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Jurassic Park & scientists have it wrong, giant dino Spinosaurus was probably a river monster

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week.

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New Delhi: Spinosaurus, the giant dinosaur that featured in the movie Jurassic Park 3, may have actually been an enormous river-monster, latest research indicates.

Scientists analysing more than a thousand dinosaur teeth, that were recently discovered by researchers at the University of Portsmouth, say that they have proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 15 metre-long, six-tonne dinosaur was in fact an aquatic animal.

Until recently, it was believed that these dinosaurs lived exclusively on land.

The research team said the giant predator lived in the Kem Kem river system, which flowed through the Sahara Desert 100 million years ago.

The scientists say their hypothesis is based on a trove of hundreds of fossilised teeth found in an ancient river bed in Morocco. The team says that an animal that lived most of its life in water is more likely to contribute teeth to the river deposit, rather than those dinosaurs that visited the river just for drinking or feeding along its banks. More on National Geographic.

Also read: Scientists have taken the world’s biggest photo ever, and it’s of a cauliflower

Sparrows in San Francisco sing different tunes during lockdown

Scientists have found that sparrows in San Francisco Bay area made changes to their songs during the Covid-19 lockdown.

By analysing the calls of sparrows recorded over decades, scientists found that the birds in the Bay area changed their singing behaviour when the city became quieter.

The birds improved the quality of their songs when enticing a mate or defending their territory, going for softer, sweeter tones that carried a lot further in the lack of background noises.

The team from University of Tennessee has been studying bird songs for decades to understand how noise pollution affects avian tunes. The research reveals new insights into how noisy cityscapes affect birds and their communication. Read more on BBC.

Temperature checks of butterflies reveal how they adapt to climate change

Scientists caught thousands of butterflies and took their temperature to discover how climate change affects the insects. The team discovered a significant variation in the ability of different butterfly species to maintain a suitable body temperature.

In light of changing climates across the globe, butterfly species appear to be under threat. This is especially true for those species that rely most on finding a shady location to keep cool.

The team showed that larger and paler butterflies are best able to protect themselves against environmental temperature swings. These butterflies are able to use their reflective wings to direct the sun’s heat either away from, or onto their bodies.

The team observed that such butterflies have either stable or growing populations.

More colourful, larger species have greater difficulty controlling their body temperature. But the smaller colourful species appear to be most at risk.

Scientists suggest that even small changes in our landscapes can help protect species that look for shade to keep cool. For example, keeping patches of longer grasses in gardens at home or in nature reserves can help these butterflies. More on The Guardian.

Also read: Can bacteria ‘migrate’ to other planets & survive? What a Japanese space experiment found

Rocket booster from 1960 could become Earth’s mini moon

Scientists suspect that the Earth may be adopting a ‘mini moon’ later this year, which will orbit around our planet for about six months.

More interestingly, it appears that this object is actually a part of a rocket that was launched back in the 1960s.

The object, called 2020 SO, was first spotted on 19 August this year using a telescope that spots new asteroids. As scientists continued to study the object, they realised it had a strange orbit and that it was moving much slower than a typical asteroid.

Further study revealed that the object’s trajectory matched the track of a rocket booster from NASA’s Surveyor 2 mission that was launched on 20 September in 1966, but had crashed into the moon three days later.

The identity of 2020 SO will become clearer with more observations next month as scientists watch how the sun affects the object. More on Space.

Astronomers discover rocky Earth-sized ‘pi planet’

Scientists have discovered an Earth-sized ‘pi-planet’ which completes an orbit around its star once every 3.14 days.

Scientists nicknamed the cosmic object ‘pi planet’ since 3.14 is the value of the mathematical constant pi (denoted π).

While its mass is yet to be determined, scientists suspect that the planet, officially designated K2-315b, is rocky like Earth.

Signs of the planet were first spotted in 2017 in the data collected by NASA Kepler Space Telescope, which has detected over 2,600 planets so far.

The pi planet orbits a cool, low-mass star that is about one-fifth the size of our sun. The planet circles its star at the speed of 81 kilometres per second.

The pi planet is not likely to be habitable as its tight orbit brings it close enough to its star to heat its surface up to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. More on LiveScience.

Also read: World’s oldest sperm is around 100 million years old, and is trapped in amber


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