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Quirky lunar swirls expose the moon's secret past

Lunar observers have long noted mysterious “swirls,” patterns of alternating bright and dark shading, adorning the lunar surface. The popular Reiner Gamma formation — first described by Renaissance astronomers and now beloved by backyard astronomy enthusiasts — is one such lunar swirl.

25 Jan 2019

Oman ophiolite suggests subduction started with a shove

Plate tectonics is a fundamental control on how Earth operates and is important for the planet’s habitability, but how this crustal recycling process got started has long been a mystery. A new study examining some uniquely coupled metamorphic and volcanic rocks in Oman is adding some needed clarity about the initiation of subduction zones, a critical component in plate tectonics.

23 Jan 2019

Mesosaurs may have spent time on land

Mesosaurs are famous for being the earliest-known fully aquatic reptiles. With their whip-like tails, webbed feet and nostrils on top of their heads, the 2-meter-long reptiles appear to have been well adapted for life in the water. But in a new study, scientists have found fossil evidence that mesosaurs may have spent some of their adult lives on land.

21 Jan 2019

Ocean circulation change suffocating Gulf of St. Lawrence

Estuaries are among the most nutrient-rich and biologically productive areas of the ocean, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where freshwater from the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River meets the salty Atlantic Ocean in eastern Canada, is the largest estuary in the world. But the biodiversity and long-thriving fisheries of the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be threatened by declines in oxygen levels over the last half century. 

18 Jan 2019

The geology of kidney stones revealed

Kidney stones are an excruciatingly painful problem for 10 percent of the world’s population. In a new study applying geobiological methods to the study of human kidney stones, researchers have shed light on how the stones form, and revealed that they partially and repeatedly dissolve inside the kidney — which could help in developing new protocols to treat the pervasive affliction.

15 Jan 2019

Earliest art found in South Africa

Blombos Cave, located along the South African coast about 300 kilometers east of Cape Town, has been excavated since 1991, revealing materials left by Homo sapiens between 100,000 and 70,000 years ago. 

14 Jan 2019

Rising carbon dioxide may raise risk of nutrient deficiencies in humans

Plants absorb carbon dioxide to fuel their growth. As humans increase the amount of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, more will be available to vegetation around the world. But according to a new study, too much carbon dioxide might eventually lead to plants that are deficient in key nutrients for humans, which could be especially detrimental in the developing world.

11 Jan 2019

Early mammal reproduced like a reptile

A mother found fossilized alongside 38 of her young is offering a rare glimpse into early mammalian reproductive strategies. Unearthed in northeastern Arizona, the 184-million-year-old fossils are from specimens of Kayentatherium wellesi, an early mammal-like tritylodont that falls between reptiles and true mammals on the evolutionary tree.

09 Jan 2019

Columbia River basalts erupted faster than thought

In the Pacific Northwest, oozing volcanic basalts erupted over the landscape during the middle Miocene, layering a sequence of 43 distinct strata, comprising roughly 350 individual flows, up to 2 kilometers thick over roughly 210,000 square kilometers. The timeline over which all that rock, known as the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG), piled up — and the pace at which it did so — hasn’t been as clear as scientists would like, in part because prior dates for the lava flows have come with large uncertainties. But in a new study in Science Advances, researchers have reduced those uncertainties and shown that the vast majority of the massive CRBG was deposited in less than a million years.

07 Jan 2019

Arctic warming causes Siberian cooling

The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and fall sea-ice extents have been trending downward for decades. But while the region is heating up, that northerly warming seems to be having the opposite effect on some midlatitude locations: Parts of Siberia near the Ural Mountains, for example, have had anomalously cold winters in recent decades.

04 Jan 2019

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