Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Updated CAM 5.1 World Circulation Video

Mike responded and placed an updated version of his video I linked to earlier.  He shows the difference between the 25 km (new) and 200 km (old) resolutions. Watch in HD.

Its CUTE! A New Albian Cretaceous Eutherian Mammal from Japan

A new Early Cretaceous eutherian mammal from the Sasayama Group, Hyogo, Japan


1. Nao Kusuhashi (a)
2. Yukiyasu Tsutsumi (b)
3. Haruo Saegusa (c,d)
4. Kenji Horie (e)
5. Tadahiro Ikeda (d)
6. Kazumi Yokoyama (b)
7. Kazuyuki Shiraishi (e)


a. Department of Earth's Evolution and Environment, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Ehime University, Ehime 790-8577, Japan

b. Department of Geology and Paleontology, National Museum of Nature and Science, Ibaraki 305-0005, Japan

c. Institute of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Hyogo, Hyogo 669-1546, Japan

d. Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo 669-1546, Japan

e. National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo 190-8518, Japan


We here describe a new Early Cretaceous (early Albian) eutherian mammal, Sasayamamylos kawaii gen. et sp. nov., from the ‘Lower Formation’ of the Sasayama Group, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Sasayamamylos kawaii is characterized by a robust dentary, a distinct angle on the ventral margin of the dentary at the posterior end of the mandibular symphysis, a lower dental formula of 3–4 : 1 : 4 : 3, a robust lower canine, a non-molariform lower ultimate premolar, and a secondarily reduced entoconid on the molars. To date, S. kawaii is the earliest known eutherian mammal possessing only four premolars, which demonstrates that the reduction in the premolar count in eutherians started in the late Early Cretaceous. The occurrence of S. kawaii implies that the relatively rapid diversification of eutherians in the mid-Cretaceous had already started by the early Albian.

greeeeeaaat. "kawaii" has infected paleontology.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dryolestoids Diversified in South America, Dominant Mammals in Late Cretaceous





a. 1CONICET, Museo de Historia Natural de San Rafael, Parque Mariano Moreno s/nº, 5600 San Rafael, Argentina

b. CONICET, Subsecretaría de Cultura de Neuquén, Universidad Nacional de Río Negro y Museo Municipal “Carmen Funes”, Av. Córdoba 55, 8318 Plaza Huincul, Argentina.

c. Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, PO Box 1172, Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway.

d. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.


We report on a new dryolestoid (Mammalia, Dryolestoidea, Meridiolestida) from the Los Bastos Formation (Coniacian), Neu quén Province, Patagonia, Argentina, consisting of an edentulous left dentary (MCF-PVPH 412). The alveoli preserved suggest the presence of three incisors, one double-rooted canine, and six double-rooted postcanines (probably three premolars and three molars). Based on comparisons with previously known dentaries and isolated teeth, MCF-PVPH 412 would have been about the same size as Reigitherium Bonaparte. Among Dryolestoidea, MCF-PVPH 412 is assigned to Meridiolestida because there were probably three molars, the roots of the posterior molars are anteroposteriorly compressed, and there is no Meckelian groove. In addition, the penultimate lower premolar would be the largest in the tooth series, which is also true in other meridiolestidans. The position of the mandibular foramen, the probable presence of three premolars, and the outline of the posteroventral part of the jaw suggest affinities with the Mesungulatoidea (e.g., Coloniatherium Rougier, Forasiepi, Hill and Novaceck; Peligrotherium Bonaparte, Van Valen and Kramarz; and Reigitherium). The Coniacian specimen represents the oldest Mesungulatoidea and fills the gap in the record between the oldest South American dryolestoid (i.e., Cenomanian) and the better known Campanian–Maastrichtian taxa. The discovery of MCF-PVPH 412 in the Coniacian of Patagonia is consistent with the dryolestoid diversification during the Late Cretaceous that makes them the most abundant mammals during that period in South America.
Title link is to a PDF.

Pulsed Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction

Microbes, mud and methane: cause and consequence of recurrent Early Jurassic anoxia following the end-Triassic mass extinction


1. Bas van de Schootbrugge (a)
2. Aviv Bachan (b)
3. Guillaume Suan (c)
4. Sylvain Richoz (d)
5. Jonathan L. Payne (b)


a. Palaeo-environmental Dynamics Group, Institute of Geosciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

b. Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

c. UMR, CNRS 5276, LGLTPE, Villeurbanne, France

d. Academy of Sciences, University of Graz, Graz, Austria


The end-Triassic mass extinction (c. 201.6 Ma) was one of the five largest mass-extinction events in the history of animal life. It was also associated with a dramatic, long-lasting change in sedimentation style along the margins of the Tethys Ocean, from generally organic-matter-poor sediments during the Triassic to generally organic-matter-rich black shales during the Jurassic. New core material from Germany provides biomarker evidence of persistent photic-zone euxinia during the Hettangian, the onset of which is associated with a series of both negative and positive carbon isotope excursions. Combined inorganic and organic geochemical and micropalaeontological analyses reveal strong similarities between the Hettangian and the better-known Toarcian anoxic event. These events appear to be the most clearly expressed events within a series of anoxic episodes that also include poorly studied black shale intervals during the Sinemurian and Pliensbachian. Both the Hettangian and Toarcian events are marked by important changes in phytoplankton assemblages from chromophyte- to chlorophyte-dominated assemblages within the European Epicontinental Seaway. Phytoplankton changes occurred in association with the establishment of photic-zone euxinia, driven by a general increase in salinity stratification and warming of surface waters. For both events, the causes of large negative carbon isotope excursions remain incompletely understood; evidence exists for both variation in the δ13C of atmospheric CO2 and variation in the sources of organic carbon. Regardless of the causes of δ13C variability, long-term ocean anoxia during the Early Jurassic can be attributed to greenhouse warming and increased nutrient delivery to the oceans triggered by flood basalt volcanism.
1.  When did the TJ Boundary move down?  That's a shift of over 1 million years.

2.  These models are relevant for the PT Extinction too.  They are NOT the same, but ofsimilar kind.  Likely the Toarcian event was of a similar kind as well.

Carbon Isotopes From Alps Hint at Major Pulse in Permian Extinction

Carbon isotope signatures of latest Permian marine successions of the Southern Alps suggest a continental runoff pulse enriched in land plant material


1. Sonja H. Kraus (a)
2. Rainer Brandner (b)
3. Christoph Heubeck (a)
4. Heinz W. Kozur (c)
5. Ulrich Struck (d)
6. Christoph Korte (a,e)


a. Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstr. 74–100, 12249 Berlin, Germany

b. Institut für Geologie und Paläontologie, Universität Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

c. Rézsü u. 83, 1029 Budapest, Hungary

d. Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany

e. Department of Geography and Geology & Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark


The latest Permian mass extinction, the most severe Phanerozoic biotic crisis, is marked by dramatic changes in palaeoenvironments. These changes significantly disrupted the global carbon cycle, reflected by a prominent and well known negative carbon isotope excursion recorded in marine and continental sediments. Carbon isotope trends of bulk carbonate and bulk organic matter in marine deposits of the European Southern Alps near the low-latitude marine event horizon deviate from each other. A positive excursion of several permil in δ13Corg starts earlier and is much more pronounced than the short-term positive δ13Ccarb excursion; both excursions interrupt the general negative trend. Throughout the entire period investigated, δ13Corg values become lighter with increasing distance from the palaeocoastline. Changing δ13Corg values may be due to the influx of comparatively isotopically heavy land plant material. The stronger influence of land plant material on the δ13Corg during the positive isotope excursion indicates a temporarily enhanced continental runoff that may either reflect increased precipitation, possibly triggered by aerosols originating from Siberian Trap volcanism, or indicate higher erosion rate in the face of reduced land vegetation cover.

