Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Сентябрь 2015 г.
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2015 г.
Российская наука и мир
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    InvestorIntel / September 2, 2015
    Russia plans to accelerate lithium production
    • By Eugene Gerden
    В ближайшие годы правительство России планирует усилить геологоразведку редкоземельных металлов, а также увеличить производство лития.

Amid the existing Western sanctions and the ban on the imports of high technologies to Russia, the Russian government plans to accelerate geological exploration of rare earth metals during the next several years.
According to Alexander Karpuzov, head of department of department of strategic planning of Rosgeologiya, Russia's leading geological holding, which unites local state geological enterprises, in recent years a particular attention of the government has been paid for the development of traditional mineral resources, such as oil, natural gas, while an interest to rare earth metals has been low.
However there is a possibility that such a situation will change in the coming years, while the biggest attention is expected to be paid for the increase of lithium production in Russia during the next several years.
It is planned that this will take place as part of the federal target program "Mining, production and consumption of lithium and beryllium in the Russian Federation", that was approved as far back as in 1996.
According to Karpuzov, Russia currently experiences a shortage of beryllium, rare earth metals, niobium, tantalum, lithium, high purity quartz and some other metals. It is planned that at the initial stage the majority of Russian lithium will be produced at the capacities of the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, one of Russia's largest lithium producers, while later at the capacities of other local producers.
According to state plans, the majority of future lithium production will be supplied for the needs of the domestic nuclear industry and will be used in the production lithium power sources, as well as lithium-ion batteries.
In recent years lithium industry has attracted an interest from the Russian government, which has recently announced its plans for the resume of lithium production on the territory of the country.
According to Denis Manturov, Russia's Minister of Industry and Trade, after the collapse of Transbaical mining and processing complex, which was a sole producer of lithium in Russia, the country faced with a shortage of lithium.
According to Alexander Vladimirov, chief researcher at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, after the closure of the Transbaical plant, the Russian needs in lithium was mostly met by the supplies from Australia, South America and China, however after the end of imports from China the situation became close to catastrophic.
In this regard, the Russian government, together with Rosatom, is planning to start the development of at least one lithium field in the territory of the country during the next several years. As part of these plans, there is a possibility of the resume operations on the Zavitinsky field in Transbaikal, which was removed from operation after the collapse of the Transbaical mining and processing complex. Another option is to start the development of the Tachelgynsky litium field, which is located in Mountain Shoria, a territory in southern Siberia and the southern part of Kemerovo Oblast.
According to state plans, the production of lithium may be also started in the Eastern Sayany, which is a mountain range, located in the southern part of Russian Siberia.
Finally, the Russian government is considering resuming the production of lithium on the Siberian platform, the craton located in the heart of the region of Siberia in the Irkutsk region, which, so far, has been economically unreasonable, due to the depth of the underground brines, which is estimated at 1-1.5 km, and their remoteness.
In addition, the Russian government plans to accelerate the development of lithium-containing underground brines in Yakutia diamond pipes.
There is a possibility that the development of new production technologies will allow to start implementation of these plans, as, so far, it has been prevented by high costs, associated with the use of standard methods of development. According to Denis Manturov, there are plans to use new technologies for the enrichment and processing of spodumene concentrates.
Despite the fact that the majority of Russian lithium reserves are concentrated in low-profit pegmatite deposits, last year the Russian government, together with scientists of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS), as well as the Institute of High Temperature Electrochemistry and Rosatom started an implementation of the project, which is aimed at the developing of new methods of lithium ore enrichment and production of lithium compounds.

Copyright © 2015 ProEdge Media Corp. All rights reserved.
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    Gulf Times / 6 September 2015
    Lake Baikal in danger, scientists warn against dam
    • By Ulf Mauder
    Экосистема озера Байкал подвергается риску из-за деятельности человека - от растущего потока туристов до возможного строительства гидроэлектростанции "Шурэн" с монгольской стороны. В конечном итоге это может привести к перестройке всей экологической системы Байкала и нарушению водного баланса в регионе.

