New giant dinosaur predator discovered with tiny arms, like T. rex

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Meraxes — named after a fictional dragon in the Game of Thrones book series — was dug up over the course of four years during field expeditions in the northern Patagonia region of Argentina, starting with the skull which was found in 2012.

Paleontologists said Thursday they had discovered a new giant carnivorous dinosaur species that had a massive head and tiny arms, just like Tyrannosaurus rex.

The researchers’ findings, published in the journal Current Biology, suggest that small forelimbs were no evolutionary accident, but rather gave apex predators of the time certain survival advantages.

Meraxes gigas—named after a fictional dragon in the Game of Thrones book series—was dug up over the course of four years during field expeditions in the northern Patagonia region of Argentina, starting with the which was found in 2012.

“We won the lottery and found it literally on the first morning,” senior author Peter Makovicky from the University of Minnesota told AFP.

The fossilized remains were remarkably well preserved. The skull is just over four feet long (127 centimeters), while the entire animal would have been some 36 feet long, and weighed four metric tons.

Its arms were two feet long, “so it’s literally half the length of the skull and the animal would not have been able to reach its mouth,” said Makovicky.

T. rex didn’t get its tiny arms from M. gigas. The latter went extinct 20 million years before the former arose, and the two species were far apart on the evolutionary tree.

This image shows the transportion a plaster jacket a new dinosaur Meraxes gigas, in Las Campanas Canyon, 25kms southwest of Villa El Chocon, Neuquen Province, Argentina, on March 17, 2014.

Instead, the authors believe the fact that tyrannosaurids, carcharodontosaurids—the group Meraxes belonged to—and a third giant predator species called abelisaurids all evolved tiny arms points to certain benefits.

Makovicky believes that as their heads grew larger, it became the dominant tool of their predatory arsenal, taking on the function that forelimbs would have had in smaller species.

His co-author Juan Canale, the project lead at Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum in Neuquen, Argentina, went further in suggesting other advantages.

Mating and movement support

“I’m convinced that those proportionally tiny arms had some sort of function. The skeleton shows large muscle insertions and fully developed pectoral girdles, so the arm had strong muscles,” he said in a statement.

“They may have used the arms for such as holding the female during mating or support themselves to stand back up after a break or a fall.”

This image shows the excavation site a new dinosaur, Meraxes gigas, in Las Campanas Canyon, 25kms southwest of Villa El Chocon, Neuquen Province, Argentina, on March 15, 2014.

Meraxes roamed the Earth between 90 to 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous, at a time when the region was wetter, more forested, and much closer to the sea, said Makovicky.

They would have preyed on a menagerie of contemporary sauropods—some of whom were discovered at the same site.

The individual lived to around 40 years—a ripe old age for dinosaurs—and its skull was replete with crests, furrows, bumps and small hornlets.

“It certainly would have looked very imposing and gargoyle like,” said Makovicky.

“Those are the kinds of features that in living animals are often under ,” speculating the used their massive skulls as “billboards” for advertising to would-be mates.



More information:
Juan I. Canale, New giant carnivorous dinosaur reveals convergent evolutionary trends in theropod arm reduction, Current Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.05.057. www.cell.com/current-biology/f … 0960-9822(22)00860-0

© 2022 AFP

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New giant dinosaur predator discovered with tiny arms, like T. rex (2022, July 10)
retrieved 11 July 2022
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Giant New Mexico fire rages as drought-hit US West braces for summer

Water levels have plummeted at Lake Mead due to the American West’s historic drought, exposing corroded barrels.

Firefighters struggled Friday to contain a giant blaze that has been burning for more than a month in New Mexico, raising fears for the summer ahead in the drought-hit western United States.

The so-called “Hermits Peak Fire” has torn through 168,000 acres at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, destroying around 170 properties and forcing the evacuation of nearly 16,000 homes.

But the blaze remains just 20 percent contained.

“This is a historic fire weather event… this is a critical stage of the fire,” New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a briefing Friday.

“We have high temperatures and extreme wind. This is the worst possible set of conditions for any fire,” she warned.

The fire began on April 6 when a “prescribed” burn, intended to remove excess vegetation in a controlled area, escaped control due to and dry conditions.

