A newly described dinosaur, whose fossils are some of the first to be unearthed in Venezuela, turns out to be the close, relatively small kin of creatures that later evolved into multiton meat eaters such as Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex. The creature, and another dinosaur whose fossils were found nearby and reported just 2 months ago, are filling in gaps in the fossil record and revealing new insights into dinosaur evolution in the wake of a mass extinction that happened about 201 million years ago.
The new species, dubbed Tachiraptor admirabilis, is a predator that gets part of its name from the Venezuelan state of Táchira, where the fossils were found. Only two bones of the ancient species have been unearthed, says Max Langer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Nevertheless, those bits (each from a different individual, and one of them not even a complete bone) tell scientists a lot, Langer notes.
Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have identified a possible source of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that were abruptly released to the atmosphere in large quantities around 14,600 years ago. According to this new interpretation, the CO2 -- released during the onset of the Bølling/Allerød warm period -- presumably had their origin in thawing Arctic permafrost soil and amplified the initial warming through positive feedback. The study now appears online in the journal Nature Communications.
Rocks are not eternal. Even the tallest mountain will eventually dissolve and disintegrate. Geologists call this process "weathering." It sounds harmless enough, but weathering is one of the most destructive forces on the face of the planet.
It's death on an unimaginable scale, when a majority of Earth's species quickly die out. It's called "mass extinction," and it's happened at least five times before. Cataclysms, such as supervolcanoes or asteroids, are thought to cause these events, but some experts believe a manmade mass extinction could be next. Is our planet in trouble? And if so, is there anything we can do to stop the next catastrophic annihilation? Experts are traveling the world, performing groundbreaking scientific detective work to answer these very questions.
The YouTube description on the video above , filmed by extremely-brave volcano photographer Kawika Singson , kind of says it all. You really can’t get a camera any closer to lava than this, unless you stick the camera into it. Which means that...
Working with Baltic amber from the Eocene epoch, researchers have discovered fossilized carnivorous plant traps for the first time ever. These leaves from insect-eating flowering plants are between 35 and 47 million years old, and they likely belong to the same family as a South African flypaper trap plant. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
We've all seen rivers lazily wind back and forth across a landscape - but, surprisingly, there’s nothing random about their path. MinuteEarth explains the formula that determines when a river bends, and when it goes straight. Don't be deceived -...
Every other week or so, a small asteroid impacts Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates – creating a very bright meteor technically known as a “bolide,” though “fireball” works too. These events are apparently random and surprisingly frequent: “It happens all the time,” as NASA puts it.
Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life on the planet, the answers to two key questions have eluded us: Where did Earth's water come from and when? While some hypothesize that water came late to Earth, well after the planet had formed, findings from a new study significantly move back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.
"The answer to one of the basic questions is that our oceans were always here. We didn't get them from a late process, as was previously thought," said Adam Sarafian, the lead author of the paper published Oct. 31, 2014, in the journal Science and a MIT/WHOI Joint Program student in the Geology and Geophysics Department.
One school of thought was that planets originally formed dry, due to the high-energy, high-impact process of planet formation, and that the water came later from sources such as comets or "wet" asteroids, which are largely composed of ices and gases.
"With giant asteroids and meteors colliding, there's a lot of destruction," said Horst Marschall, a geologist at WHOI and coauthor of the paper. "Some people have argued that any water molecules that were present as the planets were forming would have evaporated or been blown off into space, and that surface water as it exists on our planet today, must have come much, much later -- hundreds of millions of years later."
The study's authors turned to another potential source of Earth's water -- carbonaceous chondrites. The most primitive known meteorites, carbonaceous chondrites, were formed in the same swirl of dust, grit, ice and gasses that gave rise to the sun some 4.6 billion years ago, well before the planets were formed. "These primitive meteorites resemble the bulk solar system composition," said WHOI geologist and coauthor Sune Nielsen. "They have quite a lot of water in them, and have been thought of before as candidates for the origin of Earth's water."
In order to determine the source of water in planetary bodies, scientists measure the ratio between the two stable isotopes of hydrogen: deuterium and hydrogen. Different regions of the solar system are characterized by highly variable ratios of these isotopes. The study's authors knew the ratio for carbonaceous chondrites and reasoned that if they could compare that to an object that was known to crystallize while Earth was actively accreting then they could gauge when water appeared on Earth.
To test this hypothesis, the research team, which also includes Francis McCubbin from the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico and Brian Monteleone of WHOI, utilized meteorite samples provided by NASA from the asteroid 4-Vesta. The asteroid 4-Vesta, which formed in the same region of the solar system as Earth, has a surface of basaltic rock -- frozen lava. These basaltic meteorites from 4-Vesta are known as eucrites and carry a unique signature of one of the oldest hydrogen reservoirs in the solar system. Their age -- approximately 14 million years after the solar system formed -- makes them ideal for determining the source of water in the inner solar system at a time when Earth was in its main building phase. The researchers analyzed five different samples at the Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility -- a state-of-the-art national facility housed at WHOI that utilizes secondary ion mass spectrometers. This is the first time hydrogen isotopes have been measured in eucrite meteorites.
Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was adapted for both land and water, and an exhibit featuring a life-sized model, based on new fossils unearthed in eastern Morocco, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on Friday.
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