Astronomy

Water Vapor Detected on Neptune-sized Exoplanet HAT-P-11b

Comparison of HAT-P-11b with Neptune. Image credit: Aldaron / CC BY-SA 3.0

A team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Europe has detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized extrasolar planet known as HAT-P-11b, which is now the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapor has been discovered. Comparison of HAT-P-11b with Neptune. Image credit: Aldaron / CC BY-SA 3.0 Discovered in 2009, HAT-P-11b is a so-called exo-Neptune located in the constellation...

Space Exploration

Scientists Create New Geologic Map of Mars

This new global geologic map of Mars depicts the most thorough representation of the planet’s surface; colors show distribution of 44 map units; for example, greens represent mainly lowland and basin units; yellow is relatively young impact material; reds and purples are volcanic units; blues are polar units; and earth tones are apron, transition, and highland units. Image credit: Tanaka, K.L. et al.

A team of researchers led by Dr Kenneth Tanaka of the U.S. Geological Survey has produced a new global geologic map of Mars that records the distribution of geologic units and landforms on the planet’s surface through time. This new global geologic map of Mars depicts the most thorough representation of the planet’s surface; colors show distribution of 44 map units; for example, greens represent...

Archaeology

600-Year-Old Polynesian Ocean-Sailing Canoe Discovered in New Zealand

Top: an internal view of the Anaweka canoe hull showing the pointed end and butt end, and lashing holes for attachment of other timbers on all sides. Middle: a sea turtle is carved in raised relief at the shaped end of the Anaweka canoe strake. Bottom: detail of the sea turtle. Image credit: Dilys A. Johns et al.

Archaeologists from the University of Auckland have found a large section of an East Polynesian sailing canoe dating to around 1400 CE on New Zealand’s coast. Top: an internal view of the Anaweka canoe hull showing the pointed end and butt end, and lashing holes for attachment of other timbers on all sides. Middle: a sea turtle is carved in raised relief at the shaped end of the Anaweka canoe...

Paleontology

Paleontologists Find Evidence of Battle between Two Triassic Predators

Reconstruction of the interaction of a rauisuchid and a phytosaur about 210 million years ago. Image credit: Christopher Hayes / Virginia Tech.

The evidence comes from a team of U.S. scientists who found remnants of a prehistoric clash in a slab of rock at the Chinle Formation in New Mexico. The battle, which occurred in the Triassic period about 210 million years ago, involved a semi-aquatic crocodile-like dinosaur called phytosaur and a large reptile called rauisuchid, and ended with the tooth of the former embedded in the bone of the...

Biology

Researchers Document Social Learning in Wild Chimps

Young female of the Sonso chimp community using a moss-sponge - a behavior she learned by observing her mother. Image credit: Catherine Hobaiter.

For the first time ever, an international team of primatologists has witnessed the spread of a new tool-use behavior in a wild population of chimpanzees. Young female of the Sonso chimp community using a moss-sponge – a behavior she learned by observing her mother. Image credit: Catherine Hobaiter. Chimps are widely considered as the most ‘cultural’ of all non-human animals, with 39 socially...

Physics

Death Valley Sailing Stones Caught in Action for First Time

Thin sheets of ice push rocks across a dry lake in Death Valley when conditions are just right. Image credit: Norris RD et al.

After more than seventy years of attempts to solve the mystery of Death Valley’s sailing stones, U.S. researchers led by Dr Brian Jackson of Boise State University have finally caught the stones in action. Thin sheets of ice push rocks across a dry lake in Death Valley when conditions are just right. Image credit: Norris RD et al. One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National...

Medicine

Retooling for Human Gene Therapy: New and Improved Adenoviral Vectors

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of adenovirus. Image credit: Dr G. William Gary, Jr. / CDC.

Dr Juliana Small of the University of Pennsylvania, Drs Raj Kurupati, Xianqyang Zhou and their colleagues from the Wistar Institute have developed a novel adenoviral vector for delivery of multiple transgenes. Gene therapy using an adenovirus vector: a new gene is injected into an adenovirus vector, which is used to introduce the modified DNA into a human cell; if the treatment is successful, the...

Genetics

Scientists Sequence Gibbon Genome

Female and male Northern white-cheeked gibbon. Image credit: Linda, Jinterwas / CC BY 2.0.

A large team of genetic researchers from the United States, Europe and China has sequenced and analyzed the complete genome of the Northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys). Female and male Northern white-cheeked gibbon. Image credit: Linda, Jinterwas / CC BY 2.0. For many decades, scientists have known that gibbon chromosomes evolve quickly and have many breaks and rearrangements, but...

Geology

Tasmania, Western North America were Once Neighbors, Finds New Research

Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point (Tasmania), by John Glover, 1834.

According to a new study led by Dr Joanne Whittaker of the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the Australia’s island state, Tasmania, and the U.S. states of Idaho, Montana, the Canadian province of British Columbia, were close geographical neighbors about 1.4 billion years ago in the Mesoproterozoic supercontinent Columbia (also known as Nuna or Hudsonland). Mount...

Other Sciences

Stone Tool Discovery in Armenia Gives Insight into Human Innovation 325,000 Years Ago

This image shows stone tools found at the site of Nor Geghi, Armenia: top - biface tool; bottom - a Levallois core. Image credit: © Dan Adler.

An analysis of about 3,000 stone tools from a 325,000-year-old archaeological site near the village of Nor Geghi in the Kotayk Province of Armenia challenges the theory held by many scientists that the so-called Levallois stone tool-making technique was invented in Africa and then spread across the world as the human population expanded. This image shows stone tools found at the site of Nor Geghi,...