These Weird Creatures Will Live Long Enough to See Sun Die Researchers unable to theoretically kill off the tardigrade
By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Jul 14, 2017 6:58 PM CDT
A new study finds the tardigrade--a microscopic animal also known as the "water bear"--will likely survive until the Sun dies out. (AP Photo/Bob Goldstein & Vicki Madden, UNC Chapel Hill)
(NEWSER) – A study published Friday in Scientific Reports found there is one life form that will likely survive long enough to watch the Sun die out. And it's not Keith Richards. According to a press release, the study found that no astrophysical catastrophe nor extinction event will be enough to kill the mighty tardigrade, also known as the "water bear." These microscopic animals can survive for 30 years without food or water and in the vacuum of space. The Washington Post reports tardigrades can live in temperatures from 350 degrees Celsius to just a degree above absolute zero. Tardigrades can be dried out for a decade or hang out at the bottom of the ocean, according to Smithsonian. "Tardigrades are as close to indestructible as it gets on Earth," says Dr. Rafael Alves Batista, co-author of study.
In an attempt to theoretically kill off the tardigrade, researchers tried three of the most destructive forces known: asteroids, supernovas, and gamma-ray bursts. All three failed for various reasons (no asteroids large enough to boil off the oceans in a collision, no stars besides the Sun close enough to release enough radiation in a supernova, etc.). The study concludes that means at least one form of life on Earth will last as long as the Sun is still shining. "It seems that life, once it gets going, is hard to wipe out entirely," co-author Dr. David Sloan says. Not only that, but the ability of tardigrades to survive cataclysmic events gives researchers hope for finding life on other planets. (After 30 years on ice, this thing came back to life.)
The Perot Just Acquired a Rare, 2-Foot-Tall 'Alien Eye' Mineral, Named for Its Otherwordly Glow FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017 AT 4 A.M. BY CAROLINE NORTH
The Eyes of Africa is the most important specimen of "alien eye" fluorite yet discovered, and until now, few have seen it.
Elliott Fine Minerals International
From Dallas Observer: On Wednesday, the Perot unveiled Eyes of Africa, the largest and finest specimen of "alien eye" fluorite yet discovered. The Eyes of Africa was found in 2007 and spent two years undergoing cleaning. After that, its original owners, collectors Mark Kielbaso and Jurgen Tron, spent many more years debating where and when to debut it.
The specimen comes from a region of Namibia near the Erongo Mountains. The press release explains that 130 million years ago, a large volcano erupted in that area and has since produced a remarkable and wide variety of minerals — 70 in all.
Most prized are the fluorites, which form in unusual shapes compared with other fluorites, come in nearly ever color of the rainbow and are incredibly vivid. The color of the minerals is determined by whatever impurities were present as they were forming.
Each color is contained to a pocket of the Erongo region, and collectors of Namibian fluorites often seek out one of each. One pocket has become known as the alien eye pocket.
Alien eye fluorites are black on the outside with clearly defined, emerald green diamond shapes in the center that seem to glow.
"The glow of the green zone was so intense, many likened their effect to something out of a science fiction movie," the release reads.
But not all of the alien eye specimens discovered were of good quality; in the end, only a few dozen were collected. Ten years ago, Namibian miner Herold Gariseb found the most important one while exploring a small, hand-carved tunnel.
According to the release, Gariseb had quickly sold most of his alien eye fluorite finds, but when he came across the Eyes of Africa, he knew not to act so hastily. Made of fluorite and quartz, it is 22.8 inches tall, 13.3 inches wide and 10.2 inches deep and weighs nearly 65 pounds.
"It went in the trunk of his white Mercedes and followed him everywhere he went," the Perot says.
It didn't take long, however, for American collectors Kielbaso and Tron to get wind of the discovery and set to work tracking Gariseb down.
"They drove for hours which then turned into days," the release says. "The white Mercedes became their White Whale."
When Kielbaso and Tron finally located Gariseb, they negotiated a deal with him to purchase the Eyes of Africa. Gariseb's one condition of the sale was that they take a photo of him with his precious find.
But the sale was only the first in a series of complicated steps to get Eyes of Africa ready for the public. First, Kielbaso and Tron purchased 400 diapers and a steel drum to encase the mineral for transport on an ocean freighter. It took three months for the purchase to arrive in the U.S. and after that, another two years to clean it of mud and silica debris.
The Lydia Hill Gems and Minerals Hall at the Perot Museum has acquired the Eyes of Africa and is presenting it to the public for the first time.
