You may have missed… T. rex lips, beetles using yeast to eat wood, portable glucometer taps on your phone screen, and Australians prefer streaming

Sorry Jurassic Park, your T. rex is missing some lizard-like lips

A new study in Science suggests that our famous depictions of Tyrannosaurus rex and other predatory dinosaurs with their permanently exposed teeth, while plenty fearsome, are likely incorrect.

Illustrations of what t. Rex heads could have looked like, with and without lips
T. rex skull and head reconstructions. Credit: Mark Witton

Theropods, the group of two-legged dinosaurs which also includes Veloceraptor, are often depicted with perpetually visible upper teeth hanging over their lower jaws – similar to the mouth of a crocodile. But researchers examining tooth structure, wear patterns, and jaw morphology of lipped and lipless reptile groups, have found that theropod mouth anatomy and functionality more closely resembles that of lizards than crocodiles.

So, theropods likely had lips covering their teeth, and they were probably not muscular so wouldn’t have been able to move independently – no terrifying snarls here.

“As any dentist will tell you, saliva is important for maintaining the health of your teeth. Teeth that are not covered by lips risk drying out and can be subject to more damage during feeding or fighting, as we see in crocodiles, but not in dinosaurs,” says co-author Kirstin Brink, Assistant Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Manitoba, Canada.

Famous palaeontologist Jack Horner told Cosmos a couple of weeks ago that there isn’t enough evidence to conclude what dinosaurs looked like, and therefore it’s not inconceivable they might have had colourful bird like plumage.

Longicorn beetles can eat wood thanks to some helpful yeast

Japanese researchers have discovered the key to longicorn beetles’ ability to eat wood: symbiotic yeast. They isolated the microorganisms – called Scheffersomyces insectosa – from adults, larvae, and eggs and identified specialised organs that store the yeast to allow the beetles to break down the components of wood, like xylose, that they couldn’t otherwise do on their own.

The yeast was isolated from the membranous tubular pouch in the egg-laying adult females and larvae, in an area near the gut that contains cyst-like tissues, called mycetomes.

“These results suggest that yeast is passed from mother to offspring through egg-laying, and that it plays an important role in the growth of wood-eating offspring,” says Dr Wataru Toki, a lecturer at the Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences in Nagoya University, Japan, and senior author of the new study in PLOS ONE.

An orange and black striped beetle sitting on a white flower. The beetle has symbiotic yeast living in it
Longicorn beetles use a symbiotic yeast to help them feed on wood. Credit: Mako Kishigami

“The mother places the yeast onto the surface of the egg during oviposition (the process of laying eggs). The hatching larvae then acquire the yeast by feeding on the eggshell. The offspring grow up storing the yeast in their mycetome, and when they become adults, they take the yeast into their mycetangia (a special organ for storing the yeast) and transport it to the next spawning site.

“Wood-feeding insects are abundant in forests, but only a handful of them are known to be associated with any specific microorganism. This study is the first to identify a symbiotic relationship with yeast for the Japanese flower longicorn beetle, the most familiar insect in Japanese forests.

Portable glucometer taps on your phone screen to communicate blood glucose level

Scientists have developed a new portable glucometer, called GlucoScreen, which uses the touch sensing capabilities of any smartphone to measure blood glucose levels.

“In conventional screening a person applies a drop of blood to a test strip, where the blood reacts chemically with the enzymes on the strip. A glucometer is used to analyse that reaction and deliver a blood glucose reading,” says Anandghan Waghmare, a doctoral student in the School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, US, and lead author of the new paper describing the device.

“We took the same test strip and added inexpensive circuitry that communicates data generated by that reaction to any smartphone through simulated tapping on the screen. GlucoScreen then processes the data and displays the result right on the phone, alerting the person if they are at risk, so they know to follow up with their physician.”

Glucoscreen004 850
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed GlucoScreen, a system that could enable people to self-screen for prediabetes. It uses a modified version of a commercially available test strip (white rectangular strip) with any smartphone — no separate glucometer required. The GlucoScreen app walks the user through each step of the testing process, which is similar to a conventional glucometer-based test. After affixing the test strip to each side of the phone, a user pricks their finger and applies a drop of blood to the biosensor attached to the strip (shown here). Once the strip transmits the data to the phone via a series of simulated taps on the screen, the app applies machine learning to analyze the data and calculate a blood glucose reading. Note: the blood in this photo is not real. Credit: Raymond C. Smith/University of Washington

Their results suggest that GlucoScreen’s accuracy is comparable to that of standard glucometer testing. Importantly, they found it to be accurate at the threshold between a normal blood glucose level, at or below 99 mg/dL, and prediabetes, defined as a blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dL.

This approach could make glucose testing less costly and more accessible — particularly for one-time screening of a large population.

The findings are in published in the Association for Computing Machinery journal Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.

Credit: University of Washington

Australians are choosing paid streaming over free TV

Australians are ditching free-to-air (FTA) television in favour of paid streaming services for watching scripted series and movies, according to new research from Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

More than 2000 adults were surveyed for the Australian Screen Stories Viewing Report – a four-part examination of Australians’ attitudes and behaviours towards scripted series and movie viewing.

Findings in part one of the report – Watching Series and Movies in the 21st Century – show that 41% of those surveyed used paid streaming services ‘mostly every day’ or ‘several days’ a week, ahead of free-to air (FTA) channels at 36%.  

“We found high FTA viewers are more likely to be high streaming viewers, but high streaming viewers are not necessarily high FTA viewers – they are just as likely to watch less than a few times per month as they are every day,” says Dr Marion McCutcheon, from QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre and School of Communication.

“There are also strong differences in frequency of viewing by age, and a significant difference among men and women in paid streaming use. One in five viewers under age 34 do not use free-to-air channels at all and even fewer use free on-demand services.”

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