Soil biodiversity, galactic bulges, sleep apnea drugs

Using citizen science to reveal Hong Kong’s soil biodiversity

Soil biodiversity plays an important role in nutrient decomposition and cycling in ecosystems, but remains understudied globally.

So, to help fill the knowledge gap about the diversity of soil fauna in Hong Kong, a team of scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong created a citizen science project involving universities, non-governmental organizations and secondary school students and teachers.

Between October 2019 and October 2020, participants monitored and sampled soil species at 21 urban and semi-natural habitat sites, collecting a total of 3,588 individual samples.

They identified 150 species of soil macrofauna, including arthropods (insects, spiders, centipedes and centipedes), worms and snails, and even helped identify two species of centipedes that are new to Hong Kong wildlife – queenslandica monograph and Alloproctoides remyi.

“The involvement of citizens in the process of generating new knowledge is important to promote understanding of biodiversity. Training younger generations to learn more about biodiversity is of utmost importance and crucial for commitment to conservation,” the researchers write in their study. published in Biodiversity Data Log.

The soil sampling methodology that the students employed in this study. Credit: Sheung Yee Lai, Ka Wai Ting, Tze Kiu Chong and Wai Lok So

A promising drug for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea (also known as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that affects nearly one billion people worldwide. Sufferers stop and start breathing repeatedly when their throat becomes partially or completely blocked for a short time, when the throat muscles relax too much during sleep.

Now in a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Australian researchers showed that a drug previously used to treat depression, reboxetinecan reduce the severity of OSA.

Previous research has shown that a combination of reboxetine and oxybutynin (used to treat overactive bladder) may be an effective treatment for OSA, but may cause side effects.

By testing single doses of reboxetine versus a combination of reboxetine and oxybutynin or a placebo, with 16 subjects with OSA, they were able to show that reboxetine alone reduced the number of sleep apnea events. per hour and also improved oxygen levels, while the addition of oxybutynin did not result in further improvements.

“The current gold standard treatment for sleep apnea is to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine during sleep. But this one-size-fits-all approach fails to take into account that there are different causes of sleep apnea. Also, many people don’t tolerate CPAP long-term,” says Altree.

“So it’s important that we find other ways to help people, and this study is an important step for future drug development.”

A fossil discovered more than 100 years ago has been shown to be an early relative of pterosaurs

A tiny fossil reptile from the Triassic, first discovered in 1907 in northeast Scotland, was eventually revealed to be a close relative of the species that would become the iconic flying pterosaur.

According to a new study published in Nature, researchers have used computed tomography (CT) to produce the first accurate reconstruction of the entire skeleton of the Scleromochlus taylori fossil.

The results reveal new anatomical details that conclusively identify it as a close relative of pterosaur. He is part of a group called Pterosauromorphincluding an extinct group of reptiles called lagerpetids, as well as pterosaurs – although Scleromochlus is anatomically more similar to lagerpetids.

Living about 240 to 210 million years ago, lagerpetids were a group of relatively small (the size of a cat or small dog) active reptiles and Schleromochlus was even smaller at less than 20 centimeters in length.

The results support the hypothesis that the first flying reptiles evolved from small, probably bipedal ancestors.

Reconstruction of the life of Scleromochlus taylori. Credit: Gabriel Ugueto © Gabriel Ugueto

The size of galaxy bulges affects their rotation

Like the Milky Way, most galaxies have a central bulge of mostly older stars that grows over time, and an extended disk in which new stars form from gas.

Now a new study discovered that the size of the bulges of galaxies affects how their spins are aligned with the surrounding large-scale structure of the universe. Specifically, the “cosmic web” – giant filamentous structures that connect massive clusters of galaxies.

Astronomers from Australia have found that galaxies with larger bulges tend to spin perpendicular to the filaments they are embedded in, while galaxies with smaller bulges tend to spin parallel to those filaments.

“It’s all about the mass of the bulge,” says lead author Dr Stefania Barsanti, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University (ANU).

“Galaxies that are mostly disks, with a low-mass bulge, tend to have their axis of rotation parallel to the nearest filament. This is because they form primarily from gas falling on the filament and ‘the weeling”.

“Galactic bulges develop when galaxies merge, usually as they move along the filament. Thus, mergers also tend to “flip” the alignment between the spin of the galaxy and the filament from parallel to perpendicular.

This study probed 3,068 galaxies between 2013 and 2020, using a spectroscope called SAMIattached to the 3.9 meter wide Anglo-Australian Telescope in Siding Spring, New South Wales.

The research has been published in Royal Astronomical Society Monthly Notices.

850 artist's impression of the central bulge of the Milky Way.  Credit esonasajpl caltechm.  Kornmesserr.  Hurt
This artist’s impression shows what the Milky Way galaxy would look like up close and from a very different vantage point than we get from Earth. The central bulge appears as a ball of bright peanut-shaped stars and the spiraling arms and their associated dust clouds form a narrow band. Credit:
ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kornmesser/R. Hurt