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Mammal relative learned to hibernate before Age of Dinosaurs – CBC.ca

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The tusks of a stoutly built plant-eating mammal relative that inhabited Antarctica 250 million years ago are providing the oldest-known evidence that animals resorted to hibernation-like states to get through lean times such as polar winters.

The research published on Thursday focused on a four-legged forager called Lystrosaurus whose fossils have been found in China, Russia, India, South Africa and Antarctica. It was an early member of the evolutionary lineage that later gave rise to mammals.

The findings indicated that Lystrosaurus entered a state of torpor — a temporary reduction in metabolic activity — to cope with the long, perpetually dark winters in the Antarctic Circle when food was scarce, although Earth then was much warmer than today and the region was not ice-bound.

The findings also suggested Lystrosaurus, which may have had hair, was warm-blooded.

Hibernation is a form of torpor found in warm-blooded animals like certain bears, rodents, echidnas, hedgehogs and badgers.

Tusk ‘tree-rings’

Lystrosaurus, ranging from roughly the size of a pig to the size of a cow, possessed a turtle-like beak and lacked teeth except for a pair of ever-growing tusks protruding from its face useful for digging up tasty roots and tubers. These tusks had incremental growth marks visible in the form of dentine — the hard tissue that forms the bulk of a tooth — deposited in concentric circles like tree rings.

The tusks of Antarctic Lystrosauruses bore closely spaced, thick rings suggestive of periods of less deposition during a hibernation-like state. (Megan Whitney/Christian Sidor/Handout via REUTERS)

The researchers examined tusk cross-sections from six Lystrosaurus individuals from Antarctica and four from South Africa, away from the polar conditions. The Antarctic tusks bore closely spaced, thick rings suggestive of periods of less deposition during a hibernation-like state.

“Torpor is an incredibly common physiological phenomenon in animals today,” said Harvard University paleontologist Megan Whitney, lead author of the research published in the journal Communications Biology.

“We expect that torpor has been a commonly employed adaptation for a very long time,” said Whitney, who worked on the research while at the University of Washington. “However, this is difficult to test in the fossil record, especially deep in time hundreds of millions of years ago.”

Such resilience may help explain why Lystrosaurus, which predated dinosaurs by millions of years, survived the worst mass extinction in Earth’s history 252 million years ago, as the Permian Period ended and the Triassic Period began.

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NASA Astronaut Will Vote From Space – KCCU

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On Election Day, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will be more than 200 miles above her nearest polling place. But she’s still planning to vote — from space.

“It’s critical to participate in our democracy,” Rubins told the Associated Press. “We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space.”

Rubins, who has a Ph.D. in cancer biology from Stanford and was the first person to sequence DNA in space, is currently training for her upcoming six-month mission on the International Space Station.

Voting from the space station is similar to voting absentee from anyplace on the planet — except instead of relying on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the ballot, Rubins will get hers forwarded electronically from Mission Control in Houston.

“Using a set of unique credentials sent to each of them by e-mail, astronauts can access their ballots, cast their votes, and downlink them back down to Earth,” the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum explained in 2018.

The ballot is then sent to the county clerk for tabulation.

American astronauts have been able to cast ballots from above for over two decades now, ever since a Texas lawmaker learned that astronaut John Blaha couldn’t vote in the 1996 presidential race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. At the time, Blaha was serving on Russia’s Mir Space Station, a predecessor to the ISS.

“He expressed a little bit disappointment in not being able to do that,” Republican State Senator Mike Jackson told NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce in 2008.

Voting from space had never really been an issue before then, because NASA astronauts typically spent no more than about two weeks on shuttle missions. But with the advent of the space station, Americans were sometimes on missions for months at a time.

So a new law was born. “I can attest to how important one person’s vote is because my first election I won by seven votes out of over 26,000,” Jackson said.

Texas lawmakers approved the measure in 1997, and then-Gov. George W. Bush signed it into law. That same year, astronaut David Wolf became the first American to “vote while you float,” as NASA cheekily put it.

“I voted alone up in space, very alone, the only English speaker up there, and it was nice to have an English ballot, something from America,” Wolf told The Atlantic in 2016. “It made me feel closer to the Earth and like the people of Earth actually cared about me up there.”

Most NASA astronauts live in Houston, so since that Texas law was passed, several astronauts have been able to cast ballots from above. This isn’t even the first time Rubins has exercised her orbital privilege; she also voted in the 2016 presidential election from the space station — listing her address as “low-Earth orbit.”

“I think it’s really important for everybody to vote,” Rubins said. “If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Estee Lauder Pays NASA $128000 for Photo Shoot in Space – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Estee Lauder Cos. is sending its newest skincare formula into space, and it’ll cost only about as much as paying a big influencer for a few Instagram posts.

The U.S. cosmetics giant is spending $128,000 for NASA to fly 10 bottles of its skin serum to the International Space Station. Once there, astronauts will take pictures of Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair in the cupola control tower, which has panoramic views of the cosmos. The images will be used on social media, with the company planning to auction one bottle off for charity when the items return to Earth this spring.

The global recession, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, has pushed brands to get more creative with their advertising because consumers are cutting back. Within beauty, several companies are spending less on traditional ads, while looking for new ways to break through the glut of content out there. In a press release, Estee Lauder highlighted it being the “first beauty brand to go into space” as a means to tout its “skincare innovation.”

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket that will transport the skin serum as part of a supply run is scheduled to launch on Tuesday night from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Cygnus cargo craft will then dock on the space station early Saturday.

Estee Lauder’s push into micro-gravity is part of NASA’s effort to commercialize low-earth orbit and make it a domain where private enterprise eventually does business as routinely as the government conducts spacewalks. Companies from Goodyear Tire & Rubber to Merck & Co have used space for research, and NASA is hoping to expand its use, including private citizens visiting the space station.

“We need to expand people’s perspective on what we can accomplish in space,” said Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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A dazzling full 'harvest moon' is set to illuminate Vancouver skies next week – North Shore News

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While the weekend forecast calls for rain, Vancouver skies are expected to clear next week, which is just in time for the glorious full Harvest moon. 

Earlier this month, locals were treated to a full corn moon. Last year, September’s full moon was a full ‘harvest moon,’ which takes place in two years out of three. However, since October’s full moon falls closest to the fall equinox this year, it will carry the harvest title. 

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According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “this full Moon name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked the time when corn was supposed to be harvested.”

The Harvest Moon gets was given its name because farmers needed its silvery light to harvest crops. It has since inspired a rather dreamy, beautiful song by Canadian icon Neil Young, too.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac also notes that Native peoples would give distinctive names to each reoccurring full moon to mark the change of seasons. As such, many of these names arose when Native Americans first interacted with colonialists. 

The October moon will be at its fullest in Vancouver on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 2:05 p.m. 

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

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