Taxonomy term

mary caperton morton

What happened here?

Why did so many animals end up buried at the Snowmastodon site? What happened to them? “We really struggled to figure out why there were so many bones found in this location,” says Ian Miller, chair of earth sciences and the paleobotanist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who co-led the Snowmastodon Project. “Was it some kind of deathtrap? Or was there a deadly catastrophe like an earthquake or a landslide?” 
13 Dec 2015

Volunteering to muck around in the mud

The Snowmastodon Project team pulled thousands of fossils out of snowy mud in a matter of months, a herculean task that would not have been as successful without a small army of volunteers, many of whom came from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s paleontology program. The program trains interested laypeople in the art of collecting, studying and curating fossils, one of the only programs like it in the world. 
13 Dec 2015

Potentially venomous extinct mammals discovered in Zambia

Venomousness is rare among both living mammals and their extinct relatives, with only a handful of modern mammals, like the platypus and some species of shrews, known to produce venom. But the discovery of a mammal that lived about 255 million years ago in what is now Zambia may be one of the earliest venomous mammals. 
12 Dec 2015

Earthquake changed Po River's course in 16th-century Italy

The Po River runs for 650 kilometers from west to east across northern Italy, tracing the cuff of the country’s famous boot-like shape. But the river has not always followed its present course. Over the past 3,000 years, uplift along a fault gradually moved the river’s course about 20 kilometers north, and new research shows that a magnitude-5.8 earthquake in 1570 catastrophically rerouted the Po River another 40 kilometers north to its present location. 
09 Dec 2015

Moroccan fossil formation reshapes timeline of Early Phanerozoic evolution

Many new life-forms emerged during both the Cambrian Explosion and the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, but a lack of fossils from the 40-million-year span in between has left scientists wondering if a period of evolutionary stasis took hold between the two booms. Now, the discovery of a prodigious bed of fossils in Morocco that date to between 485 million and 444 million years ago indicates that the Ordovician boom may actually have been a continuation of the Cambrian Explosion, with little to no evolutionary downtime in between.
02 Dec 2015

Solar flare calibration reveals past patterns of volcanism and cooling

When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it sent a cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that blocked incoming solar radiation and caused global temperatures to drop 0.5 degrees Celsius for three years. Quantifying such effects of prehistoric volcanic eruptions on climate, however, has long proved difficult due to inconsistencies in the proxies used to reconstruct atmospheric and temperature fluctuations. In a new study, scientists have used markers left by an unusual solar flare event to align ice-core and tree-ring records, enabling a more accurate accounting of the effects of volcanic eruptions in recent millennia.
25 Nov 2015

Enceladus' extremely alkaline underground ocean

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is home to a vast underground ocean that erupts to the surface at the moon’s south pole in a giant plume of gas, ice and dust. Scientists studying observational data of this plume collected by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, have recently learned more about the chemistry of Enceladus’ hidden ocean. 
24 Nov 2015

Opalescent pools shimmer beneath Santorini

With its bright blue waters and dramatic cliffside villas, Santorini, Greece, is an idyllic vacation destination, but lurking beneath the Aegean waves lay the remains of one of the most active volcanoes in human history. Because of its eruptive past and proximity to population centers, the Santorini Caldera is closely monitored, but a recent expedition revealed something never before seen there or anywhere else: shimmering opalescent pools of carbon dioxide sequestered on the seafloor.
15 Nov 2015

Travertine buildup reflects ancient Rome's water usage

By the third century, Rome had 11 aqueducts — engineered rivers enclosed by masonry — that supplied water to more than a million people in the metropolis, as well as to the city’s many extravagant public baths and fountains. But just how much water was being sourced from distant rivers, lakes and mountain springs has long been a mystery. Now, scientists are putting some impressive numbers to ancient Rome’s water usage based on a study of travertine deposits that built up over time in the Anio Novus aqueduct as freshwater flowed through it to the city.
08 Nov 2015

Marine microorganisms drive summer clouds over Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is home to some of the most pristine air anywhere on Earth. And yet it’s also one of the cloudiest places on the planet, a seeming contradiction because water droplets require particulate matter in the air to condense into clouds. Now, a study looking at cloud droplet concentrations over the Southern Ocean is giving scientists a clearer understanding of the role played by marine microorganisms in cloud formation and climate.
06 Nov 2015