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Woolly rhino’s ancient migration

5d1The 460,000 years old skull of a woolly rhino, reconstructed from 53 fragments, is the oldest example of the mighty, ice age beasts ever found in Europe.

The extinct mammals reached a length of three and a half metres in adulthood and, unlike their modern relatives, were covered in shaggy hair. The research team says that the find from Germany fills a gap in our understanding of how these animals evolved. “This is the oldest woolly rhinoceros found in Europe,” said Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke, Senckenberg Research Institute, Weimar, Germany. “It gives us a precise date for the first appearance of cold-climate animals spreading throughout Asia and Europe during the ice ages,” he added.Gamma-ray burst was brightest ever

Astronomers from around the world have combined data from ground and space based telescopes to paint a detailed portrait of a stellar explosion that was briefly brighter than the galaxy that contained it, visible to the naked eye despite originating halfway across the universe. The gamma-ray burst, was the result of a massive star’s explosion 7.5 billion years ago that sent a pencil-beam of intense light on a direct collision course for Earth. It is the only known gamma-ray burst to have had a visible component bright enough to see with the naked eye. “This was the brightest optical and infrared event that mankind has ever recorded,” said Joshua Bloom, Assistant Professor, Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley.

Under-ice flood speeds up glacier

Great floods beneath the Antarctic ice sheet can now be linked directly to the speed at which that ice moves towards the ocean, scientists say. Leigh Stearns and colleagues have been able to show how the giant Byrd Glacier in east Antarctica sped up just as two lakes under the ice overflowed. The flood water acts as a lubricant, easing the ice over the bedrock. The observation is described as critical because of how it informs our understanding of future sea levels. The more ice the polar regions dump in the ocean, the higher the waters will rise. The work of Dr Stearns and colleagues, reported in Nature Geoscience, indicates that Antarctica’s under-ice plumbing system must now be an important consideration in ice dynamics.Fish catches being used as animal feed

An alarming new study in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources contends that fully one-third of the world’s marine fish catches are ground up and fed to farm-raised fish, pigs, and poultry. The researchers involved say that this squandering of forage fish (anchovies, sardines, menhaden, and other small to medium sized fish) is rapidly worsening the already serious over fishing crisis in our oceans. The study notes that forage fish account for a staggering 37 percent (31.5 million tonnes) of all fish taken from the world’s oceans each year, and 90 percent of that catch is processed into fishmeal and fish oil.

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