Dinosaur-era shark found swimming off the coast of Portugal

The frilled shark has been around awhile. Fossils date back at least 80 million years, largely unchanged. So imagine the surprise when said fossil was found swimming and thriving off the coast of Portugal.

This almost literal “living fossil” was discovered off the Algarve coast by researchers who were working on a European Union project in the area, the BBC reported. The aim of the project was to “minimize unwanted catches in commercial fishing,” the researchers told SIC Noticisas TV, as the BBC noted. but the team unknowingly unearthed one of the rarest and most ancient animals on the planet.

Read about it here!

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The Crabbiest of Crabs

There’s a theory that giant crabs overwhelmed Amelia Earhart, dismembered her and carried her bones underground.

Speculative, at best. Sounds crazy, we know.

But so has almost every other horrifying rumor about the so-called coconut crabs — until science inevitably proves them true.

They grow to the size of dogs. They climb trees, and tear through solid matter with claws nearly as strong as a lion’s jaws.

And now we know what they eat (spoiler alert: basically anything they want).

Here. And watch the video…

 

Watching a new species evolve

Biologist who study experimental evolution will tell you that they get to see species evolve all the time. However, for the first time, scientists have been able to see the evolution of a completely new species, in the wild, in real-time. And it’s not something rapidly evolving like bacteria.

It’s a new species of Darwin’s finch, endemic to a small island in the Galápagos, Daphne Major. And it evolved in just two generations.

Read about this awesome study, and gather fodder for that argument that “evolution isn’t true” that you might be having over your Thanksgiving weekend, here!

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The dinosaur you’re eating for Thanksgiving dinner

I giggle a little every time people ask about the dinosaur extinction (on the inside because giggling in peoples’ faces is rude (so I’ve been told… repeatedly)). Dinosaurs, in the strictest sense, are not extinct. They are walking and flying around us everyday.

And this week, they are sitting in the middle of the table.

But, in all fairness, I should mention that this is an ongoing debate. Not whether or not Thanksgiving is going to be delicious (that should be settled soon), but whether dinosaurs still walk amongst us (and will soon be in your belly).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! ENJOY YOUR DINOSAUR!

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Raccoons Pass Famous Intelligence Test—By Upending It

Fun fact: one test of intelligence is based on Aesop’s Fable. It measures if animals can discern cause and effect by displacing water to access food. It’s based on the story in which a thirst crow can’t drink from a pitcher at a low level of water. By dropping in stones, the bird raises the water level and is able to drink (Related: “Watch Clever Birds Solve a Challenge From Aesop’s Fables.”)

In a new study,  researchers presented put raccoons to the test. Eight captive raccoons were presented with a cylinder containing a floating marshmallow that was too low to grab. Next, they showed the raccoons how dropping stones in the water would raise the marshmallow.

Two of the eight raccoons successfully repeated the behavior, dropping the stones to get the marshmallow. A third took matters into her own hands: She climbed onto the cylinder and rocked it until it tipped over, giving her access to the sweet treat.

Want to know more? Read about these pesky bandits here!

 

A raccoon reaches into a cylinder to get marshmallows during a recent experiment.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LAUREN STANTON

How the first trees grew so tall with hollow cores

Imagine a world without trees, and then try to think about the changes that would need to happen for these trees to evolve from the small primitive plants that came before them.

When paleobotanist think about this possibility, it usually results in a really weird looking fossil (paleontologists spend a lot of time thinking about fossils…). It has a tapering truck, at least up to eight meters high, with distinctive short branches attached around the top to form a crown. From a distance, the trees would have looked like palms, with bases up to a meter in diameter. There were no leaves as such, just branched twig-like appendages which presumably had a photosynthetic function in the carbon dioxide rich atmosphere.

Most trees today have a solid trunk, which gets bigger through the formation of a new ring of woody tissues – made up of xylem cells – under the bark each year.

However, this primitive older tree, cladoxylopsids, the xylem grew in a ring of individual parallel strands around the outside of the trunk. Inside this zone, more xylem strands formed a complex network with many interconnections both to each other and to the outer parallel strands. The majority of the inside of the trunk was completely hollow.

But if they are hollow, then how did they grow so big? Read more here!

An epilogue to a mutant snail

Let’s all bow our heads in silence for Jeremy, the brown garden snail. Jeremy was a special snail, and known worldwide for his shell. You see, it coiled left instead of right (not a political metaphor). Because of this , he had trouble mating.

 Jeremy comes from humble beginnings, and was discovered in a compost heap in South West London by a retired scientist from The Natural History Museum. He recognized Jeremy was special and notified Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Nottingham in Britain who studies snails.Jeremy won international fame for a mutation that caused his shell to coil left instead of right.

Dr. Davison wanted to know if Jeremy’s left-coiled shell was inherited or just a strange developmental mishap, and for that he needed offspring. He took Jeremy into his care and appealed to the public to find him a mate with the hashtag #leftysnail. The media followed with #snaillove, and Jeremy became a star. He even inspired a love song.

Hence, there was a worldwide search for Jeremy’s soulmate/any mate will do really. And indeed! Two mates were found:Lefty of Ipswich, England and Tomeu of Majorca, Spain. But alas, they were more interested in each other than Jeremy.

For years, people searched for another lefty snail with which he could mate. Shortly before his death, she was found. His legacy will continue in the genetic knowledge gained from the lefty snail offspring they produced together. However, just days before his death, Tomeu produced more than four dozen offspring, some of which Jeremy likely fathered. He didn’t get a chance to meet them, but “on a scientific note, he wouldn’t have recognized them”.

Jeremy was found dead Wednesday in a refrigerator in a British research lab, and likely died of old age. He will be missed.

Read the whole story here!

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