Taxonomy term

timothy oleson

Mars Monthly

As Curiosity and Opportunity rove around Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express and Mars Odyssey orbit above, and scientists on Earth study the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

10 Jul 2014

Searching for evidence of ancient subduction

For billions of years, portions of Earth’s rigid surface have dipped and sunk along plate boundaries to be recycled back into the mantle below. Determining when the process of subduction began — a fundamental step in Earth’s physical, and possibly biological, evolution — has proved difficult for geoscientists due to the challenges of interpreting evidence from the few remnants of early Earth that remain. In a recent study, researchers have now proposed a new approach for identifying ancient subduction zones that could help tackle the longstanding question.

06 Jul 2014

Mercury's shrinkage underestimated

In addition to its myriad craters, Mercury is marked by mountainous ridges and faults that, similar to wrinkles that emerge on an overripe apple as it shrinks, are signs that Mercury’s surface has cracked and buckled as the planet has cooled. From previous observations, it was estimated that Mercury’s radius had decreased 1 to 3 kilometers in about the past 4 billion years, but according to a new study in Nature Geoscience, the amount of contraction has been greatly underestimated.

06 Jul 2014

Message in a bottle gourd

For about the last 10,000 years, bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) have been cultivated the world over for food and crafted into canteens, instruments and other utilitarian goods. But just how they became globally ubiquitous by the Early Holocene has long been a subject of debate among anthropologists and archaeologists. Some scientists thought the plant migrated with humans from Africa to Asia and, eventually, across the Bering land bridge to the Americas. But a new study suggests it’s unlikely the plants would have survived the long trek through harsh Arctic conditions, and instead offers a different globe-tripping hypothesis for everyone’s favorite dried fruit-turned-drinking vessel.

04 Jul 2014

Down to Earth With: Steven Stanley

It’s no wonder Steven Stanley says he can’t imagine having pursued any career other than research and teaching in geology and paleontology. After studying under eminent scientists like Alfred Fischer, Colin Pittendrigh and Harry Hess while a student at Princeton and then Yale in the 1960s, Stanley went on to add many of his own paradigm-shifting contributions to our understanding of fossils, evolution and Earth’s environmental history. He has also authored several popular textbooks and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and, most recently in 2013, the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) highest honor, the Penrose Medal.

24 Jun 2014

Cryptic creatures made for a spectacular hanging garden

Researchers studying an outcrop of Middle Devonian-aged carbonate rock in the Hamar Laghdad area of Morocco have found the remains of a community of submarine cave-roof-dwelling corals, crinoids, cnidarians and sponges that, while living, would have constituted a “spectacular hanging garden.”

22 Jun 2014

Early Triassic fossil showed live birth in action

An exceptional case of fossil preservation has provided the oldest view yet of the moment of live birth in a vertebrate. The fossil contains parts of four marine reptile individuals — a mother and her three young — from the ichthyopterygian genus, Chaohusaurus, and was unearthed in the Anhui Province of eastern China. While one of the young is still inside the mother and a second is already outside (and mostly obscured from view by other portions of the fossil), the third juvenile can be clearly seen emerging headfirst from the mother’s pelvis. Thought to be about 1 meter long when fully grown, Chaohusaurus lived about 248 million years ago in the Early Triassic and was an ancestor of later ichthyosaurs.

22 Jun 2014

Pike's Peak

The 4,300-meter-tall peak that Zebulon Pike first spied in November 1806 was already known to Native Americans, as well as Spanish settlers, who called it El Capitán. Pike first dubbed it Grand Peak, but by the mid-19th century, the name Pike’s Peak (later Pikes Peak) had begun to stick.

16 Jun 2014

Longmenshan fault zone in the spotlight after two major quakes in five years

In May 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck near Wenchuan, China, killing more than 80,000 people in the country’s biggest quake since 1950. Then, in April 2013, the magnitude-6.6 Lushan earthquake hit just 90 kilometers to the south — also within China’s Longmenshan Fault Zone, which separates the Tibetan Plateau to the west from the Sichuan Basin to the east — and caused another 200 deaths. Now, scientists have found that a roughly 60-kilometer segment of the fault zone between the epicenters of the two big temblors could be the next to rupture, although no one knows when or how big it might be.

05 Jun 2014

Recovery of 1960s sea-ice satellite images wins dark data contest

Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA who resurrected 50-year-old satellite images of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice from dusty 35-millimeter film reels took home first prize in an international geoscience data rescue contest sponsored by publisher Elsevier and the Integrated Earth Data Applications project at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

25 May 2014