Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Octopussy & Ants Use Bacteria to Make Their Gardens Grow

"Here's a new one to add to the list: the ant farmers, like their human counterparts, depend on nitrogen-fixing bacteria to make their gardens grow. The finding, reported Nov. 20 in the journal Science, documents a previously unknown symbiosis between ants and bacteria and provides insight into how leaf-cutter ants have come to dominate the American tropics and subtropics.

"These are sensational fossils, extraordinarily well preserved," says Dirk Fuchs of the Freie University Berlin, lead author of the report. But what surprised the scientists most was how similar the specimens are to modern octopus: "these things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species." This provides important evolutionary information. "The more primitive relatives of octopuses had fleshy fins along their bodies. The new fossils are so well preserved that they show, like living octopus, that they didn't have these structures." This pushes back the origins of modern octopus by tens of millions of years, and while this is scientifically significant, perhaps the most remarkable thing about these fossils is that they exist at all. - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090317111902.htm

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