Ancient Tombs Discovered In Egypt: 'Compelling Evidence' 4,200-Year-Old Site Could 'Hold A Pharaoh'

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say is “compelling evidence” of what could turn out to be recovered pharaonic tombs in Egypt, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Researchers have uncovered an 4,200-year-old encroachment wall that is believed to be a supporting structure for the known tombs of the first upper terrace, but they still have yet to discover to whom those tombs belonged. Phys.org reported last week that researchers from the University of Birmingham uncovered a two-metre (6.6 feet) encroachment wall in the northern part of the West Aswan cemetery at Qubbet el-Hawa that they believe might lead to important discoveries regarding ancient Egyptian tombs, including the possible burial sites of some pharaohs. The wall was situated below a visitors’ pathway and aided in securing the hillside, not to mention lower lying tombs in the cemetery that were accessible by a different pathway leading to a second terrace. The new discovery follows work done, according to Ahram Online, by the archaeological mission of the University of Birmingham and the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Qubbet el-Hawa Research Project Group (QHRP), which was directed by Dr Martin Bommas of the University of Birmingham. Ph.D. student Carl Graves, who worked with Dr Bommas on the project, said, “The findings are dramatically altering our understanding of the funerary landscape in this area during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period in 2278-2184BC. I don’t think anyone yet knows who the tombs might have belonged to.” Nasr Salama, the General Director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities, noted that the discovery was “stunning.” He told the Egypt Independent that it is just a matter of time until new tombs would be uncovered within the ancient cemetery. Eman Khalifa, the QHRP pottery project director, told the paper that the dating of the stone wall was performed by analyzing pottery shreds embedded within the wall’s mortar. She said that the stonework had included crushed pieces of carinated bowls, objects that were executed in the style associated with King Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty (circa 2278-2184 BCE). The Mirror reported that researchers see the tomb findings as “promising, adding that it is possible the tomb could hold a pharaoh.” The encroachment wall could be the architectural architectural support to another tomb that contains the remains of pharaohs who once governed the Elephantine Island during Egypt’s Old Kingdom — Harkhuf and Heqaib. A recent archaeological find in Egypt just might lead to the burial tombs of long-lost pharaohs. [Image by Fred Mantel/Shutterstock] Adding to the mystery of the new find is the discovery of a well-preserved mummy at the site earlier this year. Wrapped in linen and enclosed in two wooden coffins, the mummy has been found to be 3,800 years old. Archaeologists think that the ancient mummy could be an important figure in Egypt’s history and that the tomb itself might have belonged to a key figure of the Middle Kingdom, a woman by the name of Lady Sattjeni. The latest findings in Egypt could point to important discoveries of the Middle and Old Kingdoms of ancient Egypt. [Image by Vladimir Zadvinskii/Shutterstock] Dr. Mahmoud Afify, head of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, said at the time of the tomb’s excavation, “The discovery is of a historic importance because Sattjeni is one of the most important figures in the Middle Kingdom, being the mother of Heqaib III and Amaeny-Senb — two of the highest authorities of Elephantine under the reign of Amenemhat III, around 1800-1775 BC.” Mission director Martin Bommas said that the retaining wall was part of the project’s successful first field season, a season that included uncovering the long sought causeway of Sarenput I, who was governor of the area at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. A follow-up team from the University of Birmingham will begin a supplementary excavation project associated with the ancient Egyptian site and its tombs in April 2017. [Featured Image by Emanuele Mazzoni Photo/Shutterstock]

Life On Mars: NASA's Curiosity Rover Hits 'Jackpot' In Crater, Strong Indicators Of Habitability