Heterogenous Computing Seminar at LBNL

CS Seminar: Introduction to Programming on Heterogeneous Computing Systems
Berkeley Lab – Computing Sciences Seminar
Monday, April 1, 2013

10:00am - 11:00am

Bldg. 50F, Room 1647

Mayank Daga
Snr. Software Engineer
AMD Reseach

Introduction to Programming on Heterogeneous Computing Systems

We will talk about GPUs in general. What are some of the differences between programming CPUs and GPUs. How do we use OpenCL. Overview of the architecture of latest AMD GPUs/APUs

Host of Seminar:
Weiqun Zhang, CCSE
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 I don't know if I can make this one, but I am going to try.  If there is a video feed, I'llsee if I am allowed to post it.

Firestorms as Part of the KT Extinction

K-Pg extinction: Reevaluation of the heat-fire hypothesis


1. Douglas S. Robertson (a)
2. William M. Lewis (b)
3. Peter M. Sheehan (c)
4. Owen B. Toon (d)


a. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

b. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

c. Department of Geology, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

d. Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA


The global debris layer created by the end-Cretaceous impact at Chicxulub contained enough soot to indicate that the entire terrestrial biosphere had burned. Preliminary modeling showed that the reentry of ejecta would have caused a global infrared (IR) pulse sufficient to ignite global fires within a few hours of the Chicxulub impact. This heat pulse and subsequent fires explain the terrestrial survival patterns in the earliest Paleocene, because all the surviving species were plausibly able to take shelter from heat and fire underground or in water. However, new models of the global IR heat pulse as well as the absence of charcoal and the presence of noncharred organic matter have been said to be inconsistent with the idea of global fires that could have caused the extinctions. It was suggested that the soot in the debris layer originated from the impact site itself because the morphology of the soot, the chain length of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the presence of carbon cenospheres were said to be inconsistent with burning the terrestrial biosphere. These assertions either are incorrect or have alternate explanations that are consistent with global firestorms. We show that the apparent charcoal depletion in the Cretaceous-Paleogene layer has been misinterpreted due to the failure to correct properly for sediment deposition rates. We also show that the mass of soot potentially released from the impact site is far too low to supply the observed soot. However, global firestorms are consistent with both data and physical modeling.

Robots Match the Carboniferous Insects, Achieve Dragonfly Flight, Drag Robopocalypse Closer

Significant Climate Change From Bajocian to Bathonian Jurassic in Negev

Jurassic flora of the Negev Desert: Plant taphonomy, palaeoecology and palaeogeographic inference


1. Valentin Krassilov (a)
2. Alex Berner (b)
3. Sophia Barinova (a)


a. Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel

b. Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel


Jurassic fossil plants of Makhtesh Ramon, the northern Negev, are collected from the Early Bajocian paralic Inmar Formation conformably overlain with the marine Mahmal Formation, which contains ammonite markers of the Middle–Upper Bajocian age. Plant remains occur in the thin ferruginous layers traceable all over the questa exposures, composed of re-deposited sand at the base and the fine-grained ferro-alumosilicate lamella on top. Plants are preserved as ferruginous molds of leafy shoots and reproductive material, buried by turbid run-over sand flows and embedded in the back-wash clayey deposits as calcified plant debris. On account of their peculiar taphonomy and elementary composition, the fossiliferous horizons are interpreted as tsunamites. The coastal plant assemblages are endemic at the syntaxonomic level, with Gondwana affinities extended to insular landmasses north of the Tethys. The abundance of bennettitalean plants and the inferred proximity of Araucaria-like brachyphylls gives the Bajocian Inmar flora a thermophilic paratropical aspect, while the Bathonian flora of Sinai is of a more temperate aspect, suggesting a major mid-Jurassic climate change.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NASA Wants to get into Orbital WMD Business, erm, Capture an Asteroid

NASA’s fiscal 2014 budget request will include $100 million for a new mission to find a small asteroid, capture it with a robotic spacecraft and bring it into range of human explorers somewhere in the vicinity of the Moon.

Suggested last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology, the idea has attracted favor at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Obama’s goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025 can’t be done with foreseeable civil-space spending, the thinking goes. But by moving an asteroid to cislunar space — a high lunar orbit or the second Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point (EML2), above the Moon’s far side — it is conceivable that technically the deadline could be met.

The Keck study estimated it would cost about $2.65 billion to bring in a 500,000-kg (1.1 million-lb.) asteroid, using solar-electric propulsion to reach it and a deployable capture bag to enfold a carbonaceous asteroid measuring 7 meters across. Positioned at EML2, the small space rock would be close enough to reach with an Orion crew vehicle launched by a heavy-lift Space Launch System, and would give a crew a real objective for scientific study.

Members of the Keck team that drafted the proposal briefed it to a National Research Council human-spaceflight technical feasibility panel on March 28, noting that the mission would not pose a threat to Earth because the asteroid would have the density of “a dried mudball,” and would come in much more slowly than the slightly larger asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February.

The hardest part, says Paul Dimotakis of Caltech, would be finding a suitable target, since it would be much smaller than the threatening near-Earth objects already being sought. One or more targets may already have been spotted and dismissed as noise by sky-scanning telescope algorithms, he says, and could be pulled out of existing databases with a software rewrite. In addition to size, makeup and spin, prospective targets would need to be on a heliocentric orbit that will return to Earth’s vicinity in the 2020s, to allow time to develop the mission.

Ok, I was being a twerp with the title, but, hey, I'm in a funky mood.

246 Million Year Old Anisian Triassic Placodont Found in Europe

For around 50 million years, placodonts populated the flat coastal regions of the Tethys Ocean, in modern day Europe and China. The most distinctive feature of these [fossil marine reptiles(*)] was their teeth: The upper jaw had two rows of flattened teeth – one on the palate and one on the jawbone – while the lower jaw only had one set of teeth ideal for crushing shellfish and crustaceans.

The evolutionary origins of these placodonts remained unclear. However, a new find in a 246-million-year-old sediment layer now sheds light on the origin and phylogenetic development of the placodonts. As the Swiss and German team headed by Torsten Scheyer, a paleontologist at the University of Zurich, reveals the skull found in Winterswijk (Netherlands) is the earliest form of all known placodonts. The juvenile animal lived 246 million years ago. At around two centimeters in size, the skull is exceptionally well preserved and its characteristics set it apart from previous placodont discoveries.

The basal-most known placodonts to date have the group's trademark double row of crushing teeth in the upper jaw. The flattened teeth that give these animals their name only appear in more derived placodonts. "Unlike all the other placodonts discovered to date, the Winterswijk specimen has conical, pointed teeth instead of flattened or ball-shaped crushing ones," explains Scheyer, "which means the pointed teeth on the lower jaw slotted precisely into the gap between the palate and upper-jawbone teeth when biting."

The group's trademark double row of teeth in the upper jaw is proof that the new find is actually a placodont. According to the researchers, the teeth of Palatodonta bleekeri, the scientific name given to the Winterswijk specimen, were specialized in gripping and piercing soft prey. "The double row of teeth in the new find combined with its considerable age lead us to conclude that it is a very early placodont, from which the later forms developed," says Scheyer. The formation of crushing teeth and the specialization of a diet of shellfish and crustaceans thus developed later within placodont evolution.

