Friday Headlines, February 19, 2016
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
Another Fracking Earthquake
Marsupial Lions Scratched Too
Lately we hear a lot about earthquakes in Oklahoma. Most of these are caused by water injection, in which water is pumped down into the Earth for one reason or another. Some of this is caused by hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking). Other times, it’s used to dispose of water that was pumped out to during the extraction of fossil fuels.
Oil companies in Oklahoma require a means of getting rid of the salty water that comes out of wells during oil production. Sometimes there is as much ten times as much water as there is oil, and this water has to go somewhere!
Injecting it into the ground alters the pressure regime and can cause the reactivation of old fractures or the appearance of new fractures. Motion on this fractures is the cause of the swarm of earthquakes that characterizes Oklahoma today.
Marsupial mammals succeeded in filling many of the same ecological niches that placental mammals now get all the press for occupying. It’s fun to advise people that there was a Tasmanian Wolf (the Thylacine), marsupial saber-toothed ‘cats’ (Thylacosmilus), and of course, the marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex.
In this new study, analysis of the size and number of scratch marks made by Thylacoleo showed two important things. 1) As suspected, Thylacoleo was an excellent climber and 2) Thylacoleo raised its young in caves.
This study is a good example of ichnology, or the study of tracks and traces. Foot prints, feeding marks, and in this case, claw marks are indirect evidence of behavior, but can be powerful tools to illumimate the activities of extinct organisms.