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Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale – Phys.org

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View of Titanokorys gainesi reconstruction. Credit: Lars Fields, © Royal Ontario Museum

Palaeontologists at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have uncovered the remains of a huge new fossil species belonging to an extinct animal group in half-a-billion-year-old Cambrian rocks from Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The findings were announced on September 8, 2021, in a study published in Royal Society Open Science.

Named Titanokorys gainesi, this new species is remarkable for its size. With an estimated total length of half a meter, Titanokorys was a giant compared to most that lived in the seas at that time, most of which barely reached the size of a pinky finger.

“The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling, this is one of the biggest animals from the Cambrian period ever found,” says Jean-Bernard Caron, ROM’s Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology.

Evolutionarily speaking, Titanokorys belongs to a group of primitive arthropods called radiodonts. The most iconic representative of this group is the streamlined predator Anomalocaris, which may itself have approached a meter in length. Like all radiodonts, Titanokorys had multifaceted eyes, a pineapple slice-shaped, tooth-lined mouth, a pair of spiny claws below its to capture prey and a body with a series of flaps for swimming. Within this group, some species also possessed large, conspicuous head carapaces, with Titanokorys being one of the largest ever known.

Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale
Fossil of Titanokorys gainesi carapace close up. Credit: Jean-Bernard Caron, © Royal Ontario Museum

Titanokorys is part of a subgroup of radiodonts, called hurdiids, characterized by an incredibly long head covered by a three-part carapace that took on myriad shapes. The head is so long relative to the body that these animals are really little more than swimming heads,” added Joe Moysiuk, co-author of the study, and a ROM-based Ph.D. student in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.

Why some radiodonts evolved such a bewildering array of head carapace shapes and sizes is still poorly understood and was likely driven by a variety of factors, but the broad flattened carapace form in Titanokorys suggests this species was adapted to life near the seafloor.

“These enigmatic animals certainly had a big impact on Cambrian seafloor ecosystems. Their limbs at the front looked like multiple stacked rakes and would have been very efficient at bringing anything they captured in their tiny spines towards the mouth. The huge dorsal carapace might have functioned like a plough,” added Dr. Caron, who is also an Associate Professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto, and Moysiuk’s Ph.D. advisor.

Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale
The carapace of Titanokorys gainesi (lower) along with two symmetrical rigid plates (upper) that covered the head from the underside. All together they form a three-part set of armour that protected the head from all sides. The illustration “Titanokorys gainesi, viewed from the front” shows them wrapping around behind the mouth and claws. Credit: Jean-Bernard Caron, © Royal Ontario Museum

All fossils in this study were collected around Marble Canyon in northern Kootenay National Park by successive ROM expeditions. Discovered less than a decade ago, this area has yielded a great variety of Burgess Shale animals dating back to the Cambrian period, including a smaller, more abundant relative of Titanokorys named Cambroraster falcatus in reference to its Millennium Falcon-shaped head carapace. According to the authors, the two species might have competed for similar bottom-dwelling prey.

The Burgess Shale fossil sites are located within Yoho and Kootenay National Parks and are managed by Parks Canada. Parks Canada is proud to work with leading scientific researchers to expand knowledge and understanding of this key period of earth history and to share these sites with the world through award-winning guided hikes. The Burgess Shale was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 due to its outstanding universal value and is now part of the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale
Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, Royal Ontario Museum, seated above a fossil of Titanokorys gainesi at the quarry site located in Kootenay National Park. Credit: Joe Moysiuk, © Joseph Moysiuk

The discovery of Titanokorys gainesi was profiled in the CBC’s The Nature of Things episode “First Animals.” These and other Burgess Shale specimens will be showcased in a new gallery at ROM, the Willner Madge Gallery, Dawn of Life, opening in December 2021.


