Weekly News Bites: Dino footprints, sharing genes, and penguin flight

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are 100-million-year old dino footprints found in China, horizontal gene transfer between insects, plants and microbes, and when penguins stopped flying.

Eagle-eyed diners made an important discovery in China by spotting 100 million-year-old dinosaur footprints outside a restaurant. This was confirmed by China University of Geosciences using 3D scanning. The footprints may belong to long-necked sauropods that lived during the Cretaceous period.

Species evolution can occur when genes mutate over time, but also through the exchange of genes between species in a process called horizontal gene transfer. Researchers from Zhejiang University found that over a thousand genes present in insect DNA may have come from microbes and plants. These genes can help insect evolution by playing roles in attributes such as mating behavior and environmental adaptation. 

An international group of researchers including from the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) Japan and Kyoto University examined global mercury trade data to identify illegal or informal mercury trading. Mercury can be harmful to the environment and people working around the mines so its trading is highly regulated.

The new surge of COVID-19 infections is being driven by new Omicron subvariants. Research by the University of Tokyo has found that three anti-coronavirus drugs, nirmatrelvir, molnupiravir and remdesivir, are effective against the subvariant BA.5.

An international team of scientists, including BGI-Research, traced the evolutionary history of penguins over 60 million years and observed that the birds lost their ability to fly before the polar ice sheets formed. Since they had no predators in the South Pole and smaller wings are better for swimming, losing their ability to fly was a beneficial adaptation to their environment.