Taxonomy term

july 2016

Cretaceous amber suggests societal behavior in insects is at least 100 million years old

Many insects are social animals. Some, including ants, form colonies with complex social hierarchies, wherein specific roles like reproduction and colony construction are assigned to specific groups of ants, like queens or workers, for example. This kind of sociality, known as eusociality, is found in many other insects, like beetles, honeybees and termites. When it evolved, however, has remained unclear. Until now, the earliest evidence of eusociality came from 20-million-year-old fossils, even though the insect lineages were known to be much older. But two new fossil discoveries have pushed the first known appearance of eusociality back by 80 million years.

04 Jul 2016

Geology shaped outcomes of Civil War battles

About 10 years ago, Scott Hippensteel decided to trace the footsteps of an ancestor who fought in the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Md. His relative, William H. Tritt, fought with the Union in the 130th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which, on Sept. 17, 1862, attacked Confederate soldiers entrenched in the infamous Sunken Road, a wagon-worn dirt road atop an embankment that farmers used to bypass the town. As Hippensteel walked the rolling topography himself, he quickly realized the tactical advantage the landscape afforded: The Union men became visible to their enemies only in the last 150 meters or so of their approach. Because of the single-shot rifle technology of the time, each Confederate soldier would have only had time to fire a few shots at their attackers, facilitating a more vigorous assault by the Union. The Union forces suffered heavy losses in driving the Confederates from the Sunken Road, but their ultimate success pierced the middle of the Confederate line at Antietam and led to the roadway being renamed “Bloody Lane.”

01 Jul 2016

Where on Earth? - July 2016

Where on Earth was this picture taken? Use these clues to guess and submit your answer via mail, email or Web by the last day of the month (July 31, 2016).

01 Jul 2016

Could early Homo pass the sniff test?

Like modern humans, early hominins walked upright and had opposable thumbs, but their faces were more ape-like, with flattened noses and protruding foreheads. It wasn’t until the evolution of the genus Homo that hominin faces began to look more human — flatter overall but with protruding noses. Along with changes in external appearance came internal changes as well, though these are less well understood as soft-tissue structures preserved in the fossil record are hard to come by. In a new study, researchers comparing both modern human and nonhuman primate nasal cavities offer some clues as to how our respiratory system evolved on the inside to compensate for the changes on the outside.

01 Jul 2016

Comment: What's a map worth? The big cost and bigger benefit of three-dimensional elevation data

The 3-D Elevation Program is a collaborative effort to share the costs of collecting three-dimensional elevation data over the entire U.S. over an eight-year period. The end goal is a fully three-dimensional elevation map of the entire U.S. and its territories.

30 Jun 2016

Slow-moving super-eruptions still travel great distances

When Hollywood movies depict the destruction unleashed by volcanic eruptions, they usually focus on red-hot lava, but even more dangerous are pyroclastic flows: mixtures of rocky debris and searing hot ash and gas that move as fast as 700 kilometers per hour and can bulldoze, incinerate and suffocate anything in their paths. In a new study looking at pyroclastic flow deposits associated with the Silver Creek Caldera in the southwestern U.S., researchers have found that not all pyroclastic flows are so swift. Dense, slow-moving flows can still wreak havoc over vast distances.

29 Jun 2016

Down to Earth With: Planetary scientist Steven Squyres

By age 6, Steven Squyres already considered himself a scientist, and, with his father’s help, would conduct rudimentary experiments with a chemistry kit. By the time he was 10, he had become fascinated by meteorology and erected a weather station in his backyard. He vividly remembers building an anemometer out of funnels, and realizing that his device would need to be calibrated in order to accurately measure wind speed. So, he asked his father to drive the family car up and down their street. While perplexed neighbors looked on, Squyres excitedly hung the instrument out the window, shouting to his dad to drive 5 miles per hour as he counted how many times the kitchen funnels spun around. Next, Squyres asked his dad to drive 10 miles per hour, and then even faster, repeating his counts at each speed until the calibration was complete.

28 Jun 2016

'P' is for phosphate: Could urine solve a fertilizer shortage?

Phosphorus is essential to plant growth, but there’s a looming shortage, which could leave global agriculture without the fertilizer needed to feed growing populations. Some scientists think, with some tweaks to our sanitation system, human urine could be mined for the necessary phosphorus.

26 Jun 2016

Take a stand (or sit) for better water quality management

The average person urinates four to seven times over a 24-hour period, producing about 1.5 liters of urine per day. Here are some things you can do today to help conserve water, improve water quality, and keep all that waste from going to waste.

 
26 Jun 2016

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