Friday Headlines, September 5, 2014
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
Bárðarbunga – Eruption in Iceland
Largest. Dinosaur. Ever.
Woolly Mammoths weren’t the only mammoths with hair.
Iceland is experiencing a volcanic eruption. This is no great surprise, because it lies right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
There are lots of volcanoes throughout Iceland, all with names almost completely unpronouncable to native English speakers like myself.
The volcano that is currently erupting is Bárðarbunga. Iceland is used to such eruptions and has all manner of systems in place to cope with and measure such events. What that means for us is webcams and real-time earthquake information. This page is the coolest. visualization. ever. for earthquakes around Iceland.
At this moment, the volcano is not causing any flight disruptions, but it could happen if the eruption becomes more intense.
People get excited about such things. The biggest. The fastest. The bitey-est.
It’s no real shock to anyone who knows much about paleontology that the new ‘biggest’ dinosaur is another sauropod (or ‘long-neck’ for those who grew up in the Land Before Time era).
Biggest is a funny word, because I could mean tallest, longest, widest, or any number of extreme adjectives. In this case, it appears that ‘biggest’ means ‘heaviest.’
This new massive sauropod, named Dreadnoughtus, lived in the latest part of the Cretaceous period. Dreadnoughtus was discovered in Argentina and is projected to have weighed about 59,000 kg (something on the order of 60 tons).
As it happens, the specimen that was described by researchers from Drexel University in Philidelphia, was likely also a juvenile and was still growing.
Firstly, I imagine there’s one or two of you who didn’t know there was more than one species of mammoth. Most people, when the term “mammoth” is mentioned, picture a big, furry, elephant-y thing that lived during the ice ages.
But there were other species of mammoths, including the Columbian mammoth, which lived further south, away from all the ice. (You can read a bit about mammoths and mastodons in my older post, here.)
The thing with Columbian mammoths is that, because they lived further south, they tended not to be as hairy as woolly mammoths. Modern elephants are largely hairless, so this is no shock.
But now, a farmer tilling his field in California found a wonderful trove of ice age fossils (which is one common way to find mammoths. The other is to dig a swimming pool.). In this case, a Columbian mammoth was found with hair still present.
From this hair, they were able to collect genetic information from the mammoth, which is darn cool. They were also able to make an interesting discovery: Columbian mammoths had red hair (at least this one did).