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The great whales are carnivores, feeding on tiny, shrimp-like animals such as krill. Moreover, the microbes that live in whales’ guts — the microbiome — resemble those of other meat-eaters.But scientists now have evidence that the whale microbiome shares traits with that of creatures not known to eat meat: cows.Scientists led by Peter Girguis, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard, have found that the gut microbiome of right whales and other baleen species shares characteristics with those of both cows and meat-eating predators. The dual microbial communities allow whales to extract the most nutrition possible from their diet, digesting not only the copepods they eat, but their chitin-rich shells as well. The study is described in a Sept. 22 paper in Nature Communications.Among the co-authors of the paper are James McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography in the Museum of Comparative Zoology; Annabel Beichman ’14, now a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles; Joe Roman from the University of Vermont; Jarrod Scott and David Emerson, both from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine; and Jon Sanders, a former graduate student in Girguis’ lab.“From one point of view, whales look like carnivores,” Girguis said. “They have the same kind of microbes that we find in lions and tigers that have very meat-rich diets. But they also have abundant communities of anaerobic bacteria, similar to those that [animals] use to break down cellulose.“However, there’s not a lot of cellulose in the ocean, but there is a lot of chitin, which is in the exoskeletons of copepods that baleen whales eat,” Girguis continued. “What our paper suggests is the whale foregut is much like a cow’s gut, and we posit that chitin-degrading anaerobic microbial community thrives in there, breaking down that material and making it available to the whale.”Those exoskeletons, Girguis said, represent as much as 10 percent of the whale’s total food intake, and would otherwise simply be defecated. By allowing whales to access the nutrition in the chitin-rich material, whales are able to extract the greatest possible benefit from their diet.“It’s almost like a pre-adaptation,” he said “that may give them a differential advantage in harnessing energy from their food. The morphology of their gut comes from their ancestors, the very same ancestors to cows, camels, and others. It serves them well as carnivores because it allows them to maximally extract nutrition from their food.”Ultimately, Girguis said, the study addresses questions that reach beyond the guts of whales.“This is really a question of what we can call phylogenetic inertia,” he said. “Because what we’re really thinking about is: When you look at the microbiome of an organism, you can, to some degree, look back in time and see its ancestors, because organisms that are related to one another seem to have similar microbiomes.“But not all organisms that are related live in the same kind of environment,” he continued. “So the question is, how different does your environment need to be before it changes your microbiome? This is a fundamental question about the relationship between your ancestry versus your current environment.”Many such questions might not have been asked, Girguis said, were it not for then-undergraduate Beichman. The second author of the study, Beichman kick-started the study when she and Roman took on the unenviable task of following pods of right whales at sea and collecting samples of their feces to determine which microbes were present.“There’s no other way to get the fecal samples but to collect them from the ocean,” Roman said.“It was a thrill to set out each morning into uncertain weather to search for elusive right whales, then to extract and sequence DNA from our smelly trophies,” Beichman said. “It had always been my passion to use the latest advances in genetic sequencing technology to answer questions about species of conservation concern, and so I wanted to add a genetic component to the study.“Working with my advisers to conceive the research questions based on the scientific literature, collect fecal samples in the field, and carry out DNA sequencing and analysis gave me invaluable experience at every stage of the study,” she added. “We all had different theories as to what the whale gut community might look like. What none of us expected was to see so much divergence from terrestrial mammals, or these shared characteristics with both terrestrial carnivores’ and herbivores’ microbiomes.”“Given what we know about whales’ ancestry — that they’re related to ruminants [animals that get nutrients from plants by fermenting them in an early stage stomach], and that they still have a multi-chambered foregut — there were several things we might find,” Girguis said. “One hypothesis was that their microbiome would look like those of other meat-eaters like lions and tigers, and the foregut was just vestigial. The other hypothesis was that it allowed a different group of microbes to do something we hadn’t thought about. What we found was that whales have a microbiome that looks halfway like a ruminant and halfway like a carnivore.”