(CNN) — Shrimplike creatures, an extinct dinosaur called the “hell heron” and colorful beetles are among the 552 new species described this year by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London.
The researchers were largely restricted from traveling to international field sites or visiting other museum collections due to the pandemic, but they persevered to reveal a wealth of species new to science, both living and extinct. The museum, which holds 80 million specimens in its collections, has a staff of 300 scientists.
Dinosaur discoveries included giant carnivorous predators called spinosaurs, armed with crocodile-like skulls that helped them hunt down prey in the water as well as on land on the Isle of Wight 125 million years ago.
The first of the two spinosaurids was named Ceratosuchops inferodios, which means “horned crocodile-faced hell heron.” In life, the dinosaur sported horns and bumps across its brow region. The spinosaurid also likely hunted in a way similar to herons, which can catch prey in the water as well as on land.
The second spinosaurid is Riparovenator milnerae, or “Milner’s riverbank hunter.” Both predators likely reached about 29.5 feet (9 meters) in length and had skulls measuring 3.2 feet (1 meter) long. Spinosaurid fossils have been uncovered around the world, but they may have evolved in Europe before migrating to other areas.
A decades-old fossil from the Isle of Wight, often called the United Kingdom’s dinosaur capital, also led to the discovery of Brighstoneus simmondsi, an iguanodontian with an unusual snout.
Fossils finds elsewhere revealed the earliest ankylosaur from Africa, a Chinese sauropod and the oldest carnivorous dinosaur to be found in the UK.
“It’s been a fantastic year for the description of new dinosaurs, especially from the UK,” said Susannah Maidment, a senior researcher in paleobiology at the Natural History Museum, in a release.
“These specimens are parts of a vast palaeobiological jigsaw puzzle that allows us to understand environments of the past and how they changed over time.”
Other ancient creature discoveries in 2021 included spiders trapped in amber, a plant-eating crocodile relative and a “Jurassic mouse” that once ran between the feet of dinosaurs 166 million years ago in what is now Scotland.
All creatures great and small
Earth is home to a vast array of small shrimplike crustaceans called copepods. They are found across the globe, from mountain lakes to ocean trenches, and scientists discovered 291 new species of copepods in 2021.
While these creatures are tiny, they are a vital source of food for fish and krill and critical to Earth’s carbon cycle and ecology. A collection spanning six decades, created by French marine zoologist Françoise Monniot and her late husband, marine biologist Claude Monniot, provided the basis for the perfect pandemic project.
“Copepods are not only free-living but many are parasites, and they can be found living in virtually every other major animal group,” said Geoff Boxshall, merit researcher in the museum’s department of life sciences, in a statement. “Completing the series of papers became my lockdown project when I was unable to enter the Museum.”
In addition to wasps, moths, crabs and flies, researchers also found 90 new species of beetles, including shiny purple and green ones from India and a large-jawed species from the Philippines.
And scientists finally solved the mystery of a bush cricket from Southeast Asia. They first heard its unusual, beautiful song in 1990, but didn’t connect the two until now.
There are five new species of plants from eastern Africa, called jewelweeds or touch-me-nots. These plants typically have pink or white blossoms, but some have begun to produce red flowers to make themselves more visible to birds.
The scientists also determined 10 new reptiles and amphibians, including a snake called Joseph’s racer. A 185-year-old painting helped researchers describe the species.
Unfortunately, some of the species discovered are also likely extinct, highlighting the importance of recognizing and understanding every creature on our planet.
How to Take Care of Air Plants – Lifehacker
Despite the classic excuse of not having a “green thumb,” keeping a houseplant alive has more to do with the ability to make and remember to stick to a schedule than being born without a pretend gene that makes you good at gardening. (And if you have a literal green thumb, you may want to have a medical profession look at it.)
But some houseplants are definitely easier to care for than others, and people who travel a lot, or find it difficult to remember to water their plants may want to opt for varieties that are more self-sufficient. And when it comes to being low maintenance, it’s hard to beat air plants. Still, they’re not completely hands-off and do require some occasional care. Here’s what to know.
What is an air plant?
Officially called Tillandsias, there are more than 600 types of air plants. And while they’re native to the southern parts to the United States and through Central and South America, it’s possible to grow air plants indoors in any climate. And yes, they got their name because they don’t need soil to grow.
Air plants are epiphytes, “which means they use their roots to cling onto supports such as tree branches and rocks, similar to the way orchids grow,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac. “Instead of soaking up water and nutrients through their roots, they use trichomes, special scale-like structures on their leaves, to do the job.”
How to take care of an air plant
First of all, never plant an air plant in soil, or put one in a terrarium. Instead, pop them into a cup or bowl or vase, and place them somewhere that gets between four and six hours of filtered natural light each day. Also, make sure the temperature is between the 50s and 90s (which shouldn’t be difficult indoors).
Air plants need to be soaked—not watered in the traditional sense—once every two weeks. To do this, take the plant out of its usual home and submerge it in a bowl of either rainwater or bottled drinking water (softened and/or tap water contains minerals that can harm the air plants) for about an hour.
After its bath, shake the plant out to remove as much of the water as possible (so it doesn’t rot when it goes back into its usual pot or vase). If an air plant’s leaves start turning brown, it means that it needs to be watered more frequently. And if any of the leaves die completely, cut them off with a pair of sharp scissors.
