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Mapping Australia’s dinosaur landscape

Mapping Australia’s dinosaur landscape

From the BBC
By Myles Gough
Sydney

Australia

Scientists are using cutting-edge technology to map dinosaur tracks

Scientists are trying to reconstruct ancient Australian landscapes once roamed by some of the biggest dinosaurs to have ever walked the planet by surveying thousands of fossilised tracks in remote Western Australia.

Along a 100km stretch (62 miles) of coast in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, tens of thousands of dinosaur tracks are fossilised in sandstone.

The 130-million-year-old footprints are virtually the only record of dinosaurs in the western half of the continent.

They date to the Early Cretaceous Period when the continent was still connected by a land bridge to Antarctica and covered in towering conifer forests.

Unique snapshot

“These tracks are at least 15 to 20 million years older than the majority of dinosaur fossils that have been found at sites in eastern Australia,” says Dr Steve Salisbury, a palaeontologist from the University of Queensland.

“They provide a very detailed snapshot of the dinosaur fauna from a time and place where there’s almost nothing else,” he told the BBC.

Outback

Drones and low-speed aircraft sweep over the prints on the rare times they are exposed by the sea

The fossils also hold immense cultural value for local indigenous communities.

Dr Salisbury says they feature in an Aboriginal “song cycle” that extends along the coastline, and that “knowledge of the tracks probably extends back thousands of years”.

He was first invited to the region in 2011 by the Goolarabooloo people who were trying to halt the development of a proposed A$35bn ($24bn; £16bn) natural gas precinct at an area known as James Price Point, 50km north of Broome.

In 2013, two years after a section of the coast was granted National Heritage Status, the development was finally cancelled.

Dr Salisbury is now leading a project to digitally catalogue the fossils and reconstruct the landscapes these dinosaurs wandered through.

‘We’re talking huge, huge tracks’

To date, researchers have identified about 20 different types of tracks. The footprints include three-toed tracks belonging to carnivorous theropods that walked on two legs, as well as tracks believed to have been made by armoured dinosaurs like stegosaurs.

Some of the Broome dinosaur tracks are similar to those found at Lark Quarry in central-western Queensland, which the team recently determined were probably made by a large, two-legged plant-eating dinosaur similar to Muttaburrasaurus.

Dinosaur

The Broome tracks are similar to those made elsewhere by Muttaburrasaurus

There are also large cylindrical depressions stamped into the earth by at least five different types of long-necked, long-tailed sauropods.

These are the only sauropod tracks in Australia and some of the depressions measure longer than 1.5m.
“They’re beyond the size that you normally expect dinosaur tracks to be,” says Dr Salisbury.

“We’re talking huge, huge tracks, probably made by some of the biggest animals to ever walk the planet.”

The tracks are found along coastal rock shelves and reefs, which are subject to some of the most extreme tides in Australia, with water levels rising 10 to 11m daily, he says.

Many are only exposed for a few hours each day, and only a few days each year, meaning the team has to work quickly.

“It’s a dynamic landscape, and we’ve seen tracks disappear altogether in the time we’ve been working there. Some get buried by shifting sands, while others are destroyed by pounding surf,” says Dr Salisbury.

To speed up the process of mapping and imaging the tracks, the team has adopted a range of new remote sensing technologies.

Remote-controlled drones

In addition to making physical moulds of the footprints using a rapid-setting silicon rubber and taking photographs on ground-mounted tripods, the team is now using a handheld LiDAR unit developed by Australia’s national science organisation, the CSIRO.

drone

Dr Salisbury and colleagues can work out how the dinosaurs were moving by using the drones to view them from the air

They are also taking aerial photographs of the track sites using a remote controlled drone and a specialised, low-speed aircraft, which is also fitted with LiDAR.

A LiDAR uses pulsating laser light coupled with a global positioning system. It records the points where the laser light reflects off hard surfaces, combining data from multiple passes to generate a detailed 3D map of the coastline, says Prof Jorg Hacker, director of Airborne Research Australia at Flinders University.

Prof Hacker, the other main investigator on the project, says that for a 3km stretch of beach he usually spends about 1.5 hours flying his motor glider, making roughly 30 passes at altitudes between 20 to 100 metres.

