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In the past few weeks, after the rain started up I noticed these mushrooms around my local area. I'd never seen them previously out of the 20 years I've lived here (a town in Queensland, Australia).
Sometimes they have a net-like section, and they sometimes have 10+ flies around a mushroom cluster.
What are these mushrooms? Are they common in Australia?
You found a member of the stinkhorn family, The Phallales (in the family Phallacea), probably a Veiled Lady (Phallus indusiatus) or a Phallus multicolor (they have other names as well.) They are common in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. Don't eat them; they're attractive to dogs (lovely aroma!) and there have been dog deaths.
These fungi produce a spore slime which has an intense smell of rotting meat or sewage, which is why flies are attracted to them.
They are commonly found in rotted woody material.
Underwater mushrooms: Curious lake fungi under every turned over stone
While fungi are well known for being essential in cycling carbon and nutrients, there are only about 100,000 described species in contrast to the 1.5 to 3 millions, assumed to exist on Earth. Of these, barely 3000 fungi belong to aquatic habitats. In fact, freshwater fungi have been researched so little, it is only now that an international research team provide the first lake-wide fungal diversity estimate in the open access journal MycoKeys.
Over the spring and the early summer of 2010, a large team of scientists, led by Dr Christian Wurzbacher and Dr Norman Warthmann, affiliated with the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries and the Berlin Center for Genomics in Biodiversity Research, Germany (currently at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the Australian National University, Australia, respectively), collected a total of 216 samples from 54 locations, encompassing eight different habitats within Lake Stechlin in North-East Germany.
Having recovered samples on three occasions over the course of the study, their aim was to test how habitat specificity affects the fungal community and whether fungal groups would reflect the availability of particulate organic matter as substrate. Unlike previous studies of aquatic fungi that compared water samples among different lakes or seasons, theirs would compare the diversity among habitats within a single lake. This included the study of fungi living in the water and the sediments, as well as fungi living on the surfaces of plants and other animals.
As a result, the scientists concluded that every type of habitat, i.e. sediments, biofilms, and submerged macrophytes (large aquatic plants), has a specific fungal community that varies more than initially expected. Of these, lake biofilms, representing a group of microorganisms, whose cells stick to each other, and cling together to a surface, turned out to be the hotspots for aquatic fungi.
"Our study provides the first estimate of lake-wide fungal diversity and highlights the important contribution of habitat heterogeneity to overall diversity and community composition," the scientists summarise. "Habitat diversity should be considered in any sampling strategy aiming to assess the fungal diversity of a water body."
Strange but True: The Largest Organism on Earth Is a Fungus
Next time you purchase white button mushrooms at the grocery store, just remember, they may be cute and bite-size but they have a relative out west that occupies some 2,384 acres (965 hectares) of soil in Oregon's Blue Mountains. Put another way, this humongous fungus would encompass 1,665 football fields, or nearly four square miles (10 square kilometers) of turf.
The discovery of this giant Armillaria ostoyae in 1998 heralded a new record holder for the title of the world's largest known organism, believed by most to be the 110-foot- (33.5-meter-) long, 200-ton blue whale. Based on its current growth rate, the fungus is estimated to be 2,400 years old but could be as ancient as 8,650 years, which would earn it a place among the oldest living organisms as well.
A team of forestry scientists discovered the giant after setting out to map the population of this pathogenic fungus in eastern Oregon. The team paired fungal samples in petri dishes to see if they fused (see photo below), a sign that they were from the same genetic individual, and used DNA fingerprinting to determine where one individual fungus ended.
This one, A. ostoyae, causes Armillaria root disease, which kills swaths of conifers in many parts of the U.S. and Canada. The fungus primarily grows along tree roots via hyphae, fine filaments that mat together and excrete digestive enzymes. But Armillaria has the unique ability to extend rhizomorphs, flat shoestringlike structures, that bridge gaps between food sources and expand the fungus's sweeping perimeter ever more.
A combination of good genes and a stable environment has allowed this particularly ginormous fungus to continue its creeping existence over the past millennia. "These are very strange organisms to our anthropocentric way of thinking," says biochemist Myron Smith of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. An Armillaria individual consists of a network of hyphae, he explains. "Collectively, this network is called the mycelium and is of an indefinite shape and size."
All fungi in the Armillaria genus are known as honey mushrooms, for the yellow-capped and sweet fruiting bodies they produce. Some varieties share this penchant for monstrosity but are more benign in nature. In fact the very first massive fungus discovered in 1992&mdasha 37-acre (15-hectare) Armillaria bulbosa, which was later renamed Armillaria gallica&mdashis annually celebrated at a "fungus fest" in the nearby town of Crystal Falls, Mich.
Myron Smith was a PhD candidate in botany at the University of Toronto when he and colleagues discovered this exclusive fungus in the hardwood forests near Crystal Falls. "This was kind of a side project," Smith recalls. "We were looking at the boundaries of [fungal] individuals using genetic tests and the first year we didn't find the edge."
Next, the microbiologists developed a new way to tell an individual apart from a group of closely related siblings using a battery of molecular genetic techniques. The major test compared fungal genes for telltale signs of inbreeding, where heterozygous strips of DNA become homozygous. That's when they realized they had struck it big. The individual Armillaria bulbosa they found weighed over 100 tons (90.7 metric tons) and was roughly 1,500 years old.
"People had ideas that maybe they were big but nobody had any idea they were that big," says Tom Volk, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin&ndashLa Crosse. "Well it's certainly the biggest publicity that mycology is going to get&mdashmaybe ever."
