Taxonomy term

lucas joel

Mineral clue to finding perfectly preserved fossils?

The exquisitely preserved fossils found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale in Canada are famous for the detailed anatomy they display. They also provide a rare and crucial record of the Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major animal groups first appeared.

17 Jul 2018

Benchmarks: June 15, 1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts

Twenty-seven years ago this month, the calm in central Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, turned to chaos. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo disgorged 5 cubic kilometers of material over a few hours, and ash clouds soared 35 kilometers into the atmosphere. The substantial eruption — the second largest of the 20th century — burned itself into memories and history books.

15 Jun 2018

"Dam levels critical" in Cape Town

At first glance, a visitor to Cape Town might not notice the extent of the parched conditions — people still go about their business, amid the same kind of hustle and bustle you would find in other major cities. But looking closer, there are signs that something is not right. People standing in buckets to conserve water during showers is one such sign, and bottled water flying off grocery store shelves is another.

13 Jun 2018

Skate eggs found on hydrothermal vents

In July 2016, a team of scientists came upon a surprise 1,660 meters beneath the ocean’s surface near the Galápagos Islands: a clutch of yellow eggs, laid by a Pacific white skate, a cousin of rays and sharks. It was not the eggs themselves that surprised the team, but where they were found: near a volcanic hydrothermal vent. The large number of eggs at the site led the team to suggest that the skate was likely using the vent’s heat to incubate the eggs.

11 Jun 2018

TRAPPIST-1 system hosts seven "Earth-like" planets

In 2017, astronomers discovered seven planets orbiting a star dubbed TRAP­PIST-1, a faint red dwarf 40 light-years from Earth and only 9 percent as bright as our sun. The Earth-like qualities of these planets made headlines: they are of similar sizes to our planet, and their orbits fall within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone — two characteristics that scientists think are important for life to exist on a planet. Researchers now report that the TRAPPIST-1 planets have even more traits in common with Earth: they are likely rocky, and they may have surface water that exists as liquid, ice and vapor.

08 Jun 2018

Getting there and getting around Idaho

If you’re interested in a trip down the Main Salmon, you have two options: put a trip together yourself, or hire a professional outfitter to take you.

06 Jun 2018

Travels in Geology: Rafting the Salmon River through the Idaho Batholith

Rafting down the Main Salmon River, which courses north and then west across northern Idaho, takes you by Precambrian metamorphics and the granites of the Idaho Batholith. Six to eight days later, your trip concludes as you float past what was once the edge of North America, and over former island arcs sutured onto the continent during the Mesozoic.
06 Jun 2018

Cape Town faces a waterless future

The city of Cape Town, South Africa, is bone dry. In 2017, after two straight years of drought, a third drought year offered more of the same.. This past January, city leaders announced that they would shut off the taps to the municipal water supply in April because that was when “Day Zero” — the day when the water supply would run dry — was predicted to occur. Day Zero has since been pushed back to sometime in 2019, but, for 4 million Capetonians, living under the specter of a day without water is the new normal, and signs of that reality litter the city. Sometimes literally.

22 May 2018

Origins of plant photosynthesis illuminated

Photosynthesis, the process by which plants harness sunlight to make their food, is a defining feature of plants and an important evolutionary development. But when photosynthesis evolved in ancient plant ancestors is not clear. The Precambrian fossil red alga Bangiomorpha pubescens, discovered in the Canadian Arctic in 1990 by University of Cambridge paleobiologist Nicholas Butterfield, displays evidence of traits that suggest it photosynthesized the way plants do, but the exact age of the fossil was also unknown. In a new study, researchers report an age for the alga of about 1.047 billion years, making it the oldest-known direct ancestor of plants.

25 Apr 2018

Whatever happened to thagomizers and other tail weapons?

Stegosaurus wielded a spiked tail — dubbed a “thagomizer” by cartoonist Gary Larson and informally adopted by paleontologists — which the herbivorous dinosaur likely used for defense against hungry predators. Other extinct animals also sported foe-clobbering tail weapons: Ankylosaurus had a tail club, as did extinct mammals like the glyptodonts, giant armadillo-like animals that once roamed the Americas. Today, though, thagomizers and bony tail clubs are things of the past. In a new study, paleontologists have found that extinct animals with such weapons all shared a now-antiquated set of traits: They were large, herbivorous, and had body armor and a stiff torso.

23 Apr 2018

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