Detecting alien life in the universe has been a seeming thankless and frustratingly nonproductive chore thus far, but NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has gathered what looks to be quite a bit of promising data regarding the Red Planet’s former habitability, scientists revealed recently. In fact, they are referring to the findings as a “jackpot” of mineral deposits that present a geological history of the planet for millions of years — and everything is pointing to Mars having once — if not actually being a home to living organisms — had the capability of sustaining life. Astrobiology magazine reported this month that NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, in its steady journey ascension up Gale Crater’s central peak, has, according to its mission handlers, has gathered considerable evidence from ancient lake beds and groundwater environments that are promising for the possibility of life. Announcing the rover’s Mars findings at the American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco, scientists said they had “hit a jackpot” of mineral deposits. John Grotzinger, a geologist from the California Institute of Technology, said it “all” looked good for Mars’ habitability in the long-term. “We see all of the properties in place that we really like to associate with habitability. There’s nothing extreme here. This is all good for habitability over time.” The Curiosity rover is now taking samples of the Martian surface every 25 feet as it makes its way uphill. As it progresses, the rover obtains samples of younger and younger rock. Scientists believe Gale Crater is one of the most likely spots on Mars to have supporting living organisms. It is the lowest point on the planet within thousands of miles, and scientists believe a lake of water was once present in the crater and that it also seeped underground. It is believed that groundwater may have lingered after the surface water dried up or evaporated. This would have provided more time for life to persist in the area. The changing conditions are evident in the type of iron oxide that has been detected in the rocks as the NASA rover ascends the peak. The lower, older layers of Gale Crater have a preponderance of mineral magnetite, which is indicative of less weathering. The upper layers of the crater show evidence of a greater amount of oxidizing hematite, which indicates a more acidic environment (though not one too extreme). Grotzinger said it was “acidic but never super acidic. It’s totally the kind of environment where an acidophilic organism could enjoy it.” NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is collecting samples to better determine if life has ever existed on the Red Planet. [Image by Kirschner/Thinkstock/Getty Images] Besides the iron oxides, the element boron has been found on Mars for the first time inside the crater. Although good news in that boron, when found on Earth, is often found in arid sites (like Death Valley in California) and is associated with the formation of RNA (ribonucleic acid), the type of boron being found on Mars is as yet unknown. If it is found to be like the boron on Earth, it would suggest that the crater was able to at least at some point sustain life. All the different minerals and the boron, which was identified by firing the Mars Curiosity’s laser (the ChemCam) and spectrographically analyzing the elemental components of a sample, all point to complexity. And in the search for alien life, complexity is good, according to Grotzinger. “We are seeing chemical complexity indicating a long, interactive history with the water. The more complicated the chemistry is, the better it is for habitability. The boron, hematite and clay minerals underline the mobility of elements and electrons, and that is good for life.” The element boron has been detected on Mars for the first time and may, along with other mineral deposits, indicate life may have once existed on Mars. [Image by Shocktrek Images/Thinkstock/Shutterstock] It is all indicative of “a dynamic system,” Grotzinger said, according to Astronomy magazine. “They interact with groundwater as well as surface water. The water influences the chemistry of the clays, but the composition of the water also changes. The more complicated the chemistry is, the better it is for habitability.” As complex and complicated as the habitability indicators might be on Mars, there still exists no empirical proof that life is extant or has ever prevailed there. At the same time, it is in the ever-increasing number of tantalizing findings that offer the promise of the possibility of discovering life on Mars that continue to provide scientists with the fuel to persist in their search. [Featured Image by Alibray/Thinkstock/Getty Images]

New Human DNA Discovered? Geneticists Say Melanesians May Possesses Traits Of Extinct Hominid Species

