Plants and ancient art in coronavirus days


This 30 March 2019 video by an employee of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself:

#Rijksmuseumfromhome: Jane about nature’s little jokes

Head of the Print Room Jane Turner has a house in England with a beautiful garden. In the new episode of #Rijksmuseumfromhome 🏠 she shows us the snapdragon plant that grows there. She saw the plant on a print made by draughtsman Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt at the end of the 16th century and was intrigued by the little skulls on the drawing. 💀

Botanical gardens during coronavirus crisis, videos


This 2 April 2020 video says about itself:

Singapore Botanical Garden. The Beauty of the World

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a 161-year-old tropical garden.

It is one of three gardens and the only tropical garden, to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Botanic Gardens has been ranked Asia’s top park attraction since 2013 by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

It was declared the inaugural Garden of the Year, International Garden Tourism Awards in 2012 and received Michelin’s three-star rating in 2008.

This video from England says about itself:

A virtual ‘Wellness Wander’ around Cambridge University Botanic Garden, 19 March 2020

Join us for a virtual weekly walk around Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG).

In this challenging time as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we’re more aware than ever of the power and importance of nature – the sights, smells and sounds as spring unfolds and the garden moves into spring and summer.

We hope you enjoy what will be a series of short, weekly films and that they bring you some uplift and respite.

Sending you best wishes and thank you for watching. CUBG

This 26 March 2020 video from Australia says about itself:

Royal Botanic Gardens to close to contain coronavirus spread

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and Cranbourne will close to the public but conservation work will continue while the gates are shut.

Hyacinths of Keukenhof flower park


This 4 April 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Gardener Owen shows you the most beautiful hyacinths of the park – Keukenhof Virtually Open

Because you cannot visit Keukenhof right now, we decided to bring Keukenhof to you! In the upcoming weeks, we will show you the most beautiful places of the park.

Enjoy our new video where gardener Owen shows you the most beautiful hyacinths of the park! 🌷

Dinosaur age rainforest discovery in Antarctica


This 2016 video says about itself:

Discovery of fossil “voice box” of Antarctic bird suggests dinosaurs couldn’t sing.

Researchers have found the oldest known fossil vocal organ of a bird … in Antarctica. The voice box is from a species related to ducks and geese that lived during the age of dinosaurs more than 66 million years ago.

A National Science Foundation-funded team led by the University of Texas at Austin discovered the ancient vocal organ called a syrinx–and its apparent absence from non-bird dinosaur fossils of the same age. Researchers believe the organ may have originated late in the evolution of birds after the origin of flight. Drawing on their research, team leader Julia Clarke said that other dinosaurs may not have been able to make noises similar to modern bird calls, but most likely made closed-mouth sounds similar to ostrich booms that don’t require a syrinx.

The organ was found in a fossil species called Vegavis iaai. The fossil was discovered in 1992 on Vega Island in the Antarctic Peninsula by a team from the Argentine Antarctic Institute. It was named in 2005 by Clarke and Argentine colleagues. But, it wasn’t until 2013 Clarke discovered the fossil syrinx in the new specimen and began analysis. The international team may figure out what dinosaurs sounded like, gaining insight into the origins of bird song. The findings appear in the October 12 issue of “Nature”.

From Imperial College London in England:

Traces of ancient rainforest in Antarctica point to a warmer prehistoric world

April 1, 2020

Researchers have found evidence of rainforests near the South Pole 90 million years ago, suggesting the climate was exceptionally warm at the time.

A team from the UK and Germany discovered forest soil from the Cretaceous period within 900 km of the South Pole. Their analysis of the preserved roots, pollen and spores shows that the world at that time was a lot warmer than previously thought.

The discovery and analysis were carried out by an international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany and including Imperial College London researchers. Their findings are published today in Nature.

Co-author Professor Tina van de Flierdt, from the Department of Earth Science & Engineering at Imperial, said: “The preservation of this 90-million-year-old forest is exceptional, but even more surprising is the world it reveals. Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected.”

The work also suggests that the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere were higher than expected during the mid-Cretaceous period, 115-80 million years ago, challenging climate models of the period.

