• Custom Search

4 legged snake fossil found

Advertisements

4 legged snake fossil found

By Jonathan Webb
Science reporter, BBC News

The snake’s legs were just a few millimetres long

A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.

Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.

Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.

The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.

“This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it’s pretty clearly not aquatic,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new study published in Science magazine.

Tetrapodophis amplectus: Clinching the argument for terrestrial snake evolution?

Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature’s tail wasn’t paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.

“It’s pretty straight-up adapted for burrowing,” he said.

When Dr Longrich first saw photos of the 19.5cm fossil, now christened Tetrapodophis amplectus, he was “really blown away” because he was expecting an ambiguous, in-between species.

Instead, he saw “a lot of very advanced snake features” including its hooked teeth, flexible jaw and spine – and even snake-like scales.

“And there’s the gut contents – it’s swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature.

“It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It’s just got little arms and little legs.”
Deadly embrace?

At 4mm and 7mm long respectively, those arms and legs are little indeed. But Dr Longrich was surprised to discover that they were far from being “vestigial” evolutionary leftovers, dangling uselessly.

“They’re actually very highly specialised – they have very long, skinny fingers and toes, with little claws on the end. What we think [these animals] are doing is they’ve stopped using them for walking and they’re using them for grasping their prey.”

The 20cm snake lived about 113 million years ago, at the same time as many dinosaurs

That comparatively feeble grasp, which may have also been applied during mating, is where the species gets its name. Tetrapodophis, the fossil’s new genus, means four-footed snake, but amplectus is Latin for “embrace”.

“It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake,” Dr Longrich said.

In order to try to pinpoint the huggy snake’s place in history, the team constructed a family tree using known information about the physical and genetic make-up of living and ancient snakes, plus some related reptiles.

That analysis positioned T. amplectus as a branch – the earliest branch – on the the very same tree that gave rise to modern snakes.

Neglected no more

Remarkably, this significant specimen languished in a private collection for decades, before a museum in Solnhofen, Germany, acquired and exhibited it under the label “unknown fossil”.

It was there that Dr Dave Martill, another of the paper’s authors, stumbled upon it while leading a student field trip. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 they were principally visiting to see the museum’s famous Archaeopteryx fossil.

“All of a sudden my jaw absolutely dropped, when I saw this little fossil like a piece of string,” said Dr Martill, from the University of Portsmouth.

As he peered closer, he managed to spot the four tiny legs – and immediately asked the museum for permission to study the creature.

 

Here’s a snake that it was thought was dead.





Advertisements

The new search for aliens will start in one of the quietest, most uneventful places in America

Advertisements

The new search for aliens will start in one of the quietest, most uneventful places in America

WRITTEN BY
Max Nisen
@MaxNisen

The Green Bank telescope’s dish alone is 2.3 acres (0.9 ha).(AP/Patrick Semansky)

If you want to find aliens, a 13,000-square-mile (37,000 sq km) bit of land in the eastern United States turns out to be one of the best places to look.

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s $100 million dollar gift to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) center at the University of California at Berkeley, announced on July 20, will help searchers dramatically expand their mission to find life beyond Earth.

The institute, which has (like other SETI programs) operated on something of a shoestring, will use part of the money to rent out the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, the Green Bank telescope, which is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

(National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

The NRAO is located in a patch of land called the “National Radio Quiet Zone” in Virginia, West Virginia, and a sliver of Maryland. It puts tight restrictions on radio transmissions, codified in West Virginia’s Radio Astronomy Zoning Act. Cell service is nearly nonexistent, and broadcast radio transmitters must coordinate with the observatory, point their antennas away from it, and operate at reduced power. Around the telescope itself the restrictions are particularly severe; employees from the NRAO drive around the area scanning for rogue Wi-Fi users or microwaves.

So why is this particular patch of land one of the only places in the country to be mostly free of radio transmissions? The zone was created by the US government back in 1958 to shield the NRAO and the Navy’s Sugar Grove base (scheduled to close this year) from interference, then produced mainly by spark plugs, radios, and power lines; the latter are now legally required to be buried four feet underground throughout the area.

