Little boy corrects museum’s dinosaur mistake


This video from England says about itself:

Boy spots Natural History Museum dinosaur gaffe – BBC News

28 July 2017

The Natural History Museum has admitted one of its dinosaurs was “wrong”, after a 10-year-old boy spotted the error.

Charlie Edwards, from Canvey Island, Essex, noticed an incorrect image on a sign about Oviraptors.

His mother Jade Edwards said that due to his Asperger syndrome, he “will try and find out everything” about a subject when he likes it.

The museum was “very impressed with Charlie’s knowledge,” a spokesman said, and the sign will be corrected.

Extinct bullfinch discovered on Azores island


The newly discovered extinct bullfinch, compared to two related species

From the SINC site in Spain:

New bird that humans drove to extinction discovered in Azores

July 26, 2017

Inside the crater of a volcano on Graciosa Island in the Azores archipelago, in the Atlantic Ocean, an international team of researchers has discovered the bones of a new extinct species of songbird, a bullfinch which they have named Pyrrhula crassa. The remains were found in a small cavity through which time ago the lava flowed. This bird disappeared a few hundreds of years ago due to human colonization of the islands and the introduction of invasive species.

Until hundreds of years ago, a species of bullfinch, a small songbird with a very short and robust beak, lived on Graciosa Island in the Azores archipelago. The arrival of humans to this island, however, depleted its population and it ended up going extinct, as was the case with numerous bird species on other islands, such as the Canaries and Madeira.

Now, an international team of scientists, backed by a project led by Josep Antoni Alcover, from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB), has discovered the bones of this bullfinch, called Pyrrhula crassa, in a cave located in a 12,000-year-old volcano in the southeast of the island.

“It is the first extinct passerine bird described in the archipelago, and it won’t be the last,” states Alcover, co-author of the study published in Zootaxa which focused on the analysis of beak morphology in order to determine the new species.

Despite there being few known remains of this bird, they are sufficiently distinctive for the scientists to have succeeded in establishing that they belong to a new extinct species of bullfinch.

The new bird, being the largest of its genus according to the size of the skull remains found, recalls due to its flying ability the existing bullfinch from the other Azores island (São Miguel) which is ‘vulnerable’ to extinction because of the expansion of agriculture and the disappearance of laurel forests.

“Its short and wide beak was not just considerably bigger, but also relatively higher than that of the common bullfinch or that from São Miguel, with a very robust configuration reminiscent to an extent of the beak of a small parrot,” asserts the researcher.

Invasions wiped out the birds

These islands were colonized during the 13th century by the Portuguese, although they could have been visited by Vikings over one thousand years ago. Just as has happened on many other islands, such as the Canaries or Madeira, different bird species have disappeared throughout the last millennium due to the arrival of humans along with various invasive species.

Human colonization led to the destruction and burning of the islands’ habitats in which humans started settling, and they impacted on the birds which were part of the indigenous fauna. P. crassa was no exception, finding itself affected until its extinction.

The introduction of invasive plant species has depleted and reduced the area of the laurel forests in which this species of bird lived by up to 3% of its original size. According to the scientists, although remains of P. crassa have only been identified in Graciosa so far, it possibly inhabited other islands of the Azores archipelago.

August solar eclipse, more astronomy


This video from the USA says about itself:

August solar eclipse may be most viewed ever

21 June 2017

On Aug. 21, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow that will race across the heartland of America at some 1,500 mph, moving over 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina as the United States experiences its first total eclipse of the sun since 1979 and the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.

More than 200 million people live within a one-day drive of the 70-mile-wide path of totality, officials said Wednesday, which will carry the moon’s shadow across hundreds of towns and cities and 20 national parks where record crowds are expected. Researchers said it may be the most watched, best observed solar eclipse in history.

Passing over Salem, Oregon, around 1:15 p.m. EDT, the moon’s shadow will race across Idaho Falls, Casper, Wyoming, most of Kansas City and parts of St. Louis before passing over Nashville — the largest city directly in the path of totality — and then darkening the sky over Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. The central shadow will move out over the Atlantic Ocean around 2:48 p.m. NASA has posted a variety of maps, animations and videos showing the path of the eclipse, including a zoomable pdf and an interactive map showing when the eclipse begins, reaches maximum and ends for any point in the nation. It also shows the duration of the eclipse for each location in the path of totality.

