Science Links of the Week

Natural History
Hammerhead sharks, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Ninety percent of sharks died out 19 million years ago: Fossils from Pacific Ocean sediments have revealed a shark extinction event that we were unaware of. Shark populations dropped by a staggering 90 percent, but researchers have no idea what caused this mass extinction. “It’s a great mystery,” says Elizabeth Sibert of Yale University. “Sharks have been around for 400 million years. They’ve been through hell and back. And yet this event wiped out 90 percent of them.”

Secret to T-Rex’s biting force revealed: A new study has found that a small boomerang-shaped bone was responsible for the T-Rex’s famously ferocious bite. The bone helped stiffen the lower jaw. Without it, the T-Rex’s lower jaw would have been flexible and not nearly as powerful. Computer models have shown that the T-Rex may have generated a bite force of over six metric tonnes.

The real Jaws: Tyrannosaurus Rex had six tons of bite force.

NASA to send two new missions to Venus: NASA has picked two new spacecraft missions to study Venus. In the first, a probe (DAVINCI+) will enter Venus’s atmosphere and try to determine if Venus has an ocean. In the second, an orbiter (VERITAS) will circle overhead, map the surface in detail, and search for active volcanoes. Both should leave Earth at the end of this decade. They will mark the first NASA expeditions to the planet in 30 years. “We’re gonna have a totally different view of it when we’re done,” said Tom Wagner, the NASA scientist leading the program.

Why are these elephants on the move?

Elephants on 500km trek near Chinese city: Last week, images of 15 Asian elephants walking through a residential area in China went viral on social media. It is so unusual that authorities in China launched a 360-person task force to monitor the unusual migration and to ensure public safety. The elephants left their natural habitat in March 2020, and wildlife authorities in the country have no idea why. In November they paused for five months after one elephant in the herd gave birth to a baby. Since April, they have been moving again.

Even puppies with no experience of people will follow a human gesture.

Puppies are born with the innate ability to communicate with humans: Dog owners know that when you point to something, dogs can follow your gesture. Researchers have long debated whether dogs learn to do this by spending time with humans or whether the skill is innate. A new study has found that eight-week-old puppies with little exposure to humans understand the gesture. “This all suggests that dogs are biologically prepared for communication with humans,” says Emily Bray, lead author of the study.

A Scottish tomb yields oldest-ever carvings

A researcher studies the carvings.

Prehistoric carvings found in Scottish Neolithic tomb: Prehistoric carvings of red deer have turned up in Kilmartin Glen in Argyll, Scotland. The newly discovered carving depicts two male red deer and several young deer. Archaeologists estimate that the carvings are 4,000 to 5,000 years old. These may be the earliest prehistoric animal carvings ever found in Scotland.

Sinking cargo ship causes marine disaster in Sri Lanka: A cargo ship carrying toxic chemicals caught fire on May 20 off the coast of Sri Lanka. For two weeks, authorities attempted to control the chemical fire aboard the ship laden with nitric acid, caustic soda, sodium methoxide, and methane. These toxic materials have spilled into the ocean, and tons of plastic pellets have begun to wash ashore. “This is one of the worst marine disasters that has happened in Sri Lanka,” said Dr. Asha de Vos, a marine biologist. “Our only saving grace is that there was no oil spill. If that happens, that will be incredibly tragic.”

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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