The rise of ubiquitous wireless communication made truly quiet (in a radio sense) places very rare. While federal oversight is limited to registered transmitters, state laws are required to restrict mobile devices. Scientists haven’t managed to push through the same kind of restrictions when building other, similar telescopes in the US, making the area pretty unique.

Even tiny amounts of interference, like from a musical greeting card opened near the installation, can interfere with delicate readings. It’s near impossible to avoid that kind of interruption now without a good amount of buffer space and regulation. The zone has also attracted a more unusual set of residents—people who believe they’re ultra-sensitive to electromagnetic radiation.

The Green Bank telescope has become available to rent because the US National Science Foundation has had its funding cut, and has even sought to shut down the installation or find other research centers to share the cost of running it.

Some of the listening will be done elsewhere, including at another large telescope in Australia, and the hard-core data analysis will happen back at Berkeley. But if we manage to find signs of alien life, it could be the quietest parts of West Virginia that hear them first.

Here’s some sounds that we can already hear.


The man who keeps finding new species of shark

Advertisements

The man who keeps finding new species of shark

By Sara Lentati
BBC World Service

Shark

Most people have heard of great white, hammerhead and tiger sharks but there are many other species – and every year a number of new ones are discovered.

One enthusiast has, so far, identified 24 types of shark and related fish that were previously unknown.

Dave Ebert has a favourite market in Taiwan. He’s been going there since he was a student 30 years ago.

It’s hot, humid and noisy – baskets are filled to the brim with a staggering variety of fish. Beach umbrellas provide some relief from the sun as puddles of water collect on the concrete floor.

“I started seeing a lot of species and I was going, ‘What the heck is this?’ And in many cases it was a known species but we didn’t know it occurred here. Then I realised there were some species we didn’t even have names for, they weren’t even known about, and here people were catching them and selling them,” he says, remembering his first visit.

“I collected so many specimens I filled up my suitcases. I rinsed them in water and preserved them in ethanol and basically just wrapped them up in my clothes to keep them moist and put them in plastic bags so they wouldn’t leak.”

The fishermen, wary at first, soon warmed to him. “Now when I go back, they know me and if they’ve brought in something unusual they’ll come and find me. That’s how I’ve found some really cool stuff.

Ebert with a frilled shark caught by Taiwanese fishermen © Dave Ebert / PSRC

Bull sharks at the market © Dave Ebert / PSRC

Here’s a video clip about the world’s biggest ever shark Megalodon.

 

Meanwhile Dave Ebert has found 10 new species in this market alone. In all, over the past three decades, Ebert has named 24 new species, including sharks, rays, sawfish and ghost sharks – these cartilaginous fish are all related.

He discovered his first while he was on a research ship off the Namibian coast in the late 1980s.

Ebert in the Namibian desert, 1987 © Dave Ebert / PSRC

“I did a lot of work along the skeleton coast. We would just head off and tell someone we’d be back in a couple of months and if you don’t hear from us for 10 weeks come look for us.

“We’d go up to some of the towns to get supplies and then just go fishing along the coast to see what you could catch, no-one had really surveyed along there.”

It was one of these trips that he found a paddlenose ghost shark, which he affectionately refers to as Paddlenose Pete.

Paddlenose Pete © Dave Ebert / PSRC

The southern African frilled shark © Dave Ebert / PSRC

On the same coast, before long, he came across another new species the southern African frilled shark.

“I was at sea and I was just thinking, ‘This sure looks different,’ but at that point you think you’re either losing your mind or you’re really on to something. It took me about 20 years but I finally got it named in 2009,” he says.

He named another after his shark-loving niece as a graduation gift – Pristiophorus lanae or Lana’s sawshark.

Lana’s sawshark © Dave Ebert / PSRC

And he’s made other discoveries much closer to home. Once, he and a student were classifying a new species of ghost shark that he had found in Africa.

They asked a museum to send a specimen of a similar species from its collection to help with identification – but what arrived in the post wasn’t what they expected.

“My student opened up the package and looked at it and she says, ‘I don’t think this is what it’s supposed to be Dave,’ and I looked at it and I had no idea what it was.

