Giant Virus Resurrected from Permafrost After 30,000 Years


An ultrathin section of a Pithovirus particle in an infected Acanthamoeba castellanii cell observed by transmission electron microscopy with enhancement

pithovirus section
A mysterious giant virus buried for 30,000 years in Siberian permafrost has been resurrected.

The virus only infects single-celled organisms and doesn’t closely resemble any known pathogens that harm humans.

Even so, the new discovery raises the possibility that as the climate warms and exploration expands in long-untouched regions of Siberia, humans could release ancient or eradicated viruses. These could include Neanderthal viruses or even smallpox that have lain dormant in the ice for thousands of years.
“There is now a non-zero probability that the pathogenic microbes that bothered [ancient human populations] could be revived, and most likely infect us as well,” study co-author Jean-Michel Claverie, a bioinformatics researcher at Aix-Marseille University in France, wrote in an email. “Those pathogens could be banal bacteria (curable with antibiotics) or resistant bacteria or nasty viruses. If they have been extinct for a long time, then our immune system is no longer prepared to respond to them.”

(A “non-zero” probability just means the chances of the event happening are not “impossible.”)

Giant viruses

In recent years, Claverie and his colleagues have discovered a host of giant viruses, which are as big as bacteria but lack characteristic cellular machinery and metabolism of those microorganisms. At least one family of these viruses likely evolved from single-celled parasites after losing essential genes, although the origins of other giant viruses remain a mystery, Claverie said. [Tiny Grandeur: Stunning Images of the Very Small]

In the researchers’ hunt for more unknown pathogens, they took a second look at permafrost samples collected from Kolyma in the Russian Far East in 2000. Because the permafrost was layered along steep cliffs, drillers could extract samples from 30,000 years ago by drilling horizontally into the ice, thereby avoiding contamination from newer samples.

The team then took samples of this permafrost and put them in contact with amoebas (blob-like single-celled organisms) in Petri dishes. The researchers then waited to see what happened.

Some of the amoebas burst open and died. When the scientists investigated further, they found a virus had killed the amoebas.

The ancient virus infects only amoebas, not humans or other animals. This pathogen belongs to a previously unknown family of viruses, now dubbed Pithovirus, which shares only a third of its genes with any known organisms and only 11 percent of its genes with other viruses. Though the new virus resembles the largest viruses ever found, Pandoraviruses, in shape, it is more closely related to classical viruses, which have an isocahedral shape (with 20 triangular-shaped faces), Claverie said.

Pathogens reawakened?

The findings raise the possibility that other long-dormant or eradicated viruses could be resurrected from the Arctic. As the climate warms and sea ice and permafrost melt, oil and mining companies are drilling many formerly off-limit areas in Russia, raising the possibility that ancient human viruses could be released.

For instance, Neanderthals and humans both lived in Siberia as recently as 28,000 years ago, and some of the diseases that plagued both species may still be around.

“If viable virions are still there, this is a good recipe for disaster,” Claverie said. “Virions” is the term used for the virus particles when they are in their inert or dormant form.

But not everyone thinks these viruses spell potential doom.

“We are inundated by millions of viruses as we move through our everyday life,” said Curtis Suttle, a marine virologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, who was not involved in the study. “Every time we swim in the sea, we swallow about a billion viruses and inhale many thousands every day. It is true that viruses will be archived in permafrost and glacial ice, but the probability that viral pathogens of humans are abundant enough, and would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point.”

“I would be much more concerned about the hundreds of millions of people that will be displaced by rising sea levels than the risk of being exposed to pathogens from melting permafrost.”

Russia: Mysterious giant crater discovered in Siberia


Moscow: A mysterious giant crater has been discovered in a remote part of Siberia, dubbed by locals ‘the end of the world’, and is now puzzling scientists. An urgent expedition was sent to the far-northern peninsula to try and solve the mystery, a newschannel reported.
The team arrives on Wednesday to survey the seemingly bottomless pit, located in one of Russia’s northernmost points, at a latitude closer to that of Greenland than Canada.
The crater is believed to have been formed two years ago. No one knows how.
watch the video.URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcvnLbcyvRk

Neanderthals Passed Along Diabetes Risk Gene.


Kermanshah Pal Museum-Neanderthal

Scientists have determined that a variation of a gene that increases the risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes by 25 percent was likely introduced into human populations by Neanderthals more than 60,000 years ago. Half of people with a recent Native American lineage, including Latin Americans, have the gene, SLC16A11, as do 20 percent of East Asians. The newly seqeuenced, high quality Neanderthal genome, taken from a female toe found in Siberia‘s Denisova Cave, also included the variant, and researchers say that analysis suggests that Neanderthals introduced it into the human genome when they intermixed with modern humans, after the latter left Africa 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. According to the findings from the completed Neanderthal genome, roughly two percent of the genomes of today’s non-African humans are comprised of Neanderthal DNA.

‘Forest boy’ found after 16 years in wilderness.


Man dubbed the ‘Siberian Mowgli‘ left society with his parents in 1997

Officials in Siberia say they have discovered a 20-year-old man who appears to have lived in the forest for the past 16 years.