The small Palatodonta bleekeri skull sheds new light on the ongoing debate on where the placodonts originated: Previous finds suggested origins in the shelf sea areas of either present-day China or Europe. Due to the considerable age of the new Dutch find and its basal form, however, the European origin of the placodonts is deemed confirmed. Scheyer and his colleagues are hoping for further exciting finds in Winterswijk to discover more about the evolution of the placodonts.

The interesting thing is that the origins of many major Triassic tetrapods seems to be in the first few million years after the PT Extinction.  

* The press release actually said dinosaur. I cannot let that pass onto my blog. Bleh.

Kids Can Be Amazing

I don't have any more of my daughter because she goes on slopes I cannot: I don't ski (knees) and she can do up to and some times including black diamonds.  Orest is still on the bunny slope, but almost ready to go up to greens.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

J-20 Captive Carries Short Range (?) Missiles

Note.  Its an external mount.  Not terribly stealthy.

Better pix now.  You get to see the internal bay to some extent.

Hat tip China Defense Blog.

Cryogenian Oceans Oxygenated by 700 Million Years Ago

Mo isotopic composition of the mid-Neoproterozoic ocean: An iron formation perspective


1. Geoffrey J. Baldwin (a)
2. Thomas F. Nägler (b)
3. Nicolas D. Greber (b)
4. Elizabeth C. Turner (a)
5. Balz S. Kamber (c)


a. Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada P3E 2C6

b. Institut für Geologie, Universität Bern, Baltzerstr. 1, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

c. Department of Geology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

Abstract:The Neoproterozoic was a major turning point in Earth's surficial history, recording several widespread glaciations, the first appearance of complex metazoan life, and a major increase in atmospheric oxygen. Marine redox proxies have resulted in many different estimates of both the timing and magnitude of the increase in free oxygen, although the consensus has been that it occurred following the Marinoan glaciation, the second globally recorded “snowball Earth” event. A critically understudied rock type of the Neoproterozoic is iron formation associated with the Sturtian (first) glaciation. Samples from the 716 Ma Rapitan iron formation were analysed for their Re concentrations and Mo isotopic composition to refine the redox history of its depositional basin. Rhenium concentrations and Re/Mo ratios are consistently low throughout the bottom and middle of the iron formation, reflecting ferruginous to oxic basinal conditions, but samples from the uppermost jasper layers of the iron formation show significantly higher Re concentrations and Re/Mo ratios, indicating that iron formation deposition was terminated by a shift towards a sulfidic water column. Similarly, the d98Mo values are close to 0.0‰ throughout most of the iron formation, but rise to ~+0.7‰ near the top of the section. The d98Mo from samples of ferruginous to oxic basinal conditions are the product of adsorption to hematite, indicating that the Neoproterozoic open ocean may have had a d98Mo of ~1.8‰. Together with the now well-established lack of a positive Eu anomaly in Neoproterozoic iron formations, these results suggest that the ocean was predominantly oxygenated at 700 Ma.

The Future is a Flying Wing?

The news has come out that the Chinese are considering (and likely to select) a flying wing for their H-X program, their 'first' strategic bomber.  Earlier in the month, the Russians supposedly selected a flying wing for their PAK-DA program.  The US, of course, flies the B-2

You have to wonder what is being worked on for the Long Range Strike-B (or whatever its name is this week).  Its supposed to be introduced in 8 years, barring whatever sequestration does to the program, so something has to be flying already.  What is it?  Is it, too, a flying wing?

Monday, March 25, 2013

XenoPermian Biota of the Ural Sea: Elyadia hensonii, a manisuminid


The Xenopermian is a collaborative effort between Scott, Raven, Zach and myself to outline a very different, speculative world. In some ways this is not all that different than the exercises of Dougal Dixon, After Man and The New Dinosaurs. Rather than speculating on what the dinosaurs would be like if they had not gone extinct, much like his New Dinosaurs or the Spec World project , or project into the future with After Man or The Future is Wild, our team asked the question of ‘what if the Permian Extinction did not happen?

This is the first post about the fauna of the Xenopermian in the Ural Sea region. We have talked about a ‘fossil’ and a faux controversy associated it with. We have talked about the geological staging differences in the XenoPermian timeline, and have even talked about the differences in the world in general under such a different period. We have generalized about the fauna, but now we want to get into specifics. In our last post, we talked about the first faunal member of the Xenopermian, G roma, a pseudochelonid and very derived pareiasaur. Now we are shifting to the trees to talk about our first therapsid, Elyardia hensonii.

Welcome Elyardia: Anomalous Teeth, Beaks and Bites

Elyardia hensonii is an example of a derived anomodont. Anomodonts are one of the major clades of therapsids, very derived synapsids that superceded the pelycasaurs like Dimetrodon. Other famous derviced clades are the gorgonopsids, therocephalians and cynodonts (of which mammals – and you! – are a part of).

The anomodonts had three main clades, as far as we can tell. The two lesser known ones were the venjukoviamorpha (small Laurasian herbivores and possibly omnivores) and the anomocephalians (which were Gondawanan in origin, but large herbivores). The most famous of the anomodonts and most successful in real life were the dicynodonts, of which the relatively famous Lystrosaurus was one. In real life, the other two clades of anomodonts seem to have gone extinct around the Guadalupean. The dicynodonts would be very successful through the Triassic and even survive into the Early Cretaceous of Australia. Again, in real life. All of the anomodonts seem to have had a peculiar front to back chewing mechanism that was developed to the most extreme in the dicynodonts.

XenoPermian Anomodont Phylogeny

All three of the major clades of anomodonts have become important in the Xenopermian. The dicynodonts are the dominant clade, to be sure, filling niches between that of marine herbivore to large herbivore to rodent analog, but the other two are major members of the fauna. The anomocephalans have given rise to the Tiarajudensines. These are derived from Tiarajudens, the earliest known tusked or sabre toothed herbivore. They are split into two clades based on their derived dental arrangement: foreward facing tusks (hastadensids) or sabre teeth (gladiotaurines). They are very large sized herbivores, though rarely gregarious ones. The venjukoviamorpha developed into a cluster of small bodied herbivores and omnivores. They dominate the arboreal and mountain realms. They contest the rodent like niches with juxtarodentia (dicynodonts) in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of Pangaea. They even contest the skies with the two flying diapsid clades. The most common venjukoviamorph in the Ural Sea region is Elyardia hensonii.

Elyardia hensonii is derived from Suminia, a real life fascinating taxon. In the Xenopermian, Suminia was a founder of a fascinating and very important lineage.  E hensonii is a descendent of Suminia as a member of that clade.  Specifically, Elyardia is an example of a nonspecialized, arboreal manisuminid, (handed suminid or suminid with hands). This is a branch of the suminid lineage, those that are derived from Suminia in our fictitious XenoPermian. The other is the Suminopterans, one of the XenoPermian’s three clades of vertebrate fliers.

Something Other This Way Comes: the "Paleo"biology of Elyardia

The manisuminids are mostly, but not exclusively, arboreal. They fill roles similar to squirrels and primates. E hensonii is a relatively basal member of the clade that mostly eats gingko nuts, but supplements its diet by raiding nests for eggs, periodically munching on insects and eating foliage either in tough times or for roughage.  It would be tempting to call the manisuminds the primates of the Xenopermian. There are parallels between the two fictitiously related clades, but there are massive differences as well.

