Recent discoveries


PC Botha, Staff Writer

Although there is currently an pandemic going on, some scientists are still busy making scientific discoveries. I decided to make a list of a few of the discoveries that I have found interresting.

Precision Injection System for Plants

A microinjection device is attached to a citrus tree, injecting substances into the plant’s system. Credit: MIT

The precision injection system for plants, developed by National Science Foundation-funded engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can be a new method of detecting diseases in plants and can offer a starting point for delivering treatments to plants that are infected with a disease. This method uses microneedles, called phytoinjectors. These needles are made from a silk-based biomaterial and can be made in a variety of sizes and shapes. It can deliver material specifically to certain parts of the plant like the xylem (the plant’s vascular tissue involved in water transportation from roots to canopy) or the phloem (the vascular tissue that circulates metabolites throughout the plant). The microneedles can also be used to take samples for lab analysis. According to Khershed Cooper, a program director in NSF’s Directorate for Engineering, “This project enables the efficient fabrication of materials using the building blocks of life, such as silk.”

‘Crazy Beast’ Found in Madagascar

Reconstruction of Adalatherium, from the Late Cretaceous (100-66 million years ago) of Madagascar. Credit: Denver Museum of Nature & Science/Andrey Atuchin

The National Science Foundation-funded the discovery of the new, 66-milion-year-old mammal in Madagascar. David Krause, Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology (the branch of science concerned with fossils of animals and plants) at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science led the team of researchers that made the discovery. This new mammal was dubbed Adalatherium, which is translated from Malagasy and Greek languages and means “crazy beast”. The nearly complete skeleton is the most complete skeleton for any Mesozoic (252 to 66 million years ago) mammal yet discovered in the Southern Hemisphere, and was astoundingly well preserved. Seeing the lifelike reconstruction of the Adalatherium might make you think its a normal badger, but its “normality” is literally only skin deep, because its skeleton is nothing short of outlandish, according to Krause. Its snout region has primitive features not seen for millions of years leading to the lineage of modern mammals.

Dramatic Decrease in Cold-water Plankton During the Industrial Era

Graphic showing the surface circulation of the North Atlantic and the study region. Credit: P. Spooner & D. Thornalley

There was a dramatic decrease in cold-water plankton during the 20th century, in contrast to thousands of years of stability, according to a National Science Foundation-funded study by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other organizations. The research analyzed the fossilized remains of plankton samples from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean south of Iceland. In the study, researchers discovered the first evidence that Northeast Atlantic circulation in the 20th century was unusual compared to the previous 10,000 years. This change caused a replacement of cool, subpolar waters with warmer subtropical waters near Iceland and has affected the distribution of marine organisms, especially plankton. The scientists analyzed more than 150,000 specimens of planktonic foraminifera (tiny single-celled creatures that float in ocean waters). They compared how plankton fared over a 10,000-year period, using sediment from the bottom of the ocean to reconstruct how the Northeast Atlantic has changed. Between around 6000 B.C. and A.D. 1750, the region was dominated by plankton that prefered cooler waters. But during the 20th century, the relative abundance of the species changed drastically, warmer-water plankton species moved in.

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