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Comet May Have Hit Earth 56 Million Years Ago, Triggered warm, ice-free period on Earth: Scientists

The researchers said they have not found the location of an impact crater linked to the collision

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A tiny sand-grain-size tektite, thought to be created when vaporized material from an impact solidified while flying through the air, is shown in this image released in New York, Oct. 13, 2016. VOA

October 14, 2016: Droplets of glass dug up in New Jersey and from the Atlantic seabed indicate a comet or some other extraterrestrial object may have smacked Earth 56 million years ago, roughly 10 million years after the asteroid impact that doomed the dinosaurs.

Scientists said on Thursday the collision may have triggered a particularly warm, ice-free period on Earth when important mammalian groups, including the primate lineage that led to humans, appeared for the first time.

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The findings, published in the journal Science, marked the latest evidence of the profound influence that past impacts by celestial bodies have had on life on Earth.

The tiny spherical bits of dark glass, called microtektites, represent strong evidence of a collision with a comet or asteroid, the researchers said. They form when a space rock hits Earth’s surface and vaporises the spot where it lands, ejecting into the air bits of molten rock that solidify into glass.

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The microtektites were excavated from a geological layer marking the start of the Eocene Epoch about 56 million years ago from three sites in southern New Jersey (Millville, Wilson Lake and Medford) and an underwater site east of Florida.

That coincided with the beginning of a warming event, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, associated with an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It lasted more than 100,000 years and drove up global temperatures about 9-14 degrees Fahrenheit (5-8 degrees Celsius).

The impact of an asteroid about six miles wide (10 km) off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 10 million years earlier killed off many marine and terrestrial creatures including the dinosaurs, and enabled mammals to gain supremacy.

No such mass extinction was associated with the event 56 million years ago, although many single-celled ocean-bottom creatures disappeared. During the warming period, primates and two mammal groups — one that includes deer, antelope, sheep and goats and another that includes horses and rhinos — first appear in the fossil record.

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The researchers said they have not found the location of an impact crater linked to the collision. They said geological evidence suggested the object was a comet.

“We can’t really say where it was, or how big, at this point,” said geochemist Morgan Schaller of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who led the study.

While the findings are not proof that the impact caused the warming period, they are “a rather dramatic finding in support of an impact trigger” for the climate changes, said planetary scientist Dennis Kent of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University. (VOA)

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Oldest Evidence of Life on Earth Found in Eastern Canada, Says New Research

The recent research indicates that microbial life emerged earlier than previously known and relatively soon after the Earth's formation

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life on earth
Microbiologist Maria Eugenia Farias from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council measuring the temperature and salinity of a hydrothermal vent in the crater of the Galan Volcano, at over 15,400 feet above sea level in Argentina. (VOA)

Canada, September 29, 2017 : Rocky outcrops in eastern Canada contain what may be some of the oldest evidence of life on Earth, dating back about 3.95 billion years.

Scientists said on September 27 that they found earliest indirect evidence of life on Earth in the form of bits of graphite contained in sedimentary rocks from northern Labrador that they believe are remnants of primordial marine microorganisms.

The researchers carried out a geological analysis of the Labrador rocks and measured concentrations and isotope compositions of the graphite, and concluded that it was produced by a living organism.

They did not find fossils of the microorganisms that may have left behind the graphite, a form of carbon, but said they may have been bacteria.

ALSO READ Discovery of 300,000-year-old Moroccan Fossils Shake Up Understanding of Human Origins

“The organisms inhabited an open ocean,” said University of Tokyo geologist Tsuyoshi Komiya, who led the study published in the journal Science.

Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago and the oceans appeared roughly 4.4 billion years ago. The new study and some other recent research indicate that microbial life emerged earlier than previously known and relatively soon after the Earth’s formation.

Canada has produced some of the most ancient signs of life on Earth.

Another team of scientists in March reported that microfossils between 3.77 billion and 4.28 billion years old found in northern Quebec, relatively close to the Labrador site, are similar to the bacteria that thrive today around sea floor hydrothermal vents.

Other scientists last year described 3.7 billion-year-old fossilized microbial mats, called stromatolites, from Greenland. (VOA)

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Scientists Unearth 160 Million Year Old Fossils of Winged Mammals From Jurassic Era in China

The City of Fossils has once again given the world insightful findings from the Jurassic Era.

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The specimens reveal that primitive mammals glided in air.
The newly excavated specimens reveal that at a time when magnanimous dinosaurs moved over the land, the winged mammals glided overhead in the sky (representative image) Pixabay.
  • Fossils of forerunners of present day mammals found in China
  • Proof unearthed that primitive mammals from the Jurassic Era essentially glided in the sky 
  • With the extent of fossils excavated from China, it is known as the ‘Country of Fossils’

China, August 10, 2017: There are a few things that can possibly leave a scientist, a history buff, and an excited 10-year-old child awestruck and the latest finding from China is certainly one of them! Two remarkable new species of delicate winged mammals were unveiled by paleontologists that are believed to have lived alongside dinosaurs nearly 160 million years ago.

