Finally, meet Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a fantastic swimmer and the biggest meat-eating dinosaur ever discovered. This 95-million-year-old Cretaceous predator had a massive, spiny sail on its back, and it paddled in the river, eating sharks. Whole sharks. The findings were published in Science this week.
The very first S. aegyptiacus fossils were discovered about a century ago in the Egyptian Sahara, and it was named “spine reptile.” Those first fossils were housed at the Bavarian State Collection, but were destroyed in World War II during an April 1944 Royal Air Force raid of Munich. “We had to wait close to 100 years for a new skeleton,” Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Chicago says in a telebriefing statement. “The animal we are resurrecting is so bizarre, it is going to force dinosaur experts to rethink many things they thought they knew.”
Paleontologists working on desert cliffs called the Kem Kem beds in eastern Morocco recently unearthed a more complete set of fossils — including portions of a skull, axial column, pelvic girdle, and limbs — that suggests the dinosaur was semi-aquatic. This is a first: Dinosaurs were thought to be terrestrial, having never colonized aquatic environments like marine reptiles.
You could be forgiven for not having browsed yet through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.
The body loses its ability to regulate processes and prevent disease over time, which is why age is a risk factor for many debilitating conditions. However, this might not always be the case. A team of researchers have identified a gene that could be used to stave off senescence. Better yet, the team found a way to remotely activate the gene in a part of the body other than the one they wish to target. The research was led by David Walker of UCLA and the paper was published in Cell Reports.
Comics legend Alan Moore has finished the first draft of his second novel, Jerusalem – and it runs to more than 1m words.
His daughter, Leah Moore, made the announcement on Facebook on Tuesday, adding with a wink that “now there’s just the small matter of copy editing” a book of that length, “and it’s all done”. To put that “more-than-a-million-word document” into context: Samuel Richardson’s doorstopper, Clarissa, runs to around 970,000 words, 200,000 more than the Bible . War and Peace is around 560,000 words long.