Have researchers discovered new strands of hominid DNA in people living in Micronesia? That’s one of the questions raised in a recent article in Science News, the magazine of The Society for Science & the Public. According to new human DNA research conducted by Ryan Bohlender, a statistical geneticist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, “Traces of long-lost human cousins may be hiding in modern people’s DNA.” Bohlender and others believe indigenous peoples living in Australia and Micronesia — a region in the south Pacific that includes Papua New Guinea and several nearby islands — “may carry genetic evidence of a previously unknown extinct hominid species,” Science News reports. Previous models show humans evolving from Neanderthals and Denisovans, “an extinct distant cousin of Neanderthals,” Science News explains. Ooh! DNA data offer evidence of unknown extinct human relative https://t.co/vtkZ9KBrd4 — formerly known as (@RedBeKnowing) October 30, 2016 While Neanderthal DNA has been discovered throughout Europe and Asia, only a single fossil of a finger bone found in Siberia contains Denisovan DNA. People of European and Asian descent still carry approximately 2.8 percent Neanderthal DNA, while people descended from Africa do not carry any. Likewise, Europeans carry no Denisovan DNA, while some Asians carry a “tiny amount.” Roughly 0.1 percent, according to Bohlender’s research. People in Papua New Guinea have similar amounts of Neanderthal DNA, approximately 2.74 percent, but Denisovan DNA appears to account for 1.11 percent of their DNA as well. The unusually high levels of Denisovan DNA, and the fact that it’s not a direct match to that of the Siberian sample, led Bohlender and his colleagues to conclude that a third, and previously unknown, group of hominids had bred with the ancestors of Micronesians. “Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was,” Bohlender told Science News. Bohlender’s belief in the possibility of a third form of hominid DNA showing up in human DNA is supported by a previous study conducted by the Natural History Museum of Denmark. In that study, researchers examined DNA from 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 people from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Science Alert reports. Science Alert says that based on that research, “DNA that was very similar to that of the Denisovans, but distinct enough for the researchers to suggest that it could have come from a third, unidentified hominid.” However, not everyone is completely on board with Bohlender’s theory. Mattias Jakobsson, an evolutionary geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, explained to Science News that because there is only one sample of confirmed Denisovan DNA available, researchers still know very little about the species or how diverse it was. In Jakobsson’s view, it is just as likely that the Denisovan-like DNA showing up in New Guinea and Austrailia is simply “a different branch of Denisovans” that interbred with earlier Micronesians. This theory relies on the possibility that as Denisovans spread throughout different regions of the world, their DNA evolved over time, making it appear to be that of a distinct species rather than simply a variant. Aboriginal Australians, Pacific Islanders carry DNA of unknown human species, research analysis suggests https://t.co/iUKfQ88eqY pic.twitter.com/eP9FvmA03d — ABC News (@abcnews) October 26, 2016 Elizabeth Blue, a statistical geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, seconds Jakobsson’s theory, arguing that it may very well be the case that Denisovans were so widespread and diverse that in the absence of more DNA samples it remains difficult to accurately identify them in some cases. Blue cites the fact that Europeans and Asians are genetically distinct despite descending from the same Neanderthal species to support this idea. Blue concedes, however, that if evidence that Denisovans were genetically similar throughout multiple regions and over time, it would support Bohlender’s conclusions. Even Bohlender acknowledges there are multiple possibilities to explain the different strand of DNA found in Micronesians. “We’re missing a population or we’re misunderstanding something about the relationships,” Bohlender told Science News. It will require further research to make conclusive ruling on whether the unknown DNA in the Micronesians is in fact indicative of a previously unknown pre-human hominid of it is simply a variant of Denisovan DNA. [Featured image by Matt Turner/Getty Images]

Mysterious Purple Sea Orb Discovered Off The Coast Of California Baffles Scientists [VIDEO]

A group of scientists using the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, to explore the Channel Islands — an isolated archipelago just 60 miles north of Los Angeles, California — had a bit of a surprise earlier this month, when the underwater camera attached to E/V Nautilus captured a mysterious purple sea orb that none of the eight scientists on board could immediately identify. Scientists are discovering new species of flora and fauna every single day, both on land, and in the vast waters covering planet earth, and given that we’ve explored more of outer space than we have the ocean floor, reports the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise that there are still mysterious creatures hiding in the uncharted waters of the world’s oceans. When one of those creatures is caught on a live video stream, and manages to completely baffle a team of eight renowned scientists, however, it makes waves throughout the scientific community. Such was the case when a team of researchers caught live video footage of a mysterious purple sea orb seemingly floating under a rocky overhang by the Channel Islands off the coast of California on July 18. The video begins with the camera panning the ocean floor, roughly 5,301 feet (1,616 meters) from the water’s surface. A bright red crab can be seen laying motionless on the rocks, when one of the team suddenly says “do you have that dark purple blob on the left?” “Purple blob?” another team member replies, “Oh… what is that?” “I’m stumped,” says one. “I actually have no idea. I have no idea what that is,” another admits. Mysterious purple orb spotted on the sea bed during live-streamed ocean exploration temporarily stumped scientists. pic.twitter.com/XCZUofHZi3 — Muhammed Aamir (@Aamir_Tw33ts) July 28, 2016 As the camera, attached to a remotely operated underwater robot, zooms in on the mysterious orb, the bright purple color is almost neon against the drab background of the ocean floor. Its center is a bright pink, and its surface looks bumpy, almost like a spiky purple sensory ball, or a spherical cluster of quartz crystals. The team decides to collect the mysterious purple sea orb with the suction arm of their robot, in order to study it further. According to Live Science, once on board the Nautilus, the mysterious purple orb — which is only about two inches (5 centimeter) across — opened to reveal two distinct lobes, which lead the scientists to believe that it could perhaps be a species of sea slug called a pleurobranch — an underwater invertebrate of the mollusk family. Though it could take years to determine whether the purple sea orb is a new species or not, the Nautilus Live website says that researchers have reason to believe that it is, at least, a relative unknown species, even if it is a pleurobranch. “After consulting with on shore scientists, the team thinks it may be a pleurobranch, a close relation to the nudibranch. Currently none of the known species of California deep-sea pleurobranchs are purple, so this could be a new discovery.” Actus Mer/Sea News: Via @Ocean_Networks– Mysterious purple ocean orb starts to reveal its… https://t.co/yrGrLZpUce pic.twitter.com/iOTLCtEKNd — Jerome OLLIER (@JeromeOLLIER) July 29, 2016 It’s unusual for Nautilus team to come across wholly unknown creatures during their research, they have collected samples of other creatures that they believe to be new species before. What happens more often than not, however, is that a an organism is found in a place where it wasn’t previously known to inhabit — such could be the case with the mysterious purple sea orb, though it will take a while before scientists determine whether the orb is a new species, or just new to this particular area, says Susan Poulton, a spokeswoman for the E/V Nautilus expeditions. “Confirming it’s a new species will take considerable months.” The mysterious purple sea orb has since been sent to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology for further analysis, but the researchers collected RNA samples prior to shipping the strange creature off. They also plan to do a DNA analysis on the strange creature. [Image via Exploration Ocean Trust/Nautilus Live]