After the Battle, Army Ants Leave No Soldier Behind Many ants injured in battle are saved by being carried back to the colony
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff Posted Apr 13, 2017 8:47 AM CDT
(Newser) – A new study provides the first evidence that ants rescue members of their own colony post-battle even when those ants aren't in imminent danger, reports the Guardian. The observation came about when biologist Erik Frank was watching army ants march out to battle termites in highly patterned formation—"like three ants next to each other, in a 2-meter-long column," he tells NPR—and he noticed some of the ants returned carrying other ants. Those ants, it turns out, weren't dead but injured, missing a leg or two or weighed down by a dead termite whose jaws were clamped onto them. "This [is] behavior you don’t expect to see in ants; you always imagine an individual ant as having no value for the colony and that they sacrifice themselves for the good of the colony," says Frank. What's more, 95% survived, and many returned to battle the very next day. So Frank and colleagues at the University of Würzburg in Germany began to study this behavior more closely, and learned that one difference between soldiers on a battlefield and ants is "these ants are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart," he says, but rather in response to the chemical signals sent off by their injured comrades. Reporting in the journal Science Advances, they note that the behavior does not occur on the way to battle, and not when injured ants are from outside colonies. There's another matter of practicality: They calculate that a colony size is 29% larger when ants carry back their injured than when they don't. Outside researchers agree this is a form of natural selection. "This is an army," one says. "They're going off to attack the termites. It's a battle. And the more numerous you are, the more successful you are." (Ants were farmers well before humans.)
Scientists Solve Sequoia Mystery Dust from Gobi desert helps them grow: study
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff Posted Mar 29, 2017 8:14 PM CDT
(NEWSER) – The sequoia trees of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range are obvious marvels. But according to new research, an unlikely and far-off source deserves a significant portion of the credit for allowing them to stand tall. The mineral that helps trees grow, phosphorus, is actually found in short supply in the granite formations of the region, so scientists have wondered how the monster trees were able to thrive, reports Seeker. Researchers, however, had a theory involving dust. To see if their theory was correct, they collected dust from four sites of varying elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains—using a trap consisting of a bundt cake pan filled with marbles on a six-foot-tall post—then studied its isotopes to determine where the dust originated.
Of no surprise, especially as the study took place in the middle of California's drought, was that the majority of dust came from the state’s Central Valley, per Popular Science. But 20% of dust at the lowest elevation and 45% at the highest elevation came from Asia—more specifically, the Gobi Desert—and carried more phosphorus than the area's bedrock. Researchers explain specks of dust fly around the world at high elevations, falling only when they hit something. This dust was already known to replenish the soil of tropical ecosystems as rainfall washes nutrients away. But this study suggests dust is also "fertilizing way more of the world than we had ever anticipated," says the study author. "Without tiny particles from Asia," Popular Science notes, California's sequoias might be lost. (The trees may still be in danger.)
Some Dinosaurs Became Bipedal Because Standing Upright Helped Them Run Faster And Longer, Researchers Say
BY AVANEESH PANDEY ON 03/05/17
From IBT: Why did some early dinosaurs learn to stand up and walk on two feet?
For the longest time, scientists believed that this happened because many proto-dinosaurs needed their forelimbs to be free in order to catch prey. As a result, the dinosaur ancestors that walked on two feet had a marked evolutionary advantage over those that didn’t, and thus the trait of bipedalism was passed down through generations.
However, in a study published in the latest edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada claim that this theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
“Those explanations don’t stand up,” study co-author Scott Persons, a postdoctoral fellow at the university, said in statement released Friday. “Many ancient bipedal dinosaurs were herbivores, and even early carnivorous dinosaurs evolved small forearms. Rather than using their hands to grapple with prey, it is more likely they seized their meals with their powerful jaws.”
Instead, Persons and his colleague Philip Currie — a renowned paleontologist and a professor at the University of Alberta — argue that dinosaurs became bipedal because it allowed them to run faster and for longer distances. This is the same reason why early carnivorous dinosaurs evolved small forearms — it reduced body weight and improved balance.
“The tails of proto-dinosaurs had big, leg-powering muscles,” Persons said. “Having this muscle mass provided the strength and power required for early dinosaurs to stand on and move with their two back feet. We see a similar effect in many modern lizards that rise up and run bipedally.”
According to the researchers, this also explains why some herbivorous dinosaurs later went back to becoming quadrupeds — their bigger guts, which evolved to break down cellulose, added more weight to the front half of the body.
