Scientific links of the week »Explorersweb

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A passion for the natural world drives many of our adventures. And when we’re not really outdoors, we love to immerse ourselves in the discoveries of the places we live and travel. Here are some of the best natural history links we’ve found this week.

Domesticated horses date back to the Western Eurasian steppes: People have used horses for transportation, farming, and warfare for centuries, but their origins have never been clear. The researchers analyzed the remains of 273 ancient horses from possible regions of horse domestication. They identified the lower Volga-Don region in the western Eurasian steppes as the center from which horses spread across the world 4,200 years ago.

Who built these Mayan ruins?

The Mayan ruins look like Teotihuacan: Archaeologists have found a small plaza and temple in the Mayan capital of Tikal in Guatemala. The new finds resemble the ruins of La Ciudadela and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan. Since Teotihuacan conquered Tikal in 378, “it’s almost as if Teotihuacan had set up its own neighborhood or embassy in Tikal,” explains archaeologist Thomas Garrison. The old maps of the sites did not show the ruins because the growth of the jungle hid them. Lidar mapping revealed the hidden ruins.

The major ocean current could heat up considerably: The Kuroshio Current in the North Pacific Ocean is crucial for many ecosystems and the fishing industry. The world’s northernmost corals are found here, thanks to its warmth. Due to climate change and increased carbon dioxide, this current is heating up three times faster than other ocean regions. Modeling shows that an extension of the Kuroshio Current is moving north, but researchers are not sure what repercussions this will have.

Helpless elephants are increasingly common. Photo: Shutterstock

African elephants lose tusks due to evolution: Ivory poaching in Africa has led to the evolution of defenseless elephants in many regions. Although elephants without tusks are rare, their numbers are much higher in some places, and they are also all females. Half of female calves born to defenseless mothers are also defenseless, while all male calves retain their tusks. In addition, two-thirds of their offspring are now females.

The Hubble Space Telescope shows the destruction of a star: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers an unprecedented view of a star’s disappearance. Previously, “we would show up after the fact and try to figure out what had happened,” said Ryan Foley of the University of California. The new information could give astronomers an early warning system for other stars on the verge of supernova.

The last two northern white rhinos

The northern white rhino of Kenya has withdrawn from the breeding program: There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, and Najin is one of them. Zoologists have now pulled her out of a breeding program that attempted to save the species. The last male died in 2018, and now the only two survivors are Najin and his daughter Fatu. Neither is capable of carrying a calf to term. Scientists collected eggs from Najin before she retired and collected the sperm from the last remaining male. Currently, 12 viable embryos exist. These will be implanted in surrogate southern white rhinos in an attempt to save this species on the brink of extinction.

Najin and Fatu are the last remaining northern white rhinos. Photo: helprhinos.org

The Japanese wolf is the closest relative of domestic dogs: The Japanese wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, became extinct in 1905, but many bone and tissue samples still exist. Japanese wolf DNA is also present in an evolutionary branch of wolves that appeared 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. This branch led to both Japanese wolves and domestic dogs.

An underwater volcanic eruption caused strange seismic waves: Seismometers around the world recorded a major event identified in 2018. This baffled scientists because no one actually felt the shock waves. Eventually, it became clear that volcanic activity on the seabed off the French island of Mayotte caused the waves. The eruption is the largest ever recorded in the sea. Since the beginning of the eruption of the magma chamber, a new submarine volcano has reached a height of 820 m. The site previously had very little elevation.

About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a UK-based freelance writer and science teacher.

She is a great traveler and has had the good fortune to backpack Africa, South America and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything related to the oceans and aims to dive and swim in open water in as many seas as possible.

His areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.


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