from the world's big
Scientists discovered footprints made by some of the largest creatures ever to walk the Earth.
- Paleontologists published a paper on the discovery of dinosaur footprints on the roof of a French cave.
- The prints are deep underground and were made during the Middle Jurassic period.
- The footprints belonged to titanosaurs, the largest land animals ever.
The titanosaur Alamosaurus.
Credit: Bogdanov, 2006. Creative Commons.
Dinosaur tracks in the ceiling of Castelbouc Cave in France.
Credit: Jean-David Moreau et al./J. Vertebr. Paleontol.
Australia's beloved and bizarre egg-laying mammal could start vanishing in coming years if current trends continue.
- Platypuses are nocturnal, semiaquatic animals that are endemic to Australia and Tasmania.
- A new study suggests that the species could lose half its population over the next 50 years, due mainly to drought, human development and climate change.
- In 2019, the United Nations reported that some 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction.
Pixabay<p>"There is an urgent need for a national risk assessment for the platypus to assess its conservation status, evaluate risks and impacts, and prioritize management in order to minimize any risk of extinction," Bino <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200121112922.htm" target="_blank">told</a> <em>Science Daily.</em></p><p>The study estimated the future decline of platypus populations by considering current rates of climate change, drought, and land and water development. Under this model, the results showed that the platypus population is likely to drop 47 percent over the next 50 years. Drought is expected to be a particularly deadly threat to the species.</p>
Heinrich Harder/Public Domain<p>Australia has recently suffered some of its worst droughts on record. The researchers suggested that even more extreme droughts are likely to occur in the future, considering that the changing climate will bring even hotter temperatures. Droughts can destroy platypuses' burrows, which the animal usually constructs by digging into the riverbank with its claws. When droughts dry up these hiding spots, platypuses are forced to move into new areas where they risk becoming prey to predators like foxes, dogs, and cats.</p><p>Droughts can also increase the likelihood of deadly bushfires. The <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/australia-bushfires-photo">current bushfire crisis</a> in Australia wasn't mentioned in the recent study, but experts estimate that some 1 billion animals have been killed so far in the fires. As for how many platypuses died:</p><p>"The short answer is that we simply don't know," Josh Griffiths, an ecologist with the environmental consulting firm Cesar Australia, <a href="https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/australia-platypus-bushfire" target="_blank">told</a> <em>Atlas Obscura</em> in an article published January 24, 2020. "The scale of the fire we've got at the moment is unprecedented. [...] It's one more nail in their coffin."</p>
How to save the platypus<p>Human development, especially that which involves altering rivers, is another major threat to the platypus. Study co-author Richard Kingsford, director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, noted that many platypuses live in areas of Australia currently undergoing development.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them and invasive foxes which can kill them," Kingsford told<em> Science Daily</em>.</p><p>The researchers offered several suggestions for how to protect the platypus:</p><ul><li>Ban enclosed cray-fish traps</li><li>Prevent land clearing in key areas</li><li>Build "platypus-ways" that provide safe passage from ferals predators</li><li>Citizens can report platypus sightings via the app <a href="http://platypusspot.org/" target="_blank">platypusSpot</a></li></ul>
How can we stop extinction? One solution scientists have been developing for decades is de-extinction — the process of resurrecting extinct species through genetic engineering.
One day, we might be able to say that the dog saved the cheetah from extinction.
Kittens and puppies growing up together isn’t that strange, but most people don’t imagine this with baby cheetahs in the mix.
Harvard scientists say they are two years away from creating a hybrid embryo with mammoth traits.