In Siberia near Lake Baikal, clouds of smoke pass high above the water as the biting odour of forest fires is in the air.
Before this year, say environmentalists, there had never been such extensive forest fires along the picturesque mountainous shores of the lake, the world's largest fresh-water reservoir. Experts say this Unesco World Heritage Site is facing many threats.
"Illegal camping and camp fires, rubbish dumped everywhere, the lack of sewage treatment and a low water level are all causes for worry," says the director of the Institute of Geography in Irkutsk, Igor Vladimirov.
The expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences regards the lake's unique ecosystem as exposed to unparalleled stresses. It's been only a few months since alarming reports of a water level at historic lows. Vladimirov says that was mainly due to low rainfall. Although the water level is now rising again, he says the risks have not gone away.
Experts also point to the trend of diverting water for use in hydropower energy production. This has culminated in plans by neighbouring Mongolia to build a dam on the Selenga River, considered the most important water source for the lake.
Named the Shuren Hydropower Plant and the Orkhon-Gobi Water Diversion project - the Mongolian water initiative makes all the other problems for the lake pale in comparison, says biologist and Baikal researcher Marianne Moore.
The project could upset the water balance of the internationally important wetland in the Selenga River Delta, the Wellesley College researcher says. The Delta is the most important foraging ground for the region's fish and birds.
With this in mind, Moore has called on the World Bank to reject the Shuren project. Mongolia, she says, could be better served by using alternative energy sources such as wind or solar.
Her colleague Anson Mackay of the Environmental Change Research Centre in London notes that the Selenga River is Baikal's most important supplier of oxygen, without which the lake will die.
In addition, the river transports important minerals and other nutrients to the lake. This process is not only vital for fish but especially for the one-of-a-kind Baikal seal, Mackay says.
The experts oppose calls by Mongolia to conduct further research into the possible effects of the dam project. For the scientists, the threats to Baikal are already clear and present, and this new project would be catastrophic, Mackay says.
The environmental organisation Baikalskaya Ekologicheskaya Volna - or Baikal Wave, for short - is fighting to prevent this environmental disaster. Over the years the organisation battled the paper and cellulose plants on the banks of the lake until they finally closed, says Baikal Wave's Maxim Vorontsov. Now the organisation is taking aim at the Mongolian project.
Worontsov says the condition of the lake has already visibly worsened without the project.
"You can see by the green algae near the shore that the water quality is worse. What's more, we're experiencing a mass death of sponges in (the city of) Listvyanka where Lake Baikal flows into (Siberia's) Angara (River)," he says, noting the importance of the sponges in purifying the water.
His organisation also complains that Baikal is being polluted by illegal building on the shore, phosphate run-off and effluent containing faeces that enters the lake.
"At lot is happening at once - including uncontrolled fishing with fine-meshed nets and increased shipping on the Baikal," Vorontsov says.
Ultimately the environmentalists and the scientists are complaining that Russia's leadership is taking little notice of the lake's condition. The researchers are not alone. UNESCO also has accused Moscow of being in dereliction of its duties in handling of a valuable commodity - water - and the unique natural resource and heritage - the Baikal region.

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    Outlook India / Sep 10, 2015
    India, Russia Working on General Agreement on S&T Collaboration
    О совместных проектах России и Индии в сфере науки и техники.

India and Russia are working together on a "general agreement" on collaboration in science and technology, which will enable the countries to exchange ideas on technology, scientists and students.
"It's a general agreement (between Russia and India) related to collaboration in science and technology. This is in the form of exchange of scientists, students and technologies," Department of Science and Technology Secretary Prof Ashutosh Sharma said today.
"Also there are some joint collaborative projects between (Indian and Russian) universities, between scientists, so they develop things together," Sharma further said. Scientists and officials of the two countries discussed the matter during last week's Russian-Indian Working Group on Science and Technology held in Moscow.
"It is not focussed on one particular technology, but all general exchange of information, scientists and technological know-how relating to energy, green technologies, super computing in big data," the DST secretary said.
The two countries have entered into an agreement to set up the Russian-Indian Association of Universities. The Russian Science Foundation (RSF) and the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology have announced that they would jointly sponsor an international team competition in the field of scientific research.
Russia's Ministry of Education and Science has already implemented six joint projects with DST.

© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved.

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    AZoNano / September 10, 2015
    All-Optical Transistor Could be Produced Using a Single Silicon Nanoparticle
    Физики из Санкт-Петербургского национального исследовательского университета информационных технологий, механики и оптики (ИТМО), Физического института им. П.Н.Лебедева РАН и Академического университета РАН экспериментально продемонстрировали возможность создания сверхбыстрого оптического транзистора на основе одной-единственной кремниевой наночастицы.
    Статья "Tuning of Magnetic Optical Response in a Dielectric Nanoparticle by Ultrafast Photoexcitation of Dense Electron-Hole Plasma" опубликована в журнале Nano Letters.

Physicists from the Department of Nanophotonics and Metamaterials of ITMO University have experimentally demonstrated the feasibility of designing an optical analog of a transistor based on a single silicon nanoparticle.
Because transistors are some of the most fundamental components of computing circuits, the results of the study have crucial importance for the development of optical computers, where transistors must be very small and ultrafast at the same time. The study was published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
The performance of modern computers, which use electrons as signal carriers, is largely limited by the time needed to trigger the transistor - usually around 0.1-1 nanoseconds (10-9 of a second). Next-generation optical computers, however, rely on photons to carry the useful signal, which heavily increases the amount of information passing through the transistor per second. For this reason, the creation of an ultrafast and compact all-optical transistor is considered to be instrumental in the development of optical computing. Such a nanodevice would enable scientists to control the propagation of an optical signal beam by means of an external control beam within several picoseconds (10-12 of a second).
In the study, a group of Russian scientists from ITMO University, Lebedev Physical Institute and Academic University in Saint Petersburg put forward a completely new approach to design such optical transistors, having made a prototype using only one silicon nanoparticle.
The scientists found that they can dramatically change the properties of a silicon nanoparticle by irradiating it with intense and ultrashort laser pulse. The laser thus acts as a control beam, providing ultrafast photoexcitation of dense and rapidly recombining electron-hole plasma whose presence changes the dielectric permittivity of silicon for a few picoseconds. This abrupt change in the optical properties of the nanoparticle opens the possibility to control the direction, in which incident light is scattered. For instance, the direction of nanoparticle scattering can be changed from backward to forward on picoseconds timescale, depending on the intensity of the incident control laser pulse. This concept of ultrafast switching is very promising for designing of all-optical transistor.
"Generally, researchers in this field are focused on designing nanoscale all-optical transistors by means of controlling the absorption of nanoparticles, which, in essence, is entirely logical. In high absorption mode, the light signal is absorbed by the nanoparticle and cannot pass through, while out of this mode the light is allowed to propagate past the nanoparticle. However, this method did not yield any decisive results," explains Sergey Makarov, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Department of Nanophotonics and Metamaterials. "Our idea is different in the sense that we control not the absorption properties of the nanoparticle, but rather its scattering diagram. Let's say, the nanoparticle normally scatters almost all incident light in the backward direction, but once we irradiate it by a control pulse, it becomes reconfigured and starts scattering light forward."
The choice of silicon as a material for the optical transistor was not accidental. Creating an optical transistor requires the use of inexpensive materials appropriate for mass production and capable of changing their optical properties in several picoseconds (in the regime of dense electron-hole plasma) without getting overheated at the same time.
"The time it takes us to deactivate our nanoparticle amounts to just several picoseconds, while to activate it we need no more than tens of femtoseconds (10-15 of a second). Now we already have experimental data that clearly indicates that a single silicon nanoparticle can indeed play the role of an all-optical transistor. Currently we are planning to conduct new experiments, where, along with a laser control beam, we will introduce a useful signal beam", concludes Pavel Belov, coauthor of the paper and head of the Department of Nanophotonics and Metamaterials.

