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Eagle tries to carry off Australian boy

 

Bird attacks

An eagle attempted to lift a little boy into the air during a bird show at Alice Springs in Australia

Eagle tries to carry off Australian boy

From the BBC


 

A wedge-tailed eagle tried to fly away with a terrified boy at a popular wildlife show in central Australia.

A crowd of stunned onlookers watched the enormous bird latch its talons on to the screaming boy’s head during a show at Alice Springs Desert Park.

Witnesses said the bird attempted to pick him up “like a small animal”.

The boy – believed to be between six and eight years old – escaped with a “superficial” gash to his face.

Christine O’Connell from Horsham in Victoria state was visiting the park with her husband on 6 July when the attack occurred.

She told the BBC the eagle flew straight for the boy from about 15m away.

Eagle attacks boy

The attack lasted for seconds before staff from the park intervened

“A fellow who was sitting closer said the little boy kept running his zipper up and down,” said Mrs O’Connell, who caught the attack on her camera.

Distracted by the noise, the eagle grabbed the boy’s green hoodie and attempted to lift him away before park staff moved in, Mrs O’Connell said.

The attack left the boy crying and bleeding, but his injuries were not severe.

A Victorian man who was in the crowd, Keenan Lucas, told the NT News the show was ended quickly after the attack.

“We’re at the bird show in the afternoon, having a great time and looking forward to seeing the wedge-tailed eagle come out for the finale,” he said.

 

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Eagle attacks boy

The boy suffered minor injuries in the attack and was taken for medical treatment



The Australian Wedge Tail Eagle is one of the biggest in the world. The 3rd biggest in fact. The American Bald Eagle being the 5th biggest.

These are both small compared to the legendary Thunderbird as described in the Native American legends.

Here’s a couple of stories about the Thunderbirds.

This one from Animal X Classic series 2.

 

From Animal X Natural Mystery Unit. Motherman, Thunderbirds, witches and other Unidentified Flying Creatures.

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Marsupial mole makes rare appearance in WA

Marsupial mole makes rare appearance in WA

From the ABC By Erin Parke

Mole

Rare Marsupial mole in WA’s Kimberley


Aboriginal women in Western Australia’s north have encountered a strange, silky-haired mole that is only spotted a handful of times each decade.

The marsupial mole is found only in desert areas of northern and central Australia, and rarely surfaces from underground.

Kate Crossing, who co-ordinates an Indigenous Protected Area in the Gibson Desert, said she was stunned to see one of the animals during a field trip with the local Aboriginal rangers near the Northern Territory border.

“We saw this little golden creature run along the track in front of us, and as I brought the car to a stop, one of our rangers, Yelti, yelled out ‘Kakarratul!’ and jumped out and grabbed hold of it,” Ms Crossing said.

“It was less than the size of your hand, and it’s just this golden-coloured animal, with a little pink nose, and it lives almost all its life underground.

“It is so rare to see them above ground, so we were just amazed … we were so lucky.”
 

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The women, who are from the remote community of Kiwirrkurra, quickly took some photographs and video footage, before releasing the animal a little way off the road.

Ms Crossing said there was tremendous excitement as they were able to touch the fast-burrowing creature, which they call Kakarratul.

“Some of the people who’ve spent more time in the desert before [white] contact had seen a mole before, but not for many years, and there were younger people who’d never seen one properly,” she said.

“It had beautifully soft fur, and it looked really delicate … but it also had really strong front legs and feet. When we put it down, off the road, it went straight down and it was gone in less than 30 seconds.”

Relatively little is known about the marsupial mole, which is so well adapted to living underground it has no functioning eyes or ears.

Found near the Northern Territory border.

Marsupial mole found by WA Indigenous rangers

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Crab hordes heading for Australia

Crab hordes heading for Australia

Crabs

It is believed the crabs gather together for protection, although an alternative theory posits that mating is behind the behaviour



A marine scientist who was scuba diving off Melbourne has filmed a giant spider crab aggregation on the shores of Port Phillip Bay.

Victorian-based aquatic scientist Sheree Marris said approximately hundreds of thousands of crustaceans make their way to southern Australia’s shores between May and July each year as the ocean waters cool.

“What I found really interesting about this aggregation is I’ve never seen so many before,” she told the ABC.

“I swam in a straight line for four-and-a-half minutes and the crabs were thick on the sandy shallows. It was gobsmackingly amazing.

