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Science News

January 2011
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A recent major study (Hoffman et al., 2010) involving NHM amphibian scientists Mark Wilkinson and David Gower has concluded that although 20 per cent of vertebrate species are threatened, the rate of loss would have been one-fifth greater had conservation efforts not been in place. Conservation efforts have an effect, but this is not sufficient to prevent loss and extinction, or to meet ambitious international targets.

 

Most scientists in the museum study particular groups of organisms. However, the ecosystems in which they live are complex and diverse, containing a multitude of species.  If we want to understand patterns of global biodiversity loss, it is essential that many different scientists collaborate, so the paper in Science involved the work of more than 160 internationally expert scientists from many different countries, all specialists in different vertebrate groups: amphibians, fish, mammals, reptiles and birds.

 

A standard scale for classifying the level of threat to different species has been developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of which the NHM is a member.  Threats to particular species are set out in the IUCN Red List, which classifies threat levels from Least Concern, through Near Threatened; Vulnerable; Endangered; Critically Endangered; to Extinct in the Wild.  The study considered data for 25,780 species and found that 52 species of vertebrates move one category closer to extinction each year.  Forty-one per cent of amphibian species are threatened due to habitat loss and other factors such as disease.

 

This large-scale work in biodiversity science is essential to enable realistic plans to be drawn up by governments and others to combat biodiversity loss.  2010 was the UN International Year of Biodiversity, the target year for international commitments to slow the rate of biodiversity loss.  These targets were not met and we are now, until 2020, in the International Decade of Biodiversity, for the end of which there are new and demanding targets for slowing loss.

The science done by the NHM and its many international partners will be an essential element in taking effective action.

 

Hoffmann, M. et al. 2010 The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates Science 10 December 2010: 330 (6010), 1503-1509.Published online 26 October 2010 [DOI:10.1126/science.1194442]

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Alfred Russel Wallace stands with Charles Darwin as an influential and innovative thinker on evolution.  Before the publication of Darwin's great work The Origin of Species in 1859, Wallace and Darwin were jointly credited with developing the key idea of natural selection, presented in a paper from them both to the Linnean Society in 1858.


Wallace's ideas had their foundations in his collecting experience in natural history: first in South America; and second in what is now Malaysia and Indonesia.  In particular, he was interested in the geographical distribution of species and how this related to evolution: what is now thought of as biogeography.

 

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The Museum has just purchased an album of sketches, watercolours and photographs belonging to Wallace from his family.  This is being added to a large collection in the NHM of Alfred Russel Wallace material: letters, notes, drawings and other papers. The collection is the second largest single depository of letter to and from Wallace, the British Library having the largest. The majority of the collection held in the NHM Library was purchased in 2002 from the Wallace family. Since then the family has presented to the Museum additional material, including more letters, papers and a few legal documents.

 

A project is now being led by George Beccaloni and Judith Magee to digitise all letters - not just the NHM collection - and make them available on-line with funding from the Mellon Foundation. The project employs one full time archivist and started in October 2010 to run for three years, culminating in 2013, the centenary of Wallace's death, and will be an important resource for historians of science.

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Adrian Glover (Zoology) and Helena Wiklund have also been awarded a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Helena to work on deep sea biology.  This Marie Curie scheme, funded by the European Union, allows experienced EU researchers to work in other EU countries to develop skills and collaboration, producing high-quality science.  The NHM bids successfully for funds to a wide range of research funding agencies each year in the UK and elsewhere.

 

They will be working on worms in the deep sea: the last unexplored frontier on Earth, where in recent years many hundreds of new species have been discovered. We are familar with shallow coastal seas affected by tidal currents, richly productive and fertile.  In contrast, the deep sea has many areas where nutrients are scarce, cold and subject to high pressure, deep ocean basins over 4 kilometres below the surface.  The lives of organisms in the deep sea are often very different from those of related species near the surface.

 

A key question in deep-sea biology is that of whether and how deep-sea animals are able to disperse. Many organisms, such as worms, have limited abilty to move over any distance as adults: some have planktonic young that can be carried over distance by currents.

 

The dominant idea for the deep sea has been one of cosmopolitanism: that animals are relatively mobile at certain stages of their lfe cycle and have easy access to all ocean basins around the world. However, this has been recently challenged and for many species there may be barriers to dispersal in the form of substrate specialisation (the requirement to live in particular types of sediment) limited mobility or particular reproductive characteristics.

