunters to pay to take part. The 11 am start for
the adult fox is obviously more popular to those taking a holiday break at a lodge for the purpose, with maybe some fishing thrown in. more income generation for landowners. Sounds convincing, but like most businesses plans these so-called agricultural industries are founded on ruthless anticipation and do not take account of long term damage to the planet’s survival. As more wildlife becomes extinct, the food chain weakens and all of us suffer.

Worth bearing in mind the following long battle against lead poisoning of birds:

http://www.wwt.org.uk/issues/

Lead Poisoning

X-ray of a gizzard containing lead shot (Martin Brown/WWT)X-ray of a gizzard containing lead shot (Martin Brown/WWT)Lead is a highly toxic poison affecting almost all systems of the body. Wildlife is exposed to lead via sources such as fishing weights, leaded paint, mining and smelting activities, but by far the greatest exposure comes from spent ammunition, mainly spent gunshot. Waterfowl and terrestrial game birds mistakenly ingest spent cartridge shot in place of the grit needed to aid digestion of food within their muscular gizzard.

The disease negatively affects many body systems and is an important cause of mortality e.g. it has been estimated that 8.7% of the population of 17 species of wildfowl in Europe might die each year from lead poisoning during the winter season (November to February). Recent WWT research found a third of tested waterbirds had lead levels in their blood indicative of lead poisoning. Additionally, the disease was responsible for the deaths of 1 in 10 birds found dead over the last four decades, with no measurable changes following introduction of legislation.

WWT has monitored the disease and its impacts for decades and been
instrumental in pushing for national and international legislative changes to reduce risks to wildlife from lead. The UK is now committed under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) to phasing out the use of lead shot over wetlands, with regulations restricting the use of lead shot being introduced in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2009, respectively.

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/lead-shot-uk.html#cr

Is lead shot poisoning the UK’s birds?

26/01/2013 10:08:58 Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has welcomed the Government’s announcement to review the progress of the Lead Ammunition Group

January 2013. The Lead Ammunition Group was set up in 2010 in response to urgent concerns about the toxic effects of ammunition made of lead, which is a poisonous substance to all forms of life. Most lead shot misses its target and falls to the ground where it can be ingested by several species of birds including swans, ducks and geese who mistake it for food or the grit they use to grind food.

8% of dead wild birds killed by lead poisoning

WWT research has found that 1 in 3 wild birds sampled suffer from lead poisoning, and that it was the cause of death for 1 in 12 dead wild birds sampled.

Environment Minister Lord De Mauley, answering a written question, told the House of Lords “the (Lead Ammunition) group has agreed to provide a report to Ministers in April 2013 and Defra will review the progress of the group at this stage”.

“Lead is a poison”

WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray said: “Lead is a poison, yet we still allow thousands of tons of it to be spread across our countryside. Thousands of birds suffer and die from ingesting lead shot left on the ground.

“The Lead Ammunition Group’s work is crucial in assessing the damage caused to wildlife and people by lead shot. It was set up in response to an urgent request in 2010 and there is a danger that, with still no sign of a final report, the group could be seen to be moving too slowly while wildlife continues to suffer and die. The group’s commitment to publishing an interim report in April sends a strong signal that it is getting on with the job, and I welcome the Government’s decision to review the group’s progress thereafter”.

Wildlife Extra wonders if birds would be better off if those wielding the guns were better shots?

So just as we begin to understand why Boron may have arrived from Mars in a meteor shower amd helped trigger life on earth, we find ourselves also poisoning our food chain and killing all of life in the name of ‘sport’.

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About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers.
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