Amazon will now send your kids tech and science toys for $20 a month

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Amazon is launching a new STEM Club subscription service for monthly, STEM-related toys. For $19.99 a month (plus tax), Amazon will deliver a “hand selected” educational toy that will theoretically both entertain and educate a child in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The subscription is split up into three different versions: one for children aged 3–4 years old, one for those aged 5–7 years old, and one for 8–13 year olds. Once signed up, the toys — which TechCrunch notes will come from recently launched or Amazon exclusive products — will arrive each month as an automatically renewing monthly subscription, similar to Amazon’s automatic Subscribe & Save service.

Continue onto The Verge to read the complete article.

How Business Can Engage Students And Educators With Technology
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If training the future workforce is a fundamental role of education, it’s just as important a role for business.

How can we get young people excited about developing technology skills? Parents sit with their children to read them books from a young age, but when kids hand over their iPads, parents often walk away knowing their kids will be distracted by the screen for a while. When we teach technology, we need to think about creating more personal connections by sharing stories, sparking imaginations and making learning both fun and real.

That may be easier said than done. Our recent PwC study, conducted in conjunction with the Business-Higher Education Forum, found that while educators strongly support teaching technology, very few — just 10 percent — feel confident doing so. More often than not, classroom lessons in technology are passive: watching videos instead of making them, or browsing websites instead of creating them.

Read the full article at HuffPost. 

Identical twin sisters marry identical twin brothers: Meet their babies
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identical twin siblings Jeremy and Briana (on the left, we're pretty sure) are parents to Jax, and Josh and Brittany are parents to Jett.salyerstwins / Instagram

By , TODAY

Identical twins Briana and Brittany, 35, married identical twins Josh and Jeremy Salyers, 37, and now they’re introducing the world to their babies, who are so genetically similar that the cousins are more like brothers.

“You’ve heard the term Irish twins and you’ve heard identical twins and fraternal twins,” Briana Salyers told TODAY Parents. “But we have quaternary twins.”

The Salyers are parents to Jett, who turned 1 in January, and Jax, who will turn 1 in April, and the cousins share more than the same first initial. Their unique situation makes them genetic brothers.

“They were born to identical twin parents less than nine months apart,” Brittany Salyers explained. “Twins married to twins who both have babies at the same time.”

Since identical twins share the same DNA, the children of two pairs of identical twins are legally cousins, but genetically more similar to siblings.

The sisters shared they had both discussed the possibility of quaternary twins.

“We were hoping that we would have overlapping pregnancies so that this would happen. We thought it would be really cool,” Briana said. “There’s only 300 quaternary marriages known in the history of the world.”

The couples, who share a joint Instagram page, posted the interesting scientific fact alongside a photo of the young boys side-by-side.

“Jett and Jax: Cousins, Genetic Brothers, and Quaternary Twins!” the caption read.

The couples married in a joint ceremony at the 2018 Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. Brittany and Briana met Joshua and Jeremy at the Twins Days Festival the year before and their fairy tale weddings were captured on camera for TLC.

Both families live under one roof in Virginia and run a wedding venue site together.

“It was something we all four wanted and when we got engaged, we all wanted it that way,” Brittany told TODAY of the unconventional living arrangement. “It’s something that’s very nice. (Josh and Jeremy) understand the twin bond like we do. We get to have a lot of together time.”

Sharing their compelling journey online doesn’t come without negative commentary for the families.

“We try to ignore sociopathic stalker comments and just focus on the positive,” Brittany said. “Some people think we are really strange and others think it’s really amazing. We’ve gotten a lot of support and interest and we’ve been grateful for that.”

As for future babies, the couples are undecided.

“We are debating if we should go for one more pregnancy each or not,” Briana said. “We will make a decision pretty soon. The babies are still pretty young (and) we are trying to wait a little longer to see what to do.”

Click here to read the full article on TODAY.

Five ways AI is saving wildlife – from counting chimps to locating whales
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A family of chimpanzees photographed in the Congo basin. An AI algorithm enables analysis of up to 3,000 camera trap images an hour

By The Guardian

There’s a strand of thinking, from sci-fi films to Stephen Hawking, that suggests artificial intelligence (AI) could spell doom for humans. But conservationists are increasingly turning to AI as an innovative tech solution to tackle the biodiversity crisis and mitigate climate change.

