Pregnant Fossil Confirms Live Birth in Ancient ‘Sea Monster’

A plesiosaur giving birth.

A plesiosaur giving birth.  (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

The unique 78-million-year-old fossils of an adult plesiosaur and its unborn baby may provide the first evidence that these ancient animals gave live births, according to scientists.

The 15.4-foot-long adult specimen is one of the giant, carnivorous, four-flippered reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era. Dr. F. Robin O’Keefe of Marshal University in Huntington, W. Va., and Dr. Luis Chiappe, director of the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Institute, have determined that the skeleton contained within the creature is an embryo — including ribs, 20 vertebrae, shoulders, hips, and paddle bones.

The research — to be published August 12 in Science magazine — establishes that plesiosaurs gave birth to live young, rather than hatching their offspring from eggs on land.

“Scientists have long known that the bodies of plesiosaurs were not well suited to climbing onto land and laying eggs in a nest,” O’Keefe said. “So the lack of evidence of live birth in plesiosaurs has been puzzling. This fossil documents live birth in plesiosaurs for the first time, and so finally resolves this mystery.

O’Keefe also believes the find gives further clues of plesiosaur behavior.

“Many of the animals alive today that give birth to large, single young are social and have maternal care,” O’Keef continued. “We speculate that plesiosaurs may have exhibited similar behaviors, making their social lives more similar to those of modern dolphins than other reptiles.”

Plesiosaurs have no known living relatives, but were common in the world’s oceans during the age of dinosaurs. They were among the top predators in the Western Interior Seaway, the vast, tropical body of water that split North America during the Cretaceous when waters from the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico flooded onto the continent and met.

The remarkable NHM specimen was discovered in 1987 by Charles Bonner on the Bonner Ranch in Logan County, Kan. Virtually complete except for parts of the adult’s neck and skull, the “mother” specimen and her baby were given extensive conservation by NHM and then mounted for display with the supervision of O’Keefe and Chiappe.

The specimen is currently on display in the Dinosaur Hall, the new 14,000-square-foot exhibition at NHM featuring more than 300 fossils and 20 complete mounts of dinosaurs and sea creatures.

Fossil of ‘monster’ worm with snapping jaws discovered


 (Luke Parry)

A giant worm with “terrifying” jaws has caught researchers’ eyes, who say the huge extinct marine worm is a new species known to science. What’s more, it’s been named after the bass player from a death metal band called Cannibal Corpse.

The scientists discovered the fossilized remains of the worm not in the wild, but in a museum. The worm fossil and others had actually been in Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum since 1994, after a researcher took samples from a remote site in Ontario only reachable by helicopter. Based on the fossil, they think the worm was over three feet long and had jaws over a quarter of an inch in size. (Usually, the jaws of these kinds of worm are much tinier.)

“Gigantism in animals is an alluring and ecologically important trait, usually associated with advantages and competitive dominance,” the lead author of a new study on the worm, Mats Eriksson of Lund University, said in a statement. “It is, however, a poorly understood phenomenon among marine worms and has never before been demonstrated in a fossil species.”


Over 400 million years old, the giant fossilized creature was known as a bristle worm. The University of Bristol compares this ancient worm to modern-day Bobbit worms, which ambush and eat fish or cephalopods like squids.

The scientists gave the new worm species an interesting name: Websteroprion armstrongi. The second part of that name is in honor of Derek K Armstrong, a member of the Ontario Geological Survey who took the helicopter ride to collect the samples in the first place.

The first part is more interesting. That’s in honor of a musician named Alex Webster, a bass player for Cannibal Corpse, a death metal band. According to the statement on the discovery, this is because Webster was a “giant” on the bass, just like the worm itself was giant.

7 new Earth-like exoplanets discovered, NASA announces

NOW PLAYINGAstronomers discover seven Earth-sized planets

Talk about lucky number seven. Astronomers have discovered not one, not two, but seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1.

What’s more, three of them are in the habitable zone— the happy place where liquid water can exist on the surface of rocky planets, as it’s not too hot or cold. (Although liquid water could potentially exist on any of the seven, NASA said, it likes the odds on those three best.) The space agency calls the discovery of the fascinating solar system record-breaking.

“The discovery gives us a hint that finding a second Earth is not just a matter of if, but when,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, said at a news conference announcing the discovery.

Zurbuchen called it a “major step forward” towards the goal of answering the very big question: Is there life on other worlds?

The discovery “is very promising for the search for life beyond our solar system,” Michael Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium, added during the press conference.