The mid-Cretaceous was the heyday of the dinosaurs but was also the warmest period in the past 140 million years, with temperatures in the tropics as high as 35 degrees Celsius and sea level 170 metres higher than today.

However, little was known about the environment south of the Antarctic Circle at this time. Now, researchers have discovered evidence of a temperate rainforest in the region, such as would be found in New Zealand today. This was despite a four-month polar night, meaning for a third of every year there was no life-giving sunlight at all.

The presence of the forest suggests average temperatures were around 12 degrees Celsius and that there was unlikely to be an ice cap at the South Pole at the time.

The evidence for the Antarctic forest comes from a core of sediment drilled into the seabed near the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica. One section of the core, that would have originally been deposited on land, caught the researchers’ attention with its strange colour.

The team CT-scanned the section of the core and discovered a dense network of fossil roots, which was so well preserved that they could make out individual cell structures. The sample also contained countless traces of pollen and spores from plants, including the first remnants of flowering plants ever found at these high Antarctic latitudes.

To reconstruct the environment of this preserved forest, the team assessed the climatic conditions under which the plants’ modern descendants live, as well as analysing temperature and precipitation indicators within the sample.

They found that the annual mean air temperature was around 12 degrees Celsius; roughly two degrees warmer than the mean temperature in Germany today. Average summer temperatures were around 19 degrees Celsius; water temperatures in the rivers and swamps reached up to 20 degrees; and the amount and intensity of rainfall in West Antarctica were similar to those in today’s Wales.

To get these conditions, the researchers conclude that 90 million years ago the Antarctic continent was covered with dense vegetation, there were no land-ice masses on the scale of an ice sheet in the South Pole region, and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was far higher than previously assumed for the Cretaceous.

Lead author Dr Johann Klages, from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, said: “Before our study, the general assumption was that the global carbon dioxide concentration in the Cretaceous was roughly 1000 ppm. But in our model-based experiments, it took concentration levels of 1120 to 1680 ppm to reach the average temperatures back then in the Antarctic.”

Keukenhof flower park tulips, video


This 31 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Managing Director Bart Siemerink about the different types of tulips – Keukenhof virtually open

Because you cannot visit Keukenhof right now, we decided to bring Keukenhof to you! In the upcoming weeks, we will show you the most beautiful places of the park.

In this video, Managing Director Bart Siemerink shows you all the different types of tulips. He also takes you to the tulip where it all started with 400 years ago.

Keukenhof flower park lake garden, video


This 28 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Gardener André takes you to the lake garden – Keukenhof virtually open

Because you cannot visit Keukenhof right now, we decided to bring Keukenhof to you! In the upcoming weeks, we will show you the most beautiful places of the park.

Gardener André takes you to his favorite place in Keukenhof: the lake garden. Everything comes together there: ancient trees, a big lake and beautiful tulips! 🌷

Permian-Triassic mass extinction, new research


This 2017 video says about itself:

Dr. John Geissman gives a talk on the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event & what has been learned about it in South Africa’s Karoo Basin. This was the greatest extinction event, the one sometimes characterized as “When Life Nearly Died”. John provides cutting edge insights into evidence from the Karoo Basin about what is being learned about the “P-T Event”.

From the University of California – Berkeley in the USA:

In Earth’s largest extinction, land animal die-offs began long before marine extinction

New dates for fossils indicate land animal turnover extended for hundreds of thousands of years

March 27, 2020

Summary: Because of poor dates for land fossils laid down before and after the mass extinction at the end of the Permian, paleontologists assumed that the terrestrial extinctions from Gondwana occurred at the same time as the better-documented marine extinctions. But a new study provides more precise dates for South African fossils and points to a long, perhaps 400,000-year period of extinction on land before the rapid marine extinction 252 million years ago.

The mass extinction at the end of the Permian Period 252 million years ago — one of the great turnovers of life on Earth — appears to have played out differently and at different times on land and in the sea, according to newly redated fossils beds from South Africa and Australia.