Soon afterward, the discovery of an even bigger fungus in southwestern Washington was announced by Terry Shaw, then in Colorado with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and Ken Russell, a forest pathologist at Washington State Department of Natural Resources, in 1992. Their fungus, a specimen of Armillaria ostoyae, covered about 1,500 acres (600 hectares) or 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers). And in 2003 Catherine Parks of the USFS in Oregon and her colleagues published their discovery of the current behemoth 2,384-acre Armillaria ostoyae.
Ironically, the discovery of such huge fungi specimens rekindled the debate of what constitutes an individual organism. "It's one set of genetically identical cells that are in communication with one another that have a sort of common purpose or at least can coordinate themselves to do something," Volk explains.
Both the giant blue whale and the humongous fungus fit comfortably within this definition. So does the 6,615-ton (six-million-kilogram) colony of a male quaking aspen tree and his clones that covers 107 acres (43 hectares) of a Utah mountainside.
And, at second glance, even those button mushrooms aren't so tiny. A large mushroom farm can produce as much as one million pounds (454 metric tons) of them in a year. "The mushrooms that people grow in the mushroom houses&133 they're nearly genetically identical from one grower to another," Smith says. "So in a large mushroom-growing facility that would be a genetic individual&mdashand it's massive!"
In fact, humongous may be in the nature of things for a fungus. "We think that these things are not very rare," Volk says. "We think that they're in fact normal."
List of bioluminescent fungus species
Found largely in temperate and tropical climates, currently there are more than 75 known species  of bioluminescent fungi, all of which are members of the order Agaricales (Basidiomycota) with one exceptional ascomycete belonging to the order Xylariales.  All known bioluminescent Agaricales are mushroom-forming, white-spored agarics that belong to four distinct evolutionary lineages. The Omphalotus lineage (comprising the genera Omphalotus and Neonothopanus) contains 12 species, the Armillaria lineage has 10 known species, while the Mycenoid lineage (Mycena, Panellus, Prunulus, Roridomyces) has more than 50 species. The recently discovered Lucentipes lineage contains two species, Mycena lucentipes and Gerronema viridilucens, which belong to a family that has not yet been formally named.  Armillaria mellea is the most widely distributed of the luminescent fungi, found across Asia, Europe, North America, and South Africa. 
Bioluminescent fungi emit a greenish light at a wavelength of 520–530 nm. The light emission is continuous and occurs only in living cells.  No correlation of fungal bioluminescence with cell structure has been found. Bioluminescence may occur in both mycelia and fruit bodies, as in Panellus stipticus and Omphalotus olearius, or only in mycelia and young rhizomorphs, as in Armillaria mellea.  In Roridomyces roridus luminescence occurs only in the spores, while in Collybia tuberosa, it is only in the sclerotia. 
Although the biochemistry of fungal bioluminescence has not fully been characterized, the preparation of bioluminescent, cell-free extracts has allowed researchers to characterize the in vitro requirements of fungal bioluminescence. Experimental data suggest that a two-stage mechanism is required. In the first, a light-emitting substance (called "luciferin") is reduced by a soluble reductase enzyme at the expense of NAD(P)H. In the second stage, reduced luciferin is oxidized by an insoluble luciferase that releases the energy in the form of bluish-green light. Conditions that affect the growth of fungi, such as pH, light and temperature, have been found to influence bioluminescence, suggesting a link between metabolic activity and fungal bioluminescence. 
All bioluminescent fungi share the same enzymatic mechanism, suggesting that there is a bioluminescent pathway that arose early in the evolution of the mushroom-forming Agaricales.  All known luminescent species are white rot fungi capable of breaking down lignin, found in abundance in wood. Bioluminescence is an oxygen-dependent metabolic process and therefore may provide antioxidant protection against the potentially damaging effects of reactive oxygen species produced during wood decay. The physiological and ecological function of fungal bioluminescence has not been established with certainty. It has been suggested that in the dark beneath closed tropical forest canopies, bioluminescent fruit bodies may be at an advantage by attracting grazing animals (including insects and other arthropods) that could help disperse their spores. Conversely, where mycelium (and vegetative structures like rhizomorphs and sclerotia) are the bioluminescent tissues, the argument has been made that light emission could deter grazing. 
The following list of bioluminescent mushrooms is based on a 2008 literature survey by Dennis Desjardin and colleagues,  in addition to accounts of several new species published since then.    
But with one mystery solved, another has immediately opened - with a diameter of 2cm, the mushroom-shaped caps are considerably larger than all the bract appendages of all known siphonophores.
Most bracts are closer to 2mm wide, says Dr O'Hara.
"We know it's part of something. But what our actual animal looks like in real life is still a mystery," he says.
The team's findings reveal how little we know about the deep ocean.
With no deep-sea submarines, he says Australia still has to "rely on old-fashioned dredges and sleds, which get dangled all the way to the sea floor, pulled along for a few metres, and then hauled back up again.
"It's all exactly the same as it was in 1870, really. So we're still groping in the dark when it comes to deep-sea research."