Dr Salisbury says his team can now contextualise the tracks over larger geographic areas, and can better understand which direction the dinosaurs were travelling, whether they were walking or running, and if they were interacting or crossing the landscape in groups, searching for food, or trying to escape predators.

“We can, to a degree, accurately reconstruct scenes that happened 130 million years ago. That’s not imagination, that’s piecing it together from the evidence found in the rocks,” he says.

Best in the world?

“It’s a powerful way of bringing these ancient worlds back to life.”

Footprints require favourable circumstances to fossilise but when that happens a broad array of information is captured in the fossils, says Professor Anthony Martin, a palaeontologist from Emory University in the US specialising in animal tracks, who is not involved in the project.

“From a single, well-preserved dinosaur track way, we can determine the approximate type of dinosaur, its size, its speed, gait, and even how it was reacting to other dinosaurs or the landscape around it,” says Prof Martin.

“Once these tracks are properly surveyed, I would not be surprised if this area turns out to be one of the best dinosaur track sites in the world,” he says.

Mega Fauna

Once the dinosaurs died out Australia was occupied by the Mega Fauna. Wombats the size of a VW Beetle. Twenty foot tall Kangaroos and the largest carnivorous marsupial – Thylocaleo Carnifex – the Marsupial Lion.

Here is the documentary we made with NOVA and NHK on the excavation from a deep cave underneath Australia’s Nullarbor Plane, of the only fully intact thylacoleo skeleton


Dolphins save family from shark

Dolphins save family.

From Facebook.

Dolphins save family

Are dolphins telepathic? Can they read our minds? They can certainly scan our bodies.

Animal X Natural Mystery Unit studied some dolphins at Seaward.

 


Yowie sighting

Yowie sighting

From WeirdAustralia.com

Stands like a human, seven feet tall, large hairy head, four tusks.

Bigfoot

Yowie

During the early months of 1932, an unknown creature terrorised the inhabitants of Victoria’s high country. It was said to stand like a human being, about 7 feet tall, and had a large hairy head with four white tusks that “gleamed in the moonlight”. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, it was “razor clawed” and “swift and savage in attack”.

Not the kind of animal you want to meet travelling through the bush in the dead quiet of night. But, according to the Muswellbrook Chronicle of 1 March 1932 that’s exactly what one unsuspecting nighttime traveller encountered.

The sensational story appeared under the headline: Mystery Animal Attacks Victorian Settler, Has Four Tusks.

“Myrtleford, in the Mount Buffalo district, has a mysterious animal, which stands like a human being, and is described as being 7ft high, with a large round hairy head, carrying four tusks. Search parties tried to capture the creature, but an all-night search failed to locate it. That the animal does exist and that it is savage is vouched for by Mr. William Nutall of Myrtleford.

“He was returning home from Brighton with his sister and a companion, when, nearing Europa railway station, he alighted from his horse to adjust the saddle gear, the others riding on. Suddenly, he said, he was attacked by the strange animal. It snarled at him and charged, tearing his shirt to ribbons.”

While the startled rider’s horse managed to break free, poor Nutall was chased onto the railway line. Luckily, for Nutall, the animal was prevented from continuing the pursuit by a wire fence, through which the terrified man made good his escape.

Runs like a clumsy deer, lurks in shadows & leaps on passing horsemen
Perth’s Sunday Times on 28 February 1932 reported in Mystery Animal Roaming Mountain Ranges that: “A mystery animal, shaggy and powerful, is terrorising dwellers in the mountain ranges between Bright and Yackandandah. Already the bush prowler has made three attacks on wayfarers and prints of a giant have been found in soft soil.

“Among many theories he is described as a grizzly bear, an old man kangaroo and a gorilla. Five men have seen it and each has his own ideas. It is claimed it walks by night, it is seven feet high, it has a hairy head, razor claws, four white tusks, it runs like a clumsy deer, and it lurks in shadows and leaps on passing horsemen.

“It was first heard of about a month ago by one of the Cherry brothers, farmers at Running Creek, who was going home about ten o’clock on a still, moonless night. He came to a gate and bent from the saddle of a horse to lift the catch. The gate opened and then there was a grunt and a scuffle and a bulky beast leapt at the horse’s head. The horse bolted with Cherry clinging to its back.