“[In previous years] I’ve swam maybe a minute-and-a-half to two minutes and [this year] I wasn’t going slow.

“It’s pretty awesome.”

But marine research biologist Dr Julian Finn from Museum Victoria said it is hard to know the exact number of crabs coming to Port Phillip Bay and why they choose to aggregate in large piles, because there is not a lot of research available about the crustaceans.

“But it is fantastic what is happening. It’s an amazing spectacle that people should go and see,” he said.

“We are really lucky that such an amazing thing happens near Melbourne.”

Ms Marris said the sight of all the crabs made her feel “like a kid on Christmas day, getting all their presents”.

“I was excited. I was like a kid in a candy shop. The ocean is my happy place,” she said, noting that, unlike most people, she is not afraid of the crabs.

Sheree Marris

Ms Marris is a sea life enthusiast who once won a Young Australian of the Year award

Ms Marris said the aggregation allows crabs to moult with “safety in numbers”.

“When the crabs have freshly moulted, their bodies are soft, making them vulnerable to predators such as rays and sharks,” she said.

“That’s why they commit to the shallows. For crustaceans, for them to grow, they need to shed their shell, which is really hard.

“They get out of their old shell and they grow a new shell, which is really soft and takes time to harden.

“So by being in this aggregation, it reduces their chances of being eaten. It’s like a case of safety in numbers.”

Display was like a ‘moving blanket of legs and claws’

In terms of deciding which crabs go on top of the pile, “it’s every crab for themselves,” Ms Marris said.

“There’s no hierarchy. It’s just this orange chaos of legs and claws. It’s a moving blanket of legs and claws really, it’s pretty awesome,” she said.

“At times they kind of just stack on top of each other and the maximum I’ve seen is 10.

“But that’s how deep it can actually get, which makes sense because if you’re on the top, you’re going to be more vulnerable, especially if they’ve just freshly moulted.”

The moulting process is determined by some biological cues and some environmental cues as well, Ms Marris said.

“What happens is when one starts moulting, it sets off a chain reaction and then you’ll get these massive moults. At the end of the video, you can see where they do start moulting,” she said.

“Some people freak out when they do start seeing [what they think has been] a mass death of crabs.”




A Wasp That Turns a Spider Into the Walking Dead

A Wasp That Turns a Spider Into the Walking Dead

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell from AnswersinGenisis.org

 

The wasp that turns spiders into the walking dead

A parasitoid wasp (Pteromalus puparum) (Credit: John Abbott/NPL)

 

Spiders turned into zombies by parasitic wasps modify their webs to serve their new masters.
When a parasitic wasp skewers an orb spider and glues an egg to its back, she sets off a chain of events that soon alters the behavior and destiny of the spider. A new study from the host-parasite pair’s Japanese homeland shows that, some time after the egg hatches, the spider abruptly abandons its former lifestyle and follows a precisely choreographed sequence of actions that modify its normal web-building activities to produce the best possible home for a developing wasp.
wasp that turns spiders in to the walking dead

zombie spider

Zombie Web Design

Transformed by the ichneumonid wasp Reclinervellus nielseni’s sting into an obedient zombie, the orb-weaving spider Cyclosa argenteoalba does more than nourish the wasp’s larva with its own inward parts. The zombie spider serves its new master by modifying its web design to make a stronger-than-normal web devoted to the protection of the wasp’s pupal cocoon. No longer concerned with catching prey for itself, the spider reworks its web to build a hammock of extra-strong non-sticky silks that will ultimately cradle the cocoon.

Kobe University’s Keizo Takasuka and colleagues, who published their work in The Journal of Experimental Biology, painstakingly searched for spiders already parasitized by the wasp and then observed how the spiders’ behavior was affected. They also collected and observed the behavior of normal spiders.