Primates are placental mammals. This allows them to bare live, very developed young. Elyardia and the rest of the manisuminids are definitely not mammals, even if they are fuzzy. They independently developed the ability to bare live young and even suckle their young in a manner similar to monotreme mammals. The live young they bare though are very underdeveloped and must be cared for extensively. However, the time cycle for taking care of their progeny blurs the K/r selection line to some extent. They have fewer pups at a time, but they generally reproduce quite frequently.

One of the great drivers of primate evolution was the presence of fruit. Tropical fruit had a profound impact. Flowering plants do not exist in the XenoPermian. They will arrive, but later, during the alternate Mesozoic and somewhat earlier than their great flowering in the Cretaceous. The presence of the manisuminids and their cousins, the fissonucines, would drive a great deal more innovation in the gingko tree evolution, producing many variants that never existed in OTL. The same held true for changes to coniferous cones as well.

The threats and competitors that the manisuminids would face were radically different than anything the primates did. There are hardly any pterosaurs in the Cenozoic. Nor were there flying primates, which would be the closest parallel with the suminopterans. Pterosaurs are actually one of the biggest problems for manisuminids. While far from large, pterosaurs could and would dive in to raid for young. An adult Elyardia was a serious danger for pterosaurs: their bites are sufficient to lame a pterosaur that they do not outright kill.

Other threats in the trees include, the foliosensids – arboreal insectivorous cynodonts – that take pups and can kill adults if driven to; niictodons (an arboreal parareptilian scavenger with immense bite forces necessary to crush bone) can be a menace if Elyardia is unlucky; and in other habitats, Suminopterans are not above raiding manisuminid nests. Of course, other manisuminids are a problem.

When traversing the ground between copses of gingkoes and other trees, Acerdens (a cynodont that has parallels with badgers), the unnamed ‘sprintocrocs’ and the paratheropods are also problematic. Larger predators rarely notice Elyardia and their kind: they are too much effort for the amount of meat acquired.

The threats from predators have produced some interesting behaviors. Manisuminids are nesters. Depending on the species, how they nest is vastly different. Elyardia nests by finding a large branch and building a large nest from sticks, leaves and other materials. Their hands allow for the innovation that this represents. The nests themselves are often adorned with sticks that have been chewed into a sharpened state and the points are placed outwards.

Elyardia is very gregarious and a colony can occupy a huge tree at very branching point. Every year, the majority of the young leave the colony to either join another or start their own. Most do not succeed, becoming lunch or a snack for some other entity of the XenoPermian.

Likewise, mating season is quite loud and horribly smelly with males jockeying for position in the social structure and females selecting with whom they mate based on the nest construction and displays. Older males, those that have built up their nests over time almost always come out well during the season.

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes!  Skeletal Changes from Suminia to manisuminids.

Suminia top, Elyardia bottom

The changes to E hensonii from Suminia have been largely constrained to four areas: respiratory, locomotive and cranial. They are driven by the niche and lifestyle of the manisuminids.  Relatively speaking, Elyardia is fairly conservative in its changes, morphologically speaking.

E hensonii and most of the therapsids that made it through the great evolutionary churn that was initiated by the stretched out Siberian Traps of the XenoPermian developed an improved set of lungs. E hensonii came out with an improved tidal breathing apparatus, one that mirrors the method of how the lungs work in modern mammals. Likewise, E hensonii is also endothermic and bounces around the treetops of the Ural Sea region with a great deal of energy.

The changes to the skull are pretty profound on E hensonii compared to Suminia. There are three areas that are of interest. The first is driven by the continued necessities of being a arboreal animal. The suminid line developed binocular vision. Binocular vision developed early on in the suminid line and both the suminopterans and manisuminids retained the trait. The second trait that has developed to an extreme in the manisuminids is heterodontia. The teeth have become more and more specialized. Elyardia has heavy, peglike “incisors” and very molar-like back teeth. This has been driven by the diet related to the gingko nut and its various relatives.

 The chewing action has changed from the basal mill process that anomodonts had, but still processes the food far more than any other therapsids save the cynodonts, other anomodonts and a singular clade of therocephalians. One advantage that the manisuminids have over cynodonts is that they replace their teeth throughout their lives. Although, they are relatively short lives most of the time.

The final collection of traits that has significantly changed from the ancestral sumina is that of locomotion. To speed up, the limbs have become parasaggital. Likewise, the hands have developed into true hands with opposable thumbs. This has allowed the manisuminids to become even more adept climbers and dominate the canopies throughout the XenoPermian world. Their tails have become fully prehensile as well. It is not uncommon to see Elyardia to be dangling by the tail eating or reaching for food.  They are often also used during displays: individuals hanging from their tails and calling and squawking. 

Past the Future

Elyardia's lineage will exist for a long time.  Manisuminids make it past the XenoPermian-Jurassic Extinction and continue to thrive.  They will even make it past the K-E Extinction at the end of the Mesozoic.  They were always a very important member of the fauna, but in the Allozoic (the alternate of the Cenozoic) is when the manisuminids come into their own, being one of the most dominant clades present.  They will outlast the gorgons and parieasaurs.  They will outlast the megafaunal dicynodonts, or at least those not derived from juxtarodentia.  Their response to the greatly increased competition that arose during the late Allozoic glaciations will be fascinating.  However, that is beyond the scope of the XenoPermian, being 213 million years hence.


Yeah!  Next Xenopermian done.  The it only took a year and change.  Oy.  There will be two smaller posts in the near future.  The first one will be about our friend the pterosaur.  Given that they are relatively well known from our own timeline I will just touch on them (and risk looking a bit foolish, though I will consult some of the netizens known for their pterosaur knowledge). The next post will not be a year away.

Personally, I loved the touch that Scott put into the first altercation pic: the pseudochelonids of that last post are featured in the beach.  It helps tie, at least visually, the narrative together.

Any questions or comments or corrections, please post.

Was STUXNET an Illegal Act of Force?

A cyberattack that sabotaged Iran’s uranium enrichment program was an “act of force” and was likely illegal, according to research commissioned by NATO’s cyberwarfare center.

“Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force” and likely violate international law, according to the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, a study produced by international legal experts at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia.

Acts of force are prohibited under the United Nations charter, except when done in self-defense, Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island and lead author of the study, told the Washington Times.

The 20 experts who produced the study were unanimous that Stuxnet was an act of force, but were less clear about whether the cyber sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program constituted an “armed attack,” which would entitle Iran to use counterforce in self-defense. An armed attack constitutes a start of international hostilities under which the Geneva Convention’s laws of war would apply.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More Evidence Tying CAMP Eruptions to Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction

Scientists examining evidence across the world from New Jersey to North Africa say they have linked the abrupt disappearance of half of earth's species 200 million years ago to a precisely dated set of gigantic volcanic eruptions. The eruptions may have caused climate changes so sudden that many creatures were unable to adapt—possibly on a pace similar to that of human-influenced climate warming today. The extinction opened the way for dinosaurs to evolve and dominate the planet for the next 135 million years, before they, too, were wiped out in a later planetary cataclysm

In recent years, many scientists have suggested that the so-called End-Triassic Extinction and at least four other known past die-offs were caused at least in part by mega-volcanism and resulting climate change. However, they were unable to tie deposits left by eruptions to biological crashes closely in time. This study provides the tightest link yet, with a newly precise date for the ETE--201,564,000 years ago, exactly the same time as a massive outpouring of lava. "This may not quench all the questions about the exact mechanism of the extinction itself. However, the coincidence in time with the volcanism is pretty much ironclad," said coauthor Paul Olsen, a geologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who has been investigating the boundary since the 1970s.