“Next morning he went down to the gateway and examined the ground. In a jumble of footmarks he discerned prints that suggested the foot of a grizzly bear. Other men claim to have had similar experiences. Bushmen are scouring the country in search.”

The following day, The Daily News reported that a search by horsemen during the weekend discovered no clue as to the creature’s hiding place.

“Myrtleford, near which the marauder made his last appearance, is in a panic, and townsmen are not resting until he has been captured. He has appeared four times since February. Twice he has attacked horse men. Once he leapt at a jinker in which two men were driving, and once he was seen in a farm paddock.”

While no clue as to the creature’s hiding place was found, its footprints were.

“Mr. A. Wilkie, Curator of the Melbourne Zoo, who has been given an imprint of the mystery animal’s foot, believes the animal is a small American black bear, probably an escapee from a travelling circus. No Australian animal makes a footprint exactly like the one described. ‘Ordinarily,’ said Mr. Wilkie, ‘the American bears do not attack a man unless in a devil of a humor. When it rushes on its prey it makes a snorting noise, strikes the victim a paralysing blow on the back of the neck, and rips with its teeth and claws.’ Mr. Wilkie added the terror might be a Himalayan or Java bear. These types stand 5ft. high. They walk on all fours but attack from an upright position, striking with the fore-paws.”

The Advocate of Burnie in Tasmania also ran the story on the same day in Mystery Beast Haunts Country Districts. Seven Feet High!

“Fear still haunts the Myrtleford Ranges between Bright and Yackandandah, and at dusk an unknown ‘terror’ sends women and children — and men, too — hurrying to the safety of their homes and barred doors.

“The mystery beast, which is said to be seven feet high, shaggy, razor clawed, and swift and savage in attack with its four great tusks, which gleam in the moonlight, has been lying low over the week-end, but local inhabitants are convinced that it is still prowling the district!

“The ‘terror’ was first seen months ago by a farmer of Running Creek named Cherry. It attacked him one night with a grunt and a scuffle, leaping at his horse’s head. The man and horse fled, and the next morning the print of a huge paw, like that of a grizzly bear, was claimed to have been seen in the soil.

“Since then two more men have been attacked, and the climax was reached last Thursday night, when a drover named Nutall was pursued by the ‘terror,’ which he described as being something like a gorilla.

“Yesterday afternoon a party of three horsemen, armed with rifles, went out to look for the marauder, but found no traces.

“They came back before nightfall! Further search parties will be organised during the week.”

But they never did find that shaggy-haired creature that was said to stand like a human 7 feet tall, and possessed razor sharp claws and 4 fearsome tusks that gleamed in the moonlight.

Here’s a clip from an Animal X Yowie expedition in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in Australia.





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

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

WRITTEN BY
Max Nisen
@MaxNisen

Search for aliens

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.


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

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

 


Creepy ‘sea monsters’ falling from sky in Alaska.

Creepy ‘sea monsters’ falling from sky in Alaska.

© AP creepy sea monster

As if these scary-looking creatures weren’t terrifying enough in the water, they’re now falling out of the sky in Alaska. For real.

Locals in Fairbanks have been finding lampreys, foot-long eel-like fish with horrifying teeth, around the town after dropping out of the sky.

One was found in a shop’s car park, while another was found in someone’s garden. Eww.

And why is this horror happening? We hear you cry. Well, it’s all thanks to the local birds, apparently.

According to Seattle’s CBS Local, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game explained what was happening on its Facebook page, writing: “Gulls are picking them out of the Chena River with their bills and then dropping the squirming critters while in flight.

“Arctic lampreys spawn in the Chena River, and live in the mud underwater as juveniles for several years. However, many lifelong Alaskans have never seen one of these fascinating fish up close because their body shape and feeding habits make them difficult to catch.”

They also posted more pictures of the creepy creatures. Look if you dare:

Lamprey latched on to the fish tank glass in Fairbanks ADF&G office.

Posted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game – Official on Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Mysterious sea creature stuns onlookers

 

 

 

Mysterious creature stuns onlookers

https://youtu.be/ozv06YO8WqE

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.

 

 


Terrifying soul sucking dementor wasp turns victims into ‘ZOMBIES’

 

Terrifying ‘soul-sucking dementor wasp’ turns unlucky victims into ‘ZOMBIES’

Insect

Dementor Wasp

This week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that 139 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, including a species of wasp that can turn a cockroach into a Zombie and eat it alive as it pleases.