 

This study will target one of the most abundant and species-rich groups, the polychaetes. To answer questions of dispersal and evolution in the deep sea Helena will study three contrasting groups of polychaetes:one group with mobile planktonic larvae; a second group with direct-developing larvae, similar in form to the adults; and a third group, the newly discovered genus of ’bone-eating’ worms, Osedax, that are sessile (non-mobile) and exist on the most specialised of habitats – whale bones on the sea floor. (One of which, Osedax mucofloris, was a NHM species of the day in 2010)

 

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Osedax mucofloris


The study will use molecular data (such as from DNA analysis) from material from several ocean basins to construct phylogenies (evolutionary trees) to evaluate the relationships within the three groups.  It will have great value in understanding species formation, population connections and the processes that drive biodiversity in the deep sea.

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Ranee Tiwari, Polly Parry and Julie Harvey from the Museum are currently visiting the Acharya Jagadish  Chandra Bose  Botanical Garden in Kolkata, India (formerly Calcutta) to collaborate on a project that combines science and history.  They are working on the plant collections and correspondence of Nathaniel Wallich who held the post of Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in the early 19th Century, part of a project involving the National Archives of India, the Acharya  Jagadish Chandra  Bose Botanical   Garden, the NHM, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Library.

 

The NHM collections have developed over the past three centuries as a resource and reference for current scientific research, but always as part of a wider network of collaboration between museums, universities and botanical gardens in many different countries.  Information and specimens are constantly added to ensure that the collections reflect the best modern understanding of diversity and evolution.  However, they have a wider value: the gradual development of the collection reflects and captures all sorts of information and evidence of historical, social and economic interest.


Nathaniel Wallich's work, including botanical collections, watercolour drawings and correspondence is an invaluable scientific and historical resource for researchers and botanists around the world. He was central to the development of Indian botanical collections for a period, and exchanged specimens and letters with collaborators in different parts of the world: a quick search of the NHM botany collection database online shows Wallich as the named collector for more than 2,200 specimens.  This collaborative project will trace Wallich materials in different organisations and develop a website resource for public and research use.

 

Wallich was Danish, born in Copenhagen, but moved to the Danish settlement at Serampore in Bengal.  This was captured by the British East India Company shortly afterwards, Wallich and other Danes were employed by the Company: Wallich in the botanical garden from 1809, where he eventually became Superintendent at a period of prolific collection of plants from across Indian and neighbouring territories.

 

The long history of museum collections means that there is huge potential for research in the Arts and Humanities. In addition to their modern value, specimens and archives reflect past views of the world and are often associated with particular social or political developments, or with particular figures of both scientific and broader interest.  This resource is used by historians, anthropologists, artists and others for particular projects and the Museum has set up a specialist NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities Research to focus, support and develop these activities.

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Charles Darwin, during his voyage on HMS Beagle, collected a single juvenile tortoise from James (San  Salvador or Santiago) Island in the Galápagos Archipelago.

 

This animal was returned to England with three other small tortoises and examined by J.E. Gray, who became Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum (the natural history departments at the BM eventually became what is now the Natural History Museum).

 

The subsequent fate of Darwin’s pet tortoise has been the source of much speculation. Some have claimed that it was transported to Australia (where it lived to an age of more than 175 years); others that it remained in England but disappeared without trace.

 

However, a new paper by Colin McCarthy (Zoology) and Aaron Bauer describes how Darwin’s pet was in fact registered in the British  Museum collection in 1837 and that the specimen still exists:albeit with its registration details hidden on the inner face of the lower shell (plastron).

 

The obscurity of the labelling probably caused these data to be overlooked for more than 170 years. The chelonian (tortoises and turtle) catalogues of Gray, Günther and Boulenger, published between 1844 and 1889, all failed to recognise this specimen as Darwin’s tortoise, mentioning it only as a stuffed juvenile of unknown provenance.

 

Despite this, Günther placed the specimen in his newly defined species Testudo ephippium, which was subsequently regarded as endemic to Abingdon (Pinta) Island in the Galapagos. The confirmation of the specimen’s James Island origin means, however, that Darwin’s pet tortoise is, most appropriately,  a member of the species Chelonoidis darwini.