“In the groups where speed was no longer a concern, they often went back to being quadrapedal,” Persons told CBC News.
The question, then, is, if bipedalism can help animals move faster, why didn’t mammals like horses and cheetahs evolve to stand upright?
According to the researchers, this was because in the Permian period, roughly 250 million years ago, mammalian ancestors were adapting to dig and to live in burrows — something that requires strong front limbs.
As a result, not only did these burrowing mammalian ancestors not become bipedal, they also lost the strong tail muscles that would have allowed them to stand upright.
“Looking across the fossil record, we can trace when our proto-mammal ancestors actually lost those muscles,” Persons said in the statement. “That’s why modern burrowers tend to have particularly short tails. Think rabbits, badgers, and moles.”
World's oldest fossils found in Canada, say scientists
Haematite filament attached to a clump of iron (lower right) from hydrothermal vent deposits found in a rock formation in Quebec, Canada. Photograph: Matthew Dodd/PA
From The Guardian: Scientists say they have found the world’s oldest fossils, thought to have formed between 3.77bn and 4.28bn years ago.
Comprised of tiny tubes and filaments made of an iron oxide known as haematite, the microfossils are believed to be the remains of bacteria that once thrived underwater around hydrothermal vents, relying on chemical reactions involving iron for their energy.
If correct, these fossils offer the oldest direct evidence for life on the planet. And that, the study’s authors say, offers insights into the origins of life on Earth.
“If these rocks do indeed turn out to be 4.28 [bn years old] then we are talking about the origins of life developing very soon after the oceans formed 4.4bn years ago,” said Matthew Dodd, the first author of the research from University College, London.
With iron-oxidising bacteria present even today, the findings, if correct, also highlight the success of such organisms. “They have been around for 3.8bn years at least,” said the lead author Dominic Papineau, also from UCL.
The team says the new discovery supports the idea that life emerged and diversified rapidly on Earth, complementing research reported last year that claimed to find evidence of microbe-produced structures, known as stromatolites, in Greenland rocks, which formed 3.7bn years ago.
However, like the oldest microfossils previously reported – samples from western Australia dating to about 3.46bn years ago – the new discovery is set to be the subject of hot debate.
The discovery of the structures, the authors add, highlights intriguing avenues for research to discover whether life existed elsewhere in the solar system, including Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and Mars, which once boasted oceans. “If we look at similarly old rocks [from Mars] and we can’t find evidence of life, then this certainly may point to the fact that Earth may be a very special exception and life might just have arisen on Earth,” said Dodd.
Published in the journal Nature by an international team of researchers, the new study focuses on rocks of the Nuvvuagittuq supracrustal belt in Quebec, Canada.
The rocks are some of the oldest in the world and are believed to have formed around underwater hydrothermal vents – a theory backed up by various chemical signatures hinting at a submarine formation, as well as the presence of structures such as pillow basalts that are formed when lava encounters water.
“These rocks were of a period in time when we don’t know whether there was life,” said Dodd. “If we believe the long-standing hypothesis that life evolved from hydrothermal vents billions of years ago then these were the perfect rocks to look at for answering these questions.”
The authors say scrutiny of very thin sections of the iron-containing quartz in which the fossils were found, together with an analysis of the minerals within them and microfossils themselves, suggests the haematite structures were not formed by physical processes alone.
Instead, the authors write, “the tubes and filaments are best explained as remains of iron-metabolising filamentous bacteria, and therefore represent the oldest life forms recognised on Earth.”
Up to half a millimetre in length and half the width of a human hair, the filaments have a range of forms, from loose coils to branched structures with some apparently linked together through a central knob of haematite – structures, said Dodd, that are common to microbes known to have lived near deep sea vents.[...]
This fossil shows the jaws of a newly discovered species of ancient aquatic worm that could grow to more than 3 feet in length. (Luke Parry/University of Bristol)
Huge-Jawed Worm Species Terrorized Fish 400M Years Ago The new species was discovered in storage at a Canadian museum
By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Feb 21, 2017
(NEWSER) – Scientists have discovered a giant worm—no, not this guy—that terrorized fish, octopuses, and squids with its comparatively massive jaws 400 million years ago. UPI reports the fossil was dug up at Canada's Kwataboahegan Formation back in the mid-1990s and had been in storage at the Royal Ontario Museum since then. When scientists finally got their hands on it, they found a water-going relative of earthworms and leeches that had the biggest jaws ever seen in a bristle worm, according to a press release. Most bristle worm jaws are a scant few millimeters long and require a microscope to see; this worm's jaws were longer than a centimeter and could be seen with the naked eye.
