Tag: fossils (page 1 of 2)

Researchers Discover Fossils Of A New Species Of Terror Bird






Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com 

An army of huge carnivorous "terror birds" -- some as big as 10 feet tall -- ruled South America for tens of millions of years before going extinct some 2.5 million years ago.

Now, with the discovery of a new species of terror bird called Llallawavis scagliai, paleontologists are gaining fresh insight into this fearsome family of top predators.

More than 90 percent of the bird's fossilized skeleton was unearthed in northeastern Argentina in 2010, making it the most complete terror bird specimen ever found. 

“It’s rare to find such a complete fossil of anything, let alone a bird,” Dr. Lawrence Witmer, an Ohio University paleontologist who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Science magazine. “This is a very exciting find.”


llallawavis
Skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai on display at the Lorenzo Scaglia Municipal Museum of Natural Sciences in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
terror bird drawingPreserved skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai. Bones colored in gray were missing in the specimen. Scale bar equals 0.1 m.

Llallawavis likely lived around 3.5 million years ago, near the end of terror birds' reign, according to the researchers. It stood about four feet tall and weighed about 40 pounds.

“The discovery of this species reveals that terror birds were more diverse in the Pliocene than previously thought," Dr. Federico Degrange, a researcher at the Center for Research in Earth Sciences in Argentina and the leader of the team that identified the new species, said in a written statement. "It will allow us to review the hypothesis about the decline and extinction of this fascinating group of birds.” 

CT scans of the bird's inner ear structures indicated that its hearing was tuned for low-pitched sounds, and that it likely produced these kinds of ostrich-like sounds too.

"Low-frequency sounds are great for long-[distance] communication, or if you're a predator, for sensing the movements of prey animals," Witmer told Live Science.

The researchers hope further analyses will yield insights into the bird's vision and other senses.

An article describing the findings was published online March 20 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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UV light reveals hidden colors in ancient shells



UV light revealed the way ancient shells looked millions of years ago.


Excerpt from perfscience.com


Using ultra-violet (UV) light, scientists have revealed astonishing colors of about 30 ancient seashells. According to PLOS, the seashells, which are estimated to be between 6.6 and 4.8 million years old, were looking white in regular white light. The true colors of the shells appeared in UV light.




According to the researchers, “The biology of modern Conidae (cone snails)-which includes the hyperdiverse genus Conus-has been intensively studied, but the fossil record of the clade remains poorly understood, particularly within an evolutionary framework”.

In the presence of UV light, the organic matter remaining in the shells fluoresces. With this, the shells appeared similar to what they looked when living creatures used to live in them. It is yet unclear which particular compounds in the shells are releasing the light when exposed to UV rays. With the help of the technique, the researchers were able to document the coloration patterns of 28 different cone shell species found in the Dominican Republic. Out of these 28 shells, 13 were found to be the species, which were not known earlier. And this could help know about the relationship between modern species.

San Jose State University geologist Jonathan Hendricks exposed over 350 fossil specimens to ultraviolet light. 

The coloration patterns of the ancient species were compared with existing animals and doing this, researchers found many displayed similarities. According to this finding, some modern species emerge from lineages. These lineages began in the Caribbean millions of years ago.

The newly distinguished species, Conus carlottae, was also among the newly distinguished species and it has a polka-dotted shell, which is not found in modern cone snails today. Researchers are now using UV light to emit color from porcelain white seashell fossils.

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The Story of Human Evolution Now Challenged



Story of Human Evolution Challenged


Excerpt from newhistorian.com

The history of the evolution of early humans has been challenged.
Until now, one of the most dominant theories about our evolution claimed that our genus, Homo, had evolved from smaller early humans becoming taller, heavier and longer-legged. This process eventually resulted in Homo erectus, which was able to migrate out of Africa and colonise Eurasia.

Whilst we know that small-bodied H. erectus, averaging less than five feet tall and weighing under 50 kilograms, were living in southern Europe by 1.77 million years ago, the origin of the larger body size associated with modern humans has been elusive.

The paucity of knowledge about the origins of larger members of the Homo genus is primarily a result of a lack of evidence. Previous estimates of body size had been based on well-preserved specimens which were easy to assign a species to. Since these samples are rare and disparate in terms of both space and time, little is known about geographical and chronological variation in the body sizes of the early Homo.