This modified web design is actually an enhanced version of the resting web the orb spider normally builds to protect itself when molting. A spider sheds its exoskeleton in order to grow and is helpless during this time. A normal spider molts nestled in its resting web for just two days, but to accommodate the 10-day period wasps require to pupate in their cocoons, the parasitized spider builds an unusually durable web. It spends 10 hours repeating certain web-building steps over and over, reinforcing the web with additional threads until it produces a web of large-diameter silks with increased tensile strength. It leaves out the sticky stuff. Once its construction operation is complete, the zombie spider sits in the center of the web until the larva consumes the rest of its body fluids and kills it. Then the larva morphs into a pupa and emerges 10 days later as a mature wasp

Shining in the Light

The zombie spider decorates this specialized resting web with ultraviolet-reflecting silks. These deter web-destroying collisions with birds. Scientists used to think that the ultraviolet-reflecting silks in spider webs attracted prey, but their routine inclusion in resting webs of molting spiders and the webs of nocturnal spiders suggests otherwise. The fact that these particular zombie spiders, following their detailed and very pragmatic altered programming, include UV-reflecting décor in their cocoon webs while leaving out sticky fibers altogether is consistent with this view. So is the fact that the prey-capture regions of the normal orb webs studied by this Japanese team were unadorned with UV-reflecting fibers.

It appears the UV-reflecting webs are God’s design to protect spider webs from being destroyed by bird collisions. Studies have shown the UV-reflecting silks really do deter bird collisions. At least one company is now manufacturing glass incorporating a web of UV-reflecting strips to prevent birds from crashing into windows. This example of biomimicry—technology based on designs found in nature—now protects birds soaring around the observation tower on the Holy Island of Lindesfarne, a center for Celtic Christianity off the coast of England dating back to the 6th century.

Biomimicry

UV-reflecting silk is just one of many biomimetic applications the study of spiders has provided. For instance, spiders produce several different kinds of silk. A gene that produces a protein in the dragline silk of one species of orb spider has been used to produce transgenic goats that produce recoverable silk in their milk, a protein that can be used to produce fibers stronger than steel for use in artificial joints, bulletproof vests, and parachutes. Biomimetic breakthroughs in technology are imitations of God’s designs. Zombie-creating parasites like this wasp and its parasitized partner can reveal much about the common designs created by God and how even their variations and derangement can work together to perpetuate species in this sin-cursed world.



World Gone Wrong

The fallen world we live in since man sinned supplies an endless variety of examples illustrating what can go wrong. Or, from the point of view of parasitic wasps fulfilling their instinct to multiply using the best available resources, what can go right! How do such parasitic relationships develop?

Parasites survive at the expense of their victims, ordinarily sparing the life of the victim until it is no longer needed.Parasites that manipulate host behavior do so in a way to enhance their own growth or dispersion. Ichneumonid wasps ensure their larvae will be fed by recruiting insects or spiders to donate their bodily fluids to nourish wasp larvae. And the Reclinervellus wasp is not the only ichneumonid that reproduces by providing its larvae with living meals while also manipulating the spider’s web-building behavior to provide each pupa a haven. A Costa Rican wasp, for instance, Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, follows a similar strategy utilizing the orb-weaving spider Plesiometa argyra.

In fact it was to the Ichneumonidae family of wasps that Charles Darwin referred when he wrote to botanist Asa Gray, questioning how a good God could create such a cruel system. Darwin wrote, “There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”5

God created a perfectly good world (Genesis 1:31) and presented it to man (Genesis 1:26–28). Darwin failed to recognize that God’s good world went wrong because of man’s sinful rebellion. The New Testament reinforces this Old Testament truth, Romans 8:19–23 confirming that that the whole of creation groans in slavery to corruption in the wake of man’s sin. (Read more about this in “The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil.”) Thedeath and suffering that afflict not only people but also animals are consequences of human rebellion against God.

Cruelty and the Curse

Darwin complained that he could not envision the cruelty of nature as part of a good God’s design, yet in order for the living things in this sin-cursed world to endure for the past 6,000 years, variations and even derangements of God’s designs have allowed life to go on. Many organisms have adapted by developing defense and attack structures. (Read more about these in “How Did Defense/Attack Structures Come About?” and entomologist Dr. Gordon Wilson’s article on “Divinely Designed Defenses.”) The study of parasites like the ichneumonid wasps will help answer Darwin’s concern by helping us understand what good purposes these organisms were designed to serve in the pre-Fall world as well as the changes that led to the development of parasitic lifestyles after the Fall. Be sure to read more about this in Dr. Matthew Ingle’s article “Parasitology and Creation.”

Spiders today are carnivores, most paralyzing prey caught in their webs and enzymatically digesting and consuming them. (It is curious that most news articles about these zombie spiders paint a horrific image of the spiders’ fate but fail to mention the daily dietary practices of spiders, which are certainly no kinder.) Carnivory and parasitism are both consequences of sin’s curse. We know from God’s Word (Genesis 1:29–30) that animals did not originally eat other animals.

