We humans are not a stagnant species.Take the Bajau (pronounced Bah-joe). They’re a group of about 5,000 people that have lived on one of Indonesia’s ‘s 17,500 islands for centuries. The Bajau they live close to the water and spend a lot of their time diving for food in the sea, a hydrophilic lifestyle that…
Gardeners puzzled by the sudden emergence of an unusual orchid or despairing that their annuals have vanished should take heart. Scientist have discovered that some British flowers can lie dormant under the ground for up to 20 years, emerging into bloom only when the conditions are just right. Native flowers which have the capability of sheltering underground include the lady’s slipper orchid, the dark-red helleborine, spring vetch, autumn’s lady’s tresses, the broad bucker fern and the bee orchid. Researchers at the University of Sussex found at least 114 plant species are capable of living dormant under the soil for up to two decades, enabling them to survive through difficult times. Orchids and ferns seem particularly adept at slumbering for years at a time, the authors discovered. Prof Michael Hutchings, Emeritus Professor in Ecology at the University of Sussex, said: “It would seem to be paradoxical that plants would evolve this behaviour because being underground means they cannot photosynthesise, flower or reproduce. “And yet this study has shown that many plants in a large number of species frequently exhibit prolonged dormancy. Many of these species have found ways to overcome the loss of opportunities to photosynthesise during dormancy, especially by evolving mechanisms enabling them to obtain carbohydrates and nutrients from soil-based fungal associates. “This allows them to survive and even thrive during dormant periods.” The research found that dormancy is triggered when the weather is poor, or there is a new threat from herbivores or competing plants. Sometimes winters are so mild that the plant does not realise that spring has begun. Dormancy in seeds has been widely known about and studied for decades but the phenomenon of dormancy within plants that have left the seed stage behind and embarked upon adult life is far less well-known and understood. The study, led by University of Tokyo associate professor Richard Shefferson, is the first detailed analysis of the causes. Dormancy appeared to be more common near the equator, where threats from factors such as disease, competition, herbivores and fire are more severe. Co-author Dr Eric Menges of Archbold Biological Station in Florida, USA, said: “In fire-prone areas, there appears to be an advantage to plants remaining dormant and then sprouting after fire when favourable conditions exist for growth and flowering”. Prof Hutchings added: “Dormancy has evolved and persisted numerous times throughout the evolutionary history of the land plants. “This suggests not only that it has proved beneficial under many different ecological circumstances, but also that its evolution may be achievable through the occurrence of a small number of mutations at only a few genetic loci.” The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.
Jim Bridenstine, perhaps the most politically controversial NASA administrator in history, was confirmed today (April 19) on a party-line vote in the Senate, giving the US space agency a permanent leader for the first time in 15 months. The 50-49 vote puts the Oklahoma congressman in charge of the sprawling space agency and its $20-billion…
Have you ever wondered why land animals are so small today? Fossils have shown us that many dinosaurs were absolutely massive beasts, evolving over millions and millions of years to become huge, intimidating creature that could crush small animals under their mighty feet, and modern day mammals, by contrast, are tiny. Sure, elephants are big, but that seems to be a rare exception rather than the rule. As it turns out, the plight of many modern elephant species tells us everything we need to know about why mammals are so small: humans keep killing all the big ones.
A new study from a team of researchers from several American universities points to humans being the main reason why modern day animals are so tiny compared to the past. The research was published in Science. This is why we can't have nice things.
“We used to have animals on the Earth that weighed over 10 tons,” Felisa Smith, a paleoecologist at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the research, told Seeker. “Now the biggest thing is an elephant that on average is only about three and a half-ish, and if they go extinct, then we’re talking about things no bigger than 900 kilos (2,000 pounds). And that’s maximum size. If you look at mean size, it’s much, much different.”
The work focuses on what life roamed the earth in the post-dinosaur world, with creatures like the the wooly rhinoceros, mastodon, and the giant sloth which was as large as an elephant. These examples of "megafauna" began to disappear right around the time human ancestors pushed their way out of Africa. The scientists have drawn a pretty damning link between large-scale extinction of huge mammals and the arrival of human ancestors with insatiable appetites.
