WASHINGTON – An exquisite fossil of a fierce little Chinese dinosaur dubbed the “dancing dragon” that lived 120 million years ago — an older cousin of the Velociraptor — is showing scientists that feathers grew differently on dinosaurs than on birds.
The two-legged Cretaceous Period dinosaur, called Wulong bohaiensis, was a bantamweight meat-eater — a bit bigger than a crow — residing in a lakeside environment, researchers said. It possessed a scaly face, a mouth full of pointy teeth and one particularly dangerous toe claw, and probably hunted small mammals, lizards, birds and fish.
Wulong’s fossil, unearthed in Liaoning Province in northeastern China, includes a complete skeleton as well as soft tissues like feathers rarely preserved in such detail. Its long arms and legs each had sets of feathers that looked similar to those on bird wings, while most of the rest of its body was covered by fluffy filaments.
At the end of its long, bony tail — fused into a stiff rod — were two very long feathers.
“The specimen of Wulong is a gorgeous fossil. With the feathers and claws, I think it would have been beautiful and just a little bit scary. I’d love to see one alive,” said San Diego Natural History Museum paleontologist Ashley Poust, who led the research, published in the Anatomical Record journal.
“I don’t think we know yet how it used its feathers,” Poust said. “It seems likely that they helped with temperature regulation and signaling to other animals, but what this would have looked like and how much these functions mattered remains unclear.”
Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs roughly 150 million years ago. But there were many feathered dinosaurs that did not fly, like Wulong. Scientists are eager to understand the plumage differences between birds and these feathered dinosaurs.
A close examination of bones showed this Wulong individual was about a year old, a juvenile still growing.
“Living birds shoot up to adult size very quickly, mainly as a way of getting strong enough to fly as soon as they can. But they may delay getting their adult feathers for a long time. Gulls, for example, don’t look like adults for three or four years even though they learn to fly in only three months,” Poust said.
The young Wulong appeared to have an adult’s plumage.
“Here is an animal that has all kinds of signals of being a juvenile, outside its bones, inside its bones, in its joints,” Poust said. “And it has long, isolated plumes extending from its already-very-long tail. This is quite different from living birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs. Of course, perhaps they’re using these feathers in a very different way from living birds, too.”
Wulong means “dancing dragon,” so named because of its fossilized skeleton’s active-looking pose. It belongs to a group of meat-eaters called dromaeosaurs, which also includes Velociraptor. That dinosaur lived 75 million years ago in Mongolia and appears in the “Jurassic Park” films.
Bright meteor over southern Ontario traced back to the asteroid belt
At just before 9 p.m., on the night of Tuesday, January 21, 2020, southern Ontario had an unexpected visitor – a hunk of rock from space that blazed through the sky as a meteor fireball.
The meteor, which flashed overhead just to the north of Goderich, ON, was spotted from hundreds of kilometres around. The American Meteor Society received over 30 reports from various locations around southern Ontario and southern Michigan, and as far away as Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Rochester, New York, and Columbus, Ohio.
This map shows the concentration of reports for this meteor fireball, as well as the likely start, end and trajectory of its passage through the atmosphere. Credit: American Meteor Society
According to Dr. Peter Brown, from the University of Western Ontario’s Meteor Group, the meteoroid that caused this fireball was likely the size of a softball, so perhaps 10 centimetres wide, with a mass of up to 10 kilograms, and it was travelling at around 15 kilometres per second (54,000 km/h).
Yet another capture of the Kintail fireball, this time with an experimental meteor camera system near Tavistock, ON based on https://t.co/JMV1A8Nciu @westernu @IMOmeteors @amsmeteors #fireball #toomanymeteorcameras https://t.co/ZVtQ3aOqd0
As Brown posted to Twitter, the fireball flared to life roughly 80 kilometres above the ground, starting about 50 kilometres east of Goderich, and it winked out around 30 kilometres above the ground, somewhere over the waters of Lake Huron, west of Kintail.
From the path it took during its steep plunge through the atmosphere, Brown was able to trace the meteoroid back to its origin in the asteroid belt, beyond Mars.
Kintail fireball orbit from last night place origins firmly from the asteroid belt. The initial mass was somewhere between a few to ten kilograms – softball sized. Not quite as bright as the full moon. @WesternU @amsmeteors 3/3
Given the speed of this meteoroid and the height where the fireball ended, Brown said that small meteorites may have landed from this event. Unfortunately, since the end point of the fireball was over the water, any meteorites that did reach the surface are now likely lying at the bottom of Lake Huron.
Meteors are flashes of light, resulting from the passage of some object from space – a meteoroid – travelling at high speed through the atmosphere. As the meteoroid – whether it’s a speck of dust, an ice crystal or a chunk of rock or iron – flies through the air, it compresses the air molecules directly in its path, causing them to heat up until they glow.
Any meteor flash that is intense enough to rival the brightness of Venus is typically called a fireball. If the fireball includes a sudden, intense flash due to the meteoroid breaking apart, it is often called a bolide.
Although most meteor cameras simply capture in black and white, two cameras that caught the Kintail meteor managed to pick up colours as the meteor flashed overhead.
