Arachnophobes, go to your happy place and please click here. Researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum along with other experts recently unveiled a new spider species found in Mexico that is roughly the size of a softball, reports Deborah Sullivan Brennan at the Los Angeles Times.
According to a blog post from the museum, in 2013 field entomologist Jim Berrian and a team of researchers found the spider while exploring the Sierra Cacachilas, a small mountain range in Baja California Sur in Mexico. Investigating a cave in the area, they noticed a giant exoskeleton hanging from the ceiling. Instead of running back to their hotel and hiding under the covers, they decided to return that night, since they identified the spider as belonging to a genus of arachnids that are often nocturnal. That night, in the darkened cave, the team got their first look at what is now known as Califorctenus cacachilensis, or the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider. The official description of the new spider appears in the journal Zootaxa.
“When I saw these spiders for the first time, I was very impressed by their size,” Baja spider expert Maria Luisa Jimenez, a researcher at Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, says in the blog post. “In all my experience over the years collecting spiders on the peninsula, I had never seen a spider this large. I suspected that something new was waiting to be described.”
Read more: SMITHSONIAN
Wolf in dog's clothing. @jamesgorman
"The history of dogs is still murky, however, because it seems that different kinds of wolves and dogs have interbred at different times in different places over the past tens of thousands of years.
Love Dalen, of the Swedish Museum of Natural History and an author of the report in Current Biology, said that the simplest explanation for the new evidence “is that dogs were domesticated as much as 30,000 years ago.”
But, he said, the researchers’ work does not prove that this is what happened. Pontus Skoglund, a research fellow at Harvard University and the first author of the research paper, said, “We can’t just look at the DNA and say whether a canid was living with modern humans.”
Phys.org)—Stephen Brusatte, a fellow in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. has published a Perspective piece in the journal Science outlining the state of current research into the development of flight in dinosaurs. In it, he suggests that contrary to common assumptions, it appears that the path to flight for dinosaurs was anything but a straight line.
As Brusatte notes, when most people think of the evolution of a particular feature or ability, they tend to think of a straight line—a species develops a feature that allows it to do something better; its offspring also express that feature, and soon another feature is added until something like wings for flight develop...."
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-paleontologist-path-flight-dinosaurs-straight.html#jCp
—Stephen Louis Brusatte, paleontologist and evolutionary biologist specializing in the anatomy and evolution of dinosaurs.
"A 245-million-year-old fossil of a pregnant reptile offers the first evidence for live birth in the animal group that includes modern birds and crocodiles.
Live birth has evolved dozens of times in vertebrates, but has never been seen in archosauromorphs, which emerged around 260 million years ago. This group comprises dinosaurs as well as extant birds and crocodiles.
A team led by Jun Liu at the Hefei University of Technology in China analysed the fossil — found in 2008 in southwestern China — and concluded that it was a long-necked marine reptile called Dinocephalosaurus. A relatively large creature found inside its rib cage was curled up and positioned in a way that is typical of vertebrate embryos.
The fossil suggests that no genetic or developmental barriers prevented live births in archosauromorphs, the authors say."
In expeditions to the Gobi Desert in the past decade, Lee and his colleagues have unearthed the 70-million-year-old fossils of two more individuals of the species from sites near to where the original 1965 specimen was discovered. Together, those remains — along with some bones stolen by poachers before Lee and his team found the fossils, but since recovered from a private collection — account for about 95% of the creature’s skeleton, he notes.
The newer-found bones differ from those of other ornithomimosaurs in several unexpected ways. Most of the spinal vertebrae have blade-like projections that extended upward and served as anchors for a network of ligaments that probably helped to support the immense weight of the creature’s abdomen. The researchers estimate that Deinocheirus was about 11 metres long and tipped the scales at more than 6.3 tonnes.
“This is definitely an unusual animal,” says Thomas Holtz, Jr., a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who wrote an accompanying News & Views piece2. “It had more of a ‘beer belly’ than your typical ornithomimosaur,” he suggests...."
(Photo: Two dire wolves and Smilodon on the carcass of a Columbian mammoth at the La Brea tar pits by R. Bruce Horsfall
Robert Bruce Horsfall - William Berryman Scott, A history of land mammals in the western hemisphere, New York, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1913. Frontispiece.