Scientists published their findings Tuesday in Scientific Reports. While the fossils of ancient worms typically contain only their jaws, as their bodies are too soft to be preserved well, scientists can extrapolate that this new species of aquatic worm grew to more than 3 feet long. The giant, large-jawed worm has been named Websteroprion armstrongi after Derek Armstrong, who originally found the fossil, and Alex Webster, bass player for death metal band Cannibal Corpse. It seems the three scientists who discovered the worm are big music fans and amateur musicians. (This new species looks like an ant and a bee had a baby.)
AN ANSWER TO TRUMP’S WALL: DRUG CATAPULT FOUND ACROSS ARIZONA-MEXICO
THE INTELLECTUALIST POSTED ON FEBRUARY 15, 2017
The drug catapult
U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered a catapult used to throw bundles of marijuana over the Arizona-Mexico border into Douglas, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
While patrolling an area near the Douglas Port of Entry on Feb. 10, agents saw several people quickly retreating from the fence as the agents approached, officials said.
When agents arrived, they searched the area and located two bundles of marijuana, weighing more than 47 pounds combined, as well as a catapult system attached to the Mexico side of the border fence.
Mexican law-enforcement authorities responded to the area and seized the catapult system, which was dismantled by the U.S. Border Patrol, officials said.
Fossil shows pregnant momma sea monster with developing embryo
REUTERS 14 FEB 2017
An extraordinary fossil unearthed in southwestern China shows a pregnant long-necked marine reptile that lived millions of years before the dinosaurs with its developing embryo, indicating this creature gave birth to live babies rather than laying eggs.
Scientists on Tuesday said the fossil of the unusual fish-eating reptile called Dinocephalosaurus, which lived about 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, changes the understanding of the evolution of vertebrate reproductive systems.
Mammals and some reptiles including certain snakes and lizards are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young.
Dinocephalosaurus is the first member of a broad vertebrate group called archosauromorphs that includes birds, crocodilians, dinosaurs and extinct flying reptiles known as pterosaurs known to give birth this way, paleontologist Jun Liu of China’s Hefei University of Technology said.
It boasted one of the longest necks relative to body size of any animal that ever existed. Dinocephalosaurus, unearthed in Yunnan Province, was an estimated 13 feet (4 meters) long, including a slender neck roughly 5-1/2 feet (1.7 meters) long, Liu said. It had paddle-like flippers, a small head and a mouth with teeth, including large canines, perfect for snaring fish.
“I think you’d be amazed to see it, with its tiny head and long snaky neck,” said University of Bristol paleontologist Mike Benton, who also participated in the research published in the journal Nature Communications.
Its body plan was similar to plesiosaurs, long-necked marine reptiles akin to Scotland’s mythical Loch Ness Monster that thrived later during the dinosaur age, though they were not closely related.
Not laying eggs provided advantages to Dinocephalosaurus, the researchers said. It indicated the creature was fully marine, not having to leave the ocean to lay eggs on land like sea turtles, exposing the eggs or hatchlings to land predators.
Many animal fossils have been found with the stomach contents intact, for example whole fish. Several factors showed this embryo was the female Dinocephalosaurus’ baby, not its breakfast.
Liu said it was found in a curled posture typical for vertebrate embryos. The embryo faces forward relative to the mother, while swallowed animals generally face backward because a predator will gulp prey head-first to help it get down the throat.
Montana State University evolutionary biologist Chris Organ said while some reptiles such as crocodiles determine the sex of their babies through the temperature inside the nest, Dinocephalosaurus determined its offspring’s sex genetically as mammals and birds do.
How Scientists Are Cracking One of the World's Oldest Codes Cognitive science and complex statistical processes are both playing into it: the Verge
By Jenn Gidman, Newser Staff Posted Jan 26, 2017
(NEWSER) – Since the late 1800s, scientists have been stumped over small pieces of stone found buried in India and Pakistan, each carved with a line of symbols over a depiction of an animal—all evidence of the since-IDed Indus Valley Civilization, said to be the oldest Indian civilization known to exist. But although scientists have had nearly 150 years to decipher these tiny "seals," Mallory Locklear explains for the Verge how the markings that appear on the artifacts have yet to be figured out, and how complex statistical techniques and cognitive science are finally bringing researchers closer to cracking the code. It's been a linguistic-linked mystery muddled by the fact that decades' worth of digging has turned up little useful info into the civilization's origins, religious beliefs, or even day-to-day routines—all of which could lend insight into the carvings that appear on the seals.