This is the first time astronomers have found so many Earth-sized planets circling the same sun.

Since the seven planets orbit the star– which is roughly 40 light years away– fairly close to each other, the view from one planet would reveal other planets to look as big, if not bigger, than the way we see the moon from Earth.

“If you were on the surface of one of these planets, you would have a wonderful view [of] the other planets,” Gillon said, adding that they would be much more than just “dots of light” in the sky, as we see other planets, like Venus, from our home planet.


The three planets in the habitable zone, also known as the Goldilocks Zone, are called TRAPPIST-1e, f, and g. Exoplanet “e” is about the same size as Earth and even gets around the same amount of star light as we do.

Scientists already knew of thousands of planets beyond our own solar system.

All told, the tally of confirmed exoplanets stood at 3,449 on Wednesday. But only a small number of discovered exoplanets meet the criteria for being possible Earths– Earth-sized planets that are not too big, and in the habitable zone of a star.


While this discovery was made using the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of the most important instruments in the search for other planets is the Kepler Space Telescope, which is credited with 2,331 confirmed exoplanet discoveries. It uses a technique called the transit method, watching for a star to dim when a planet passes in front of the distant sun. About 74 percent of known exoplanets have been discovered using that method, according to NASA.

Exoplanet discoveries just keep coming.

Earlier this month, astronomers announced that they had evidence of perhaps as many as 114 new exoplanets; the data they used to find those came from Hawaii’s Keck Observatory, which made observations of over 1,600 stars for over two decades. One of those newly-discovered planets that has garnered attention is a hot, rocky “super Earth” called Gliese 411b.

Scientists have even discovered a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, aside from the sun. Called Proxima b, that planet is somewhat larger than our own planet and lies about four light years away— close by cosmic standards but still incredibly far away from a human perspective. (One light year— the distance light can travel in one Earth year— equals almost 6 trillion miles.) The important Proxima b discovery was announced last August.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

MYSTERY: Half-eaten shark on Florida beach raises speculation about what killed it

0221 fla shark

 (Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue)

A half-eaten shark that washed up on a Florida beach Saturday raised questions about a bigger fish possibly lurking in the water.

A Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue lifeguard snapped a photo of the shark on New Smyrna Beach. Beach Safety spokeswoman Tammy Morris told News 4 Jax that the shark was “definitely” eaten by a bigger fish. She added that the shark was either a blacktip or spinner shark.

A 14-foot great white shark named Katherine was spotted off the Florida coast in January. Another great white shark was spotted in the waters on Feb. 1, Florida wildlife officials said.

Morris said half-eaten sharks do not wash up on the beach often, but she has seen it before.

Officials said the shark might have been about 5-feet long, according to Fox 13 News.

‘Bionic’ eye on the future: From ‘Star Trek’ visors to ‘Mission Impossible’ contact lenses

NOW PLAYINGFirepower: Could bionic eyes give the military super sight?

Could bionic eyes restore sight to the blind and give the U.S. military super sight?

Bionic implanted eyeballs, “Star Trek”-style visors, telescopic contact lenses … these are just a few of the many exciting projects underway to both restore and provide enhanced sight.

Significant strides have been made in tech that will restore and transform lives – replacing white canes, service animals, braille machines and more for the visually impaired.

There has been a lot in the media about prosthetic breakthroughs for U.S. veterans, but what about vision? Last year the Blinded Veterans Association told the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs that there are an estimated 131,580 legally blinded veterans in the U.S., citing data from the Depatment of Veterans Affairs.


Technology is being increasingly harnessed to overcome blindness. So far, much of the key progress has been restricted to restoring sight for those with a specific type of visual impairment – in particular retinitis pigmentosa – an inherited condition that involves the loss of cells in the retina and causes a decline in vision.


One of the first and most promising “bionic eyes” is the Argus II made by Second Sight, which is geared toward patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

The system has two parts:  a very high tech retinal implant and a camera mounted on eyeglasses or shades. The “bionic eye” is surgically implanted in, and on, the eye.  It has an antenna, an electronics case, and an electrode array.

The camera processes what it sees and sends it to a small computer that the person wears.  The data is processed and translated into instructions that are sent wirelessly to the antenna in the implant.


The retinal implant has 60 electrodes in it. These electrodes provide information to the optic nerve and the optic nerve relays the data to the brain. The optic nerve understands this data as shapes, light and movement.