So what did spiders eat? We cannot be dogmatic about the behavior of pre-Fall animals 6,000 years removed from our ability to observe them, but we can reasonably speculate that they could have subsisted on pollen grains caught in their webs. This is not idle speculation. While spiders today are not generally herbivorous, a mostly herbivorous spider living on the Bullhorn acacia tree feeds on the tree’s Beltian bodies.6 And a 2013 study found that 25% of the diet of the juvenile orb-weaving spiders analyzed consisted of pollen grains caught in their webs. The pollen grains in the study were large enough to require active digestion by the spiders’ extraoral enzymes and were likely consumed while the spiders were recycling their webs.7 Thus it is no stretch to propose that before the Fall spiders wereherbivorous, and spider webs may have originally functioned as pollen catchers.

But what about parasites like the ichneumonid wasps? If God did not originally design these wasps to turn their hosts into zombies, how did they get to be that way? While we cannot go back and observe the process by which an animal, plant, or fungus became a parasite, we can be confident that all the original created kinds of organisms fulfilled helpful, not harmful, roles in the good world God made. Since the Fall, a combination of mutations and other genetic mechanisms, phenotypic plasticity, natural selection, and environmental changes that have altered available resources have produced many harmful varieties of organisms as well as created both symbiotic and parasiticrelationships that ultimately ensure the survival of many species that might otherwise become extinct.

And if the incidence of parasitism in this Japanese pair is any indication, the spider population is not exactly being decimated by the predations of parasitic wasps. It took Keizo Takasuka’s team many days to find 23 parasitized spiders among the 1,615 spiders they inspected.8 Similarly, in a study of zombie ants last year, scientists found that a parasitic fungus infected only a small percentage of the carpenter ants in its ecosystem in order to survive. (Read more about it in “Zombie Ants and Genesis.”) Thus in the post-Fall world in which we live, carpenter ant populations survive to decompose dead wood, wasps survive to continue their valuable pollinating activities, and plenty of spiders survive to continue controlling insect populations.

Usurping the Normal, Not Evolving the New

Further research is needed to discover the chemical agent(s) the wasp or its larva uses to induce the spider’s zombification, causing it to repeat various steps in the normal web-building process over and over while eliminating others. However, a spider’s hormones normally trigger the molting process for which the spider builds a resting web. Therefore, Takasuka and colleagues suspect the wasp is injecting a chemical that mimics the hormone that normally directs the spider to molt.

The same is true of a behavior-altering virus that induces zombie-like behavior in gypsy moth caterpillars. It deactivates their molting hormone, prompting infected caterpillars to climb to treetops where they die and rain their viral load over a wide area. (See “Parasites Affect Behavior of Moths.”)

None of these parasitic relationships or zombie-generating species result from molecules-to-man evolution. This parasitic partnership is an example of an extended phenotype—all the effects a wasp’s gene has, including its effects on another organism (the spider). Parasitic wasps are still wasps, just a family of wasps that now depends on a rather elaborate form of carnivory to reproduce. The spider is still a spider, and even its behavior is a modification of an existing one. Indeed, if these wasps are able to supply a biochemical mimic of the spider’s own hormone, as the authors suggest, such a biochemical similarity exists because all creatures share a common Designer. These and other extraordinary variations were designed by our wise God to be somehow manifested after the Fall. Even though these insidious lifecycles highlight the ugliness of death due to sin’s curse, they still allow the created kinds to reproduce in a fallen world.

Learn more about the beneficial pre-Fall roles today’s parasites likely played in the pre-Fall world in “The Genesis of Malaria: The Origin of Mosquitos and Their Protistan Cargo, Plasmodium falciparum,” how parasitology helps us understand the changes in nature after the Fall in “Parasitology and Creation,” and how deadly venom seems to have developed from harmless but essential biochemicals in “Evolution of Snake Venom: A New Use for Old Genes?” and “Mamba Venom Derives from Gene Duplication.” You can find out more about real-life zombies and parasitic host manipulation in “Zombie Ants and Genesis,” “Parasites Affect Behavior of Moths,” “Brain Chemistry In Rats Altered By Parasite,” and “Zombies Existing in Nature.”

 

 

Fossils shed light on ‘bizarre’ reptile

Fossils shed light on bizarre reptile

Bizarre Reptile

Fossils shed light on ‘bizarre’ reptile



Fossils shed light on bizarre reptile. A crocodile-sized creature that lived 242 million years ago was the first known vegetarian marine reptile, according to new fossil evidence.

