Baby Mammoths & Feathered Dinosaurs | SciByte 41

Baby Mammoths & Feathered Dinosaurs | SciByte 41

We take a look at baby mammoth hair color, feathered dinosaurs, plasma, NASA funding, Apollo 13 and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Well preserved mammoth discovered in Siberia

Left Image/Video Credit: BBC YouTube Channel || Right Image/Video Credit:

  • Thanks Peregrine Falcon for making sure I saw this
  • The low down
  • Extinct animals are mostly studied from bones, teeth and tusks, because these parts decompose over a relatively long time
  • Soft tissues like muscle, skin, and internal organs are rarely found on older carcasses because they decompose much quicker
  • Because of this information about a species or specimen is constrained to the slowly decomposing parts, vital information is unavailable
  • Most permafrost-preserved mammoth specimens consist solely of bones or bone fragments that currently provide little new insight into the species’ biology in life
  • Now a remarkably well preserved frozen juvenile mammoth carcass, nicknamed “Yuka,” was found entombed in Siberian ice
  • Although carbon dating is still in the works, it is believed to be at least 10,000 years old, it was found as part of a BBC/Discovery Channel-funded expedition
  • The mammoth was in such good shape that much of its flesh is still intact
  • The skin retained its pink color, and the blonde-red hue of the woolly coat also remains.
  • Significance
  • Yuka is the first mammoth carcass with soft tissues preserved it was also the first to show human interaction in the region
  • The soft tissues actually included strawberry-blonde hair, which could help reveal whether or not mammoths had all of the same hair colors that humans do
  • Analysis of the tusks and teeth researchers estimate that the animal was about 2.5 years old when it died.
  • Healed scratches found on the skin indicate a lion attack that Yuka survived earlier in its relatively short life
  • Judging by deep, unhealed scratches in the hide and bite marks on the tail suggest it was most likely pursued by one or more lions right before its death
  • Based on evidence of a freshly broken leg it probably took a bad fall and broke a lower hind leg
  • Scientists have guessed that the extinct subspecies of the African lion (Panthera leo spelea) were present in the area at the same time as the mammoths, and that they hunted mammoths.
  • Yuka provides fairly solid evidence that that was correct
  • Fifteen to thirty scalloped marks on the skin are an indication of possible saw-like motion of a human tool
  • Humans may have moved in either right before or after it died, suggesting that humans at that time ‘stole’ kills from hunting lions
  • The removed parts that could be of use immediately, and probably buried the rest of the body for possible later use
  • No longer with the animal are the main core mass of Yuka’s body, including the skull, spine, pelvis, organs, vertebrae, ribs, associated musculature, and some of the meat from upper parts of the legs
  • The skull and pelvis were found nearby
  • * Of Note*
  • The scientist to publish the genetic code of mammoth hemoglobin a few years ago
  • Both this specimen and the near complete specimen of a baby mammoth discovered in 2007 will help researchers with genotype (DNA sequences) which could lead the application of cloning to bring a mammoth back to life
  • The ability to bring it back the mammoth from extinction using cloning would probably take years to decades
  • Watch for Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice on BBC Two at 21:00 BST on Wednesday 4 April and will be shown on the Discovery Channel in the US at a future date.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : The Perfectly Preserved Frozen Yuka Mammoth Mummy – Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Well-preserved strawberry-blond mammoth discovered in Siberia | Fox News
  • Woolly mammoth carcass may have been cut into by humans | BBC

*— NEWS BYTE — *

More Fine Feathered Dinosaurs

Left Image Credit: Zhang Hailong | Right Image Credit: Zhang Hailong

  • * Last time on SciByte*
  • Solar Storms & Higgs Boson | SciByte 37 [March 13, 2012] – More Dinosaur feathers get color
  • Feedback & Space Lego’s | SciByte 31 [Jan 31, 2012] – Dinosaur feather colors
  • The low down
  • New fossils of one adult and two younger dinosaurs show evidence of an extensively feathers dinosaur, the largest species to date
  • The region the new discoveries have been made is well known for keeping soft tissues of ancient animals well-preserved
  • Significance
  • Yutyrannus hauli, Y.huali, a mix of latin and mandarin translated into “beautiful feathered tyrant”, weighed up to about 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) and stretched 30ft (9m) from nose to tail
  • The species had include a high, bumpy nose plate, known as a midline crest and likely stood 8ft (2.5m) tall, although its posture is unknown
  • Y.huali, although differs in growth strategy, has the type of skeletal features that make it in the same family as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and would have reached T. rex’s chest.
  • The feathers of the Y.Hauli were at least 6in (15cm) long, although the color of the feathers is not known
  • There is some evidence that shows the coverage was a bit patchy which, might have given the dinosaur a shaggy appearance
  • Although its appears that the feathers might have entirely covered the dinosaurs skin, scientists are unable to confirm because the specimens aren’t complete.
  • * Of Note*
  • Some scientists hypothesize that smaller dinosaurs used a fluffy layer of feathers to stay warm
  • Other dinosaur specimens have shown evidence of being fully feathered, however all of those were far have been much smaller
  • Thanks to small surface-to-volume body ratios, large-bodied animals tend to maintain heat easily.
  • This hypothesis further goes on to suggest that the larger species found lost their feathers the bigger they got or were just not as extensively covered.
  • Other scientists point out that in warmer climates animals like the modern giraffes and wildebeests, have external covering but don’t need it for insulation
  • Another hypothesis is that the feathers were simply used to show off and attract mates.
    • Either hypothesis has some scientists reimagining the appearance of the Tyrannosaurus rex, and other dinosaurs
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : T-Rex Relative had Soft, Downy Feathers | NewsyScience
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • T. rex has another fine, feathered cousin |
  • A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China |
  • Warm and fuzzy T. rex? New evidence surprises |
  • Giant Feathered Tyrannosaur Found in China |