New ages for fossilized vertebrates that lived just after the demise of the fauna that dominated the late Permian show that the ecosystem changes began hundreds of thousands of years earlier on land than in the sea, eventually resulting in the demise of up to 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species. The later marine extinction, in which nearly 95% of ocean species disappeared, may have occurred over the time span of tens of thousands of years.

Though most scientists believe that a series of volcanic eruptions, occurring in large pulses over a period of a million years in what is now Siberia, were the primary cause of the end-Permian extinction, the lag between the land extinction in the Southern Hemisphere and the marine extinction in the Northern Hemisphere suggests different immediate causes.

“Most people thought that the terrestrial collapse started at the same time as the marine collapse, and that it happened at the same time in the Southern Hemisphere and in the Northern Hemisphere,” said paleobotanist Cindy Looy, University of California, Berkeley, associate professor of integrative biology. “The fact that the big changes were not synchronous in the Northern and Southern hemispheres has a big effect on hypotheses for what caused the extinction. An extinction in the ocean does not, per se, have to have the same cause or mechanism as an extinction that happened on land.”

Members of Looy’s lab have conducted experiments on living plants to determine whether a collapse of Earth’s protective ozone layer may have irradiated and wiped out plant species. Other global changes — a warming climate, a rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and an increase in ocean acidification — also occurred around the end of the Permian period and the beginning of the Triassic and likely contributed.

On land, the end-Permian extinction of vertebrates is best documented in Gondwana, the southern half of the supercontinent known as Pangea that eventually separated into the continents we know today as Antarctica, Africa, South America and Australia. There, in the South African Karoo Basin, populations of large herbivores, or plant eaters, shifted from the Daptocephalus assemblage to the Lystrosaurus assemblage. These groups are now extinct.

In the ocean, the extinction is best documented in the Northern Hemisphere, in particular by Chinese fossils. The end-Permian extinction is perhaps best associated with the demise of trilobites.

To improve on previous dates for the land extinction, an international team of scientists, including Looy, conducted uranium-lead dating of zircon crystals in a well-preserved volcanic ash deposit from the Karoo Basin. Looy, who is also a curator of paleobotany at the campus’s Museum of Paleontology and curator of gymnosperms at the University and Jepson Herbaria, confirmed that sediments from several meters above the dated layer were devoid of Glossopteris pollen, evidence that these seed ferns, which used to dominate late Permian Gondwanan floras, became extinct around that time.

At 252.24 million years old, the zircons — microscopic silicate crystals that form in rising magma inside volcanoes and are spewed into the atmosphere during eruptions — are 300,000 years older than dates obtained for the confirmed Permian-Triassic (P-T) boundary in China. This means that the sediment layer assumed to contain the P-T boundary in South Africa was actually at least 300,000 years too old.

Dates for an ash deposit in Australia, just above the layers that document the initial plant extinction, similarly came in almost 400,000 years older than thought. That work was published in January by Christopher Fielding and colleagues at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

“The Karoo Basin is the poster child for the end-Permian vertebrate turnover, but until recently, it was not well-dated,” Looy said. “Our new zircon date shows that the base of the Lystrosaurus zone predates the marine extinction with several hundred thousand years, similar to the pattern in Australia. This means that both the floral and faunal turnover in Gondwana is out of sync with the Northern Hemisphere marine biotic crisis.

“For some years now, we have known that — in contrast to the marine mass extinction — the pulses of disturbance of life on land continued deep into the Triassic Period. But that the start of the terrestrial turnover happened so long before the marine extinction was a surprise.”

In their paper, Looy and an international team of colleagues concluded “that greater consideration should be given to a more gradual, complex, and nuanced transition of terrestrial ecosystems during the Changhsingian (the last part of the Permian) and, possibly, the early Triassic.”

Looy and colleagues published their findings March 19 in the open-access journal Nature Communications. Her co-authors are Robert Gastaldo of Colby College in Maine; Sandra Kamo of the University of Toronto in Ontario; Johann Neveling of the Council for Geosciences in Pretoria, South Africa; John Geissman of the University of Texas in Dallas and Anna Martini of Amherst College in Massachusetts. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.