The new study unites several pre-existing lines of evidence by aligning them with new techniques for dating rocks. Lead author Terrence Blackburn (then at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; now at the Carnegie Institution) used the decay of uranium isotopes to pull exact dates from basalt, a rock left by eruptions. The basalts analyzed in the study all came from the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP), a series of huge eruptions known to have started around 200 million years ago, when nearly all land was massed into one huge continent. The eruptions spewed some 2.5 million cubic miles of lava in four sudden spurts over a 600,000-year span, and initiated a rift that evolved into the Atlantic Ocean; remnants of CAMP lavas are found now in North and South America, and North Africa. The scientists analyzed samples from what are now Nova Scotia, Morocco and the New York City suburbs. (Olsen hammered one from a road cut in the Hudson River Palisades, about 1,900 feet from the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge.)

Previous studies have suggested a link between the CAMP eruptions and the extinction, but other researchers' dating of the basalts had a margin of error of 1 to 3 million years. The new margin of error is only a few thousand years—in geology, an eye blink. Blackburn and his colleagues showed that the eruption in Morocco was the earliest, with ones in Nova Scotia and New Jersey coming about 3,000 and 13,000 years later, respectively. Sediments below that time contain pollen, spores and other fossils characteristic of the Triassic era; in those above, the fossils disappear. Among the creatures that vanished were eel-like fish called conodonts, early crocodilians, tree lizards and many broad-leaved plants. The dating is further strengthened by a layer of sediment just preceding the extinction containing mineral grains providing evidence of one of earth's many periodic reversals of magnetic polarity. This particular reversal, labeled E23r, is consistently located just below the boundary, making it a convenient marker, said coauthor Dennis Kent, a paleomagnetism expert who is also at Lamont-Doherty. With the same layers found everywhere the researchers have looked so far, the eruptions "had to be a hell of an event," said Kent.

The third piece of chronological evidence is the sedimentary layers themselves. Sedimentary rocks cannot be dated directly—one reason why the timing of the extinction has been hard to nail. Olsen and some others have long contended that the earth's precession—a cyclic change in the orientation of the axis toward the sun and resulting temperature changes—consistently created layers reflecting the alternate filling and drying of large lake basins on a fairly steady 20,000-year schedule. This idea is well accepted for more recent time, but many scientists have had doubts about whether it could be applied much farther back. By correlating the precisely dated basalts with surrounding sedimentary layers, the new study shows that precession operated pretty much the same way then, allowing dates with a give or take of 20,000 years to be assigned to most sediments holding fossils, said Olsen.

Olsen has painstakingly cataloged the layers around the time of the End Triassic, and the initial phase of the extinction occurs in just one layer—meaning the event took 20,000 years at most. But, he said, "it could have taken much less. This is the level of resolution we have now, but it's the 'less' part that is the more important, and that's what we are working on now."

Many scientists assume that giant eruptions would have sent sulfurous particles into the air that darkened the skies, creating a multi-year winter that would have frozen out many creatures. A previous study by Kent and Rutgers University geochemist Morgan Schaller has also shown that each pulse of volcanism doubled the air's concentration of carbon dioxide—a major component of volcanic gases. Following the cold pulses, the warming effects of this greenhouse gas would have lasted for millennia, wiping out creatures that could not take too much heat. (It was already quite hot to begin with at that time; even pre-eruption CO2 levels were higher than those of today.) Fossils show that heat-sensitive plants especially suffered; there is also evidence that the increased CO2 caused chemical reactions that made the oceans more acidic, causing populations of shell-building creatures to collapse. As if this were not enough, there is also some evidence that a large meteorite hit the earth at the time of the extinction--but that factor seems far less certain. A much stronger case has been made for the extinction of the dinosaurs by a meteorite some 65 million years ago—an event that opened the way for the evolution and dominance of mammals, including human beings. Volcanism may have been involved in that extinction as well, with the meteorite delivering the final blow.)

Right now, it would appear that we have two mass extinctions that were tied to massive eruptions (Permian and Triassic mass extinctions). We have one that is almost certainly tied to a meteor impact (KT or K-Pg). The others are still VERY ambiguous. The Devonian was a string of extinctions. The poorly understood.  Let's be careful about making proclamations about their causes until we can dig through them sufficiently.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here Comes Skynet: DARPA Tackles Machine Learning

Machine learning – the ability of computers to understand data, manage results, and infer insights from uncertain information – is the force behind many recent revolutions in computing. Email spam filters, smartphone personal assistants and self-driving vehicles are all based on research advances in machine learning. Unfortunately, even as the demand for these capabilities is accelerating, every new application requires a Herculean effort. Even a team of specially-trained machine learning experts makes only painfully slow progress due to the lack of tools to build these systems.

The Probabilistic Programming for Advanced Machine Learning (PPAML) program was launched to address this challenge. Probabilistic programming is a new programming paradigm for managing uncertain information. By incorporating it into machine learning, PPAML seeks to greatly increase the number of people who can successfully build machine learning applications and make machine learning experts radically more effective. Moreover, the program seeks to create more economical, robust and powerful applications that need less data to produce more accurate results – features inconceivable with today’s technology.

“We want to do for machine learning what the advent of high-level program languages 50 years ago did for the software development community as a whole,” said Kathleen Fisher, DARPA program manager.

“Our goal is that future machine learning projects won’t require people to know everything about both the domain of interest and machine learning to build useful machine learning applications. Through new probabilistic programming languages specifically tailored to probabilistic inference, we hope to decisively reduce the current barriers to machine learning and foster a boom in innovation, productivity and effectiveness.”
1.  DARPA is doing it.  That means its a DARPA hard problem and has a small percentage likelihood of suceeding.

 2.  I'm being flippant about skynet.  I don't think this will work. 

3.  I have always found it ... odd...interesting...weird...that folks believe that R&D for stuff like AI happens in places that are ones that stockpile weapons of any sort or develop anything of the sort either. 

Reportedly Late Triassic Bird-like Tracks are Actually From the Eocene

A Late Eocene date for Late Triassic bird tracks


1. Ricardo N. Melchor (a)
2. Robert Buchwaldt (b)
3. Samuel Bowring (b)


a. INCITAP (CONICET-UNLPam), Av. Uruguay 151, 6300 Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina

b. Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA


Bird-like tracks from northwest Argentina have been reported as being of Late Triassic age1. They were attributed to an unknown group of theropods showing some avian characters. However, we believe that these tracks are of Late Eocene age on the basis of a new weighted mean 206Pb/238U date (isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry method) on zircons from a tuff bed in the sedimentary succession containing the fossil tracks. In consequence, the mentioned tracks are assigned to birds and its occurrence matches the known fossil record of Aves.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Updated Neandertal Genome Released and Freely Available

Researchers in Germany said Tuesday they have completed the first high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome and are making it freely available online for other scientists to study.

The genome produced from remains of a toe bone found in a Siberian cave is far more detailed than a previous "draft" Neanderthal genome sequenced three years ago by the same team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

"The genome of a Neanderthal is now there in a form as accurate as that of any person walking the streets today," Svante Paabo, a geneticist who led the research, told The Associated Press in an email.

Richard G. Klein, a paleoanthropologist at Stanford University in California who was not involved in the study, said it was "a monumental achievement that no one would have thought possible 10 or perhaps even five years ago."

