A new article from Nature describes the discovery of a 100-million-year-old fossilized reptile egg with a soft, leathery shell that's nearly a foot long. It's the second-largest egg fossil ever discovered (after the egg of the elephant bird, which had a hard shell about five times thicker), and also the first such discovery made on the continent of Antarctica.
As National Geographic summarizes:
The 68-million-year-old egg, called Antarcticoolithus bradyi, is the first fossil egg ever found in Antarctica, only outsized by the eggs of Madagascar’s extinct elephant bird. Antarcticoolithus is also one of the few fossil eggs ever found in marine sediment. “For the first egg remnant from Antarctica to be a nearly complete egg that has finely preserved microstructure is kind of insane,” says Julia Clarke of UT Austin.
Under a microscope, Antarcticoolithus not only lacked the internal structure of hard eggshells, but also the pores of hard-shelled eggs, suggesting the large egg was soft.
At the time the egg was laid, large marine reptiles called mosasaurs lived in the Antarctic waters where the fossil egg was entombed. The bones of a mosasaur were found less than 700 feet from the site, suggesting the egg may have belonged to these 20-foot-long swimming reptiles.
Here's the real kicker though: the scientists didn't find any bones inside of the egg. And while they think it would have belonged to a mosasaur, or some other 20-plus-foot-long swimming reptiles, that wouldn't gel with their current knowledge of those leviathans. From Nature(emphasis added):
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The identity of the animal that laid the egg is unknown, but these preserved morphologies are consistent with the skeletal remains of mosasaurs (large marine lepidosaurs) found nearby.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena today reports new evidence of accelerating glacier melt in Antarctica.
“Observations from 11 satellite missions monitoring the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have revealed that the regions are losing ice six times faster than they were in the 1990s,” reads the NASA JPL announcement.
“If the current melting trend continues, the regions will be on track to match the "worst-case" scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of an extra 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of sea level rise by 2100.”
The two regions have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades; unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100.
More from the news announcement:
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The findings, published online March 12 in the journal Nature from an international team of 89 polar scientists from 50 organizations, are the most comprehensive assessment to date of the changing ice sheets. The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise team combined 26 surveys to calculate changes in the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets between 1992 and 2018.
The assessment was supported by NASA and the European Space Agency. The surveys used measurements from satellites including NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite and the joint NASA-German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds in England and Erik Ivins at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California led the study.
The team calculated that the two ice sheets together lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s, compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010's - a sixfold increase.
Scientists say 20.75º C logged at Seymour Island is ‘incredible and abnormal’
Would you guess the sound of ricocheting bullets on a Saturday morning cartoon? When isotopic geochemist, John Andrew Higgins, posted this to Twitter, people thought it was fake, a joke. He had to assure them it was not.
Image: Screengrab from Twitter Read the rest
Antarctica's hottest temperature ever was recorded this past Thursday: 65 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18.3 degrees Celsius.
That is not good.
Not good at all. Read the rest
BB contributor and DIY science hacker Ariel Waldman recently went on a research expedition to Antarctica to study microscopic extremophiles under the ice. She made a great video series about it and has now created a wonderful interactive tour of this hidden world called "Life Under the Ice." It's damn cool. (Get it? Get it?!) From Ariel's project description:
Typically when we think about Antarctica, we think of a place that's barren and lifeless... except for a few penguins. But Antarctica should instead be known as a polar oasis of life, host to countless creatures that are utterly fascinating. They’ve just been invisible to us – until now. Life Under the Ice enables anyone to delve into the microscopic world of Antarctica as an explorer; as if you had been shrunk down and were wading through one large petri dish of curiosities...
The collected Antarctic microbes were found living within glaciers, under the sea ice, next to frozen lakes, and in subglacial ponds. Microbes from under the sea ice were discovered in the Southern Ocean’s McMurdo Sound near McMurdo Station and the Erebus Glacier Tongue. Microbes from glaciers and frozen lakes were discovered in the McMurdo Dry Valleys at Lake Bonney and Lake Hoare.
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This video is apparently from January of 2019, but I saw it on Twitter the other day, accompanying the news about the record-breaking ice melt in Antarctica over the holidays.
Did you hear about that? How the ice in Antarctica is melting at alarming rates, because of climate change, which is real? There aren't a lot of humans in Antarctica to witness the gradual encroach of our ecological apocalypse, but it's happening.
Anyway, the penguin video. It's a thriller. That chunk of ice cracks off — again, because of rising global temperatures — and poor little penguin dude is stuck there is it floats away, while her other penguin friends are safe on the other side. I don't think I've watched anything this intense since the last time I saw the end of Toy Story 3. I held my breath for damn near a minute, hoping that lil' tuxedo'd waddler would be okay. If we're not gonna freak out about climate change, we should at least be worried about our poor penguin friends!