Two specimens unearthed in China reveal details of the animal’s skull and how it fed.

Named Atopodentatus, scientists say its hammer-shaped skull helped it to feed on underwater plants.

Only a handful of marine reptiles, living or extinct, are known to be herbivores.

Dr Nick Fraser of National Museums Scotland, who worked on the fossil, said it belongs in the pages of a children’s storybook by Dr Seuss, which depicts animals with a strange jumble of features.

The reptile was “a bizarre, bizarre animal”, he explained.

“We envisage it scraping algae and the like off rocks underwater.

“Herbivorous marine reptiles are very rare – this is the oldest record that we know of.”

Strangely toothed

The first fossils of the creature were discovered a few years ago.

It was named Atopodentatus unicus, which is Latin for “unique strangely toothed”.

fossils shed light on bizarre reptile

A reconstruction of the animal’s head

New fossils unearthed in China’s Yunnan Province by Chun Li of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing give a detailed picture of the animal’s skull.

The discoveries, unveiled in the journal, Science Advances, show that rather than having a zipper-like snout as previously thought, the animal had a wide hammer-headed jaw filled with peg-like front teeth.

Play-Doh

Scientists used clay to make a model of the jaw to work out how the animal fed.

“To figure out how the jaw fit together and how the animal actually fed, we bought some children’s clay, kind of like Play-Doh, and rebuilt it with toothpicks to represent the teeth,” said co-researcher Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum in Chicago.

“We looked at how the upper and lower jaw locked together, and that’s how we proceeded and described it.”

He said Atopodentatus also helps tell a bigger story about the world’s largest mass extinction 252 million years ago.

It lived at a time when the Earth was recovering from the loss of 90% of all marine mammals.

“The existence of specialised animals like Atopodentatus unicus shows us that life recovered and diversified more quickly than previously thought,” he said.

“And it’s definitely a reptile that no one would have thought to exist – look at it, it’s crazy!”

fossils shed light on bizarre reptile

What you can make with clay and toothpicks

Other bizarre sea and river monsters

There are still many strange creatures lurking in the waters around the world. From the Monster of Lake Van in Turkey to the various unidentified creatures that live off the west of of Britain, the Golden Gate San Fransisco Bay monster to the Altamaha-ha river monster of Georgia in the USA.

Here’s a video from Animal X Natural Mystery Unit that looks at sea and river monsters.



Northern Lights Spectacular

Northern Lights Spectacular

northern lights

From Visit Norway website



 
The Northern Lights are one of the most spectacular natural phenomena.

The night sky is lit up by the most amazing colours.

WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS?

The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.

The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora Australis’ in the south.

Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported.

The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

WHAT CAUSES THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?

The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.

The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.

The connection between the Northern Lights and sunspot activity has been suspected since about 1880.

Thanks to research conducted since the 1950’s, we now know that electrons and protons from the sun are blown towards the earth on the ‘solar wind’. (Note: 1957-58 was International Geophysical Year and the atmosphere was studied extensively with balloons, radar, rockets and satellites.

Rocket research is still conducted by scientists at Poker Flats, a facility under the direction of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks – see web page http://www.gi.alaska.edu/

The temperature above the surface of the sun is millions of degrees Celsius. At this temperature, collisions between gas molecules are frequent and explosive.

Free electrons and protons are thrown from the sun’s atmosphere by the rotation of the sun and escape through holes in the magnetic field. Blown towards the earth by the solar wind, the charged particles are largely deflected by the earth’s magnetic field.

However, the earth’s magnetic field is weaker at either pole and therefore some particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gas particles. These collisions emit light that we perceive as the dancing lights of the north (and the south).

The lights of the Aurora generally extend from 80 kilometres (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth’s surface.

For more information on the North Lights check out Northernlightscentre.ca



 


Emotional Horses

Horse in stable



Emotional Horses.

Do animals have emotions. Is there such a thing as emotional horses?

That’s something scientist have been debating for years and for just as long arguing with animal owners and lovers.

If you ask anyone who has a dog, cat, bird, or horse for that matter they will tell you yes their pets do have emotions; and a lot more going on in their tiny brains.

But scientists being scientists want empirical proof of such claims. Well as far as horses are concerned one group of scientist have done just that proven that horses have emotions and in fact can read our emotions.

