You may have missed… male spider mites “undress” females; new class of anti-inflammatory drugs; Arctic glaciers; new crocodile newt

Male spider mites strip the skin off females to win at mating

Scientists have discovered remarkable, and a rather gross, feature of the male two-spotted spider mite; males strip off the skin of the females just before mating.

“Our study documents an exceptional male behaviour in the animal kingdom, namely that male spider mites strip off the skin of premature females that are close to moulting into adulthood,” says Peter Schausberger from the University of Vienna, Austria.

The competition for first mating is especially intense in spider mites because the first copulation partner of a female is the one that gets to father all the offspring. As a result, males guard premature females for several hours before the females moult.

“Such undressing behaviour by the male is adaptive – that is, it increases their reproductive success –because it would be an enormous cost to the guarding male if a rival would take away the female and inseminate her instead of the male that invested time and energy in guarding her. The guards would have invested hours in guarding a potential future mate without any reward,” explains Schausberger.

The research is presented in a new study in iScience.

Male spider mite undressing a female who is moulting. Credit: iScience/Schausberger et al.

New class of anti-inflammatory drugs

An entirely new class of anti-inflammatory drugs developed in Australia and being prepared for regulatory approval in the US, has been revealed in a new study in Clinical and Translational Immunology.

The drug targets inflammasomes – innate immune sensors that detect disruptions to homeostasis when something is wrong and trigger an inflammatory response.

“… The [inflammasomes] we are targeting are NLRP1 and NLRP3, because where there is inflammation, then there’s usually one or both involved,” explains senior author Ashley Mansell, Associate Professor at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Australia.

“Inflammasome-associated inflammation is associated with nearly every major disease afflicting humankind. This inhibitor may target the fundamental process of inflammation associated with these diseases,” says Mansell, who is working with US-based industry partner Adiso Therapeutics to develop the treatments.

The researchers are currently running pre-IND (Investigational New Drug) studies to submit ADS032 to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2024, for potential clinical application in respiratory and dermal inflammation. 

Shrinking Arctic glaciers are unearthing massive new methane sources

Scientists have revealed that melting Arctic glaciers are exposing bubbling groundwater springs, which could provide an uncounted new source of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

The new study in Nature Geoscience suggests that these methane emissions will likely increase as the Arctic glaciers continue to retreat and more springs are exposed.

Researchers spent nearly three years monitoring the water chemistry of more than a hundred springs across Svalbard, Norway, where air temperatures are rising two times faster than the average for the Arctic. 

Image of the inside of a glacier cave
Glacier cave on Svalbard, Norway formed by large volumes of glacial meltwater that flows through it during summer. During winter, an extensive proglacial icing forms at its mouth and extends across the entire floodplain in front of the glacier, which is visible through the cave opening in the picture. Credit: Gabrielle Kleber

“These springs are a considerable, and potentially growing, source of methane emissions — one that has been missing from our estimations of the global methane budget until now,” says lead author Gabrielle Kleber, a PhD candidate from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, UK.

“The amount of methane leaking from the springs we measured will likely be dwarfed by the total volume of trapped gas lying below these glaciers, waiting to escape. That means we urgently need to establish the risk of a sudden increase in methane leakage, because glaciers will only continue to retreat whilst we struggle to curb climate change,” adds Professor Andrew Hodson, study co-author from the University Centre, Norway.

Another species of crocodile newt discovered in Vietnam

A striking new species of crocodile newt, Tylototriton ngoclinhensis, has been discovered on Ngoc Linh Mountain in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

The species has been described in a new study in ZooKeys.

A black newt with orange markings and head sits on moss.
The newly described crocodile newt Tylototriton ngoclinhensis sp. nov. Credit: Prof Tao Thien Nguyen

Crocodile newts, the genus Tylototriton,include nearly 40 species inhabiting montane forest areas throughout the Asian monsoon climate zone. Remarkably, 15 of these species have been described in the past five years.

T. ngoclinhensis is a micro-endemic species, meaning it is only found in a restricted range, and faces risk of extinction because of its small population size. The researchers suggest that the species should be provisionally considered to be listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

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