“In fact, it had been labelled incorrectly and was actually a completely new species, so we ended up naming that one too. It was a new ghost shark from the Bahamas… it was nice for it to just show up on our door!” (The Chimaera bahamaensis, or Bahamas ghost shark, is pictured at the top of the page.)

Ebert estimates that he has another 30 or so new species of sharks, rays, and ghost sharks in his collection in California waiting for formal identification.

He keeps them in glass jars of preserving fluid that line row after row of shelves at the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, where he is research director.

“Sometimes you have that eureka moment where you just know that’s a newbie. More often than not though you look at it and think this one needs looking at more closely. I’m usually a little reluctant to jump up and down immediately,” he says.

Formally identifying a new species can take months or years. Comparisons with other similar species have to be made, measurements must be noted and a detailed description of its appearance recorded.

Diagram of the paddlenose ghost shark © Elaine Grant and Leonard Compagno / South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity

Technology can’t replace traditional methods, says Ebert. “Today there are a lot of molecular tools available but you have to be careful as you can literally get an ant and an aardvark to come out genetically the same if you want.”

Once the physical and genetic characteristics have been identified, the species needs a name. This needs to be registered and approved by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.

As well as looking for previously unclassified sharks, Ebert also documents what fishermen catch. “There are species that 27 years ago were really common and now you don’t really see. Then other species I never used to see are now caught all the time.

“Twenty-five years ago these fishermen would be catching fish [at depths of] 100m and 200m. Now they say they have to fish down to 900m.” Scientists believe that many new sharks could be discovered at these depths.

Finding new species is not as unusual as it might sound. Last year 18,000 new species of animals and plants were identified.

“There are few places on Earth where you can go and not be in the proximity of undescribed species,” says Quentin Wheeler from the International Institute for Species Exploration.

“But until scientists can determine where they fit into the evolutionary relationship, and give them formal names, we don’t consider them officially known.”

At the moment, scientists know of more than 500 species of shark – a fifth of which have been found in the past decade.

“You really are being an explorer,” says Ebert. “Whether you’re going to a market or going out to sea. Little kids tend to go through that dinosaur and shark phase in life and I never grew out of it. My parents gave me a little shark book when I was about five – I still have it – and I was just fascinated.

“When I was 10 years old I told my folks, ‘I’m going to travel the world and study sharks,’ and they told me to ‘follow your dream’. I love it. I get to experience things that most people never will.”

Here’s a clip about sharks in London!

 


Is the Universe Bubbly? Searching in Space for Quantum Foam

Advertisements

 

Is the Universe Bubbly? Searching in Space for Quantum Foam

by Calla Cofield, Space.com Staff Writer

Space

An incredibly small and fantastically strange theoretical feature of the universe is too microscopic to see directly, so a team of scientists has instead looked for it by studying some of the brightest galaxies in the universe.

As light travels to Earth from distant galaxies, its road through the cosmos may not be smooth. A theoretical characteristic of the universe called “quantum foam” could make space and time rough and chaotic at very small scales. Some models suggest that scientists could see the effect of this foam in a large group of photons that have traveled a very long distance.

A group of researchers decided to try to observe signs of quantum foam in the light collected by powerful telescopes on and around Earth. While no direct evidence of the foam was found, the researchers have eliminated two possible theories of how it behaves, and put a new limit on its size.

A bubbly universe

The universe we perceive is made of three dimensions of space and another dimension of time, which together make up a single fabric that Albert Einstein dubbed “space-time.” For things like people, planets, stars and anything larger than an atom, space-time is smooth. Large objects move through it like a car driving over a freshly paved road.

By contrast, on very, very (very, very) small-size scales, the universe may be bubbly, foamy and constantly changing. This is a theoretical feature of the universe known as quantum foam.

“One way to think of space-time foam is if you are flying over the ocean in [an] airplane, it looks completely smooth,” said Eric Perlman, professor of physics and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology and lead author on the new research, in a statement from the Chandra X-ray Center. “However, if you get low enough you see the waves, and closer still, foam, with tiny bubbles that are constantly fluctuating.”

