Tag Archives: seeded planets

A tornatellides boeningi. Image credit: rakuten.co.jp

Getting across: how snails travel through birds’ bellies

New York to Paris – 8 hours. Who in their right minds would’ve thought 100 years ago that you could span more than 3600 miles in this kind of time span? Aviation has changed the way we view time and distances forever, and consequently the world is a much smaller place now. Humans aren’t the only non-winged beings, however, to travel great distances by flight, as scientists have shown that snails are able travel long distances via birds’ bellies.

A tornatellides boeningi. Image credit: rakuten.co.jp

A tornatellides boeningi. Image credit: rakuten.co.jp

At first, the researchers from Japan, were curious whether or not snails could indeed do this after they found snail remains in bird feces. Seeds are widely known to get spread by fruit-eating birds, and with this in mind they believed some snails could survive digestion and come out alive.

To validate their point, they chose a certain snail species called Tornatellides boeningi and began running tests. As such, the researchers fed 119 adult snails to Japanese white-eyes and 55 snails to brown-eared bulbuls – 15% of the snails came out alive. Well, alive and covered in poop that is, but alive nevertheless.

The biggest factor, scientists noticed, that helped snails stay alive was their size – the smaller the size, the bigger the chance they had of surviving was. The researchers think that T. boeningi may be able to produce mucus that protects them from the birds’ digestive fluids, but this is a topic for future research. Actually, in a curiour turn of events, one of the snails gave birth to offsprings not long after exiting its aviary means of transportation. The researchers believe that passing through the gut of birds may be a cue for pregnant snails to give birth, as this would enhance the snails’ probability of colonizing new areas.

Are the snail naturally dispersing this way though or did scientists just prove that they can survive inside a bird’s tummy? Well, researchers reckoned that if the snails didn’t move around in this way than the genes of snail populations living in condensed areas should be very similar. This was not the cased, as researchers noticed a high level of variance in the gene flow. This means that the genes of isolated communities communicate with one another, despite the relatively large distances between them. Seeing how we all know how fast a snail can be, the aviary airline explanation seems to be vast enough.

An added bonus - presenting the Birdsnail!

An added bonus - presenting the Birdsnail!


Dusty Winds and the Seeded Planets


space dust

There is still some debate around how life appeared here on Earth and it is hard to find undeniable proof.

But the findings from NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that space dust — the same stuff that makes up living creatures and planets — was manufactured in large quantities in the winds of black holes that populated our early universe. Another problem this could bring an answer to is that of where did all the dust in the young universe originate.

“We were surprised to find what appears to be freshly made dust entrained in the winds that blow away from supermassive black holes,” said Ciska Markwick-Kemper of the University of Manchester, U.K. Markwick-Kemper is lead author of a new paper appearing in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “This could explain where the dust came from that was needed to make the first generations of stars in the early universe.”.

Space dust is very important because it forms planets, stars, galaxies and even life as we know it – there’s a lot of truth to “we are all space dust”.

The dust which is close to us was piped out by dying stars that were once a lot like our sun. But what produced it when the universe was just a toddler is hard to say. Some scientists claim that short-lived, massive exploding stars, or supernovae, might be the source of this mysterious dust; others claim that a type of energetic, growing supermassive black hole, called a quasar, could be a contributing factor. A quasar (contraction of QUASi-stellAR radio source) is an extremely bright and distant active galactic nucleus. All observed spectra have shown considerable redshifts and they lie at great distances from us, the closest being 240 Mpc (780 million ly).

“Quasars are like the Cookie Monster,” said co-author Sarah Gallagher of the University of California at Los Angeles, who is currently a visiting astronomer at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. “They are messy eaters, and they can consume less matter than they spit out in the form of winds.”.

But nobody can say for sure that quasars are or are not what created enough dust to explain what is observed in the early universe. That goes for supernovae as well; so the debate is not cold. The team used Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph instrument to split apart infrared light from the quasar and look for signs of various minerals. They found a mix of the ingredients that make up glass, sand, marble and even rubies and sapphires. While the mineral constituting glass was expected, the minerals for sand, marble and rubies were a surprise. Those minerals are not typically detected floating around galaxies, suggesting they could have been freshly formed in the winds rushing away from the quasar.

“Supernovae might have been more important for creating dust in some environments, while quasars were more important in others,” said Markwick-Kemper. “For now, we are very excited to have identified the different species of dust in a quasar billions of light-years away.”. The study is of great importance.