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HomeScientiFixFossilised footprints reveal crocodile ancestors walked on two feet

Fossilised footprints reveal crocodile ancestors walked on two feet

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to their sources.

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Ancient crocodilians walked on 2 feet over 110 million years ago

An ancient species of crocodiles walked on its two hind legs like dinosaurs and measured more than 3 m in length, say scientists who analysed the fossilised footprint of the reptiles that go back 110 to 120 million years.

The footprints, found in South Korea, measure around 24 cm, suggesting the reptiles that left the tracks had legs about the same length as adult human legs. Researchers first thought that the footprints had been made by giant pterosaurs. However, the team now reveals that they are more likely from crocodylomorphs, ancestors to modern-day crocodiles and alligators.

The size of the Cretaceous-era footprints indicate a body length of up to 3 m, while the skin traces and clear impressions suggest heel-toe walking, researchers say. More on National Geographic.

In a first, scientists put mice in hibernation-like state

Scientists at the Harvard Medical School have, for the first time, found a way to put mice into a “hibernation-like” state for days and then revive them. The team discovered a set of neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus that controls hibernation-like behaviour in mice. They then showed that these neurons can be stimulated to induce a torpor in mice. It is important to note that hibernation lasts for several weeks, daily torpor lasts several hours.

Blocking these neurons can then disrupt this torpor. Researchers say that by better understanding these processes in animal models, scientists could one day induce hibernation in humans, which could in turn pave the way for therapies to prevent brain injury during stroke, enable new treatments for metabolic diseases or even help space agencies send humans to deep space. More on The Scientist.

Drones spot 64,000 endangered turtles near Great Barrier Reef

Scientists have used drones to capture stunning footage of thousands of green turtles on and around Australia’s Raine Island, the world’s largest green turtle rookery. The footage of 64,000 green turtles around the island, waiting to come ashore and lay eggs, was taken in December 2019.

The team used drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), to carry out a population survey of the turtles. Previous population survey methods involved painting a white stripe down the green turtle’s carapace when they were nesting on the beach, then getting on a small boat and counting painted and non-painted turtles. However, the paint would wash off after a few days, affecting the counting accuracy. Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate and the data is permanently stored, the researchers say. More on

Microplastics are present in the air we breathe

A constant rain of tiny pieces of plastic is falling on us all the time, and is present everywhere, including in the air we breathe, scientists have found. Researchers used high-resolution atmospheric data and identified samples of microplastics and other particulates collected over 14 months in 11 US national parks and wilderness areas.

They estimate that more than 1,000 tons of microplastics are deposited onto protected lands in just western U.S. each year, equivalent to more than 123 million plastic water bottles. The team notes that the size ranges of the microplastics observed were well within that which accumulate in lung tissue. Previous studies have reported the presence of airborne microplastics across Europe, China and the Arctic. More on the New York Times.

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