A joint study between the Universities of Cambridge and Tübingen has shown that increases in body size occurred thousands of years after H. erectus left Africa; this growth in Homo body sizes primarily took place in the Koobi Fora region in modern Kenya.

“The evolution of larger bodies and longer legs can thus no longer be assumed to be the main driving factor behind the earliest excursions of our genus to Eurasia,” said Manuel Will, co-author of the study which has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

By using tiny fragments of fossil, the team were able to estimate our earliest ancestors’ height and body mass. Their findings, rather surprisingly, indicate a huge diversity in body size; this is particularly surprising as the wide variation we see in humans today was thought to be a relatively recent development.

“If someone asked you ‘are modern humans 6 foot tall and 70kg?’ you’d say ‘well some are, but many people aren’t,’ and what we’re starting to show is that this diversification happened really early in human evolution,” said Dr Jay Stock, co-author of the study.

Stock and Will are the first scientists in 20 years to compare the body size of humans from between 2.5 and 1.5 million years ago. They are also the first to use fragmentary fossils – many as small as toes, none longer than 5cm – to estimate body sizes.

By comparing measurements of fossils from sites in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Georgia, the researchers have revealed substantial regional variation in the size of early humans. Groups who lived in South African caves, for example, were 4.8 feet tall on average. Some of the skeletons found in Kenya’s Koobi Fora region would have stood nearly 6 feet tall, a height comparable to the average height of modern British males.
“Basically every textbook on human evolution gives the perspective that one lineage of humans evolved larger bodies before spreading beyond Africa. But the evidence for this story about our origins and the dispersal out of Africa just no longer really fits,” said Stock.

It appears that Stock and Will have rewritten the history of the development of early humans; diversity has deep roots amongst the Homo genus.

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Does the Past Exist Yet? Evidence Suggests Your Past Isn’t Set in Stone


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Excerpt from robertlanza.com
By Robert Lanza 

Recent discoveries require us to rethink our understanding of history. “The histories of the universe,” said renowned physicist Stephen Hawking “depend on what is being measured, contrary to the usual idea that the universe has an objective observer-independent history.”

Is it possible we live and die in a world of illusions? Physics tells us that objects exist in a suspended state until observed, when they collapse in to just one outcome. Paradoxically, whether events happened in the past may not be determined until sometime in your future – and may even depend on actions that you haven’t taken yet.

In 2002, scientists carried out an amazing experiment, which showed that particles of light “photons” knew — in advance — what their distant twins would do in the future. They tested the communication between pairs of photons — whether to be either a wave or a particle. Researchers stretched the distance one of the photons had to take to reach its detector, so that the other photon would hit its own detector first. The photons taking this path already finished their journeys — they either collapse into a particle or don’t before their twin encounters a scrambling device.
Somehow, the particles acted on this information before it happened, and across distances instantaneously as if there was no space or time between them. They decided not to become particles before their twin ever encountered the scrambler. It doesn’t matter how we set up the experiment. Our mind and its knowledge is the only thing that determines how they behave. Experiments consistently confirm these observer-dependent effects.

More recently (Science 315, 966, 2007), scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus, and showed that what they did could retroactively change something that had already happened. As the photons passed a fork in the apparatus, they had to decide whether to behave like particles or waves when they hit a beam splitter. 
Later on – well after the photons passed the fork – the experimenter could randomly switch a second beam splitter on and off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle actually did at the fork in the past. At that moment, the experimenter chose his history.

Of course, we live in the same world. Particles have a range of possible states, and it’s not until observed that they take on properties. So until the present is determined, how can there be a past? According to visionary physicist John Wheeler (who coined the word “black hole”), “The quantum principle shows that there is a sense in which what an observer will do in the future defines what happens in the past.” Part of the past is locked in when you observe things and the “probability waves collapse.” But there’s still uncertainty, for instance, as to what’s underneath your feet. If you dig a hole, there’s a probability you’ll find a boulder. Say you hit a boulder, the glacial movements of the past that account for the rock being in exactly that spot will change as described in the Science experiment.

But what about dinosaur fossils? Fossils are really no different than anything else in nature. For instance, the carbon atoms in your body are “fossils” created in the heart of exploding supernova stars. 
Bottom line: reality begins and ends with the observer. “We are participators,” Wheeler said “in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past.” Before his death, he stated that when observing light from a quasar, we set up a quantum observation on an enormously large scale. It means, he said, the measurements made on the light now, determines the path it took billions of years ago.