Even more unsettling than what our family tree has done to the animal kingdom may be what lies ahead. Smith and her fellow researchers suggest that, based on the trends humans have set in motion, such as climate change, larger modern animals face a similar fate as the ones we've already pushed to extinction.
"If we don’t cope with it, we actually are going to end up with an Earth where there is nothing bigger than a cow," Smith says. "And that’s a depressing thought for me personally.”
The Bajau people of Southeast Asia are among the most accomplished divers in the world. In the summer of 2015, Melissa Ilardo got to see how good they are firsthand. She remembers diving with Pai Bayubu, who had already gone fairly deep when he saw a giant clam, 30 to 50 feet below him. “He just dropped down,” Ilardo recalls. “He pointed at it, and then he was there. Underwater, the Bajau are as comfortable as most people are on land. They walk on the seafloor. They have complete control of their breath and body. They spear fish, no problem, first try.”
A SpaceX rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Wednesday evening carrying NASA’s latest planet-hunting telescope. Known as TESS, the satellite will look for planets capable of supporting life over a two-year mission.
The freediving Bajau people of Southeast Asia, however, are not your average people. Scientists have discovered the group of “sea nomads” may have developed genetic adaptations that allow them to free dive to depths of up to 230 ft. Bajau members report lasting up to thirteen minutes underwater in a single dive. For more than 1,000 years the Bajau have lived off of the seas in Southeast Asia.
Mankind has managed to learn a lot about our Solar System and the planets that reside in it simply by gazing into the night sky, but finding evidence of planets that no longer exist is obviously a much more difficult challenge. A team of scientists now believes they've done just that thanks to the shattered remains of a rock that fell to Earth back in 2008. The Almahata Sitta meteorite broke up in Earth's atmosphere and drifted down to the sands of Sudan's Nubian Desert, and the precious gems found inside of its rocky chunks may reveal the existence of a planet that not longer exists.
The strength of diamonds gives them the unique ability to act like a record of the past, and the diamonds found in the remains of this particular meteorite appear to have come from a still-forming "protoplanet." The researchers know this because of the materials found in the meteorite, which could only have formed in a massive rocky body. The only two possible explanations are a colossal asteroid or a young planet.
After analyzing the meteorites and diamonds hidden within them, the researchers determined that they could only have formed under incredible pressure, and perhaps even within a young planet as large as Mars. Their work was published this week in Nature Communications.
"We discovered chromite, phosphate, and (Fe,Ni)-sulfide inclusions embedded in diamond," the researchers write. "The composition and morphology of the inclusions can only be explained if the formation pressure was higher than 20 GPa. Such pressures suggest that the ureilite parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary embryo."
The scientists believe that whatever planet it may have come from is completely gone, which would have happened very early in the Solar System's life. They believe that large Mars-size worlds were common in the early days of our system, and that many of them collided with each other and broke down into smaller bodies that were then absorbed by other planets. The chunk of space rock that dropped in the desert in 2008 is considered the first evidence of the existence of these early planets which no longer exist.
By Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - The spread of humans around the world from Africa thousands of years ago wiped out big mammals in a shrinking trend that could make the cow the biggest mammal on Earth in a few centuries' time, a scientific study said on Thursday. The spread of hominims - early humans and relatives such as Neanderthals - from Africa coincided with the extinction of mammals such as the mammoths, sabre-toothed tiger and glyptodon, an armadillo-like creature the size of a car. "There is a very clear pattern of size-biased extinction that follows the migration of hominims out of Africa," lead author Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico told Reuters of the study published in the journal Science.
A NASA satellite has embarked on a quest for planets where life might exist. Propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket supplied by private firm SpaceX, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) hurtled off of a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida and into its search for so-called “exoplanets”, or worlds capable of potentially supporting life. TESS will watch for flickers of starlight emitted when planets pass in front of stars they orbit as scientists hope to catalogue thousands of new planets.
Humans can be challenging neighbors: We build cities, we turn forests into fields and we enjoy eating a host of other species. It finds a stark correlation between the arrival of humans or our lost relatives like Neanderthals on a new continent and the subsequent extinction of larger mammals that leaves behind smaller survivors. In short, mammals on average have been shrinking for more than 100,000 years, and it's all humans' fault.