Explore further

A voracious Cambrian predator, Cambroraster, is a new species from the Burgess Shale


More information:
A giant nektobenthic radiodont from the Burgess Shale and the significance of hurdiid carapace diversity, Royal Society Open Science, royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.210664

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Massive new animal species discovered in half-billion-year-old Burgess Shale (2021, September 8)
retrieved 8 September 2021
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Chinese astronauts return with first mission for space station construction accomplished – CCTV

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— Having worked in the space station core module Tianhe for three months — the longest-ever human space mission in Chinese history, three astronauts of the Shenzhou-12 crew returned to Earth on Friday, hitting a new milestone in China’s space exploration.

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) — Three Chinese astronauts, the first sent to orbit for China’s space station construction, have completed their three-month mission and returned to Earth safely on Friday.

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship, carrying astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 1:34 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The first manned flight during the construction of China’s space station was a complete success, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced.

The return capsule of Shenzhou-12 separated from the spaceship’s orbiting capsule at 12:43 p.m. under the command of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The braking engine of the return capsule then ignited, and the return capsule separated from the propelling capsule.

After the return capsule landed successfully, the ground search team arrived at the landing site. This is the first time that the Dongfeng landing site was used in the search and retrieval of the manned spacecraft. The medical personnel confirmed that the astronauts were in good health, after the hatch of the return capsule was opened.

The trio looked relaxed and waved to the ground crew after they exited the return capsule. Later, they were escorted to a helicopter by the ground crew, according to Xinhua reporters at the scene.

“Welcome back home for the Mid-Autumn Festival,” the people cheered as the country’s space heroes passed by.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional event symbolizing family reunion, falls on Sept. 21 this year.

The three astronauts arrived at Beijing by plane Friday night, but they will not go immediately back home to celebrate the festival with their families. Instead, they will undergo several weeks of quarantine for a comprehensive medical examination and health assessment, according to Xu Wenlong, a research assistant with the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

The professional medical personnel will help the astronauts re-adapt to the gravity and environment on Earth, restore their body functions as soon as possible and improve their immunity, through multiple methods of exercise, diet, massage, physical therapy, and treatment with traditional Chinese medicine, Xu said.

The success of the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceflight mission laid a solid foundation for the continued construction and operation of the country’s space station, the CMSA said.

On June 17, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China and docked with the space station core module Tianhe. After the docking, the three astronauts entered the core module and began their three-month stay in space.

On June 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a video talk from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center with the astronauts, showing his consistent concern and support for the Chinese pursuit of its space dream.

“The construction of the space station is a milestone in China’s space industry, which will make pioneering contributions to the peaceful use of space by humanity,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The Shenzhou-12 crew carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, and tested key technologies for the construction and operation of the space station, concerning long-term stays by astronauts, the recycling and life-support system, the supply of space materials, extravehicular activities (EVAs) and operations, and in-orbit maintenance.

They performed EVAs twice, on July 4 and Aug. 20, respectively.

The first EVAs, performed by Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, took approximately seven hours. The astronauts accomplished tasks including equipment installation and panoramic camera lifting.

Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming carried out EVAs for the second time, installed extravehicular extended pump sets and lifted a panoramic camera in about six hours of EVAs.

The EVAs tested the performance and function of the new-generation homemade extravehicular mobility units and the coordination between the astronauts and the mechanical arm, as well as the reliability and safety of related EVA supporting equipment.

The mechanical arm installed on the core module played an important role in assisting the astronauts with their EVAs.

It is designed to help the astronauts in the assembly, construction, maintenance and repair of the space station, and to support space applications.

China launched its space station core module Tianhe on April 29 and the cargo craft Tianzhou-2 on May 29. The two completed a computer-orchestrated rendezvous and docking on May 30.

The Shenzhou-12 spaceship then formed a three-module complex with the combination of Tianhe and Tianzhou-2 after it was launched.

The Tianzhou-3 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship will also be launched later this year to dock with Tianhe, and another three astronauts will then begin their six-month stay in orbit.

After the five launch missions this year, China plans to have six more missions, including the launch of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules, two cargo spacecraft and two crewed spaceships, in 2022, to complete the construction of the space station.