Here’s a short story about Sussex University who have been experimenting with photographs of angry and happy faces and believe they have proven that horses do have emotions.

What about other animals

If after watching that story there’s another video that looks at the wider question of other animals emotions, like dogs cats and primates.





Lost Predator Thylacoleo – The Marsupial Lion

Thylacoleo

Marsupial Lion



Bone Diggers: Mystery of a Lost Predator, Thylacoleo – The Marsupial Lion

Australia is known for its cute marsupials, the koala, the kangaroo and the wombat among others. Very few people are aware that there was once a marsupial that was a deadly “creep up and get ya” predator that was more ferocious than a sabre tooth tiger. It was Thylacoleo Carnifex — the Marsupial Lion Australia’s lost predator.

The Nullarbor Plain is a remote treeless desert resting between the Great Australian Bight and the Great Sandy Desert. It is hard, stony country…flat and featureless.

In May of 2002 an group of cavers, in an Indiana Jones style operation, discovered three caves, which had never been entered by man. The entrance to one of the caves was mere shoulder-width, vertical tube that rapidly expanded to cathedral proportions. In the first cave their head torches illuminated a sight that caused scientific wonderment and a world-wide media frenzy.

At the far end of a side tunnel the cavers discovered the pristine and complete skeleton of the fabled marsupial lion, Thylacoleo. It lay there as if it had died only a year ago. The skeleton was bleach white against the red earth and not a speck of dust on it. Their immediate reaction was to take a photo and get out – their main concern was to preserve the site for scientific analysis.

The photo of Thylacoleo and the cave coordinates ended up on the desk of Dr John Long, vertebrate palaeontologist a world renowned Bone Digger with the Western Australian Museum. Within a matter of weeks funding and an expedition to recover the remains had been arranged. It would prove a journey full of surprises both during the expedition and later as the remains were studied. The first surprise to take John and his team by surprise was the age of the remains. He was sure the skeleton could only be about 40,000 years old — several dating techniques later and a shattering date of at least 500,000 years suddenly propelled the find into mega-star status.

Bone Diggers – Mystery of a Lost Predator is the amazing story of the dangerous recovery mission and how the remains of the marsupial lion allowed science a unique opportunity to reconstruct the beast and it’s behaviour.

From recreating its brain to morphological analysis, the life and form of Thylacoleo began to take shape – this is science at its best!

A co-production between Storyteller Media and the Western Australian Museum.

 

Storyteller produce and distribute documentaries and factual programming specialising in animals and nature; from endangered species and what’s being done to save them to mysterious animal and monster stories.

 

Balancing rocks trace history of ‘jumping’ earthquakes

Balancing rocks trace history of ‘jumping’ earthquakes

balancing rocks

The researchers spent 10 years collecting measurements of balancing rocks

US scientists say they have solved the riddle of why a collection of balancing rocks near the San Andreas fault has never been toppled by earthquakes.

Their decade-long study concludes that quakes can stop or “jump” due to interactions between the San Andreas and the neighbouring San Jacinto fault.

Models show that these interactions sent the biggest vibrations around the rock stacks, leaving them intact.

But the connected nature of the faults has implications for quake planning.

The study of precariously balanced rocks was begun in the 1990s by Jim Brune, now an emeritus professor at the University of Nevada and a co-author of the new paper.

“He realised that [these rocks] could be a check on seismic hazard maps, and give long-term indications of ground shaking,” said the study’s lead author Prof Lisa Grant Ludwig, from the University of California, Irvine.

“They are kind of natural seismoscopes – but you have to read them indirectly.

“They don’t tell you an earthquake happened, they tell you ‘an earthquake strong enough to knock me down did not happen’.”

Tipping point

Generally, balancing rocks are not seen within 15km of major faults. But 10 years ago Prof Brune and his colleagues found two sizeable collections of such stones just 7-10km from the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, in the San Bernardino mountains of California.

earthquake

The teetering rocks sit less than 10km from two major faults

In the new study, due to be published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, these rocks were carefully catalogued and measured.

Importantly, the team calculated how much force it would take to tip each of the rocks over.

“There are two methods of doing that, one of which is actually trying to tip the thing,” Prof Ludwig said. This meant some nerve-wracking fieldwork, gently pushing the rocks until there was some movement, but not actually tipping them over.