Like the light from Wheeler’s quasar, historical events such as who killed JFK, might also depend on events that haven’t occurred yet. There’s enough uncertainty that it could be one person in one set of circumstances, or another person in another. Although JFK was assassinated, you only possess fragments of information about the event. But as you investigate, you collapse more and more reality. According to biocentrism, space and time are relative to the individual observer – we each carry them around like turtles with shells.

History is a biological phenomenon — it’s the logic of what you, the animal observer experiences. You have multiple possible futures, each with a different history like in the Science experiment. Consider the JFK example: say two gunmen shot at JFK, and there was an equal chance one or the other killed him. This would be a situation much like the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment, in which the cat is both alive and dead — both possibilities exist until you open the box and investigate.

“We must re-think all that we have ever learned about the past, human evolution and the nature of reality, if we are ever to find our true place in the cosmos,” says Constance Hilliard, a historian of science at UNT. Choices you haven’t made yet might determine which of your childhood friends are still alive, or whether your dog got hit by a car yesterday. In fact, you might even collapse realities that determine whether Noah’s Ark sank. “The universe,” said John Haldane, “is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

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Fresh fossil studies push the dawn of man back to 2.8 million years

(Reuters) - A 2.8-million-year-old jawbone fossil with five intact teeth unearthed in an Ethiopian desert is pushing back the dawn of humankind by about half a million years.Scientists said on Wednesday the fossil represents the oldest known repres...

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UK Scientists: Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comScientists in the U.K. have examined a tiny metal circular object, and are suggesting it might be a micro-organism deliberately sent by extraterrestrials to create life on Earth.Don't be fooled by the size of the objec...

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Researchers discover fossils of tiny mammals that frolicked among dinosaurs

The little tree-climber, Agilodocodon scansorius


Excerpt from 
sciencerecorder.com



Two new fossil discoveries push the timeline back on the appearance of burrowing and tree-climbing mammals. Fossils of the shrew-sized creatures found in China date to the age of the dinosaurs and show that mammals of that period were already highly specialized, well-performing animals. One of the rodent-like animals was likely a long-clawed tree-dweller, while the other was shovel-pawed tunnel-digger.

 
The little tree-climber, Agilodocodon scansorius, is the earliest arboreal mammal ever discovered. A report published this week in Science Magazine highlights its traits suited for its habitat, including long claws, spade-like front teeth for gnawing into bark, and flexible elbows and ankles. It is believed to have weighed up to 40 grams, a bit less than a typical hotdog without condiments, and lived about 165 million years ago in what is Mongolia today.

“When we got into the study of Agilodocodon, we realized that the outline for the horny sheath of the claws is preserved,” Zhe-Xi Luo, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, said in an interview. “Those soft tissues are not preserved in the vast majority of mammals. It has a very long, curved narrow claw — one feature to show that it is a good climber.” 


Image: Artist's rendition Docofossor brachydactylus
Docofossor brachydactylus


In a report published in the same issue of Science, the other mammal, called Docofossor brachydactylus, is described to have stood no more than 9 centimeters tall and weighed only 17 grams, about the size of a juvenile mouse. Docfossor is the earliest underground-dwelling mammal ever found and shares similarities with the African golden mole, having short, wide digits suitable for digging. The little digger is estimated to have lived some 160 million years ago in what is today Ganggou Fossil Site in China’s Hebei province.

Both fossils are of creatures that belong to the order Docodonta. The discoveries are the first to provide full skeletons of this order, which had previously been characterized by evidence from fossils of teeth, jaws, and bits of skull.

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How Would the World Change If We Found Alien Life?







Excerpt from space.com
By by Elizabeth Howell

In 1938, Orson Welles narrated a radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" as a series of simulated radio bulletins of what was happening in real time as Martians arrived on our home planet. The broadcast is widely remembered for creating public panic, although to what extent is hotly debated today.

Still, the incident serves as an illustration of what could happen when the first life beyond Earth is discovered. While scientists might be excited by the prospect, introducing the public, politicians and interest groups to the idea could take some time.

How extraterrestrial life would change our world view is a research interest of Steven Dick, who just completed a term as the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair of Astrobiology. The chair is jointly sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the John W. Kluge Center, at the Library of Congress. 