The blaze comes at the start of the American West’s long fire season but is already the second-largest in New Mexico’s history, having burned an area more than the state’s average for an entire year.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque warned that windy and are expected through the weekend and “will make our bad situation worse.”

US President Joe Biden this week declared a in New Mexico, unlocking federal resources including financial aid for affected individuals.

Like much of the American West, New Mexico is in the grip of a years-long drought that has left the area parched and vulnerable to wildfire.

Reservoirs have plummeted to dangerously low levels, with Lake Mead—the country’s largest reservoir, close to Las Vegas—at 31 percent.

The water has dropped to such a historic extent that a corroded barrel containing a four-decade-old body was found in the lake earlier this week.

Lake Mead is fed by the Colorado River, which has seen its flow drop by 20 percent over the past century, driven by atmospheric warming, according to a US Geological Survey report in 2020.

Although fires are a natural part of the climate cycle and help to clear dead brush, their scale and intensity are increasing.

Scientists say a warming climate, chiefly caused by human activities such as the unchecked burning of fossil fuels, is altering weather patterns.

This prolongs droughts in some areas and provokes unseasonably large storms in other places.



© 2022 AFP

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Giant New Mexico fire rages as drought-hit US West braces for summer (2022, May 6)
retrieved 7 May 2022
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Giant tooth of ancient marine reptile discovered in Alps

The root of the thickest ichthyosaur tooth found so far with a diameter of 60 millimeters.

The fossils of three ichthyosaurs—giant marine reptiles that patrolled primordial oceans—have been discovered high up in the Swiss Alps, and include the largest ever tooth found for the species, a study said Thursday.

With elongated bodies and small heads, the prehistoric leviathans weighed up to 80 metric tons (88 US tons) and grew to 20 meters (yards), making them among the largest animals to have ever lived.

They first appeared 250 million years ago in the early Triassic, and a smaller, dolphin-like subtype survived until 90 million years ago. But the gigantic ichthyosaurs, which comprised most of the species, died out 200 million years ago.

Unlike dinosaurs, barely left a trace of fossil remains, and “why that is remains a great mystery to this day,” said Martin Sander of the University of Bonn, lead author of the paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The specimens in question, dated to 205 million years ago in the study, were unearthed between 1976 and 1990 during geological surveys, but were only recently analyzed in detail.

Fun fact: they were discovered at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,100 feet). During their lifetimes the three swam in waters around the supercontinent Pangea— but due to and the folding of the Alps, the fossils kept rising.

Ichthyosaurs were previously thought to have only inhabited the , but the rocks from which the new fossils derive are believed to have been at the bottom of a shallow coastal area. It could be that some of the giants followed schools of fish there.

There are two sets of skeletal remains. One consists of ten rib fragments and a vertebra, suggesting an animal some 20 meters long, which is more or less equivalent to the largest ichthyosaur to have been found, in Canada.

Professor Martin Sander posing with a rib from an estimated 20 meters long ichthyosaur.

The second animal measured 15 meters, according to an estimate from the seven vertebrae found.

“From our point of view, however, the tooth is particularly exciting,” explained Sander.

“Because this is huge by ichthyosaur standards: Its root was 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in diameter—the largest specimen still in a complete skull to date was 20 millimeters and came from an ichthyosaur that was nearly 18 meters long.”

While this could indicate a beast of epic proportions, it’s more likely to have come from an ichthyosaur with particularly gigantic teeth, rather than a particularly gigantic .

Current research holds that extreme gigantism is incompatible with a predatory lifestyle requiring teeth.

The habitat and animals that were found together with the giant ichthyosaurs. Credit: Heinz Furrer

That’s why the largest known animal to have ever lived—the at 30 meters long and 150 tons—lacks teeth.

Blue whales are filter feeders, while the much smaller sperm whales, at 20 meters long and 50 tons, are hunters, and use more of their energy to fuel their muscles.

“Marine predators therefore probably can’t get much bigger than a ,” Sander said, though more fossils would need to be found to know for certain. “Maybe there are more remains of the giant sea creatures hidden beneath the glaciers,” he said.