“This is a really amazing chance to just open the public’s eyes to wonder, and to get people thinking about the most amazing natural phenomenon that happens on the surface of the Earth, a total solar eclipse, and to incorporate that into thinking about what’s going on in our cosmos,” said Angela Des Jardins, a researcher at Montana State University.

Balloons will broadcast the 2017 solar eclipse live from on high. Astrophysicist Angela Des Jardins wants to show the world in first-of-its-kind livestream. By Lisa Grossman, 1:30pm, July 26, 2017.

Half of the Milky Way comes from other galaxies. Simulations suggest that galactic winds blew the material in from elsewhere. By Ashley Yeager, 9:00pm, July 26, 2017.

Big Triassic fossil fish discovered in Nevada, USA


Possible look of the newly discovered predatory fish species Birgeria americana with the fossil of the skull shown at bottom right. Artwork: Nadine Bösch

From the University of Zurich in Switzerland:

Large-mouthed fish was top predator after mass extinction

July 26, 2017

Summary: The food chains recovered more rapidly than previously assumed after Earth’s most devastating mass extinction event about 252 million years ago as demonstrated by the fossilized skull of a large predatory fish called Birgeria americana discovered by paleontologists from the University of Zurich in the desert of Nevada.

The most catastrophic mass extinction on Earth took place about 252 million years ago — at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geological periods. Up to 90 percent of the marine species of that time were annihilated. Worldwide biodiversity then recovered in several phases throughout a period of about five million years. Until now, paleontologists have assumed that the first predators at the top of the food chain did not appear until the Middle Triassic epoch about 247 to 235 million years ago.

Unexpected find of a large predatory fish

Swiss and U.S. American researchers led by the Paleontological Institute and Museum of the University of Zurich have discovered the fossil remains of one of the earliest large-sized predatory fishes of the Triassic period: an approximately 1.8-meter-long primitive bony fish with long jaws and sharp teeth. This fish belongs to a previously unknown species called Birgeria americana. This predator occupied the sea that once covered present-day Nevada and the surrounding states already one million years after the mass extinction.

Triassic “Jaws

In the United States, almost no vertebrate fossils from the Early Triassic epoch (252 to 247 million years ago) have been scientifically described until now. “The surprising find from Elko County in northeastern Nevada is one of the most completely preserved vertebrate remains from this time period ever discovered in the United States,” emphasizes Carlo Romano, lead author of the study. The fossil in question is a 26-centimeter-long partial skull of a fierce predator, as evidenced by three parallel rows of sharp teeth up to 2 centimeters long along the jaw margins, as well as several smaller teeth inside the mouth.

Birgeria hunted similarly to the extant great white shark: the prey fish were pursued and bitten, then swallowed whole. Species of Birgeria existed worldwide. The most recent discovery is the earliest example of a large-sized Birgeria species, about one and a half times longer than geologically older relatives.

Predators appeared earlier than assumed

According to earlier studies, marine food chains were shortened after the mass extinction event and recovered only slowly and stepwise. In addition, researchers assumed that the ancient equatorial regions were too hot for vertebrates to live during the Early Triassic. Finds such as the newly discovered Birgeria species and the fossils of other vertebrates now show that so-called apex predators (animals at the very top of the food chain) already lived early after the mass extinction. The existence of bony fish close to the equator — where Nevada was located during the Early Triassic — indicates that the temperature of the sea was a maximum of 36°C. The eggs of today’s bony fish can no longer develop normally at constant temperatures above 36°C.

“The vertebrates from Nevada show that previous interpretations of past biotic crises and associated global changes were too simplistic,” Carlo Romano says. Despite the severity of the extinctions of that time and intense climatic changes, the food webs were able to redevelop faster than previously assumed.

New lantern shark species discovery


This video says about itself:

23 December 2015

In the Pacific Ocean, near the coasts of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, scientists discovered a new species of shark: Ninja Lanternshark. The species was named Etmopterus benchleyi, in honor of Peter Benchley, author of Jaws. Etmopterus benchleyi is a small shark, growing up to 50 cm, and lives at depths ranging between 836 and 1443 meters. In the darks of the ocean, Etmopterus benchleyi emits a faint glow.