A recent report by Wildlabs.net found that AI was one of the top three emerging technologies in conservation. From camera trap and satellite images to audio recordings, the report notes: “AI can learn how to identify which photos out of thousands contain rare species; or pinpoint an animal call out of hours of field recordings – hugely reducing the manual labour required to collect vital conservation data.”

AI is helping to protect species as diverse as humpback whales, koalas and snow leopards, supporting the work of scientists, researchers and rangers in vital tasks, from anti-poaching patrols to monitoring species. With machine learning (ML) computer systems that use algorithms and models to learn, understand and adapt, AI is often able to do the job of hundreds of people, getting faster, cheaper and more effective results.

Here are five AI projects contributing to our understanding of biodiversity and species:

1. Stopping poachers
Zambia’s Kafue national park is home to more than 6,600 African savanna elephants and covers 22,400 sq km, so stopping poaching is a big logistical challenge. Illegal fishing in Lake Itezhi-Tezhi on the park’s border is also a problem, and poachers masquerade as fishers to enter and exit the park undetected, often under the cover of darkness.

The Connected Conservation Initiative, from Game Rangers International (GRI), Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and other partners, is using AI to enhance conventional anti-poaching efforts, creating a 19km-long virtual fence across Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) thermal cameras record every boat crossing in and out of the park, day and night.

Installed in 2019, the cameras were monitored manually by rangers, who could then respond to signs of illegal activity. FLIR AI has now been trained to automatically detect boats entering the park, increasing effectiveness and reducing the need for constant manual surveillance. Waves and flying birds can also trigger alerts, so the AI is being taught to eliminate these false readings.

“There have long been insufficient resources to secure protected areas, and having people watch multiple cameras 24/7 doesn’t scale,” says Ian Hoad, special technical adviser at GRI. “AI can be a gamechanger, as it can monitor for illegal boat crossings and alert ranger teams immediately. The technology has enabled a handful of rangers to provide around-the-clock surveillance of a massive illegal entry point across Lake Itezhi-Tezhi.”

2. Tracking water loss
Brazil has lost more than 15% of its surface water in the past 30 years, a crisis that has only come to light with the help of AI. The country’s rivers, lakes and wetlands have been facing increasing pressure from a growing population, economic development, deforestation, and the worsening effects of the climate crisis. But no one knew the scale of the problem until last August, when, using ML, the MapBiomas water project released its results after processing more than 150,000 images generated by Nasa’s Landsat 5, 7 and 8 satellites from 1985 to 2020 across the 8.5m sq km of Brazilian territory. Without AI, researchers could not have analysed water changes across the country at the scale and level of detail needed. AI can also distinguish between natural and human-created water bodies.

The Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon and one of the world’s 10 largest rivers by volume, has lost 22% of its surface water. The Brazilian portion of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has lost 74% of its surface water. Such losses are devastating for wildlife (4,000 species of plants and animals live in the Pantanal, including jaguars, tapirs and anacondas), people and nature.

“AI technology provided us with a shockingly clear picture,” says Cássio Bernardino, WWF-Brasil’s MapBiomas water project lead. “Without AI and ML technology, we would never have known how serious the situation was, let alone had the data to convince people. Now we can take steps to tackle the challenges this loss of surface water poses to Brazil’s incredible biodiversity and communities.”

3. Finding whales
Knowing where whales are is the first step in putting measures such as marine protected areas in place to protect them. Locating humpbacks visually across vast oceans is difficult, but their distinctive singing can travel hundreds of miles underwater. At National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (Noaa) fisheries in the Pacific islands, acoustic recorders are used to monitor marine mammal populations at remote and hard-to-access islands, says Ann Allen, Noaa research oceanographer. “In 14 years, we’ve accumulated around 190,000 hours of acoustic recordings. It would take an exorbitant amount of time for an individual to manually identify whale vocalisations.”

In 2018, Noaa partnered with Google AI for Social Good’s bioacoustics team to create an ML model that could recognise humpback whale song. “We were very successful in identifying humpback song through our entire dataset, establishing patterns of their presence in the Hawaiian islands and Mariana islands,” says Allen. “We also found a new occurrence of humpback song at Kingman reef, a site that’s never before had documented humpback presence. This comprehensive analysis of our data wouldn’t have been possible without AI.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

This is the space graveyard where the International Space Station will be buried
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Image of the international space station hovering over the Earth's atmosphere. The ISS will be moved to the Space Graveyard in the year 2030.