The Indus script is just one of many ancient ones being analyzed worldwide, and Locklear notes the processes used resemble those used in the movie Arrival: "searching for patterns, testing out theories, and lots and lots of trial and error." Complicating things is that there are only a few symbols on each seal to work with. Plus, researchers aren't even sure if these symbols technically represent language or if they're just visual representations of physical things (most are leaning toward language, though there's infighting on this point). Also in play are a need for funding and the region's politics, with various factions wanting to stake claim to Indus roots. What may soon lead to breakthroughs: the use of those sophisticated processes and even an inscription-extraction app researchers hope to soon have on their phones.
Fossils of utterly huge otter unearthed in China
REUTERS 23 JAN 2017
From Raw Story: Scientists have unearthed fossils of an intriguingly large otter as big as a wolf that frolicked in rivers and lakes in a lush, warm and humid wetlands region in southwestern China about 6.2 million years ago.
The outsized otter, called Siamogale melilutra, weighed about 110 pounds (50 kg) and measured up to 6-1/2 feet (2 meters) long, making it bigger than any of its cousins alive today, the researchers said on Monday.
“Siamogale melilutra reminds us, I think, of the diversity of life in the past and how many more questions there are still to answer. Who would have imagined a wolf-size otter?” said Denise Su, Cleveland Museum of Natural History curator of paleobotany and paleoecology.
It had enlarged cheek teeth and strong jaws that appear to have been used for crunching hard objects, perhaps large shellfish and freshwater mollusks, and was capable of swimming in shallow, swampy waters.
“I think it used its powerful jaws to crush hard clams for food, somewhat like modern sea otters, although the latter use stone tools to smash shells,” said Xiaoming Wang, head of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“If Siamogale melilutra was not smart enough to figure out tools, perhaps the only option left was to develop more powerful jaws by increasing body size,” Wang added.
The fossils, found at a site in China’s Yunnan Province, include a largely complete cranium and lower jaw, various teeth, and limb bones.
The skull was crushed eons ago during the fossilization process. The researchers used sophisticated scanning to digitally reconstruct it, discovering it boasted a mix of otter-like and badger-like skull and dental traits.
There was intense interest in the fossil site because an important prehistoric ape skull previously had been unearthed there. Others fossils found include elephants, rhinos, tapirs, deer, beavers, crocodiles and water birds including ducks, swans and cranes.
The largest otter alive today is the South American giant river otter, weighing up to about 70 pounds (32 kg). Otters belong to a mammalian family including the weasel, badger, marten and mink. The earliest-known otter lived about 18 million years ago. But otter evolution is not well understood, with fossils rare and scattered around the world.
Siamogale melilutra may not be the largest otter ever, with fossils of another one that may be the biggest previously found in Africa.
The research was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.
White Rainbows Frequent Only 2 Places in the World Zambia and Kentucky boast monthly displays
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff Posted Jan 2, 2017
In this image made available on Tuesday Oct. 18, 2016, a moonbow is visible in the night sky above a field in the Coquet Valley in Northumberland, northern England on Sept. 16. 2016. A moonbow, also known... (Ian Glendinning via AP)
(NEWSER) – Waterfalls are among the most reliable places to catch a rainbow, but only two on the planet offer up a regular display of its close cousin, the moonbow: Cumberland Falls in Kentucky and Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. Also called a white rainbow, a moonbow appears when moonlight (which is sunlight reflected off the moon) in the days just before, during, and after a full moon hits the mist generated by the falls. Because we can't see colors well in low light, a moonbow appears white, reports BBC Travel, though photographers can use long exposures to capture its actual colors. Moonbows are occasionally—but not regularly—seen elsewhere in the world, including at Yosemite Falls in California.
What makes Cumblerland Falls and Victoria Falls so unique is that they boast just the right amount of splash along a wide enough (rather than deep and narrow) gorge so that moonlight can reach down and across the mist. CNN notes that because sunlight is much stronger than moonlight, moonbows are rainbow's fainter cousin. They're temperamental in other ways: Cloudy nights can prevent the bow from forming, and Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border has lost its moonbow thanks to light pollution. Bustle reports on one photographer who in November caught a similar fogbow, which forms in the fog, arching over a solitary tree in Scotland; it went viral on Instagram and Twitter. (Turns out rainbows are more complicated than we thought.)
