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Fossils: World’s oldest sperm are discovered inside a female crustacean from 100 million years ago

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fossils worlds oldest sperm are discovered inside a female crustacean from 100 million years ago

Scientists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest fossilised animal sperm from around 100 million years ago.

The ‘spectacular find’ was unearthed by an international team of palaeontologists preserved inside a female ostracod – a type of tiny crustacean that resembles a mussel.

Researchers believe the female mated shortly before becoming trapped in the resin.

They say the findings provide ‘an extremely rare opportunity’ to learn more about the evolution of the reproduction process in animals.

Until now, the oldest known fossilised animal sperm was thought to have been found in a 50-million-year-old worm cocoon from Antarctica.

The researchers say the ostracod specimen belongs to a new species, dubbed Myanmarcypris hui.

They believe these creatures lived on the coast as well as inland waters of what is now Myanmar, surrounded by trees that produced huge quantities of resin.

Scientists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest fossilised animal sperm from around 100 million years ago

Scientists have discovered what they believe to be the oldest fossilised animal sperm from around 100 million years ago

In their study, geobiologist Renate Matzke-Karasz of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich and colleagues analysed 39 specimens of ostracods that had been trapped in a tiny piece of amber — using X-ray scans to reconstruct them in 3D.

The researchers identified ripe giant sperm stored in a pair of sperm receptacles inside the female ostracod — kept waiting ready for her eggs to mature, in what could also be the earliest direct evidence of a completed insemination.

While the majority of the male members of animal species — humans included — produce large quantities of very small sperm as to increase the chance of fertilisation, there are exceptions.

Some creatures — such as fruit flies and modern-day ostracods — produce a small number of oversized sperm, each of which sport tails several times longer than the actual animal itself.

In these cases, chances of fertilising an ovum can increase with the size of the sperm cell, the researchers explained.

Knowing more about how giant sperm cells evolved could shed light on what the researchers describe as an ‘ancient and advanced instance of evolutionary specialisation’.

They say the findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide “an extremely rare opportunity” to learn more about the evolution of the reproduction process

They say the findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide ‘an extremely rare opportunity’ to learn more about the evolution of the reproduction process

The researchers say the ostracod specimen belongs to a new species, dubbed Myanmarcypris hui. They believe these creatures lived on the coast as well as inland waters of what is now Myanmar, surrounded by trees that produced huge quantities of resin

The researchers say the ostracod specimen belongs to a new species, dubbed Myanmarcypris hui. They believe these creatures lived on the coast as well as inland waters of what is now Myanmar, surrounded by trees that produced huge quantities of resin

‘The most significant part of our story is that we can now show that using giant sperm for reproduction is something that can last long in Earth history,’ Dr Matzke-Karasz told the PA news agency.

‘Previously, we were not sure if animals that ‘switched’ to using these giant sperm at a certain point in their evolutionary history [were] doomed to become extinct very quickly,’ she explained.

‘After all, these are enormous costs for the animals — large sperm must be produced, the reproductive organs are much bigger than in other species, they take up a lot of space in the animal and mating lasts long.’

‘This is a lot of biological energy that must be allocated to reproduction — so you might think that this doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.’

‘But in ostracods, it seemed to work for more than 100 million years,’ she added.

‘From an evolutionary point of view, sexual reproduction with the aid of giant sperm must, therefore, be a thoroughly profitable strategy.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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CRAIG BROWN: With hindsight, John Forsyte is even more of a saga

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craig brown with hindsight john forsyte is even more of a saga

 Times change, often without our noticing. Just over 50 years ago, the dramatisation of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga gained an audience of 18 million viewers when it was shown on BBC1.

Broadcast every Sunday for six months, it had the unintended effect of upsetting several vicars, who complained that their congregations had abandoned Evensong in order to watch it.

One episode was particularly striking. In it, the crusty Soames Forsyte (Eric Porter) discovers that his beautiful young wife, Irene (Nyree Dawn Porter), is conducting an affair with an architect called Bossiney. When she returns home, he corners her. ‘Where have you been? Tell me at once, where have you been?’ he cries.

