The fossilised foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago has been identified as belonging to a new species of bird forerunners.
The carnivore — dubbed ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ — was unearthed in 2008 from a layer of dark shale in the Pedra Branca mine in Ceará State by a local resident.
Experts believe that the dinosaur died young, but likely already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have stood more than 10 feet (3 metres) tall.
A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod — the group of bird-like dinosaurs characterised by their three-toed limbs and hollow bones.
The discovery of the new species may help scientists better understand the evolutionary history of this carnivorous dinosaur group.
The fossilised foot of a three-toed dinosaur that lived in Brazil 115 million years ago (pictured in this artist’s impression) has been identified as belonging to a new species of bird forerunners
The carnivorous reptile — dubbed ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ — was unearthed from a layer of dark shale in the Pedra Branca mine in Ceará State by a local resident. Pictured, the fossilised foot bones of the newly-identified species of dinosaur
‘Within theropods, we discovered that Aratasaurus is part of a group called Coelurosauria,’ paper author and palaeontologist Juliana Manso Sayão of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro told Deutsche Welle.
These group, she added, ‘includes both the Brazilian dinosaur found in the same region known as Santanaraptor, the famous Tyrannosaurus and velociraptors and even the birds that we know today.’
However, Dr Sayão and colleagues’ analysis has suggested that Aratasaurus’ lineage of dinosaurs may date back even further in time than the one that gave rise to T. rex.
‘Aratasaurus indicates that part of her rich history may lie in the northeast of Brazil and in South America,’ Dr Sayão told Deutsche Welle.
‘There are still many gaps to unveil in this evolutionary puzzle, but with this discovery, we have added another piece to understand it.
According to the researchers, the process of extracting the fossil from the fragile surrounding rock matrix was a complex process — and took 12 years in total.
The team performed microscopic analyses of tissue taken from small samples of the fossil bone, which helped them to form a ‘visual construct’ of the animal.
Experts believe that the dinosaur died young, but likely already weighed some 5.4 stones (34 kilograms) in life and would have stood more than 10 feet (3 metres) tall. Pictured, the fossilised second (left) and third (right) toe bones of Aratasaurus museunacionali
A. museunacionali was a medium-sized theropod — the group of bird-like dinosaurs characterised by their three-toed limbs and hollow bones. Pictured, the specimen’s femur and tibia bones seen here prior to extraction from the surrounding rock and preparation
‘Within theropods, we discovered that Aratasaurus is part of a group called Coelurosauria,’ paper author and palaeontologist Juliana Manso Sayão of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro told Deutsche Welle. Pictured, the specimen’s femur and tibia bones after extraction
In 2018, the specimen luckily avoided disaster when another part of the museum in which it was stored at the time was destroyed by fire.
Researchers presented the newly-identified fossil A. museunacionali specimen to the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro on July 10.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The carnivorous reptile — dubbed ‘Aratasaurus museunacionali’ — was unearthed from a layer of dark shale, pictured, in the Pedra Branca mine in Ceará State by a local resident
HOW THE DINOSAURS WENT EXTINCT AROUND 66 MILLION YEARS AGO
Dinosaurs ruled and dominated Earth around 66 million years ago, before they suddenly went extinct.
The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event is the name given to this mass extinction.
It was believed for many years that the changing climate destroyed the food chain of the huge reptiles.
In the 1980s, paleontologists discovered a layer of iridium.
This is an element that is rare on Earth but is found in vast quantities in space.
When this was dated, it coincided precisely with when the dinosaurs disappeared from the fossil record.
A decade later, scientists uncovered the massive Chicxulub Crater at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which dates to the period in question.
Scientific consensus now says that these two factors are linked and they were both probably caused by an enormous asteroid crashing to Earth.
With the projected size and impact velocity, the collision would have caused an enormous shock-wave and likely triggered seismic activity.
The fallout would have created plumes of ash that likely covered all of the planet and made it impossible for dinosaurs to survive.
Other animals and plant species had a shorter time-span between generations which allowed them to survive.
There are several other theories as to what caused the demise of the famous animals.