Bauer, A.M. & McCarthy, C.J. 2010. Darwin’s pet Galápagos tortoise, Chelonoidis darwini, rediscovered.  Chelonian Conservation and Biology 9: 270-276.

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The differences between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, our own species, have been widely debated since the discovery of the remains of Homo neanderthalensis in the 19th Century.  Professor Chris Stringer, one of the Museum's leading research scientists from the Department of Palaeontology, is a specialist on the origins and variation of humans, their ancestors and their relatives.  In particular, he has worked for many years on Neanderthals.

 

One characteristic of Neanderthals that captures both public and scientific imagination is their different physical appearance, having pronounced brow ridges on the skull, a prognathous face, wide nose and a stongly-built body with short legs.  It has traditionally been argued that Neanderthals have relatively larger sinuses as a response to living in cold climates - they are know to have lived in Europe during periods of lower temperatures - the ice ages.  The traditional argument has been that this characteristic warmed the air as it was breathed in.

 

However, new research published in the Journal of Human Evolution from Todd Rae from the University of Roehampton, Thomas Koppe from the University of Griefswald, Germany, and Chris Stringer, NHM, suggests that the range of sinus size for Neanderthals was in the same proportion to body size as that of European Homo sapiens.  They also argue that the normal response of mammal species in cold climates is actually to develop smaller sinuses.  Their conclusion is that the differences between ourselves and Neanderthals for this characteristic can be explained simply by genetic drift - the random genetic changes that occur in different populations and species over time - and not as a response to their environment.

 

Rae, T. C., T. Koppe and C. Stringer (2011). "The Neanderthal face is not cold adapted." Journal of Human Evolution 60(2): 234-239. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.10.003

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Understanding the diversity of life is central to the mission of the Natural History Museum. Science sees diversity in many ways: populations, species, ecosystems, individuals or genes and the Museum's collections of more than 70 million items are used by scientists for research on many aspects of diversity.  The collections have developed over the past 250 years with a very strong emphasis on the idea of the species, but reflect diversity within species as well - the differences between populations from different areas, for example.

 

What separates one species from another is not always an easy question: it is a key question for the science of taxonomy and has important practical implications.  The established biological species concept defines two species as two groups of organisms that cannot interbreed to produce fertile young when in the same location.  When different species are present in the same location, this can be observed in theory.  However, when two groups of similar organisms are geographically separate, are they different populations, different subspecies, or different species? This will be the case for many thousands of species and has led to heated debate among scientists who have taken different views.

 

Beyond science, this is of importance because the species is often used in practical policy-making and economic activity.  There needs to be accurate definition for biodiversity conservation, pest control in agriculture, human health and other activities.

 

A group of collaborating scientists from Oxford and Cambridge Universities and from BirdLife International have used the Museum's bird collections to try to define a reliable standard for species. They aimed to define how much genetic, morphological and behavioural distance there was between known species and subspecies, and within species.

 

The scientists looked at pairs of 58 closely-related species and subspecies, including European swallows and linnets, North American blackbirds and tyrant flycatchers and African Illadopsis. They examined more than 2,000 specimens from the NHM bird collections and more than 140 from Louisana State University for morphological data and plumage, and looked also at song, ecological and behavioural differences. The intention was to use this suite of characters to define a reliable and objective difference between species.

 

Tobias et. al (2010) published their results in the journal Ibis, concluding that this is a reliable way of confirming species separations and propose that this could be used increasingly to improve the reliability of understanding of bird diversity. An article in Nature (Brooks and Helgen, 2010), commenting on the paper, suggested that there could be very interesting possibilities in applying similar techniques to other groups of organisms and with DNA data.

 

Thousands of visiting scientists routinely use the Museum's collections as a research resource: the collection represents a body of evidence to address new questions and test established knowledge of natural diversity, and continues to develop as research interests expand.

 


TOBIAS, J. A., SEDDON, N., SPOTTISWOODE, C. N., PILGRIM, J. D.,  FISHPOOL, L. D. C. and COLLAR, N. J. (2010), Quantitative criteria for  species delimitation. Ibis, 152: 724–746.  doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2010.01051.x

 

Brooks, T. M. and K. M. Helgen (2010). "Biodiversity: A standard for species." Nature 467(7315): 540-541.

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At the core of the Museum's scientific work lies taxonomy: the description, classification and naming of species.  This science is the foundation for all the biological sciences - if we cannot accurately describe the organism, the biological research that we do will not be reliable.  Species are essential concepts in describing diversity and exploring evolution - the Museum's collections and research centre on taxonomy, but integrate it with all sorts of other scientific approaches.

