Feb
14
2014

The Canadian Rockies: Source of a new treasure trove of amazing Cambrian fossils
The Canadian Rockies: Source of a new treasure trove of amazing Cambrian fossilsCourtesy Mark Ryan
Just over a century ago, paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott discovered a truly remarkable fossil quarry in British Columbia. The site, known as the Burgess Shale, was found on Mt. Field in Yoho National Park, and contained an abundant amount of fossilized remains of soft-bodied creatures - several new to science - from the Cambrian Period around 505 million years ago. In 1989, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould detailed the spectacular find and its implications in a book titled, "Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History".

Burgess Shale trilobite: Science Museum of Minnesota collection.
Burgess Shale trilobite: Science Museum of Minnesota collection.Courtesy Mark Ryan
This week, a newly discovered fossil site, located in the same shale formation high in the Canadian Rockies but 26 miles southeast of Walcott's quarry, was announced in the journal Nature Communications. The new location, named Marble Canyon, is proving to be another Lagerstätte, a sedimentary deposit of extraordinary and exceptionally preserved fossils. The discoverers report that of the 3000 specimens found so far and representing 55 species, about half are invertebrates also found at the Walcott Quarry, and in some cases are more abundant and better preserved.

"[T]here is a high possibility that we'll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world," said lead author Jean-Bernard Caron, an invertebrate paleontologist at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.

So far twenty-two percent of the species discovered at Marble Canyon are new to science. The formation is estimated to be about 100,000 years younger than the original site. China's Chengjiang fossil beds have produced some of the same kinds of animals found at Marble Canyon and is about 10 million years older.

Arthropods (e.g. trilobites) are the most common animals found in the Burgess Shale, and finely preserved fossils from the new site provide remarkable views of neural tissues, retinas, corneas, some internal organs.

Back in 2012, Gaines and his colleagues followed the Burgess shale exposures on foot, trekking across the mountainsides in hopes of finding new fossils sites. What they discovered at Marble Canyon is far more than they could have wished for.

"I think the most profound implication is that the Burgess Shale can't just be the only one that there is," Gaines said. "There's a lot more out there in the Canadian Rockies and other places."

Any fossil remains uncovered at Marble Canyon and at similar sites will only add to our understanding of evolution and how complex life developed during the Cambrian Explosion.

Gallery of new Burgess Shale fossils

SOURCES and LINKS
Nature Communications
ScienceDaily story
"Wonderful Life" by Stephen Jay Gould
LiveScience story
Previous Burgess Shale Buzz story
More about the Burgess Shale

Can you guess which state is snow-free? USA Today has the answer for you. http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/02/13/snow-cover-usa/5454645/

Tomato: Not as sexy as you thought
Tomato: Not as sexy as you thoughtCourtesy David Besa
Just in time for Valentine's Day, a new book outlines the aphrodisiac properties of different fruits and vegetables. Author Helen Yoest shares insights from her book Plants with Benefits in this interview. After reading this, head to the nearest produce section and select just the right ingredients to make a memorable Valentine's Day.

TCharles Darwin
Charles DarwinCourtesy Mark Ryan
oday marks the 205th anniversary of the birth of geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin. Born in 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, Darwin revolutionized the world of science with 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species. You can learn more about him here and here.

Feb
11
2014

Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.
Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member Elias
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member EliasCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
December 2013 through February 2014, Heritage Crew went out to do outreach activities at North Dale Rec Center. For six days we taught elementary school aged kids about archaeology and the Sheffield Site. Some activities were learning Oneota pottery, identifying animal bones in archaeology, and stone tools. We created excavation boxes allowing the kids to get a an idea of what an archaeological dig is like. The kids measured a unit, and then dug down layer by layer until they found "artifacts" and "features" that we had set up. Archaeologist, Dr Ed Fleming, let us use copies of the level sheets that were used at Sheffield Site, so the kids could record their findings. We taught them about mapping each level to record artifacts and features, and why archaeologists use this method in the field. We had fun during this experience, and hope to do more outreaches like this in the future.

The Heritage Crew did an interview with the Sheffield Site research associates. Check it out!

Feb
11
2014

3D perspective of Decorah Impact Structure
3D perspective of Decorah Impact StructureCourtesy Public domain via USGS
By studying magnetic and electrical data, geologists have found further evidence that the town of Decorah, Iowa is built upon an ancient impact crater created around 460 million years ago.

Site map of Decorah crater
Site map of Decorah craterCourtesy Vkil via Wikipedia Creative Commons
Decorah is located in northeast Iowa near the Minnesota border about 150 miles south of Minneapolis. Scientists think the Decorah Impact Structure resulted from the same meteorite barrage - known as the Ordovician meteor event - that produced similarly-aged craters found in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and the Slate Islands in Lake Superior. The Decorah crater lines up nicely with the others.