21-25 Interesting Facts About Mushrooms
21. The most expensive single food ingredient sold was a 3.3lb white truffle, a subterranean mushroom that sold for $330,000. – Source
22. Not only do the reindeer of the Chuckchee people of Siberia ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms, they also get high on the urine patches containing the drug, and will fight over access to hallucinogenic yellow snow. – Source
23. It is perfectly legal in most countries to buy the spores of magic mushrooms, since they don’t contain any psychoactive compounds. – Source
24. There is a mushroom that dissolves itself. It is edible, but it must be cooked or eaten within hours of picking. – Source
25. The first documented study on the effects of magic mushrooms occurred in 1799 after a London family misidentified the fungi and ate it for dinner. – Source
Top 10 Strange Topics That Need More Explanation
The world if full of mysterious objects, people, places, and events that need more research. In the last 30 years, humans have made some incredible scientific advancement in the area of archeology, astronomy, computer technology, radar, physics, chemistry, biology, and statistics. People are beginning to understand more about how the Earth was made and have identified anomalies that exist in space. Some of the research has opened up questions about historic events and scientific theories. We can only hope that people will evolve and gain a better understanding of bizarre historical events, instead of moving in the opposite direction. This article will examine ten strange topics that need a bit more explanation by world governments.
On the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, dozens of people captured photographic evidence of the murder. The most important evidence was taken by Abraham Zapruder and shows Kennedy&rsquos fatal head shot. In order to determine exactly what happened that day, government officials have examined and scrutinized every angle of the videos. In some cases, mysterious people of interest have been identified. One of the most famous examples is the Babushka Lady, who was witnessed filming near the assassination, but never identified by the police.
Another mysterious figure that was seen during the JFK assassination is the umbrella man. The umbrella man can be seen in several videotapes and photographs of the assassination, including the Zapruder film. He is the only person in Dealey Plaza with an umbrella, which has been deemed unusual because it was a clear day. In the videos, the umbrella man can be seen opening his umbrella and lifting it high above his head as JFK&rsquos limousine approached. He then spun the umbrella clockwise as the limo slowed down and JFK was shot.
In the aftermath of the assassination, the umbrella man sat down on the sidewalk next to the Stemmons Freeway sign. He then got up and walked towards the Texas School Book Depository. The true identity of the umbrella man has never been discovered. His actions have been at the center of multiple movies that examine the JFK conspiracy theory, including Oliver Stone&rsquos film. The theory suggests that the man used the umbrella to signal the shooters. More specifically, he could have been signaling Kennedy&rsquos driver, who was ordered to slow the vehicle. Many people who witnessed the assassination said that Kennedy&rsquos limo came to an almost complete stop in the middle of the street before he was shot.
A less common theory is that the umbrella man used a poison dart to immobilize JFK during the assassination. Another person of interest is the dark-skinned man that is seen standing next to the umbrella man. During the Zapruder film, the dark-skinned man is witnessed making sudden movements toward JFK at frame 202. It almost looks like he makes a Nazi salute motion towards the president. The same dark-skinned man was photographed speaking into a walkie-talkie in Dealey Plaza.
In 1978, after an appeal to the public by the U.S. Committee on Assassinations, a man named Louie Steven Witt came forward and claimed he was the umbrella man. Witt says he brought the umbrella to Dealey Plaza in order to heckle Kennedy. Another theory is that the umbrella man was Cuban American Manuel Artime, who had a close relationship with E. Howard Hunt. Artime died mysteriously in 1977, which is the same time the U.S. assassination committee was investigating the umbrella man.
There is a bizarre set of ancient walls that exist in the hills along the East Bay of San Francisco. Little has been written about the walls and their origin. The walls are constructed from closely fit basalt boulders, which serve as the foundation of the structures. The rocks are deeply embedded in the soil and weigh up to 1 ton. The walls extend for many miles along the hill crests from Berkeley to Milpitas and beyond, even all the way to San Jose, which is located 50 miles south. Some of the walls have been destroyed over the years, but large stretches still exist. In some places, the walls twist and turn abruptly and climb large hills. However, they don&rsquot appear to enclose anything or serve a practical purpose.
The walls surround mountains and extend to Mt. Diablo, where people have discovered a strange stone circle that is 30 feet (9.1 meters) in diameter. The best preserved sections of the walls can be found on Monument Peak, which is east of Milpitas, California. In some places the walls have been known to reach the height of 6 feet (1.8 meters) and the width of 3 feet (0.9 meters). In one location the walls form a spiral that is 200 feet (60.9 meters) wide and circles into a boulder. The construction looks old, but no research has been done to determine their precise age. Before Europeans arrived in San Francisco Bay, the Ohlone Indians populated the region, but they didn&rsquot use stone construction.
To the west of San Francisco Bay, there is another rock wall anomaly in Point Reyes that has drawn some attention. It consists of over 400 carefully laid stones that bisect the Tomales Point peninsula. It is currently unclear who created the Berkeley mystery walls, but some feel the structures were used as a defensive stronghold or line between Indian tribes. In 1904, UC-Berkeley professor John Fryer suggested that the walls were made by migrant Chinese, who traveled to California before the Europeans. Some specialists have noted that the walls look similar to other ancient structures found in rural Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine. Some sections of the Berkeley mystery walls have been torn apart by acorns that fell within cracks, sprouted and became mature trees, and then died and decayed, which indicates the structures have been around for a long time.
It can be argued that the most important video in the history of man is missing. On July 21, 1969, the live broadcast of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon was broadcast around the world. Six hundred million people, or one fifth of mankind at the time, watched the event. The video was extremely blurry because of the technological limitations of the time. In 1969, only limited bandwidth was available to transmit the video signal, which needed to be multiplexed back to the Earth, so the video of the Apollo 11 moonwalk was transmitted in a SSTV format of 10 frames per second at 320 lines of resolution.