Killing bacteria with plasma

  • The low down
  • Plasma is the fourth state of matter (solids, liquids and gases) has previously shown its worth in the medical industry by effectively killing bacteria and viruses on the surface of the skin and in water.
  • Plasmas are produced in electrical discharges, these gases of free electrons and ions
  • Medical science has high hopes for plasmas. and they have already been shown to destroy pathogens, help heal wounds, and selectively kill cancer cells
  • It seems that the highly reactive oxygen species generated oxidized cell membranes and damage DNA.
  • These oxygen species are also found in our immune system
  • Significance
  • Killing harmful bacteria in hospitals is difficult; out in the field, it can be an even bigger problem
  • Now researchers may have found a remote disinfection in a portable “flashlight” that shines a ray of cold plasma to kill bacteria in minutes.
  • In an experiment the ‘flashlight’ was put over a thick biofilm of one of the most antibiotic- and heat-resistant bacteria which often infects the root canals during dental treatments.
  • Biofilms created in this experiment were incubating bacteria for seven days, and were around 0.0001 in (25 micrometres) thick and consisted of 17 different layers of bacteria.
  • After five minutes of treatment the plasma not only inactivated the top layer of cells, but penetrated deep into the very bottom of the layers to kill the bacteria.
  • * Of Note*
  • Adding to the safety of the device was that the UV radiation in the jet created by the plasma flashlight was so low
  • In addition temperature of the plume of plasma in the experiments was between 20–230C, which is very close to room temperature and therefore prevents any damage to the skin
  • The device now costs less that $100 so produce, before making it ready for commercialisation
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Plasma Flashlight Zaps Bacteria |
  • Handheld plasma flashlight rids skin of notorious pathogens |

*— Updates — *

James Cameron makes a Titanic correction


Extended funding for a few NASA programs

Credit: NASA

  • The low down
  • Because of tight budgets a number of programs including Kepler were slated to run out of funds this November
  • Scientists were particularly worried about Kepler Since it requires several years of observations are required in order for Kepler to confirm a repeated orbit as a planet transits its star
  • Other planets to receive additional funding are Hubble, Fermi and Swift
  • Only the Spitzer infrared telescope, as of right now, will be closed out in 2015, which is sooner than requested.
  • Hubble Space Telescope will continue at the currently funded levels
  • Kepler
  • The Kepler mission, launched in 2006 has discovered more than 2,300 potential alien planets to date, and 61 confirmed alien planets
  • The Kepler Mission is designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover Earth-size planets in the habitable zone.
  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • Is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space,
  • Scientists have used Hubble to observe the most distant stars and galaxies as well as the planets in our solar system.
  • Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly GLAST
  • NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope (formerly GLAST) studies the extreme energy universe!
  • Explore the most extreme environments in the Universe, where nature harnesses energies far beyond anything possible on Earth
    • Search for signs of new laws of physics and what composes the mysterious Dark Matter
    • Explain how black holes accelerate immense jets of material to nearly light speed.
    • Help crack the mysteries of the stupendously powerful explosions known as gamma-ray bursts.
    • Answer long-standing questions across a broad range of topics, including solar flares, pulsars and the origin of cosmic rays.
  • Swift
    ultraviolet, and optical wavebands.
  • A multi-wavelength observatory dedicated to the study of gamma-ray burst (GRB) science.
    • Determine the origin of gamma-ray bursts
    • Classify gamma-ray bursts and search for new types
    • Determine how the blastwave evolves and interacts with the surroundings
    • Use gamma-ray bursts to study the early universe
    • Perform the first sensitive hard X-ray survey of the sky
  • Social Media
  • NASA Kepler @NASAKepler
  • NASAFermi NASAFermi
  • NASA Swift mission @NASASwift
  • Hubble @NASA_Hubble
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • FREE Kepler Explorer App By OpenLab
  • NASA Extends Kepler, Spitzer, Planck Missions |
  • Kepler Mission Extended to 2016 |
  • NASA Extends Planet-Hunting Kepler Mission Through 2016


Looking back

  • April 11, 1970 : 42 years ago : Apollo XIII Launch : The mission began with a little-known smaller incident: during the second-stage boost, the center (inboard) engine shut down two minutes early. The four outboard engines burned longer to compensate, and the vehicle continued to a successful orbit. The third manned lunar landing mission, was launched from Cape Canaveral with crew James Lovell, Fred Haise, and John Swigert. Swigert was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.
  • April 13, 1970 : 42 years ago : Apollo XIII Rescue : Disaster struck 200,000 miles from earth. A liquid oxygen tank exploded, disabling the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water. Swigert reported: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The lunar landing was aborted. After circling the moon, the crippled spacecraft began a long, cold journey back to earth with enormous logistical problems in providing enough energy to the damaged fuel cells to allow a safe return.
  • April 17, 1970 : 42 years ago : Apollo XIII Return : Apollo 13 landed safely with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, four days after the spacecraft aborted its mission while it was four-fifths of the way to the moon. Upon his return, astronaut A. J. Lovell, Jr. was the first American astronaut to travel over 700 hours in space.

Looking up this week

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