Taxonomy term

december 2015

South African cave system reveals new early human ancestor

The Rising Star Cave system, near Johannesburg, South Africa, has never been extensively explored because of its complexity and extremely narrow passages. But in 2013, when a team of intrepid cavers from the Speleological Exploration Club of South Africa pushed through a narrow 12-meter-long chute with an average width of only 20 centimeters, they discovered a chamber filled with what looked like human bones.
31 Dec 2015

Oceanographers solve mysterious beach explosion

Late on the morning of Saturday, July 11, 2015, Kathleen Danise, a 60-year-old nurse and grandmother from Waterbury, Conn., was enjoying a sunny day at Salty Brine State Beach on the shores of Block Island Sound in Narragansett, R.I., when an explosion knocked her from her beach chair. She landed a few meters away near a rock jetty, unconscious and suffering a concussion, two fractured ribs and bruising for which she was hospitalized overnight.
29 Dec 2015

Oldest marine turtle found in Colombia

A 120-million-year-old sea turtle recently discovered in Colombia is about 25 million years older than the previously oldest-known marine turtle. Despite its age, the new 2-meter-long specimen is very similar to living marine turtles and was placed in the group Chelonioidea, which includes the modern Hawksbill turtle and green sea turtle.
28 Dec 2015

Unshelled ancestor fills big gap in turtle family tree

Turtles may seem like innocent creatures, but the uniquely shelled reptiles have long posed a problem for paleontologists. Shelled turtles are plentiful in the fossil record, but specimens of their intermediate forebears — the missing links between ancestral unshelled reptiles and modern turtles — have remained elusive. Now, a closer look at the skull of what may be one of the earliest turtle relatives is filling gaps in the turtle family tree.
28 Dec 2015

Sunlight liberates nitrogen from urban grime

Cities are dirty. That’s obvious from all the grime that collects on glass, metal and other urban surfaces. But new research shows that not everything in that grunge is staying put at ground level, and that the grime — and the nitrogen in it — is contributing to air pollution in ways scientists aren’t accounting for.
24 Dec 2015

Midwest's hybrid rift formed in three stages

Middle America is not often recognized for its interesting geology, yet it boasts one of the largest and most unusual geologic features in the country: the Midcontinent Rift, which stretches 3,200 kilometers in two arms from Lake Superior to Oklahoma and Alabama. Subsurface imaging of the rift has revealed that it’s not just a rift, it’s also what’s known as a large igneous province, making it a hybrid geologic feature not seen anywhere else in the world. A new modeling study is offering a more complete story of how the Midcontinent Rift evolved, in three stages. 
23 Dec 2015

Subseafloor biosphere extended to greatest depth yet

Scientists studying sediments collected from the deepest scientific borehole ever drilled have found microorganisms living at astounding depths beneath the seafloor. Recent studies have previously found bacteria and archaea scratching out meager livings in marine sediments buried as deep as 1.9 kilometers, but the new find extends the known biosphere even farther down.
22 Dec 2015

Rainbows reclassified

Rainbows — those arches of color that streak across wet skies — are recognizable to almost everyone. Our understanding of rainbows, though, particularly how they form and the diversity of shapes they can take, is still fuzzy.

21 Dec 2015

The question of mantle plumes

The mantle plume hypothesis is the most widely held explanation for volcanism far from plate boundaries, like Hawaii and Yellowstone. But some researchers question whether mantle plumes even exist.

20 Dec 2015

What lies below?

Technological advances continue to improve the resolution of our view of Earth’s interior, but disagreement remains over what we’re viewing. In a recent Nature paper titled, “Broad plumes rooted at the base of the Earth’s mantle beneath major hot spots,” Scott French, a computational scientist at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Barbara Romanowicz, a seismologist at the University of California at Berkeley, reported the development of the most detailed model yet of the structure of the mantle.
20 Dec 2015