Originally, the SSTV format was incompatible with existing NTSC, PAL, and SECAM television standards, so the tapes were converted to a different format. During the conversion, the live signal was sent to a high-quality video monitor and the screen was simply re-recorded with a conventional television camera and broadcast to the world. The optical limitations of the monitor and the camera significantly lowered contrast, brightness, and resolution of the original SSTV video. It also put a huge amount of noise in the broadcast.
You would think that NASA would have recognized the huge significance of the original analog tapes in SSTV format and kept them in a temperature controlled and safe environment, but this is not the case. In 2006, the story broke that NASA had lost 700 boxes of magnetic data tapes, including the original SSTV recordings of the moonwalk. The mistake was huge because modern technology could easily allow for the SSTV tapes to be transformed into a higher quality video of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The mistake has only fueled conspiracy theorists who claim the moonwalk was staged.
According to NASA, G1.9 can be explained as the youngest known supernova remnant (SNR) in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is said to be only 140 years old, which is extremely young for a SNR. The dating of G1.9 has caused some Russian scientists to question the fact because there is no record of a visible supernova during the 1860s. However, NASA maintains that a substantial increase in the brightness of the object over the last 25 years means it is extremely young. The discovery of G1.9 was announced on May 14, 2008 at a NASA press conference. In the days leading up to the conference, NASA said that it would be &ldquoannouncing the discovery of an object in our Galaxy astronomers have been hunting for more than 50 years.&rdquo
This statement caused some people to infer that G1.9 might be a brown dwarf that is related to Planet X or Nibiru, partly because of the objects elongated orbit which is representative of Nibiru. G1.9 was also originally discovered in 1984, which is the same year that conspiracy theorists claim an abnormal planet was found by the U.S. government. In 2012, a story emerged that a group of Spanish astronomers named the StarViewer Team had discovered an object almost twice the size of Jupiter sitting just beyond Pluto. According to the group, the brown dwarf appeared to have planets or large satellites encircling it. It was referred to as G1.9.
StarViewer reported that the object was formed in the same way as the Sun. The group connected the history of the object to Nemesis, which is a hypothetical hard-to-detect star that was originally postulated in 1984. The Spanish team reported that the brown dwarf is orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 95,000 AU (1.5 light-years) beyond the Oort cloud. In November 2010, the scientific journal Icarus published a paper by astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire, which proposed the existence of a binary companion to our Sun, larger than Jupiter, in the Oort cloud. The researchers used the name &ldquoTyche&rdquo to describe the planet.
Spanish astronomers have reported that they tracked G1.9 with great interest because of the recent gravitational anomalies in the Oort cloud. In 2010, it was reported that Pluto had recently undergone a change in color, which may be caused by a massive heating event on the former planet. In the past two years, NASA has discovered two new moons around Pluto, which suggests that the system is more crowded than originally thought. These facts have sparked interest from Spanish scientists who suggest G1.9 is influencing Pluto. For the record, according to author Zecharia Sitchin, whatever Nibiru is, won&rsquot get close to Earth before 2030.
Misrah Ghar il-Kbir (Malta cart tracks) is a prehistoric site located near the Dingli Cliffs on the west coast of Malta. Malta is a Southern European country situated in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, some 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily. One of the greatest mysteries of Malta is the cart ruts, which are a complex network of tracks that have been carved into the rock. The earliest reference to the tracks was made by Gian Francesco Abela in 1647, who suggested that they were used to transport stones from quarries to the sea for exportation to Africa.
It is currently unclear exactly how the tracks were formed or for what purpose. In general, most archeologists presume that the site was developed around the year 2000 BC when new settlers came from Sicily to Malta. The ruts can be found in a number of sites around Malta and on Gozo. However, near the Dingli Cliffs they form a &ldquotraffic jam&rdquo and move in all directions. On average, the grooves are up to 60 cm deep and have an average distance of 110 to 140 cm between them. In certain locations, the tracks cross to form a junction, which creates the illusion of a railway station switching yard. For this reason, the site was nicknamed Clapham Junction, after the station in London.
The Malta tracks produce parallel grooves in the bedrock. Some of the grooves extend for several hundred meters in length and travel into the water. In some areas, the tracks move around large rocks and natural formations. A collection of theories have been put forward to explain the ruts, including that they were formed by human sleds. Some have hypothesized that the tracks could be the remnant of an ancient irrigation system. Recent research has suggested that the Malta tracks could have been formed by wooden-wheeled carts that eroded the soft limestone. If true, the ruts could provide evidence for an ancient transportation network in Malta.
Wilkes Land is a large district of land in eastern Antarctica that was named after Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who commanded the 1838 United States Exploring Expedition. During the expedition, Wilkes discovered proof that Antarctica is a continent. In 1962, a man named R.A. Schmidt became the first person to propose the theory that a giant impact crater is located beneath the Wilkes Land ice sheet. He based the hypothesis on seismic and gravity anomalies in the area. In 2006, a team of researchers led by Ralph von Frese and Laramie Potts used gravity measurements by NASA&rsquos GRACE satellites to prove that there is a 480 km (300 mi) wide Wilkes Land crater. The enormous crater is centered at 70°S 120°E and was probably formed about 250 million years ago.
The anomaly is centered within a larger ring structure that is visible with radar images. If the feature is an impact crater, then, based on the size of the ring structure, the crater would be four or five times wider than the one that is thought to have caused the Cretaceous&ndashPaleogene extinction event. The impact of the object has also been reported to have disturbed the rift valley that formed 100 million years ago when Australia moved away from the Gondwana supercontinent. For this reason, it has been hypothesized that the impact might have contributed to the massive separation by weakening the crust.