 

Taxonomy is published in the scientific literature in a number of ways - individual species results are published increasingly in short papers, sometimes online.  However, there is great value in ambitious works that cover whole groups of organisms - it allows all members of the group to be compared in a systematic way and new ideas and conclusions on diversity and evolution explored.

 

The final part of Dr Norman Robson’s Hypericum monograph was published in Phytotaxa. This an important monograph of a species-rich flowering plant genus; Hypericum (approximately 480 species) is one of 100 plant genera which together represent 22% of angiosperm (flowering plant) diversity. 

 

A genus is a classification group for a number of individual closely related species. Hypericum is a genus of flowering plant species that is worldwide in distribution and familar as a garden plant in the UK and some species have been used in the past in herbal treatments. (The name St   John’s Wort is commonly used for these plants.) A New Zealand species, Hypericum gramineum, is shown below.

 

Hypericum gramineum.jpg

 

 

The entire work comprises 1,247 pages in 11 parts, the culmination of 27 years of work and more than 50 years of research by Dr Robson on this genus. The editorial in Phytotaxa states that “The size of such genera means that complete monographic treatments to account for species diversity are time-consuming, costly and labour-intensive. Consequently, the species-level taxonomy of most such groups is poorly known [and this] presents a substantial barrier both to the goal of completing the global inventory and to understanding the evolution of the diversity they contain. Hypericum is now a notable exception to this problem”

 

 

Phytotaxa 4: 1258

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Myxozoans are a diverse group of microscopic endoparasites - tiny worm-like parasites that live within other organisms, depending on their hosts for nutrition, oxygen and other needs.  Examples of myxozoans featured as NHM species of the day in 2010 were  Buddenbrockia plumatellae  and Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae.

Scientific study of evolution and evolutionary relationships has in the past often depended on study of the physical forms of organisms (morphology) and comparing particular characteristics, such as body plan, organs, limbs or other features. Similarities and differences in these characters are used to classify the organisms.  However, with some organisms, particularly parasites, evolution can result in the loss of features with an apparently more simple body form.  This makes clarification of relationships difficult.  However, the use of DNA sequences can provide additional information that leads to understanding of evolutionary relationships and a clear evolutionary classification (phylogeny).

Myxozoans have been the focus of much controversy regarding their phylogenetic position. Two dramatically different hypotheses have been put forward for the position of the Myxozoa within Metazoa (all multicelled animals).

The first hypothesis, supported by rDNA sequence data (a specific kind of DNA from the ribosomes of the cell), suggests that Myxozoa is a sister group to Bilateria (all organisms with a single line of symmetry to their body plan, ranging from simple worms to humans, and representing most groups of animals). However, the alternative hypothesis, supported by phylogenomic data (a broader range of DNA) and morphology, suggests that Myxozoan are cnidarian. Cnidarians are an animal group containing sea anemones, coral and jellyfish that have radial symmetry and a very different body plan from the Bilateria.  These different ideas represent evolutionary events that would have occurred hundreds of millions of years ago.

Professor Beth Okamura (NHM department of Zoology) and colleagues, funded by the US National Science Foundation, investigated these conflicting hypotheses with Buddenbrockia and explored the effects of missing data, different statistical methods, and different models on evolutionary classification.  In addition, they identified subsets of the data that most influence the placement of Myxozoa and explored their effects by removing them from the datasets.

The results confirm the existence of two relatively stable placements for myxozoans and demonstrate that conflicting signal exists not only between the two types of data but also within the phylogenomic dataset. These analyses underscore the importance of careful model selection, taxon and data sampling, and in-depth data exploration, when investigating the phylogenetic placement of highly divergent taxa.

In other words, the  available information does not yet allow Myxozoans to be placed  definitely within one or other fundamental group - further development of data, and new scientific techniques will be needed to answer this question, but the work in the paper is important in defining the current limits and uncertainties of this area of science, and suggests ways forward for the future.

