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Polar ice caps melting six times faster than in 1990s

A new study has shown that polar ice caps and the Greenland ice sheets are melting six times faster than they were in the 1990s.   The research — which presents the most complete picture of polar ice sheet loss till date — says earth will see a 17-centimetre rise in sea level in just 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. Carried out by a team of 89 scientists from 50 international organisations, the research shows that the combined rate of ice loss has risen from 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 475 billion tonnes per year in the 2010s, contributing to a third of all sea-level rise on earth. More on The Independent.

Skull of world’s smallest dinosaur found

Scientists have discovered the skull of what may be the world’s smallest-known dinosaur.  The new species has been described by a team of researchers from the US and Canada as the “weirdest fossil” they have ever worked on. The researchers discovered the bird-like skull trapped in a 99-million-year-old amber in northern Myanmar.  The team said the dinosaur would have been similar in size to the bee hummingbird. The discovery could shed light on how smaller birds had evolved from dinosaurs. More on the BBC.

Poachers kill world’s last rare white giraffes 

Two among the world’s last three known white giraffes have been slaughtered by poachers. Rangers at a nature conservancy in Kenya discovered the skeletal remains of the white giraffes that had gone missing several months ago.   Only one white giraffe — an adult male — now remains in the conservatory, and it may be the last white giraffe in the world.   White giraffes are not albino but they have a condition called leucism, which causes a partial loss of skin pigmentation. This condition affects many mammals, but it is extremely rare in giraffes. Outside Kenya, only one other white giraffe has been spotted in Africa. It was last seen in Tanzania in 2016. Details here.

‘Mini planets’ discovered beyond Neptune

About 139 ‘minor planets’ were discovered circling the edge of the solar system. Located beyond Neptune’s orbit, these small bodies circling the Sun are neither official planets nor comets.  Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in the US found these objects by analysing data gathered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) during its first four years of operation, from 2013 to 2017.  The DES studies the skies using a four-meter telescope that is located in Chile. The team is now running their analyses on the entire six-year data set of the DES, an effort that could reveal hundreds of more such objects. The researchers also hope to locate the elusive Planet Nine — a world that some scientists believe lurks undiscovered in the far reaches of the solar system. More about it here.

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