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Lair of giant predator worms from 20 million years ago found
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
If you happened to be traversing the seafloor of Eurasia about 20 million years ago, you'd likely come across giant predator worms as long as several meters, claims new research. Scientists discovered that super-long worms may have taken over the ancient seafloor, based on their reconstructions of large burrows found at the bottom of the sea in northeast Taiwan.
The samples studied came from as far back as the Miocene epoch of 23 million to 5.3 million years ago. The research team used 319 specimens found in the sandstone of Yehliu Geopark, an area outside New Taipei City in Taiwan, to reconstruct a trace fossil dubbed Pennichnus formosae. Trace fossils are geological features such as burrows that can be used to make educated inferences about how ancient creatures behaved. The fossil uncovered by the researchers is comprised of an L-shaped burrow about 2 meters in length but only 2-3 centimeters in diameter. The scientists concluded that this fossil was probably left by gigantic sea worms, possibly the ancestors of the bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois), which is still around today.
The way a bobbit worm catches its food is by first hiding in a long burrow in the seafloor, then lunging up to catch its "unsuspecting prey with a snap of their powerful jaws," as the study authors write. The researchers believe the structure they found was created when the ancient worm retreated into the seafloor with its prey, still alive and struggling.
Ludvig Löwemark, a National Taiwan University paleontologist and the study's co-author, explained in an interview with Wired that the fossil they found shows invertebrates like the ancient worms were eating vertebrates.
"Typically, what we find in the sedimentary record is animals that are moving through the sediment," said Löwemark. "But this is a record of a much more active behavior. The worms were actually hiding in the sediment, jumping out, catching their prey, and then dragging this prey down into the sediment."
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
What's also remarkable about the study is that studying ancient worms is generally an extremely difficult task. One big problem – they would have had bodies composed mainly of soft tissue, which is hard to preserve. The trace fossil discovered by the scientists is likely the first known fossil made by an ambushing predator of this kind.
If you're wondering, the bobbit worm's unusual name comes from a sordid episode of American culture, referencing the story of John and Lorena Bobbitt, who cut off her husband's penis after years of abuse.
Check out the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Beware the Bobbit Worm!
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.