Home ScientiFix Rare tardigrade fossil found in 16-million-year-old Dominican amber

Rare tardigrade fossil found in 16-million-year-old Dominican amber

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

Mohana Basu
Tardigrades are a shape-shifting species | Commons
Tardigrades are a shape-shifting species | Commons

New Delhi: Researchers, including those from Harvard University have described the third fossil tardigrade, a group of miscroscopic invertebrates, on record — Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus, a new genus and species. 

Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets,  have famously survived the vacuum of space, and even returned to life after being frozen for decades in Antarctic moss. But it is still harder to find one fossilised. 

In fact, only two have ever been discovered and formally named — until now.

The specimen was preserved in 16-million-year-old Dominican amber. 

Measured at just over half a millimeter, the specimen has been identified as a relative of the modern living tardigrade superfamily, known as Isohypsibioidea, and represents the first tardigrade fossil recovered from the Cenozoic, the current geological era beginning 66 million years ago.

Researchers say the pristine specimen is the best-imaged fossil tardigrade to date — capturing micron-level details of the eight-legged invertebrate’s mouthparts and needle-like claws 20-30 times finer than a single strand of human hair. Read more


Also read: The Earth’s getting dimmer and a bacteria that could help farming on Mars


Russian crew set to shoot first film in space

A Russian actor and director have reached the International Space Station for what may become the world’s first movie shot in space. 

The Russian crew are likely to beat a Hollywood project announced last year by Tom Cruise, Nasa and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The 37-year-old actor Yulia Peresild and 38-year-old film director Klim Shipenko took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They then successfully docked at the ISS.

During a 12-day mission at the ISS, the duo will film scenes for the movie called The Challenge. Roscosmos revealed that the film’s plot centred on a female surgeon dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut. Shkaplerov and two other Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS are believed to have cameo roles in the film. Read more

NASA’s Mars rover reveals details of ancient river delta floods

Images from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover revealed that billions of years ago, when Mars had an atmosphere thick enough to support water flowing across its surface, flooding events carried rocks and debris into the Jezero Crater. 

The research reveals the now-dry lake at Jezero Crater was more complicated and intriguing than originally thought. 

The findings are based on detailed imaging the rover provided of long, steep slopes called escarpments, or scarps in the delta, which formed from sediment accumulating at the mouth of an ancient river that long ago fed the crater’s lake. 

Jezero’s fan-shaped river delta experienced late-stage flooding events that carried rocks and debris into it from the highlands well outside the crater.

Composed of five images, this mosaic of Jezero Crater’s “Delta Scarp” was taken on March 17, 2021, by Perseverance’s Remote Microscopic Imager (RMI) camera from 2.25 kilometers away.

The images also provide insight into where the rover could best hunt for rock and sediment samples, including those that may contain organic compounds and other evidence that life once existed there.

Imagery of scarps showed layering revealed that a slow, meandering waterway that fed the delta must have been transformed by later, fast-moving flash floods. Mangold and the science team estimate that a torrent of water needed to transport the boulders — some for tens of miles — would have to travel at speeds ranging from 6 to 30 kph.
Read more

Pluto’s atmosphere disappearing as it moves away from Sun

Scientists have found compelling evidence showing that Pluto’s atmosphere is beginning to disappear, refreezing back onto its surface as it moves farther away from the Sun.

The discovery was made when researchers observed Pluto passing in front of a star on the night of August 15, 2018. A team of astronomers had deployed telescopes at numerous sites in the U.S. and Mexico to observe Pluto’s atmosphere as it was backlit by the star for about two minutes.

The rate at which the star disappeared and reappeared determined the density profile of Pluto’s atmosphere.

Several telescopes observed a phenomenon called a “central flash,” caused by Pluto’s atmosphere bending light into a region at the very center of its shadow. 

Pluto’s atmosphere is supported by the vapor pressure of its surface ices, which means that small changes in surface ice temperatures would result in large changes in the bulk density of its atmosphere. Pluto takes 248 Earth years to complete one full orbit around the Sun, and its distance varies from its closest point, about 30 astronomical units from the Sun to 50 AU from the Sun. 1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun.  

For the past quarter century, Pluto has been receiving less and less sunlight as it moves farther away from the Sun, but, until 2018, its surface pressure and atmospheric density continued to increase. 

The continued persistence of Pluto’s atmosphere suggests that nitrogen ice reservoirs on Pluto’s surface were kept warm by stored heat under the surface. The new data suggests they are starting to cool. Read more

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)


Also read: MIT scientists create glow-in-the-dark bionic plants that can be charged with LEDs


 

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