Thursday, July 20, 2017

Discovered! Stegomastodon Fossil

Researchers have their hands on a rare fossil from the Pleistocene era thanks to a 10-year-old's clumsiness.

Jude Sparks said he literally fell on the 1.2-million-year-old skull of a stegomastodon -- a massive prehistoric creature with tusks like an elephant -- while on a hike with his parents on the desert outskirts of his neighborhood in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

"I was running farther up and I tripped on part of the tusk," Sparks said in a statement from New Mexico State University, where researchers are studying the find. "My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up and there was another tusk."

The stegomastodon is one of three species of proboscideans that inhabited the ancient Rio Grande Valley, and is believed to be an ancestor to modern-day elephants.

Sparks' parents contacted biologist Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, after hearing he had discovered a similar fossil in a quarry south of campus, the university said.

The fossil was found on private land, and it took several months to get permission to excavate from the property owner. In New Mexico, the law stipulates that vertebrate fossils found on private land belong to the landowner. Here, the property owner asked that the precise site remain confidential, according to the university.

The Sparks family eventually joined with Houde and his students to excavate the skull, a process that took one week.

The large skull is deceptively delicate, and the only thing holding it together was the sediment around it, Houde said.

"When the sediments are removed from the sides of [the bones], they start to fall apart immediately and literally fall into tiny, tiny bits. It has to be done carefully by somebody who knows how to go about doing it. It is a very deliberate process that takes a little bit of time," he said.

The team applied chemical hardeners to the fossil, mimicking the bone strength provided by protein, to keep it intact. Once dug from the ground, the fossil was coated in plaster and supported by wood braces for transport to New Mexico State University's Vertebrate Museum, where it now lives.
"We have the unique opportunity to really compare what the animal looks like [on] a much larger complete scale and compare it with others," Houde told CBS Albuquerque affiliate KRQE, adding that it's extremely rare to find a nearly intact skull of a mammal dating back to the Ice Age.
The process to reconstruct the skull, jaw and tusks is likely to take years to complete, Houde said.
"I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends and even his own children, look what I found right here in Las Cruces," he said.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Underwater forest preserved since Ice Age

picture © Ben Rainesscreen-shot-2017-06-08

An ancient underwater forest found south of Alabama's Gulf Shores in the Gulf of Mexico could provide a time capsule to a pre-human era on Earth.

The cypress forest dates back to an Ice Age more than 60,000 years ago when sea levels were 400 feet lower than today, according to the new documentary "The Underwater Forest," made by environmental reporter and filmmaker Ben Raines. Raines first went in search of the site after he was tipped off by a savvy local source, he explained in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" forum.

"I first learned of the Underwater Forest from a dive shop owner in Alabama," Raines said. "He discovered the forest about a year after Hurricane Ivan, when a fisherman came into the dive shop and said, 'I've found this spot that's just loaded with fish but there's barely anything in terms of structure that shows up on my depth finder. Why don't you go out there and take a look?'"

In analyzing the site, DeLong's team of dendrochronologists (specialists in tree-ring dating), geologists and paleontologists is collecting rare information on Ice Age-era climate, rainfall, insects and plants, building new insights into what Earth looked like before humans inhabited it. It took years, but Raines finally convinced the shop owner to show him the exact site, he said. He wrote a story about the discovery, and immediately received a call from paleoclimatologist Kristine DeLong of Louisiana State University asking if she could carbon date some samples from the site. 

With that, Raines and DeLong formed a partnership to extract as much knowledge from the site as possible while also preserving its natural wonders — the story of which is told in the film.                

The first scientific expedition to the site happened in 2012, and DeLong continues leading a team of scientists studying its secrets. Unique conditions have sealed the forest in a sort of "underwater time capsule," the team said.

It's believed to be the world's only preserved coastal Ice Age forest, long hidden beneath the sea.

should decompose on a 10,000 year time scale — suggesting that, at this particular site, the cypress has survived much longer thanks to low-oxygen sediments that bar bacteria from decomposing the wood, DeLong explained on Reddit.