'Swedish Atlantis' Revealed: 9,000-year-old Tools Found In Underwater Stone Age Settlement

Researchers diving off the coast of Sweden have discovered tools dating back some 9,000 years in what is believed to be a Stone Age settlement that the mainland press has dubbed the “Swedish Atlantis.” Among the recovered prehistoric tools are a pick axe made of elk antlers and fish traps made of braided hazel rods. The Daily Mail recently reported that researchers from Lund University in Sweden have been studying what appears to be a Stone Age lagoon community that now rests in the waters of the Baltic Sea. But 9,000 years ago, the settlement was occupied during parts of the year by Stone Age humans who, according to scientists, led “quite good lives here.” The braided fish traps, found to be the oldest stationary fish traps in northern Europe, were found about seven years ago, according to LiveScience. The site of the settlement was extremely well-preserved due to having already been covered with sediment prior to the area becoming submerged. Divers discovered eight of the traps scattered about the area up to two miles off Sweden’s southern coastline. Researchers also uncovered red deer antlers with slaughter markings and a pick axe made of elk antlers. The axe bears “interesting inscriptions,” according to Anton Hansson, Ph.D. student in Quaternary geology at Lund University. Scientists as yet have been unable to decipher the strange markings. As Huffington Post noted in 2014, underwater locations awash with tools and other makings of an ancient civilization are prompts for many to conjure up images of an inundating sea that suddenly swallows entire settlements, so it was only natural that the Scandinavian media quickly applied the label of “Swedish Atlantis” to the underwater site. Södertörn University archaeology professor Björn Nilsson cautioned against using such sensationalized appellations. “Atlantis still is a tale, a myth which always pops up when submerged lands are discovered,” Nilsson said via email. “20,000 years ago sea levels [were] more than [300 feet] below present sea level so there are many ‘Atlantises’ around the world, then!” Besides, the Atlantis written of by Plato in 360 BCE was not prehistoric and existed as a massive continent with attendant islands ruled in part by a confederation of kings. Still, Nilsson wrote, the “Swedish Atlantis” discovery provided “novel insight in prehistoric people.” Hansson, who was also the lead researcher of the latest study, explained in a more recent Lund University video posted to YouTube, “If you want to understand fully how humans dispersed from Africa and how they lived their lives, we also have to find all their settlements. And quite a few of their settlements are, today, underwater because during the last glaciation sea level was quite a lot lower than today.” He added, “Humans have always preferred coastal sites, as we do today.” With more advanced geological technology, the Lund University study has revealed that those prehistoric people lived in a veritable Stone Age paradise, according to LiveScience. Hansson further explained, “We know that this time is the start of quite a warm period during the Holocene history and people, I think, had quite good lives here. There was lots of food and quite a warm climate, at least during the summers.” Anton Hansson and his colleagues reconstructed what the Stone Age lagoon settlement would have looked like during its heyday using a type of sonar system called multibeam echo-sounder technology. In order to gain a better determination of the topography of the area and what it might have looked like prior to it being submerged, the researchers also dug into the seabed. The various mapped underwater sites — as Prof. Nilsson had predicted, sites that should not be aggrandized as Atlantis — were located about 65 feet (20 meters) below sea level of Sweden’s coast. [Featured Image by Uncle Leo/Shutterstock]

Antarctica: Scientists Uncover A Ton Of 71 Million Years Old Dinosaur Fossils On James Ross Island