The species making headlines is a wasp named after fictional, soul-sucking prison guards known in the Harry Potter universe as Dementors.

WWF describes the wasp as “steal[ing] its prey’s free will with single sting before eating it alive,” and continues:

[Ampulex] dementor hunts cockroaches, injecting a venom into the mass of neurons on its prey’s belly that turns the roach into a passive zombie… the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body. Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.

Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it.

Though the species is new, this group of wasps is not. Ampulex wasps are part of the Ampulicidae wasp species, known as cockroach wasps for their typical prey. This wasp, however, was named after Dementors as part of a group of researchers’ efforts to bring the public into the process of naming new species.

Here’s the emerald cockroach wasp a cousin of the Dementor which does a similar thing.

The researchers, led by Michael Ohl, invited 300 museum visitors to choose from four possible names for the new species, and explained how each was connected to the wasp. Dementor—“magical beings, which can consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims as an empty but functional body without personality and emotions”—reigned supreme.

 

 


Russia Orders Obama: TELL THE WORLD ABOUT ALIENS

 


Russia Orders Obama: TELL THE WORLD ABOUT ALIENS, Or We Will.

From Disclose.tv

Alien

Alien Chupacabra

February 11, 2015 – A stunning Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) report on Prime Minister Medvedev’s agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week states that Russia will warn President Obama that the “time has come” for the world to know the truth about aliens, and if the United States won’t participate in the announcement, the Kremlin will do so on its own.

The WEF (The Forum) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva and describes itself as an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

The Forum is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.

Medvedev is scheduled to open this years Forum where as many as 50 heads of government, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron, will attend the five-day meeting that begins on 23 January.

Critical to note about this years Forum is that the WEF, in their 2013 Executive Summary, scheduled for debate and discussion a number of items under their X Factors from Nature category, and which includes the “discovery of alien life” of which they state: “Proof of life elsewhere in the universe could have profound psychological implications for human belief systems.”

Equally critical to note is that Medvedev, after completing a 7 December 2012 on-camera interview with reporters in Moscow, continued to respond to reporters and made some off-air comments without realizing that his microphone was still on. He was then asked by one reporter if “the president is handed secret files on aliens when he receives the briefcase needed to activate Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” Medvedev responded:

“Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special ‘top secret’ folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet… Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country… More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called Men In Black… I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic.”

Western news sources reporting on Medvedev’s shocking reply about aliens stated that he was “joking” as he mentioned the movie Men In Black, which they wrongly assumed was a reference to the 1997 American sci-fi adventure comedy about two top secret agents battling aliens in the US.

Medvedev, however, wasn’t referring to the American movie but was, instead, talking about the famous Russian movie documentary Men In Black which details many UFO and alien anomalies.

Where Western news sources quoted Medvedev as saying “More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called ‘Men In Black,’” his actual answer was, “You can receive more detailed information having watched the documentary film of the same name.”

The reason(s) for Western propaganda news outlets deliberately distorting Medvedev’s words become apparent after his shocking statement, and as evidenced in just one example of their so called reporting on this disclosure of alien life already being on our planet where the title of one such article was “Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev makes a crack about aliens, and conspiracists promptly lose their minds.”

If anyone is “losing their minds” about aliens, it must be pointed out, it is certainly not Russia, but the Vatican, which in November 2009 announced it was “preparing for extraterrestrial disclosure”.

Equally, and apparently, “losing their minds” are US government officials themselves, such as former Pentagon consultant Timothy Good, and author of Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O. Cover-Up, who in February 2012 stated that former President Dwight Eisenhower had three secret meetings with aliens who were ‘Nordic’ in appearance and wherein a ‘Pact’ was signed to keep their agenda on Earth secret.

With the recent discovery in the Russian city of Vladivostok of a 300-million-year-old UFO tooth-wheel, and scientists, astronauts and YouTube users reporting increasingly strange happenings on the moon, the European Space agency reporting their discovery of a 1,000 ancient river on Mars, and UK and Sri Lanka scientists saying they now have “rock solid proof of alien life” after finding fossilized algae inside meteorite, the only ones who seem to be truly “losing their minds” are the Western, especially American, propagandists who for decades have covered up one of the most important stories in all of human history that “we are not alone.”