Dick is a former astronomer and historian at the United States Naval Observatory, a past chief historian for NASA, and has published several books concerning the discovery of life beyond Earth. To Dick, even the discovery of microbes would be a profound shift for science.

"If we found microbes, it would have an effect on science, especially biology, by universalizing biology," he said. "We only have one case of biology on Earth. It's all related. It's all DNA-based. If we found an independent example on Mars or Europa, we have a chance of forming a universal biology."

Dick points out that even the possibilities of extraterrestrial fossils could change our viewpoints, such as the ongoing discussion of ALH84001, a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica that erupted into public consciousness in 1996 after a Science article said structures inside of it could be linked to biological activity. The conclusion, which is still debated today, led to congressional hearings.

"I've done a book about discovery in astronomy, and it's an extended process," Dick pointed out. "It's not like you point your telescope and say, 'Oh, I made a discovery.' It's always an extended process: You have to detect something, you have to interpret it, and it takes a long time to understand it. As for extraterrestrial life, the Mars rock showed it could take an extended period of years to understand it."


ALH84001 Meteorite
The ALH84001 meteorite, which in a 1996 Science publication was speculated to be host to what could be ancient Martian fossils. That finding is still under dispute today.

Mayan decipherments

In his year at the Library of Congress, Dick spent time searching for historical examples (as well as historical analogies) of how humanity might deal with first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. History shows that contact with new cultures can go in vastly different directions.

Hernan Cortes' treatment of the Aztecs is often cited as an example of how wrong first contact can go. But there were other efforts that were a little more mutually beneficial, although the outcomes were never perfect. Fur traders in Canada in the 1800s worked closely with Native Americans, for example, and the Chinese treasure fleet of the 15th Century successfully brought its home culture far beyond its borders, perhaps even to East Africa.

Even when both sides were trying hard to make communication work, there were barriers, noted Dick.

"The Jesuits had contact with Native Americans," he pointed out. "Certain concepts were difficult, like when they tried to get across the ideas of the soul and immortality."



A second look by the Mars Global Surveyor at the so-called Viking “Face on Mars” in Cydonia revealed a more ordinary-looking hill, showing that science is an extended process of discovery.


Indirect contact by way of radio communications through the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), also illustrates the challenges of transmitting information across cultures. There is historical precedence for this, such as when Greek knowledge passed west through Arab translators in the 12th Century. This shows that it is possible for ideas to be revived, even from dead cultures, he said.

It's also quite possible that the language we receive across these indirect communications would be foreign to us. Even though mathematics is often cited as a universal language, Dick said there are actually two schools of thought. One theory is that there is, indeed, one kind of mathematics that is based on a Platonic idea, and the other theory is that mathematics is a construction of the culture that you are in. 

"There will be a decipherment process. It might be more like the Mayan decipherments," Dick said.


The ethics of contact

As Dick came to a greater understanding about the potential c impact of extraterrestrial intelligence, he invited other scholars to present their findings along with him. Dick chaired a two-day NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Symposium called "Preparing for Discovery," which was intended to address the impact of finding any kind of life beyond Earth, whether microbial or some kind of intelligent, multicellular life form.

The symposium participants discussed how to move beyond human-centered views of defining life, how to understand the philosophical and theological problems a discovery would bring, and how to help the public understand the implications of a discovery.

"There is also the question of what I call astro-ethics," Dick said. "How do you treat alien life? How do you treat it differently, ranging from microbes to intelligence? So we had a philosopher at our symposium talking about the moral status of non-human organisms, talking in relation to animals on Earth and what their status is in relation to us."

Dick plans to collect the lectures in a book for publication next year, but he also spent his time at the library gathering materials for a second book about how discovering life beyond Earth will revolutionize our thinking.

"It's very farsighted for NASA to fund a position like this," Dick added. "They have all their programs in astrobiology, they fund the scientists, but here they fund somebody to think about what the implications might be. It's a good idea to do this, to foresee what might happen before it occurs."

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Scientists discover organism that hasn’t evolved in more than 2 billion years



Nonevolving bacteria
These sulfur bacteria haven't evolved for billions of years.
Credit: UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life

Excerpt from natmonitor.com
By Justin Beach

If there was a Guinness World Record for not evolving, it would be held by a sulfur-cycling microorganism found off the course of Australia. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have not evolved in any way in more than two billion years and have survived five mass extinction events.
According to the researchers behind the paper, the lack of evolution actually supports Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
The researchers examined the microorganisms, which are too small to see with the naked eye, in samples of rocks from the coastal waters of Western Australia. Next they examined samples of the same bacteria from the same region in rocks 2.3 billion years old. Both sets of bacteria are indistinguishable from modern sulfur bacteria found off the coast of Chile.





