Taxonomy term

mary caperton morton

Stronger monsoon drove ancient Indus civilization into the hills

Roughly 4,000 years ago, the Indus River Valley was home to the advanced and thriving Harappa culture. But by 1800 B.C., the civilization’s sophisticated cities along the river, which drains into the Arabian Sea on the coast of what is now Pakistan, were abandoned for smaller villages in the Himalayan foothills. A new study suggests that widespread changes in the Indian winter monsoon may have resulted in flooding that forced people to resettle farther from the Indus.

07 Mar 2019

Some of Earth's water originated in the solar system's birth

When Earth first formed, the oceans of water we know today were nowhere in sight. The long-standing consensus about where our planet’s water came from posits that it was not present during Earth’s formation and that it was later brought by chondritic materials like meteorites, asteroids and comets. But new research suggests some also came from the solar nebula — the gas and dust left over from the formation of the sun that created the planets.

05 Mar 2019

Earliest bird-like lungs found in China

Before birds took to the air, a number of anatomical features evolved that allowed them to get off the ground. While many of these features were skeletal adaptations that have been well-documented in the fossil record, when exactly the large-volume lungs needed to power flight developed has long been a mystery. But the recent discovery of a unique fossil bearing a significant amount of preserved soft tissue, including lung tissue, has shed light on how early birds adapted to breathe in flight.

26 Feb 2019

Seismometers eavesdrop on glacial outburst flood

On July 5, 2016, a previously dammed glacial moraine in Nepal burst, releasing 100,000 tons of water that barreled down the Sunkoshi River, destroying bridges, hydropower plants and roads in its path. The flood was so massive that ground shaking was felt throughout the river corridor and recorded by seismometers deployed in the wake of the April 2015 Ghorka earthquake.

22 Feb 2019

Free swimmers came back first after Great Dying

About 252 million years ago, at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods, the vast majority of marine and terrestrial life died out in the most devastating extinction event in Earth’s history. Earth’s ecosystems eventually recovered, but not in the way — or as quickly as — scientists thought. In a new study looking at how marine species reemerged in the Triassic, researchers report a surprising trend of recovery from the top of the food chain down.

14 Feb 2019

Archaeologists hit pay dirt in medieval latrines

Archaeologists digging in Lübeck, Germany, unearthed an unusual source of information about past dietary habits in the city: parasite eggs recovered from 700-year-old latrines.

12 Feb 2019

Mediterranean heritage sites threatened by rising seas

The Mediterranean region has been a cultural center for centuries, giving rise to numerous locales designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. A new study looking at the effects of rising sea levels on treasures like the Venetian Lagoon, the Old City of Dubrovnik and the ruins of Carthage indicates that most UNESCO sites on the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of storm surge and coastal erosion as well as inundation in the coming decades.

07 Feb 2019

Mighty Mekong cut by monsoon, not tectonics

The rivers draining the Tibetan Plateau are some of the largest, longest and most deeply incised waterways in the world. For decades, most geologists assumed that these river canyons were cut as the plateau was uplifted following the initial collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. However, recent studies have found that the plateau was already elevated by 40 million years ago — roughly 20 million years before the deep canyons formed. 

06 Feb 2019

Deep drilling reveals how impact crater's hidden ring formed

When the 15-kilometer-wide Chicxulub meteorite slammed into what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula 66 million years ago, it was moving at more than 20 kilometers per second. The impact blasted a hole 200 kilometers wide and more than 30 kilometers deep in Earth’s surface. The forces involved in such impacts are colossal — many orders of magnitude greater than the largest human-made explosions — and scientists have traditionally relied on models to explain what happens in the moments after impact. But in a new study looking at shocked rocks retrieved from the depths of the buried Chicxulub Crater, scientists have determined how the crater’s “peak ring” formed in mere minutes.

05 Feb 2019

Melting glaciers shift Earth's axis

A perfectly round desk globe spins evenly on a fixed axis, but that’s not the case with Earth, which wobbles as the position of its spin axis — the imaginary line running between the North and South poles — slowly drifts over time. In a new study in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, scientists suggest that there are three main reasons for the movement of Earth’s spin axis, called polar motion.

28 Jan 2019