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mary caperton morton

NYC pigeons are canaries of lead poisoning

New research suggests that pigeons might prove useful for tracking high lead levels in cities. “Pigeons breathe the same air, walk the same sidewalks, and often eat the same food as we do. What if we could use them to monitor possible dangers to our health in the environment, like lead pollution?” said Rebecca Calisi of the University of California, Davis, in a statement.

20 Oct 2016

New type of meteorite found in Sweden

Meteorites offer a glimpse into the workings and origins of our solar system. Now, a meteorite found in a Swedish quarry, reported in a new study in Nature Communications, is opening a whole new window: The find has been classified as a new type of meteorite, never before seen on Earth.

18 Oct 2016

Humans, megafauna coexisted in Patagonia before extinction

During the last ice age, giant mammals roamed the wide-open steppes of what is now Patagonia. Around the time that humans were making their way down through North America and into South America, the climate began warming and large species of giant sloths and saber-toothed cats soon disappeared. Now, researchers looking at mitochondrial DNA from some of these megafaunal species are shedding light on the timing of the extinction and whether encroaching humans or changing climate — or both — were to blame for their disappearance.

11 Oct 2016

Everything's bigger in Texas, including the Wink sinkholes

Residents of the neighboring West Texas towns of Wink (population 940) and Kermit (population 6,000) have had decades to get used to a pair of large sinkholes that opened a couple of kilometers apart between their towns, the first in 1980 and the second in 2002. But according to a new study, the ground around the two holes is subsiding and unstable, opening up the possibility that they could collapse into one giant sinkhole.

10 Oct 2016

Antarctic no place to hide during end-Cretaceous extinction

The end-Cretaceous extinction is famous for killing off the dinosaurs, but many other species perished as well. A new study in Nature Communications of marine fossils found in the Antarctic indicates that the extinction event was just as deadly for creatures in the polar regions.

07 Oct 2016

Lack of afterslip in Nepal hints at mounting tensions

On April 25, 2015, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, northwest of Kathmandu, damaging much of the capital city, flattening surrounding villages and killing more than 8,000 people. The quake’s hypocenter was relatively shallow, only 15 kilometers below ground on a fault that’s part of the Main Himalayan Thrust. Yet the displacement didn’t rupture all the way to the surface, indicating that only part of the fault slipped. Now, in a new study looking at how the fault continued to move following the 2015 event, researchers have found that the shallower section of the fault is likely still locked — and potentially loaded for another earthquake.

02 Oct 2016

California drought stops slow-moving landslides

Most people think of landslides as fast-moving events, but many slides creep slowly, advancing over hundreds or thousands of years. In a new study, researchers looking at creeping landslides in California have revealed an unexpected consequence of the state’s ongoing drought: Many of the slides have nearly stopped due to the lack of water in the soil.

27 Sep 2016

New species of uniquely horned dinosaur identified

The Triceratops family tree just got a little spikier. A decade ago, a retired nuclear physicist uncovered the large skull, legs, hips and backbone of a dinosaur on his land near Winifred, Mont. Now, the remains have been identified in a new study as a new member of the ceratopsid family, dubbed Spiclypeus shipporum, meaning “spiked shield.”

23 Sep 2016

Hammerhead herbivore pioneered vegetarianism in Triassic seas

New fossils found in southern China hint that the earliest herbivorous marine reptiles got off to a bizarre start: Atopodentatus unicus, which lived about 244 million years ago and sported a unique hammerhead-like snout for grazing underwater plants, sheds light on how the earliest marine reptiles began experimenting with herbivory after the Permian mass extinction, which killed off 96 percent of marine organisms about 252 million years ago. This “Great Dying” event left vast holes in the ecology of the Early Triassic, and a diversity of new feeding styles evolved to occupy the open niches.

21 Sep 2016