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Humpback Whales Have Made a Stunning Recovery After Coming Close to Extinction

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

After coming dangerously close to the brink of extinction, the humpback whale population in the South Atlantic Ocean has made a stunning rebound, according to scientists.

Around 60 years ago, it was estimated that the western South Atlantic (WSA) humpback whale population had been thinned out to less than 500.

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Planet Earth

A previously unknown species of winged dinosaur very similar to a dragon discovered in China

Artistic representation of how the Wulong bohaiensis could have been. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

A new species of dinosaur, a relative of Velociraptor, has shown scientists a little more about the origins of similarities and differences between the feathers of dinosaurs and birds.

The fossil belongs to a fierce dinosaur from the Cretaceous period called the “dancing dragon” who lived 120 million years ago in what is now China.

‘Dancing dragon’

Fossil of the Wulong bohaiensis. Credit: Erick Toussaint / San Diego Natural History Museum

Called Wulong Bohaiensis, It was a two-legged carnivore, a little bigger than a raven, that resided in an environment next to lakes. He had a scaly face, a mouth full of pointed teeth, a particularly dangerous toenail, and probably hunted small mammals, lizards, birds and fish.

He was gound in the Chinese province of Rehe, in northeastern China and his name translates as ‘dancing dragon’, as it refers to the articulated position in which his skeleton is.

Conserved in its entirety, the skeleton included soft tissues such as feathers, which appear together on its arms and legs, very similar to those of birds now. In addition to its four long limbs and two long feathers at the end of the tail, his body was covered by spongy filaments.

At the end of its long bone tail, fused in a rigid rod, there were 2 very long feathers.

«The Wulong specimen is a magnificent fossil. With the feathers and claws, I think it would have been beautiful and a little scary. I would love to see one alive, ”said leading research paleontologist Ashley Poust of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Plumage differences between birds and feathered dinosaurs

A thorough examination of the bones showed that this Wulong individual was approximately one year old, that is, he was a young male still growing.

A new species of feathered dinosaur in China

This characteristic puzzled the experts, since usually the feathers appear in the adult stage. “Either the young dinosaurs needed these tail feathers for some function we don’t know, or they were cultivating their feathers very differently than most current birds”, Poust explained

Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs approximately 150 million years ago. But there were many feathered dinosaurs that didn’t fly, like Wulong.

Young Wulong seemed to have the plumage of an adult.

«It has long and isolated feathers that extend from its long tail. This is quite different from live birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs. Of course, they may be using these feathers in a very different way from live birds too, ”said the expert.

Paleontologists are eager to understand many more plumage differences between birds and these feathered dinosaurs.

The finding was described in the scientific journal. The Anatomical Record.

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Planet Earth

Australia Firefighters Save the Only Wild Prehistoric Wollemi Pines on Earth

Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
Waking Times

It looks as if firefighters in Australia have succeeded in saving a secret grove of prehistoric trees belonging to a species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

The Wollemi pines once grew widely across Australia from more than 100 to 60 million years ago, The Washington Post reported. But now less than 200 remain in the wild, in a national park 125 miles northwest of Sydney.

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Planet Earth

“Huge anomalies” at the edge of the earth’s core

At the edge of the Earth’s core lie two gigantic blobs of ultrahot rock — and that’s about the extent to which geologists agree about them.

NASA PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY. DISTRIBUTED ACTIVE ARCHIVE CENTER

The mysterious blobs are on opposite sides of the planet, one hidden beneath Africa, the other in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – the Quanta Magazine compared the ‘massive anomalies’ to Princess Leia’s iconic hairstyle (Star Wars).

Scientists discovered the blobs decades ago by mapping the interior of the planet, but have not learned much since.

Some ideas

There are two main schools of thought regarding the blobs, according to Quanta. The first camp holds that they’re merely massive clusters of hot plumes.

The other argues that the blobs — so big that they would drown the planet’s surface in a lava ocean over 60 miles deep — are their own distinct entity and not just a particularly warm region of the core.

Recent evidence supports the second camp: Quanta reports that scientists found traces of unique, ancient rocks and isotopes in magma that’s flowed upward from the blobs — materials nearly as old as the Earth itself and not found elsewhere on the planet.

Persistent Mystery

Still, great mystery still surrounds the deeply-buried hotspots. One theory is that they could be fragments of a Mars-sized object that crashed into the Earth.

University of Maryland seismologist Vedran Lekić told Quanta

It would be like having an object in the sky, and asking, ‘Is that the moon?’ And people are like, no. ‘Is that the sun?’ No. ‘What is it?’ We don’t know.

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