#365papers: January 26, 2015

There’s this Twitter thing going around with some academic-types I know.


The goal is to read a new technical paper daily for the next year, in an effort to stay on top of the science. I love this idea and immediately challenged myself to read a new paper daily.

Almost as immediately, I got behind. Nevertheless, I have been mindful of some interesting papers that have recently been published. I’ll include a couple here, from time to time. Apologies for any that are paywalled.
Today’s Round Up:

Getting protein from bone

Mesozoic mammals from China

Nannofossils establish timing for volcanoes


Cleland, T.P. and Vashishth, D., 2015, Bone protein extraction without demineralization using principles from hydroxyapatite chromatography: Analytical Biochemistry, v. 472, p. 62-66

Getting at protein in bones is a big deal if you want to study such molecules from fossils. Most methods involve some serious chemistry to get the protein out by dissolving the bone mineral. This process is slow, and limits the amount of protein that is able to be analyzed later. The authors here describe a new method for getting protein from bones that 1) does not involve demineralizing the bone, 2) is much faster, and 3) yields more protein than older methods.


Meng, Jin, 2014, Mesozoic mammals of China: implications for phylogeny and early evolution of mammals: National Science Review, v. 1, n. 4, p. 521-542.

Mesozoic mammals are just always cool. These are the little guys that lived alongside the dinosaurs. There are many basic questions about mammals that can only be answered by study of the Mesozoic members of the class. Questions like, when did the specialized ear of mammals arise? and when did the modern common tooth structure of mammals appear? Other questions, like where do multituberculates fall in the mammal family tree? can also only be answered by study of Mesozoic mammals.

China has recently yielded numerous fantastic new fossils documenting the dinosaur-bird transition, so I get very excited to hear that mammals might also be coming from Mesozoic localities in China. This paper describes recent findings from China and discusses possible research questions such as those above that will be answered with future study.


Zaczek, K., Troll, V.R., Cachao, M., Ferreira, J., Deegan, F.M., Carracedo, J.C., Soler, V., Meade, F.C., and Burchardt, S., 2015, Nannofossils in 2011 El Hierro eruptive products reinstate plume model for Canary Islands: Scientific Reports, v. 5, article 7945

This paper caught my eye because it combined two things that I would not have expected to see together in a single sentence: ‘nannofossils’ and ‘plume model’

Nannofossils are tiny, tiny, microscopic shells of single-celled organisms called coccolithophores. These organisms are able to produce their own food using the process of photosynthesis. These abundant fossils can be used to assign ages to the rocks in which they are found.

The plume model refers to the concept that some islands can be caused by so-called ‘hot-spots’ where hot rock from deep in the Earth rises, in the shape of a plume or column. Where the plume meets the Earth’s surface, volcanoes appear. The Hawaiian Island chain is one common example of volcanic islands that form over a plume.

The origins of the Canary Islands have been debated, some researchers calling on magma seeping through fractures, others hypothesizing a mantle plume.

In this new study, researchers use the nannofossils to assign ages to rocks that formed early in the history of the islands, while they were still underwater. The pattern of ages for the various members of the Canary Island archipelago supports the mantle plume hypothesis over the fracture hypothesis.

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