But also, climate change is terrifying, and this penguin is a portent for the future that all of us are headed for. Read the rest
Our friend Ariel Waldman (who has written for Boing Boing quite a bit) recently led an expedition to Antarctica to look for extremophiles. She made a great YouTube series chronicling her work there and recently uploaded the final video in the series.
Above: Ep. 1 - How to get to Antarctica.
Ep. 2 - Antarctica under the ice:
Ep. 3 - Camping in Antarctica:
Ep. 4 - Extremophiles of Antarctica:
Ep. 5 - Antarctica robot road trip:
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A new study on polar ice sheet melt warns that global sea levels could rise by almost six feet by the year 2100, an estimate twice as high as previously predicted. Read the rest
A massive cavity so large you could fit New York City inside of it has opened up under Thwaites glacier in Antarctica. Scientists say if it collapses, as it's likely to do within the next 50 to 100 years, it could cause a catastrophic rise in sea levels capable of flood coastal cities around the world. Read the rest
On April 29, 1961, Dr. Leonid Rogozov was in Antarctica in a blizzard when his stomach began to hurt. Badly. The only physician on the Soviet Antarctic Expedition, Rogozov realized his appendix needed to come out before it burst and killed him. Rogozov's only choice was to take the matter into his hands. He roped in a meteorologist and a driver to assist. From MDLinx:
Dr. Rogozov assumed a semi-reclined position designed to allow him to perform the operation with minimal use of a mirror...
“It was frequently necessary to raise my head in order to see better, and sometimes I had to work entirely by feel,” Dr. Rogozov wrote. “General weakness became severe after 30 to 40 minutes, and vertigo developed, so that short pauses for rest were necessary.”
Toward the end of the operation, Dr. Rogozov nearly lost consciousness and he feared he would not survive....
After resection of the severely diseased vermiform appendix (including a 2 × 2 cm perforation at the base), antibiotics were introduced into the peritoneal cavity, and he closed the wound...
Understandably, he described his postoperative condition as “moderately poor,” although signs of peritonitis resolved during the next 4 days. At 5 days post-surgery, his fever diminished, and the sutures were removed by day 7. After 2 weeks, he was back to work.
(via Historic) Read the rest
NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program released this astonishing aerial photo of a rectangular iceberg in Antarctica. Located on the Larsen C ice shelf, the curious iceberg is likely one mile or so across. From the BBC News:
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Such objects are not unknown, however, and even have a name - tabular icebergs.
These are flat and long and form by splitting away from the edges of ice shelves.
Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist with Nasa and the University of Maryland, said the process of formation was a bit like a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end.
They were often geometrically-shaped as a result, she said.
"What makes this one a bit unusual is that it looks almost like a square," she added.
When wind blows over the snow of Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf, the surface vibrates and produces a beautiful and eery drone. Colorado State University researchers deployed seismometers to explore the subsurface of the ice shelf and were surprised to learn that their sensors recorded the natural song of the terrain. The frequencies are below the threshold of human hearing and are sped up for audibility in the video above. From the scientific paper:
Ice shelves are the floating buttresses of large glaciers that extend over the oceans and play a key role in restraining inland glaciers as they flow to the sea. Deploying sensitive
seismographs across Earth’s largest ice shelf (the Ross Ice Shelf) for 2 years, we discovered that the shelf
nearly continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second, excited by local and regional
winds blowing across its snow dune-like topography. We find that the frequencies and other features of
this singing change, both as storms alter the snow dunes and during a (January 2016) warming event
that resulted in melting in the ice shelf’s near surface. These observations demonstrate that seismological
monitoring can be used to continually monitor the near-surface conditions of an ice shelf and other icy
bodies to depths of several meters.
More at Colorado State University News.
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Greenpeace International just released this beautiful music video for "Hands off the Antarctic," a new track by Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Part of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic Ocean initiative, the footage is from their Arctic Sunrise research vessel.
"There are some places on this planet that are meant to stay raw and wild and not destroyed by humanity’s footprint,” Yorke said. “This track is about stopping the relentless march of those heavy footsteps. The Antarctic is a true wilderness and what happens there affects us all. That’s why we should protect it.”
The environmental group premiered the video yesterday by projecting it onto London's Marble Arch.
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Very quickly. Before it, and you, freeze.
On Cyprien Verseux's Twitter account, wonderful snapshots of fun with food on the bleak, frozen ice sheets of Antarctica. Read the rest
Antarctica's brutal climate is taking its toll on the historic bases built by the original explorers and scientists. Now preservationists are working to preserve these important sites. Read the rest