The Kintail meteor fireball, captured by an all-sky meteor camera at Elginfield Observatory, to the southeast of the meteor’s trajectory, on January 21, 2020. North is roughly towards the top of the image. Credit: Western Meteor Group
As shown above, the meteor camera at Elginfield Observatory caught the meteor flashing from red to white to blue and back to red.
According to Brown, it is possible to tell something about the composition of a meteoroid based on the colour of the meteor flash it produces. However, the meteor colour can also be influenced by the flow of air around the meteoroid, the speed at which it was travelling, and even how the meteoroid broke apart. So, without actually recovering pieces of it, or having a detailed spectrum from the light to examine, there’s no telling exactly what is causing the colours.
Did you see this fireball? Submit a report to the American Meteor Society.
Former Shuswap residents head to Mars habitat for brain research – Keremeos Review
When Olav Krigolson was five years old, he told his mom he was going to be an astronaut.
Turns out, he wasn’t too far off.
In December, Krigolson and Kent Hecker, who both grew up in Salmon Arm, took part in a unique trip to ‘outer space’ to measure how fatigue affects the brain function of astronauts. The men were part of a five-member Canadian research team taking part in a project on a Mars simulation on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The site is called the HI-SEAS or Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation and is used by space agencies.
There they donned bulky spacesuits and lived in the Hab, or Mars habitat, a golf ball-like dome, for eight days, collecting data, eating freeze-dried food and, at times during their 16-hour days, venturing outside on exploratory trips of lava flows.
“So if you’d told us both in high school we’d get PhDs in neuroscience and be going to Mars together, we would have fallen over laughing,” remarked Krigolson.
“It was awesome,” enthused Hecker. “We got to put on space suits and explore lava caves. We reverted back to being kids again.”
The purpose of the mission, which was spearheaded by Krigolson, was actually a proof of concept or test run of brain-testing software that is both mobile and fast, as opposed to a typical EEG (electroencephalogram).
It uses the commercially available Muse EEG headband which evaluates electrical activity in the brain.
Then, via software developed by Krigolson’s lab at the University of Victoria, brain waves are translated into scores measuring characteristics such as fatigue.
To do that, the researchers would play simple games on an iPad three times per day to test their brain function.
Although both men have PhDs in neuroscience, Krigolson says he’s really a mathematician.
“I wrote the algorithm that takes the brain wave data and gives you fatigue scores,” he explained.
Accompanying them were PhD students Chad Williams and Tom Ferguson, as well as Gord Binsted, Dean of the Health and Social Development Faculty at UBCO in Kelowna, who was instrumental in the mission.
Binsted’s sister Kim is a professor at the University of Hawaii and runs the Mars simulation for NASA.
One highlight came about when the heating in the Hab broke down.
In order to empty the dome to facilitate the repair, the researchers were told a solar flare had occurred and they would have to go down into a lava tube to escape the radiation.
One of the students mentioned he had Star Wars, the movie, on his laptop, so there they were, in a lava tube, watching Star Wars.
“Now that, I believe, is a fairly unique experience,” said Krigolson.
Hecker graduated from SAS in 1987, Krigolson a year later. Although they were friends as youngsters and both played basketball in high school, they lost touch until about eight years ago.
Hecker, whose father Ken was a principal and basketball coach in the school district, played basketball for five years for the University of Lethbridge and is now a professor at the University of Calgary.
“He was always a jock and remains a jock,” smiles Ken.
Kent works in veterinary medicine and human medicine research, with a focus on high stress on brain functions, similar to the astronaut testing.
While going through scholarly papers connected to his work, he saw Krigolson’s name.
He contacted him and they reconnected, having now worked together on many projects.
“Very rarely do you get to do something so exciting and so cool,” said Hecker.
Their hope is that the mobile EEG and its software will be used on a longer simulated mission with real astronauts, and then eventually in space.
So far so good, judging by Day 7 from a blog Krigolson created for the mission.
“I have reviewed our findings multiple times now and all I can say is we can do it — we can accurately track brain health and performance. In this case, as we have shown here — we can track changes in cognitive fatigue with precisions,” he wrote.
“The possibilities are endless — imagine testing doctors before they operate, pilots before they fly, even businessmen before they make crucial decisions. We can do this now — the science is solid and clear.”
It’s already being used to assess concussions in sports. A new project at Krigolson’s UVIC lab is looking at Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Both men express how thrilled they are at having taken part in the project.
Krigolson sums it up like this: “I won’t lie. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of, ever.”
Adds Hecker: “It’s incredible that two kids from Salmon Arm got to do this.”
Fireball recorded in Huron County – BlackburnNews.com
Fireball recorded in Huron County
January 23, 2020 3:31pm
Video cameras from Western University captured a fireball in Huron County Thursday night.
UWO Meteor Scientist Peter Brown tweeted several images and videos of the fireball.
He reported that the fireball started near Brussels and ended just offshore over Lake Huron near Kintail.
He said a low velocity and an end height of 33 kilometres suggests small meteorites may have landed, likely in Lake Huron.
Yet another capture of the Kintail fireball, this time with an experimental meteor camera system near Tavistock, ON based on https://t.co/JMV1A8Nciu @westernu @IMOmeteors @amsmeteors #fireball #toomanymeteorcameras pic.twitter.com/ZVtQ3aOqd0
— Peter Brown (@pgbrown) January 23, 2020
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