Discovered: We were so close to eradicating TB; a spider with a foot-long legspan; this ancient fish had teeth first; more evidence suggests the moon was formed through a massive Earth collision.
WHO warns of tuberculosis resurgence. Tuberculosis was supposed to be one of those diseases that survives only in history books. It was supposed to join the likes of smallpox and rinderpest, both of which science has effectively eradicated. And the World Health Organization says that vaccination campaigns have come very closely to wiping out TB, saving over 20 million lives in the last 17 years alone. But now, frightening new strains of TB are emerging that can withstand antibiotics. Some 8.7 million new cases were reported last year, with the disease leading to 1.4 million deaths. The TB Alliance is calling this trend one of the world's most "ominous global health threats." WHO's Dr. Mario Raviglione says, "We are now at a crossroads between TB elimination within our lifetime, and millions more TB deaths." Experts say the only way to tackle drug resistant strains of TB is to create updated vaccines—the standard BCG vaccine has been in use since the 1920s, allowing TB bacteria plenty of time to evolve immunity. Without $8 billion in funding for the next three years, the WHO's effort to rid the Earth of TB will likely fail, says Raviglione. For comparison's sake, that's the same amount the U.S. government lost to shoddy record-keeping in the reconstruction of Iraq. [BBC]
Daddy very long legs. Avert your eyes, arachnophobes. Scientists have discovered a spider so large, a whole foot stands between its legs. Dr. Peter Jager of the Senckenberg Research Institute discovered the specimen seen below in a Laotian cave. It belongs to the harvestman family, known as "daddy longlegs" to the entomologically uninclined. Jager hasn't yet been able to identify the new species, saying, "In attempting to categorise the creature properly ... and give it a scientific name, I soon reached my limits." Laos' southern province of Khammouan is home to other oversized spiders, but scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint what about the region causes spiders to grow so large. "What mechanisms or factors are responsible for this frequency of gigantism is still unclear." [WIRED]
Senckenberg Research Institute
This ugly fish was the first to evolve teeth. We should all be thankful for teeth. Without them, we'd be forced to subsist entirely on baby food and Jamba Juice. Keeping that in mind, consider the Compagopiscis croucheri, an ancient placoderm (a sort of proto-fish species) which swam the Earth's oceans over 360 million years ago. The University of Bristol's Martin Rücklin's and colleagues and his international team of paleontologists have zeroed in on this scary looking guy as the world's first creature to have teeth. Blasting a Compagopiscis fossil with X-rays, they found evidence of a jaw structure as well as individual teeth. Sharks were originally thought to be the first toothed animal, but study co-author Zerina Johanson says, "This is solid evidence for the presence of teeth in these first jawed vertebrates and solves the debate on the origin of teeth." [New Scientist]
The moon's Big Bang. Astronomers have long conjectured that the moon came to be through a huge planetary pile-up between Earth and some Mars-sized object. Now, more research from NASA has emerged to bolster the theory. Early in the moon's existence, huge reservoirs of its water boiled and evaporated. Scientists arrived at this conclusion by studying rocks collected from the Apollo lunar landing missions and meteorites which originated from the moon. The zinc deposits they found in these samples were much heavier than those found on Earth. Only a colossal impact could lead the moon to vaporize zinc, and the heat generated by such a collision would explain the boiling. "What we found is that the depletion [of lighter isotopes] of Zinc is probably due to evaporation," says Washington University in St. Louis professor Frédéric Moynier. [Christian Science Monitor]