One early theory was that small mammals ate dinosaur eggs and another proposes that toxic angiosperms (flowering plants) killed them off.
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Sicilian Mafia could be dismantled via social network analysis
The Sicilian Mafia and similar criminal groups could be dismantled by using social network analysis to map members’ connections, a study has claimed.
Criminal networks like those underpinning the Sicilian Mafia have unusual features that make them both difficult to analyse but also resilient to outside disruption.
Experts from the UK and Italy used data gathered by law enforcement on a real-life Mafia syndicate to test different ways of identifying the most crucial members.
They identified a technique that can pick out the individual members whose arrests would most disrupt the wider operation of the criminal organisation.
The method could be applied to help best target other criminal groups, including terrorist organisations.
The Mafia and similar criminal groups could be dismantled by using social network analysis to map member’s connections, a study has claimed. Pictured, Marlon Brando playing Mafia don Vito Corleone in the 1972 American crime film ‘The Godfather’
In their study, Lucia Cavallaro of the University of Derby, Annamaria Ficara of the University of Palermo and colleagues compiled data from wiretaps and stakeouts involving the activities of two Mafia clans active in southern Italy in the early 2000s.
‘Our datasets relate to a Mafia syndicate acting as a link between prominent criminal families operating in the two main cities of southern Italy — Palermo and Catania,’ Dr Cavallero said.
‘Phone calls were derived from eavesdropping and the meetings from police surveillance.’
From this data, the team created simulations of the criminal network — and tested out ways to measure each member’s individual level of influence within such.
This allowed the researchers to determine the best analytical method for law enforcement to use to select effective targets for individual arrests or police raids.
The researchers found that a network-measuring approach called ‘betweenness centrality’ was the most effective at selecting the targets whose arrest would most disrupt the simulated criminal network.
This approach works well, the experts explained, because it was good at identifying those individuals that play important roles in maintaining different paths of communication within the criminal network.
‘By neutralising fewer than five percent of the affiliate — either through sequential arrests or police raids — the efficiency of the network dropped by 70 per cent,’ Dr Cavallero explained.
In their study, the researchers compiled data from wiretaps and stakeouts involving the activities of two Mafia clans active in southern Italy in the early 2000s. From this data, the team created simulations of the criminal network (pictured, maps made from meeting surveillance, left, and phone calls, right) — and tested out ways to measure each member’s individual level of influence within such
‘Compared to other types of social networks, criminal networks present particularly hard challenges,’ said Dr Cavallero.
‘Our work has significant practical applications for perturbing the operations of criminal and terrorist networks.’
The researchers have made their datasets and analytical source code publicly available online for other experts and law enforcement agencies to work with.
With this study complete, the team said that potential avenues for future researcher might include analysing how criminal networks reorganise after disruption.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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Microbes beneath the seafloor found living on fifty-billion-billion times less energy than a human’
Tiny microbes living underneath the seafloor have been found surviving on a fraction of the energy a human needs to live – setting a new lower energy limit for life.
An international team of researchers led by Queen Mary University of London used data from the sub-seafloor to create a new global picture of the ocean biosphere.
They discovered that microorganisms buried in sediment beneath the seafloor can survive on less energy than was previously known to support life.
The study has implications for understanding the limit of life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system, the team said.
The team behind the study are pictured here carrying a sediment core on the catwalk of the ship they used as a base of operations
Researchers combined data on the distribution and amounts of carbon and microbial life contained in Earth’s biosphere with the rate of chemical reactions.
Using this information they were able to determine the ‘power’ consumption of individual microbial cells – in other words – the rate at which they utilise energy.
All life on Earth constantly uses energy in order to remain active, sustain metabolism, and carry out essential functions such as growth, and the repair of biomolecules.
The results show that sub-seafloor microbes survive using far less energy than has ever previously been shown to support any form of life on Earth.
By stretching the ‘habitable boundaries of life’ to include lower energy environments – the team hope this could help them work out how early life started on Earth.
Dr James Bradley, Lecturer in Environmental Science at Queen Mary said we tend to think about plants, animals, algae and bacteria when we think about life on Earth.