The Leipzig team has already been able to determine which genes the Neanderthal inherited from its mother and which from its father. It now hopes to compare the new genome sequence to that of other Neanderthals, modern humans and Denisovans — another extinct human species whose genome was previously extracted from remains found in the same Siberian cave.

"We will gain insights into many aspects of the history of both Neanderthals and Denisovans, and refine our knowledge about the genetic changes that occurred in the genomes of modern humans after they parted ways with the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans," Paabo said.

Klein said the comparisons might allow scientists to determine what makes our species unique and explain why we survive and others didn't.

Paabo's group plans to publish a scientific paper later this year.

In the meantime, the genome sequence is being made freely available so scientists elsewhere can conduct research on it, he said.

Yet Another Step to the Robopocalypse!

A New Supercomputer Record Set: More Than One Million Cores Used for a Simulation

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have performed record simulations using all 1,572,864 cores of Sequoia, the largest supercomputer in the world. Sequoia, based on IBM BlueGene/Q architecture, is the first machine to exceed one million computational cores. It also is No. 2 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers, operating at 16.3 petaflops (16.3 quadrillion floating point operations per second).

The simulations are the largest particle-in-cell (PIC) code simulations by number of cores ever performed. PIC simulations are used extensively in plasma physics to model the motion of the charged particles, and the electromagnetic interactions between them, that make up ionized matter. High performance computers such as Sequoia enable these codes to follow the simultaneous evolution of tens of billions to trillions of individual particles in highly complex systems.

Frederico Fiuza, a physicist and Lawrence Fellow at LLNL, performed the simulations in order to study the interaction of ultra-powerful lasers with dense plasmas in a proposed method to produce fusion energy, the energy source that powers the sun, in a laboratory setting. The method, known as fast ignition, uses lasers capable of delivering more than a petawatt of power (a million billion watts) in a fraction of a billionth of a second to heat compressed deuterium and tritium (DT) fuel to temperatures exceeding the 50 million degrees Celsius needed to initiate fusion reactions and release net energy. The project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fusion Energy Science Program.

This method differs from the approach being taken by LLNL's National Ignition Facility to achieve thermonuclear ignition and burn. NIF's approach is called the "central hot spot" scenario, which relies on simultaneous compression and ignition of a spherical fuel capsule in an implosion, much like in a diesel engine. Fast ignition uses the same hardware as the hot spot approach but adds a high-intensity, ultrashort-pulse laser as the "spark" that achieves ignition.

The code used in these simulations was OSIRIS, a PIC code that has been developed over more than 10 years in collaboration between the University of California, Los Angeles and Portugal's Instituto Superior Técnico. Using this code, Fiuza demonstrated excellent scaling in parallel performance of OSIRIS to the full 1.6 million cores of Sequoia. By increasing the number of cores for a relatively small problem of fixed size, what computer scientists call "strong scaling," OSIRIS obtained 75 percent efficiency on the full machine. But when the total problem size was increased, what is called "weak scaling," a 97 percent efficiency was achieved.

"This means that a simulation that would take an entire year to perform on a medium-size cluster of 4,000 cores can be performed in a single day. Alternatively, problems 400 times greater in size can be simulated in the same amount of time," Fiuza said. "The combination of this unique supercomputer and this highly efficient and scalable code is allowing for transformative research."

OSIRIS is routinely used for fundamental science during the test phase of Sequoia in simulations with up to 256,000 cores. These simulations are allowing researchers, for the first time, to model the interaction of realistic fast-ignition-scale lasers with dense plasmas in three dimensions with sufficient speed to explore a large parameter space and optimize the design for ignition. Each simulation evolves the dynamics of more than 100 billion particles for more than 100,000 computational time steps. This is approximately an order of magnitude larger than the previous largest simulations of fast ignition.

New Phylogeny for South American Cretaceous Endemic Mammals (or Meridiolestida finds a new home)

A new phylogeny for basal Trechnotheria and Cladotheria and affinities of South American endemic Late Cretaceous mammals


1. Alexander O. Averianov (a,b)
2. Thomas Martin (c)
3. Alexey V. Lopatin (d)


a. Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Universitetskaya nab. 1, 199034, Saint Petersburg, Russia

b. Department of Paleontology, Geological Faculty, Saint Petersburg State University, 16 Liniya VO 29, 199178, Saint Petersburg, Russia

c. Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie, Universität Bonn, Nussallee 8, 53115, Bonn, Germany

d. Borissiak Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Profsouznaya str. 123, 117997, Moscow, Russia


The endemic South American mammals Meridiolestida, considered previously as dryolestoid cladotherians, are found to be non-cladotherian trechnotherians related to spalacotheriid symmetrodontans based on a parsimony analysis of 137 morphological characters among 44 taxa. Spalacotheriidae is the sister taxon to Meridiolestida, and the latter clade is derived from a primitive spalacolestine that migrated to South America from North America at the beginning of the Late Cretaceous. Meridiolestida survived until the early Paleocene (Peligrotherium) and early Miocene (Necrolestes) in South America, and their extinction is probably linked to the increasing competition with metatherian and eutherian tribosphenic mammals. The clade Meridiolestida plus Spalacotheriidae is the sister taxon to Cladotheria and forms a new clade Alethinotheria. Alethinotheria and its sister taxon Zhangheotheria, new clade (Zhangheotheriidae plus basal taxa), comprise Trechnotheria. Cladotheria is divided into Zatheria (plus stem taxa, including Amphitherium) and Dryolestida, including Dryolestidae and a paraphyletic array of basal dryolestidans (formerly classified as “Paurodontidae”). The South American Vincelestes and Groebertherium are basal dryolestidans.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Triassic River Systems of Northwest Pangea

Triassic river systems and the paleo-Pacific margin of northwestern Pangea


1. Elizabeth L. Miller (a)
2. Alexey V. Soloviev (b)
3. Andrei V. Prokopiev (c)
4. Jaime Toro (d)
5. Dan Harris (d)
6. Alexander B. Kuzmichev (b)
7. George E. Gehrels (e)


a. Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

b. Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

c. Diamond and Precious Metal Geology Institute, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk, Russia

d. Dept. Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA

e. Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA


Detrital zircon U–Pb ages from Triassic strata exposed in the circum-Arctic, analyzed by LA-ICP-MS and SHRIMP-RG, are compared at the regional scale to better understand the paleogeography of northern Pangea and help restore rift opening of the Arctic. Data sets are compared based on their zircon age distributions, cumulative age probability plots, and the K–S test. Three major source regions are characterized. These fed clastic material to transcontinental river systems that transported material from the highlands of northwestern Pangea to its once continuous paleo-Pacific continental margin. The paleo-Lena River System was fed from sources in the Baikalian and Altay-Sayan mountainous regions of Siberia. Zircon populations are characterized by a limited number of Precambrian zircons (~ 1.8–2.0 Ga with fewer ~ 2.5–3.0 Ga), lack of 0.9–1.8 Ga zircons, and a dominant 480–500 Ma and 290–300 Ma age population. The paleo-Taimyr River System was sourced from the Uralian orogenic belt region and deposited along a rifted portion of the Siberia–Baltica margin beginning in the Permo–Triassic. Precambrian zircon populations are similar to those of the paleo-Lena system, and samples closest to Siberia have similar populations in the 480–500 Ma and 290–300 Ma age ranges. Chukotka, Wrangel Island and Lisburne Hills, Alaska, have sparse ages between 900 and 1800 Ma, Ordovician ages are younger (~ 440–450 Ma), and, along with abundant ~ 300 Ma ages, they contain ~ 250–260 Ma and lesser ~ 215–235 Ma zircons, interpreted as derived from silicic volcanic centers associated with Permo–Triassic to Triassic continental flood basalt provinces in Siberia, Taimyr and Kara Sea region. The trans-Laurentian River System was likely fed by rift-related uplift along the proto North Atlantic/Arctic margin and delivered sediment to the Cordilleran margin of Pangea. These samples have no significant upper Paleozoic zircons and have a much broader age range of Precambrian zircons.