The dates surrounding the Wilkes Land Crater suggest that it might be associated with the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and is believed to be the largest extinction event since the origin of complex life. People who doubt the impact theory have noted that there is a lack of an impact ejecta layer associated with the crater. In 2012, it was announced that samples taken from the core of Wilkes Land showed a tropical presence. Researchers were able to reconstruct the local vegetation on Antarctica and found that there were tropical and subtropical rainforests covering the coastal region 52 million years ago. The scientific evaluations showed that winter temperatures on the Wilkes Land coast were warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit approximately fifty million years ago.
On June 19, 2011, a Swedish based diving team named Ocean X made a bizarre discovery in the Baltic Sea. The team specializes in the underwater retrieval of valuable artifacts. On the day in question, Ocean X used sonar equipment to identify a &ldquovery unusual 197 foot (exactly 60 meter) diameter cylinder shaped object at the depth of approximately 275 feet (83.8 meters).&rdquo The team captured a sonar image of the object and released it to the press, which caused some to compare the picture to the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
Ocean X founder Peter Lindberg responded by saying &ldquoFirst we thought this was only stone, but this is something else. Since no volcanic activity has ever been reported in the Baltic Sea, the find becomes even stranger.&rdquo In 2012, Ocean X returned to the site of the anomaly with a collection of 3D seabed scanners and submersible objects. After reaching the site, the team reported that all their electronic equipment, including a satellite phone would not work within 200 meters of the site. After closer examination, the anomaly was described as a &ldquohuge mushroom&rdquo with a thick pillar rising 8 meters (26 feet) out of the seabed with a 4 meter (13 foot) thick dome on the top. Ocean X says they observed wall-like features on the formation&rsquos surface, straight lines, right angles, and circular shaped stones.
In July of 2012, it was suggested that the object may be a Nazi anti-submarine defense system that was used during the Second World War, which had wire mesh to confuse British and Russian submarine radar. If the anomaly is an anti-submarine defense system, the discovery could have historical significance. It could also help explain why electrical equipment has been known to not work near the area.
The story has been picked up by ufologists who claim the anomaly is an alien spacecraft or government facility. Initial reports said that the object contained a staircase, passageways, and a small opening. It has also been suggested that the anomaly sits at the end of a large runway. In 2012, a series of articles were published that claimed the object was a pile of rock, while others say it sits below a unique pattern of rocks. The story has been blurred, but many scientists have labeled the object a cluster of rocks or a sediment deposit. The location of the Baltic Sea Anomaly is secret. In 2012, it was reported by Ocean X that a series of U.S. and Russian military exercises were carried out near the anomaly.
In 1960, a Norse settlement was found at L&rsquoAnse aux Meadows, which is located on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The discovery provided evidence that the Vikings had entered sections of North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, the great explorer Leif Ericson established a Norse settlement on North America named Vinland around the year 1000. Vinland is mentioned in the work of Adam of Bremen c. 1075 and in the Book of Icelanders compiled c. 1122 by Ari the Wise. According to the books, North America was sighted around 986 by Bjarni Herjolfsson, who was blown off course on a trip from Iceland to Greenland. His stories lured Leif Ericson to the area.
In 1957, news of the Vinland map was released to the world. The map is claimed to be a 15th-century world map that holds unique information about the Norse exploration of America. In addition to showing Africa, Asia, and Europe, the map depicts a landmass south-west of Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean labeled as Vinland. The discovery shocked historians who looked to explain the origin of the map. The parchment of the Vinland map shows a representative date of somewhere between 1423 and 1445. Since the map was found, some people have labeled it a forgery, while others have identified it as real.
In the late 1960s, it was announced that a chemical analyses of the map showed ink ingredients from the 20th-century. More specifically, the presence of anatase, which is a synthetic pigment used since the 1920s, however, natural anatase has been demonstrated in various Mediaeval manuscripts. The situation was made worse by the fact that the map was coated with an unknown substance in the 1950s, possibly created by nuclear tests on the document. To support claims for the map, it has been discovered that the wormholes match a medieval copy of volume 3 of Vincent of Beauvais&rsquos encyclopedic Speculum historiale (&ldquoHistorical Mirror&rdquo), which suggests that it may have been located in the book.
In a bizarre occurrence, the Vinland map depicts Greenland as an island with a remarkably close representation of the correct shape and orientation of the land. However, the depiction of Norway is wildly inaccurate. The map also shows an area that may represent Japan. It seems to not only show Honshu, but also Hokkaido and Sakhalin, which were omitted even from Oriental maps in the 15th century.
Many historians feel that the map might be a copy of one developed by Italian mariner Andrea Bianco in the 1430s. Some have placed the land of Vinland as far south as New England or Rhode Island. To date, the map is said to be real by its current owner, Yale University. Regardless of the controversy over its authenticity, the Vinland map has been valued at over $25,000,000. It might be the first map to show North America.
In 1777, a man named John Williams, who was one of the earliest British geologists, described the phenomenon of vitrified forts. Vitrified forts are the name given to a type of crude stone enclosure or wall that shows signs of being subjected to intense heat. The structures have baffled geologists for centuries because people can&rsquot figure out how the rocks were fused together. There is currently no accepted method for the vitrification of large scale objects. &ldquoThe temperatures required to vitrify the entire fort structures are equal to those found in an atomic bomb detonation.&rdquo Hundreds of vitrified fort structures have been found across Europe and 80 such examples exist in Scotland. Some of the most remarkable include Dun Mac Sniachan, Benderloch, Ord Hill, Dun Creich, Castle Point, and Barra Hill.