Ghost of the Deep Caught on Film for First Time The pointy-nosed blue chimaera is better known as a ghost shark
By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Dec 17, 2016
(NEWSER) – Scientists using a remotely operated vehicle for geologic research instead spotted a g-g-ghost. National Geographic reports researchers recorded what is likely the first-ever video of a pointy-nosed blue chimaera in the wild more than 6,500 feet underwater off the coast of California. They published their findings in Marine Biodiversity Records. Chimaeras are better known as ghost sharks, "dead-eyed, wing-finned fish" that split off from other sharks and rays 300 million years ago and are rarely seen because of the ocean depths at which they live. (Interesting but unrelated: Male ghost sharks have retracting sex organs on their foreheads.)
The program director for Pacific Shark Research Center says it was "a little bit of dumb luck" researchers got the footage of the ghost shark, which unlike other deep-water creatures appeared to actually like the remotely operated vehicle and its lights. Researchers at first believed the ghost shark was a new species before it was identified as likely a pointy-nosed blue chimaera. That particular species has only ever been seen near Australia and New Zealand, though MBARI notes most deep-water species have surprisingly wide-ranging habitats. It's still possible the ghost shark caught on video is a new species, but scientists won't know for sure until they catch one. (Some of these sharks may be older than the US.)
Newfound Ancient 'Sea Monster' Is Largest Yet from Antarctica By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | November 9, 2016
Kaikaifilu hervei was as long as a five-story building is tall. See the human for scale.
Credit: Otero, R.A. et al, Cretaceous Research. 2016.
From Live Science: About 66 million years ago, an ancient sea monster the height of a five-story office building once gnashed its sharp teeth as it swam around the dark waters of Antarctica, a new study finds.
The newfound beast, known as a mosasaur — a Cretaceous-age aquatic reptile that sped through the ancient seas using its paddle-like limbs and long tail — is only the second fossilized mosasaur skull ever found in Antarctica.
The mosasaur specimen is different enough from other known species that it qualifies for its own genus and species. Researchers named it Kaikaifilu hervei after "Kai-Kai filú," an almighty giant reptile that owns the sea in legends from the Mapuche culture from southern Chile and Argentina. The species name honors Francisco Hervé, a world-renowned Chilean geologist and Antarctic explorer, the researchers said. [Image Gallery: Ancient Monsters of the Sea]
Scientists with the Chilean Paleontological Expedition discovered the mosasaur skull on Seymour Island in January 2011. The team had run into bad weather, and only during the last few days in the field, while they were mucking around in knee-deep mud, did they discover the enormous fossil, the researchers said.
Based on the skull's anatomy and size (4 feet, or 1.2 meters, long), the reptile's entire body stretched about 33 feet (10 m), making it the largest marine predator in the region, the researchers said.
North versus South
It's not uncommon to find mosasaur remains in North America, especially in the seaway that once divided the East from the West in North America. But with the exception of New Zealand, it's relatively rare to find the giant creatures in the Southern Hemisphere, said Rodrigo Otero, a paleontologist at the University of Chile and the lead researcher on the study.
Still, K. hervei was a close relative of — and similar in size to — the North American mosasaur known as Tylosaurus, which lived about 20 million years earlier. K. hervei was also a close relative of another Antarctic mosasaur (Taniwhasaurus antarcticus), which was smaller, with a skull about 2.3 feet (0.7 m) in length, and lived about 5 million years before K. hervei did, the researchers said.
What's more, other researchers have found an array of other isolated mosasaur teethin the rocks of Antarctica. Mosasaurs have multiple types of teeth (a condition called heterodonty), meaning that differently shaped teeth might belong to the same mosasaur species. Thus, researchers will need to be careful not to overestimate the number of species as they review the discovered teeth, the researchers said.
Although Antarctica is now a frigid continent, it was warmer during the dinosaur age, the researchers said. A slew of animals swam in the region's waters, giving K. hervei a smorgasbord of contemporaries to dine on, they said.
For instance, the plesiosaurs— mostly long-necked marine reptiles that ate plankton via filter feeding — likely would have been prime targets for K. hervei, the researchers said. "Prior to this research, the known mosasaur remains from Antarctica provided no evidence for the presence of very large predators like Kaikaifilu, in an environment where plesiosaurs were especially abundant," Otero said in a statement. "The new find complements one expected ecological element of the Antarctic ecosystem during the latest Cretaceous."