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Three thousand miles off the coast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica, Point Nemo is so far from land that the closest humans are often the astronauts on board the International Space Station — that orbits 227 nautical miles above Earth. It’s precisely this remoteness that explains why the ISS, once it’s retired in 2030, will end its days here, plummeting to Earth to join other decommissioned space stations, satellites and space debris. This is the world’s space graveyard.
Spacefaring nations have been dumping their junk in the area around Point Nemo, named after Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea,” since the 1970s.

Also known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility or South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area, the exact coordinates of the world’s most remote spot were calculated by Canadian-Russian engineer Hrvoje Lukatela in 1992.

More than 263 pieces of space debris have been sunk in this area since 1971, including Russia’s Mir space station and NASA’s first space station Skylab, according to a 2019 study. They’re not intact monuments to the history of space travel but are likely fragmented debris scattered over a large area.

“This is the largest ocean area without any islands. It is just the safest area where the long fall-out zone of debris after a re-entry fits into,” said Holger Krag, Head of the Space Safety Programme Office at the European Space Agency.

Point Nemo is beyond any state’s jurisdiction and is devoid of any human life — although it’s not free from the traces of human impact. In addition to the space junk on the seafloor, microplastic particles were discovered in the waters when yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race passed through the region in 2018.
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Space junk such as old satellites reenter the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis, although most of it goes unnoticed because it burns up long before it can hit the ground.
It’s only larger space debris — such as spacecraft and rocket parts — that pose a very small risk to humans and infrastructure on the ground. Space agencies and operators must plan well in advance to ensure that it falls to Earth in this far-flung bit of ocean.

In the case of the International Space Station, NASA said the ISS will begin maneuvers to prepare for deorbit as early as 2026, lowering the altitude of the space lab, with it expected to crash back to Earth in 2031. The exact timings of the maneuvers depends on the solar cycle activity and its effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

“Higher solar activity tends to expand the Earth’s atmosphere and increase resistance to the ISS’ velocity, resulting in more drag and natural altitude loss,” NASA said in a newly published document outlining plans for decommissioning the ISS.

Space agencies and commercial operators must also notify authorities in control of flights and shipping — usually in Chile, New Zealand and Tahiti — of the location, timing and dimensions of the debris fall-out zones. Around two flights per day pass through the air space, said Krag. These authorities produce standardized message sent out to air and sea traffic.

A bigger problem than the spacecraft that end up in Point Nemo, said Krag, is chunks of metal rocket stages and spacecraft making what’s known as an “uncontrolled reentry” into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Existence of Earth Trojan Asteroid Confirmed – Could Become “Ideal Bases” for Advanced Exploration of the Solar System
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Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers have confirmed that an asteroid discovered in 2020 by the Pan-STARRS1 survey, called 2020 XL5, is an Earth Trojan (an Earth companion following the same path around the Sun as Earth does) and revealed that it is much larger than the only other Earth Trojan known. In this illustration, the asteroid is shown in the foreground in the lower left. The two bright points above it on the far left are Earth (right) and the Moon (left). The Sun appears on the right. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine, Acknowledgment: M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab)

BY ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITIES FOR RESEARCH IN ASTRONOMY, Sci Tech Daily

The SOAR Telescope, part of NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, has helped astronomers refine the size and orbit of the largest known Earth Trojan companion.

By scanning the sky very close to the horizon at sunrise, the SOAR Telescope in Chile, part of Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, has helped astronomers confirm the existence of only the second-known Earth Trojan asteroid and reveals that it is over a kilometer wide — about three times larger than the first.

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of the second known Earth Trojan asteroid and found that it is much bigger than the first. An Earth Trojan is an asteroid that follows the same path around the Sun as Earth does, either ahead of or behind Earth in its orbit. Called 2020 XL5 the asteroid was discovered by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope in 2020, but astronomers were not sure then whether it was an Earth Trojan. The SOAR Telescope operated by NOIRLab in Chile helped confirm that it is an Earth Trojan and found that it is over a kilometer across — almost three times bigger than the other Earth Trojan known.

Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers led by Toni Santana-Ros of the University of Alicante and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona observed the recently discovered asteroid 2020 XL5 to constrain its orbit and size. Their results confirm that 2020 XL5 is an Earth Trojan — an asteroid companion to Earth that orbits the Sun along the same path as our planet does — and that it is the largest one yet found.

“Trojans are objects sharing an orbit with a planet, clustered around one of two special gravitationally balanced areas along the orbit of the planet known as Lagrange points,”[1] says Cesar Briceño of NSF’s NOIRLab, who is one of the authors of a paper published today in Nature Communications reporting the results, and who helped make the observations with the SOAR Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, in March 2021.

Several planets in the Solar System are known to have Trojan asteroids, but 2020 XL5 is only the second known Trojan asteroid found near Earth.

Observations of 2020 XL5 were also made with the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona and by the European Space Agency’s 1-meter Optical Ground Station in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Discovered on December 12, 2020, by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope in Hawai‘i, 2020 XL5 is much larger than the first Earth Trojan discovered, called 2010 TK7. The researchers found that 2020 XL5 is about 1.2 kilometers (0.73 miles) in diameter, about three times as wide as the first (2010 TK7 is estimated to be less than 400 meters or yards across).

When 2020 XL5 was discovered, its orbit around the Sun was not known well enough to say whether it was merely a near-Earth asteroid crossing our orbit, or whether it was a true Trojan. SOAR’s measurements were so accurate that Santana-Ros’s team was then able to go back and search for 2020 XL5 in archival images from 2012 to 2019 taken as part of the Dark Energy Survey using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope located at CTIO in Chile. With almost 10 years of data on hand, the team was able to vastly improve our understanding of the asteroid’s orbit.

Although other studies have supported the Trojan asteroid’s identification,[3] the new results make that determination far more robust and provide estimates of the size of 2020 XL5 and what type of asteroid it is.

“SOAR’s data allowed us to make a first photometric analysis of the object, revealing that 2020 XL5 is likely a C-type asteroid, with a size larger than one kilometer,” says Santana-Ros. A C-type asteroid is dark, contains a lot of carbon, and is the most common type of asteroid in the Solar System.

The findings also showed that 2020 XL5 will not remain a Trojan asteroid forever. It will remain stable in its position for at least another 4000 years, but eventually it will be gravitationally perturbed and escape to wander through space.

2020 XL5 and 2010 TK7 may not be alone — there could be many more Earth Trojans that have so far gone undetected as they appear close to the Sun in the sky. This means that searches for, and observations of, Earth Trojans must be performed close to sunrise or sunset, with the telescope pointing near the horizon, through the thickest part of the atmosphere, which results in poor seeing conditions. SOAR was able to point down to 16 degrees above the horizon, while many 4-meter (and larger) telescopes are not able to aim that low.

Click here to read the full article on Sci Tech Daily.

99 million-year-old flowers found perfectly preserved in amber bloomed at the feet of dinosaurs
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Eophylica priscatellata, one of two flowers discovered perfectly preserved in amber.

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Flowers discovered perfectly preserved in globs of amber bloomed at the feet of dinosaurs, suggesting that some flowering plants in South Africa today have remained unchanged for 99 million years, a new study reveals.

The two flowers once bloomed in what is now Myanmar and may shed light on how flowering plants evolved — a major episode in the history of life that was once described by Charles Darwin as an “abominable mystery.”
Flowers are ephemeral: They bloom, transform into a fruit and then disappear. As such, ancient flowers aren’t well represented in the fossil record, making these ancient blooms — and the history they carry with them — particularly precious.
“Leaves are generally produced in larger numbers than flowers and are much more robust — they have a higher preservation potential. A leaf is discarded ‘as is’ at the end of its useful life, while a flower transforms into a fruit, which then gets eaten or disintegrates as part of the seed dispersal process,” said study author Robert Spicer, a professor emeritus in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at The Open University in the United Kingdom.

“These particular flowers are almost identical to their modern relatives. There really are no major differences,” added Spicer, who is also a visiting professor at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China.

The evolution and spread of flowering plants (angiosperms) is thought to have played a key role in shaping much of life as we know it today. It brought about the diversification of insects, amphibians, mammals and birds and ultimately marking the the first time when life on land became more diverse than in the sea, according to the study, which published in the journal Nature Plants on Monday.