The forts range in age from the Neolithic to Roman period. The structures are extremely broad and present the appearance of large embankments. The process used to develop the walls is thought to have involved extreme heat and many structures show signs of fire damage. However, vitrification is usually achieved by rapidly cooling a substance. It occurs when bonding between elementary particles becomes higher than a certain threshold. Thermal fluctuations break the bonds, therefore, the lower the temperature, the higher the degree of connectivity. The process of vitrification made headlines in 2012 when scientists used it to preserve organs and tissues at very low temperatures.
Many historians have argued that vitrified forts were subjected to carefully maintained fires to ensure they were hot enough to turn the rock to glass. In order to do this, the temperatures would have been maintained between 1050 and 1235°C, which would have been extremely difficult to do. It is also uncertain why people would have exposed the structures to such intense heat because when rock is superheated, the solid becomes significantly weaker and brittle. Some scientists have theorized that the vitrified forts were created by massive plasma events (solar flares). A plasma event occurs when ionized gas in the atmosphere takes the form of gigantic electrical outbursts, which can melt and vitrify rocks. During solar storms, the Sun is known to occasionally throw off massive spurts of plasma. As of 2012, vitrified forts remain one of the strangest anomalies on Earth.
It is not fully understood what is causing the 2012 North American drought, but the bizarre weather patterns have started to impact daily life. The extreme weather started in March of 2012 when over 7,000 high temperature records were shattered in North America, mainly in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, the western United States and parts of Canada experienced some severe cold weather patterns. In March of 2012, Oregon received a new record for snowfall, while in Chicago the temperatures were 30 degrees hotter than usual.
Mike Halpert, who is the deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Climate Prediction Center, called the record-breaking month of March &ldquomind-boggling.&rdquo Global warming advocate Bill McKibben said: &ldquoit&rsquos not just off the charts. It&rsquos off the wall the charts are tacked to.&rdquo
Sex, mushrooms, rocks and mould
Zombified spiders, glow-in-the-dark fungi, seaweed-like mould and shagpile-topped mushrooms. It might sound like the set of a fantasy film, but you can find all of these in north Queensland - if you look close enough.
James Cook University mycology lecturer Dr Sandra Abell says tropical Queensland is known for its fungi diversity. "It is to do with being tropical, so the tropics are known to have a higher diversity of fungi. You need rain, but too much rain and you don't get them coming up, so it is a bit of a balance. The last couple of years have been a little bit too dry and then prior to that we have had really wet seasons, so this is a good time, nice diversity," she said. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"A lot of really large bodied mushrooms are in more of the eucalyptus woodlands, so further west, between Kuranda and Mareeba, you can go and see a really interesting diversity. Even the beach you will see some coming up, in the sand," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"What is even more interesting is that you basically will have two individual fungi, living in whatever they are living in, like wood. They aren't really male and female, we call them positive and negative, and they will come together to form the structure that you are seeing, so they don't mate until they make this structure," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"They are actually basically entwining, so if you cut them open and have a look microscopically, it will be both of the individuals that are making the structure. The actual sex part of the life cycle doesn't happen until right at the last minute, and that is when the actual genetic materials exchange and the actual spores are produced. So the actual structure itself is an expression of the two partners, it is kind of poetic really and quite bizarre," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"The [underside] really helps you identify it, you need to get those surface characters, but the gill spacing, the colour of the gills, and some of them actually have pores and not gills, so that will really tell me what it is," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"This is a slime mould, and they are in a completely different kingdom and they are really fascinating too, but not fungi. They are weird amoeboid things that basically don't have any cell walls and they kind of slime around, eating bacteria. This is actually a colony that has gotten together to reproduce, often they are just single cells, blobbing around - they're weird," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"It is exactly the same thing as fireflies, it is luciferase. It is actually an enzyme that they have and it is the same as all of your glow in the dark things, so glow worms have it, photo plankton. The function of it is a bit controversial . it is likely to be functional. It may be to do with spore dispersal . but we don't know for sure," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"This is a good example of how weird and wonderful they can be. This is jelly fungi and yeah that is the reproductive part and they produce spores on the outside of that jelly mass," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"These have been popping up everywhere, they are called stinkhorns and very appropriately, mycologists admit that they are phallic, because the actual species of the genus name is phallus. And yes they smell, and the reason that they [smell] is to attract . insects that like that smell. The insects are actually collecting the spores and moving them around," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"It is a little bit hard to tell, but what I think is that this fungus actually killed this spider, and is now eating it and reproducing. There are some fungi that basically will shoot their spores down and . the spore lands on the insect, and it invades the body of the insect, it doesn't kill it yet, it basically takes over the body and it becomes a zombie," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"The fungi then basically controls what the insect is doing . and with ants it will actually make them climb up to a certain height off the ground and then the ant bites into the bottom surface of the leaf . and basically attaches itself to the leaf. Then the fungi doesn't need it anymore, so it dies and the fungi will keep eating it out from the inside and when it is ready [the fungi] will actually explode out of it and form a reproductive structure," said Dr Abell. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
ABC photo contributor Karen Johns is based in Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands of far north Queensland. Living on an unfenced rural property between fertile farmland and tropical rainforest, Karen sees a unique range of plant and animal life daily through her lens. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"We rent an old house on a large farm that is very run-down so basically everything wanders in and wanders out. You have nice rustic looking things around the place and the timber is allowed to rot, and when you have rotting timber you get beautiful fungi," said Karen. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"It took me a long time to realise that it doesn't matter how many photos you take, just take heaps and heaps and heaps and save them all. What I [photograph] is whatever the season is. This is the fungi season, I'm still waiting on the insect and bug season . then the snake season and then the dry season," said Karen. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
"They're everywhere you know . but you have got to take their photos straight away because in a couple of hours they can change their colour or collapse or be ten times bigger or gone. Some days I say 'I'm not touching my camera, I'm not going near it, I'm not going to look . I've got to get some stuff done!'," said Karen. (Contributed: Karen Johns)
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Solved mystery of the deep-sea mushroom just raises new questions
Dendrogramma, the deep-sea mushroom. Credit: Hugh McIntosh/Museum Victoria, CC BY-NC
It's not often scientists suggest they've found an entirely new group of animals, something so different that they can't be considered as belonging to one of the main groups, such as shellfish, insects, worms, jellyfish, sponges, animals with backbones (like us) and so on.
