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Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 31 (UPI) — U.S. paleontologists say they’ve discovered some sauropod dinosaur species’ skull shapes changed drastically during normal growth.

University of Michigan researcher John Whitlock and Assistant Professor Jeffrey Wilson, along with Matthew Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, said they made the discovery at the museum while studying the skull of a juvenile Diplodocus, a 150 million-year-old sauropod from western North America.

“Adult sauropod skulls are rare but juvenile skulls are even rarer,” said Whitlock, a doctoral candidate in the university’s Museum of Paleontology. “What we do know about the skulls of sauropods like Diplodocus has been based entirely on adults so far.”

Wilson, an assistant curator at the university’s museum, said Diplodocus had an unusual skull. “Adults had long, square snouts, unlike the rounded or pointed snouts of other sauropods,” he said. “Up until now, we assumed juveniles did, too.”

The scientists, however, said the small Diplodocus suggests major changes occurred in the skull’s shape throughout the animal’s life.

The researchers said those changes might have been tied to feeding behavior, with adults and juveniles eating different foods to avoid competition. Young Diplodocus, with their narrower snouts, may also have been choosier browsers, selecting high-quality plant parts.

The research is detailed in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Verbal stimuli can activate pain

JENA, Germany, March 31 (UPI) — Not only do painful memories and associations put the brain on alert, verbal stimuli also lead to pain reactions in the brain, German researchers said.

Dr. Thomas Weiss of the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena and his team say the findings explains why a physician giving a vaccine and saying, “This will only hurt for a second,” offers no solace at all.

Weiss said once a person associates the pain of the needle with the verbal statement “it’ll only hurt for a second,” at a later date, as soon as the needle touches either a child’s or adult’s skin the piercing pain can be felt very clearly.

“After such an experience it is enough to simply imagine a needle at the next vaccination appointment to activate our pain memory,” Weiss said in a statement.

“These findings show that words alone are capable of activating our pain matrix — our results suggest as well that verbal stimuli have a more important meaning than we have thought so far.”

The findings are published in the journal Pain.

New soybean aphid biotype identified

URBANA, Ind., March 31 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve identified a new soybean aphid — Biotype 3 — that can multiply on aphid-resistant soybean varieties.

The researcher, led by University of Illinois Professor Glen Hartman, said the soybean aphid is the only soybean insect pest known to have multiple biotypes, and the most recently identified soybean aphid was discovered in Springfield Fen, Ind., on overwintering glossy buckthorn.

Biotype 3 is not distinguishable by its appearance, Hartman said. It was identified by testing the aphid on soybean plants with known resistance genes. The scientists found it was capable of feeding and multiplying on varieties carrying the resistance genes Rag1 and Rag2.

“Identifying a biotype that can overcome Rag1 and Rag2 resistance, even before soybean varieties with these resistance genes were deployed in production, suggests high variability in virulence within soybean aphid populations,” said principal research specialist Curt Hill. “This gives the pest a high potential to adapt to and reduce the effective life of resistance genes deployed in production.”

The study that included Laura Crull, Theresa Herman and David Voegtlin was reported in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

FDA OKs drug to treat small varicose veins

WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Asclera injections for the treatment of small types of varicose veins.

Although they usually occur in a person’s legs, the abnormally swollen or twisted veins can form in other parts of the body, the FDA said. Factors such as genetics, age, sex, pregnancy, obesity and prolonged periods of standing may increase the risk for varicose veins.

“Varicose veins are a common condition,” said Dr. Norman Stockbridge, director of the FDA’s Division of Cardiovascular and Renal Products. “Asclera (polidocanol) is indicated for the treatment of small types of varicose veins when the aim of treatment is to improve appearance.”

The FDA said Asclera is approved to close spider veins (tiny varicose veins less than 1 millimeter in diameter) and reticular veins (those that are 1 to 3 millimeters in diameter). Officials said Asclera acts by damaging the cell lining of blood vessels, causing the blood vessel to close, to eventually be replaced by other types of tissue.

Asclera is distributed by BioForm Medical Inc. of Franksville, Wis., and manufactured by Chemische Fabrik Kreussler & Co. of Wiesbaden, Germany.

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