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Readying the Caribbean for the next big wave

The Caribbean is famous for clear blue waters and serene white sand beaches, and infamous for destructive hurricanes — but another type of natural disaster can also strike: tsunamis.

03 Sep 2018

Ancient DNA reveals diversity of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the most genetically and linguistically diverse regions on Earth. New sequencing of ancient human DNA is helping scientists piece together the puzzle of how repeated influxes of hunter-gatherers and farmers to the area over the last 50,000 years created the high level of diversity seen today.

03 Sep 2018

Mercury links Big Five extinction events

Mercury concentration spikes in the geologic record have been linked to massive volcanism in the form of large igneous provinces (LIP) such as the Deccan Traps, a kilometers-thick heap of basalt layers that formed in what is now India beginning late in the Cretaceous, and the Siberian Traps, an even larger mass of lava that erupted in Siberia at the end of the Per­mian. It’s thought that vast gas emissions associated with LIP eruptions could have significantly changed climate patterns and affected conditions such as ocean acidity. 

31 Aug 2018

An asteroid redirected bird evolution

When an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago, it helped wipe out all the dinosaur lineages save one: the birds. But birds didn’t completely dodge the cataclysm the asteroid triggered. Recent research suggests that forests around the planet were devastated. With forests gone, bird species that called trees home went extinct alongside their nonavian dinosaur cousins. This means that the birds that we see living in trees today evolved from lineages that, in the aftermath of the impact, were ground-dwelling.

30 Aug 2018

Sunstones useful as Viking-era GPS

The Vikings ruled the North Atlantic for hundreds of years without the benefits of magnetic compasses on the rough, often stormy waters. Legends have told of Vikings using sun compasses during clear weather and “sunstones” in cloudy conditions to navigate their weeks-long journeys between ports. A new study finds that sunstones made of calcite, cordierite or tourmaline may have indeed been accurate navigational tools.

28 Aug 2018

Gravity changes portended 2011 Tohoku earthquake

A new analysis of satellite data has revealed a distinct change in the gravity signal measured across the Japanese archipelago starting several months before the March 11, 2011, magnitude-9.1 Tohoku-Oki earthquake — one of the largest seismic events in recorded history.

27 Aug 2018

Grazing gave elephant ancestors an edge

The poor dental hygiene of some ancient elephant-like beasts has proven a boon to future scientists. In a new study, researchers used grass fragments recovered from the teeth of two extinct species of Central Asian gomphotheriids to decode the animals’ feeding habits during the middle Miocene.

24 Aug 2018

Great Barrier Reef has died and recovered before

It’s hard to imagine Earth without the Great Barrier Reef, yet with the threats confronting it — including ocean warming and acidification — its demise is a possibility marine scientists are studying. A new study of how sea-level rise and sedimentation have impacted the reef over the last 30,000 years, however, shows it might be more resilient than previously thought.

22 Aug 2018

European mammals will struggle under climate change

As temperatures on Earth rise, many animals have already begun migrating to more amenable climates, shifting their ranges. But not all animals will be able to relocate, according to a new study in the journal Diversity and Distributions.

20 Aug 2018

New suspect emerges in theft of Earth's surface iron

Iron is the fourth-most common element in Earth’s crust, but why there isn’t more found near the surface in continental crust has been a long-standing question among geologists. In a new study, scientists implicate an overlooked mineral culprit in the theft of iron from continental crust: garnet. But not everybody is ready to exonerate the long-implicated magnetite.

17 Aug 2018

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