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    EurekAlert / 10-Sep-2015
    Archaeologists piece together how crew survived 1813 shipwreck in Alaska
    Международная группа археологов (США, Канада, Россия) выясняет, как 200 лет назад русским морякам, оказавшимся после кораблекрушения на острове возле побережья Аляски, удалось пережить субарктическую зиму. Ученые исследовали район крушения, обнаружили место, где был лагерь выживших, и провели ряд раскопок.
    Принадлежавший Российско-американской компании шлюп "Нева" (участвовавший несколькими годами ранее в первом русском кругосветном плавании) вышел в августе 1812 г. из Охотска в Ново-Архангельск (сейчас - г. Ситка, США) и затонул в январе 1813 г. недалеко от места назначения. 26 человек, добравшихся до берега, сумели продержаться около месяца, пока не пришла помощь.

Working closely with the U.S. Forest Service and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, an international team of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation has begun to piece together an archaeological and historical narrative of how the crew of the wrecked 19th century Russian-American Company sailing ship Neva survived the harsh subarctic winter.
"The items left behind by survivors provide a unique snapshot-in-time for January 1813, and might help us to understand the adaptations that allowed them to await rescue in a frigid, unfamiliar environment for almost a month," said Dave McMahan of the Sitka Historical Society.
McMahan is the principal investigator for the NSF award, which was made by the Arctic Sciences Section in NSF's Division of Polar Programs.
The wreck of the frigate Neva, which occurred near the city of Sitka, has been surrounded by stories and legends for two centuries. Although survivors eventually were rescued and taken to Sitka, few accounts of their experience were collected or published. No official records relating to the wreck and its aftermath have been discovered.
The researchers are seeking to verify the wreck location and confirm the site of a survivor camp. They also hope that Tlingit oral history will add to the story and help to place the wreck in a broader context.
The NSF-funded work stems from a 2012 survey project by the U.S. Forest Service, the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology and the Sitka Historical Society. At that time, archaeologists discovered caches of Russian axes at a location they predicted to be the survivor camp.
The archaeological team - which includes members from Russia, the U.S. and Canada - believes articles they found over the past two years represent the everyday tools used by 26 shipwrecked members of the Neva's crew. Those crewmembers survived for almost a month in the winter of 1813 by foraging and gathering materials that washed ashore from the wreck.
In July, researchers discovered at the campsite a series of hearths with early 19th century artifacts such as gun flints, musket balls, pieces of modified sheet copper, iron and copper spikes, a Russian axe, and a fishhook fashioned from copper. Well-preserved food middens - or refuse heaps - will allow reconstruction of the foraging strategies the sailors used to survive.
Gun flints found at the site appeared to have been used by survivors to used start fires, by striking them against steel. Historical accounts credit a firearm used in this manner with helping save the crew from hypothermia. Physical evidence indicates the survivors tried to whittle down musket balls to fit a smaller caliber weapon, such as a flintlock - most likely the same firearm mentioned in the historical accounts. Some of the copper spikes recovered by archaeologists had been broken through shear stress, such as a wreck would produce. The researchers believe one copper or brass artifact is part of a set of a navigator's dividers, saved by a crewman as the ship violently broke apart over rocks.
