Archive for 2002

Earliest Known Ancestor of Placental Mammal Discovered

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 24, 2002   View Article

Researchers today announced the discovery of the earliest known ancestor of the group of mammals that give birth to live young. The finding is based on a well-preserved fossil of a tiny, hairy 125-million-year-old shrewlike species that scurried about in bushes and the low branches of trees.

“We found the earliest ancestor, perhaps a great uncle or aunt, or perhaps a great grandparent—albeit 125 million years removed—to all placental mammals,” said Zhe-Xi Luo, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “It is significant because a vast majority of mammals alive today are placentals.”

Machu Picchu Under Threat From Pressures of Tourism

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 15, 2002   View Article

In 1911, an innkeeper from the Peruvian town of Aguas Calientes led Hiram Bingham on a scramble up a steep, jungle-tangled embankment to the extensive ruins of an Inca settlement that was named Machu Picchu for the neighboring mountain.

Bingham, a professor from Yale University who was exploring in the region, later wondered in his book, Lost City of the Incas, whether anyone would believe what he had found.

SuperCroc’s Jaws Were Superstrong, Study Shows

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 4, 2002   View Article

Chomp.

It weighed 17,500 pounds (7,938 kilograms), was 40 feet (12.2 meters) long, and probably ate dinosaurs for dinner.

Sarcosuchus imperator, an ancient relative of modern alligators and crocodiles that roamed the Sahara Desert 110 million years ago, had jaws of steel that no prey—not even small dinosaurs—could pry open, according to researchers.

Competitive Rabbit Hopping Jumps in Popularity

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 29, 2002   View Article

Rabbits are natural-born hoppers, but the lifetime of domesticated rabbits in the United States is nothing to jump up and down about: many spend 90 percent of it locked up in a cage.

Linda Hoover hopes to change that.

Fossil of Dog Size Horned Dinosaur Unearthed in China

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: March 22, 2002   View Article

Researchers have announced their discovery of a very distant cousin to Triceratops, the well-known three-horned dinosaur with a massive bony protrusion behind its skull.

The discovery is an important piece in the evolutionary puzzle of the horned dinosaurs. Although they are considered one of the most diverse groups of dinosaurs, little is known about their early evolution.

Tyrannosaurus Rex Was a Slowpoke

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: February 27, 2002   View Article

That well-imagined nightmare in which a bloodthirsty Tyrannosaurus rex is chasing the family car down a lonely road in the red-rock desert as the children scream and the gas gauge hovers on empty and the dinosaur gnashes at the rear bumper is just that: a bad dream. T. rex was a slowpoke.

The most feared and revered of the dinosaurs did not have the leg strength to run very fast, if at all, according to a computer model developed by two experts in the mechanical movements of living creatures.

Ant Study Shows Link Between Single Gene, Colony Formation

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 24, 2002   View Article

The complex group behavior of social insects such as ants and bees has long intrigued scientists and other observers. This activity is thought to be shaped by a combination of factors, including genetics, learning, and the environment. But a new study shows that when it comes to fire ants, a single gene plays a major role.

The finding may offer important insight to researchers who are working to determine what genes influence social behavior in people.

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