Archaeopteryx had black wings!

New exciting research by Ryan M. Carney and Jakob Vinther et al. has just been published in Nature Communications: “New evidence on the colour and nature of the isolated Archaeopteryx feather”. Their studies show that the colour of the 150 million year old fossil feather from an Archaeopteryx was with 95% probability black and also that this particular feather was one of the wing pens.

Hence, the traditional reconstructions of Archaeopteryx with green and blue feathers will now have to be updated. Perhaps it looked more like a blackbird than a turkey? 🙂

An interview in Danish with Jakob Vinther and some images can be found here!

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Hot topics within Earth and Planetary Sciences (September 2011)

Every third month Science direct lists the twentyfive hottest articles within a specific field of research. The list is based on number of downloads for each article. Unfortunately there is a lagtime between the download count over a three month period and the time the list is published, which means that the Hot topics list today (21/1 2012) still displays the most downloaded papers during July to September 2011. However, the list is still a good indicator if one wants to find out what’s hot in geosciences.

Based on the Science Direct list for July to September have compiled the three hottest topics within Earth and Planetary sciences, and these are:

  1. Ecology/Palaeoecology/Evolution 10/25
  2. Environment and pollution 7/25
  3. Water treatment/resources 4/25

Since the last published list the research focus has changed somewhat. Although the most downloaded papers are still within Ecology/Palaeoecology several of those papers also deal with evolution.

Number two on the last list, Climate/Global change research, appears to have lost some ground to Environment and Pollution, perhaps indicating a societal trend that we have to clean up in our own backyards before accomplishing global changes.

In third place there is a lot of focus on our freshwater resources and their quality, something that is of vital importance in many areas around the world.

Important issues to consider for us all!

Volcanoes are not only destructive destroyers!

Some of the most severe crises in the history of life on Earth are linked to massive volcanic events, so called Large Igneous Provinces or LIPs. For the most severe mass-extinction, the end-Permian event ~250 million years ago, the LIP involved is the Siberian Traps, while the end-Triassic event (~200 million yeasr ago) is linked to the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province or CAMP. Even the most well-known mass-extinction event, that which saw the demise of the dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary ~65 million years ago, is temporally linked to a LIP, namely the Deccan Traps in India. Although for the latter event, it is uncertain if we will ever be able to separate the effects of the Deccan Traps on life on Earth from the effects of the extraterrestrial Chixculub impact.

Even so, we are used to look upon volcanic activity as something devastating. Many are the historical reports of death and destruction by volcanic forces: the 1650 BC eruption of Santorini (Thera) in Greece which probably wiped out the Minoan culture, the famous Vesuvius eruption (Italy) in 79 AD which wiped out the Roman cities Pompeji and Herculaneum, or the 1815 AD eruption of Tambora in Indonesia which killed more than 83.000 Indonesians and changed the climate for years to come.

The famous Indonesian volcano Krakatoa had a massive eruption in 1883 releasing 200 megatons of energy!

But geologically speaking volcanoes helped build the land that we live on, and still do. The destructive forces are also constructive, adding new land where nothing was before. Like the new island, formed by volcanic activity in the Red Sea just off the coast of Yemen in December 2011. New crust formed in the Red Sea Rift, where Africa separates from the Arabian Plate…

Check out the images of the new island here!