On February 14, a small asteroid known as the Chelyabinsk object hit southwestern Russia. The next day, a 40-meter-long asteroid called 2012 DA14 passed by the earth, coming closer than our own satellites. These recent encounters with large space rocks bring to mind one of the theories of what killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago: an asteroid strike.
A painting by Donald E. Davis that depicts an asteroid crashing into the Yucatan Peninsula in southeast Mexico.
By studying a 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide crater in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, scientists have determined that the asteroid that struck the earth 66 million years ago was 6 miles in diameter. The collision with Earth would have caused wildfires, tsunamis, and particles in the atmosphere. These particles would have blocked the sun, killing the plant-life and causing temperatures to drop significantly. Many scientists believe this series of events led to the demise of dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs may have been killed by a series of volcanic eruptions in what is now India. Credit: National Science Foundation, Zina Deretsky
But perhaps this wasn’t the only cause of extinction. Many scientists believe that a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred 60-68 millions of years ago in what is now India began killing off the dinosaurs before the asteroid strike. These eruptions would have caused dramatic climate change that would threaten many dinosaur populations.
Madagascar flat-tailed tortoise hatchling. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
The Oklahoma City Zoo welcomed a Madagascar flat-tailed tortoise hatching last week. Although the baby turtle will not be on display at the zoo, the birth marks a significant step in preserving a critically endangered species.
In the wild, Madagascar flat-tailed tortoises inhabit the closed-canopy, dry forests of Madagascar. They are highly threatened by habitat loss, due to agricultural and highway development, mining, and petroleum exploration.
The turtle birth was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan. For more information, see The Oklahoman.
The owners of Chris P. Bacon, a little piglet born without hind legs, constructed a mini wheelchair out of K’Nex pieces. This special contraption is attached to the piglet with a harness and allows the little guy to explore to his heart’s content.
The Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida welcomed a baby jaguar on January 26. The cub, whose gender is still unknown, is bonding well with mother Masaya. Zoo visitors will be able to see the cub in a few months.
In the wild, jaguars inhabit the dense forests and swampy grasslands of Central and South America. They hunt deer, monkeys, tapirs, capybara, turtles and fish. Due to habitat loss and fragmentation, jaguars are considered near threatened by the IUCN Red List.
At the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT, a 14-year-old penguin named Yellow Pink molted his waterproof feathers last year. They never grew back. Without the waterproof feathers, swimming became uncomfortable for the penguin.
Fortunately, a team of veterinarians, trainers, and research staff made him a custom neoprene wetsuit out of an old aquarium diving suit. Now Yellow Pink can stay warm as as swims.
Watch a video of Yellow Pink swimming in his suit below:
Now for the first time you can see footage of the giant squid living in its natural habitat. Giant squid are longer than school buses (40 feet long!) and weigh nearly a ton. Their eyes are the size of dinner plates. They live in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. A few years ago, a team of Japanese scientists took still photos of the elusive creature. After hundreds of deep sea dives in a submersible, scientists finally captured the giant squid on video.
Watch a special on the giant squid, Monster Squid: The Giant is Real, on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, January 27 at 8pm EST. For more info, see discovery.com/giantsquid.