“We’ve come to better understand the evolution of whales over the past few decades, and see where they fit on the evolutionary tree. But we have not understood the microbial changes that have allowed them to become one of the most successful groups of animals in the ocean,” said Roman. “This study helps explain that.”Going forward, Girguis and colleagues hope to sample the microbial community in whales’ stomach chambers, and to extend the study to toothed whales, which don’t have such chitin-rich diets. The team also has drawn interest from aquariums, which may be able to use information about the gut microbes in whales to better care for animals kept in captivity.“A lot of aquariums … they know when their whales are healthy or not, but they don’t always have a causal factor, and these gut microbes may be a big clue,” Girguis said. “As long as people keep whales in captivity, there is value in this type of research, because it can keep them as healthy as possible.”While the study may not provide a definitive answer to questions of phylogenetic inertia, it does suggest that some morphological features, if they can provide an advantage, are retained, despite dramatic changes in a creature’s environment.“We now have this snapshot that addresses this question of how a creature’s evolutionary past interacts with its microbiome, and how its diet today influences its microbiome,” he said. “The answer is … if that morphological feature, if it has value to a species, then it may well be something that’s capitalized on over evolutionary time.”
Batesville, In. — The Batesville Fire & Rescue Summerfest will be held July 14 at Liberty Park.The public is welcome for a parade at 2 p.m., fried chicken and pork chop dinners, live music by CRB and Automation, inflatables and sweet, cool treats.For more information please call 812-934-2230.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers, 0-3 (25)With the Browns now playing well and the Ravens still formidable offensively, the Steelers are pretty much toast in the AFC North if they don’t come through with a win Monday night.27. Cincinnati Bengals, 0-4 (29)With the Browns now playing well and the Ravens still formidable offensively, the Bengals are pretty much toast in the AFC North if they don’t come through with a win Monday night.28. Arizona Cardinals, 0-3-1 (27)Kyler Murray continues his roller-coaster ride of running and passing, and the defense continues have similar ups and downs without Patrick Peterson. Kliff Kingsbury still has a lot of work ahead of him.29. Denver Broncos, 0-4 (28)Vic Fangio got his defense to produce sacks against the Jaguars, but the Broncos still are not making impact plays or getting takeaways, and their anemic offense can’t put away teams, either. This is uglier than expected for John Elway.30. Washington Redskins, 0-4 (30)Jay Gruden was forced into a quarterback switch to Dwayne Haskins. He probably won’t be the coach who will see through the struggling rookie’s development in Year 2. 16. Indianapolis Colts, 2-2 (11)The Colts take a tumble here after a bad home loss to the Raiders in which they simply made too many mistakes. That’s bad timing with a trip to Kansas City coming Sunday night.17. Los Angeles Chargers, 2-2 (17)The Chargers did what they needed to do in Miami, even with their slew of offensive injuries. There’s some optimism now on that side of the ball with Melvin Gordon set to play.18. Carolina Panthers, 2-2 (20)Kyle Allen had a rough go at Houston, but he is fortunate to have Christian McCaffrey there to run and catch him out of any jam. Ron Rivera’s impact on the defense has manifested itself over past two weeks.19. Houston Texans, 2-2 (13)What’s up with Bill O’Brien’s offense? He somehow has become too reliant on Deshaun Watson to run around and do everything, even when it’s not there. That doesn’t bode well for his job security.20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2-2 (24)The Buccaneers are a tricky team to figure out. They threw away games against the 49ers and Giants, and their defense stamped victories against the Panthers and Rams. The bottom line: Bruce Arians is starting to get through to Jameis Winston, and Todd Bowles has gotten through to defensive player of the year leader Shaq Barrett and the defense. The Jets got out of last place in the AFC East because they didn’t play. Now they get to play the Eagles, Cowboys and Patriots in consecutive weeks.32. Miami Dolphins, 0-4 (32)The Dolphins have been showing a little more offensive life with Josh Rosen, but their defense remains incapable of providing much resistance to anything, even a shorthanded Chargers passing game. Then there’s a baker dozen of teams that are even with 2-2 records. That’s more than 40 percent (13 of 32) of the league, including