Soames Forsyte  discovers that his wife, Irene  is having an affair

Soames Forsyte  discovers that his wife, Irene  is having an affair 

‘In heaven,’ she replies, luxuriating in the memory. Soames sees red. They tussle, and he chases Irene down a corridor. She tries to close a door, but he jams his foot in it. His intentions are all too clear.

‘Don’t!’ she screams. ‘Kill me if you like! I’d rather you killed me!’

‘There’s no need to kill you — anybody can have you, can’t they?’

Soames rips her dress. ‘You’re my wife!’ he shouts. ‘You’re my wife, you’re my wife, you’re my wife!’ The viewer is left in no doubt as to what will happen next.

After this controversial episode was broadcast, the current affairs programme Late Night Line-Up asked 100 people in London’s Oxford Street who they supported — the rapist Soames, or his unfaithful wife, Irene?

Today, the results may be surprising to say the least: 54 per cent of those interviewed were on the side of Soames, and only 39 per cent for Irene, with 7 per cent ‘Indifferent’.

Gender didn’t come into it, with each side split equally between men and women.

In the vox pop interviews, the Oxford Street shoppers explain why they blame Irene, rather than Soames.

‘She’s a bit of a bitch really, always trying to get her own way,’ says one woman. A man next to her agrees. ‘Very selfish. You wouldn’t want to have married her.’ An older woman also takes Soames’ side. ‘I think he’s very much misunderstood. I think he is nice underneath.’

After this controversial episode was broadcast, the current affairs programme Late Night Line-Up asked 100 people in London’s Oxford Street who they supported

After this controversial episode was broadcast, the current affairs programme Late Night Line-Up asked 100 people in London’s Oxford Street who they supported

A very jazzy young woman goes even further. ‘I sympathise throughout with him. He’s my type, very nice.’

‘He’s a very good man, he’s very kind,’ agrees an Asian man.

An older woman in a hat says, ‘I think he’s very nice as men go. I think he’d make a good husband. He doesn’t deprive her of anything, does he?’

A West Indian lady disagrees. ‘A woman likes a little bit of romance before the animal act,’ she argues. Asked if he feels sorry for Irene, a middle-aged man says: ‘No, I feel sorry for him. That’s why he had to rape her — because she was no good to him.’

There follows a panel discussion, chaired by the young Joan Bakewell, with two people arguing for Soames, and two against.

One of them had already written that Irene ‘would be best buried at the Kingston by-pass roundabout with a stake driven through her heart’.

Another, a woman, agrees with this judgment, saying that the rape scene ‘leaves me with a much greater distaste for Irene … To me, Soames is the ideal husband.’

The most prominent of the panel is Sir Gerald Nabarro, known for courting controversy and espousing the flogging of muggers and the repatriation of immigrants.

As such, he might have been expected to take Soames’s side. Instead, he comes down firmly on the side of Irene, condemning Soames as ‘not a companionable, matrimonial type’, and incapable of love.

The Forsyte Saga gained an audience of 18 million viewers when it was shown on BBC1

The Forsyte Saga gained an audience of 18 million viewers when it was shown on BBC1

One of the women on the panel disagrees, saying that Irene should have forgiven Soames. ‘I say it was a crime passionnel, which means it was innocent — surely she could have forgiven it?’

It’s hard to imagine that many people would admit to these views today. And, even if they did, would the BBC ever broadcast them?

Yet, at the time, they were obviously middle-of-the-road, and delivered with a cheery matter- of-factness.

Fifty years from now, which of today’s mainstream opinions will appear similarly outlandish?

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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Is prankster Grayson Perry laughing up his pink leather sleeve at us all? 

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christopher stevens is prankster grayson perry laughing up his pink leather sleeve at us all

Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip

Rating: rating showbiz 2

Ambulance

Rating: rating showbiz 2

All right, you fooled me. I fell for it. 

It’s so obvious now, but the idea never really hit me before that potter Grayson Perry is a prankster, having a gigantic laugh at the gullible luvvies of the liberal Left.

Grayson is a boisterously likeable TV personality who doesn’t seem to care whether we take him and his flamboyant persona too seriously. 

