Taxonomy term

november 2017

Dino deaths cleared the way for frogs

Frogs make up almost 90 percent of amphibians, and with 6,775 described species, frogs are considered one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates on the planet. In a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers indicate that frogs’ rapid diversification stems back to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg, formerly the K-T) boundary, about 66 million years ago, when nonavian dinosaurs and many other animals went extinct.

30 Nov 2017

Caldera clays may hold key to lithium independence

Most of the world’s lithium is mined in South America and Australia. New research suggests that the United States may have its own untapped lithium supplies in lake deposits in the calderas left behind by large volcanic eruptions. In the study, published in Nature Communications, researchers detail a new way to detect deposits of the silvery white metal in places such as Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

28 Nov 2017

Can fossil footprints reveal the weight of a dinosaur?

Body mass is a fundamental factor in determining how much food an animal requires, how it moves and grows, and what role it plays in its ecosystem. Measuring modern animals is often a straightforward matter of putting them on a scale, but it’s no easy feat for paleontologists interested in extinct creatures like dinosaurs, since many of these animals’ weighty parts — their organs, muscles and skin, for example — are long gone. Frequent claims of “the heaviest dinosaur of all time,” for example, as in the case of the recently named Patagotitan, are fraught with uncertainty. Recent research, however, is offering a novel approach to estimating dinosaur body masses by examining the footprints they left behind.

27 Nov 2017

Seismic patterns help forecast eruptions from quiet stratovolcanoes

Earth is home to more than 1,500 potentially eruptive volcanoes on land, each with a unique character and history. Predicting when and how a particular volcano may erupt is notoriously difficult, in large part because each eruption is unique. Recent work tracking pre-eruptive seismic behavior beneath two dozen reawakened volcanoes has revealed a distinctive pattern that seismologists may be able to use to assess when — and how violently — a rumbling volcano could blow its top.

24 Nov 2017

Antimony may have poisoned Pompeii's drinking water

The ancient Romans may have had advanced water distribution systems, but the water pipes they used were highly toxic. Many Roman-era water pipes were lined with lead, leading some archaeologists to suspect a public health crisis among Romans that may have contributed to the empire’s eventual fall. But others point out that the high levels of calcium carbonate in the Romans’ water supply would have quickly coated the pipes with scale, limiting the exposure of drinking water to lead. However, a new study suggests lead wasn’t the only concern: A sample of pipe from Pompeii dating to A.D. 79 has shown that the Italian city’s drinking water may have also contained alarmingly high levels of antimony. Antimony is an acutely poisonous element, ingestion of which can lead to severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and/or death from ailments such as kidney failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

23 Nov 2017

Opportunist organisms rafted across the Pacific on plastic

Since World War II, fiberglass and plastic — which are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance than wood — have become the materials of choice for coastal infrastructure like docks. An unforeseen consequence of this transition, however, is that when structures built from these durable materials break free from their moorings and drift out to sea, they can serve as resilient rafts for opportunistic organisms. 

21 Nov 2017

Imaging Iceland's volcanic roots

Home to more than 30 active volcanoes, Iceland is one of the most vigorous volcanic settings on Earth. A new look at the core-mantle boundary thousands of kilometers below the island is offering one of the most complete pictures yet of how Iceland’s volcanoes are fueled.

21 Nov 2017

Alaskan subduction zone mirrors Tohoku zone that unleashed tsunami

In 2011, a large swath of coastal Japan was devastated and more than 15,000 people were killed when the magnitude-9.1 Tohoku earthquake unleashed massive tsunami waves that inundated land with run-up heights of 30 meters in places. In a new study, researchers have discovered that the seafloor off the Alaska Peninsula exhibits structures and fault patterns similar to the region where the Tohoku quake originated — a finding that may indicate a higher tsunami risk for coastal Alaska than previously thought.

20 Nov 2017

Benchmarks: November 18, 1929: Turbidity currents snap trans-Atlantic cables

On the evening of Monday, Nov. 18, 1929, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake ruptured off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Those living on the Burin Peninsula, a foot of land that reaches into the Atlantic Ocean, reportedly felt five minutes of shaking — a confusing sensation, since no one in the area had experienced an earthquake before. “Suddenly this roar — this loud banging — [occurred] and the kettle and the plates started to dance,” Gus Etchegary, a resident of the Burin Peninsula who had experienced the quake, described in a documentary video produced by The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website.

18 Nov 2017

Extinct lunar magnetic field lasted longer than previously thought

Magnetized lunar rocks collected by the Apollo missions indicate the moon had its own magnetic field, generated by motion of liquid metal in its core, until at least 3.2 billion years ago. However, what powered the lunar field and how long it lasted has been unclear. Now, new research reveals that the lunar magnetic field lasted until at least 2.5 billion years ago, and possibly even until 1 billion years ago.

17 Nov 2017

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