Mummification wasn’t reserved for people in Egypt. The archaeological record is full of examples of cats, dogs, crocodiles and birds that were mummified and used as religious offerings to their corresponding animal gods, a practice that was popular from about 600 B.C. until around A.D. 250, well into the Roman period. Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has made a living studying these animal mummies, and for her latest research, she examined the ancient remains of a European kestrel from the Iziko Museums of South Africa in Cape Town. [See Photos of Dog Mummies in Ancient Egyptian Catacomb
An X-ray revealed a mouse tail extending from the ancient bird’s stomach up through its esophagus.
Credit: Stellenbosch University, via Salima Ikram
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New imaging technologies have made it possible to see through mummies without butchering ancient corpses: Ikram and her colleagues used an X-ray computed tomography scanner at Stellenbosch University in South Africa to see the insides of the kestrel in 3D. The images revealed the bird’s stomach was stuffed with bones and teeth from at least two mice —one with its tail inside the raptor’s esophagus —and a partially digested sparrow.
The kestrel’s skeleton showed
Pregnant male seahorses tend to develop embryos similarly to the way mammals do, new research shows.
In the new study, scientists found a suite of genes that are “turned on” in the pouches of seahorses to keep the baby healthy and growing. Similar gene activity has been found in the wombs of mammals and even reptiles.
As such, the finding could shed light on the evolution of live birth, called viviparity.
Seahorses are syngnathid fishes — the only animal family in which males, not females, carry their young. In seahorse sex, the female deposits her eggs into a “brood pouch” on the male’s stomach, where he fertilizes them. The expectant dad then carries the eggs in this pouch during the 24-day gestation period until he gives birth, using abdominal contractions to expel the live young, which are then on their own to survive. [The 10 Wildest Pregnancies in the Animal Kingdom]
Previously, researchers knew little about what took place in the brood pouch of the pot-bellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) during pregnancy. To find out, an international team of researchers looked at how genes were turned on and off during the course of the expecting dads’ pregnancies. They compared this activity with that found
Bad news for apiphobes: “Killer” bees are on the move in the United States.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego recently collected hundreds of bees around the Golden State to determine how far north hybrid honeybees, or Africanized bees, have spread since they first arrived in the state in 1994.
They found that Africanized bees — which possess genes from both European and African honeybees — now live as far north as California’s delta region (about 25 miles, or 40 kilometers, south of Sacramento). And in the southern part of the state, so-called “killer” bees run the show. About 65 percent of the honeybeesthat buzz around San Diego County have a mix of European and African genes, the researchers found. [No Creepy Crawlies Here: Gallery of the Cutest Bugs]
“The pattern of Africanization we documented in San Diego County and elsewhere in California appears consistent with patterns previously documented in Texas, where Africanized honey bees first appeared in the United States,” Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and co-author of the new study, said in a statement.
While Africanized bees have taken up residence throughout the American South, Southwest, Southeast and Western coastal regions, their ability to set
Armored, squat, and built like a tank, ankylosaurs were a type of dinosaur known for their bony, protective exterior and distinct, sledgehammer-shaped tails. Now, scientists have pieced together how the animals’ rear-end weapons evolved, finding that the hammer’s “handle” came first.
Ankylosaurs were a group of bulky, tanklike dinosaurs with bony plates covering much of their bodies. Some of these animals — a subgroup known as ankylosaurids — also came equipped with a weaponized tail club as well.
“Ankylosaur tail clubs are made of two parts of the body,” said study lead author Victoria Arbour, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “They’re made of the bones of the tail — the vertebrae — that change so that they’re stiff and lock together in a really characteristic way. We call that the handle, like the handle of an ax. And the other part of the tail is the knob.” [Paleo-Art: Dinos Come to Life in Stunning Illustrations]
The knob, or the large ball-type object at the end of the tail, was made of special bones called osteoderms, which actually formed in the skin, the researchers said.