May 16, 2012

Science News Roundup: Mega crocs, mega fires and enamel-sporting crayfish!

Does this mean crayfish should brush?
A University of Iowa scientist has announced the discovery of the largest "true crocodile" in East Africa. At 27 feet long, Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni probably could have swallowed the 4-foot tall humans who lived alongside (but not too close!).

Analysis of a genetic database of horses indicates that domestic horses originated in the steppes of modern-day Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan and expanded out from there around 160,000 years ago. The herds were repeatedly restocked with wild horses as they spread across Eurasia, possibly by taking mares from the wild.

1,500 years of tree ring and fire data from the southwest US suggest that "today's megafires are truly unusual." A team of scientists (fire anthropology!) compared the record of fires when the climate was hotter and drier to when it was cooler and wetter and found that climate alone doesn't explain today's "megafires" - which "routinely destroy millions of acres of forest." Their findings suggest that human activity in addition to the modern climate cause these huge fires.

An international team of scientists have found that freshwater crayfish have a layer of enamel-like material on their teeth. Enamel covers the softer layers of vertebrates' teeth - but crayfish are invertebrates. This makes the discovery of an enamel-like layer on their teeth "astonishing." Stay tuned for more exciting crayfish news...