Chinese Neoproterozoic 18O Excursions Do Not Support Glacial Melt-water Scenarios for Snowball Earth

Neoproterozoic low to negative δ18O volcanic and intrusive rocks in the Qinling Mountains and their geological significance


1. Jingbo LiuCorresponding (a)
2. Lingmin Zhang (a)


a. State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China


The Yaolinghe Group in the central part of the Qinling Mountains includes Neoproterozoic bimodal volcanic and sedimentary sequences and two units with fault contact can be divided. The lower unit consists of bimodal volcanic and sedimentary rocks intruded by a coeval plutonic complex, granitic dikes and small granitic bodies, and the upper unit is made up of greenschist with minor rhyolitic tuff. Zircon U–Pb dating yields ages of 719–790Ma for meta-rhyolitic tuff in the lower unit, 714–721Ma for the intrusive rocks, and 635Ma for meta-rhyolitic tuff in the upper unit. The δ18O values are −4 to 15‰ for whole-rock, quartz and zircon from the volcanic rocks and quartz veins in the lower unit and the intrusive rocks, and 3.4–12‰ for whole-rock and quartz veins in the upper unit. Low to negative δ18O values (−4 to 4‰) are widely present in the rocks and quartz veins of the lower unit and the intrusive rocks, suggesting that the lower unit and the intrusive rocks suffered meteoric fluids-in hydrothermal alteration. The δ18O values of whole-rock and quartz veins in the upper unit do not exhibit striking 18O depletion, indicating that meteoric fluids-in hydrothermal alteration did not occur in this unit. Low δ18O zircon grains (1–4‰) are common in some of meta-rhyolitic tuffaceous and intrusive rocks, and only two analyses have negative δ18O values. The low δ18O values of zircon were inherited from crystallization of low δ18O magma, which was formed through the remelting of previous magmatic rocks altered by meteoric water in a system of magma chamber-caldera, and weakly affected by meteoric fluid-in hydrothermal alteration. Thus the presence of low δ18O magmatic zircon is an indicator for meteoric fluid-in hydrothermal alteration. The low δ18O zircon grains found in different samples yields the ages from 720 to 790Ma, implying that meteoric fluid-in hydrothermal alterations began earlier than 790Ma, whereas the striking 18O depletion of the intrusive rocks suggest that hydrothermal alteration continued to at least 714Ma, and the lack of 18O depletion in the upper unit constrains that meteoric fluid-in hydrothermal alterations stopped before 635Ma. The long duration of meteoric fluid-in hydrothermal alteration do not support that the glacial meltwater from the Neoproterozoic glaciations in the Yangtze craton is responsible for the 18O depletion of the rocks.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Indian Indigenous Stealth Fighter Program Takes a Step Forward

India has unveiled an updated design for its so-called fifth-generation fighter concept, known as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Representations of the fighter have changed often in the last few years. But the 1:8-scale model of the concept displayed at last month's Aero India 2013 show in Bengaluru is the final configuration and the one with which the program will proceed.

The twin-engine, stealthy, multirole fighter was first unveiled at the Aero India show in 2009, in the form of a metal wind-tunnel model. At the show in 2011, a reshaped model revealed an F-22-like appearance.

The final design, or at least the one the concept designers have put out this year, is strongly reminiscent of the Northrop Grumman YF-23 prototype that lost the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition to the Lockheed YF-22 in 1991 in what became the F-22 program.

The AMCA's new fuselage is stretched, with symmetric trapezoidal wings, notably losing the leading-edge extensions that were once part of the design. The aircraft will have an internal weapons bay and fully indigenous stealth technologies now under development, including radar-absorbent paint and composites.

Exoplanet's Atmosphere Indicates It Formed Like the

A young exoplanet, orbiting a star known as HR 8799, has water and carbon monoxide in its atmosphere—but not methane—researchers say. Their findings suggest that a particular planet-forming mechanism, known as core accretion, brought the exoplanet, called HR 8799c, into existence.

HR 8799c is a gas giant, with about seven times the mass of Jupiter, and astronomers have been debating whether similar planets form via this core accretion process or by another possible mechanism, known as gravitational instability.

Quinn Konopacky from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, along with colleagues from Canada and the United States, used data from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to analyze the spectral features of HR 8799c. Their results, published in the 14 March issue of Science Express, shed light on the formation of this faraway gas giant and provide clues about the formation of our own Solar System as well.

"Our results are most consistent with the planets around HR8799 forming via core accretion, much in the same way we think the planets in our own Solar System formed," explained Konopacky. "By studying the HR8799 system, we can get a peek at how Jupiter-like planets look very shortly after they form."

Unlike most other exoplanets, the four planets orbiting HR 8799 were detected directly, meaning that their light was discernible from that of their host star. This direct detection indicated that HR 8799c was a gas giant, orbiting its star at a distance comparable to Pluto's distance from our Sun. But, the birth of such a massive planet so far away from its parent star conflicted with popular models of planetary formation.

The new analysis by Konopacky and her team provides high-resolution data on the chemistry, gravity and atmosphere of HR 8799c. "The exoplanet has an ideal set of properties, being both fairly bright and located far enough away from the star to allow us to acquire this amazing spectral data," explained the researcher. "The fact that we don't see methane tells us a lot about the chemical processes at work in the atmosphere of this young gas giant."

Two possible mechanisms have been proposed for exoplanet formation: a multi-step, core accretion process by which gas slowly accumulates onto a planetary core, and a process known as gravitational instability that involves the simultaneous creation of a planet's interior and atmosphere.

"Although we see a lot of water vapor in the atmosphere of HR 8799c, we actually detect slightly less than we would have expected if the planet had the same composition as its host star," said Konopacky. "This tells us that the planet has a slightly elevated amount of carbon compared to oxygen."

The elevated carbon-to-oxygen ratio acts as a fingerprint for the exoplanet's formation, and the researchers suggest that grains of water ice must have condensed in the planetary disk surrounding HR 8799 and depleted the oxygen.

"These ice grains stuck together to make bigger ice chunks, a few kilometers across, that kept colliding and building up the planet's solid core," Konopacky suggested. "The atmosphere came later—from gas that the planet attracted after it got big enough. By the time that happened, some of the ice grains were gone and the gas didn't have as much water in it."