Further research into the forest could shed light on a phenomena currently gripping humans on Earth: rapid sea level rise due to climate change. Sea level rise was particularly intense across the planet back when the forest was thriving, Raines said.

In the U.S., chronic flooding linked to sea level rise is expected to destabilize hundreds of communities by the end of this century, according to recent analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists. More than 90 coastal communities in the U.S. already cope with chronic inundation.

In sharing their story, the team remains cagey on one crucial detail: the precise location coordinates of the site.

To protect the forest remnants, the team generally follows scuba diving procedures used in the world's precious but fragile coral reefs, avoids disturbing the floor of the site, and uses only noninvasive scientific instruments that move above the seafloor to map the area, DeLong and Raines explained on Reddit.

The team is working with federal agencies like the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to preserve the site.

Shanika Gunaratna @CBSNews

Monday, July 10, 2017


Our first ever Look into the EYE OF JUPITER

NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot later today, offering
the first ever 'close up' of the

The gaseous red spot has been monitored by humans since 1830 according to NASA and is thought to have raged for as much as 350 years.
"This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries.
Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio in a press release.
The point at which Juno will be closest to Jupiter's center occurs at 9:55 p.m. ET when the spacecraft will pass 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops.
NASA has calculated that 11 minutes later Juno will be directly above Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
Juno has logged just over one year in Jupiter's orbit, traveling around 71 million miles around the planet.

© NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran © PUBLIC DOMAIN This is an enhanced color photo of Jupiter.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Beautiful Backyard View

What a view of the Snake River from the Clarkston Heights.  Thanks for sharing Lisa!

Thursday, July 6, 2017


LINCOLN, Mont. — A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit near the town of Lincoln in western Montana early Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey which also reported that the quake was the eighth-strongest earthquake on record for Montana. The most recent on the Top 10 list was 12 years ago.
Musician John Mayer, a part-time Bozeman resident, took to Twitter to marvel at how long it had been since an earthquake of this magnitude had struck the area.

"New experience: woken up by an earthquake. No damage just spooky as heck!" Cole Fawcett tweeted in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, about 285 miles (460 km) north of Lincoln.
Residents in the U.S. west flooded Twitter early on Thursday with similar experiences.

No significant damage or injuries had been reported about an hour after the quake.
More than 10,000 reports from those who felt shaking were collected on the USGS website.
Several aftershocks with magnitudof more than 4 were reported by the USGS.
The quake, which struck some 6 miles southeast of the town of Lincoln at a depth of about 2.5 miles,  The Independent Record reported.
Image: A 5.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Montana
A handout from the United States Geological Survey shows the location of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck western Montana on Thursday. UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY / EPA

The newspaper reported that the temblor was strong enough to knock items off the shelves and walls of residents of Helena, which is about 34 miles away from the quake's epicenter.
A 76-year-old Helena resident said it was the strongest quake he had ever felt.


5.8 Earthquake Rocks Montana

By Brendan O'Brien
A magnitude-5.8 earthquake hit western Montana early on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, and people felt the tremor hundreds of miles away.                  Map Courtesy USGS Montana Earthquake Map

The earthquake struck five miles (9 km) southeast of Lincoln, Montana, at about 12:30 a.m. local time, the USGS said on its website.
"New experience: woken up by an earthquake. No damage just spooky as heck!" Cole Fawcett tweeted in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, about 285 miles (460 km) north of Lincoln.
Residents in the U.S. west flooded Twitter early on Thursday with similar experiences.
"My mom woke up and yelled at me and my dad that there was a bear shaking our trailer," Brad Wynder © said on Twitter.
No significant damage or injuries had been reported about an hour after the quake.
More than 10,000 reports from those who felt shaking were collected on the USGS website.
Several aftershocks with magnitudof more than 4 were reported by the USGS.

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