oecologia:

Kirkjufell Iceland (by CoolbieRe).

theoriginofthespecies:

In its 4.6 billion years circling the sun, the Earth has harbored an increasing diversity of life forms:

for the last 3.6 billion years, simple cells (prokaryotes);
for the last 3.4 billion years, cyanobacteria performing photosynthesis;
for the last 2 billion years, complex cells (eukaryotes);
for the last 1 billion years, multicellular life;
for the last 600 million years, simple animals;
for the last 550 million years, bilaterians, animals with a front and a back;
for the last 500 million years, fish and proto-amphibians;
for the last 475 million years, land plants;
for the last 400 million years, insects and seeds;
for the last 360 million years, amphibians;
for the last 300 million years, reptiles;
for the last 200 million years, mammals;
for the last 150 million years, birds;
for the last 130 million years, flowers;
for the last 60 million years, the primates,
for the last 20 million years, the family Hominidae (great apes);
for the last 2.5 million years, the genus Homo (human predecessors);
for the last 200,000 years, anatomically modern humans.

Periodic extinctions have temporarily reduced diversity, eliminating:
2.4 billion years ago, many obligate anaerobes, in the oxygen catastrophe;
252 million years ago, the trilobites, in the Permian–Triassic extinction event;
66 million years ago, the pterosaurs and nonavian dinosaurs, in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

Dates are approximate.

Credit: PBS.org

cjwho:

Floating steel staircase divides Idunsgate Apartment by Haptic | via

a href=”http://www.hapticarchitects.co.uk/”>Haptic created the split-level Idunsgate apartment in the upper levels of a nineteenth-century apartment block. The new staircase connects living spaces on the lower storey with a mezzanine above, but also creates a subtle divide between the kitchen and lounge.

Made from powder-coated white steel, the staircase hangs down from a ceiling beam and wall overhead. Its narrow vertical supports form a balustrade, while open risers allow views through from below.

As the stairs descend, they stop before reaching the floor, so residents have to step down over a piece of wooden furniture that functions as both a chest of drawers and a window seat.

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neurosciencestuff:

Can ‘love hormone’ protect against addiction?

Researchers at the University of Adelaide say addictive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called “love hormone” system in our bodies during early childhood.

The groundbreaking idea has resulted from a review of worldwide research into oxytocin, known as the “love hormone” or “bonding drug” because of its important role in enhancing social interactions, maternal behaviour and partnership.

This month’s special edition of the international journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior deals with the current state of research linking oxytocin and addiction, and has been guest edited by Dr Femke Buisman-Pijlman from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences.

Dr Buisman-Pijlman, who has a background in both addiction studies and family studies, says some people’s lack of resilience to addictive behaviours may be linked to poor development of their oxytocin systems.

"We know that newborn babies already have levels of oxytocin in their bodies, and this helps to create the all-important bond between a mother and her child. But our oxytocin systems aren’t fully developed when we’re born - they don’t finish developing until the age of three, which means our systems are potentially subject to a range of influences both external and internal," Dr Buisman-Pijlman says.

She says the oxytocin system develops mainly based on experiences.

"The main factors that affect our oxytocin systems are genetics, gender and environment. You can’t change the genes you’re born with, but environmental factors play a substantial role in the development of the oxytocin system until our systems are fully developed," Dr Buisman-Pijlman says.

"Previous research has shown that there is a high degree of variability in people’s oxytocin levels. We’re interested in how and why people have such differences in oxytocin, and what we can do about it to have a beneficial impact on people’s health and wellbeing," she says.

She says studies show that some risk factors for drug addiction already exist at four years of age. “And because the hardware of the oxytocin system finishes developing in our bodies at around age three, this could be a critical window to study. Oxytocin can reduce the pleasure of drugs and feeling of stress, but only if the system develops well.”

Her theory is that adversity in early life is key to the impaired development of the oxytocin system. “This adversity could take the form of a difficult birth, disturbed bonding or abuse, deprivation, or severe infection, to name just a few factors,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says.

"Understanding what occurs with the oxytocin system during the first few years of life could help us to unravel this aspect of addictive behaviour and use that knowledge for treatment and prevention."