The nature of the artifacts seems to strongly indicate that survivors of the shipwreck were active in ensuring their own survival. They modified wreckage in desperation, but with ingenuity.
"Collectively, the artifacts reflect improvisation in a survival situation, and do not include ceramics, glass and other materials that would be associated with a settlement," McMahan said.
Because the wreck occurred in an area of profound cultural significance to the Tlingit people of Sitka, the team did not search for - nor did it inadvertently discover - any graves of those who perished.
A famed vessel
Before its Arctic demise, the Neva was famous as one of two vessels that completed the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe from 1803-1807. The ship later fought in the 1804 Battle of Sitka, a pivotal engagement in the Russian struggle for control over what was then the Alaska territory. After 1808, the ship was in the exclusive service of the Russian-American Company, which Tsar Paul I chartered to establish new settlements in Russian America, primarily Alaska, and carry out a program of colonization.
The Neva came to grief after leaving the Siberian port of Okhotsk for Sitka in late August of 1812, McMahan said. During a grueling three-month voyage, those on board endured water shortages and sickness. Fierce storms damaged the ship's rigging. In mid-November the weakened sailors finally found shelter in Alaska's Prince William Sound and, after much debate, made a desperate attempt to reach Sitka.
In favorable weather, they almost reached their destination before wrecking off Kruzof Island. The wreck killed 32; another 15 had already died at sea. Of the 28 who made it to shore, 26 survived for almost a month before their rescue.
McMahan said the team hopes to continue the investigation next year with a smaller field effort at the camp. The terrestrial archaeology is only one component of research, which also includes underwater work and archival research, he said. Thick kelp that obscured the sea floor and interfered with sonar hampered an underwater survey this season. McMahan and Evguenia Anitchenko, the project's archival coordinator, conducted research in St. Petersburg last September, and plan to do the same later this year in London, where the Neva was built.
In an effort to put together the most complete story possible, McMahan is also encouraging anyone with information or oral history pertaining to the Neva to contact him through the Sitka Historical Society. "One goal of the research is to replace some of the myths and "lore of the sea" with scientific findings," he said.
Longer-range plans for the project include a "virtual museum" with 3-D scans of artifacts, along with a short film that can be used in local educational curricula.
In addition to McMahan, U.S. team members include co-principal-investigator Timothy Dilliplane, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Daniel Thompson, an Alaskan historical archaeologist. Sitka archaeologist Sue Thorsen will join the team for future work. Two of the team members - Anitchenko, an Anchorage maritime specialist and doctoral candidate at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and videographer Gleb Mikhalev - are U.S. citizens who were born in Russia.
Other team members include Russians Artur Kharinsky, a professor at Irkutsk State Technical University and Yury Likhin, a scientific adviser with the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture and Ethnography in Irkutsk; and Canadians John Pollack and Sean Adams, archaeological mapping specialists affiliated with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.
Other participating and consulting organizations in the project include the U.S. Forest Service, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, the Sitka Historical Society, Sealaska Corporation, and Sitka National Historical Park.
During initial planning and information gathering, partners also included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission has endorsed the project.