Photograph taken from ALVIN, a manned deep-ocean research submersible, taking sediment cores at the ocean floor of the Dorado Outcrop in 2014
‘Yet here we show that an entire biosphere of microorganisms – as many cells as are contained in all of Earth’s soils or oceans, have barely enough energy to survive.
‘Many of them are simply existing in a mostly inactive state – not growing, not dividing, and not evolving. These microbes use less energy than we previously thought was possible to support life on Earth.’
The average human uses about 100 watts of power – or about the power of a ceiling fan or two lightbulbs, the researchers explained.
‘We calculate that the average microbe trapped in deep ocean sediments survives on fifty-billion-billion times less energy than a human,’ said Bradley.
Jan Amend, Director of the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) at the University of Southern California, and co-author of the study, said previously studies of the sub-seabed focused on how much life is there.
‘Now we’re digging deeper into ecological questions: what is it doing, and how fast is it doing it? Understanding the power limits of life establishes an essential baseline for microbial life on Earth and elsewhere,’ said Amend.
The findings raise fundamental questions about our definitions of what constitutes life, as well as the limits of life on Earth, and elsewhere.
With such little energy available, it is unlikely that organisms are able to reproduce or divide, but instead use this miniscule amount of energy for ‘maintenance’ – replacing or repairing their damaged parts.
It is likely, therefore, that many of the microbes found at great depths beneath the seafloor are remnants from populations that inhabited shallow coastal settings thousands to millions of years ago.
Unlike organisms on the surface of Earth, which operate on daily and seasonal) timescales according to the Sun, these deeply microbes exist on much longer timescales, such as the movement of tectonic plates.
The research also sheds light on how the microbes interact with chemical processes occurring deep below the seafloor.
Whilst oxygen provides the highest amount of energy to microbes, it is in overwhelmingly short supply – present in less than 3 per cent of sediments.
Photograph taken from ALVIN, a manned deep-ocean research submersible, taking sediment cores at the ocean floor of the Dorado Outcrop in 2014.
Anoxic sediments, however, are far more widespread, often containing microorganisms that obtain energy by generating methane – a greenhouse gas.
Despite being practically inactive, the microbial cells contained in Earth’s marine sediments are so numerous, and survive over such extraordinarily long timescales, that they act as an important driver of earth’s carbon and nutrient cycles.
They even affect the concentration of CO2 in earth’s atmosphere over thousands to millions of years.
‘The findings of the research call into question not just the nature and limits of life on Earth, but elsewhere in the Universe,” added Dr Bradley.
‘If life does exist on Mars or Europa for example, it would most likely take refuge in the subsurface of these energy-limited planetary bodies.
‘If microbes only need a few zeptowatts of power to survive, there could be remnants of extant life, long dormant but still technically ‘alive’, under their surface.’
The results have been published in the journal Science Advances.
KEY DISCOVERIES IN HUMANITY’S SEARCH FOR ALIEN LIFE
Discovery of pulsars
British astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was the first person to discover a pulsar in 1967 when she spotted a radio pulsar.
Since then other types of pulsars that emit x-rays and gamma rays have also been spotted.
Pulsars are essentially rotating, highly magnatised neutron stars but when they were first discovered it was believed they could come from aliens.
‘Wow!’ radio signal
In 1977, an astronomer looking for alien life in the nigh sky above Ohio spotted a powerful radio signal so strong that he excitedly wrote ‘Wow!’ next to his data.
In 1977, an astronomer looking for alien life in the nigh sky above Ohio spotted a powerful radio signal so strong that he excitedly wrote ‘Wow!’ next to his data
The 72-second blast, spotted by Dr Jerry Ehman through a radio telescope, came from Sagittarius but matched no known celestial object.
Conspiracy theorists have since claimed that the ‘Wow! signal’, which was 30 times stronger than background radiation, was a message from intelligent extraterrestrials.
Fossilised martian microbes
In 1996 Nasa and the White House made the explosive announcement that the rock contained traces of Martian bugs.