“It seems astounding that life has not evolved for more than 2 billion years — nearly half the history of the Earth. Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained,” said J. William Schopf, a UCLA professor of earth, planetary and space sciences in the UCLA College who was the study’s lead author in a statement.
Critics of Darwin’s theory of evolution might be tempted to jump on this discovery as proof that Darwin was wrong, but that would be a mistake.
Darwin’s work focused more on species that changed, rather than species that didn’t. However, there is nothing in Darwin’s work that states that a successful species that has found it’s niche in an ecosystem has to change. Unless there is change in the ecosystem or competition for resources there would be no reason for change.
“The rule of biology is not to evolve unless the physical or biological environment changes, which is consistent with Darwin. These microorganisms are well-adapted to their simple, very stable physical and biological environment. If they were in an environment that did not change but they nevertheless evolved, that would have shown that our understanding of Darwinian evolution was seriously flawed.” said Schopf, who also is director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life.
It is likely that there were genetic mutations in the organisms. Mutations are fairly random and happen in all species, but unless those mutations are improvements that help the species function better in the environment, they usually do not get passed on.
Schopf said that the findings provide further proof that Darwin’s ideas were right.
The oldest fossils analyzed for the study date back to the Great Oxidation Event. This event, which occurred between 2.2 and 2.4 billion years ago, saw a substantial increase in Earth’s oxygen levels. That period also saw an increase in sulfates and nitrates, which is all that the microorganisms would have needed to survive and reproduce.
Shopf and his team used Raman spectroscopy, which allows scientists to examine the composition and chemistry of rocks as well as confocal laser scary microscopy to generate 3-D images of fossils embedded in rock.
The research was funded by NASA Astrobiology Institute, in the hope that it will help the space agency to find life elsewhere.

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New prehistoric human discovered in Taiwan



human jaw fossil found in Taiwan
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.


Excerpt from sciencerecorder.com


Paleontologists have identified the first known prehistoric human specimen from Taiwan, which may have been part of a species that lived alongside modern humans until as recently as 10,000 years ago.
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Among the species that lived in Europe within that period were Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis The Penghu 1, which has been described in the most recent issue of Nature Communications, has added to that sizable list of humans that may have lived with and interbred with modern humans.

“The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact,” said the study’s co-author Yousuke Kaifu, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Tokyo, to Discovery News.
Kaifu, along with the paper’s lead author Chun-Hsiang Chang, and their team have studied the new human’s remains, primarily a jawbone that still contains big teeth. The jawbone was found by fishermen off the Taiwanese coast in the Penghu Channel. They then sold it to a local antique shop where it was found and bought by the collector Kun-Yu Tsai, who donated his collection to the National Museum of Natural Science in Taiwan. It then caught the eye of Chang, who works at the museum as a geologist.
Chang and his team now believe that the Penghu 1 could suggest a new species of human or at least a distinct regional group of Homo erectus. He suspects that the jawbone belonged to an elderly adult due to the worn state of the teeth. Unlike Homo floresiensis, the Penghu 1 grew to adult stature and lived on the Asian mainland.
“The associated faunal remains suggest that the area was a relatively open, wet woodland,” said Kaifu. “This is because of the presence of large-bodied mammals, such as elephants (Stegodon), horses and bear, but the fauna also included animals that prefer marshlands in a hot and humid climate, such as water buffaloes.”
All of these aspects would seem very attractive to modern humans, as well as the prehistoric humans they co-existed with. Although Penghu 1 is clearly not a modern human, its jaw bears many similarities to Homo erectus. Very little is known about human evolution in Asia, so this is a considerably welcome discovery, as fossils from much earlier periods discovered in China have offered valuable insights into what a Cretaceous ecosystem looked like. There are also many similarities between Penghu 1 and the Peking Man remains from Zhoukoudian, China, although the former appears to be much more primitive. It has also been compared to the archaic Homo heidelbergensis and also Denisovan remains.