Scientists have uncovered dinosaur fossils in Antarctic that are about 71 million years old. The large stash, exceeding a ton, contains rare specimens of plesiosaurs and mosasaurs. An amazing collection of dinosaur fossils was recently discovered by a team of scientists on their trek to Antarctica. The fossils are believed to be of creatures that existed about 71 million years ago. The fossil hunters made the find on James Ross Island, which is very difficult to reach. Before the researchers made the discovery, they endured a long and treacherous journey to reach the remote, frigid island. The researchers first flew to South America, and then endured a five-day trip through the Drake Passage, which is infamous for its extremely rough seas. The team constantly battled seasickness through their entire journey, reported Miss Open. Even after the incredible journey, the scientists were nowhere close to the island. Having reached an offshore base, the team set up camp by traveling in helicopters and inflatable boats, shared Steve Salisbury, a researcher at the University of Queensland and one of the scientists on the expedition, “It’s a very hard place to work, but it’s an even harder place to get to.” However, their treacherous journey and untiring determination bore fruit. The team discovered over a ton of fossils that belong to dinosaurs and other creatures that existed at the end of the age of dinosaurs. The team has yet to identify and label all the specimens, but it believes it has found fossils of ancient marine creatures, dinosaurs and birds that lived during the late Cretaceous Period, roughly 71 million years old. Antarctica: Monster Haul of 71 Year Old Dinosaur Fossils Unearthed (Video) https://t.co/G4bEYQyJ50 — B4INSci-Tech (@B4INSciTech) May 7, 2016 The team of scientists camped on Vega Island for a duration of five weeks. Each day, the scientists hiked over six miles to reach their main site, which was referred to as their “main hunting ground,” and then spent the day systematically sorting through rocks with utmost professionalism. Scientists shared they were overwhelmed at the quantum of the find and admitted it might take a few years to carefully sift through and catalogue the creatures. However, the team has identified many specimens, shared Dr. Salisbury, “[We found] things like plesiosaurs and mosasaurs — a type of marine lizard made famous by the recent film Jurassic World. We found a lot of really great fossils. They were all shallow marine rocks, so the majority of things we found lived in the ocean.” Besides the dinosaurs, the team also found fossils of birds including early ducks that lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, reported ABC News. The team consisted on 12 scientists from around the world, including scientists from the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The team had jointly decided to venture south on a fossil hunting mission to James Ross Island, located on the Antarctic Peninsula. Given the extreme remoteness of the island and the difficulty reaching there, the team guessed the island could have remained undisturbed and unaltered by humans. Often amateur fossil hunters go on a scavenger hunt and haphazardly excavate remains. Using scientific equipment to carefully observe what’s under the soil before digging is quite important. It makes the difference between finding a complete and intact fossil and stumbling upon bits and pieces. Palaeontologist @implexidens's Antarctic adventures from @UQ_News: ICE COLD DINOSAURS https://t.co/8IVhaymVMc pic.twitter.com/oR6EVhPLyi — Aust Science Channel (@RiAus) April 19, 2016 Moreover, the Antarctica Peninsula is the only area in the Antarctic where rocks get exposed during a very brief and still frigid summer, reported Smithsonian Magazine. These rocks are extremely old and owing to the limited amount of oxygen, fossils have been preserved in immaculate condition. Antarctica is a great place to hunt for dinosaur fossils, but the extremely difficult journey and the treacherous seas that are choked with sea ice has made landing there, quite difficult, added Dr. Salisbury. [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Chinese Great Flood Found In Myths Is True, Scientists Say