More information:
Giant Late Triassic ichthyosaurs from the Kössen Formation of the Swiss Alps and their paleobiological implications, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2022). DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.2046017

© 2022 AFP

Citation:
Giant tooth of ancient marine reptile discovered in Alps (2022, May 1)
retrieved 2 May 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-giant-tooth-ancient-marine-reptile.html

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Giant space telescopes could be made out of liquid

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Optical lens for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Credit: Farrin Abbott/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The Hubble space telescope has a primary mirror of 2.4 meters. The Nancy Grace Roman telescope also has a mirror measuring 2.4 meters, and the James Webb Space Telescope has a whopping 6.5 meter primary mirror. They get the job done that they were designed to do, but what if… we could have even bigger mirrors?

The larger the mirror, the more light is collected. This means that we can see farther back in time with bigger mirrors to observe star and galaxy formation, image exoplanets directly, and work out just what dark matter is.

But the process for creating a mirror is involved and takes time. There is casting the mirror blank to get the basic shape. Then you have to toughen the glass by heating and slow cooling. Grinding the glass down and polishing it into its perfect shape comes next followed by testing and coating the . This isn’t so bad for smaller lenses, but we want bigger. Much bigger.

Enter the idea for using fluids to create lenses in space that are 10x–100x bigger. And the time it would take to make them would be significantly less than a glass-based lens.

FLUTE, or the Fluidic Telescope Experiment is run by principal investigator Edward Balaban at Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Collaborators on the experiment include researchers at Ames at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, along with researchers from Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology.

Their goal is to make possible the fabrication of fluid lenses in space that are not only bigger than their glass counterparts, but also just as high quality or better optically as making an earth-based lens. And this can be done in a fraction of the time.

In space, liquids eventually form a perfect spherical shape. In order to test the process first though, they stayed closer to home and used water as a medium to create fluid lenses. They had to make sure the water had the same density as the liquid polymers they were using to make the lenses so that the effects of gravity were effectively canceled out. Leaving out any mechanical processes, the polymers were injected into circular frames submerged in water and then solidified, creating comparable or better lenses than using standard techniques.

Next the team boarded two ZeroG parabolic flights to further test the process. Synthetic oils of varying viscosities were tested to determine which would work better. These oils were pumped into circular frames about the size of a dollar coin while the plane was in freefall, and again the researchers were able to make free-standing liquid lenses, though once the plane started lifting up again and the effects of gravity were felt the liquids lost their shape.

This experiment will be performed on the ISS (International Space Station) next and is already onboard, waiting for the arrival of Axiom-1 with Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe slated to perform the experiment. There they will add the step of using either UV light or temperature to harden the liquid so that the lenses can be examined and tested by the researchers back at Ames on Earth.

A successful experiment will be the first time an optical component is made in space. If it succeeds, this will be the start of a new way to build telescopes, out in space. This would be a revolution in space-based manufacturing and the time needed to build one will be greatly reduced. And oh the sights we will see.



Citation:
Giant space telescopes could be made out of liquid (2022, April 11)

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Giant iceberg breaks off near UK Antarctic base thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Giant iceberg breaks off near UK Antarctic base

Hexbyte Glen Cove

A vast iceberg almost the size of Greater London has broken away from the Antarctic ice shelf near a British research station, the British Antarctic Survey said Friday.

The research body said the iceberg measuring 1,270 square kilometres (490 square miles) had broken off from the 150-metre-thick Brunt Ice Shelf in a process called “calving”.

This came almost a decade after scientists first saw massive cracks had formed in the shelf.

A crack in the ice widened by several hundred metres on Friday morning before the iceberg broke off completely.

Britain’s Halley VI Research Station monitors the state of the vast floating ice shelf daily.

“Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years,” said BAS director Jane Francis.

The mobile research base relocated inland for in 2016-2017 as cracks in the ice threatened to cut it off.

“That was a wise decision,” commented Simon Garrod, BAS director of operations.

The glaciologists said the latest event is unlikely to affect the station’s current location.

The base’s 12-person team left earlier this month, as they leave the base uninhabited in winter due to the unpredictable conditions.

