Category Archives: Life on Earth

Top 5 largest prehistoric cats

Like all prehistoric counterparts of today’s animals, the prehistoric cats were usually larger, heavier and more robust than today’s felines. Here are the top five largest prehistoric cats.

For a comparison, male African Lions sometimes exceed 250 kg (550 lb) in weight. Reported body measurements in males are head-body lengths ranging from 170 to 250 cm (5 ft 7 inches to 8 ft 2 inches), tail lengths of 90–105 cm (2 ft 11 in–3 ft 5 in). Male Siberian (Amur) tigers have a head and body length of between 190–230 cm (75–91 in) and weigh between 180 to 306 kg (397 to 675 lb).

Continue reading Top 5 largest prehistoric cats

A giant prehistoric crocodile discovered in the Sahara: Machimosaurus rex

National Geographic grantee Federico Fanti and his research team have unearthed a sea-dwelling crocodylomorph (a teleosaurid) skeleton in southern Tunisia, in the Sahara desert: Machimosaurus rex. It is the world’s largest marine crocodyliform, and was previously unknown to science. Its length is estimated at more than 30 feet (9.14 meters). The giant was probably weighed three tons.

The fossil dates back 130 million years ago. The head of the crocodile alone is over 5 feet long. The discovery proves that this animal lived 25 million years past the hypothesized global extinction at the end of the Jurassic period.

Continue reading A giant prehistoric crocodile discovered in the Sahara: Machimosaurus rex

The World entered a new geological era called “Anthropocene”, scientists say

According to a study titled “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene” and published on Science Magazine, we, humans, changed the world so much that now we can say the world entered a completely a new geological era, “Anthropocene”.

The term is not new. As early as 1960s, Soviet scientists used the term to refer to the Quaternary, the current and most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). The Quaternary follows the Neogene Period and spans from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present. The Quaternary Period is divided into two epochs: the Pleistocene (2.588 million years ago to 11.7 thousand years ago, the world’s recent period of repeated glaciations) and the Holocene (11.7 thousand years ago to today, began after the last major ice age).

Continue reading The World entered a new geological era called “Anthropocene”, scientists say

The shark that glowing in the dark has been announced as a New Species: the “Ninja lanternshark”

In 2010, during an expedition of the Spanish research ship Miguel Oliver, the researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute discovered a new type of shark in the Pacific Ocean near Central America, off the coasts of Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica. The shark was glowing in the dark. Now it is officially a new kind of shark: its scientific name is Etmopterus benchleyi (it features a tribute to the famous 1974 novel “Jaws” author Peter Benchley), but since it is pure black, it is called “Ninja lanternshark”.

Continue reading The shark that glowing in the dark has been announced as a New Species: the “Ninja lanternshark”

The Tallest Tree in the World: Hyperion

Redwoods (scientific name: Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest trees in the world, they easily reach heights of 300 feet (91 meters) and even more. They are not the tallest only, also evergreen and very long-lived: their lifespan is more than 1000 years, and some have been documented at even more than 2,000 years old. They can grow up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height/dbh. Redwoods live in California, United States; and before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States. Now, unfortunately, an estimated 70% or more of ancient old-growth redwood trees have been displaced by environmental changes or cut down.

Among the redwoods, a tree named Hyperion dwarfs them all. The tree was discovered on August 25, 2006, by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, and is 379.7 feet (115.7 meters) tall.

The tree is estimated to contain 530 m3 (18,600 cu ft) of wood and to be roughly 700–800 years old. Researchers stated that woodpecker damage at the top may have prevented the tree from growing taller. According to Michael Taylor, “It’s possible it could’ve topped out at 380 feet (116 meters)”.

Continue reading The Tallest Tree in the World: Hyperion

If Earth’s life time was the distance from Los Angeles to New York City

Our old planet, the Earth is 4.54 billion years old. In fact, the human mind can no longer make any sense of large numbers like that. Numbers like 1, 2, 14, 20, 50 are all quantities that we encounter quite frequently in our daily lives. And our brain evolved to conceptualize numbers like that: our ancestors saw two lions; they hunted five deer in one hunting party, the population of their tribe was 20, etc… But when the numbers are getting big, i.e. 1,000; 10,000… the problem begins: these numbers become increasingly difficult to conceptualize. Now, what happens when we try to conceptualize quantities like billions, like the Earth’s age? We can’t actually rationalize the immensity of such a big number. Because we haven’t a model of 4.54 billion that’s been compressed into something recognizable to the human mind.

To put this number into a perspective, Alex Kuzoian of Business insider prepared a beautiful video: you can watch Earth’s lifespan as the distance from Los Angeles to New York City. Along the trip, we see the formation of our Moon, the beginning of the life, the evolving of the multi-cellular organisms, and the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. Probably the most interesting part is that modern humans only evolved 175 meters (570 feet) from the finishing line of this journey. And the big jump to the first multi-cellular organisms.

Continue reading If Earth’s life time was the distance from Los Angeles to New York City

Hybrid Big Cats

Four of the five species of the big cats (the Panthera genus – lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard), the exception being the snow leopard can hybridize with each other to produce numerous hybrids. In fact, breeding of two different pantheras to produce hybrid big cats has been banned in many zoos and animal sanctuaries due to no conservation value of the hybrid, and the risk it poses on the mother that gives birth to it.

For instance, the liger’s increased growth rate and enormous size can cause the tigress giving birth to have a difficult delivery, endangering both the mother and her liger cubs, which may be born prematurely or require a Caesarian. Common problems in cubs that survive are neurological disorders, obesity, genetic defects, and a shortened lifespan; though a few have reportedly made it to their twenties, many don’t survive past the age of seven.

Moreover, male ligers have lowered testosterone levels and sperm counts, rendering them infertile while females, though capable of reproducing with either a lion or a tiger, often give birth to sickly cubs that don’t survive.

However, hybrids do occur by accident in captivity.

Most hybrids would not survive in the wild due to the males being infertile, but a few (such as the Leopon – leopard father, lion mother) are fertile and have a chance of survival in the wild.

Continue reading Hybrid Big Cats

Are we the first?

In 1950, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was chatting with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory(1). They talked about the recent rise in UFO reports, then the conversation shifted to other subjects. But during the lunch, Fermi suddenly asked: “Where is everybody?”. He was talking about the extraterrestrial life, especially intelligent life. He made some calculations on the probability of Earth-like planets, the beginning of life, the probability of intelligent life and high technology and concluded that we ought to have been visited long ago and many times over.

But, there is no reliable evidence aliens have visited Earth and we have observed no intelligent extraterrestrial life with current technology nor has SETI found any transmissions from other civilizations. The Universe, apart from the Earth, seems “dead”.

So, where is everybody?

Continue reading Are we the first?

Your Life On Earth (presented by BBC)

A nice interactive webpage by the BBC – The British Broadcasting Corporation: how you and the world have changed since you were born? You’re simply entering your birth date, gender, and height; selecting units (metric or imperial/US) and then watching how our planet (and you) has changed in your lifetime.

Continue reading Your Life On Earth (presented by BBC)