New Delhi: Researchers have for the first time discovered a millipede with more than 1,000 legs — setting a new record. The most number of legs on any millipede found before this was 750.
The millipede with more than 1,000 legs was found 60 metres underground in a drill hole created for mineral exploration in Australia.
It has 1,306 legs, and belongs to a new species that has been named Eumillipes persephone by a team of researchers from the US and Australia. The millipede’s name derives from the Greek word ‘eu‘ — which means true — and the Latin words ‘mille‘, which means thousand, and ‘pes’ which means foot. The latter part is a reference to the Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone.
The authors of the study measured four members of the new species and found that they have long, thread-like bodies, consisting of up to 330 segments, and are up to 0.95mm wide and 95.7mm long. They are eyeless, have short legs, and cone-shaped heads with antennae and a beak.
Analysis of the relationships between species suggests that E. persephone is distantly related to the previous record-holder for the greatest number of legs — the Californian millipede species.
The authors suggest that the large number of segments and legs that have evolved in both species may allow them to generate pushing forces that enable them to move through narrow openings in the soil habitats they live in. Read more here.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover finds evidence of water
Data from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission has shown that the rocks in the Jezero crater have interacted with water multiple times in the past and that some even contain organic molecules.
The rover discovered that the bedrock it has been driving on since landing in February was likely formed from red-hot magma.
These discoveries have implications for understanding and accurately dating critical events in the history of the red planet.
Using a drill attached to its robotic arm, the rover took samples from the planet. X-ray fluorescence was then used to map the elemental composition of rocks. Researchers found the rock samples composed of an unusual abundance of large olivine crystals engulfed in pyroxene crystals.
This indicates that the rock formed when crystals grew and settled in a slowly cooling magma. The rock was then altered by water several times, making it a treasure trove that will allow future scientists to date events in the crater, better understand the period in which water was more common on its surface, and reveal the early history of the planet. Read more here.
Earth’s noise used to map rocks beneath Greenland ice sheet
An international team of researchers from the UK, Australia, Portugal Spain and Italy has used the noise created by the Earth’s movements to build up a detailed picture of the geological conditions beneath the Greenland ice sheet and the impact on ice flow.
The team studied Rayleigh waves — seismic waves generated by movements such as earthquakes — to produce high-resolution images of the rocks underneath the ice sheet.
The research helped identify which areas are most susceptible to faster ice flow.
The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth. However, the rate of loss of ice mass from the sheet has increased six-fold since 1991, which accounts for around 10 per cent of the recent rise in global sea levels.
The geological conditions in the ground beneath an ice sheet or glacier play a key role in determining ice flow. The makeup of the layers of rock, the temperature of the Earth’s crust beneath, and the amount of water present in liquid form between rock and ice are all factors that can speed up the melting ice sheet.
The problem, however, is how to assess what is happening deep underground, given the remoteness of Greenland and the fact that the ground is covered with ice approximately 2.5 kilometres thick.
The team was able to map out what is happening as far down as 5 kilometres by measuring Rayleigh waves extracted from the Earth’s noise. Read more.
Mystery behind vast nitrogen ice forms on Pluto solved
A team of scientists from France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (the CNRS) has unraveled the mystery behind how the vast ice forms that have been shaped in one of Pluto’s largest craters, Sputnik Planitia.
Sputnik Planitia is an impact crater, consisting of a bright plain, slightly larger than France, and filled with nitrogen ice.
For the new study, researchers used sophisticated modeling techniques to show that these ice forms are formed by the sublimation of ice — a phenomenon where the solid ice is able to turn into gas without going through a liquid state.
The research team shows this sublimation of the nitrogen ice powers convection in the ice layer of Sputnik Planitia by cooling down its surface.
Such climate-powered dynamics of a solid layer could also occur at the surface of other bodies such as Triton (one of Neptune’s moons), or Eris and Makemake (from Kuiper’s Belt). Read more.
Critical Antarctica Glacier retreating rapidly with warming ocean
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder in the US have found that Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is retreating rapidly as a warming ocean slowly erases its ice from below.
This is causing a faster flow, more fracturing and a threat of collapse, the researchers said. The glacier currently contributes 4 per cent of annual global sea level rise. If it does collapse, global sea levels would rise by over 60 cm — putting millions of people living in coastal locations in danger from extreme flooding.
The glacier has been changing dramatically over the past 30 years. The speed at which it flows into the ocean has doubled.
Critically, the glacier is currently held back by an ice shelf, a floating extension of the glacier that is held in place by an underwater mountain.
Recent research has shown that this ice shelf is under attack from all sides. It is being melted from below by warm ocean waters, causing it to lose its grip on the underwater mountain. At the same time, massive fractures are forming and growing across the ice shelf surface.
The research suggests that at the current rate of change, this critical ice shelf will begin to break apart within the next two decades, with severe consequences for the stability of Thwaites Glacier. Read more.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)