Last week, he courted outrage in the art world by announcing that Right-wingers are friendlier, nicer people than Corbynistas.

Even Grayson Perry's psychedelic motorbike and comic-book biker gear, designed for his Big American Road Trip (C4), are in character

Even Grayson Perry’s psychedelic motorbike and comic-book biker gear, designed for his Big American Road Trip (C4), are in character

His slapdash ceramics, his insistence on sometimes dressing in women’s clothes and calling himself Claire, his affected obsession with his childhood teddy bear ‘Alan Measles’ — it all seems eccentric and art student-ish in just the right measure.

Even his psychedelic motorbike and comic-book biker gear, designed for his Big American Road Trip (C4), are in character. 

But I suspect Grayson is laughing up his pink leather sleeve at us all. We are being mocked.

How else can you explain his decision to examine the racial divide in American society by meeting only the wealthiest, most successful black people and asking them to explain about ‘white privilege’?

His slapdash ceramics, his insistence on sometimes dressing in women's clothes and calling himself Claire seems eccentric and art student-ish in just the right measure

His slapdash ceramics, his insistence on sometimes dressing in women’s clothes and calling himself Claire seems eccentric and art student-ish in just the right measure

No one doubts that for many black Americans, in a country where segregation was the norm within living memory, life is deeply unfair. Prejudice and racism are endemic in the States.

However, despite spending most of the first hour in Atlanta, Georgia — where unemployment is four times higher for black people than whites — Grayson focused exclusively on the super-rich.

Sheree Whitfield, star of reality show The Real Housewives Of Atlanta, gave him a tour of her home with its spa, disco, bar, gym and cinema. 

‘Another big room,’ murmured the artist, as Sheree showed him into the palatial lounge.

She dabbed her eyes and sighed that it wasn’t easy being neck-deep in money — some of her old friends barely spoke to her now.

Grayson went golfing with a Mercedes-driving businessman named Emerick, and in Washington DC enjoyed a dinner party in his honour thrown by Dr Carlotta Miles, whose African-American family are pillars of the establishment.

Then he invited a performance poet called Kyla to give him a dressing down, for failing to understand how oppressed black people are. 

Even Sacha Baron Cohen, creator of Ali G, would hesitate to make a show about the super-rich, and then pretend to be making a profound statement on racial politics.

I’m not sure whether to laugh it off or to kick myself for taking Grayson seriously for so long.

Ambulance (BBC1) was also taped well before the Black Lives Matter protests were echoed in the UK

Ambulance (BBC1) was also taped well before the Black Lives Matter protests were echoed in the UK

He filmed his trip months before the death of George Floyd and the advent of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Ambulance (BBC1) was also taped well before those demonstrations were echoed in the UK, but it didn’t matter, because there were plenty of other marchers on the streets.

One pregnant woman who fainted on Oxford Street found herself surrounded by a flash mob from Extinction Rebellion, blocking the traffic in every direction. 

Stuck with an ambulance that was going nowhere, the patient elected to walk to hospital. Lucky for everyone that she wasn’t more dangerously ill.

Sadly, two of the stories ended badly. 

Both were cardiac arrests, and in both cases the paramedics managed to get the heart beating again, only to prolong the death throes.

Ambulance doesn’t usually deliver such downbeat, grim case studies. 

It feels as though this series, perhaps hampered by Covid-19 restrictions, is running out of material.

It feels as though this series, perhaps hampered by Covid-19 restrictions, is running out of material

It feels as though this series, perhaps hampered by Covid-19 restrictions, is running out of material

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Coronavirus UK: Entrepreneurs warn future of nation is under threat

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coronavirus uk entrepreneurs warn future of nation is under threat

The horrifying cost of Boris Johnson’s six-month Covid clampdown was dramatically laid bare last night.

Business chiefs and hospitality groups issued a string of dire warnings over the impact of the restrictions, saying millions of jobs were now on the line.

They said the Prime Minister’s U-turn on his ‘get back to work’ message could spell doom for struggling high streets, with footfall plummeting and shops boarded up.

In a passionate intervention, a prominent entrepreneur said the prosperity of the nation was at stake. 

