While drilling under Antarctic ice floes, scientists uncover a treasure trove of life with 77 species


New Delhi: Researchers have discovered a mine of marine life hidden deep under the Antarctic ice floes. Despite occupying nearly 1.6 million square kilometers, ice floes are among the least explored environments on Earth. Life has been seen in these perpetually dark and cold habitats on camera, but has rarely been collected.

Using hot water, a team of German researchers drilled two holes through nearly 200 meters of the Ekström Ice Shelf in the southeastern Weddell Sea in 2018. The environment is harsh and extremely cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 2.2 degrees Celsius.

Despite being several kilometers offshore, the biodiversity of the specimens collected was extremely rich. The researchers said it is richer than many open water samples found on the continental shelf where sources of light and food are present.

The team discovered 77 species – including saber-shaped bryozoans (moss animals) and serpulid worms – more than the total number previously known from all ice shelves on the frozen continent.

The team concludes that there must be enough algae carried under the pack ice from open water to support a strong food web. Microscopy of the samples showed that, surprisingly, the annual growth of four of the species was comparable to that of similar animals in the open marine habitats of the Antarctic continental shelf.

The team also notes that with climate change and the collapse of these ice shelves, time is running out to study and protect these ecosystems. Read more

New muscle found in human jaw

Researchers at the University of Basel have discovered a previously neglected section of our jaw muscles and have described this layer in detail for the first time.

The masseter muscle is the largest of the muscles in the jaw. If you put your fingers on the back of your cheeks and press your teeth together, you will feel the muscle tighten. Anatomy textbooks generally describe the masseter as composed of a superficial part and a deep part.

Now, researchers have described the structure of the masseter muscle as consisting of an additional, even deeper third layer. They propose to give this layer the name Musculus masseter pars coronidea, which means the coronoid section of the masseter.

The anatomical study was based on a detailed examination of the formalin-fixed jaw musculature, CT scans, and analysis of stained tissue sections from deceased people who had donated their bodies to science. This was in addition to the MRI data of a living person.

The structure of the masseter muscle has raised questions in the past. In a previous edition of Grey’s Anatomy, from the year 1995, the editors also describe the masseter muscle as having three layers, although the studies cited are based on the jaw musculature of other species and contradict each other in part. Read more

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Rare dinosaur embryo discovered in China

First, scientists discovered a rare fossil of a well-preserved dinosaur embryo in southern China.

While many fossilized dinosaur eggs and nests have been found over the past century, finding one with a well-preserved embryo inside is extremely rare.

By analyzing the fossil, the researchers found that oviraptorosaurs – a group of therapods closely related to birds – adopted a distinctive folding posture before hatching, a behavior that was believed to be unique to birds.

This raises the possibility that folding behavior may have evolved first in non-avian theropods during the Cretaceous Period.

Usually, dinosaur embryos are incomplete with scattered skeletons, which is why the team was surprised to see this embryo preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird pose. This posture had not been recognized before in non-avian dinosaurs.

It had been acquired by a Chinese museum in 2000, but then ended up in storage, largely forgotten until about 10 years later, when museum staff sorted the boxes and unearthed the fossils.

The idea that such pre-hatch behavior may have originated from non-avian theropods can now be investigated further through further studies on other fossil embryos. But first, the researchers say they will continue to study this rare specimen even more thoroughly, using various imaging techniques to image its internal anatomy, such as the bones of the skull and other parts of the body still covered. of rocks. Read more

Violent pulses from a neutron star captured for the first time

Scientists have for the first time succeeded in measuring the oscillations in the luminosity of a neutron star known as a magnetar during its most violent moments.

In just a tenth of a second, the magnetar released energy equivalent to that produced by the Sun in 100,000 years.

Neutron stars are objects that can contain half a million times the mass of Earth in a diameter of about 20 kilometers. Magnetars are a type of neutron star that has the strongest magnetic field known.

The observation was carried out automatically using an artificial intelligence system developed at the University of Valencia.

Magnetars undergo violent eruptions that are still unknown because of their unexpected nature and their duration of barely a few tenths of a second. Detecting them is a challenge for science and technology, as only 30 magnetars have been discovered to date.

But the researchers managed to measure pulses in the magnetar’s brightness during its most violent moments. These episodes are a crucial part of understanding the giant magnetar eruptions that have been debated over the past 20 years. Read more

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Scientists design hover rover for the moon

Scientists at MIT have designed a hovering rover that can explore the Moon and other airless cosmic bodies.

The rover works by harnessing the natural charge of the Moon. Due to the absence of an atmosphere, the Moon and other cosmic bodies can create an electric field upon direct exposure to the sun and surrounding plasma.

On the Moon, this surface charge is powerful enough to levitate dust over three feet above the ground, just as static electricity can make a person’s hair stand on end.

Researchers have proposed harnessing this natural surface charge to levitate a glider with Mylar wings, a material that naturally holds the same charge as the surfaces of airless bodies. They felt that similarly charged surfaces should repel each other, with a force that causes the glider to lift off the ground.

But such a design would likely be limited to small asteroids, as larger planetary bodies would have a stronger and thwarted gravitational pull.

The levitating rover from the MIT team could potentially bypass this limitation.

The concept uses tiny ion beams to both charge the vehicle and increase the natural surface charge. The overall effect is designed to generate a relatively large repulsive force between the vehicle and the ground, in a way that requires very little power.

In an initial feasibility study, researchers showed that such ionic stimulation would have to be powerful enough to levitate a small two-pound vehicle on the Moon and large asteroids like Psyche. Read more

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

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