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Scientists perplexed by flesh-eating ‘vulture bees’ that have quit pollen to feed on dead bodies – The Independent

Some bees have now evolved the ability to only eat flesh because of an “intense competition for nectar” and of an evolved gut that resembles vultures instead of other bees, revealed a new study.

These adaptations in a little-known species of tropical stingless bees or “vulture bees” are also complemented by changes in the kinds of bacteria that live in their guts, pointed out researchers of a study published in the journal mBio on Tuesday, which sheds light on how diet affects gut microbes.

While bees typically feed on nectar, the researchers, including those from the University of California (UC) Riverside, said that the “intense competition for nectar” has led to a species of stingless bee in the tropics evolving the ability to feed on flesh.

“These are the only bees in the world that have evolved to use food sources not produced by plants, which is a pretty remarkable change in dietary habits,” UC Riverside entomologist Doug Yanega said in a statement.

Usually, honeybees, bumblebees and stingless bees have guts that are colonised by the same five core microbes, most of which have been retained over roughly 80 million years of evolution.

In these tropical bees, however, many ancestral “core” microbes have been lost, while some have been retained, the researchers pointed out.

The bees have also entered into “novel associations” with some acid-loving microbes, which have similarly been found in vultures and other animals feeding on dead remains.

“This research expands our understanding of how diet interacts with microbiomes on both short and long timescales in one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots,” the scientists wrote in the study.

To capture these bees for the study, the researchers first set up baits made of fresh pieces of raw chicken suspended from branches and smeared with petroleum jelly to deter ants.

These traps attracted both vulture bees as well as related species that opportunistically feed on meat for their protein.

While usually stingless bees have baskets on their hind legs for collecting pollen, scientists observed that the vulture bees used those same structures to collect flesh bait.

They then compared gut bacteria found in vulture bees with those in other stingless bees that feed both on meat and flowers and in those that feed only on pollen. The most extreme changes were found in the exclusively meat-eating bees.

“The vulture bee microbiome is enriched in acid-loving bacteria, which are novel bacteria that their relatives don’t have,” study coauthor Quinn McFrederick said.

“These bacteria are similar to ones found in actual vultures, as well as hyenas and other carrion-feeders, presumably to help protect them from pathogens that show up on carrion,” Dr McFrederick added.

They found that the vulture bees had the gut bacteria Lactobacillus – found in fermented food, like sourdough – and also Carnobacterium, which is associated with flesh digestion.

The scientists, however, also suspect that these bees might be acquiring microbes, such as A. micheneri, from the rotting meat they consume.

They also called for further studies to determine whether the bees’ meat-eating lifestyle influenced the growth of these microbes, or if the bacteria were the ones to enable the diet.

“It is important to note that while a change in diet could have modified the microbiome, it is also possible that a shift in microbiome enabled a change in dietary lifestyle, or even that both the change in microbiome and the change in diet were linked to a different unmeasured phenomenon in the evolutionary history of these unique bees,” the study noted.

“It’s crazy to me that a bee can eat dead bodies. We could get sick from that because of all the microbes on meat competing with each other and releasing toxins that are very bad for us,” said Jessica Maccaro, a UCR entomology doctoral student.

While the bees feed on meat, they also store honey in separate chambers in their hives.

“They store the meat in special chambers that are sealed off for two weeks before they access it, and these chambers are separate from where the honey is stored,” Dr Maccaro said.

The scientists believe further studies of these vulture bees can offer “rich insights” into how diet interacts with gut microbiomes.

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Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species – NDTV



Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton.


Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms — structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Google Pixel mail-in repairs have allegedly twice resulted in leaked pics and a privacy nightmare – The Verge

After game designer and author Jane McGonigal sent her Pixel 5a to Google for repair, someone allegedly took and hacked her device. This is at least the second report in as many weeks from someone claiming they sent a Google phone in for repair, only to have it used to leak their private data and photographs. McGonigal posted a detailed account of the situation on Twitter on Saturday and advised other users not to send their phones in for repair with the company.

In October, McGonigal sent her broken phone to an official Pixel repair center in Texas. She tweeted later that Google said it never received the phone, and during the ensuing weeks, she was charged for a replacement device.

But according to McGonigal, FedEx tracking information shows the device arrived at the facility weeks ago. Late Friday night — a few hours after she says she finally received a refund for the device — someone seems to have used the “missing” phone to clear two-factor authentication checks and log in to several of her accounts, including her Dropbox, Gmail, and Google Drive.

The activity triggered several email security alerts to McGonigal’s backup accounts. However, she speculates that whoever has the phone may have used it to access her backup email addresses and then dumped any security alerts into her spam folder.

“The photos they opened were of me in bathing suits, sports bras, form-fitting dresses, and of stitches after surgery,” McGonigal writes. “They deleted Google security notifications in my backup email accounts.”

In a statement emailed to The Verge, Google spokesperson Alex Moriconi says, “We are investigating this claim.” It’s still unclear whether the device might have been intercepted within the repair facility or while it was in transit, or who has it now. Google’s official repair instructions recommend backing up and then erasing a device before sending it in. Still, as Jane McGonigal points out, that’s either hard or impossible, depending on the damage.

The whole situation reminds us of the security concerns whenever we hand over our devices for repair, and unfortunately, such activity has precedent. In June, Apple paid millions to a woman after repair technicians posted her nude photos to Facebook. Apple recently said it would start selling DIY repair kits, giving users the chance to fix their own phones, or at least have the task done by someone that a user trusts, as opposed to sending it in or dropping it off at an Apple Store.

For Pixel phones, your options for official service are either via mail-in or, in some countries, local service through an authorized provider. In the US, Google partners with uBreakiFix franchises. Whatever phone you have, the options for repairs are still somewhat limited, and you end up having to trust that no one with bad intentions will get their hands on your phone while it’s out of your possession.

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Facebook Messenger is getting a new bill splitting feature – news –

Meta (previously Facebook) has introduced a new feature called “Split Payments” on Facebook Messenger.

As evident from its name, the new feature lets you split the expenses easily with your friends and family for free – whether it’s a restaurant bill or house rent.

To split the bill, all you need to do is click on the “Get Started” button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Then, you can split the bill evenly among the group or modify the contribution amount for each individual with or without including yourself.

After that, enter a personalized message and confirm your Facebook Pay details, and your request will be sent to the group, viewable to everyone in the chat thread.

Facebook Messenger is getting a new bill splitting feature

Meta will begin testing the new feature in the US starting next week, but it’s unclear when it will expand to other regions.

Aside from introducing the bill splitting feature, Meta also added four new AR-based Group Effects to Facebook Messenger, created in partnership with King Bach, Emma Chamberlain, Bella Poarch, and Zach King. You can check them out below.

The company also reminds us of a new chat theme and two soundmojis recently launched for Stranger Things fans, and one new soundmoji released to celebrate Taylor Swift’s new album “Red.”


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