Courtesy Mark GurneyThe headlines call it the discovery of a new species, but actually, it's been around for quite a while. We just didn't know what it was by thinking it was something else.
But today the Smithsonian Institute announced it's identified a new mammal species, the first new mammal to be identified in the Americas in the last 35 years. In making the announcement of the newly classified olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe), the Smithsoian described its appearance as a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. Native to Ecuador and Columbia, the olinguito is in the same family of mammals as racoons, is a nocturnal carnivore that has been living under a mistaken identity for over 100 years.
The discovery kind of came by mistake as researchers were studying olingos, another South American mammal. Studies of museum-preserved specimens uncovered differences in skull shape and teeth. A research team then went off to northern Andes mountain regions to confirm these differences with live specimens. The found that olinquitos were a smaller, denser-furred look-alike to olingos and recorded their behaviors on video.
It's not like the olinquitos have been hiding or anything. Back in 1920 a New York zoologist thought a specimen he had collected might be a species different from olingos, but never followed up on the work to make the discovery. Olinguitos have been displayed in zoos as olingos at various times in the 1960s and 1970s.
Courtesy Sheffield Site Facebook pageThe Oneota and the Woodland traditions have different pottery and different ways of making pottery. The Oneota used ground up shells as a tempering agent, allowing them to make pots that were thinner than the Woodland pottery. Tempering is adding ingredients to clay to reduce the likelihood of cracking when the clay is fired. The Woodland tradition had thicker pots because the tempering agents they used (rocks and stones, known as grit tempering) did not allow for thinner walls; the pots would break when they were fired if they had thin walls and grit temper.
Another distinctive sign that the pottery belonged to the Oneota tradition was the decorations on the shoulders (just below the thinner part) of the pot. Oneota decorations were usually star-shaped.
Written by Bilir and Elias
Courtesy Sprengben [why not get a friend]A new study shows that more girls than boys were born in the months following Japan's massive earthquake in 2011. Normally, natural gender selection is pretty much 50-50, as would be expected. But after the huge 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, Ralph Catalano and his colleagues compared 5 years of hospital records, and found that about 2.2 percent fewer boys were born than during other times. Catalano, professor of public health at the University of California in Berkeley, thinks the reason might be for evolutionary reasons, and that hormones and more chances of miscarriages with male fetuses increase the likelihood of a female being born during times of high stress. It's not the first time the gender imbalance has been noticed. Earlier studies (in which Catalano was also involved) have shown that after the 9/11 attacks, more male fetuses didn't make it to term, and fewer male births followed the stock market crash of 2008. The latest study appeared in a recent issue of the American Journal of Human Biology.
New Scientist story
Courtesy Francisco Estrada-BelliOne of the largest and most vibrant archaeological discoveries of the Maya culture was announced yesterday.
Archaeologists have uncovered a 30-foot by 6-foot frieze inside the base of a pyramid depicting deified Maya rulers. Much of the frieze's red, blue and yellow paint has been preserved by debris that had fallen over the frieze. Here's a link to the full report of the finding by archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli’s team at the Holmul Archaeological Project in Guatemala.
“This is a unique find. It is a beautiful work of art and it tells us so much about the function and meaning of the building, which was what we were looking for,” said Estrada-Belli. The carving depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers. The team had hoped to find clues to the function of this building, since the unearthing of an undisturbed tomb last year. The burial contained an individual accompanied by 28 ceramic vessels and a wooden funerary mask.
Courtesy Francisco Estrada-Belli
A long-buried, underwater forest of Cypress trees was recently discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. The forest, estimated to be about 50,000 years old, was once buried under tons of sediment, heading toward possible fossilization, until the natural forces (most likely 2005's Hurricane Katrina) riled up the Gulf Coast waters and uncovered it again. Hundreds of stumps and fallen logs - some huge - covering 1.3 square kilometers can now be seen in 60 feet of water, 10 miles off the coast of Alabama. The Cypress forest once populated the area around the Mobile-Tensaw Delta when the Gulf's coastline was farther south, and the water level was 120 feet lower than it is today. As the climate began to warm, rising sea levels eventually drowned the forest. The trees all died but oxidation and decomposition were halted as a constant rain of delta silt covered the forest for thousands of years. When cut, the well-preserved wood still smells as fresh as living Cypress, but now that the forest has been uncovered again, wood-boring marine animals are back at work tearing it down.
Courtesy Karen NybergIt's summer. You're toiling away at work while friends are out traveling, posting images of their fun and exotic discoveries on social media. But they can't beat Minnesota-native astronaut Karen Nyberg. From her perch aboard the International Space Station, she's created an extensive gallery of images from space including this image of Minnesota that includes her hometown of Battle Lake. There are come very artistic displays of global weather activities in these photos.
Courtesy Mark RyanA billion years or so from now, our Sun, like all stars in the known universe, will eventually die. But compared to more massive stars that explode into novae or supernovae, our medium-sized yellow star (or G-type main-sequence star) won't go out with much of a bang but more of a poof. During its death throes, as the Sun runs out of hydrogen and begins burning helium, its size will fluctuate until it swells up into a red giant big enough to engulf the inner planets, perhaps even Earth. This means it's going to get a lot hotter around here. If you want to get a better idea of what's in store for us, check out these dramatic and somewhat disturbing illustrations of the Sun's end times.
I really like the cool image showing one of the surviving Maya stone idols being scorched by the bloated Sun. It's Stela A from Copan, Honduras, and if you want to see a really impressive full-sized replica of that monolith, you can see it in the Science Museum of Minnesota's terrific new exhibit, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.
On Wednesday July 30th The Heritage crew took a small lesson on flint knapping with Rod Johnson. Rod has been flint knapping for about 30 years and he pursued this skill because it related to his work with archeology.
After a small power point about the history and different styles of flint knapping we were given some hands on experience on how you flint knapp.
Rod also showed us the marks that are present in flint knapping that differs from regular rocks. Being able to distinguish these marks is a good skill to have when figuring out if an item is a worked artifact or just a random rock. One of the marks is called the bulb of percussion. The bulb of percussion is the part of the rock that swells into a bulb after you hit it. Following the bulb of percussion are ripples in the rock. It looks like you dropped something into a river and seeing its ripples but instead of dropping you strike the platform and instead of river it’s a rock and instead of the ripples fading it stays frozen into the rock.
On July 22nd we went over to Bremer site in Hastings. We observed the University students of Minnesota and asked them many questions such as, "Why is there pink flags sticking up the ground?" They're for the excavation spots and to mark the test pits.
While we were at Bremer we learned how Bremer was found by a young boy in 50s who just walking alone the bay.
Now we have the opportunity to work at Bremer and dig up cool thing like Pottery.