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Scientists find fossils of car-sized prehistoric South American turtle that was built for battle – National Post

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One of the largest turtles that ever lived prowled the lakes and rivers of northern South America from about 13 million years ago to 7 million years ago — and this car-sized freshwater beast was built for battle.

Scientists said on Wednesday they have unearthed new fossils of the turtle, called Stupendemys geographicus, in Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert and Venezuela’s Urumaco region that for the first time provide a comprehensive understanding of the big reptile, which got up to 4 metres long and 1.25 tons in weight.

Stupendemys males, unlike the females, boasted sturdy front-facing horns on both sides of the carapace — or shell — very close to the neck. Deep scars detected in the fossils indicated that these horns may have been used like a lance for fighting with other Stupendemys males over mates or territory.


The largest specimen of the giant turtle Stupendemys geographicus, a male individual found in Venezuela, is seen in an undated picture released Feb. 12, 2020.

Edwin Cadena/Handout via REUTERS

Fighting occurs among certain turtles alive today, particularly between male tortoises, according to paleontologist Edwin Cadena of the Universidad del Rosario in Bogota, who led the research published in the journal Science Advances.

Stupendemys is the second-largest known turtle, behind seagoing Archelon, which lived roughly 70 million years ago at the end of the age of dinosaurs and reached about 4.6 metres in length.

The first Stupendemys fossils were found in the 1970s but many mysteries remained about the animal. The new fossils included the largest-known turtle shell — 2.86 metres long, even larger than Archelon’s shell — and the first lower jaw remains, which gave clues about its diet.

“Stupendemys geographicus was huge and heavy. The largest individuals of this species were about the size and length of a sedan automobile if we take into account the head, neck, shell and limbs,” Cadena said.


Colombian paleontologist Edwin Cadena is seen taking notes on one of the male specimens of Stupendemys geographicus during fieldwork in 2016.

Rodolfo Sanchez/Handout via REUTERS

“Its diet was diverse including small animals — fishes, caimans, snakes — as well as mollusks and vegetation, particularly fruits and seeds. Putting together all the anatomical features of this species indicates that its lifestyle was mostly in the bottom of large freshwater bodies including lakes and large rivers,” Cadena added.

Stupendemys — meaning “stupendous turtle” — inhabited a colossal wetlands system spanning Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Peru before the Amazon and Orinoco rivers were formed.

Its large size may have been crucial in defending against formidable predators. It shared the environment with giant crocodilians including the 11-metre-long caiman Purussaurus and the 10-metre-long gavial relative Gryposuchus. One of the Stupendemys fossils was found with a two-inch-long croc tooth embedded in it.

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Science News Roundup: British fossil hunters find bones of new dinosaur species, cousin to T.Rex; 'Secret' life of sharks and more – Devdiscourse

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Following is a summary of current science news briefs.

UC San Diego research lab to make environmentally friendly flip flops from algae

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego hope to make future beach visits both environmentally and fashion-friendly, with a new formula for biodegradable flip flops. Mike Burkart, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the public research university in San Diego, California, has developed a polymer from algae, which decomposes naturally.

British fossil hunters find bones of new dinosaur species, cousin to T.Rex

Four bones found on a beach on the Isle of Wight, off England’s south coast, belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex, researchers at the University of Southampton said on Wednesday. The new dinosaur, which has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus, lived in the Cretaceous period 115 million years ago and was estimated to have been up to four metres long, the palaeontologists said.

Mystery of the dimming of massive star Betelgeuse explained

Astronomers have determined the cause of the dramatic dimming observed last year and earlier this year of one of the brightest stars in the night sky, a colossus called Betelgeuse that appears to be on its way toward a violent death. Based on Hubble Space Telescope observations, scientists said they believe Betelgeuse ejected a huge hot, dense cloud of material into space that cooled to form dust, shielding the star’s light and making it appear dimmer from the perspective of viewers on Earth.

‘Secret’ life of sharks: Study reveals their surprising social networks

Sharks have more complex social lives than previously known, as shown by a study finding that gray reef sharks in the Pacific Ocean cultivate surprising social networks with one another and develop bonds that can endure for years. The research focused on the social behavior of 41 reef sharks around the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii, using acoustic transmitters to track them and camera tags to gain greater clarity into their interactions.

