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The algae that terraformed Earth

The algae that terraformed Earth

Science
A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth.That's what geochemists argue in Nature this week, on the basis of invisibly small traces of biomolecules dug up from beneath the Australian desert.The molecules mark an explosion in the quantity of algae in the oceans.This in turn fuelled a change in the food web that allowed the first microscopic animals to evolve, the authors suggest. "This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth's history," lead researcher Jochen Brocks told the BBC's Science in Action programme.The events took place a hundred million years before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Darwin and always h...
'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved

'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved

Science
Scientists have solved the puzzle of the so-called "Frankenstein dinosaur", which seems to consist of body parts from unrelated species. A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex. The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians. The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Media playback is unsupported on your deviceMatthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates al...
NASA, students to study eclipse with high-altitude balloons

NASA, students to study eclipse with high-altitude balloons

Science
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Not everyone will be watching next week's eclipse from ground level. As part of the Eclipse Ballooning Project, some 50 high-altitude balloons launched from 20 locations will offer a view of the phenomenon from the edge of space.For those in the path of Monday's total solar eclipse, the star attraction will be skyward. Necks will be craned as moon's path intercepts the sun and casts a shadow stretching 70 miles across.Thanks to the cameras and live-streaming technology installed on most of the balloons' payloads, online viewers will be able to look down on the eclipse."The focus of the live stream will really be on the shadow," said Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University.The project, which includes dozens of student research teams from colleges and universities acr...
'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum

'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum

Science
A campaign to plant trees to compensate for the impact of President Trump's climate policies has 120,000 pledges. The project was started by campaigners upset at what they call the president's "ignorance" on climate science. Trump Forest allows people either to plant locally or pay for trees in a number of poorer countries.Mr Trump says staying in the climate pact will damage the US economy, cost jobs and give a competitive advantage to countries such as India and China. The organisers say they need to plant an area the size of Kentucky to offset the Trump effect.Based in New Zealand, the project began in March this year and so far has gained pledges from around 450 people based all around the world. In the first month, 15,000 trees were pledged - that's now gone past 120,000. Some people...
Italy official defends killing rare bear after man mauled

Italy official defends killing rare bear after man mauled

Science
An Italian provincial governor has defended the killing of a rare female brown bear in the Alps, saying it was a threat to humans.The 14-year-old bear, called Kj2, was shot dead by foresters on Saturday, after it seriously mauled an elderly man walking his dog last month.Trentino governor Ugo Rossi said the killing would not stop a project to reintroduce bears to the region, but their habitat must be limited.About 50 bears live in the province.Conservation groups have protested over the shooting and demanded better management of the EU-funded bear project, called Life Ursus.Ugo Rossi said the shooting was "an absolute necessity" because of the risk to people at a peak period for tourism. "Anywhere in the world, when the danger rises above a certain level, the animal has to be killed to ens...