Taxonomy term

lucas joel

Weak magnetic field may have triggered Earth's first mass extinction

For about the first 3 billion years of life, the only living organisms on Earth were microscopic. The Ediacaran Period, between 635 million and 541 million years ago, saw the rise of the first large-scale life, most of which then went extinct at the period’s close — a collapse that scientists have yet to explain. Now, researchers may have found one of the extinction’s drivers: rapid flip-flopping of Earth’s magnetic field — wherein the field’s north and south poles reverse — that could have left the planet and Ediacaran organisms vulnerable to bombardment by harmful cosmic radiation.

08 Jul 2016

Travels in Geology: Sculptures of wind and ice: Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores

Two of the U.S.’s four national lakeshores are in Michigan. Visit them both for a look at how an ice sheet drastically reshaped the landscape, eroding and carving dunes, cliffs and the Great Lakes.

07 Jul 2016

Getting there and getting around Michigan

The nearest city to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the more remote of the two lakeshores, is Marquette, Mich., where travelers can fly into Sawyer International Airport, typically via connections through Chicago or Detroit. The closest town with lodging is Munising, right next to the lakeshore.

07 Jul 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

Fossil dinosaur illuminates evolution of tyrannosauroid body sizes

Tyrannosauroid dinosaurs were the dominant predators of the terrestrial ecosystems in which they roamed for much of the Late Cretaceous, from about 80 million to 66 million years ago. Some, like Tyrannosaurus rex, reached lengths up to about 13 meters and heights of nearly 4 meters. Their large size and keen senses — relatively large nasal passageways suggest a heightened sense of smell — are considered to have been keys to their success.

 
22 Jun 2016

A new gravity map of Earth

Gravity differs from place to place around Earth because of the uneven distribution of mass across and within the planet. Scientists can study the variation in gravitational pull by measuring the gravity field at different places on the surface of the planet. In a new study published in Scientific Reports, gravity field data collected over the entire planet between 2009 and 2013 by the European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite has been mapped, revealing many of Earth’s internal features, such as magmatic plumes welling up toward the surface.

17 Jun 2016

New fossils illuminate 'hobbit' evolutionary history

Scientists first discovered fossils of Homo floresiensis — a species of extinct 1-meter-tall hominins nicknamed “hobbits” — in Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004. Until now, H. floresiensis, thought to have lived between about 95,000 and 50,000 years ago based on recent evidence, was the only extinct hominin known to have lived on Flores, although artifacts discovered on the island dating to 800,000 to 1 million years ago pointed to earlier hominin habitation. In two new studies published in Nature, however, researchers announce the discovery of hobbit-like hominin fossils found elsewhere on the island that are roughly 700,000 years old. 

08 Jun 2016

Benchmarks: June 4, 1783: The era of aviation launches with the first balloon flight

In the small French town of Gonesse in August 1783, a large, spherical and nebulous object painted with red and yellow stripes fell from the sky and began fluttering about on the ground. The town’s peasants, fearful, attacked the object with pitchforks, and then tied it to a horse’s tail to be dragged through the streets.

04 Jun 2016

Above oil seeps, photosynthetic life flourishes

The direct effects of oil and gas releases in the ocean are typically negative — as in the case of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil well disaster, which devastated marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists have now found that when natural oil and gas seeps upwell toward the ocean’s surface, they can also carry nutrients such as nitrates and nitrites from the seafloor that feed communities of phytoplankton, which flourish as a result.

30 May 2016

Geomedia: Performance: Bella Gaia is a show in orbit and Earth is the star

On the screen, images of the far reaches of the cosmos — galaxies, stellar nebulae and supernovae — loom high over a stage. The words, “The Living Universe,” appear and the view zooms in: first on our galaxy, then on our solar system and, finally, on Earth. Bella Gaia, a live performance piece featuring dance and music set in front of a large projection-screen displaying images of Earth from space, begins.

13 May 2016

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