While they are away, data from GPS instruments at the site goes to a centre in Cambridge, eastern England, for analysis.

Icebergs naturally break off from Antarctica into the ocean in a process accelerated by .

The BAS said in this case, there is “no evidence that climate change has played a significant role”.

“Over coming weeks or months, the may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf,” said Francis.

The British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in environmental research in the region.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Giant iceberg breaks off near UK Antarctic base (2021, February 26)
retrieved 1 March 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-giant-iceberg-uk-antarctic-base.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Giant metallic 'steed' traverses Iceland's threatened glacier thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Giant metallic ‘steed’ traverses Iceland’s threatened glacier

Hexbyte Glen Cove

The glacier mega bus is named Sleipnir after the mythical eight-legged horse ridden by the Norse god Odin

Instead of a slow slog on snowshoes, a giant bus sweeps passengers at up to 60 kilometres an hour across Iceland’s second largest glacier, which scientists predict will likely be nearly gone by the end of the century.

The red glacier mega bus is 15 metres (50-foot) long and fitted with massive tyres for traction across the powder snow of western Iceland’s vast Langjokull ice cap.

The glacier formed around 2,500 years ago and, with melting and refreezing, glaciologists believe the oldest ice of the glacier to be 500 years old.

From its highest point, at about 1,450 metres, the spectacular view takes in other snow covered peaks, including the Okjokull, the country’s first glacier officially lost to climate change in 2014.

With its 850 horsepower engine, the tour bus—resembling something out of a science-fiction movie—smoothly traverses the icy terrain on eight wheels, each two metres in diameter.

It has been named “Sleipnir” after the mythical eight-legged horse ridden by the Norse god Odin.

As strong winds whip up the fresh snow on an October day, the bus—created by keen mechanic Astvaldur Oskarsson, 59, who runs a specialised storage company—climbs higher to emerge from the low cloud into bright blue skies.

An Italian couple are among the few travellers to have braved the double COVID-19 test and five-day quarantine required on arrival in Iceland.

The bus is 15 metres (50-foot) long and fitted with eight wheels, each two metres in diameter

“It feels really emotional. Touching something that is so old, you feel so in contact with the earth,” Italian Rossella Greco, 30, tells AFP, of the tour, which costs 10,000 kronur (about 60 euros or $71).

The bus’ dimensions allow it to cross crevasses three metres wide, though also mean it guzzles 45 litres (12 gallons) of petrol per 100 km and leaves deep tracks in the snow.

However, the impact on the glacier “is small as long as it is just one or two vehicles,” according to Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, a glaciologist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Endangered

Along the path climbing from the foot of the Langjokull glacier, signs have been erected showing the ice line of every 20 years since 1940—a reminder of how quickly the glacier is thinning.

Nearly 250 square kilometres (97 square miles) of surface area have evaporated since 1890 and the end of the Little Ice Age.

The glacier bus was created by Astvaldur Oskarsson, 59 (pictured)

“The elevation of the glacier is getting lower in many, many places,” Gunnar Gudjonsson, a tour guide of 20 years, told AFP.

“So it’s actually new mountains or new nunataks (the ridge or summit of a mountain protruding from an ice field) coming out of the glaciers,” he added.

“It’s incredible how fast it is melting.”

In August, the dam of a glacial lake, formed by melt water, broke, causing flooding.

“It was not a major event but it happened in a region where we are not used to such phenomena,” Thorsteinsson said.

Powerful floods called jokulhaup are normal around the Vatnajokull glacier, the biggest in Iceland and also in Europe.

These however are generally due to volcanic activity.

But floods are bound to occur more regularly on glaciers elsewhere in Iceland, as global warming accelerates the melting.

Langjokull’s chances of survival are slim, Thorsteinsson warned.

“If this continues in a similar way or even in a still warmer climate, then it’s very likely that all of Langjokull, or maybe 80 to 90 percent of it, will be gone by the end of this century,” he said.



© 2020 AFP

Citation:
Giant metallic ‘steed’ traverses Iceland’s threatened glacier (2020, October 29)
retrieved 30 October 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-giant-metallic-steed-traverses-iceland.html

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