Taxonomy term

mary caperton morton

Northern Finns didn't starve during Little Ice Age

Today, Finland’s Northern Ostrobothnia region is one of the northernmost places in Europe that can support agriculture. But how this region fared during the Little Ice Age — a period of globally cooler temperatures that lasted roughly from A.D. 1300 to 1850 — is unknown. Scientists assume the climatic cooling would have adversely affected food supplies. Now, however, the discovery of a mysterious medieval cemetery in northern Finland dating to the middle of the Little Ice Age is offering clues that the inhabitants were well fed and well suited to the northern clime.

31 Oct 2017

Another whiptail dinosaur added to sauropod family tree

With their massive size, long necks and whip-like tails, the sauropods are one of the most recognizable dinosaur groups. They grew as large as 100 metric tons, and it seems their huge frames were an effective adaptation: The sauropods were among the most diverse dinosaur groups, with more than 15 species known from North America alone. That list is now one species longer, with the identification of a new species based on a specimen found in Wyoming in 1995.

25 Oct 2017

Can distant earthquakes trigger submarine landslides?

Large earthquakes can nudge both nearby and distant faults closer to failure, sometimes setting off additional earthquakes halfway around the world. New evidence from the Cascadia Subduction Zone suggests that large seismic events can also trigger submarine landslides, called turbidity currents, perhaps as far as 13,500 kilometers away. If true, researchers say such long-distance connections could complicate interpretations of paleoseismic records from the Cascadia margin and elsewhere that rely on data from turbidites — the stratified remains of the underwater slides — to piece together when past local earthquakes occurred. But not everyone is convinced that long-distance landslide triggering is possible.

23 Oct 2017

Limestone reservoirs boost volcanic carbon emissions

Volcanoes have been the main source of atmospheric carbon over Earth’s history, with some types of eruptions injecting more carbon into the atmosphere than others. Arc volcanoes, for example, which form in chains along subduction zones, are responsible for up to two-thirds of all volcanic carbon emissions today, and have likely been major contributors for as long as they’ve existed. New research suggests a reason why: These volcanoes draw large amounts of carbon from limestone platforms found along many subduction zones. The finding has implications for how the volcanic carbon cycle affects climate over geologic timescales.

18 Oct 2017

Cretaceous collagen: Can molecular paleontology glean soft tissue from dinosaurs?

In 2005, a team of molecular paleontologists reported the discovery of soft tissue from a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex femur. In the decade since that controversial find, evidence has mounted that dinosaur soft tissue — which could help paleontologists answer long-standing questions about dinosaur physiology — can be recovered.

16 Oct 2017

Can preserved proteins reveal paint-by-numbers plumage?

Some of the most compelling dinosaur fossils are those found with clearly defined feathers. Feathers may seem fragile and unlikely to be preserved, but in fact they’re composed of durable keratin, one of the toughest natural proteins. Additionally, some fossil feathers unearthed are speckled with tiny black dots, which, according to different studies, could be remnants of either bacteria or melanosomes. Melanosomes are organelles that produce and store melanin, the main source of pigment in feathers. If melanosomes are indeed preserved in some ancient fossils, they could reveal information about dinosaur coloration and plumage — and represent further evidence of preserved proteins in dinosaurs.

16 Oct 2017

Water weight and surface rebound trigger small quakes in California

On average, a cubic meter of snow weighs less than 100 kilograms, but heavy, compacted snow can weigh more than 500 kilograms per cubic meter, with glacial ice approaching 900 kilograms per cubic meter. In California, as elsewhere, the weight of winter snow and spring runoff pushes down on the landscape, affecting stresses on fault systems, which may trigger small quakes. As the snow melts and the runoff makes its way downstream, land rebounds, setting off more small earthquakes.

12 Oct 2017

First complete DNA sequences from Egyptian mummies

Egyptian mummies provide archaeologists with a tantalizing window into ancient Egyptian culture. And now they are offering up their DNA.

11 Oct 2017

Mapping Louisiana's disappearing shoreline

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an area of coastal wetlands larger than the state of Delaware. A new map, published in GSA Today, charts the land loss from a combination of man-made and natural factors, including reduced sediment flow from the Mississippi River, land subsidence and sea-level rise.

10 Oct 2017

Neolithic farmers impacted sedimentation

The Neolithic Revolution, also known as the Agricultural Revolution, started in the Middle East about 11,500 years ago when people moved away from nomadic hunting and gathering toward more settled agricultural communities where they raised livestock and cultivated crops. In a new study of the Dead Sea Basin, researchers found that this turning point may also mark the first time that humans made a measurable impact on sedimentation rates.

29 Sep 2017