Fossil invertebrates, new study


This vido says about itself:

12 January 2017

For 175 years, a cone-shaped, shelled prehistoric creature called a hyolith has been waiting to be assigned a proper place on the tree of life. Thanks to a recent research effort, the hyolith’s wait is over.

From Science News:

Ancient oddball invertebrate finds its place on the tree of life

by Cassie Martin

2:30pm, January 11, 2017

Hyoliths are evolutionary misfits no more.

This class of ancient marine invertebrates has now been firmly pegged as lophophorates, a group whose living members include horseshoe worms and lamp shells, concludes an analysis of more than 1,500 fossils, including preserved soft tissue.

The soft-bodied creatures, encased in conical shells, concealed U-shaped guts and rings of tentacles called lophophores that surrounded their mouths. Fossil analysis suggests that hyoliths used those tentacles and spines, called helens, to trawl the seafloor more than 500 million years ago, researchers report online January 11 in Nature.

For years, paleontologists have argued over where on the tree of life these bottom-feeders belonged. Some scientists thought hyoliths were closely related to mollusks, while others thought the odd-looking creatures deserved a branch all their own. This new insight into hyolith anatomy “settles a long-standing paleontological debate,” the researchers write.

Earliest nightshade plant fossil discovered


This video is called Biology: Morphology of Flowering Plants: Solanaceae.

From Science News:

Tomatillo fossil is oldest nightshade plant

Pocketed berry is millions of years older than earlier estimates

By Meghan Rosen

2:14pm, January 5, 2017

Two tiny tomatillo fossils have kicked the origin of nightshade plants back to the age of dinosaurs.

The fossils, pressed into 52-million-year-old rock, suggest that the nightshade family originated millions of years earlier than scientists had suspected, researchers report in the Jan. 6 Science.

Nightshades include roughly 2,500 species of plants, from tomatoes to eggplants to tobacco. Previous estimates had dated the family to some 30 to 51 million years ago. And scientists had suggested that tomatillos, specifically, arose even more recently, around 10 million years ago.

Paleontologist Peter Wilf and colleagues have nixed that timeline. They uncovered the roughly 2-centimeter-tall fossils from an ancient lake in what is now [Argentinian] Patagonia. Each fossil preserves the delicate, tissue-paper-like sheath that typically covers a tomatillo’s central berry, like a candle inside a paper lantern. In one fossil, evidence of a berry (now turned to coal) still remains.

“This is like an impossible fossil,” says Wilf, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “That you could preserve something this delicate — this little papery structure. It’s unheard of.”

The outer structures may keep tomatillo berries dry — and afloat. “You’ve got an umbrella and a life raft,” Wilf says. And it’s built right in.

The fossils represent a new species of tomatillo, called Physalis infinemundi, Wilf and colleagues at Cornell University and the Paleontological Museum Egidio Feruglio in Patagonia report. Infinemundi is Latin for “at the end of the world.”

Fifty-two million years ago puts these tomatillos deep in the southern hemisphere during the final days of the supercontinent Gondwana, before Antarctica split from Australia and the southern tip of South America.

Creationists and dinosaurs in the USA


This 2008 video from the USA has music from the Flintstones. It is about Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican party candidate for vice president, Donald Trump supporter and creationist, believing that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time.

By Ed Mazza in the USA:

Creationist Ken Ham Gets Into Weirdest Twitter Fight With Washington Post Over Dinosaurs

Ham’s Noah’s Ark Encounter depicts dinosaurs living in cages.

01/02/2017 03:43 am ET

Creationist Ken Ham is steaming mad over a Washington Post article that claims his giant Noah’s Ark attraction teaches tourists that dinosaurs died in the biblical flood.

Ham, who believes the Earth is about 6,000 years old, fired off several additional tweets directed at the Post over the story.

Indeed, the Ark Encounter doesn’t claim all dinos died out during the flood. Rather, it features dinosaurs living in cages like the other animals.

His organization has said most dinosaurs died in the flood, which it claims took place 4,300 years ago.

“Those descended from the ones which got off the Ark eventually succumbed to the same sorts of pressures which cause extinction in animal populations today,” a 2011 blogpost said.

