Taxonomy term

mary caperton morton

Two new species fill gap in dinosaur family tree

Cretaceous rocks in northwestern China have yielded two new dinosaur species that help fill a 70-million-year gap in dinosaur phylogeny. The new species — Xiyunykus pengi and Bannykus wulatensis — are both alvarezsaurians, an odd group of dinosaurs that, by the Late Cretaceous, had evolved many avian characteristics such as birdlike skulls, tiny teeth and light, slender bodies, as well as unique mole-like single-clawed forearms that were likely useful for digging.

17 Dec 2018

Human-triggered landslides on the rise

Between 2004 and 2016, an estimated 56,000 people were killed by landslides worldwide. A newly developed tool, the Global Fatal Landslide Database, reveals that, of the 4,800 fatal landslides over that 12-year period, more than 700 were caused by human intervention through activities such as construction, mining and digging.

14 Dec 2018

New tool predicts probability of earthquake-triggered landslides

Landslides are the third-leading cause of death in earthquakes, after building collapses and tsunamis. Unlike tsunamis, however, which usually arrive minutes to hours after an earthquake, earthquake-triggered landslides tend to occur simultaneously with ground shaking, so a landslide warning system is not possible. But a new model that predicts where landslides may be triggered during earthquakes could help emergency aid and rescue efforts.

07 Dec 2018

Fats on Neolithic pottery pinpoint climate cooling event

About 8,200 years ago, right around the time that animals such as cows and sheep were first being domesticated in the Near East for meat and milk, the planet underwent a cooling event that lasted about 160 years. How this cold snap, known as the 8.2-kiloyear event, affected early farmers has long been a mystery, as archaeological evidence from the period of the cooler and drier climate has been scant. But new research investigating fatty residues preserved on scraps of pottery found at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey is offering some clues.

05 Dec 2018

Antarctic rift was active more recently than thought

Studying Antarctica’s geology is difficult because of the continent’s remote location and extreme weather, and because most of it is buried under kilometers of ice. More than 100 volcanoes hint at the White Continent’s fiery history, however. Scientists have long known that Antarctica was once split into two plates along the West Antarctic Rift system. A new study provides information about when this rift system was last active, and the findings have implications for calculating plate tectonic movements around the planet.

03 Dec 2018

Mercury on the roof of the world

Traditional Tibetan Medicines (TTM) are dispensed in pill form by pharmacists who mix minerals and herbs together in centuries-old recipes. But some of the ingredients may be doing more harm than good. Previous studies have found that mercury and methylmercury, both highly toxic to humans, are sometimes intentionally used in the medications. In a new study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers analyzed total mercury and methylmercury concentrations in seven common TTM remedies and found concentrations as high as 12,000 micrograms per gram and averaging 5,600 micrograms per gram. They found that daily mercury intake by Tibetans who practice traditional medicine was as much as 3,000 times higher than exposure rates in the general populations in Japan, Norway and the U.S.

29 Nov 2018

Spiky new American ankylosaurid originated in Asia

A new genus and species of ankylosaurid discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah reveal new information about the spread of armored dinosaurs into North America. Most North American ankylosaurids are known for their smooth skulls, but the new specimen more closely resembles spiky-skulled Asian ankylosaurids.

28 Nov 2018

"Easy bake" fossils resemble real deal

Most fossils are millions of years in the making, but a new technique is allowing scientists to simulate the process of fossilization in about 24 hours. The laboratory-based method, described in a study published in the journal Palaeontology, sheds light on how exceptionally preserved fossils form generally over geologic time and may provide custom samples for research projects investigating specific conditions under which certain fossils formed.

27 Nov 2018

Japanese diaries show sun's cycle sparks lightning on Earth

The effects of solar cycles on Earth’s climate over timeframes of thousands of years are well documented, but the shorter-term effects on weather are less understood. A new study using ancient Japanese diaries to track storms in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests that one of the sun’s shortest cycles — the 27-day rotational period — may play a role in stimulating lightning on Earth.

15 Nov 2018

Saharan dust a storm killer

Each year between 900 million and 4 billion metric tons of dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa is swept into the atmosphere and blown around the world. In places like Texas, the dust often leads to poor air quality. A new study suggests that desert dust may also suppress the formation of severe storms and hurricanes in the southern United States.

06 Nov 2018