“Flowering plants reproduce more quickly than other plants, have more complex breeding mechanisms — a wide variety of flower forms, for example, often in close ‘collaboration’ with pollinators. This drives mutual coevolution of many lineages of plants and animals, shaping ecosystems,” Spicer said.

Phylica pubescens, seen here at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, in Cape Town, South Africa, is from the same genus as a 99 million-year-old flower.

One of the flowers preserved in amber was named by researchers Eophylica priscatellata and the other Phylica piloburmensis, the same genus as the Phylica flowers that are native to South Africa today.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Rings in ‘tree stump’ crater found on Mars illuminate red planet’s past climate
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A tree stump looking crater on mars

By Katie Hunt, CNN

At first glance, it looks like a tree stump but the circular feature in a newly released image captured by the ExoMars orbiter is actually an ice-rich crater on Mars.

Just as a tree’s concentric rings can give us detailed information about Earth’s past climate, the patterns inside the crater illuminate the history of the red planet, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
The image was taken last year by the camera on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a spacecraft launched by ESA and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, that arrived at Mars in 2016 and began its mission in 2018.
The crater in the image is in an area of Mars known as Acidalia Planitia, the planet’s vast northern plains. It’s where the fictional astronaut Mark Watney was stranded in the novel and movie “The Martian.”

Scientists are debating the likelihood that the northern plains once contained a large ocean or other bodies of water, probably ice-covered.
ESA said the interior of the crater is filled with deposits that probably contain ice.

“It is thought that these deposits were laid down during an earlier time in Mars’ history when the inclination of the planet’s spin axis allowed water-ice deposits to form at lower latitudes than it does today,” ESA noted in a statement released last week.

“Just like on Earth, Mars’ tilt gives rises to seasons, but unlike Earth its tilt has changed dramatically over long periods of time.”
Polygon- and semicircle-shaped fractures in the crater are likely a result of seasonal changes in temperature that caused the ice-rich material to expand and contract, ultimately causing the cracks.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

NASA Invites Media to Launch of New Mega-Moon Rocket and Spacecraft
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Mega Moon Mission. An aerial view of Launch Complex 39B with Exploration Ground Systems’ mobile launcher for the Artemis 1 mission on the pad. The mobile launcher, atop crawler-transporter 2, made its final solo trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building on June 27, 2019, and arrived on the surface of pad B on June 28, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mobile launcher will remain at the pad over the summer, undergoing final testing and checkouts. Its next roll to the pad will be with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft in preparation for the launch of Artemis 1.

By NASA

Media accreditation is now open for launch and prelaunch activities related to NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first mission in exploration systems built for crew that will travel around the Moon since Apollo. Approximately a week’s worth of events will lead up to the launch of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, targeted for no earlier than March 2022 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission will launch from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39B and is the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Artemis deep space exploration systems. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, the mission will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate NASA’s commitment and capability to establish a long-term presence at the Moon and beyond.

NASA will set an official target launch date after a successful wet dress rehearsal test – one of the final tests before launch involving fuel loaded into the rocket – currently planned for late February.

U.S. media must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, and international media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31. A copy of NASA’s media accreditation policy is online.

The agency continues to monitor developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, and Kennedy will grant access to only a limited number of media to protect the health and safety of media and employees. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions at Kennedy, international media coming from overseas must follow quarantine requirements.

NASA will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and will immediately communicate any updates that may affect media access for this launch.

Media who would like to bring large vehicles (satellite trucks, microwave trucks, etc.) or any manner of infrastructure (scaffolding, stages, etc.) must notify the Kennedy media team by filling out a forthcoming survey. The survey will be distributed to media once the accreditation window for this launch has closed.

All parties requesting to bring stages, scaffolding, or raised platforms will be required to submit plans, including access limitations/controls, height/width/length, configuration, capacity, and load ratings of the elevated structure and any training, inspection, or other pertinent requirements.

Click here to read the full article on NASA.

Microbes in The Ocean Depths Can Make Oxygen Without Sun. This Discovery Could Be Huge
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Microbes in The Ocean Depths Can Make Oxygen Without Sun. This Discovery Could Be Huge. Octopus floating in the ocean

By DAVID NIELD, Science Alert

For most of life on Earth, oxygen is essential, and sunlight is usually needed to produce that oxygen. But in an exciting twist, researchers have caught a common, ocean-dwelling microbe breaking all the rules.

