A photograph and more

I read it out a lovely email from a cousin about how much my dying mother loves me, to Bron from the bottom of the stairs this morning. I noticed the light – told her to stay there and grabbed the camera.

A walk along the V Wall, Nyambaga

Juvenile Sacred Kingfisher
The Pewee has just arrived, ignores chicks and preens

There is so much life around me it’s hard to believe my mother is imprisoned in bed on the other side of the world, about to slip away any day now. But there is nothing more natural than death.

Comb Jelly, an ancient life form that’s not a jellyfish. You can just see some colour from the cilia refracting the ambient light

My favourite piece of ‘people’s art’ along the V Wall‘A comb jelly fossil from some 500 million years ago shows a previously unknown species of these ancient sea animals that had a more complex nervous system than their modern descendants. Evolutionary theory doesn’t preclude the possibility of organisms becoming simpler over geological time, but it’s a relatively uncommon phenomenon.’ James Urquhart[i]

“We’ve always thought that predator–prey interactions and sensory adaptations evolved long after the origin of sponges,’ Swalla says [Billie Swalla, a developmental biologist]. ‘Now we need to imagine early life as a sponge, ctenophore and everything in between.’ Because millions of species have gone extinct since animals appeared some 542 million years ago, Swalla says, the ancestor of all animals might look different from modern comb jellies and sponges.

Gene families, cell-signalling networks and patterns of gene expression in comb jellies support ancient origins as well. For example, Moroz and his team found that comb jellies grow their nerves with unique sets of genes [Leonid Moroz, neurobiologist]. ‘These are aliens,’ Moroz jokes. He suggests that comb jellies might be descendants of Ediacaran organisms, mysterious organisms that appear in the fossil record before animals. Indeed, in 2011, palaeontologists claimed that one of these 580-million-year-old fossils resembled comb jellies.’[ii]


[i] James Urquhart, Ancient comb jelly had more complex nerves than its modern relatives, New Scientist, 14 August 2021

[ii] Amy Maxmen, ‘Genome reveals comb jellies’ ancient origin’, Nature, 8 January 2013.


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