Evans, N.M., Holder, M.T., Barbeitos, M.S., Okamura, B. & Cartwright, P. 2010. The phylogenetic position of Myxozoa: Exploring conflicting signals in phylogenomic and ribosomal datasets. Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2733-2746. doi:10.1093/molbev/msq159

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Life in Cambrian seas, between 488 and 542 million years ago, was diverse and often very different from more recent organisms.  The rocks of the Burgess Shales in the Canadian Rockies have preserved incredible organisms, including the free-swimming Anomalocaris (see image below) 

NaturalHistoryMuseum_022801_IA.jpg

Research on this fauna has been active for many years, with public interest stimulated by the writing of Stephen Jay Gould in his 1989 book Wonderful Life.

Dr Greg Edgecombe from the Museum's Palaeontology Department will host Dr Allison Daley, who has been awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from the Swedish Research Council. Allison will join the museum for two years (2011-2012) to work with Greg on the evolution and ontogeny (development) of anomalocaridids.

Previously unstudied material of Anomalocaris and related taxa from the Burgess Shale housed at the Royal Ontario Museum will be a particular focus of this study, including a geometric description of shape changes in the more robust body parts through the course of development. New collections from the Cambrian of Australia will also be documented, and all material used to refine the evolutionary classification of anomalocaridids within the arthropod stem-group.

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In November 2010, Drs David Gower and Mark Wilkinson (Zoology) represented the NHM at the formal launch of the International project LAI: Lost Amphibians of India at the University of Delhi, India.

This project aims to “rediscover” Indian amphibian species in the wild that have not been recorded scientifically for anywhere between 18 and 169 years. The concern is that some of the 50 or so species on the wanted list might have become extinct, given that amphibian declines and extinctions have been reported worldwide in recent years.

Many of the “lost” Indian species are known only from their museum type specimens, often historical material held only in the NHM, having been collected during the colonial period.

The NHM is an official Institutional Partner in the LAI project along with several international conservation NGOs. The project is organised by the University  of Delhi and supported by the Indian government Department of Biotechnology, Department of Science and Technology, and Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Both David and Mark have worked in India and other countries with local collaborators over many years, focusing in particular on the diversity, evolution and biogeography of the burrowing, legless caecilian amphibians.  Two South American examples of these animals can be seen among the species of the day for 2010: Rhinatrema bivittatum; and Atretochoana eiselti.

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Charles Darwin is best known as an evolutionary biologist but he also had significant success as a geologist.  His first three scientific books after his account of the voyage of the Beagle explored the geology of coral reefs, volcanic islands and South America: The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842); Geological Observations of Volcanic Islands (1844); and Geological Observations on South  America (1846).

Dr Brian Rosen, a Scientific Associate in the NHM Department of Zoology, gave an invited public lecture, hosted by the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) in their ‘Distinguished Lecture Series’ in November 2010, entitled ‘Red or Blue? Darwin's Bermuda Dilemma and his Enduring Subsidence Theory of Coral Reefs’, in which he discussed Darwin's ideas and conclusions.

Darwin's subsidence theory of the origin of coral atolls was based on the idea that the world's ocean floors as a whole were subsiding, and that atolls had developed as coral growth kept pace with sea level on the sinking foundations of former volcanoes. The sheer scale and simplicity of Darwin's idea was reflected in his famous coral reef map, on which he shaded atolls and most other oceanic reefs in blue (inferring subsidence), and most reefs elsewhere in red (inferring uplift or stability).

Darwin's theory was initially acclaimed but over time it seemed too revolutionary for many - alternative ideas such as sea level changes were preferred.  However, by the mid twentieth century, it became clear that the reef deposits of most atolls did indeed extend hundreds of metres beneath their surfaces - far deeper than can be explained by glacial sea level changes alone. 

We know now that atolls do form because islands sink gradually as a  consequence of tectonic plate movement.  While Darwin was correct about  the subsidence, tectonic plate movement and sinking as a reason was not proposed until 1912, althougth this was hotly contested until scientific explanation in the 1950s and 1960s.

Although Darwin did not visit Bermuda, he included it in his coral reef book. Bermuda's reefs - being essentially ring-like in arrangement, and with a central lagoon - are atoll-like, but for other reasons Darwin was equivocal about whether it was a true atoll, so he left it uncoloured on his reef map. In his lecture Brian Rosen attempted to resolve Darwin's dilemma, based on the fact that the sea levels at Bermuda have fluctuated over time.

 


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The Museum's collections are used for research by more than 8,000 visiting scientists each year, and many thousands of specimens are sent on loan to other institutions for research purposes.