“If my mother had known I was doing that, she would not have been happy,” Prof Ludwig confessed. “You never want to be on the downhill side when you tip it.”

The second method, for rocks too dangerous or difficult to tip, was “photomodelling”: using views from multiple angles to build a 3D model of the balanced stone and calculate its centre of gravity, mass, and so on.

Both these methods, along with some “shake table” simulation experiments, showed that the rocks should have fallen over during quakes as recent as 1812 and 1857.

The famous San Andreas fault stretches 1,300km across California

But various measures can tell us exactly how long the stones have perched in their places – and it is millennia, not centuries.

“One of my former postdocs did an age study of one of the rocks. And it’d been in that position about 18,000 years,” said Prof Ludwig.

So how did these precarious rocks withstand the tens or hundreds of earthquakes that shook the region during that time?

Network of fractures

“The inescapable conclusion was that the ground motions had to be lower than you would expect from typical earthquakes on the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults,” Prof Ludwig explained.

The team’s best explanation for that surprisingly small ground movement – and one supported by computer modelling of big earthquakes – is an interaction between the two faults.

balancing rocks

Precarious rocks, like this one in Nevada, can act as natural measures of earthquake strength over time

Precarious rocks, like this one in Nevada, can act as natural measures of earthquake strength over time
“The San Andreas and San Jacinto faults come very close together; they’re only about 2km apart. And it’s been well established, through other earthquakes and modelling studies, that a rupture can jump across [a gap like that]. It’s what’s called a stepover.

“What if the rupture jumped across, or alternatively, stopped at this junction, or started at this junction? All three of those cases would produce lower ground shaking in the area where we found the rocks.”

It is crucial to consider the faults together, Prof Ludwig said – not just to explain the baffling, balancing rocks, but also in order to plan safely for future earthquakes.

“These are really networks of fractures in the earth. Just because we give them different names doesn’t mean that they behave independently.”

Shaky scenario

Dr Lucy Jones is a long-serving seismologist and a science adviser for risk reduction at the US Geological Survey. She said the paper would have “pretty significant implications” for earthquake planning in California.

In particular, Dr Jones said the findings might impact the “ShakeOut scenario” – in which she and others modelled a major San Andreas quake, to support safety drills and procedures.

“I think that this study actually makes the particular ShakeOut scenario less likely, but I’m not sure it means that we’re definitely going to get less ground motion,” Dr Jones told the BBC.

“It isn’t a clear-cut answer as to whether we’ll be better off or worse off. We’re going to need time to look at the permutations.”

Looking beyond individual quakes, Dr Jones said the new study fits into a “pretty well accepted picture” that in the long-term, seismic activity is gradually shifting from the southern stretch of the San Andreas fault across to the younger San Jacinto fault.

“This study is a really cool piece of evidence that maybe the jump is a little further along than we assumed,” she said.

Did you know that pets can often detect ear quakes before they happen? Here’s a story from Animal X about some such pets.


Dense mayfly swarm causes crashes, closes US bridge

 

Dense mayfly swarm causes crashes, closes US bridge
From the BBC

bugs close bridge

Piles of dead insects were seen strewn across the road

A dense swarm of mayflies caused motorcycle crashes and the overnight closure of a bridge in the US state of Pennsylvania.

The sheer volume of insects reduced visibility, and turned the road surface of the bridge over the Susquehanna River, in Lancaster County, into a treacherous, slippery mess.

Piles of mayflies up to 2ft (0.6m) deep were seen the morning after.

Immature mayflies live in water, before hatching as adults to mate in swarms.
The bridge was closed late on Saturday, reopening early on Sunday, police said.

bug plague

The poor road conditions caused motorcycle crashes, but there are no reports of serious injuries

“It was like a blizzard in June, but instead of snow, it was mayflies,” Wrightsville Fire Chief Chad Livelsberger told LancasterOnline.

“They were getting in our mouth. We had to close our eyes. We had to swat them away. Even when we got back, it felt like bugs were crawling in you.”

Spectacular swarms of mayflies are not uncommon – last year one in Wisconsin became so big it appeared on local radar as rain.

Bugs

NOAA – Mayfly Swarm

bugs

NOAA Mayfly Swarm

bugs

NOAA – Mayfly swarm

 

Here’s a video clip about animal plagues from Animal X Series 2. We see swarms of midges similar to the Mayfly swarms mentioned above. Also locust and mice.

 

This clip shows other animals that swarm.


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