So there was a fair bit of excitement when researchers in reported, in 2014, on strange mushroom-shaped organisms living on the deep seafloor, a kilometre under the water surface, off south-eastern Australia.
These animals, called Dendrogramma, were certainly peculiar. There was a gelatinous stalk and cap shaped like a mushroom, an opening down the bottom of the stalk that looked like a mouth, and a canal that ran from there up into the cap, radiating into numerous branches. There were no appendages or special cells that would give away its relationship to other animals.
If that wasn't intriguing enough, the creatures bore some resemblance to 560 million-year-old fossils that have been found in Newfoundland, Russia and Namibia, as well as in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
This is from a time when the first multi-celled organisms were forming, back before animals and plants took on the shapes and functions that we see today. How amazing if these strange simple creatures had survived off Australia for hundreds of millions of years!
But a crucial bit of evidence was missing from this story there was no DNA data.
Just like in police investigations and medicine, DNA has proved indispensable to the modern biologist. It can reveal relationships between organisms or plants that would not be guessed from their appearance.
Organs such as eyes have evolved multiple times and do not necessarily indicate a shared ancestry. But the Dendrogramma specimens had been collected in 1986 and preserved in DNA-busting formalin. More examples had to be found first.
A discovery in the deep
And so the matter rested until November last year when the sharp eyes of Hugh MacIntosh of Museum Victoria spotted the familiar mushroom shapes at the bottom of a seafloor sample hauled it up from 2,800 metres in the Great Australian Bight.
Hugh was on Australia's new research vessel RV Investigator, participating in a CSIRO-led scientific program to study the marine environment off South Australia.
Hugh emailed us urgently from the ship: "Guess what I have found."
Science is often a waiting game. So we had to wait for the RV Investigator to finish her voyage, wait for the specimens to arrive, wait until the DNA extraction and sequencing proceeded through various laboratories, and then wait for publication.
Not that we were idle during that time. Our evolution guru, Andrew Hugall, downloaded genomes from dozens of animals, setting up a system that could pigeonhole DNA-sequences originating from a single-celled protozoan to a whale.A benthic siphonophore attached by tentacles to a ledge on the sides of a deep-sea canyon in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Okeanos Explorer/NOAA
And still we waited the Christmas break didn't help. We even set up a betting sweep, each of us guessing where Dendrogramma would be placed in the tree of life (I didn't win).
Finally, at 4:30pm, one Tuesday afternoon in January, the DNA results came in. Andrew's computer whirled and four hours later we had an answer. Dendrogramma was a type of siphonophore.
A siphono-what? Well, that was almost our reaction, because even to a bunch of marine biologists, siphonophores are uncommon and strange creatures.
They are cnidarians related to jellyfish, corals and anemones. They have polyps like corals, but have long stinging tentacles like jellyfish and can move around.
Some polyps function as propulsion units, some are specialised to feed, and yet others are gonads. They also can have flattened defensive appendages called bracts.
These can also be mushroom-shaped! The evidence shows that the Dendrogramma specimens are not entire animals, but just siphonophore bracts, pieces detached from a larger creature.DNA evidence indicates that the Dendrogramma mushrooms are not entire animals, just pieces of a siphonophore. What the whole animal looks like remains a mystery. Credit: David Paul and Rebecca McCauley/Museum Victoria
One mystery leads to another
Some commentators have criticised the original authors for publishing without DNA data.
I don't fully agree with this view. You need people to raise ideas and hypotheses that can be tested against subsequent data. We wouldn't have even looked for Dendrogramma if we had not been alerted.
Okay, we were disappointed that Dendrogramma was not a completely new type of animal. But the hunt is important. Hundreds of millions of years of independent evolution could have resulted in the development of all sorts of biochemical novelties, from antibiotics to cancer drugs.
So we have solved one part of the mystery but others remain. We know what Dendrogramma bracts look like but not the whole animal.
Siphonophores come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The deep sea is a big place. It took decades for us to get video footage of the giant squid it may take decades again for us to see footage of Dendrogramma in all its living glory.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
The Institute for Creation Research
A strange, new, mushroom-shaped species discovered alive on the deep seafloor near Australia&mdashmore than 3,000 feet below sea level&mdashmay be a record-breaking living fossil. Researchers investigated the anatomy of this phenomenal animal and published their finds in the online journal PLoS ONE. 1 The creature has a pharynx running down the center of a central stalk, leading to "gastrovascular branches" that look like leaf veins running through a soft disc-like body part. It's not a jellyfish, sea squirt, or sponge.