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SpaceX capsule with world's first all-civilian orbital crew set for splashdown – Financial Post

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The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission were due to splash down in the Atlantic off Florida on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.

To prepare for atmospheric re-entry and return to Earth, the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle completed two rocket “burns” on Friday to lower its altitude and line up the capsule’s trajectory with the targeted landing site.

The Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, is scheduled to parachute into the sea around 7 p.m. Eastern time, shortly before sunset, according to SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk.

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SpaceX supplied the spacecraft, launched it from Florida and flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters.

The Inspiration4 team blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of just over 363 miles (585 km) – higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope, and the farthest any human has flown from Earth since NASA’s Apollo moon program ended in 1972.

It also marked the debut flight of Musk’s new space tourism business and a leap ahead of competitors likewise offering rides on rocket ships to well-heeled customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of spaceflight and earn amateur astronaut wings.

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The Inspiration4 team was led by its wealthy benefactor, Jared Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, who assumed the role of mission “commander.”

He had paid an undisclosed but reportedly enormous sum – put by Time magazine at roughly $200 million – to fellow billionaire Musk for all four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

Isaacman was joined by three less affluent crewmates he had selected – geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, physician’s assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42.

Isaacman conceived of the flight primarily to raise awareness and donations for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arceneaux was a patient and now works.

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The Inspiration4 crew had no part to play in flying the spacecraft, which was operated by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, even though Isaacman and Proctor are both licensed pilots.

SpaceX already ranked as the most well-established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket ventures, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the space station for NASA.

Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin, inaugurated their own astro-tourism services in recent months, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride.

Those suborbital flights, lasting a matter of minutes, were short hops compared with Inspiration4’s three days in orbit. (Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 90 days aboard space station – CBC.ca

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A trio of Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after a 90-day stay aboard their nation’s first space station in China’s longest mission yet.

Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship just after 1:30 p.m. local time after having undocked from the space station Thursday morning.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert where it was met by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began opening the hatch of the capsule, which appeared undamaged.

The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule to allow them time to readjust to Earth’s gravity after three months of living in a weightless environment. The three were due to fly to Beijing on Friday.

“With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe there will even more astronauts who will set new records,” mission commander Nie told CCTV.

After launching on June 17, the three astronauts went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-metre mechanical arm and had a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Chinese astronauts from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming wave at the Dongfeng landing site in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday in this photo released by Xinhua News Agency. (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua/The Associated Press)

While few details have been made public by China’s military, which runs the space program, astronaut trios are expected to be brought on 90-day missions to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

The government has not announced the names of the next set of astronauts nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.

Source of national pride

China has sent 14 astronauts into space since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.

China’s space program has advanced at a measured pace and has largely avoided many of the problems that marked the U.S. and Russian programs that were locked in intense competition during the heady early days of spaceflight.

That has made it a source of enormous national pride, complementing the country’s rise to economic, technological, military and diplomatic prominence in recent years under the firm rule of the Communist Party and current leader Xi Jinping.

WATCH |Chinese astronauts blast off, dock at space station:

Chinese astronauts blast off, dock with space station

3 months ago

China has successfully launched a 3-person crew to its new space station, marking another milestone in the country’s ambitious space program. 0:48

China embarked on its own space station program in the 1990s after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections to the Chinese space program’s secrecy and military backing.

Space probe on Mars

China has simultaneously pushed ahead with uncrewed missions, placing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and, in December, the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

A giant screen shows a news broadcast of the astronauts of the Shenzhou-12 mission inside the core module Tianhe of the Chinese space station on Thursday, before returning to Earth. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

China this year also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, with its accompanying Zhurong rover venturing out to look for evidence of life.

Another program calls for collecting samples from an asteroid, an area in which Japan’s rival space program has made progress of late.

China also plans to dispatch another mission in 2024 to bring back lunar samples and is pursuing a possible crewed mission to the moon and eventually building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.

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