And now, a relative of this small luminescent shark has been found.

From Florida Atlantic University in the USA:

New shark species glows in the dark, weighs about 2 pounds and has a huge nose

July 25, 2017

Summary: Just as “Shark Week” is gearing up, researchers have discovered a new species of shark 17 years in the making. Like finding a needle in a haystack, it was well worth the wait as this elusive creature is yet to be seen in the wild.

Like finding a needle in a haystack, a team of scientists has discovered a new species of shark measuring less than a foot long and weighing under 2 pounds full-grown. This miniature, “glow-in-the-dark” shark is a member of the Lanternshark family (Squaliformes: Etmopteridae), which was serendipitously found 1,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It has taken more than 17 years to identify this new species (Etmopterus lailae) since it was first discovered but was well worth the wait as this elusive creature is yet to be seen in the wild.

It often takes many years to identify a new species from the time it is discovered to the moment the news is shared with the scientific community. Results of the discovery of Etmopterus lailae were published in the journal Zootaxa. Stephen M. Kajiura, Ph.D., study co-author, a professor of biological sciences and director of the Elasmobranch Research Laboratory in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University, is among the team of scientists who painstakingly worked on this project, which began while he was still in graduate school at the University of Hawaii.

“There are only about 450 known species of sharks worldwide and you don’t come across a new species all that often,” said Kajiura. “A large part of biodiversity is still unknown, so for us to stumble upon a tiny, new species of shark in a gigantic ocean is really thrilling. This species is very understudied because of its size and the fact that it lives in very deep water. They are not easily visible or accessible like so many other sharks.”

At first, Kajiura and his collaborators did not realize that they had discovered a new species until they submitted their research findings to a journal. The reviewer told them that the shark was not what they originally thought it was and that it might be a new species. Kajiura worked with David A. Ebert, Ph.D., study author, a taxonomist and program director of the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, to identify this new species, now housed in the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Hawaii.

Identifying the Etmopterus lailae required an extensive list of measurements, diligent categorization and thorough comparisons with other museum specimens.

“The unique features and characteristics of this new species really sets it apart from the other Lanternsharks,” said Kajiura. “For one thing, it has a strange head shape and an unusually large and bulgy snout where its nostrils and olfactory organs are located. These creatures are living in a deep sea environment with almost no light so they need to have a big sniffer to find food.”

Some of the other distinctive characteristics of this new species are its flank markings that go forward and backward on their bellies, a naked patch without scales on the underside of its snout, as well as internal differences such as the number of vertebrae they have as well as fewer teeth than the other sharks. Like other Lanternsharks, the Etmopterus lailae is bioluminescent and the flanks on the bottom of its belly glow in the dark. These markings on its belly and tail also were specific to this new species.

There are a number of hypotheses for why Lanternsharks glow in the dark including mate recognition to ensure they are mating with the right species, serving as a form of camouflage to protect them from predators in the deep sea and using bioluminescence to act as a lure to attract little fish or shrimp.

“The research team’s discovery of a new shark species is evidence of how much is still undiscovered in our world,” said Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “This new species is the tip of the iceberg for what else might be out there and the great potential for all of the yet-to-be undescribed species that still need to be explored.”

The team of scientists also include Yannis P. Papastamatiou, Ph.D., Florida International University and Bradley M. Wetherbee, Ph.D., University of Rhode Island.

In 2000, Kajiura and Wetherbee discovered the Trigonognathus kabeyai or the Viper Dogfish in Hawaii, which also is part of the Lanternshark family. The Viper Dogfish’s distinctive feature is its snake-like mouth filled with crooked nail-like teeth that sets them apart from other Lanternsharks.

Astronomical update


This video says about itself:

Jill Tarter: Why the search for alien intelligence matters

20 February 2009

The SETI Institute‘s Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of intelligence elsewhere in the universe.

‘Making Contact’ chronicles an astronomer’s struggle to find E.T. For decades, Jill Tarter led the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence. By Emily Conover, 4:33pm, July 24, 2017.

Fewer big rogue planets roam the galaxy, recount shows. New estimate of wandering Jupiter-mass worlds better matches ideas of how planets become orphans. By Ashley Yeager, 11:00am, July 24, 2017.