More than 4,000 years ago, a Chinese legend says a great flood engulfed the country, swept away settlements and submerged heaven itself. The story tells how Emperor Yu redirected channels and drove back the flood waters, thus being the righteous founder of China’s first dynasty, the Xia. Until now, such accounts of the Great Flood were treated mythologically and even as propaganda to justify the imperial rule, due to lack of evidence. But on Thursday, August 3, a group of scientists in China published a paper wherein they claimed to have found proof that the mythical Great Flood is indeed true. An international collaboration led by Wu Qianlong has come to this conclusion through the radiocarbon dating of juvenile bones and soil samples along the Yellow River. The Chinese-led team deduced that in the year 1920 BC, an earthquake triggered a massive landslide and dammed the waterway which then broke and caused the flood, writes ABC News. The story of the research begins in 2007. Dr Wu, a former Peking University seismologist, was conducting research on rocks around the Yellow River when he and his colleagues stumbled on deposits that suspiciously looked like they were “outburst flood sediments.” The sediments so appeared that they had been swiftly deposited by a massive flood, prompting Wu to hypothesize that the myths had some truth in them. The sediments found around the Yellow River provided the clue. [Image via Shutterstock]He then gathered geologists, archaeologists and historians to comprehensively investigate the case. According to Darryl Granger, co-author of the paper and a geologist at the Purude University, they dated the sediments downstream from the Jishi Gorge as well as the skeletons of 14 children crushed at the prehistoric site of Laija, who died in a devastating earthquake. A picture then emerged from their research, explaining the whats and the hows of the event known as the Great Flood. First, a major earthquake hit the region, causing a humongous landslide which dammed the Yellow River, according to an article by Gizmodo. Nearly 15 million liters of water built up behind the dam – which rose as high as 800 feet above the present levels of the river – near Jishi Gorge, located at the edge of the Tibetan plateau, for six to nine months. Then, as the waters of the resulting lake overtopped the crest of the dam, it weakened and eventually collapsed, triggering one of the largest floods known to mankind. The outburst flood might have traveled as far as 1,250 miles downstream, submerging the North China Plain, where the Chinese civilization is believed to have sprouted, and also causing the Yellow River to re-route its flow. The speed at which the waters surged forward is predicted, using a standard engineering equation, to have been between 300,000 to 500,000 cubic meters per second. The flood that erupted was one of the largest ever. [Image via Shutterstock]“To put that into perspective,” said Granger, “that’s roughly equivalent to the largest flood ever measured on the Amazon River, the world’s largest river. It’s among the largest known floods to have happened on Earth during the past 10,000 years, and it’s more than 500 times larger than a flood we might expect on the Yellow River from a massive rainfall event.” Meanwhile, the results might also support the existence of the Xia dynasty, whose legendary Emperor Yu is said to have been based around Jishi Gorge. The proof of the mega-flood in line with the myths “provides us with a tantalizing hint that the Xia dynasty might really have existed,” said David Cohen of National Taiwan University, another co-author of the paper. The results also predate the start of the dynasty by several centuries, around the time of a change from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. The paper, which proved the Chinese Great Flood of the myths to be true, was published this week in the journal Science. [Photo by China Photos/Getty Images]

Tiny Cyborg Stingrays May Lead The Way To World's First Biogenetic Artificial Heart [Video]

Tiny cyborg stingrays composed of “a pinch of breast implant, a pinch of gold, and a pinch of rat” may help lead the way to the development of the world’s first fully functional biogenetic artificial heart, according a report from Wired‘s Tim Moynihan. The research on the cyborg stingrays is being led by Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at Harvard University, and Sung-Jin Park, a postdoctoral fellow on Parker’s disease biophysics team at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). One of Parker’s previous projects include helping his Engineering Problem Solving and Design class develop a brisket-smoking robot, Moynihan previously reported. It was basically a 300-pound, souped-up version of the Big Green Egg with “a refueling chute built into the side of it…a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn.” Taking a rat, tearing it apart, and rebuilding it as a stingray seems simple enough: https://t.co/uGICJmJCUQ — WIRED (@WIRED) December 6, 2016 Parker’s focus, however, is on building a functioning four-chamber heart that can be used to diagnose diseases or even replace hearts in babies and children suffering from cardiac diseases or abnormalities. “We’re doing a crawl, walk, run approach to building the heart,” Parker says. “Replacing a heart, that is a long term goal. That’s blue sky, way off in the future. But along the way we can replace parts of a baby’s malformed heart with something tissue-engineered. It might be valves, it might be a ventricular chamber.” Designing the cyborg stingrays, as unrelated as it may seem, was actually a step in that direction. Parker often looks to the ocean to find inspiration. “In the ocean, most creatures with the exception of crustaceans, almost all their musculature exists to pump fluids,” Parker told Wired. “Either to swim through water or pump it through their body.” The idea to build the cyborg stingrays arose from a trip Parker took to the New England Aquarium with his daughter. While at a petting tank in the aquarium, he noticed a stingray quickly change course with one simple flap of its fin to avoid his daughter. “When I saw it happen, it hit me like a lightning strike,” Parker said. “The musculature in that fin, in order to change direction, must have been like the musculature we see in the endocardial surface of the heart, the inside layer of the heart. If I could replicate or build this, then I might have a deeper understanding of why the heart is built the way it is.” Cyborg stingray swims toward light, breaks new ground. Made from synthetic materials and tissue from a rat’s heart! https://t.co/8qh36ZRpTI — TBN Online (@OnlineTBN) October 26, 2016 Parker sees stingrays and jellyfish as, basically, muscular pumps, much like the human heart. In his view, all of these pumps share similar elements of design and function. The bodies of the cyborg stingrays are composed primarily of polydimethylsiloxane, which is the same material used to make the external layer of many breast implants. A lightweight “skeleton” made of gold provides the stingray with the “recoil” necessary to move its fins. The muscular tissue of the stingray is grown from rat cells, Parker explains in a video you can watch below. While much of the vision of the project was Parker’s, he needed Park’s applied skills to actually create the cyborg stingrays. Park designed the 16-mm-long stingrays so that they would respond to pulses of blue light that direct the fins to flap, Christy Steele explains in an earlier article for the journal Science. Parker acknowledges that the development of a fully functional biogenetic heart is a long way off, but the cyborg stingrays could be an important step in that direction. And, in the meantime, he and Park have given the world its first cyborg stingrays. [Featured image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]