A boat traveling over the surface of the ocean would not experience any measurable affect from the foam, but very small objects might. Perlman and his colleagues’ new research was an attempt to observe the effects of quantum foam on particles of light.

Is the universe in a bubble? Physics4all.com is running a poll.

Bubble Universe

Picture of distortion

The bumps and bubbles created by quantum foam are not obstacles in a photon’s path; they’re changes to the fabric of reality that the photons move through. If quantum foam doesn’t exist, then two photons leaving point A can essentially travel the same, smooth path to point B. But if quantum foam does exist, and is causing constant changes in the fabric of reality, then the two photons would each effectively travel a slightly different path between those two points, Perlman said in an interview with Space.com.

Some models of quantum foam suggest that this effect would cause the photons to become out of phase with each other, and this could potentially distort what objects in space look like to observers on Earth.

“Just like if you’re trying to listen to sound that was made by loud speakers that are out of phase with one another, you get noise,” Perlman said in an interview with Space.com.

Perlman and his colleagues went looking for evidence of these distortions in observations of very distant galaxies called quasars (some of the quantum foam models also predict that the effects will become more pronounced over longer distances). These quasars are also some of the brightest objects in the universe. At the center of a quasar is a supermassive black hole, surrounded by a tremendous amount of gas, dust and other matter. As the matter is pulled into the black hole, it radiates enough light to outshine all the stars that live in the galaxy.

The team built computer simulations that showed how quantum foam would affect observations of quasars by telescopes on Earth. They then compared those projections with real images from three powerful telescopes: the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS).

The images observed by the telescopes did not show the kind of distortion or blurring anticipated by two quantum foam models that the researchers tested. They say this indicates that the models are incorrect.

“The Chandra data specifically rules out one model which we already thought was in trouble – [called the] random walk model,” Perlman said. “Fermi and VERITAS data rule out another model which we didn’t think was in trouble and that is a model that has been called the holographic model.” [Is the Universe a 2D Hologram? Experiment Aims to Find Out]

So space-time appears to be smooth, at least on scales larger than one-thousandth the diameter of a proton, the new results show (although most models predict that quantum foam operates on much smaller scales).

There is one model of quantum foam still standing. This model predicts that the distortion effects are not be amplified over long distances, which means looking at distant quasars will not help scientists find evidence of quantum foam. At the moment, this seems to be the only model that holds up, Perlman wrote in a blog post for the Chandra X-ray Observatory website.

Observations of distant quasars in X-rays from Chandra (top six images) and gamma-ray telescopes are helping scientists test the nature of space-time at extremely small scales. This artistʼs illustration (bottom) depicts how the foamy structure of space-time may appear, showing tiny bubbles quadrillions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom that are constantly fluctuating and last for only infinitesimal fractions of a second.
Credit: Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Image.

Combining big and small

Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, a theoretical physicist at the Sapienza University of Rome, said in an email that work to put limits on quantum foam is “extremely important,” and that Perlman and his colleagues are “a very strong group, for whose work I have high consideration.”

However, he also cautions that because of various limitations, the models used in studies dealing with quantum foam are “crude,” and therefore the results should be “interpreted with great care.” (This includes his own work on quantum foam, he said.)

Quantum foam arose out of attempts to solve one of the biggest mysteries in modern physics: how to unite general relativity (the theory of gravity) and quantum mechanics.

“Both quantum mechanics and general relativity have been enormously successful. They are two of the greatest successes that modern physics has had in the last century plus,” Perlman said. “And yet for some reason that we don’t understand, when you try to write gravity in the language of quantum mechanics, it’s very difficult. Up until now it hasn’t been done.”

Quantum foam could be one of the missing puzzle pieces — the thing that brings together big (gravity) and small (quantum). But it is currently unclear how scientists might prove the existence of such an incredibly tiny feature of the universe.
The universe through a telescope. Here’s a series of videos that looks at the universe through a telescope.

 


Royal Astronomer Predicts When Aliens Are Discovered, They Will Be Robots, Who Will Eventually Lead To Human Extinction

Advertisements

Royal Astronomer Predicts When Aliens Are Discovered, They Will Be Robots, Who Will Eventually Lead To Human Extinction

Space

Royal astronomer Lord Rees has made several startling predictions for the fate of the human race and the discovery of aliens, stating that when we do actually come across extraterrestrials, they will probably be robots.

