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World’s oldest plant-like fossils discovered

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WASHINGTON — Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History have discovered fossils of 1.6 billion-year-old which look like red algae may represent the earliest-known plants, a discovery that could force scientists to reassess the timing of when major lineages in the tree of life first appeared on Earth.

The spectacular findings, published on Tuesday (14 March 2017) in the open access journal PLOS Biology, indicate that advanced multicellular life evolved much earlier than previously thought.

The scientists found two kinds of fossils resembling red algae in uniquely well-preserved sedimentary rocks at Chitrakoot in central India. One type is thread-like, the other one consists of fleshy colonies.

“We almost could have had sushi 1.6 billion years ago,” joked Swedish Museum of Natural History geobiologist Therese Sallstedt, who helped lead the study.

The researchers said cellular structures preserved in the fossils and their overall shape match red algae, a primitive kind of plant that today thrives in marine settings such as coral reefs but also can be found in freshwater environments. A type of red algae known as nori is a common sushi ingredient.

“You cannot be a hundred per cent sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characters agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae,” says Stefan Bengtson, Professor emeritus of palaeozoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

The earliest traces of life on Earth are at least 3.5 billion years old. These single-celled organisms, unlike eukaryotes, lack nuclei and other organelles. Large multicellular eukaryotic organisms became common much later, about 600 million years ago, near the transition to the Phanerozoic Era, the “time of visible life.”

The oldest known red algae before the present discovery are 1.2 billion years old. The Indian fossils, 400 million years older and by far the oldest plant-like fossils ever found, suggest that the early branches of the tree of life need to be recalibrated.

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Google blocks YouTube on Amazon devices

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KATHMANDU — Google is pulling its popular YouTube video streaming from Amazon’s Fire TV and Echo Show devices in an escalating feud that has caught consumers in the crossfire.

The internet search giant, owned by Alphabet, said on Tuesday that the decision to block YouTube from Fire TV and Echo Show was due to a ‘lack of reciprocity’ from Amazon, and followed failed attempts to reach an agreement over mutual access to products and services for customers of both companies.

Experts say the steps mark an escalation of a business row in which consumers have been caught up in the fallout. Previously, Amazon had stopped selling several of Google’s hardware products.

Amazon and Google square off in many areas, from cloud computing and online search, to selling voice-controlled gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon Echo Show.

Amazon`s suite of voice-controlled devices has outsold Google`s so far, according to a study by research firm eMarketer from earlier this year.

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In a statement, Google said, “Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make (its) Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of (our sister company) latest products.”

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV,” Google said. “We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon,since 2015, has refused to sell Google’s Chromecast video and audio-streaming dongles.

Amazon said in a statement, “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”

It said it hoped to resolve the issue with Google as soon as possible but customers could access YouTube through the internet — not an app — on the devices in the meantime.

Amazon had explained the move by saying it wanted to avoid confusing customers who might expect its Prime Video service to be available on devices sold by Amazon.

Amazon and Apple mended ties earlier this year when it was announced Prime Video would come to Apple TV. Not so with Google.

Agencies

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