Scientists agree almost universally that dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, although researchers continue to study the specific causes. The American Museum of Natural History in New York notes that a comet or asteroid strike along with “massive volcanic eruptions and changing sea levels” all may have played a role.

2016 scientific discoveries, still unconfirmed


This video from the USA says about itself:

Planet 9 Explained and Explored with Astronomer Konstantin Batygin

27 January 2016

Planet 9 is the biggest astronomical “discovery” of recent memory, and the process of calculating its existence is revealed with astronomer Konstantin Batygin. When speculation of a large body of mass with an usual orbital alignment was detected, astronomers took to computer simulations, mathematical equations and a call to the public to discover the small gassous giant on the fringes of our solar system. Batygin breaks down this hypothesized planet that is estimated to be between 1 to 10 times the mass of the Earth, along with the Kuiper Belt, the discovery of Neptune, and why Dr. Mike Brown deemed Pluto no longer a planet in this episode of Antidote hosted by Michael Parker.

GUEST BIO:

Coined the next “physics rock star” by Forbes, Konstantin Batygin immigrated to the U.S. from Russia at age 13 and currently works as an Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences at Caltech. Batygin landed on the 2015 Forbes list of 30 scientists under 30 who are changing the world with an unprecedented record of publishing 21 papers as first author. He’s discovered planets in other solar systems and solved a centuries-old puzzle: yes, it turns out eventually the planets in the solar system will careen away from the sun. Batygin also plays in a rock band.

From Science News:

These 2016 stories could be really big — if they’re true

Some scientific findings this year made a big splash but require more evidence

By Cassie Martin

10:00am, December 23, 2016

These findings would have rocked the scientific world, if only the evidence had been more convincing.

New Planet 9 clues

A giant planet lurking at the outskirts of the solar system could explain the odd orbits of far-flung hunks of icy debris (SN: 2/20/16, p. 6). If the planet exists, its average distance from the sun would be between 500 and 600 times Earth’s distance (SN: 7/23/16, p. 7).

Signs of ancient life

Mounds of minerals discovered in Greenland appear to have been deposited by clusters of microbes 3.7 billion years ago. If so, these stromatolites represent the oldest fossilized evidence of life on Earth (SN: 10/1/16, p. 7).

Lucy’s big fall

A controversial study claims that Lucy, the most famous fossil in the study of human evolution, died after falling from high up in a tree (SN: 9/17/16, p. 16). The autopsy supports the hypothesis that Australopithecus afarensis split its time between the ground and the trees.

Nucleus with no charge

Researchers have spotted signs of a “tetraneutron,” an atomic nucleus with four neutrons but no protons (SN: 3/5/16, p. 10). If confirmed, this first-of-its-kind nucleus might be explained by a new, interneutron force.

Australopithecus footprints, new discovery in Tanzania


This video says about itself:

28 January 2016

This animated short film recounts the life and work of paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, including her discovery of the Laetoli footprints.

Forty years ago in Laetoli, Tanzania, a team of paleontologists discovered a set of 3.6-million-year-old fossil footprints of early hominids —likely our ancestors. The team was led by Mary Leakey, the pioneering subject of this animated feature. The film covers many highlights of her career and her relationship with her research partner and husband, Louis Leakey. Leakey described the discovery of the Laetoli footprints as one of her most important finds.

From Science News:

New footprint finds suggest range of body sizes for Lucy’s species

Sign of tallest known Australopithecus afarensis individual unearthed in Tanzania

By Bruce Bower

1:04pm, December 16, 2016

Famous footprints of nearly 3.7-million-year-old hominids, found in 1976 at Tanzania’s Laetoli site, now have sizable new neighbors.

While excavating small pits in 2015 to evaluate the impact of a proposed field museum at Laetoli, researchers uncovered comparably ancient hominid footprints about 150 meters from the original discoveries. The new finds reveal a vast range of body sizes for ancient members of the human evolutionary family, reports an international team led by archaeologists Fidelis Masao and Elgidius Ichumbaki, both of the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

A description of the new Laetoli footprints appears online December 14 in eLife.