Great White Shark Katharine Tracked Approaching Florida After Nearly 29,000-mile Journey

Great White Shark Katharine tagged by tracking group OCEARCH in August 2013, pinged between Daytona Beach and Palm Coast, Florida, at 7:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Records indicate that the over 14-foot shark has traveled nearly 29,000 miles since being tagged. The great white shark’s transmitter “pinged” in offshore waters east of Norfolk-Virginia Beach in mid-March. Katharine has been swimming southward since then, reaching South Carolina by mid-April. On Sunday, Katharine pinged near the Florida-Georgia border. By 7:01 a.m. Wednesday, her ping came between Daytona Beach and Palm Coast. According to 10 News, OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer explained Katharine the great white shark’s progress. He factored in biological change. “The first two years of her track, (she was) looking like an immature animal. And then this past year, she did not return to Cape Cod. So we’re wondering if we’re actually witnessing her transition from an immature shark to a mature shark — and wondering if she could be pregnant.” Researchers installing a tracker on a great white [Photo by AP Pool]A Fox 35 report flashbacked to August 2013 when OCEARCH researchers captured the great white off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and attached a transmitter to her dorsal fin. At that time, shark Katharine was already a massive 14 feet, 2 inches long, weighing 2,300 pounds. A year later, she earned the distinction of being OCEARCH’s first Atlantic great white shark to migrate past the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico. Fast forward to today, and satellite data shows the distance covered by Katharine since being tagged – nearly 29,000 miles. In 2014, Katharine became OCEARCH’s first Atlantic great white shark to migrate past the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico. Then she returned to Cape Cod, a suspected great white shark breeding ground. Fischer expressed her opinion that Katharine’s movements could not be predicted, despite available data and instrumentation. “I have no idea where she’s going right now. It’ll be interesting to me to see if she returns to Cape Cod this fall, which would repeat the 2-year migratory cycle we’ve seen of mature females that have given birth in other areas of the world. She’s an interesting shark, for sure.” Tracker device used on Katharine the great white shark [Photo by AP Pool]According to Live Science, the average great white shark is the world’s largest predatory fish recognizable by its gray skin, white belly, bullet-shaped body and up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth. Like Katharine, this creature can achieve a length of 20 feet or more and can weigh over 5,000 pounds. The great white is not the biggest shark, however, the non-predatory whale shark being the biggest. According to USA Today, OCEARCH researchers are following the movements of some 20 sharks in the Atlantic and more globally. The great white shark Katharine was named in honor of Katharine Lee Bates, the songwriter known for her poem and song America The Beautiful, and a Cape Cod native. The scientific real-time tracking of the great white shark Katharine has unveiled the little-known travel habits of her kind. The creature’s inclination to go south is characterized by a swim much faster and more randomly than imagined. Her breed of shark is capable of quick bursts of speed, at roughly 30 miles per hour. While the great white is known to migrate to the Southeast in late fall and early winter, where it goes over the long term or what it does is still a mystery. Tracking the great white shark is not intended for shark warnings, but rather to study where Katharine and her kind goes and for what reason. The result is a raised awareness of the great white’s plight worldwide. Scientists also say that a great white shark like Katharine should not cause panic because no great white attack has been a documented off Florida. Other mammals like the endangered North Atlantic right whales, however, are a different matter. Newborn calves of these whales, as well as porpoises and dolphins in the near-shore areas, are the usual prey for the great white shark Katharine. [Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