The newly found fossils have been described in two papers published by a collective international team of scientists from the University of Chicago, and Beijing Museum of Natural History.

The specimens aren’t a first of a kind as previously mammalian gliders have been known to belong to the same time period. However, what sets them apart from all previous unearthing are the thin, furry membranes of skin attached to their fore and hind limbs that surprisingly are clearly preserved in the rock.

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Paleontologists understand the Mesozoic Era (time between roughly 248 million to 65 million years ago), as the Age of the Dinosaurs. It was popularly believed that primitive mammals from the period were tiny herbivorous and insectivorous, who stayed aloof in the shadows. However, in recent years, this belief was revised that mammals of the time had evolved to forms what were predicaments to their present-day form.

The understanding has now been changed again with the unearthing of these rare fossils that have revealed that at a time when huge dinosaurs ruled the land, the mammals glided far overhead – like flying squirrels.

This has been revealed by the new found specimens’ well preserved skeletal system and their carbonized skin.

“Despite living in dinosaur-dominated ecosystems, early mammals diversified into many ecological niches”, Zhe-Xi Luo, Paleontologist at the University of Chicago told VOA, who led the research published in the journal  Nature.

Named Maiopatagium furculiferum and Vilevolodon diplomyos, they were unearthed about 40 miles (65 km) away in Liaoning province and Hebei province respectively, and are now offering clues and scope for further studies about the evolution of mammals.

These two, along with another glider unearthed in 2006 are being touted as the leaders of the mammalian air-force that have since gone extinct.

Anatomy Of The Primitive Winged Mammals

Mammals are believed to have first appeared roughly 210 million years ago. However, these fossils have revealed that early mammals were not merely existing by cringing at the feet of the dinosaurs but instead, boasted a range of adaptations in anatomy, lifestyles and diet.

It has been revealed that both the fossils have extremely defined hand and feet, and the limbs of these gliding mammals are structurally different from those that simply walked on the ground or climbed trees. It was further notes that both the specimen has hands and feet similar to those in modern day bats (that appeared nearly 100 million years later).

The new found fossils also display very well-preserved teeth, which has helped in understanding the dietary habits of this ancient mammalian air force.

The teeth of Maiopatagium are simpler in terms of their construction and resemble those of fruit bats, suggesting that it ate soft plants and soft fruits. While on the other hand, Vilevolodon has a complex tooth crown with teeth resemble those of squirrels, suitable for eating seeds.

The primitive mammals could glide comes as a news to all.
The specimen can shed new light to understand about the anatomy, and lifestyle of the now extinct species. VOA

They both are gliders, however can be divided into segments of the same category based on their eating habits. The two specimens are different interns of their sizes also. Maiopatagium was about 9 inches (23 cm) long, similar in size to flying squirrels while Vilevolodon was a little smaller in comparison, more mouse-size.

After studying their hand and foot bones, the scientists concluded that the two must have used all four limbs to hang from trees, and grip tea branches with their feet like bats. They also display skeletal features in their forelimbs and shoulder joints that are believed to have given them the sustenance to glide.

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“The gliding membranes were attached to the four limbs, likely at or near the wrists and ankles,” said David Grossnickle, a University of Chicago paleontologist as reported by VOA.

These traits when combined compliment the hypothesis that different group of mammals followed a similar route to evolution –

  1. Land based, operating on all limbs
  2. Tree climbing, using elongated toes of the fore and hind limbs
  3. Gliding overhead the magnificent dinosaurs

The Jurassic Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon are believed to be the forerunners to modern mammals and show the earliest examples of gliding behavior among extinct mammal ancestors. They also share similar ecology with the present-day gliders, however with some significant differences.

ALSO READ: Scientists in Japan unearth 72-million-year-old Fossil of the largest complete Dinosaur Skeleton

These new unearthings are believed to have coexisted with other life varieties that were experimenting with flying such as small feathered dinosaurs like  Anchiornis who were on the evolutionary route to become birds some million years later.

Country Of Fossils

In recent years, an increasing number of fossils have been unearthed from different provinces of China. More recently, a Jurassic site was excavated in Yunyang county that is being understood as the biggest Jurassic fossil site in the world. The 150-metre long ‘Dinosaur fossil wall’ that is currently being excavated by a team of paleontologists is believed to be home to a new batch of fossils. Scientists have, in its entirety found that it was home to five different species of dinosaurs. These discoveries have together led to the country now being seen as the ‘Country of Fossils’. (VOA)


 
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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)