© Frank Vinken // Max Planck Society
© Frank Vinken // Max Planck Society

The Poop of Young Fish Can Help Older Ones Live Longer

© Frank Vinken // Max Planck Society
© Frank Vinken // Max Planck Society

For older fish, the Fountain of Youth might actually be more like the Poop of Youth. Nature News reports that scientists have found that eating poop from its younger brethren can extend the life of the turquoise killifish.

Nothobranchius furzeri, native to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, lives an incredibly short life—just a few months—which makes it the perfect model for studies on aging. Using these short-lived fish, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany recently discovered that microbes could play a role in staving off the effects of aging. Their study is posted in its pre-print version (meaning it hasn’t been peer-reviewed like a published paper would be) on bioRxiv.

They examined the gut bacteria of both 6-week-old and 16-week-old fish, discovering that the diversity of the fish’s gut microbiome declined over its lifespan. The older fish’s gut micobiomes were largely dominated by Proteobacteria, unlike the more diverse gut bacterial colonies seen in young fish.

Then, the researchers transplanted the gut bacteria of young fish into older ones. They wiped out the preexisting gut bacteria of 9.5-week-old fish—middle-aged—by giving them antibiotics, then introduced them into a tank with the gut contents of other middle-aged fish or young, 6-week-old fish. The fish that were exposed to youthful gut bacteria—by swimming around in a tank with young fish and their poop—lived significantly longer than the other fish. The fish exposed to young poop lived 41 percent longer than the fish that were swimming around in the gut bacteria of middle-aged fish and 37 percent longer than the control group. The fish rejuvenated with youthful gut bacteria were also more spry at the ripe age of 16 weeks than the other fish in the study.

Scientists are increasingly finding that the bacteria that live in our guts and on our skin have a profound impact on our lives. Different microbiome makeups are associated with obesity, anxiety levels, sexually transmitted diseases, and more. And the turquoise killifish isn’t all that different from us, gut-wise. The gene sequencing work performed by the Max Planck researchers found that the four most prevalent bacteria in the turquoise killifish’s gut are the same as in the human gut: Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroidetes. Humans also lose some of the diversity of their gut bacteria as they age.

So while young blood might not be the way to rejuvenate aging bodies, young poop could very well be. (But maybe don't try this experiment on your own just yet.)

[h/t Nature News]

An Ancient Sarcophagus Was Found in Egypt—And It's Never Been Opened

In what could be the plot of the next summer blockbuster, a sealed sarcophagus has been found 16 feet underground in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Science Alert reports. It’s still unknown who or what might be lying inside the nondescript black granite casket, but what’s clear is that it hasn’t been opened since it was closed more than 2000 years ago.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the government’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, observed “a layer of mortar between the lid and the body of the sarcophagus,” indicating it hadn't been opened, according to a Ministry of Antiquities Facebook post. Considering that many ancient tombs in Egypt have been looted over the years, an untouched sarcophagus is quite a rare find.

The sarcophagus was discovered when a site in the Sidi Gaber district, dating back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BCE), was inspected before construction of a building began. The casket is 104.3 inches long and 65 inches wide, making it the largest of its kind ever discovered in Alexandria. In addition, an alabaster statue of a man’s head was found in the same tomb, and some have speculated that it might depict whoever is sealed inside the sarcophagus. Live Science suggested that archaeologists may opt to inspect its contents using X-rays or computed tomography scans to prevent damage to the artifact.

Although it remains a mystery for now, Twitter has a few theories about who might be lying inside:

[h/t Science Alert]

What Did Burr Do After Shooting Hamilton?

Aaron Burr's first order of business was to go home and have some breakfast.

Having victoriously emerged from that deadly encounter with Alexander Hamilton on July 11, 1804, Burr returned to his estate in lower Manhattan for a hearty meal. Some accounts claim that the V.P. was also pleasantly surprised by a visiting acquaintance (either Burr’s cousin or his broker, depending upon the source) with whom he dined, politely choosing not to mention the bloody spectacle that had just transpired. The next day, Hamilton passed away. For Burr, his opponent’s death marked the beginning of the end.

On August 2, a New York coroner’s jury found Burr guilty on two counts. In their estimation, he’d committed the misdemeanor of dueling—and the felony of murder. To make matters worse, because his duel had taken place in New Jersey, the Garden State issued its own ruling, which also pronounced him a murderer.

“There is a contention of a singular nature between the two States of New York and New Jersey,” he dryly noted in a letter to his daughter Theodosia. “The subject in dispute is which shall have the honor of hanging the Vice President.” Facing a tempest of public outrage, Burr eventually set sail for Georgia, where plantation owner and former Senator Pierce Butler offered him sanctuary.

But, alas, the call of vice presidential duty soon rang out. As president of the Senate, Burr returned to Washington that November to oversee the impeachment of anti-Jeffersonian Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Shortly thereafter—with some help from a contingent of Republican senators—Burr’s case was dropped in New Jersey, though by then, he’d already stepped down from the vice presidency.

Burr’s saga was far from over, though. After leaving D.C., he began aggressively recruiting allies for a planned seizure of America’s western territories. Among those he managed to enlist were General James Wilkinson, who’d been named Northern Louisiana’s regional governor. Burr even went so far as to begin training his own army before he was arrested in present-day Alabama and put on trial for treason. Ultimately, however, he was acquitted. His scheme foiled and his image scarred, Burr departed for Europe and wouldn’t return to his native country until 1812.

By then, the nation was entrenched in a nasty war with Great Britain and had largely forgotten his attempted conspiracy. Towards the end of his life, Burr went back to New York (where, despite the 1804 ruling, he was never actually tried for murder), revived his law practice, and married his second wife, the notorious socialite Eliza Jumel. He died on September 14, 1836, at the age of 80.


More from mental floss studios