This vision is not yet like normal sight and it will not restore vision to 20/20. But with Argus II, folks who were once sightless can see in black and white – they can read a book and see their homes and loved ones for the first time. More advances are in the pipeline for Argus II to restore color as well as resolution and brightness.

Argus II bionic eyes require functioning retina so many, including many visually impaired veterans, can’t take advantage of that tech – Second Sight’s Orion technology could be the solution.


By skipping the optic nerve and directly plugging into the visual cortex, Orion could hold enormous potential for veterans who have visual impairment due to trauma.


In fact, this approach could potentially help those blinded by cancer or glaucoma.

This new device bypasses the retinal layer and implants electrodes directly onto the visual region of the brain.

Second Sight announced a major breakthrough for its Orion I project late last year. In a trial at UCLA, the very first of these devices to directly plug into the brain, a wireless visual cortical stimulator, was implanted in a human subject. The test was a success and restored vision to a 30-year old patient with no major side effects.


Ever seen “Star Trek?” One American company has created a sort of real-life version of character Geordi La Forge’s “visor.”


With the eSight 3 device, the wearer can see full-color video images without a time lag. Wherever the user looks and whatever he or she looks at, the high-speed, high-def camera captures it for them.

Advanced algorithms are used for the video feed. The video is then displayed on two screens in front of the wearer’s eyes. The video image is provided in a way that overcomes their vision loss.

eSight isn’t a cure-all at this point. If the retina damage is too severe, then it may not work. It tends to be more helpful with macular degeneration, for example, than glaucoma. The company says the technology has about a 50 percent chance of working with all conditions.


Advances in this field are also creating the potential to give US warfighters super vision.


One exciting example is a new contact lens funded by DARPA, and made by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, that gives the wearer the ability to zoom like a telescope.

The scleral lens has thin aluminum mirrors built into it that work with special liquid crystal glasses. These glasses are connected to an electronic system.

Think “Mission Impossible.” If you blink your right eye, then it allows magnifying – but if you wink your left then the vision is normal. If you blink normally, it doesn’t trigger the magnifying mode.

In addition to the contact lens, other projects have made great headway. Even Second Sight bionic eyes can see in IR with a specific input device.


Augmenting soldiers with vision-enhancing tech could provide advantages for ground troops and special operations in particular. Warfighters could switch between seeing in night vision, infrared, thermal, zoom, telescopic and more. Whether worn or implanted, it would provide enhanced capabilities that remove the weight of carrying optics and the time lost shifting optics by switching instead at the speed of thought.

Just one specific illustration of how helpful this could be is explosives. If the amazing advances in explosive detection could be miniaturized and adapted for military bionic eyes, then warfighters with enhanced vision could scan and spot these hidden IEDs before they could strike – putting an end to injury and death due to IEDs.

Meet a Green Beret who was blinded in combat, but still serves, shoots with remarkable accuracy and explored Antarctica with Prince Harry at Tactical Talk this week. 

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

‘The first Oval Office’: Museum will showcase Washington’s Revolutionary War tent

General George Washington's Revolutionary War field tent on display at the Museum of the American Revolution (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution).

General George Washington’s Revolutionary War field tent on display at the Museum of the American Revolution (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution).

A stunning artifact from the Revolutionary War – General George Washington’s field tent – will go on display when the Museum of the American Revolution opens its doors in April.

Dubbed “the first Oval Office,” the canvas tent will be the cornerstone of the Philadelphia-based Museum’s collection of approximately 3,000 Revolutionary War-era artifacts.

The museum’s opening on April 19 will be the first time in decades that the tent has been on public display.


An iconic piece of U.S. history, the tent was likely made in Reading, Pennsylvania in early 1778 when Washington was camped at Valley Forge, according to the Museum. Deployed as a mobile field headquarters, the tent was used during many of the Revolutionary War’s key moments, such as the Siege of Yorktown, the war’s last major battle.

The Museum told Fox News that it obtained the tent when it acquired the Burk collection of Revolutionary War artifacts in 2003. In 1909 the Reverend Herbert Burk, an Episcopal priest in Valley Forge, purchased the tent for $5,000 from Mary Custis Lee, a descendant of Martha Washington. Burk, who wanted to create a museum dedicated to the nation’s founding, raised the tent’s purchase price from ordinary Americans.

Preparing to display the tent was a major undertaking for the Museum, which wanted to make the structure appear as if it were pitched in a field, but without putting tension on the centuries-old fabric. To solve the problem, structural engineers Keast & Hood designed an umbrella-like aluminum and fabric structure to display the tent.