The Galapagos Islands Lose A Species, Reportedly The First Known Modern Bird Extinction On Islands [Video]

The Galapagos Islands have reportedly gained and lost a species of songbird, and at almost the same time. The Galapagos species, the Vermilion Flycatchers, currently contains two subspecies. However, scientists from multiple academic institutions, including the California Academy of Sciences, believe that the distinction is incorrect. Rather, they want to see both subspecies raised up to the status of a full, distinct species of bird. Is the San Cristóbal vermilion flycatcher extinct? Some are saying it's time to say yes. https://t.co/nPsGo57GT1 — AnimalPlanet (@AnimalPlanet) August 11, 2016 Unfortunately for the Vermilion Flycatchers, which are only found in the Galapagos Islands, the smaller of the two versions is believed to be extinct. Known officially as the Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher, it hasn’t been glimpsed for decades, not since 1987 reports Seeker. If the the tiny bird has crossed the line from rarity to truly being extinct, it will mark the first known bird extinction on the Galapagos Islands in the modern era. In a nutshell, a new bird species was identified as a species all its own and discovered to be extinct for decades at almost the same time. Prior to its believed extinction, the tiny Galapagos Island bird was only known to live on the island chain’s San Cristóbal Island; it is not believed to exist on any of the other Galapagos Islands, nor anywhere else on Earth. While the little songbird native to the Galapagos Islands is now fully believed to be extinct, according to researchers the larger and more prevalent species of Galapagos Island Vermilion Flycatcher is still thought to be flourishing in its natural, Galapagos habitat, reports Science Daily. @AnimalPlanet @Seeker nooooooo :"( — Laura (@MissLaura317) August 11, 2016 Apparent extinction of a Galápagos-endemic bird species
The Vermilion Flycatcher species complex:https://t.co/ajICltYhp9
cc @GrrlScientist — MU – Peter Shimon (@MU_Peter) August 11, 2016 ???? vermillion flycatcher — birdman (@febriculosa) August 10, 2016 The decision to designate the Cristobal Island Vermilion Flycatcher as its own separate species came after years of research conducted at the hands of researchers and scientists from multiple institutions, including the California Academy of Sciences. Other research programs that contributed to the science behind the Galapagos Island study include the University of New Mexico, and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. The programs used DNA samples taken from the Galapagos Island bird over the course of over 100 years to determine that the Cristobal Island version of the Galapagos Island’s songbird possesses enough genetic variation to be a unique species. Or it would if it weren’t extinct. According to one of the researchers that helped to make the startling discovery about the tiny bird native to the Galapagos Islands, this perceived extinction is a “big deal,” perhaps even a bigger deal than the designation of the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher as a species in and of itself “A species of bird that may be extinct in the Galapagos is a big deal. This marks an important landmark for conservation in the Galapagos, and a call to arms to understand why these birds have declined.” TRAGEDY!!! "The tiny San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher was last spotted in 1987 and is now considered… https://t.co/Kqw3j8q1ov — BCN (@birdlifenepal) August 12, 2016 Scientists and conservationists are currently at a loss to explain why the Galapagos Island bird has disappeared from its natural environment. However, some researchers believe that the problem could boil down to predators and pests. Scientists believe that rats, which are known to eat the eggs of birds native to the Galapagos Islands, may be responsible for the extinction of the San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher, at least in part. Another possible contributor to the believed extinction of San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher of the Galapagos Islands are flies, which can kill hatchlings. Two different co-authors of the study into the likely extinct songbird of the Galapagos Islands have two distinctly varying opinions on the disappearing Flycatcher. Jack Dumbacher seems to think that the birds are gone forever from the Galapagos Islands and the face of the Earth. “Sadly, we appear to have lost the San Cristóbal vermilion flycatcher.” No one has seen the San Cristóbal Island Vermilion Flycatcher since 1987. https://t.co/gNQ67tdykK #conservation #extinction #Galapagos — Lady Naturalist (@LadyNaturalist) August 11, 2016 Alvaro Jaramillo, a biological scientist and contributor to the study on the Galapagos Islands’ Flycatchers, has a slightly more optimistic take on the loss of the unique species. “At the very least, this discovery should motivate people to survey and see if there are any remaining individuals of the species hanging on that we don’t know about.” What do you think? Are the San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatchers gone forever? Is their disappearance something that mankind has impacted or could have prevented? Are you disturbed by the first suspected bird extinction in the Galapagos Islands in modern history? [Image via Shutterstock]