Copyright © 2015 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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    Science News / 15 September 2015
    Siberian cave was home to generations of mysterious ancient humans
    • By Ann Gibbons
    На недавнем заседании Европейского общества по изучению эволюции человека (ESHE) были представлены данные о том, что так называемые "денисовцы" впервые появились на Алтае около 170 000 лет назад. Причем жившие в Денисовой пещере в разные эпохи люди не были родственниками, т.е. пещера заново заселялась несколько раз. Столь длительное существование "денисовцев" может быть подтверждением того, что это действительно отдельный вид людей.

In 2010, scientists discovered a new kind of human by sequencing DNA from a girl's pinky finger found in Denisova Cave in Siberia. Ever since, researchers have wondered when the girl lived, and if her people, called Denisovans, lingered in the cave or just passed through. But the elusive Denisovans left almost no fossil record - only that bit of bone and a handful of teeth - and they came from a site that was notoriously difficult to date.
Now, state-of-the-art DNA analysis on the Denisovan molars and new dates on cave material show that Denisovans occupied the cave surprisingly early and came back repeatedly. The data suggest that the girl lived at least 50,000 years ago and that two other Denisovan individuals died in the cave at least 110,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 170,000 years ago, according to two talks here last week at the meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution. Although the new age estimates have wide margins of error, they help solidify our murky view of Denisovans and provide "really convincing evidence of multiple occupations of the cave," says paleoanthropologist Fred Spoor of University College London. "You can seriously see it's a valid species."
Most of the cave's key fossils come from a thick band of sandstone called layer 11. When researchers first dated animal bones and artifacts in this layer, the results varied widely, between 30,000 to 50,000 years ago. So Siberian researchers invited geochronologist Tom Higham of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom to re-date the sequence. Higham's team collected and radiocarbon-dated about 20 samples of artifacts and animal bones with cut marks, which presumably were discarded by ancient humans. Sediments holding the finger bone, at the bottom of layer 11, came out right at the limit of radiocarbon dating, and are likely older than 48,000 to 50,000 years, reported postdoc and archaeologist Katerina Douka of Oxford.
Another dating expert at the meeting was cautious about these results. "How secure is the association of the Denisovans with the [dated] animal remains?" asked geochronologist Daniel Richter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and Leuphana University in Lüneburg. But Douka stressed that the dates were from cut-marked animal bones and ornaments, and were consistent across three cave chambers.
The dates also fit with genetic evidence presented at the meeting that Denisovans were in the cave early. Researchers sequenced nuclear DNA from three molars from layer 11 and a child's molar from a deeper layer, 22, according to a talk by graduate student Viviane Slon, who works in the lab of paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (A dating method considered experimental for caves, thermoluminescence dating, had suggested that layer 22 is 170,000 years old.)
Slon and her colleagues managed to analyze a significant amount of nuclear DNA from three teeth that turned out to be Denisovan. (A fourth was Neandertal.) By comparing key sites on the tooth DNA with corresponding sites in the high-quality genomes of the Denisova girl, Neandertals, and modern humans, they revealed that the Denisovan inhabitants in that one cave were not closely related. They had more genetic variation among them than all the Neandertals so far sequenced, although Neandertals are known to be similar genetically.
To find out when the Denisovans were in the cave, the team also sequenced their entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)  genomes and placed them on a family tree. Then they counted the number of mtDNA differences between individuals and used the modern human mutation rate to estimate how long it might have taken those mutations to appear. They concluded that the girl with the pinky finger was in the cave roughly 65,000 years after the oldest Denisovan, who was there at least 110,000 years ago and possibly earlier.
Neandertals were in Denisova Cave, too - Pääbo's team has sequenced their DNA from a toe bone and molar found there. And modern humans also were apparently drawn to the large, light-filled cave, given the more recent artifacts found there. "What I found fascinating is the interdigitization of the Neandertals and Denisovans - that both groups were in and out of the cave," says paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City.
The challenge now is to get more fossils to flesh out the still-mysterious Denisovans. To that end, Oxford grad student Samantha Brown reported in a poster that she discovered a human bone fragment by using a new technique, called ZooMS, to scan 2315 bones from the cave for uniquely human proteins. Anything she finds will be welcome. "This is a real lineage, and we have to work out what the hell it looks like," says paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington. D.C. 

Copyright © 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.
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    Nanotechnology Now / September 21st, 2015
    Insects passed "the Turing Test": Russian scientists have confirmed the Turing reaction-diffusion model
    В 1952 году британский математик и криптограф Алан Тьюринг предложил модель, основанную на принципе химического взаимодействия двух диффундирующих реагентов и объясняющую формирование различных биологических паттернов, например, рисунков на шкурах животных. Российские ученые исследовали представителей 23 (из 30 существующих) отрядов насекомых и доказали, что они полностью укладываются в данную модель - на фасеточной поверхности их глаз формируются все возможные типы тьюринговских структур, включая переходные формы.
    Статья "Diverse set of Turing nanopatterns coat corneae across insect lineages" опубликована в журнале PNAS.

