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News

Scientists crack the secret of dinosaurs' incubation time

Paleontologists have long thought that the eggs of dinosaurs — like those of their living bird relatives — probably hatched after short incubation times, up to a few weeks at most. But surprising results from a new study suggest that nonavian dinosaurs spent anywhere from three to six months inside an egg, incubation times similar to reptiles like crocodiles and alligators.

18 Apr 2017

Red Planet Roundup: April 2017

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

 
14 Apr 2017

Lucy liked hanging out in trees

Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, is one of the most complete early hominin skeletons ever found. Still, despite the skeleton’s completeness, debate continues about how Lucy got around: Did she spend most of her time walking on the ground or climbing in trees? In a new study, scientists studying Lucy’s upper limb bones have found that she likely spent more time in trees — and was a more capable climber — than later hominin species like Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.

13 Apr 2017

Six new deep-sea species discovered

About 2,000 kilometers southeast of Madagascar and 2.8 kilometers below the surface of the Indian Ocean, scientists have discovered six never-before-seen animal species living around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The creatures were spotted by a remotely operated vehicle during an expedition in 2011 to a site called Longqi, or “Dragon’s Breath,” around which stand mineralized vent chimneys — some more than two stories tall — that are rich in copper and gold. Genetic testing confirmed the novelty of the animals, which include new species of polychaete worms and limpets as well as a previously unknown species of hairy-chested “Hoff” crab, named for actor David Hasselhoff.

11 Apr 2017

Did the first humans arrive in North America a lot earlier?

New dating of artifacts recovered from a site in the northern Yukon, on the Alaskan border, may push back the hypothesized entry date of the first American colonizers via a northwestern route — long thought to have occurred over the Bering land bridge between 18,000 and 14,000 years ago — by several thousand years.

10 Apr 2017

Breakup of Pangea led to thicker oceanic crust

Oceanic crust formed at mid-ocean spreading centers, like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is recycled back into the mantle at subduction zones. Aside from isolated chunks that might be even older, the oldest crust found on Earth today is thought to be about 200 million years old. This old crust, portions of which are found along the outer margins of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, is much thicker than the crust being produced today — in some places by almost 2 kilometers — according to a new study, a finding that may suggest that Earth’s supercontinent cycle affects how Earth’s interior cools.

07 Apr 2017

To find a mate, go big or go small, just don't go medium

The showy features of male animals are often advantageous for attracting mates. Yet these same traits can also prove harmful: A peacock’s long, many-eyed feathers — great for enticing females — can get in the way if a predator gives chase, and a red deer’s elaborate antlers can become stuck in branches, potentially trapping the animal. In a new study, researchers report that a distinctive bimodality in male ornamentation occurs in some species, suggesting that when it comes to successfully courting females, it pays for males to either have the flashiest, most elaborate ornaments, or no such parts at all.

06 Apr 2017

Soil acidity changes quickly from place to place

The acidity of soils, which affects soil fertility, depends largely on a region’s climate. What has been less clear is just how abrupt — or gradual — shifts in acidity are at the boundaries between adjacent regions with different climates. In a new study in Nature, scientists report that acidity transitions are indeed abrupt, and the results may provide a glimpse into how plant communities will evolve as the planet’s climate continues to change.

04 Apr 2017

Maui reef degradation linked to contamination in coastal groundwater

Submarine groundwater discharge — the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land to sea — can transport contaminants to coastal ecosystems. But little is known about the direct impacts of this process on marine communities. In a new study published in PLOS ONE, researchers examined links between land use, water quality and coral reef health at coastal sites around Maui, finding that anthropogenic contaminants delivered via submarine groundwater are a source of chronic stress to nearshore marine ecosystems.

31 Mar 2017

Dental plaque reveals later start date for hominin cooking

Ancient teeth have long been a source of information about ancient diets, mainly through analyses of isotopic compositions and wear patterns. In a new study published in the Science of Nature, researchers studied microfossils of food particles extracted from the teeth of a 1.2-million-year-old unidentified hominin found at the Sima del Elefante site in northern Spain. The microfossils include traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules from grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine tree and insect fragments. The lack of charring of the recovered fibers and an absence of micro-charcoal suggest the bearer of the teeth neither cooked his or her food nor spent significant time around a fire source.

30 Mar 2017

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