Forest-boy-in-Siberia-jpg

Dubbed the “Siberian Mowgli” in a nod to the boy in “The Jungle Book,” the man was found by a woman living near the town of Belokurikha, a famous resort area in Russia’s Altai region, according to UPI.

In delayed but clear speech, the boy told authorities he was born in 1993 and had been living in the forest since 1997, when his parents decided to “abandon society.”

His parents then appear to have abandoned him in May this year, AFP reported.

“I’m living well thank you,” he told The Siberian Times. “We are living well. This is the reality we have that we live here, and it’s quite a good reality.”

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After speaking with authorities, the man fled back to forest hut, where RIA Novosti reports he is collecting firewood ahead of winter.

“He has no education, no social skills and no ideas about the world beyond the forest,” local prosecutor Roman Fomin told Russia Today.

Officials are expected to issue the man an ID, which would allow him to receive state support.

 

Cold-tolerant wasp spiders spread to northern Europe.


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Temperature tolerance is key to the spread of wasp spiders into northern Europe, according to scientists.

Since the 1930s the distinctive spiders have expanded their range from the Mediterranean coast to Norway.

Researchers in Germany traced the population boom to breeding between the native European spiders and an isolated colony living near the Black Sea.

Molecular Ecology reports the genetic mixing resulted in generations rapidly adapting to living in colder climates.

Wasp spiders (Argiope bruennichi) are commonly named for their bright, striped abdomens and were recently recorded by the Woodland Trust in Usk, south Wales for the first time.

The first official records of this conspicuous species in the UK were made in the 1920s.

Henrik Krehenwinkel from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany, analysed the DNA of spiders caught across their current range, and museum specimens to understand more about their evolutionary history.

Piecing together the genetic puzzle, he found that the spiders diverged after the last ice age: part of the population stayed on the Mediterranean while a colony headed east to Central Asia.

While these eastern populations adapted to live in climates as diverse as the tropical south of Japan and cold south-eastern Siberia, the spiders in the Mediterranean remained limited to warm areas.

But, according to the research, rising temperatures across the continent in the last century allowed the Mediterranean spiders to join up and breed with a previously isolated Black Sea population.

“This possibly restored genetic variation within a few generations and allowed for rapid adaptation,” said Mr Krehenwinkel.

He theorised that the novel combination of genes resulted in new physical characteristics that helped spiders to survive in different environments.

Out in the cold

To test the whether these more northerly spiders adapted a different temperature tolerance than Mediterranean populations, the PhD student analysed how they reacted when moved into one another’s habitats.

Southern spiders could not survive the freezing temperatures in the north, and their counterparts suffered from heat stress in the south.

Mr Krehenwinkel explained that the eastern population had adapted to cooler temperatures and this was passed on to European spiders in the population boom.

The result was the rapid adaptation of hardier offspring that could settle further north than their predecessors.

The spiders found in northern Europe have smaller bodies and are not seen in the coldest months of the year.

Scientists attribute both traits to seasonal changes which do not affect southern species. Spiders found in northern Europe “overwinter”, meaning their young are buried during the coldest months; emerging in spring.

The spiders then have limited warm months in which they can mature, which restricts how large they can grow before they reproduce in the autumn and the cycle begins again.

Mr Krehenwinkel described the hatchlings as “highly dispersive”, commenting that they can cover huge distances via a method known as “ballooning”: riding the breeze on a special parachute made of gossamer silk threads.

“By aerial dispersal, little spiders can cover distances of several hundred kilometres,” he told BBC Nature.

“Members of different genetic lineages can thus quickly track warming climate, which increases the likelihood of contact.”

Source:BBC

Mammoth carcass found in Siberia.


A well-preserved mammoth carcass has been found by an 11-year-old boy in the permafrost of northern Siberia.

The remains were discovered at the end of August in Sopochnaya Karga, 3,500km (2,200 miles) northeast of Moscow.

A team of experts from St Petersburg then spent five days in September extracting the body from frozen mud.

The mammoth is estimated to have been around 16 years old when it died; it stood 2m tall and weighed 500kg.

It has been named Zhenya, after Zhenya Salinder, the 11-year-old who found the carcass while walking his dogs in the area.

Alexei Tikhonov, from the St Petersburg Zoology Institute, who led the team excavating the mammoth, said this specimen could either have been killed by Ice Age humans, or by a rival mammoth.

He added that it was well preserved for an adult specimen.

His colleague Sergei Gorbunov, from the International Mammoth Committee, which works to recover and safeguard such remains, said: “We had to use both traditional instruments such as axes, picks, shovels as well as such devices as this “steamer” which allowed us to thaw a thin layer of permafrost.

“Then we cleaned it off, and then we melted more of it. It took us a week to complete this task.”

But several juvenile examples have come to light that are more complete.

Earlier this year, a very well preserved juvenile mammoth nicknamed Yuka was unveiled by scientists.

Found in the Yakutia region of Russia, it preserves much of its soft tissue and strawberry-blonde coat of hair. There were also signs from its remains that humans may have stolen the carcass from lions and perhaps even stashed it for eating at a later date.

Source:BBC