In 1952, the legendary British mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing proposed a model, which assumes formation of complex patterns through chemical interaction of two diffusing reagents. Russian scientists managed to prove that the corneal surface nanopatterns in 23 insect orders completely fit into this model.
The work was done by a team working in the Institute of Protein Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, (Pushchino, Russia) and the Department of Entomology at the Faculty of Biology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. It was supervised by Professor Vladimir Katanaev, who also leads a lab in the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Artem Blagodatskiy and Mikhail Kryuchkov performed the choice and preparation of insect corneal samples and analyzed the data. Yulia Lopatina from the Lomonosov Moscow State University played the role of expert entomologist, while Anton Sergeev performed the atomic force microscopy.
The initial goal of the study was to characterize the antireflective three-dimensional nanopatterns covering insect eye cornea, with respect to the taxonomy of studied insects and to get insight into their possible evolution path.
The result was surprising as the pattern morphology did not correlate with insect position on the evolutionary tree. Instead, Russian scientists have characterized four main morphological corneal nanopatterns as well as transition forms between them, omnipresent among the insect class. Another finding was that all the possible forms of the patterns directly matched to the array of patterns predicted by the famous Turing reaction-diffusion model published in 1952, what Russian scientists confirmed not by mere observation, but by mathematical modeling as well. The model assumes formation of complex patterns through chemical interaction of two diffusing reagents.
The analysis of corneal surface nanopatterns in 23 insect orders has been performed by means of atomic force microscopy with resolution up to single nanometers.
"This method allowed us to drastically expand the previously available data, acquired through scanning electron microscopy; it also made possible to characterize surface patterns directly, not based upon analysis of metal replicas. When possible, we always examined corneae belonging to distinct families of one order to get insight into intra-order pattern diversity", - Artem Blagodatskiy says.
The main implication of the work is the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the formation of biological three-dimensional nano-patterns, demonstrating the first example of Turing reaction-diffusion model acting in the bio-nanoworld.
Interestingly, the Turing nanopatterning mechanism is common not only for the insect class, but also for spiders, scorpions and centipedes in other words - universal for arthropods. Due to the antireflective properties of insect corneal nanocoatings, the revealed mechanisms are paving the way for design of artificial antireflective nanosurfaces.
"A promising future development of the project is planned to be a genetic analysis of corneal nanopattern formation on platform of a well studied Drosophila melanogaster (fruitfly) model. The wild-type fruitflies possess a nipple array type nanocoating on their eyes", - Artem Blagodatskiy summarized.
Different combinations of overexpressed and underexpressed proteins known to be responsible for corneal development in Drosophila may alter the nipple pattern to another pattern type and thus shed the light on chemical nature of compounds, forming the Turing-type structures upon insect eyes. Revealing of proteins and\or other agents responsible for nanopattern formation will be a direct clue to artificial design of nanocoatings with desired properties. Another direction of project development will be the comparison of antireflective features of different types of characterized nanocoatings.

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    The Compass / September 24, 2015
    The Russian connection. Siberian paleontologists visit Port Union
    • Kevin Curley
    Палеонтологи из Института нефтегазовой геологии и геофизики СО РАН побывали в Порт Юнионе (Ньюфаундленд), где занимались изучением сходства горных пород и окаменелостей Ньюфаундленда и арктических районов Сибири.

Port Union and Siberia are thousands of kilometres and an ocean apart, but a team of scientists visiting from Siberia suggests the two locations share a link.
The group is from the Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics in Novosibirsk, Siberia, and visited Port Union last week as part of a three-week tour of the Ediacaran and Cambrian geology of Newfoundland. Ediacaran and Cambrian refer to time periods similar to the well-known Jurassic period.
Port Union's fossils have garnered international attention in recent years, with a 560-million-year-old fossil - believed to be the oldest in existence - discovered in August 2014, followed by a fossil finding this August that shows how some of the first complex organisms reproduced.
Stakeholders in Port Union have also been working toward gaining geopark status since 2005.
The group from Siberia, led by Dmitriy Grazhdankin, came to investigate the similarities between rocks and fossils in the Trinity Bay North area and those studied in Russia, including areas in Artic Siberia.
Alex Liu, from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, is a long-time researcher of the Ediacaran paleontology of Newfoundland, and hosted the group. The group spent five days in Port Union region, hiking to a number of different fossil sites around the coastline. They found many rocks and fossils share characteristics, said Grazhdankin.
"If you were to take certain rocks from Port Union and hold them next to specimens from the Urals, it would be almost impossible to tell them apart," Grazhdankin told The Packet via email.
Despite being thousands of kilometres apart during the Ediacaran period 560 million years ago, Grazhdanikin said the shared species were global in their distribution and changes in environment represent worldwide events.
Liu said the findings will help scientists determine what many of the fossilized organisms were and help identify how the evolution of life at the time was interlinked with geological events.
"Ediacaran fossils are of global scientific importance, since they tell us a lot about how the first large and complex organisms, and potentially the first animals, evolved and radiated into the huge variety of creatures we see around us today," Liu told The Packet.
"Newfoundland is the best place in the world to see the earliest record of their evolution, and the Catalina area is yielding new discoveries that are changing the way scientists around the world interpret the origins of animals."
Liu points to the discovery of the fossilized muscular organism found last year and the recent discovery of a fossil revealing early reproductive strategies as evidence of Trinity Bay North's importance.
"Findings such as these are cementing this region's place as one of the foremost Ediacaran fossil localities in the world, and I would expect that international interest in the area will only increase," says Liu.
On the final day of their visit in the region, Grazhdankin said he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Newfoundland.
"Of all the countries I have visited, this is the place that is most similar to my home country, so I feel like I'm at home here," Grazhdankin said.
"I came here with an idea I had developed from studying Russian fossils and hoped to test it against those in Newfoundland. What I've found is that there's no simple answer, and we have a lot more thinking to do."
The group also spent time at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the Avalon Peninsula and will continue on to the Burin Peninsula.
"They hope that by sharing ideas and discussing these key localities together, they will make breakthroughs in scientific understanding of early animal evolution," Liu said.