Chemical signal for locust swarming identified in step toward curbing plagues

Scientists have identified a chemical compound released by locusts that causes them to swarm, opening the door to possible new ways to prevent these insects from devouring crops vital to human sustenance as they have for millennia. Researchers said on Wednesday they identified the pheromone – a chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of others of its own species – in the world’s most widespread locust species, the migratory locust, or Locusta migratoria.

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Perseid Meteor Shower is Expected to Peak on August 11 and 12, Here’s How You Can Watch This Astrono … – Gizmo Posts 24

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Though 2020 hasn’t been off the best of starts, we’ve still had a thing or two to cherish in these past few months. Apart from the pandemic, 2020 has been a year of several astronomical events. Right from January 2020, we have witnessed several major as well as minor astronomy events directly from our terrace or balcony. And after the last meteor shower in July 2020, it looks like we have another meteor shower to look for in August 2020.

It’s August, and its time for the best meteor showers of the year- the Perseid. The Perseid meteor is deemed as the best meteor shower to be observed. This meteor shower is caused by the comet ‘Swift-Tuttle,’ which was discovered in 1862. The Perseid meteor shower is famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. Actually, this meteor shower runs from July 17 to August 24 every year. However, the maximum show of Perseid Meteors occurs on 11th, 12th, and 13th August and is visible from both hemispheres.

Perseid Meteor Shower is Expected to Peak on August 11 and 12, Here’s How You Can Watch This Astronomy Event!

Though the Perseid meteor shower is visible from both hemispheres, it has the best view from the Northern hemisphere. The Perseid meteor shower tends to lose its intensity while being viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. One can see up to 100 meteors in an hour during the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The moon phase of 41.9% could interfere in the view. However, it is still a bright enough meteor shower allowing one to see up to 60 meteors in an hour. The Perseid Meteor shower will be best viewed from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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'Canary in the coal mine': Greenland ice has shrunk beyond return, study finds – The Globe and Mail

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This early Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 file photo shows an aerial view of large Icebergs floating as the sun rises near Kulusuk, Greenland.

Felipe Dana/The Associated Press

Greenland’s ice sheet may have shrunk past the point of return, with the ice likely to melt away no matter how quickly the world reduces climate-warming emissions, new research suggests.

Scientists studied data on 234 glaciers across the Arctic territory spanning 34 years through 2018 and found that annual snowfall was no longer enough to replenish glaciers of the snow and ice being lost to summertime melting.

That melting is already causing global seas to rise about a millimetre on average per year. If all of Greenland’s ice goes, the water released would push sea levels up by an average of 6 meters – enough to swamp many coastal cities around the world. This process, however, would take decades.

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“Greenland is going to be the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is already pretty much dead at this point,” said glaciologist Ian Howat at Ohio State University. He and his colleagues published the study Thursday in the Nature Communications Earth & Environment journal.

The Arctic has been warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world for the last 30 years, an observation referred to as Arctic amplification. The polar sea ice hit its lowest extent for July in 40 years.

The Arctic thaw has brought more water to the region, opening up routes for shipping traffic, as well as increased interest in extracting fossil fuels and other natural resources.

Greenland is strategically important for the U.S. military and its ballistic missile early warning system, as the shortest route from Europe to North America goes via the Arctic island.

Last year, President Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory. But Denmark, a U.S. ally, rebuffed the offer. Then last month, the U.S. reopened a consulate in the territory’s capital of Nuuk, and Denmark reportedly said last week it was appointing an intermediary between Nuuk and Copenhagen some 3,500 kilometres away.

Scientists, however, have long worried about Greenland’s fate, given the amount of water locked into the ice.

The new study suggests the territory’s ice sheet will now gain mass only once every 100 years – a grim indicator of how difficult it is to regrow glaciers once they hemorrhage ice.

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In studying satellite images of the glaciers, the researchers noted that the glaciers had a 50% chance of regaining mass before 2000, with the odds declining since.

“We are still draining more ice now than what was gained through snow accumulation in ‘good’ years,” said lead author Michalea King, a glaciologist at Ohio State University.

The sobering findings should spur governments to prepare for sea-level rise, King said.

“Things that happen in the polar regions don’t stay in the polar region,” she said.

Still, the world can still bring down emissions to slow climate change, scientists said. Even if Greenland can’t regain the icy bulk that covered its 2 million square kilometres, containing the global temperature rise can slow the rate of ice loss.

“When we think about climate action, we’re not talking about building back the Greenland ice sheet,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who was not involved in the study. “We’re talking about how quickly rapid sea-level rise comes to our communities, our infrastructure, our homes, our military bases.”

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