Scientists exposed 14 hominid footprints, made by two individuals as they walked across wet volcanic ash. More than 500 footprints of ancient horses, rhinos, birds and other animals dotted the area around the hominid tracks. Like previously unearthed tracks of three individuals who apparently strode across the same layer of soft ash at the same time, the latest footprints were probably made by members of Australopithecus afarensis, the team says. Best known for Lucy, a partial skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, A. afarensis inhabited East Africa from around 4 million to 3 million years ago.

All but one of the 14 hominid impressions come from the same individual. Based on footprint dimensions, the researchers estimate that this presumed adult male — nicknamed Chewie in honor of the outsized Star Wars character Chewbacca — stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed nearly 100 pounds. That makes him the tallest known A. afarensis. The team calculates that the remaining hominid footprint was probably made by a 4-foot-9-inch female who weighed roughly 87 pounds. Stature estimates based on the other three Laetoli footprint tracks fall below that of the ancient female.

Lucy lived later than the Laetoli crowd, around 3.2 million years ago, and was about 3 ½ feet tall.

If Laetoli’s five impression-makers were traveling together, “we can suppose that the Laetoli social group was similar to that of modern gorillas, with one large male and a harem of smaller females and perhaps juveniles,” says paleontologist and study coauthor Marco Cherin of the University of Perugia in Italy.

Chewie’s stature challenges a popular assumption that hominid body sizes abruptly increased with the emergence of the Homo genus, probably shortly after A. afarensis died out, Cherin adds.

The new paper presents reasonable stature estimates based on the Laetoli footprints, but “we don’t have a firm idea of how foot size was related to overall body size in Australopithecus,” says evolutionary biologist Kevin Hatala of Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Masao’s group referred to size data from present-day humans to calculate heights and weights of A. afarensis footprint-makers. That approach “could lead to some error,” Hatala says.

Stature estimates based on footprints face other obstacles, says paleoanthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. For instance, some tall individuals have small feet and short folks occasionally have long feet. It’s also unclear whether the new footprints and those from 1976 represent a single group, or if some smaller footprints were also made by males, Haile-Selassie adds. Cherin’s proposal that large A. afarensis males controlled female harems “is a bit of a stretch,” Haile-Selassie says.

The new report doesn’t document surprisingly large size differences among members of Lucy’s kind, Haile-Selassie adds. A. afarensis fossils previously excavated in Ethiopia include a partial male skeleton now estimated by Haile-Selassie and his colleagues to have been only about three inches shorter than Chewie’s reported height (SN: 7/17/10, p. 5).

Medieval brown bear discovery in the Netherlands


This is a 2014 video about brown bears in Alaska.

From Lutra, the Dutch mammal biology magazine, latest issue:

One of the last wild brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Netherlands (Noordwijk)

Abstract:

Early in 2016, bones of a left front leg of a brown bear (Ursus arctos) were found in the dunes between Noordwijk and Zandvoort (Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen – Amsterdam Water Supply Dunes). The stratigraphical composition of the find horizon was identified as the old surface (palaeosoil) of the so-called ‘Oude Duinen’ (Old Dunes).

The find horizon has yielded many shells and malacological research has indicated the former presence of a centuries-old, undisturbed, moist, deciduous forest. This forest was located at the border of Rijnland and Kennemerland, and remained unaffected by man for a long time. Shifting sand has since formed younger dunes on top of older ones. This process started around the year 1000 AD.

The skeletal remains were 14C dated to 1140 ± 30 BP, which calibrates to 880-970 cal AD. This means that the remains are from the late Holocene age and belong to one of the last wild brown bears in the Netherlands, which was one of the largest mammals living in the Netherlands at this time. Zoological data and historical sources indicate that the last brown bear occurred in the Netherlands around the year 1000 AD.

To contextualise the finding we also present an overview of all finds of the brown bear known from the Dutch Holocene.

Tyrannosaur Trix, from the USA to the Netherlands


This October 2016 video is the trailer of a film which will be soon on Dutch TV about how Tyrannosaurus rex Trix was found in Montana in the USA; and went from there to Naturalis museum in Leiden in the Netherlands.

This May 2016 video is about the excavation of Trix.