In a passionate intervention to Boris Johnson¿s six-month Covid clampdown, Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret A Manger and Itsu, says the prosperity of the nation is now at stake

In a passionate intervention to Boris Johnson’s six-month Covid clampdown, Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret A Manger and Itsu, says the prosperity of the nation is now at stake

Julian Metcalfe, who founded Pret A Manger and Itsu, said: ‘The repercussions of this six months are going to be devastating to so many, to local councils, to industry, to people all over our country.

‘We have not begun to touch the seriousness of this. This talk of six months is criminal.’

Despite ballooning national debt, Rishi Sunak is preparing a multi-billion-pound ‘winter economy plan’ to try to protect jobs.

The Chancellor signalled the true extent of the crisis by cancelling plans for a full-scale Budget in November. Sources said he accepted the country could no longer make long-term financial decisions.

Despite ballooning national debt, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is preparing a multi-billion-pound ¿winter economy plan¿ to try to protect jobs

Despite ballooning national debt, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is preparing a multi-billion-pound ‘winter economy plan’ to try to protect jobs

As the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warned of the economic costs of Covid:

  • Hospitality groups said a quarter of pubs and restaurants could go bust this year;
  • HMRC and Goldman Sachs were among employers abandoning their drives to get people back to the office;
  • Pictures showed high streets boarded up as shops reacted to the clampdown;
  • The travel industry faced fresh despair when Downing Street warned of the risk of booking half-term holidays;
  • Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza are keeping two thirds of outlets shut;
  • A major study warned countless patients were living with worsening heart disease, diabetes and mental health because of the lockdown;
  • MPs demanded extra help for theatre and music venues;
  • No 10 said a ban on household visits could be extended across large swathes of England;
  • A mobile tracing app is finally being rolled out today – four months late;
  • Matt Hancock’s target for half a million virus tests a day by the end of next month was under threat from equipment shortages;
  • Scientific advisers suggested that students could be told to remain on campus over Christmas.

In a dramatic television address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Johnson announced he was abruptly dropping his call – made repeatedly since the end of lockdown – for workers to return to the office. He also told pubs and restaurants to shut their doors at 10pm, and doubled fines for not wearing a mask or failing to obey the rule of six.

He indicated the measures were likely to last for six months at least.

Mr Metcalfe led the backlash against the curbs on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, saying he did not know whether Itsu could survive the measures.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street, for a Cabinet meeting to be held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, ahead of MPs returning to Westminster after the summer recess on September 1

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (left) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street, for a Cabinet meeting to be held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, ahead of MPs returning to Westminster after the summer recess on September 1

He added: ‘People who work in hotels, restaurants, takeaways and in coffee shops are devastated. A great many are closing down – we’re losing thousands upon thousands of jobs. 

‘How long can this continue, this vague “work from home”, “don’t go on public transport”? The ramifications of this are just enormous.’

Mr Metcalfe accused the Prime Minister of ‘sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense’.

He said: ‘To turn to an entire nation and say “stay at home for six months”, and to spout off Churchillian nonsense about we’ll make it through – it’s terribly unhelpful. It should be “we will review the situation each week, each hour”.’

Tory MP Desmond Swayne said the Government had made the wrong call, adding: ‘I am concerned the cure could be worse than the disease.’

Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, warned the clampdown could see the closure of many pubs. 

‘Pub-goers and publicans alike want to stop the spread of Covid, but this curfew is an arbitrary restriction that unfairly targets the hospitality sector and will have a devastating impact on pubs, jobs and communities,’ he added.

Rob Pitcher of Revolution Bars said: ‘It’s beyond belief that they have brought in the 10pm curfew with no evidence to back it up.’

33535348 8766449 image a 73 1600905729210

33535096 8766449 image a 76 1600905733455

Fashion mogul Sir Paul Smith warned the pandemic was proving devastating to his and other industries.

A former head of the civil service will today say Mr Johnson’s government has proved incapable of combating Covid.

Lord O’Donnell, a crossbench peer, will say in a lecture that ministers did not use adequate data and deferred too much to medical science at the expense of behavioural and economic experts. 

He will also allege there has been a lack of strong leadership and clear strategy. 

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