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mary caperton morton

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

Junk gem reveals new diamond-forming process

Not all diamonds are gems. Those found bearing imperfections or inclusions, known as bort or junk diamonds, are often demoted to industrial uses such as in diamond-tipped drill bits. They also sometimes find their way to scientists interested in using the inclusions to study how such stones form. Now, a team studying a junk diamond from Botswana with a large black sulfide inclusion has uncovered evidence of a previously unrecognized diamond formation process that occurs in the deep mantle.

 
16 Sep 2016

Tiny ocean bacteria could play big role in climate

In the 1990s, researchers identified the most abundant group of organisms in the ocean as Pelagibacterales, a class of free-living bacteria that live in surface waters as a microscopic but major part of the phytoplankton community. Now, a new study suggests that Pelagibacterales could play an important role in the global climate cycle by producing dimethylsulfide (DMS), an organosulfur compound that stimulates cloud formation when it gets into the atmosphere.

05 Sep 2016

Peeling North American Plate causing East Coast earthquakes

On Aug. 23, 2011, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck near Mineral, Va., shaking the Piedmont region and damaging several historic buildings in Washington, D.C. The quake caught many people by surprise because the eastern U.S. lies in the interior of the North American Plate, more than 1,500 kilometers from the nearest plate boundary. In a new study, researchers peering beneath the southeastern portion of the North American Plate may have found an explanation for why parts of the region experience more quakes than expected.

31 Aug 2016

Modeling Io’s weird mountains

Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, is home to some of the strangest mountains in our solar system: towering isolated peaks, some more than 8,000 meters tall, that jut from the moon’s surface with little evidence of underlying tectonics. Now, a new model may explain how Io’s odd peaks formed.

30 Aug 2016

Scaling up: Mega-dino babies were mini adults

Even the largest dinosaurs to walk the planet had to start out small, hatching out of eggs, but whether these were miniature versions of adults has been a long-standing question. Now a new study looking at fossils belonging to a specimen of Rapetosaurus krausei, a type of titanosaur, that died at just a few weeks of age is revealing just how fully formed some of these eventual giants were at an early age.

25 Aug 2016

Redefining homo: Does our family tree need more branches?

Paleoanthropologists have traditionally used four traits to classify hominins as members of the genus Homo. But none of the criteria are very stringent, leading to an assortment of hominins with widely varying features being counted in the same genus. Some researchers think it’s time to scrap Homo and start over.
21 Aug 2016

Hominid vs. hominin

Before genetics came along and revealed just how closely modern humans and chimpanzees are related, humans were classified in their own family, Hominidae, separate from old world monkeys, which were in the family Pongidae.

21 Aug 2016

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