DAILY DOSE: Forget Covid-19, the origin of the influenza virus is crazy; An overcooked fish discovered in 5000-year old restaurant.


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Anyone who put money down that the Department of Energy’s announcement regarding the origins of Covid-19 would bring the conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork will have made some money. Per the Associated Press,

COVID-19′s origins remain hazy. Three years after the start of the pandemic, it’s still unclear whether the coronavirus that causes the disease leaked from a lab or spread to humans from an animal.

This much is known: When it comes to COVID-19 misinformation, any new report on the virus’ origin quickly triggers a relapse and a return of misleading claims about the virus, vaccines and masks that have reverberated since the pandemic began.

It happened again this week after the Energy Department confirmed that a classified report determined, with low confidence, that the virus escaped from a lab. Within hours, online mentions of conspiracy theories involving COVID-19 began to rise, with many commenters saying the classified report was proof they were right all along.

So predictable.

If conspiracy theorists reaction to the DoE’s announcement was predictable, the same cannot be said for the idea that the influenza virus – responsible for so many illnesses and deaths – originated in the oceans is not. Per Nature,

The influenza virus might have started in fish. Researchers trawling genetic databases have discovered a distant relative of influenza viruses — which are responsible for seasonal flu, not to mention the avian flu roiling the globe — in sturgeon.

The authors also found that the wider virus family that includes influenza probably originated hundreds of millions of years ago in primordial aquatic animals that evolved well before the first fish.

Viruses in this group seem to be especially adept at jumping between hosts, says Mary Petrone, a virologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, who co-authored the preprint describing the findings. Knowing about ancient host jumps could help scientists identify viruses with the potential to spark new human epidemics. The study was posted on 16 Feburary to the preprint server bioRxiv and has not yet been peer reviewed.

That it came from an animal isn’t crazy at all. That it came from a fish is surprising.

Scientists compared the composition of asteroids – in this case Ryugu – with meteorites found on earth. According to a recent study in Science,

The Ryugu samples are most similar to CI chondrite meteorites but are more chemically pristine. The chemical composition of the Ryugu samples is a closer match to the Sun’s photosphere than to the composition of any other natural samples studied in laboratories. CI chondrites appear to have been modified on Earth or during atmospheric entry. Such modification of CI chondrites could have included the alteration of the structures of organics and phyllosilicates, the adsorption of terrestrial water, and the formation of sulfates and ferrihydrites. Those issues do not affect the Ryugu samples. Those modifications might have changed the albedo, porosity, and density of the CI chondrites, causing the observed differences between CI meteorites, Hayabusa2 measurements of Ryugu’s surface, and the Ryugu samples returned to Earth.

Here is some good news (thank goodness). It comes compliments of the discovery of an ancient eatery in Iraq. Per the AP,

An international archeological mission has uncovered the remnants of what is believed to be a 5,000-year-old restaurant or tavern in the ancient city of Lagash in southern Iraq.

The discovery of the ancient dining hall — complete with a rudimentary refrigeration system, hundreds of roughly made clay bowls and the fossilized remains of an overcooked fish — announced in late January by a University of Pennsylvania-led team, generated some buzz beyond Iraq’s borders.

It came against the backdrop of a resurgence of archeology in a country often referred to as the “cradle of civilization,” but where archeological exploration has been stunted by decades of conflict before and after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Those events exposed the country’s rich sites and collections to the looting of tens of thousands of artifacts.

“The impacts of looting on the field of archeology were very severe,” Laith Majid Hussein, director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq, told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, the wars and periods of instability have greatly affected the situation in the country in general.”

This is great news. The U.S. invasion had such devastating effects on museums and university collections that it seemed like much had been lost forever.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.


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