"Simpsons" three-eyed fish,
Bizarre Two-Headed Sharks Showing Up in Many Parts of the World
by Dan Zukowski
From EcoWatch: A slew of rare two-headed sharks have been found from California to the Caribbean and from Mexico to the Mediterranean, leading scientists to ponder why.
Reminiscent of the classic "Simpsons" three-eyed fish, Blinky, the mutated sharks are raising eyebrows.
A two-headed embryo of an Atlantic sawtail cat shark was found recently in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first oviparous, or egg-laying, shark ever documented with two heads. Each head contained a mouth, two eyes and a brain, and were joined behind the gills, according to a paper published Oct. 9 in the Journal of Fish Biology. The species is considered near threatened.
In 2008, Christopher Johnston, a fisherman in the Indian Ocean, pulled up a pregnant blue shark. When he cut it open, a two-headed fetus popped out. Johnston tried to save it by putting it in a tank and feeding it, but it died.
Similarly, a fisherman working in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Keys found a fetus with two heads in a bull shark he caught. Upon examination by a scientist at Michigan State University, it was determined to be the "first recorded incidence of dicephalia in a bull shark."
Researchers from Mexico found conjoined twins in blue sharks in the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. Blue shark females carry many live embryos at one time, leading to these abnormalities, said the scientists.
Because these finds are so rare, it's tough to pin down a cause. Genetic or metabolic disorders, viruses, pollution or overfishing are amount the possible culprits.
Each year, 100 million sharks are slaughtered, often for their fins. Shark fin soup is a popular delicacy in Chinese and other Asian cultures. The number represents between 6.4 percent and 7.9 percent of the global shark population.
Bycatch is another factor affecting sharks in some areas. Blue sharks are among those most vulnerable. Listed as near threatened, some 20 million blue sharks are lost each year to accidental catch by longline and driftnet fisheries.
Overfishing not only puts sharks at risk of extinction, but also shrinks the gene pool, potentially causing these observed mutations.
Nicolas Ehemann, a marine scientist who found two cases of two-headed shark embryos in the Caribbean, told National Geographic that "if the two-headed fetuses are more prevalent in nature, then overfishing is a strong culprit as it may cause the gene pool to shrink."
A rare, 22-inch long one-eyed shark was found in the Gulf of California near Mexico in 2011.
And that fictional three-eyed fish from Springfield? A real three-eyed catfish was found last year swimming in the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. This 100-foot wide, 1.8-mile long canal was an industrial sewer from the mid-1800s and is now a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.
Beneath Mount St. Helens, a Heart of (Cold) Stone
The volcano is an outlier in more ways than one
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2016
(Newser) – Mount St. Helens already stands out as one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Arc and the deadliest in the US, since its 1980 eruption claimed nearly 60 lives. It's also an outlier in a literal sense, sitting 30 miles west of the volcanoes that neatly line the Cascade Arc from north to south. Now scientists are reporting in the journal Nature Communications that they've discovered another oddity: The volcano appears to be perched atop what Gizmodo calls "a cool wedge of serpentine rock"—dramatically unlike the fiery cauldrons of hot magma beneath other volcanoes.
"We don’t have a good explanation for why that’s the case," Steve Hansen, a geoscientist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, tells Gizmodo. His team drilled a couple dozen holes, filled them with explosives, and triggered minor earthquakes to watch seismic wave activity beneath Mount St. Helens, "a bit like a CAT scan," Hansen says. But their findings leave them with more questions, namely: What's the volcano's heat source, if it's not right below the volcano itself? Hansen surmises that it's coming from further east, but until his team does more research, it's what Science News is calling "a cold case." (Earlier this year, there were dozens of small quakes on the mountain every week.)
Scientists Studying Sea Levels Stumble on 'Astonishing' Graveyard Researchers said the finds were a 'complete bonus'
By Daniel Kay, Newser Staff Posted Oct 25, 2016
(NEWSER) – Archaeologists mapping the Black Sea floor found more than 40 shipwrecks in the course of their work, Quartz reports. The team, led by Jon Adams, a maritime archaeologist from the University of Southampton, has been trying to analyze how quickly the historic water level rose along the Bulgarian coast. While that might sound like gibberish to most of us, Adams says it's a "hotly debated" topic in the maritime archaeology community. But in the course of conducting research on the seabed, the team discovered dozens of well-preserved, previously undiscovered shipwrecks. The vessels include ships from the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, and per a press release, "provide new data on the maritime interconnectivity of Black Sea coastal communities and manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory."