The first evidence that an ancient crater might exist under Decorah came in 2008 when well-drilling cores from the area collected and examined by Iowa's Department of Natural Resources and Geological and Water Survey indicated that a wide-ranging layer of an unusual type of shale set beneath the surface and encircled the town. Recent aerial geophysical measurements (both gravity and electrical magnetic) by the US Geological Survey and other agencies, including the Minnesota Geological Survey, affirmed the crater's existence.

The unusual shale layer is situated 50 feet under the bed of the Upper Iowa river and was probably deposited after the crater's creation when an ancient seaway invaded the area and filled in the basin with mud and sediment. Shocked quartz found in the rock layer directly beneath the shale adds further evidence that some sort of major impact took place. Shocked quartz is a highly stressed and shattered quartz produced only one of two ways: either by a bolide impact or from a nuclear blast. The impact that created the Decorah structure is estimated to have released the energy equal to the blast of 100 megatons of TNT. To put things in perspective, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was equal to 15 kilotons of TNT. One megaton equals 1000 kilotons so the bolide blast in Decorah would have released the energy of more than 6500 Hiroshima bombs!

Paleobiologist Bevan French, an adjunct professor at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History studied quartz samples from the underlying layer of breccia and concluded they held characteristics indicative of an extra-terrestrial impact event.
When it slammed into Earth, the Decorah impactor created a 3.5 mile-in-diameter crater in the planet's surface and shattered existing layers of Early Ordovician and Cambrian rocks pushing them deeper underground. Several other meteor craters discovered on earth date back to around the same time period 450 to 470 million years ago, causing French to wonder if the Decorah crater should be included in that spike in impact frequency.

According to French the shale above the breccia layer is very well preserved and contains "a very fascinating biological assemblage,"which could also be of interest to paleontologists.

"Finding structures like these and being able to study them in the geological context," French said, "is going to yield a lot of very fascinating information about the relations between the terrestrial system and the extraterrestrial influences."

Sign of demise and new beginnings: A distinct layer of white clay in southern Colorado rock exposure (and found elsewhere around the world) marks the end of the dinosaurs (non-avian, anyway) and the beginnings of the reign of mammals.
Sign of demise and new beginnings: A distinct layer of white clay in southern Colorado rock exposure (and found elsewhere around the world) marks the end of the dinosaurs (non-avian, anyway) and the beginnings of the reign of mammals.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Has past life on Earth been influenced by these impacts? If you consider the Chicxulub impact crater in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and its alleged effect on non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period, you have to wonder if similar impact events weren't responsible for other extinctions and biological radiations during Earth's long history.

SOURCE and LINKS

USGS story
Wunderground news story
Live Science report
Ordovician Meteor Event
Tiny Traces of Big Asteroid Breakup

We have lots of cool, clear water on our planet. But ever think about how it first got here? The folks at MinuteEarth have been thinking about that.

See video

Feb
05
2014

Olympic Flag rings: Olympic Flag rings
Olympic Flag rings: Olympic Flag ringsCourtesy Drawn by User:Pumbaa80; Original author: Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937)

New materials seem to make an appearance at every Olympic Games, and this 2014 Winter Games is no exception. Materials and equipment can be a major factors in Olympic competitor's success or failure, and teams are always looking to get any advantage they can.

NBC's "Science of Sports" video series profiles a wide range of science and engineering topics related to this year's Winter Games ranging from the science of snow to advances in new materials.

The video, "Stability and Vibration Damping in Alpine Skiing"
describes how engineers are redesigning skis using nano materials to increase flexibility and stability. A University of Nevada, Reno mechanical engineering associate professor Kam Leang describes how he and his team are using nanocomposite materials to reduce unwanted vibration in high performance skis.

To read more about this research visit:
http://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2013/kam-leang-nbc-nsf

To learn more about nanotechnology, science, and engineering, visit:
www.whatisnano.org

To see other nano stories on Science Buzz tagged #nano visit:
http://www.sciencebuzz.org/buzz_tags/nano

Feb
04
2014

North Dale Rec Center
North Dale Rec CenterCourtesy City of Saint Paul
Come join us on Saturday, Feb. 8, noon to 4 p.m., to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew about the Sheffield Site at Northdale Recreation Center! We will be joined by Rod Johnson from the Minnesota Archaeology Society, and Dr Ann Merriman from Maritime Heritage Minnesota. North Dale Rec Center is located at 1414 Saint Albans Street, Saint Paul, MN.

Enter to win a 4 pack of tickets to Ultimate Dinosaurs, "a huge new exhibition featuring 20 fascinating specimens from the other side of the world". It will open at the Science Museum on March 1!
Go to http://www.smm.org/dinos for more information!