Smilodon californicus and Canis dirus fight over a Mammuthus columbi carcass in the La Brea Tar Pits.)
Continuing Search for the Original Best Friend. @david_grimm. @science.
"...It's all a bit of a jumble, which seems appropriate for a field that's a bit of a mess itself. Dogs were the very first thing humans domesticated—before any plant, before any other animal. Yet despite decades of study, researchers are still fighting over where and when wolves became humans' loyal companions. “It's very competitive and contentious,” says Jean-Denis Vigne, a zooarchaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who notes that dogs could shed light on human prehistory and the very nature of domestication. “It's an animal so deeply and strongly connected to our history that everyone wants to know.”
And soon everyone just might. In an unprecedented truce brokered by two scientists from outside the dog wars, the various factions have started working together. With the help of Hulme-Beaman and others, they're sharing samples, analyzing thousands of bones, and trying to set aside years of bad blood and bruised egos. If the effort succeeds, the former competitors will uncover the history of man's oldest friend—and solve one of the greatest mysteries of domestication....."
"...Larson feels confident that the work will solve the mystery of dog domestication once and for all, though some experts aren't so sure. Just throwing a lot of data at an enigma won't necessarily unravel it, warns Richard Meadow, the director of the zooarchaeology laboratory at Harvard University's Peabody Museum. “The more samples you get, the more complicated things get.” And Hulme-Beaman points out that even if there is an answer, it's likely to disgruntle some of the collaborators...."
Dr Mary Hagedorn of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute tells Claudia Hammond about her work to save threatened coral species. Her approach amounts to an IVF clinic for these ecologically vital reef-building colonial creatures. But how do you collect sperm from a coral in the ocean?
Victoria Gill on how light pollution may pose a threat to corals, adding the onslaught from pollution, climate change and over-fishing at reefs.
Madagascar's Lemurs Cling to Survival
The famous lemurs of Madagascar face such severe threats to their survival that none of them may be left in the wild within 25 years. That stark warning comes from one of the world's leading specialists in the iconic animals. BBC News Science editor David Shukman hangs out with indri (the largest lemur species) and talks to Malagasy conservation scientists trying to save them.
Three Fab Fossils of 2015
Claudia and Victoria chat about three fabulous fossils announced during the year. They choose the two metre long lobster-like creature which fed like a filter-feeding whale: the feathered Velociraptor: and the snake which hugged its prey with its four tiny legs.
Peeping Ape Clue to the Origins of Speech?
Adam Rutherford talks to Zanna Clay about research into our closest relatives, the bonobos and the unique 'peep' noises they make and why they could provide clues to the evolution of human language. Plus the Chimp Edinburgh Accent Controversy.
Giant Rats help Doctors test for TB
African giant pouched rats are using their noses to help doctors in Mozambique. The company behind the diagnostic rats claim their rodents are faster than medical staff at testing patient samples for TB infection.
Victoria Gill on the feats of the bar headed goose, capable of flying at more than 7,000 metres, and how hummingbirds avoid over-heating despite flapping at 70 wing beats per second.
Is Commercial Lion Hunting Justifiable?
Earlier this year there was outrage when a dentist from the United States with a cross bow wounded a lion during a commercial hunting holiday in Zimbabwe. Mortally injured Cecil the lion was subsequently shot. While many are convinced that trophy hunting should be banned, there are others who argue that such hunting is actually necessary for conservation. The biologist, professor Adam Hart travels to Southern Africa to investigate the ethics of hunting in the light of cold economics.
Individual animals have their own personalities, according to zoologists. Personality is a trait which even extends to crabs, according to Mark Briffa of Plymouth University. Some are shy, others are bold. Some are conscientious, others aren’t so attentive to detail. Can animals really be said to have individual personalities and why does Nature favour a mix of temperaments in a species?
How Parrots Mimic Human Speech
Victoria Gill on a discovery which might explain why parrots are such good mimics, with comment from Disco the chatty budgie.
The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond and produced by Andrew Luck-Baker with comments from Victoria Gill, BBC Science Reporter.