To test the structure, the Museum brought in a team of tradespeople from Colonial Williamsburg to build a “stunt double” replica tent. “We used the replica tent on several separate occasions to test the structure, which took varying amounts of time,” explained a spokeswoman for the Museum, in an email to Fox News. “The installation of the actual tent took four days.”

Underlining the tent’s historical importance, the structure is situated in a dedicated 100-seat theater when the Museum opens to the public.

“A commander-in-chief needs a quiet place to think, and this tent was Washington’s only private space throughout much of the Revolutionary War,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, the Museum’s vice president of collections exhibitions, and programming, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “When I started to read about how Washington would use this tent, the images that popped into my head were very familiar ones: images of John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Bush after 9/11. Thinking about the hard decisions that leaders have to make — and the emotions they must feel —  confirmed to me that this tent really did fulfill the role of the ‘First Oval Office.’ The decisions he made there would change the course of history.”


The tent was last displayed “several decades ago” at Valley Forge National Historical Park, according to the Museum of the American Revolution.

Other Revolutionary War artifacts that will be on show at the Museum include a rare bible from the battle of Bunker Hill. The King James Bible is inscribed by American soldier Francis Merrifield, who thanks God for sparing his life in the bloody 1775 battle.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

1,700-year-old untouched tomb yields elaborate headdress figurine

A tomb was recently uncovered in Colima, Mexico that held bones and ancient figurines that dated to 1,700 years ago.

A tomb was recently uncovered in Colima, Mexico that held bones and ancient figurines that dated to 1,700 years ago.  (Rafael Platas/INAH)

A 1,700-year-old untouched tomb bearing the bones of a dozen male adults, as well as pre-Columbian figurines and statues, has been unearthed in Mexico.

Archaeologists discovered the ancient tomb, which dates to the Comala Period (between 0 and A.D. 500), during work to remodel a Seventh-day Adventist church in Colima, Mexico. The archaeologists uncovered a hole that was sealed up with stones, artifacts for grinding, and human bones.

Inside, 12 skulls and other bones were piled atop one another in a haphazard manner. Some of the skulls showed signs of damage, as well as tooth fractures and wear, said Rosa María Flores Ramírez, a physical anthropologist at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico.

When the archaeologists explored further, they discovered three burial levels. In the second burial level, the team found two figurines — a male and female — placed facedown next to two skulls. [Prince’s Tomb: Images from a Mayan Excavation]

Ancient figurines

The male figurine, which measures 15 inches tall and 6 inches wide, was wearing an elaborate headdress with a horn jutting out from it. In his hand, he holds an ax.

The female figurine, which is 12.5 inches by 5.5 inches, shows a woman with a sharp nose and a triangular head. She wears a banded headdress and has her hands crossed, with the right hand holding a pot. The burial also contained two other pots.

Each of the figures was sculpted from fine paste that was polished when complete. The ancient artists used cuts to etch in the facial features.

“The presence of these pieces in the offering hint at the worldview of the groups that inhabited the Colima valley in that period. The sculptures, according to their attributes, served as propitiatory elements that ensured the protection of the deceased, as is the case with the male sculpture, which represents a shaman. The other objects fulfilled the function of bringing the requirements to the underworld,” Rafael Platas Ruíz, an archaeologist at the INAH, said in a translated statement .

The finding is rare because tombs of this type are almost invariably looted before archaeologists can get to them.

The fact that the tomb was untouched “allowed us to have a first approach with the bone remains, to observe the lesions, deformations and to have more information to know what was their way of life,” the researchers said in the statement.

It’s possible that this isn’t the only burial in the area, because the entire Colima valley was occupied continuously from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1500, and cultural relics from different periods in the city’s history may be lying beneath it, the researchers said.

Originally published on Live Science

‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is worse than thought

This file 2008 photo provided by NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center shows debris in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii.

This file 2008 photo provided by NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center shows debris in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii.  (AP Photo/NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, File)

There’s an enormous, floating “island” of trash in the Pacific Ocean, and it’s much bigger than previously believed, reports the Guardian. Environmentalists from Ocean Cleanup who set out to survey the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” were stunned by the density of plastic containers, fishing nets, and other refuse.

Reconnaissance flights over the heart of the swirling dump between California and Hawaii found chunks of garbage, mostly plastics, many of them measuring more than half a yard.