"The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery," says Adams. "They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below (500 feet)." Adams says that several of the ships are the first-ever discoveries of ship designs that were known from secondhand sources but had never been seen, making them a valuable object of study for historians. The researchers used an advanced form of composite photography to create 3D models of the ships without disturbing the wrecks or the seafloor. "Certainly no one has achieved models of this completeness on shipwrecks at these depths," Adams says.
Bus-Sized Dino Comes With a Surprise It suggests migration from South America, not Asia
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff Posted Oct 21, 2016
(NEWSER) – An Australian sheep farmer has discovered a beast far bigger than he's ever handled—along with new clues as to how dinosaurs ended up Down Under. Paleontologists, together with dinosaur enthusiast/sheep farmer David Elliot, say they've uncovered a new monster of a dinosaur belonging to the titanosaur subgroup of sauropods—long-necked herbivores like brontosaurus—which may have migrated to Australia from South America. Experts previously thought nearly all dinosaurs reached Australia through Asia, reports the Guardian. But one of the most complete sauropod skeletons ever found in Australia—pieced together after Elliot found a toe bone on his Queensland property about a decade ago—says otherwise.
Elliot found fossils from another known sauropod species as well; it and the Savannasaurus elliottorum allowed paleontologists to complete an evolutionary analysis that suggests Australia's sauropods descended from dinosaurs in South America and must've crossed Antarctica during a warm spell 105 million to 100 million years ago, per National Geographic. As for the defining characteristics of the 20-foot-tall, 50-foot-long Savannasaurus, which roamed some 95 million years ago: Stephen Poropat, lead author of the report on the find in Scientific Reports, describes the 20-ton beast as "a long-necked, long-legged hippo" with wide hips, some unusually "paper-thin" bones in its pelvis, and a huge belly. (It also might have cooed.)
Spiders Can Hear You 'Walking and Talking' Researchers find spiders can sense sound from up to 16 feet away
By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Oct 13, 2016
(NEWSER) – If you're already scared of spiders, you're not going to like this next part. A new study published Thursday in Current Biology found that spiders—specifically a species of jumping spider—can hear sounds from further than 10 feet away. Previously, scientists believed spiders, which lack eardrums, could only sense vibrations in the air from a few centimeters away, Phys.org reports. Researchers at Cornell University accidentally discovered this heretofore unknown ability thanks a squeaky lab chair. They were doing neural recordings of a spider's brain to study its sense of sight when they noticed neurons firing in response to the chair. The same neurons would fire in response to clapping from up to 16 feet away.
The researchers have since gone on to find similar abilities in at least five other species of spider, and they believe many others have similar capabilities, the Washington Post reports. That means spiders can hear people "talking and walking," researcher Gil Menda tells New Scientist. Researchers believe the spiders are using sensory hairs on their front legs to sense vibrations moving through the air. These hairs are attuned to different frequencies in each spider. In the original jumping spider, they triggered a response in reaction to frequencies that matched the beating of a predatory wasp's wings. "In the movies, Spider-Man has this strange, additional 'spidey sense' that helps him sense danger—it turns out the real-life spidey sense of spiders might actually be hearing," Menda tells Phys.org. (To avoid widows' kiss of death, male spiders chase young girls.)
It's Not 'Lab Meat,' It's 'Clean Food'
Industry behind lab-grown foods is lauding their efficiency and sustainability
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
(NEWSER) – If meat grown by scientists using stem cells in a lab doesn't sound terribly appetizing, consider the perks: It's more sustainable, it doesn't involve killing any animals, and it uses less energy than growing real animals to butcher. So the industry behind so-called "in vitro" meat has been working hard to find a way to brand it differently, and they've taken a page from the "clean energy" history books and proposed "clean food," reports Quartz. Not that everyone's loving the shift; Grub Street notes that while it's "great because it doesn’t immediately make you think of scientists and beakers and lab environments," but it's also "so vague, it doesn't really make you think of anything at all."
The Good Food Institute, which is the industry's nonprofit trade group, is leading the rebranding effort, reports Eater. They're attempting to make the change as a number of lab-grown meats start to hit the market, notes Quartz. And the industry is getting some serious investments from the likes of Bill Gates, who contributed to the Impossible Burger, the veggie-based burger engineered to taste and even bleed like real meat. (Some say lab meat can be designed exactly to one's preferences.)