AsianScientist (Apr. 1, 2021) – From unearthing 70-million year old dinosaur fossils and mapping 50,000 years of ancient human migration to analyzing the Earth’s atmosphere a billion years into the future—our top stories this month cover fascinating scientific phenomena all the way from the Earth’s earliest days to its final moments.
Revealing the wonders of the wild world, researchers have studied the functions of feline-friendly plants, discovered an entirely new species of firefly and marveled at sea slugs with surprising abilities. Similarly, taking inspiration from nature, scientists in China have developed a unique robot capable of surviving the sea’s bone-crushing depths.
If you missed the latest discoveries from Asia, here are some of our top stories from March 2021 to keep you up to speed.
- Take My Breath Away: Future Earth To Lack Oxygen
In 1974, humans sent the first radio message out into space in hopes of reaching intelligent life elsewhere. Nearly fifty years later, scientists continue to search for signs of life in other planets, like the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere. However, just how long atmospheric oxygen lasts remains uncertain.
By modelling the Earth’s climate, biological and geological processes, researchers from Japan and the US have found that the current atmosphere will likely persist for another one billion years. In fact, atmospheric oxygen may only be possible for roughly 30 percent of a habitable planet’s lifetime—suggesting that scientists should consider other signs of life in the search for extraterrestrials.
- Soft Robot Explores The Deepest of The Deep
Given the immense pressures of the deep sea, it comes as no surprise that over 80 percent of our oceans remain unknown to humans. To withstand the bone-crushingly high pressures at great depths, conventional underwater vehicles are typically fashioned out of thick, rigid materials.
And yet, the creatures living at the bottom of the ocean look markedly different, with soft bodies and pliable limbs. Inspired by these marine wonders, scientists in China have designed a self-powered, soft, fish-like robot capable of navigating the deepest of ocean’s deep: the Mariana Trench. Despite its delicate frame, the robot paves the way for the next generation of deep-sea explorers.
- Digging Into Dino Discoveries
Two dinosaur fossils recently discovered in Asia have challenged conventional thinking about these extinct reptiles. In China, paleontologists unearthed a 70 million year old fossil of an oviraptorid sitting on a nest of ancient eggs. Given that oviraptorids were long thought of as egg stealers, their findings prove that the dinosaurs were in fact the rightful owners of the eggs.
While ankylosaurids are best known for their heavy armor—protecting them against fearsome predators like the Tyrannosaurus rex—remains in Mongolia suggest that the dinosaurs may have had another defense: digging. Crouching down into the shallow pits they had dug may have made it more difficult for predators to flip the ankylosaurids and reach their vulnerable underbellies.
- Wild Wonders Of The World
A mere whiff of catnip can make cats go crazy, but why? To solve this long-standing mystery, scientists from Japan and England turned to silver vine, a catnip alternative common in Japan. Beyond inducing euphoria, these cat attractant plants can also serve as insect repellants, protecting cats from pesky bugs.
Elsewhere in the land of the rising sun, scientists serendipitously identified sea slugs that can regrow their bodies after self-decapitation. According to the team, this gruesome behavior may help rid the sea slugs of parasite infestations. Finally, researchers in Singapore have discovered a new species of luminous firefly—for the first time since 1909.
- Mapping Ancient Migration In The Philippines
Despite being one of the modern world’s most pressing issues, it seems that climate change was also very much an ancient challenge—resulting in at least five waves of migration to the Philippines over 50,000 years.
In the Philippines’ largest-ever DNA mapping study yet, an international team of researchers discovered that the migration of certain groups may have been spurred by the gradual submerging of nearby landmasses and other geographic upheavals. Interestingly, less than one percent of the Filipinos involved in the study traced their genetic origins from West Eurasia—suggesting the limited genetic legacy of 300 years of Spanish rule on the Philippines
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo credit: Pexels.
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