one entire division in which all teams are tied for both first and last place with that record.WATCH: The best of Week 4 in 60 secondsAfter a week full of upsets, here’s looking at the big shake-up behind New England and Kansas City in Sporting News’ NFL power rankings ahead of Week 5.NFL power rankings1. New England Patriots, 4-0 (previous ranking: 1)The Patriots couldn’t get much done offensively in Buffalo, but they showed their defensive dominance again with their takeaways. They made us remember they can win games with special teams, too.2. Kansas City Chiefs, 4-0 (2)The Chiefs don’t get style points for what they did on the road, either. But in a game where he didn’t have any touchdown passes, dazzling or otherwise, Patrick Mahomes still showed all of his playmaking and toughness in late comeback mode.3. New Orleans Saints, 3-1 (9)The Saints have marched to a couple consecutive victories without Drew Brees because their Patriots-like work on defense and special teams. They already have exceeded expectations in his absence, and Sean Payton is throwing in his name for coach of the year.4. Dallas Cowboys, 3-1 (3)They faced a hostile environment Sunday, and the Saints got revenge after last year’s low-scoring game between the teams. Let’s hope the Cowboys’ throwback to sudden offensive conservatism is an anomaly.5. Green Bay Packers, 3-1 (5)Their run defense continues to be a big concern, as is their rushing attack. But their pass defense and Aaron Rodgers will allow them to recover from a difficult game against a good Eagles team. 11. Baltimore Ravens, 2-2 (8)The Ravens’ defense, not Lamar Jackson and the offense, was the true concern going into the season given all of their lost personnel at linebacker. Cornerback injuries and Earl Thomas’ fade have made things worse. They will need to keep scoring a lot in order to win games; good thing they are capable.12. Minnesota Vikings, 2-2 (7)The Kirk Cousins-led passing game has entered a shell of disappointment, and it’s not entirely the QB’s fault. The team has become too conservative and reliant on Dalvin Cook’s running, but as Adam Thielen kind of said, teams still need to pass well in this passing league. That’s on Mike Zimmer.13. Buffalo Bills, 3-1 (10)The Bills did their best to win a battle of attrition against the Patriots, but their quarterbacks were not up to the task. Now Josh Allen might need to miss some time after that ugly shot to the head.14. Detroit Lions, 2-1-1 (14)The Lions were impressive in pushing the Chiefs at home, but they are still making critical mistakes as a forced running team. They could benefit from opening things up with Matthew Stafford.15. Cleveland Browns, 2-2 (19)Baker Mayfield had his best game yet because he didn’t force the ball downfield to Odell Beckham Jr. and others. Freddie Ktichens also turned things over to his running game and pass defense. To be totally trusted, though, they still need some consistency. 21. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-2 (21)Gardner Minshew is your early offensive rookie of the year favorite. What a fearless rookie passer, and as we suspected, his play was eventually going to help Leonard Fournette break out in a big way. It’s his team, not Jalen Ramsey’s team.22. Tennessee Titans, 2-2 (22)Marcus Mariota badly needed such a stellar first half in Atlanta. When he gets going like that, it becomes o easy for the Titans to win games with their defense and Derrick Henry closing things out. It just needs to happen more often for them to win the AFC South and for Mariota to stay with the team beyond 2019.23. New York Giants, 2-2 (23)Daniel Jones didn’t play as well in his second start, but he got some real help from Wayne Gallman doing his best Saquon Barkley impression. The Giants’ defense is not as lost as we thought, either.24. Oakland Raiders, 2-2 (26)The Raiders got it done with Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs playing well enough in Indy and with their defense starting to make plays. They will remain pesky on the road with Jon Gruden.25. Atlanta Falcons, 1-3 (18)Dan Quinn has to be feeling the heat, too, with the Panthers and Buccaneers looking much better than the Falcons in the NFC South. The defense remains messy, and the offense remains sloppy. 