Scientists have found that a microbe called Nitrosopumilus maritimus and several of its cousins, called ammonia oxidizing archaea (AOA), are able to survive in dark, oxygen-depleted environments by producing oxygen on their own. They do so using a biological process that hasn’t been seen before.

While it’s previously been established that these microbes can live in environments where oxygen is scarce, what hasn’t been clear is what they get up to there – and how they’re staying alive for as long as they do. That was the inspiration behind this new research.

“These guys are really abundant in the oceans, where they play an important role in the nitrogen cycle,” says microbiologist Beate Kraft, from the University of Southern Denmark.

“For this they need oxygen, so it has been a long-standing puzzle why they are also very abundant in waters where there is no oxygen. We thought, do they just hang out there with no function? Are they some kind of ghost cells?”

Collect a bucket of seawater out of the ocean, and every fifth cell will be one of these organisms – that’s how common they are. Here, the researchers removed the microbes from their natural habitat and transferred them to the lab.

The team wanted to take a closer look at what would happen when all the available oxygen was gone, and there was no sunlight to produce new oxygen. The same scenario happens when N. maritimus moves from oxygen-rich to oxygen-depleted waters.

What they found was something unexpected: the microorganisms produced their own oxygen to create nitrite, with nitrogen gas (dinitrogen) as a by-product.

“We saw how they used up all the oxygen in the water, and then to our surprise, within minutes, oxygen levels started increasing again,” says geobiologist Don Canfield, from the University of Southern Denmark. “That was very exciting.”

At the moment, the researchers aren’t certain how the microbes are pulling off this trick, and the amount of oxygen produced appears to be relatively small (just enough for their own survival) – but it does look to be different to the few oxygen-without-sunlight processes that we already know about.

What the new pathway does show is that the oxygen production from N. maritimus gets linked to its production of gaseous nitrogen. The microbes are somehow converting ammonia (NH3) into nitrite (NO2-) – a process they use to metabolize energy – in an oxygen-depleted environment.

In turn, this requires them to make their own oxygen, which the team detected traces of, along with the byproduct of nitrogen gas (N2).

Click here to read the full article on Science Alert.

Scientists just discovered a massive sea predator from the Triassic period
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digital render of the largest predator to ever live, looks similar to a whale with a giant long mouth, believed to live in the triassic period

By Joshua Hawkins, Yahoo!

According to a new study, scientists believe the largest animals to ever live, lived in the sea. In fact, a new discovery has led them to believe that one of the largest animals was a Triassic period predator that was somewhat similar to modern-day whales.

Based on the new discovery, researchers believe that a 244-million-year-old fossil would have rivaled current cetaceans. The animal in question, an ichthyosaur, existed 8 million years after the first ichthyosaurs, at the most. Because of its massive size compared to other ichthyosaurs, scientists believe its evolution was expedited in some way.

The new study, which was published in Science on December 24, focuses heavily on the discovery of the fossil in Fossil Hill, Nevada. It also focuses on how the creature that left the fossil behind could have grown as large as it did. Based on the discovery, scientists believe that the ichthyosaur that they found had a two-meter-long skull. They also believe that it was a completely new species of Cymbospondylus.

Researchers say that this is the largest known tetrapod of the Triassic period, on land or in the sea. It’s also the first in a series of massive ocean giants that would go on to rule the sea. They also believe that the creature was able to grow to the size it did as quickly as it did by eating ammonoids. These small, yet abundant prey, would have helped the ichthyosaur grow exponentially faster. Because of the time period, scientists feel the end-Permian mass extinction helped provide such an abundant source of ammonoids.

The discoveries they’ve found have also led scientists to believe that this Triassic period predator evolved much earlier than whales. Scientists currently consider whales to be the largest animals on Earth.

There is still a lot that we don’t know about the evolution of marine animals. Scientists may be able to learn more from the discovery of this new ichthyosaur. Specifically, they may learn more about the evolutionary track that marine life followed. This particle Triassic period predator lived millions of years ago. However, its fossil could be a new door of understanding we haven’t previously been able to achieve. And, it might not be the only one out there.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo!.

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