September 2008 Archives

With a simple switch from using frog (Xenopus) eggs to salamander (Axolotl) eggs, researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Center recently determined a gene sequence called TMEM16A that encodes the calcium-activated chloride channel. Processes such as nerve function and muscle contraction are influenced by the movement of chloride ions into and out of cells. With this information new treatments may be developed to treat cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, asthma and hypertension.

giant salamander-like fossil discovered

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A giant temnospondyl, an ancient amphibian, was discovered from an Antarctic fossil originally found in 1986. Named Kryostega collinsoni, the salamander-like amphibian was 15 feet long and had an unusual set of teeth. The teeth found on the palate of the salamander were found to be longer and thicker (1.6 inches long/.5 inches wide) than the teeth at the edge of the mouth (1.2 inches long/1 inch wide) .
I recently returned a copy of "Fossil Salamanders of North American" written by J. Alan Holman to my university library and thought a brief review was due. I got what I expected - detailed information on salamander paleontology like the fact that fossil salamanders were found dating back to the Early Jurassic Period roughly 150 million years ago. The book also provided a brief but very thorough introduction into the evolution of salamanders (particularly fascinating due to the recent discovery of fossil Gerobatrachus hottoni or elderly frog), ancient amphibians (apparently some were the size of a Volkswagen Microbus) and salamander biology (apparently neoteny played a major role in the evolution of salamanders).