31. New York Jets, 0-3 (31) And then there were three. After four weeks of the 2019 NFL season, the so-called “quarter pole,” only three undefeated teams remain.The Patriots and Chiefs survived tough road games over the weekend to stay on their collision course for another AFC championship game meeting. The 49ers didn’t lose because they didn’t play anyone during their bye. 6. Los Angeles Rams, 3-1 (4)We’re not sure what to make of the Rams losing to the Buccaneers 55-40. In a week full of shockers, that was the strangest result. Los Angeles’ defense and running game issues are bigger than we thought, and Jared Goff is simply not playing well. The next game, in Seattle on Thursday night, is crucial.7. San Francisco 49ers, 3-0 (6)The 49ers have beaten one surprisingly good team but also two winless ones. They got a nice break in the division with the Rams losing, and if they can beat the Browns this week, we’ll know the only undefeated NFC team is for real.8. Philadelphia Eagles, 2-2 (16)The Eagles had a perfect weekend. They rose to the occasion with their two weaknesses, rushing offense and pass defense, to steal a win in Green Bay. They then sat back and watched the Cowboys lose, making the NFC East as tight as we expected it to be.9. Chicago Bears, 3-1 (15)They won’t have Mitchell Trubisky for a while, but their dominant defense under Chuck Pagano isn’t going anywhere. Frankly, the Bears were the one team that could afford to lose their starting quarterback and still play the same way.10. Seattle Seahawks, 3-1 (12)The Seahawks could have fallen into a desert trap in Arizona after stumbling at home against the Saints. Instead, they made a statement ahead of their Thursday night showdown against the Rams.
MORE: Get the latest NCAA odds & betting advice at Sports InsiderVirginia earned its bid to the Orange Bowl as the seventh different ACC Coastal Division champion in seven years; conference champion Clemson, which beat the Cavaliers 62-10 in the ACC title game, is going to the Playoff, allowing the Cavaliers to move into the Orange Bowl.With that, Sporting News offers an early preview for the Orange Bowl between the Gators and Cavaliers:Florida vs. Virginia odds for Orange Bowl 2019Spread: Florida -14.5Point total: 54.5Moneyline: Florida -650, Virginia +475Florida is a 14.5-point favorite according to Sports Insider, a point higher than the 13.5-point open in favor of the Gators.Florida vs. Virginia all-time seriesFlorida and Virginia have only met once, a 55-10 beatdown by the Gators in Gainesville in 1959. Florida is 3-0 all-time in the Orange Bowl; Virginia has never played in the Orange Bowl.Three trends to know— The Gators are 6-3 this season against the spread when favored, winning by an average margin of 25.9 points. The Cavaliers are 1-3 as the underdog.— Florida is 1-0 against the spread in bowl games under Dan Mullen, but 1-3 in neutral-site games. Virginia is 1-1 and 2-1 against the spread in those circumstances, respectively, since Bronco Mendenhall took over in 2016.— Virginia has only one 10-win season in school history, going 10-3 in 1989 after losing the Citrus Bowl.MORE: College football bowl picks, predictionsThree things to watchFlorida’s pass rushFlorida has 46 sacks this season, ranking first in the SEC and fifth in FBS. That attack is led by Jonathan Greenard, who has a team-leading 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The Cavaliers have given up 38 this season (2.9 per game), bad enough for 11th-most in college football. They’ll need to stymie that pass-rush if they want to have any chance of winning.Bryce Perkins’s rushing abilityOne way the Cavs can offset Florida’s pass rush is with Perkins’ rush ability. He has 745 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, which Virginia can use to take advantage of an aggressive blitz scheme. Florida might want to keep one man to spy Perkins to keep him from breaking long runs.Virginia’s linebackersVirginia’s trio of linebackers Charles Snowden, Zane Zandler and Jordan Mack have combined for 231 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. If they make life difficult for Florida’s trio of running backs Lamical Perine, Dameon Pierce and Emory Jones (1,034 combined yards and 12 touchdowns), it could be up to quarterback Kyle Trask to lead the Gators’ offensive attack.MORE: Expert strategy tips | Three value picks No. 6 Florida (10-2) and ACC runner-up Virginia (9-4) meet in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.Florida enters this game with only two losses to its name, which came by a combined 24 points against top-10 opponents LSU and Georgia. The Gators finished the regular season on a 3-0 win streak, outscoring opponents 119-23 to secure the Orange Bowl bid as the highest-ranked team among the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame (that wasn’t already tied in to the Rose or Sugar bowls). Stat that mattersTrask has completed 213 of 315 passes for 2,636 yards and 24 touchdowns to six interceptions. He’ll face a Virginia secondary that has allowed an average of 228 passing yards per game while giving up 22 passing touchdowns. The Cavs will need to force a few turnovers to limit the Gators’ scoring opportunities, particularly in the passing game.Florida vs. Virginia predictionVirginia will score a touchdown on the Cavs’ first offensive series, which includes at least one big run from Perkins. Florida will settle in after that, allowing the Cavs past midfield on each of their next two drives without a score. Trask will get Florida on the board late in the first quarter, and the Gators will take a touchdown lead into halftime. It will be all Gators from then on, as the defense keys in on Perkins and Trask leads multiple scoring drives.Florida 31, Virginia 17