Because it doesn't fit current categories of biology, the search is now on to find out what this creature is, and if or how it might relate to other animals&mdashsuch as its basic phylum. Every phylum includes a very broad group of creatures. For example, phylum Cnidaria includes all forms of jellyfish, but excludes all other creatures. But so far, this new mushroom-shaped species "cannot at present be placed in an existing phylum." 1 It does, however, have a genus: Dendrogramma.
The study authors noted how close their big discovery resembles certain fossils found in Ediacaran rocks. Only rarely are fossils found in these layers beneath the Cambrian strata. In contrast, Cambrian fossils abound with diversity and contain representatives of almost every living phylum, including fish from Chordata, the phylum for vertebrates. 2,3
This newly discovered sea creature also challenges evolutionary interpretations of biology. If this really is a "living fossil"&mdasha creature with ancient fossil representatives yet still alive today&mdashthat can be found in the Ediacaran rocks, then how will secular biologists explain that evolution had no effect on it over the course of 550 million years? After all, during that same supposed time, evolution was morphing something like mindless sea squirts into scientists.
If future research confirms that these living Dendrogramma represent Ediacaran animal forms, then none of these challenging questions confront biblical creation. Instead, finding solid answers will be simple: God created these creatures to reproduce more of their own unique kind, not evolve into some other phylum.
These new Dendrogramma species might confront evolutionary ideas by setting the record for the longest-surviving, unevolving life form. And in that case, their still-living forms fit the idea of recent creation, and their fossils would, like countless other fossils, confirm a recent world-destroying flood.
- Just, J., R. M. Kristensen, and J. Olesen. 2014. Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertaesedis) &ndash with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLoS ONE. 9 (9): e102976.
- Thomas, B. Is the Cambrian Explosion Problem Solved?Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org December 12, 2011, accessed November 25, 2014.
- Thomas, B. Cambrian Fossil Intensifies Evolutionary Conundrum. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 26, 2014, accessed November 25, 2014.
Image Credit: PLoS ONE. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Strange Sponge-like Fungus Discovered – Named After 'Sponge Bob'
An odd and most rare form of fungus — resembling a sea sponge — has been found living on land in a remote Borneo forest and named after the cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants .
Just reading the comically scientific name of this newly discovered species of fungus — Spongiforma squarepantsii — is sufficient to produce smirks and raised eyebrows, but its discovery is a rare find for mycologists resembling a typical sea sponge, the hole-pocked fungus is only the second known member of the Spongiforma genus.
Absorbent and porous and orange-y….
The name literally translates as “the sponge form of square pants” and true to its name (though not square), the fungus has a remarkable ability to retain water it can be squeezed like a sponge to extract its store of water. But unlike most other sizable fungi, this form springs back to its original size.
Its discoverer, Dennis Desjardin, described the fungus’s smell as somewhat “fruity” to “strongly musty”. It is not clear at present if the fungus is edible (and hopefully, it is not), but both Spongiforma varieties are related to the delectable Porcini mushrooms
The Sponge Bob fungus was found in the forests of Borneo, Malaysia, where it grows on or close to ground. The only other known fungus of this genus is native to central Thailand and differs in color and smell. Both lack a mushroom’s typical stem and cap structure, although scientists believe that more ancient ancestors of this fungal form did possess such features.
Somewhere along their evolutionary trail, these rare forms “gave up” the stem and cap structure (which evolved to disperse and protect the fungus’s spores) in favor of a more rubbery structure with the ability to retain water (vital for fungal survival) and its macro-scale shape, despite being occasionally trampled by animals, or the occasional mycologist.
Fungi represent the third great Kingdom of biology along with the Plant and Animal Kingdoms. Mycologists — biologist that specialize in the study of fungi — estimate that only 5% of the world’s fungal species have been identified. Most of these are tiny, even microscopic forms, but even larger forms like mushrooms are mostly unidentified. And, as the world’s forests and other tropical habitats dwindle from logging and deforestation, the race is on to discover and identify as many of these fungal species as possible.
Fungi are an amazingly diverse kingdom and have been part of human culture for thousands of years, and human evolution, most likely, for millions of years.
The medicinal fungi Ganoderma lucidum which possesses biological inhibitory properties that are useful as anti-virals.
Many forms of fungus can cause diseases and poisonings (e.g., the Amanita varieties of agaric mushroom, and Claviceps purpurea, or ergot, the chemical basis of LSD), and certain soil-dwelling Aspergillus varieties are causing agricultural problems in Europe as they develop resistance to azole fungicides. However, the metabolites from several species are used in modern medicine and some, like the shiitake mushroom, may actually prevent cancer. Of course, the most famous and perhaps most useful of all fungi is the single-celled yeast fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae, used for making bread form wheat.
The discovery of the “Sponge Bob” fungus (made in 2010), along with electron scanning micrographs of its micro-scale structure (resembling a photos of the seafloor covered with small tube sponges), was recently reported by Desjardin et al in the journal Mycologia
Some source material for this post came from the 0riginal World-Science article ‘Scientists find bizarre mushroom, name it after ‘SpongeBob’
Top Photo: Spongiforma squarepantsii seen in cross-section and whole next to a centimeter ruler. (Credit: Tom Bruns, U.C. Berkeley)
Bottom photo: The medicinal fungi Ganoderma lucidum Ericsteinert CC – By – SA 3.0