More from Newser:

  • Stingray Kills Aquarium Worker

Ocean Cleanup’s founder Boyan Slat called the refuse a “ticking time bomb because the big stuff will crumble down to micro-plastics over the next few decades if we don’t act.” Fish and other marine life eat the micro-plastics, passing them up the food chain.

The patch measures about 1.3 million square miles, with the heart of it spanning about 386,000 square miles. The UN says it is growing so quickly, it can be seen from space.

This was the first-ever aerial survey of the garbage patch, notes a post at Science Daily, which adds that “more debris was recorded than what is expected to be found in the heart of the accumulation zone.” In fact, “it was impossible to record everything,” Slat tells the Guardian.

“It was bizarre.” Next year the group plans to test a V-shaped rubber boom that aims to herd floating rubbish into a cone. An estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans, damaging the food chain, one 2014 study found.

(By one projection, our oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Worse Than Thought

Poignant farewells: Tragic Titanic letters up for auction

Dr. John Simpson's letter (Henry Aldridge & Son).

Dr. John Simpson’s letter (Henry Aldridge & Son).

Rare letters that provide a fascinating glimpse into life on Titanic and the liner’s fateful final moments are up for auction in the U.K.

A letter written by Titanic’s second officer Charles Lightoller provides an incredible snapshot into the ship’s sinking in 1912. Lightoller, the highest ranking surviving crew member, gives a first-person account of his farewell to crew members including the ship’s assistant surgeon Dr. John Simpson.

Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship’s time on April 14 1912 and sank just over two hours later with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, including Simpson.

“I deeply regret your loss, which is also mine,” Lightoller writes, in the letter sent to Simpson’s friend R.W. Graham of Holt & Co. in New York. “I may say I was practically the last man to speak to Dr. Simpson, and on this occasion he was walking along the boat-deck in company with Messrs. McElroy, Barker, Dr. O’Loughlin and four assistant pursers.”

“They were all perfectly calm in the knowledge that they had done their duty and were still assisting by showing a calm and cool exterior to the passengers,” he added. “Each one individually came up to me and shook hands. We merely exchanged the words ‘Goodbye, old man.’ This occurred shortly before the end and I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after.”

Lightoller’s letter was written on board S.S. Adriatic on May 1 1912 when he was returning to the U.K. after giving evidence at the U.S. inquiry into the loss of the White Star Line’s Titanic.

Another letter up for auction was the first written on board Titanic by Simpson. In the letter to the Adjutant of the First Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, Simpson, a British Army reserve doctor, requests a transfer to the military’s inactive list so that he can perform his duties on Titanic. The letter was sent on April 9 1912, the day before Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage, and is written on the ship’s official stationary.

“The content of these letters is among the most important we have ever handled, to have an account of the last moments of the ship written by the ship’s most senior surviving officer on his return from the American Titanic enquiry is unprecedented,” Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told


  • Titanic artifacts reveal gruesome discovery of tragic ship’s last lifeboat

  • Titanic treasures sold at UK auction

  • Did this iceberg sink the Titanic?

The letters have pre-sale estimates of $12,648 to $18,973 and $37,946 to $63,243, respectively and will be auctioned by Henry Aldridge & Son with other Titanic, White Star Line and ocean liner artifacts in Devizes, U.K. on Oct. 22.

A number of artifacts from the doomed ship were auctioned in the U.K. earlier this with the sextant used by the captain of rescue ship Carpathia selling for just under $97,000. Three photos and a handwritten note detailing the grisly discovery of Titanic’s last lifeboat were sold for $6,800.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Strange orange alligator turns heads in South Carolina

File photo: An alligator floats in a pond under rainy skies on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, August 8, 2012.

File photo: An alligator floats in a pond under rainy skies on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, August 8, 2012.  (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

An alligator in a small South Carolina town is grabbing attention because of one weird quality: it’s orange.

To be more accurate, it’s a rusty, clay, sweet-potato color, and no one is sure why. But one thing is for certain— it doesn’t have an alligator’s typical color.

The little gator, reportedly about 4.5 feet long, lives in a pond in Hanahan, South Carolina.

Orange “Trumpagator” spotted in has residents scratching their heads. Is it albino? Clemson fan? 

The Post and Courier reported that a post on Facebook about the strangely-colored animal has gotten plenty of attention, with one person commenting that the orange-ish animal was a “Trumpagator.”

And a local resident told the paper, after photographing the reptile: “”I just thought, what the hell is that?”

It’s unclear why the gator has the strange, Doritos-like color, although one expert speculated its non-natural color could be due to an “environmental factor,” like a pollutant or algae.