Evolution Timelapse

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Some very cool research coming out of Binghamton University from researchers who’ve revived bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals. The video explains the scope of their work:

 

 

Tim Lowenstein, prof of geological sciences and environmental studies, and J. Koji Lum, prof of anthropology and biological sciences, are investigating the remains of life in fluid inclusions inside minerals—some dating back a million years. So far they’ve found every form of unicellular life—archaea, bacteria, algae, fungi, and viruses—embedded in these time capsules. They’re also encountering entire ecosystems of tiny lifeforms, for instance the algae likely eaten by the bacteria living together in a pocket of water.

 

Binghamton University researchers recently revived ancient bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals. Photo: Dave Tuttle.Binghamton University researchers recently revived ancient bacteria trapped for thousands of years in water droplets embedded in salt crystals. Photo: Dave Tuttle.

 

The samples are drawn from California’s Death Valley and Saline Valley and from sites in Michigan, Kansas, and Italy—places where temperatures may have reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit/54 degrees Celsius in the past, and where the intrusions of water trapped in the rocks might be extremely saline. Nevertheless, extremophile life forms thrive in such conditions.

Some of the microbes are still alive after deacades or more of inclusion. The dead ones are yielding their DNA. But that’s only the beginning. By analyzing changes in the salinity of these water pockets over time, Lowenstsein hopes to reconstruct ancient climates. Coupled with changes in the DNA, the team hopes to observe organisms and ecosystems evolving over geologic time in response to changing climate. Sort of like an evolutionary timelapse.

 


Michael Garfield – Live DNA Painting Timelapse from Michael Garfield on Vimeo.

 

Here’s an interesting video from within the timelapse of a live art installation. The artist is creating a visual work exploring how it is that so much DNA fits into so little space inside the nuceli of cells. Along the way, he ruminates on his struggles to represent all that information in his own very small space on a canvas destined for the 800-pixel-wide visual “inclusion” of a web page.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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