Rees, who is the Astronomer Royal of the Royal Observatory, made his comments while speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Rees, via the Mirror, added that if a signal was to be detected from a distant planet it would come from a machine and not a creature.

“If you were to detect a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) signal, it would be far more likely that it would be from a machine and not an organic creature.”

According to the Daily Star, Rees believes that the human race will actually have mapped out the entire galaxy by the end of the century, and people will then start to live on other planets. However, this will be the beginning of the end for the human race.

“There has been just a thin sliver of time when organic beings have existed and billions of years after machines will take over, so they will be the future. I would predict that in the next 50 years or so all of the bodies in the solar system will have been mapped and probed by machine and some people will follow.

By the end of the century there will be some people living away from the Earth. We will wish them good luck in adapting their progeny who will need genetic adaptations. That will be the start of the post-human era because they will evolve to be a new species.”

Rees’ bleak outlook continued when he added that he is worried that if global militaries continue to use sub-autonomous robots as weapons, they will evolve and ultimately decimate the human race to the point of extinction.

“I am concerned about sub-autonomous military robots which can just put bullets in people. I think it is quite likely that within a few centuries the overriding intelligence will be machines because they will have an easier time spreading beyond the Earth because they are not organic and most exploration will be by machines and not humans.”

Many a dystopian science fiction story has been written depicting such an apocalypse, and during a TED Talk Rees previously remarked, “Other science fiction nightmares may transition to reality — dumb robots going rogue or a network that develops a mind of its own.”

The likes of Stephen Hawking and other leading scientists have previously made it clear that they are worried by the rise in artificial intelligence, which they believe will ultimately lead to the end of the human race because humans can’t compete.

[Image via Denis Tabler / Shutterstock]

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/2154862/royal-astronomer-predicts-when-aliens-are-discovered-they-will-be-robots-who-will-eventually-lead-to-human-extinction/#w5ci6oYYty1DWzlA.99

 


Are there Aliens on Mars!

Advertisements

Are there Aliens on Mars!

From Chromatography.com

Aliens on Mars?

Man has wondered “Are we alone?” for many years. Astronomers and Hollywood have long portrayed aliens in many different forms — little green men from Mars and monsters from Outer Space being the favourites.

But it is life on Mars that has always captured the imagination — from HG Wells’ Victorian masterpiece “The War of the Worlds” to the 1996 film “Mars Attacks”, the idea of life on Mars has always intrigued man. Let’s take a look at the ideas helping scientists decide if can aliens exist and the part chromatography could play in deciding if there is life on Mars.

Alien Worlds With the launch of the Kepler space telescope in 2009 the search for habitable worlds and aliens has made massive strides forward. Kepler has now found over 1000 exoplanets and identified thousands of potential exoplanets.

Kepler has given scientists an accurate means of measuring the light curve from a distant star. By monitoring the light curve we can detect transiting exoplanets, a planet orbiting a star.

Even more exciting is that the amazing techniques used by astronomers has allowed us to identify Earth sized exoplanets occupying a star’s habitable zone — possible homes for alien life.

Habitable Zones and Life The habitable zone is the ring shaped area around a star where scientists think the conditions for life are just right — for example: water can exist, the temperature is just right and the planet is in a stable orbit. Luckily for us, Earth lies in the middle of the Sun’s habitable zone — which stretches from just outside Venus’ orbit to Mars, which lies at the edge of the zone. So could there be life on Mars?

Life on Mars If there were little green men running around Mars it is probable that we would have seen them by now — we have excellent hi-res images of the Martian surface. Some scientists think that the best chance of finding evidence of life on Mars will be in fossilized chemicals that could once have belonged to some form of life.

To help in this search a team from the University of Kansas has recently published research about a new technique designed to help identify just such a piece of evidence. In a University of Kansas press release, Craig Marshall, one of the article’s authors stated “If we’re going to identify life on Mars, it will likely be the fossil remnants of the chemicals once synthesized by life, and we hope our research helps strengthen the ability to evaluate the evidence collected on Mars”.