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As Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, things start to look ‘rough’


Ceres: Dawn spies dwarf planet
This image, taken 147,000 miles from Ceres by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, is part of a series of views representing the best look so far at the dwarf planet. The spacecraft is set to enter orbit March 6. (NASA)

Eat your heart out, Hubble! NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is in the home stretch of its journey to Ceres and has snapped the best images yet of the dwarf planet. Grainy as they are, the new views of the 590-mile-wide world are already turning up unexpected features on the surface.
“What we expect at Ceres is to be surprised, so it’s getting off to a good start,” said deputy principal investigator Carol Raymond.
The images, taken 147,000 miles from Ceres on Jan. 25, are 30% higher-resolution than the images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004. They measure 43 pixels wide, a significant improvement over Dawn’s images from earlier this month, which were 27 pixels across.
The images show significant brightness and darkness variations over the surface – particularly a bright spot gleaming in the northern hemisphere and darker spots in the southern hemisphere. While the scientists were aware of those major spots, they weren’t expecting to see quite so much texture on the surface, said Raymond, a geophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ceres is fairly warm by ice-world standards; temperatures generally range from 180 to 240 Kelvin (or minus-136 degrees Fahrenheit to minus-28 degrees Fahrenheit), Raymond said. Theoretically, the ice on Ceres’ surface should start to flow as it warms up, smoothing out any bumps such as those from impact craters. But the brightness variations across the surface make it appear very rough, she said.
“This is just starting to illuminate the fact that Ceres is one of these unique bodies that has astrobiological potential ... and it’s just continued to become more intriguing as we’ve been marching inexorably closer,” she added.

Ceres was not the first stop in Dawn’s 3-billion-mile journey. The first was the protoplanet Vesta, which is vastly different from its fellow mega-asteroid, Ceres. Where Vesta is dry and lumpy, Ceres is icy and round, massive enough to have been pulled into a planet-like shape. Scientists want to find out why these two space-fossils from the early solar system ended up with such different geophysical life stories.
At least with Vesta, there were meteorites linked to the asteroid that planetary scientists can study, Raymond pointed out. For Ceres, there are no such space rocks found on Earth – so the researchers have somewhat less of an idea of what to expect.

“I am excited,” Raymond said. “Just having had the wild ride at Vesta, I’m also just in awe of what’s going to happen. It’s going to be amazing.”

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Is this the Loch Ness Monster? Scientists discover new species of "uniquely Scottish" boat-sized Jurassic reptile on Isle of Skye




Excerpt 

A 14-foot long, dolphin-like ichthyosaur would have swum the warm, shallow seas near Scotland during the Jurassic period, according to scientists who have identified an entirely new species from a “very special” set of bones found by an amateur enthusiast in 1959 and given to Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum.

The largest group of palaeontologists ever to have worked together in Scotland believe fossil fragments of skulls, teeth, vertebrae and an upper arm bone would have belonged to a previously unknown type of long-extinct aquatic animal, named the Dearcmhara shawcrossi after Brian Shawcross, who recovered the fossils from the island’s Bearreraig Bay.


A photo of a group of people standing around a table in a lab with rocks on it
The PalAlba group behind the identification of the new species© Bill Crighton


partly in homage to the history of the Hebrides and Skye, much of which was underwater during Jurassic times. Some reports have likened the predator to an ancestor of the Loch Ness monster.

“During the time of dinosaurs, the waters of Scotland were prowled by big reptiles the size of motor boats,” explained Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study.

“Their fossils are very rare, and only now, for the first time, we’ve found a new species that was uniquely Scottish.

“Without the generosity of the collector who donated the bones to a museum instead of keeping them or selling them, we would have never known that this amazing animal existed.

“We are honoured to name the new species after Mr Shawcross and will do the same if any other collectors wish to donate new specimens.”

The creature was near the top of the food chain 170 million years ago, preying on fish and other reptiles during an age when Skye was joined to the rest of the UK as part of a large island positioned between landmasses that gradually drifted apart to become Europe and North America.


“Not only is this a very special discovery, but it also marks the beginning of a major new collaboration involving some of the most eminent palaeontologists in Scotland,” said Dr Nick Fraser, of National Museums Scotland.

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Age of stars can now be pinned to their spin

Excerpt from bbc.comAstronomers have proved that they can accurately tell the age of a star from how fast it is spinning. We know that stars slow down over time, but until recently there was little data to support exact calculations. For ...

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