Friday Headlines: September 23, 2016

Friday Headlines, September 23, 2016

THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES

Today’s round-up:

The Universe Has No Direction

300-million-year-old Hollywood Smiles

Ocean Fossils in the Mountains

 

Scientists confirm the universe has no direction

This sounds a little… existential. But really, one of the big questions about the universe is about whether or not there is any pattern to the distribution of ‘stuff’ out there. Sure, things are clumped here and there, but if we take a broad look – the big picture – the universe appears to be basically the same no matter which way we look.

New research looking at the universe’s first light, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), has shown no pattern consistent with a rotating universe or one that is expanding at different rates in different directions. So this supports the idea that the universe is the same in all directions.

 

Palaeontologists uncover age-old secret of Hollywood celebrities

Teeth.

Or so I thought. That’s why I looked at this article. And, yes, it’s a little click-bait-y, but it is about teeth… and other things.

The major conclusion of this paper is to point out where in the lineage leading to mammals (the “non-mammalian synapsids”) that certain features appeared that seem to have served no other purpose but for sexual display.

The big canines of some saber-toothed but also herbivorous gorgonopsid synapsids, like Gorgonops below, made scientists wonder if they may have been used for sexual display.

Gorgonops whaitsii, a gorgonopsid synapsid. By Creator: Dmitry Bogdanov - dmitrchel@mail.ru, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4188077

Gorgonops whaitsii, a gorgonopsid synapsid.
By Creator: Dmitry Bogdanov – dmitrchel@mail.ru, CC BY 3.0

Using CT tomography, researchers studied various bumps and thickenings in the skulls of synapsids to determine if they were pathological or may have been used for display or for combat. It turns out that in some, such as Choerosaurus, were too fragile for combat and were likely used for display.

Read the original research paper here:

Cranial Bosses of Choerosaurus dejageri (Therapsida, Therocephalia): Earliest Evidence of Cranial Display Structures in Eutheriodonts

 

Scientists say ocean fossils found in mountains are cause for concern over future sea levels

Of course, the first thing you thought of were fossil whales and sharks, but really, the fossils found on mountains in this case are tiny, single-celled organisms called diatoms.

When I first learned about diatoms, my instructor described them as tiny golf balls and lamp shades. They’re the skeletal remains of amoeba-like animals that still live in bodies of water worldwide.

Circle of diatoms on a slide By Wipeter - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Circle of diatoms on a slide
By Wipeter – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Three million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch, there were a series of glacial retreats and advances on Antarctica. Whenever the ice receded, exposing water where the diatoms flourished. Further recession of the ice resulted in the land to actually rise, due to the removal of the weight of the ice. Diatom-rich sediments were then blown deep into the interior of Antarctica, where scientist now find them.

Study of these diatoms found on inland mountains can help us better understand the relationships between glacial retreat, sea level rise, and the uplift of lands formerly under ice. Together, it may now be possible to determine the thickness of ice sheets that no longer exist.

Read the original research paper here:

Windblown Pliocene diatoms and East Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat

 

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