These findings imply that a core accretion process, similar to the one that shaped our Solar System—with gas giants far away from the Sun and rocky planets closer to it—also led to the formation of HR 8799c.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Isotopic Evidence for a Guadalupian Mass Extinction From China

Carbon and sulfur isotopic fluctuations associated with the end-Guadalupian mass extinction in South China


1. Yan Detain (a, b)
2. Zhang Liqin (c)
3. Qiu Zhen (b)


a. Key Laboratory of Tectonics and Petroleum Resources of Ministry of Education, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China

b. Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China

c. Key Laboratory of Geospace Environment and Geodesy of Ministry of Education, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China


Concentrations of total organic matter (TOC), carbon isotopic compositions of carbonate and organic matter (δ13Ccarb, δ13Corg), and sulfur isotopic compositions of carbonate associated sulfate (δ34Ssulfate) across the Guadalupian-Lopingian (G–L) boundary were analysed from identical samples of Tieqiao section, Laibin, Guangxi province, South China. The δ13Ccarb values show a positive excursion from -0.45‰ to the peak of 3.80‰ in the Laibin limestone member, followed by a drastic drop to -2.60‰ in the lowest Heshan Formation, then returned to about 1.58‰. Similar to the trends of the δ13Ccarb values, △13Ccarb-org values also show a positive excursion followed by a sharp negative shift. The onset of a major negative carbon isotope excursion postdates the end Guadalupian extinction that indicates subsequent severe disturbance of the ocean-atmosphere carbon cycle. The first biostratigraphic δ34Ssulfate values during the G-L transition exhibit a remarkable fluctuation: a dramatic negative shift followed by a rapid positive shift, ranging from 36.88‰ to -37.41‰. These sulfate isotopic records suggest the ocean during the G-L transition was strongly stratified, forming an unstable chemocline separating oxic shallow water from anoxic/euxinic deep water. Chemocline excursions, together with subsequent rapid transgression and oceanic anoxia, were likely responsible for the massive demise of the G–L biotic crisis.

Masha and the Bear ( Маша и Медведь )

An updated kids cartoon from Russia.  My kids have gotten hooked.  Some are quite funny even though I don't speak it.

Royal Tyrrell Museum Speaker Series: Permian Mass Extinction

Is China's J-31 Stealth Fighter Meant to be Carrier Aircraft Prototype?

China’s latest stealth fighter prototype could be deployed aboard the Chinese navy’s first aircraft carrier, eventually allowing Beijing to deploy radar-evading warplanes all over the world — although it’ll have to overcome some serious constraints.

The twin-engine J-31, which made its public debut in blurry photographs snapped at the Shenyang Aircraft Company airfield in northeastern China in late October, “may become China’s next generation carrier-borne fighter jet,” according to the government-owned Global Times newspaper. “News” from China’s state media, including Global Times, essentially can be read as official announcements.

But Sun Cong, the J-31′s chief designer, implied that the new stealth jet will need to be enhanced to become carrier-compatible, according to Global Times. In other words, the J-31 won’t be headed to sea any time soon, however much Chinese state media signals the rising power’s interest in taking its stealth jet out to the open water.

In any event, the prospect of a maritime future for the J-31 places China in rarefied company. Of the dozen or so countries that possess flattops, only a handful are developing carrier-based stealth warplanes; and none have deployed them yet. The U.S. Navy is working on the F-35C ship-compatible version of the Joint Strike Fighter; the U.K. and Italy are also acquiring F-35s for their carriers — in their cases, the vertical-landing B-model of the next-generation jet that the U.S. Marines will use.

Cambrian Acorn Worm Fills Key Gap in Evolutionary Understanding

Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery – this time with the unearthing of a strange phallus-shaped creature.

A study to be published online in the journal Nature on March 13 confirms Spartobranchus tenuis is a member of the acorn worms group which are seldom-seen animals that thrive today in the fine sands and mud of shallow and deeper waters. Acorn worms are themselves part of the hemichordates, a group of marine animals closely related to today's sea stars and sea urchins.

"Unlike animals with teeth and bones, these spaghetti-shaped creatures were soft-bodied, so the fossil record for them is extremely scarce," said lead author Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, associate professor of earth sciences and ecology & evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto and curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum. "Our analysis of Spartobranchus tenuis, a creature previously unknown to science, pushes the fossil record of the enteropneusts back by 200 million years and fundamentally changes our understanding of evolution from this period."

Since their discovery in the 19th-century, some of the biggest questions in hemichordate evolution have focused on the group's origins and the relationship between its two main branches: the enteropneusts and pterobranchs. Enteropneusts and pterobranchs look very different, yet share many genetic and developmental characteristics that reveal an otherwise unexpected close relationship.

"Spartobranchus tenuis represents a crucial missing link that serves not only to connect the two main hemichordate groups but helps to explain how an important evolutionary transformation was achieved," added Caron. "Our study suggests that primitive enteropneusts developed a tubular structure – the smoking gun – which has been retained over time in modern pterobranchs."

Hemichordates also share many of the same characteristics as chordates – a group of animals that includes humans – with the name hemichordate roughly translating to 'half a chordate.'

Spartobranchus tenuis probably fed on small particles of matter at the bottom of the oceans. "There are literally thousands of specimens at the Walcott Quarry in Yoho National Park, so it's possible Spartobranchus tenuis may have played an important role in recycling organic matter in the early Burgess Shale environment, similar to the ecological service provided by earth worms today on land," said Caron.

Detailed analysis suggests Spartobranchus tenuis had a flexible body consisting of a short proboscis, collar and narrow elongate trunk terminating in a bulbous structure, which may have served as an anchor. The largest complete specimens examined were 10 centimetres long with the proboscis accounting for about half a centimetre. A large proportion of these worms was preserved in tubes, of which some were branched, suggesting the tubes were used as a dwelling structure.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Japan Begins Extracting Natural Gas From Methane Calthrates

Two years after the Fukushima meltdown, most of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain shuttered, and that anniversary this week has sparked discussion about Japan’s energy sources. The country has depended almost exclusively on imported fossil fuels since the disaster. But in news announced today, Japan has become the first country to successfully extract methane from frozen reserves under the ocean floor, opening a new potential energy source for the country.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas but methane hydrate offers an even more concentrated source. One cubic foot of hydrate traps about 164 cubic feet of methane gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The methane in hydrate is frozen within an ice lattice, forming a sherbet-like substance.

To get the methane gas out, Japanese engineers used a depressurization method that turns methane hydrate into methane gas. Extraction began this morning, about 30 miles offshore of Japan’s main island and at a depth of around 1,000 feet below the seabed.

Southwestern Monsoon Projected to be Delayed Under Global Warming

A delay in the summer monsoon rains that fall over the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico is expected in the coming decades according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The North American monsoon delivers as much as 70 percent of the region's annual rainfall, watering crops and rangelands for an estimated 20 million people.

"We hope this information can be used with other studies to build realistic expectations for water resource availability in the future," said study lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Much of the arid U.S. Southwest is expected to get even drier as winter precipitation declines under climate change, but the present modeling study predicts that summer rain levels will stay constant over southern Arizona and New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico. What will shift is the arrival of the heaviest rains, from July and August or so, to September and October, the study says. "There still will be a healthy monsoon which is good news for agriculture in the southern U.S. and northwestern Mexico—the timing is the problem here," said study co-author Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty.

A delayed monsoon could potentially lower crop yields as rains come later in the growing season, when the days are getting shorter. By prolonging hot and dry conditions during spring, a late monsoon could also trigger more wildfires and force cities to stretch diminished water supplies. The study makes use of the latest climate change models (those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report due out next fall), to estimate monthly changes in precipitation by the end of the century, 2080-2099. The researchers hypothesize that future warming will make it more difficult to form clouds and rainfall early in the monsoon when soils are dry, followed reduced winter rain and snowfall, thus delaying the onset of the monsoon rains until enough moisture can be moved in from the oceans.

Royal Tyrrell Museum Speaker Series: Dinosaur Diversity and Taphomonic Bias