The meteorite, catalogued as Allen Hills (ALH) 84001, crashed onto the frozen wastes of Antarctica 13,000 years ago and was recovered in 1984.
Photographs were released showing elongated segmented objects that appeared strikingly lifelike.
Photographs were released showing elongated segmented objects that appeared strikingly lifelike (pictured)
However, the excitement did not last long. Other scientists questioned whether the meteorite samples were contaminated.
They also argued that heat generated when the rock was blasted into space may have created mineral structures that could be mistaken for microfossils.
Behaviour of Tabby’s Star in 2005
The star, otherwise known as KIC 8462852, is located 1,400 light years away and has baffled astonomers since being discovered in 2015.
It dims at a much faster rate than other stars, which some experts have suggested is a sign of aliens harnessing the energy of a star.
The star, otherwise known as KIC 8462852, is located 1,400 light years away and has baffled astonomers since being discovered in 2015 (artist’s impression)
Recent studies have ‘eliminated the possibility of an alien megastructure’, and instead, suggests that a ring of dust could be causing the strange signals.
Exoplanets in the Goldilocks zone in 2015
In February this year astronomers announced they had spotted a star system with planets that could support life just 39 light years away.
Seven Earth-like planets were discovered orbiting nearby dwarf star ‘Trappist-1’, and all of them could have water at their surface, one of the key components of life.
Three of the planets have such good conditions, that scientists say life may have already evolved on them.
Researchers claim that they will know whether or not there is life on any of the planets within a decade, and said ‘this is just the beginning.’
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Brain-computer interfaces like Elon Musk’s Neuralink at risk
Elon Musk plans to link human brains to computers using tiny implants, but a new report warns the implants could leave us vulnerable to hackers.
Speaking with Zdnet, Experts said cybercriminals can access these brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to erase your skills and read thoughts or memories – a breach worse than any other system.
To make the technology secure, systems need to ‘ensure that no unauthorized person can modify their functionality.’
This could mean using similar security protocols found in smartphones such as encryption to antivirus software.
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Elon Musk plans to link human brains to computers, but a new report warns the implants could leave us vulnerable to hackers
Musk has been working on his startup Neuralink since 2016, which he says will one-day human brains to computers in order to avoid our species from being outpaced by artificial intelligence.
The billionaire has shared the BCI would help cure injuries, depression and other ailments that plague the human body.
However, the technology may be too good to be true, as researchers have come forward to share the horrors that could await.
The chip could open a window for hackers to invade thoughts or memories of political officials, military personnel and other thieves attempting to carry out their own digital attacks, Jo Best with Zdnet reports.
Neuralink, which was founded in 2016, is designing tiny flexible ‘threads’ that are ten times thinner than a human hair and can be inserted directly into the brain. Experts say hackers can access these brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to erase your skills and read thoughts
The tech tycoon explained that the device is about one inch in diameter, similar to the face of a smart watch, and is implanted by removing a small chunk of the skull
A breach of this type of data would surpass any we have ever seen before.
Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, director of research at the Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunication Software and Systems Group (TSSG), told Zdnet: ‘What type of damage will [an attack] do to the brain, will it erase your skills or disrupt your skills?’
‘What are the consequences – would they come in the form of just new information put into the brain, or would it even go down to the level of damaging neurons that then leads to a rewiring process within the brain that then disrupts your thinking.’
‘It’s not only at the information level, it could also be the physical damage as well.’
The report lays out a number of attacks that could be carried out if the brain chips fell into the wrong hands.
Hackers could intercept data traveling from the BCI to the brain, allowing them to gather sensitive data such as logins for emails and other systems
Hackers could intercept data traveling from the BCI to the brain, allowing them to gather sensitive data such as logins for emails and other systems.
Researchers note that malicious software could be transmitted to the technology, allowing attackers to show the user images or feed fake versions of the neural inputs to control the BCI.
The teams do not believe all is lost, but urge BCI creators to take a multi-layered security approach when designing their systems including antivirus software and encryption.
Musk is the top dog in the brain chip business and is set to release news of a possible working prototype August 28.
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