In an article titled ‘Raman spectroscopy as a screening tool for ancient life detection on Mars’ the team report on a technique which combines Raman spectroscopy with GC-MS. The authors say this gives the best chance of detecting biomarkers and conclusive evidence for life on Mars.

Chromatography has helped in the search for aliens in space before, as discussed in Analysing Space Dust for the Ingredients of Life Using Chromatography.

 

 

Here are some scientists who believe firmly there are aliens.


Scientists probe mysterious wave of antelope deaths

Advertisements

 Scientists probe mysterious wave of antelope deaths

By Rory Galloway
BBC Science writer

Around 120,000 Saiga antelope have died so far

Around half of the world’s critically endangered Saiga antelope have died suddenly in Kazakhstan since 10 May.

An unknown environmental trigger is thought to have caused two types of normally benign bacteria found in the antelopes’ gut to turn deadly.

The animals die within hours of showing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhoea and frothing at the mouth.

Because it is calving season, entire herds of female antelope and their new-born calves have been wiped out.

“They get into respiratory problems, they can’t breathe easily. They stop eating and are extremely depressed; the mothers die and then the calves are very distressed and then they die maybe one or two days later,” said Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College in London.

Prof Kock spoke to the BBC’s Science in Action programme after joining an international team in Kazakhstan studying the causes of the die-off.

Conservation setback

The Saiga antelope is a species adapted to cope with the extremes of temperature found on the central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. They are about the size of a large sheep and once roamed in their millions from Great Britain to northern China.

Populations have fallen repeatedly due to hunting, reaching a low of around 50,000 individuals after the fall of the Soviet Union. This rendered the species critically endangered.

Hunting brought Saiga numbers to a low of 50,000 in the 1990s

Conservationists have made great progress with Saiga in recent years, due to international efforts to reduce poaching and monitor their populations.

This die-off is a severe setback to the conservation effort because it has wiped out four of the six calving herds in the largest remaining – and best protected – “Betpak-dala” population, in central Kazakhstan.

Steffen Zuther, head of the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK), was monitoring calving in one of the herds containing thousands of affected animals.

“Over two days [in the herd I was studying] 80% of the calving population died,” he told the BBC.

The whole herd then died within two weeks.

Steffen Zuther has been monitoring herds of antelope in Kazakhstan

About 120,000 individual antelope have died, from a global population of approximately 250,000. Fortunately, mortality rates are now dropping, although the deaths continue in some populations.

“What we’re seeing is sort of a perfect storm of different factors,” Prof Kock explained.
Two different bacteria, pasteurelosis and clostridia, have been found in every dead animal studied. These bacteria are naturally found in the animals’ respiratory and gut systems, so something must have reduced the immunity of the animals.

One possible trigger is climatic. This year a very cold winter was followed by a wet spring, and this may have affected the immune competence of the animals, making them more vulnerable to the bacteria.

This, or some other trigger, pushed the animals past a threshold at which the bacteria overcame Saiga immune defences and became deadly enough to transmit to their calves.
dead antelope and calf

Because of its timing, the wave of deaths has claimed mothers and calves
“There’s no infectious disease that can work like this,” said Prof Kock. He added that the wave of Saiga deaths was not unprecedented. “[This] die-off syndrome has occurred on a number of occasions.”

In 1984, 2010 and 2012 there were massive die-offs, but none of these claimed such a massive proportion of the population. ‘Doesn’t make sense’

Despite these huge losses, Saiga antelope are surprisingly well adapted to recover quickly from population crashes.

“Its strategy for survival is based on a high reproductive rate, so [the Saiga] produce triplets and have the highest foetal biomass of any mammal. It’s built, in a sense, to recover from collapse,” Prof Kock said.

The Saiga’s natural habitat has dramatic temperature fluctuations. “In a very severe winter… you could lose 90% of the population.”

But losing 100% percent of some populations within two weeks “doesn’t make any sense” from a biological or evolutionary perspective, Prof Kock said.

