Three recent articles about amazing animals and fossils deserve entries of their own, but due to lack of time, will be corralled here lest, like strays, they wander off.
- Turtle navigation: Wired Science has a beautiful photo of a marine turtle in an article about how they achieve a difficult navigational skill: determining longitude from the earth’s magnetic field. By varying magnetic fields in research ponds with hatchlings, researchers at the University of North Carolina determined that, “Against reasonable expectation, the turtles clearly sensed differences in geomagnetic angle.” See also New Scientist and Science Daily.
Human efforts to determine longitude required accurate clocks. The researchers didn’t explain precisely how the turtles do it, other than to rule out biological clocks. They were clearly astonished by animal navigation in general: “That turtles and other migratory animals could detect such a small change was considered unrealistic, but experiments on animals released in out-of-the-way locations repeatedly described them finding home with unerring accuracy and efficiency, explicable only as a product of both longitudinal and latitudinal awareness.”
- Cat bite: The BBC News reported on new findings about how sabretooth cats like Smilodon were able to close their mouths with those long, dagger-like teeth. Studies of the bones and neck muscle insertion points by a team at Aalborg University in Denmark “revealed how the cats’ jaw muscles were aligned to pull its jaws closed, very directly and efficiently.” The article ascribed all this efficiency to evolution.
- Charismatic behemoth: A new sauropod species described on Science Daily had legs like bars of iron, by Job. “Brontomerus mcintoshi, or ‘thunder-thighs’ after its enormously powerful thigh muscles,” found in Utah, may have kicked its attackers to kingdom come. “‘Brontomerus mcintoshi is a charismatic dinosaur and an exciting discovery for us,’ said first author Mike Taylor, a researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London.”
Less emphasized in the article was the worry that this discovery undermines previously-held beliefs about sauropods – i.e., that they were disappearing by the Cretaceous. “It now seems that sauropods may have been every bit as diverse as they were during the Jurassic, but much less abundant and so much less likely to be found.”….
Continue Reading on crev.info