To if Medvedev will be able to convince the Obama regime to tell the truth about UFO and aliens at the WEF this week it is not in our knowing. What is in our knowing, though, is that with or without the US, the Kremlin will surely begin the process of telling the truth about that which we already know to be true.

Here’s some interviews with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5



Giant pythons have ‘homing instinct’

Giant pythons have ‘homing instinct’
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News

This enormous Burmese python burst trying to swallow an alligator in Florida in 2005

Giant Burmese pythons have map and compass senses which help them travel “home” over vast distances, scientists have been surprised to discover.

Pythons captured and relocated in Florida’s Everglades – where they are an invasive species – returned 23 miles (36km) to their original start point.

It is the first evidence that snakes may share a similar magnetic compass to other reptiles, such as sea turtles.

The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is one of the largest snakes in the world. The biggest specimen ever caught measured more than 17ft (5m) and weighed 164lb (74kg).

The snakes coil around their prey and suffocate it – and have been known to swallow animals as large as alligators.

Although native to South East Asia, they have become established in Florida’s Everglades National Park – where they have been blamed for a staggering decline of mammals.

To study how these invasive predators migrate and spread, researchers captured 12 snakes and fitted them with GPS radiotransmitters.

Half were released where they were captured, but the other six were transported to other suitable habitats in the Everglades 13-23 miles (21-36 km) away.

Using aircraft to track their movements, the researchers were stunned by how quickly the snakes travelled homeward.

giant snake

The pythons could navigate by the Sun, the stars, or by a magnetic compass

Five of the six returned within 5km of their original capture location – and their movement was faster than the control snakes.

“We were very surprised,” said lead author Shannon Pittman, of Davidson College, North Carolina.

“We anticipated the pythons would develop new home ranges where they were released. We didn’t expect them to orient back to their capture locations.

“This is evidence that Burmese pythons are capable of homing on a scale previously undocumented in any snake species.”

The experiment suggests the snakes have both a map sense (to determine their position in relation to home) and a compass sense (to guide their movement home).

Researchers say the map could be magnetic, like sea turtles, while the compass could be guided by the stars, olfactory (smell) cues, or by polarised sunlight – all of which have been shown to be used by reptiles.

“Other snakes likely do share this ability with pythons. But our understanding is limited by a dearth of research on the subject,” Ms Pittman told BBC News.

Some previous studies found that smaller snakes – sea kraits and garter snakes – can home over short distances, but not large constrictors.

“I’m impressed, but I’m not surprised – this verifies what many of us in the field have been seeing for years,” said Dr Stephen Secor of the University of Alabama, who researches Burmese python physiology.

“Reptiles know where they’re going – it’s not just random. They’re familiar with their home range.

“And I suspect that, if pythons can do this, all snakes can do it – rattlesnakes, vipers, the lot.”

man with python

Dr Stephen Secor says the pythons are actually gentle, docile creatures

Keeping in familiar territory may help snakes to find prey and mates, and the homing sense may allow them to return to their territory after exploratory forays, Ms Pittman said.

“We know that snakes tend to come back to some of the same sites throughout their lives – such as overwintering locations or refuges,” she told BBC News.

Understanding how invasive pythons migrate could help control their spread in Florida, she suggested.

But Dr Secor said the threat to the Everglades had been overstated: “Some people want to sell it as an ecological disaster. It’s really not.

“Burmese pythons can’t ever move beyond the Everglades. It’s too cold. The minute it freezes, it kills them,” he told BBC News.

“They’re actually very docile, gentle snakes. People who don’t like them don’t know a lot about them. They’re pretty amazing animals and we can learn a lot from them.”

And the first lesson we can learn from their homing ability, said Dr Secor, is “don’t pick reptiles up”.

“People see turtles crossing the road and try to move them to safety. But if you take them away, they’re just going to try and come back. You are doing more harm than good.

“Likewise with snakes – people find them in their yard, drive them off and dump them a mile down road. Then, three days later, the snake comes back.

“I hear these stories frequently: ‘It came back! The same snake!’ And I’m always kind of sceptical. Is it really the same snake? Or just another one that looks similar?

“But maybe these people were right all along. The snake really did come back.”

Here’s one big Australian python. The cameraman thought it was dead.



 

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