There are five main populations of Saiga remaining in central Asia

Saiga antelope have been a conservation success story after recovering from their critical low in the 1990s. The animals now exist in five locations across central Asia, but all individuals affected by the sudden die-off are from the largest remaining Betpak-dala population in Kazakhstan.

This population consists of six major herds, of which four have been completely wiped out.

Steffen Zuther is going back into the field to investigate more remote populations. He hopes to identify what triggered this population collapse, so he can work to stop it happening again.


What Do Tree Rings Sound Like When Played Like A Record?

Advertisements

 

What Do Tree Rings Sound Like When Played Like A Record?

Playing tree rings

In the Dr Seusse books it’s the Lorax speaks for the trees, but what do they sound like when they speak for themselves?

Rings on a tree can give information about the age of the tree, as well as indicate environmental conditions such as rain levels, disease, and even forest fire. Light colored rings indicate quick growth, while darker rings indicate times when the tree did not grow as quickly. Slices of trees are not uniform, and they all tell a story about the tree’s history.

Bartholomäus Traubeck created equipment that would translate tree rings into music by playing them on a turntable. Rather than use a needle like a record, sensors gather information about the wood’s color and texture and use an algorithm that translates variations into piano notes. The breadth of variation between individual trees results in a individualized tune. The album, appropriately titled “Years,” features spruce, ash, oak, maple, alder, walnut, and beech trees. It is available to download now, though it will be available to purchase on vinyl in August. The end product of these arbor “records” is haunting and beautiful and you need to check it out.

 

 


Mysterious sea creature stuns onlookers

Advertisements

 

 

 

Mysterious creature stuns onlookers

The sea is big, scary and full of things that want to eat you.

If you ever find yourself in doubt as to whether or not to go in the water, it can be helpful to remember the sheer number of giant teeth, suckers and appendages-yet-unknown-to-science that live in it.

A spine-chilling, luminous, snakelike creature was recently captured in Taiwan by a man who was out fishing at a port in Penghu.

The fisherman, Wei Cheng Jian, caught the strange creature and posted a video of his find on Facebook in hopes of getting a few answers.

However, Jian, who seemed more than a bit nervous in the video, removed the clip from his Facebook page shortly afterwards – but not before the footage was copied, shared, and incited a little internet confusion.

In the video, the three-foot-long bright-green creature is seen slithering slowly across the dock’s concrete floor and shooting out a long pink tongue as if searching for a prey.

The seemingly alien-like critter sparked a huge debate online with persons from science fiction backgrounds to an expertise in the natural world throwing in their two-cents about the creature’s origin.

And though an exact answer has not yet been determined, the stringy green mass is strongly believed to be a ribbon worm (or, Nemertea) – a carnivorous worm that comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Some species live on land or reside in freshwater — but many of them choose to stay in the sea and live burrowed in the sand. They can also grow to be as long as 60 meters.

 

 


Best view yet of Ceres’ ‘alien’ spots

Advertisements

Best view yet of Ceres’ ‘alien’ spots

Ceres

The fascinating bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres have come into sharper view.

What were initially thought to be just a couple of brilliant, closely spaced features at one location now turn out to be a clutch of many smaller dots.

The latest pictures were acquired by the US space agency’s Dawn spacecraft on its first full science orbit since arriving at Ceres on 6 March.

The spots were seen from a distance of 13,600km.

Researchers on the mission concede they still have much to learn about the dots’ true nature, but the new data is hardening their ideas.

“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” said Chris Russell, who is the principal investigator on the mission.

With a diameter of 950km, Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn will spend the coming months studying its geology and surface chemistry with a suite of cameras and remote-sensing instruments.

The intention is to get some insights into the processes that have sculpted the dwarf since its formation with the rest of the Solar System some 4.5 billion years year ago.

Having completed its first science orbit, Dawn is now heading downwards to get even closer to the body.
This second mapping campaign, which will commence on 6 June, will see Dawn moving just 4,400km from the surface.

Here are some strange sounds from outer space.

The noise is caused by electromagnetic vibrations. The sounds have been recorded by various NASA space craft using Plasma Wave antenna to record the vibrations.



  • Custom Search