Copyright TC Media © 2015.
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    EurekAlert / 29-Sep-2015
    In Russia, are loggers an owl's best friend?
    Биологи из ДВО РАН и российского отделения Общества защиты диких животных проанализировали, как менялись ареалы обитания вымирающих дальневосточных рыбных филинов в последние годы и выяснили, что лесозаготовительные компании на Дальнем Востоке способствуют защите птиц от исчезновения, не трогая те уголки леса, где они гнездятся. Таким образом, можно не опасаться повторения истории "совы против лесорубов", приведшей к значительному сокращению численности пятнистой неясыти в США в начале 1990-х гг. Ученые надеются, что дальнейшее объединение усилий экологов и лесорубов поможет стабилизировать популяцию филинов.

Can owls and loggers get along? A recent study conducted in Primorye in the southern Russian Far East suggests it's not only possible, but essential for endangered Blakiston's fish owls to survive there. The study was conducted by the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Minnesota.
Results showed that the greatest proportion of suitable fish owl habitat in a 20,213 km2 [7,804 square mile] study area was located in lands leased to logging companies (43 percent). Only 19 percent of such lands (enough for only eight owl pairs) were protected in nature reserves. The study, "Blakiston's fish owl Bubo blakistoni and logging: applying resource selection information to endangered species conservation in Russia," is available free online for a limited time in the peer-reviewed journal Bird Conservation International.
While this might sound like a setup for "Spotted Owl vs Loggers II: Russia Edition," the relationship between fish owl advocates and logging companies in Russia is not nearly as contentious as the bitter conflict between spotted owls and loggers in the American Pacific Northwest in the 1990s.
In fact, one of the biggest logging companies in northeastern Primorye, OAO Amgu, is already working with biologists to identify select patches of riverine forest on their lands crucial to the fish owl's survival: huge trees for nesting, and stretches of river where the owls can hunt their favored prey: salmon.
"This commitment to fish owl habitat protection by a logging company is significant," said Sergei Surmach, an ornithologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences and a co-author to the study.
"If OAO Amgu and their parent company, TerneyLes, protect all fish owl habitat under their purview," adds the other co-author and WCS Russia Projects Manager Jonathan Slaght, "the number of fish owl territories currently protected in the region would triple, and result in the protection of nearly half of all potential fish owl home ranges in our study area."
Another recommendation the study makes is for logging companies to close unused logging roads to reduce disturbance to fish owls and other wildlife. As reported earlier in the year, TerneyLes has begun working with WCS to implement such closures in the region by destroying key bridges and erecting dirt barricades to block vehicle passage. These closures minimize illegal logging and reduce the risk of human-caused forest fires, while at the same time keeping poachers away from wildlife.
"We are always looking for ways to balance the needs of the economy and endangered species like fish owls," says Surmach. "And in this case, everybody wins."
Funding for this study was provided by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Disney Conservation Fund, Amur-Ussuri Centre for Avian Biodiversity, National Birds of Prey Trust, Bell Museum of Natural History, Denver Zoo, Minnesota Zoo Foundation, and the National Aviary.

© Copyright © 2015 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)..
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