 

Scientists from the University of East Anglia, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Universities of Sussex and Kent have used the NHM botany collections and those of other institutions to look at how the flowering time of orchids varies with spring temperatures.  They looked at recent field records of flowering date and temperature (1975-2006) for the UK Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes, and compared these with historical temperature records and dated flowering specimens in collections (1848-1958).

 

Their research, published in the Journal of Ecology, showed that the orchids responded to temperature in the same way in the two periods.  This means that collection specimens could be of significant value in looking at the responses of plants to past climate patterns for periods when there were no records kept of flowering dates.

 

This work indicates the potential value of collections for investigating ecological responses to climate and as research resources for new scientific interests.

 

 

Karen M. Robbirt, Anthony J. Davy, Michael J. Hutchings and David L. Roberts (2011) Validation of biological collections as a source of phenological data for use in climate change studies: a case study with the orchid Ophrys sphegodes. Journal of Ecology, 99, 235–241 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2010.01727.x

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Meteorites from the Moon

Posted by John Jackson Jan 4, 2011

Samples from the Moon come either from lunar landing missions - the US Apollo or Soviet Luna sample return missions - or from lunar meteorites.  The Moon's craters show a history of impacts by smaller space bodies that, when they have collided with the Moon, have flung Moon rock into space. 

Some of this material has eventually fallen to the surface of the Earth as lunar meteorites, although these have only been recognised as such since 1982 when some unusual meteorites were compared with rocks retrieved by lunar missions. Over 130 meteorites have now been recognised as of lunar origin.

Scientists from the Museum's meteorite research group, Professor Sara Russell and Anton Kearsley, have collaborated with partners from London University's UCL and Birkbeck College to study four lunar regolith breccia meteorites that provide sampling of the lunar surface from regions of the Moon that were not visited by the US and Soviet missions. They used equipment in the Museum's analytical laboratories to show that these meteorites represent impact melts formed from rocks of compositions distinct from those sampled by the Apollo missions - there is considerable variability in rock types across the surface of the moon.

JOY K H, Crawford I A, RUSSELL S S & KEARSLEY A T (2010) Lunar meteorite regolith breccias: An in situ study of impact melt composition using LA-ICP-MS with implications for the composition of the lunar crust. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 45: 917-946. DOI: 10.1111/j.1945-5100.2010.01067.

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Trichuriasis is a common intestinal worm infection in Africa and in other parts of the World, affecting almost 800 million people.  Trichuris is the nematode worm that causes the condition and is usually transmitted by faecal contamination of soil or food.  Heavier infestation can lead to pain and a range of health impacts that can seriously diminish quality of life and which may contribute to premature death, particularly in children. 

The World Health Organisation describes trichuriasis as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases - diseases that thrive in conditions of poverty. Unsafe water, lack of access to health services, inadequate housing, malnutrition and poor sanitation all increase vulnerability to infection by this and other diseases such as leprosy, dengue and schistosomiasis.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer from both trichuriasis and from schistosomiasis, another condition caused by a parasite, and these may be treated by the same drugs. Research on the disease leads to better understanding and more effective treatment.

Dr Stefanie Knopp undertook her PhD research on treatment of trichuriasis at the University of Basel in collaboration with Dr David Rollinson and Dr Russell Stothard in the Museum's Department of Zoology, who are specialists in schistosomiasis.  She has recently published important research from her PhD in Clinical Infectious Diseases (a high-profile journal with an impact factor of 8.3) in a paper on on the treatment of trichuriasis in Zanzibar, Tanzania. 

Single doses of the drugs albendazole and mebendazole had in the past shown limited effectiveness in the treatment of trichuriasis. The combination of albendazole with ivermectin was known to improve treatment, but a mebendazole–ivermectin combination had not been previously investigated.

The research showed that addition of ivermectin improves the therapeutic outcomes of both albendazole and mebendazole against Trichuris trichiura, and may be considered for use in soil-transmitted helminth control programs and individual patient management.

 

Knopp S, Mohammed K A, Speich B, Hattendorf J, Khamis I S, Khamis A N, Stothard, J R, Rollinson D, Marti H and Utzinger, J  (2010) Albendazole and Mebendazole Administered Alone or in Combination with Ivermectin against Trichuris trichiura: A Randomized Controlled Trial.  Clin Infect Dis.  51 (12): 1420-1428. doi:                                                                          10.1086/657310