Roberta Bondar flew into space 30 years ago and never saw Earth the same after that – CBC.ca
It’s been 30 years since Roberta Bondar was strapped into a five-point harness on the space shuttle Discovery and blasted into fame as Canada’s first female astronaut.
But first, she left a tearful farewell recording for her mom, in case of disaster. It was the first time a Canadian had been part of a shuttle launch since the devastating Challenger explosion that killed seven crew members six years earlier.
“For me, being the first was not about breaking records. It was the idea that there was somebody who represented strength and valour and bravery,” Bondar, 76, told Piya Chattopadhyay of CBC Radio’s The Sunday Magazine.
Bondar joked that people saw her as either “brave or out of her mind.”
There are a few things people may not know about Bondar. Her name is pronounced BOND-ur, not bond-ARE.
In space, she played renditions of O Canada as she drifted above planet Earth. And what she saw as she was tossed like a slow-motion dice changed her.
“In space tumbling around and being at all angles … develop[s] a different perspective,” said Bondar, who now lives in Toronto.
“I like reflecting back to it in the moments when I have some peaceful time, especially out in the natural world. I think about being away from the planet and how much the planet meant to me.”
Blazing trails in space
Bondar dreamed of space travel since grade school. She defied her high school guidance counsellor — who dissuaded her from pursuing science saying it wasn’t a subject for girls — and a lot of odds to eventually earn a spot on the U.S. space shuttle Discovery’s flight that blasted off on Jan. 22, 1992.
“No one had done any of this. I was really on the tip of the prow of a ship plowing through heavy seas. There were no role models for me in Canada,” said Bondar.
Now, decades later, there are schools in Bondar’s name and a Canadian postage stamp with her face.
“Being the first Canadian woman was a big thing because it supposedly was going to show the diversity of the space program, which is — I don’t want to choke over it — but I’m not sure that we have that, still,” said Bondar.
Bondar inspired would-be female astronaut candidates like Alberta’s Shawna Pandya. She said she’s been fascinated by the night sky and space travel since childhood. Pandya followed in Bondar’s footsteps, getting a degree in neuroscience and studying medicine before attending the International Space University in France.
“I remember being obsessed with reading about Dr. Bondar’s trajectory. She inspired me in so many ways. She was hugely influential with the trails that she blazed,” said Pandya.
Despite Bondar’s inroads, astronaut recruitment programs don’t reflect Canada’s diversity, still leaning toward military-trained males, according to Bondar.
NASA confirmed that 73 women have been to space — about 12 per cent of all people sent there so far.
“We can continue to expect it to increase as astronaut classes are increasingly diverse. Canada’s last astronaut selection was 50/50,” said Stephanie Schierholz, lead spokesperson for NASA public affairs.
The first woman in space was cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova on the Soviet Union’s Vostok 6 in 1963. America’s first woman in space was Sally Ride, a California physicist aboard the Challenger’s STS-7 mission that blasted off on June 18, 1983.
Currently, NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first woman on the moon by 2024.
Competition to be selected as an astronaut is fierce and often foreign nationals like Bondar are seen as “taking up space,” she said. On board the shuttle, Bondar performed like any male crew member.
Commander Ronald Grabe voluntarily gave her his bunk or sleeping cabinet spot so she would not have to share with a male crew member.
“He didn’t have to do that. That’s the only special treatment I got as a female,” said Bondar.
And she risked losing her coveted spot on the shuttle when she “kicked up a fuss” over the treatment of her family.
Bondar’s father had died in 1985. In 1992, only her mother and sister came to see the launch at the Cape Canaveral Complex 39-A in Florida. While other astronaut families watched from a room in the assembly tower, Bondar’s family members remained in the public gallery.
They were also denied the privilege of greeting Bondar when she landed at the Edwards Air Force Base in California after eight days in orbit.
“The rules said that unless you had a spouse or a dog, you couldn’t have someone greet you. So I wasn’t married. I didn’t have a dog. I had a mother and a sister.”
Bondar urges people to ask ‘why’
In the end, after a fight, Bondar’s mother did greet her, but her sister waved from behind barbed wire.
That moment still stings.
Bondar is adamant that it was her supportive family, not rocket fuel, that really launched her.
It was a childhood of asking: Why?
“If we don’t ask those deep questions about what’s out there … then we are never going to evolve,” Bondar said.
Now the first neurologist in space has evolved into an avid wildlife photographer. She now studies endangered migratory birds and runs the Toronto-based Roberta Bondar Foundation. She says her new mission is fusing art and science in an effort to protect the planet.
“When you look at Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, you see the work that was done. It captures both art and science. So at some point along our path, art and science split.
“I’m not sure that was the best thing to do because scientists have to be creative or they couldn’t possibly develop ways of looking at things with different perspectives. And artists really have to understand some science.”
She said in space it was the absence of Earth’s sounds and smells that she noticed most. No bird song. No scent of forest rain. That’s when she says that she realized just how much Earth really meant to her.
Written by Yvette Brend. Produced by Annie Bender.
Science News Roundup: Anemia in astronauts could be a challenge for space missions – Devdiscourse
Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
Anemia in astronauts could be a challenge for space missions
The next “giant leap” for humans may be a trip to Mars, but having enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells for the journey might present a challenge, new research suggests. Even space tourists lining up for short trips might have to stay home if they are at risk for anemia, or red blood cell deficiency, researchers said.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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