‘Exquisite’ dinosaur-age cockroaches discovered preserved in amber

A pair of 99-million-year-old cockroaches are rewriting the early history of the underworld.

The ancient roaches, found preserved in amber in Myanmar, are the oldest-known examples of “troglomorphic” organisms — creatures that adapted to the weird, dark environments of caves. And they’re the only such dark-adapted creatures known from the Cretaceous period, having scurried around in the world’s shaded crevices even as Tyrannosaurus rex walked the Earth. Nowadays, biologists have plenty of examples of cockroaches and of cave-dwelling insects with small eyes and wings, pale bodies, and long arms and antennae. But these specimens, from two distinct, related species, are the oldest animals ever found with those traits.

“Caves lack unequivocal fossils before the Cenozoic,” the researchers wrote in a paper describing their find, referring to a later period after the mass extinction (known as the K/Pg boundary) when dinosaurs died and mammals rose to their current prominence.

And even cave fossils from after the extinction tend to be of animals that spent only some of their time in caves, using them as shelters in between excursions into the sunlit world.

“Cave environments are well suited for fossilization of bones and coprolites [or fossilized feces] and the fossil record of cave mammals includes rodents, ungulates, marsupials, ursids, felids, hyaenids, canids, primates and humans,” they wrote — all species with plenty of bones and poop. They added that “there is no relevant fossil record of any troglomorphic fauna before K/Pg with the exception of the present find.”

Until now, the history of cave-dwelling cockroaches was known to go back to the Cenozoic era, which began about 65 million years ago. But researchers had long suspected that cave-dwelling roaches might date back to the dinosaur age, the researchers wrote, based on genetic analyses. But there had never before been firm evidence.

These two “exquisitely preserved” species, they said, according to a news article on Phys.org, were likely descendants of a common ancestor from earlier in the Cretaceous, before continental drift separated their homes on the supercontinent Gondwana.

It’s not clear, the researchers noted, how the roaches ended up so well preserved. Amber fossils are common for small creatures that live near trees, because amber is fossilized tree resin. It’s possible, the researchers suggested, that ancient resin dripped from tree roots into the cockroaches’ caves and then hardened around the paleo-arthropods.

The study researchers, hailing from several institutions in Slovakia, China, Russia and Thailand, detailed their discovery online Feb. 11 in the journal Gondwana Research.

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Weird ‘watermelon snow’ pics show Antarctic turning red

Snow that looks like it was mixed with food coloring is not what you’d expect to see in Antarctica — or anywhere else, for that matter.

But that’s the bizarre phenomenon scientists recently photographed on an Argentine island in Antarctica.

The images, depicting a watermelon-colored snow, were revealed by Ukraine’s Ministry of Science and Education. Warmer weather during the Antarctic summer prompts the spores to germinate, triggering an algae bloom that creates these weird pockets of pink “watermelon snow,” the Daily Mail reported.

The bright red photosynthetic algae — which can thrive in very low temperatures — are located in snowfields around the world.

Scientists have photographed amazing images of 'watermelon snow' in Antarctica.

Scientists have photographed amazing images of ‘watermelon snow’ in Antarctica. ((Ministry of Science Ukraine; EAS))

The Ukrainian scientists told the Mail: “Such snow contributes to climate change, because the red-raspberry color snow reflects less sunlight and melts faster.”

By Christopher Carbone | Fox News

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Ancient engraving of warrior with ‘elaborate hairstyle’ and ‘pronounced butt’ discovered in Scotland

The Tulloch stone depicts a spear-holding ancient warrior.

The Tulloch stone depicts a spear-holding ancient warrior.
(Image: © Mark Hall et. al ; Antiquity 2020)

Archaeologists in Scotland have discovered an ancient monolith that’s engraved with a spear-holding warrior sporting an “elaborate hairstyle” and “pronounced” butt.

In September 2017, construction workers uncovered the stone monument in the northwest side of Perth in Scotland while clearing the ground to build a new road. They found the stone facedown and buried a little more than 3 feet (1 meter) in the ground

The so-called Tulloch stone is about 6.4 feet (1.9 m) high and 2.3 feet (0.7 m) wide; on one side, it depicts a human figure holding a spear with a “kite-shaped blade and a doorknob-style butt,” the authors wrote in a paper describing the findings, published Jan. 23 in the journal Antiquity.

The stone was buried near a ring ditch, possibly indicating that the monolith was part of a burial, according to the paper. The carving belonged to the Picts, an ancient, Celtic-speaking group that lived in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. (The Romans coined the name “Picts,” meaning the “painted people,” possibly in reference to the Picts’ distinctive tattoos or the war paint they wore.)

In the late Roman period, the Picts helped to defend the area that’s now known as Scotland from multiple Roman attacks; as such, in the early medieval period that followed, war became an important part of how the Picts’ society was organized.

We know from historical records and poetry that “the warrior is an essential part of society, the central part of power,”  said senior author Gordon Noble, a professor in the school of geosciences at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Pictish society adopted a warrior way of life initially as a “form of resistance” against the Roman empire, but it later became an “inspiration” and a key part of their culture, he added.

It’s not clear what the warrior on this monolith — and similar ones previously found nearby depicting warrior figures holding “doorknob-butted spears” — represent, but they could be depictions of warrior gods or religious figures within this war-oriented Pictish ideology, Noble told Live Science. War ideology was common across a large part of Europe but was more typically represented through the burial of weapons with the dead.

Such burials, historical sources and poetry that depict  the “heroic warrior ethos” were common across Northern Europe but largely absent from northern Britain in the first millennium A.D. Rather, in northeastern Scotland, such values were publicly shown with carvings on monuments and likely associated with cemeteries belonging to the elite, the researchers noted in the paper.

The Tulloch stone is only one of three such Pictish monoliths found in the area with carvings of warriors on them. But there have been numerous other Pictish stones found with carvings of abstract or animal symbols often thought to be a simple way of representing names, Noble said.

“Over the last 10 years, it seems like we’ve had a new Pictish stone every year or even more than one every year,” Noble said. “So I’m sure more will come up, but the stones with images of warriors are still quite rare in the wider Pictish stone corpus.” The stone will eventually be put on display in the Perth Museum in Scotland.

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Cyborg locusts could be used to sniff out bombs, scientists say

Could cyborg locusts be the bomb-sniffing dogs of the future?

Scientists who received funding from the U.S. Navy revealed last week that they were able to program the bugs to sense various different smells, including from explosives.

The team’s preprint research paper, published in BioRxiv, states that the insects have been used to detect gases released by substances such as ammonium nitrate – often used by terrorist groups for bomb-making – as well as military explosives TNT and RDX.

The robot-bound locusts were exposed to five different explosives, and it only took 500 milliseconds of exposure for a distinct pattern of activity to appear in the locusts’ brains. The scientists chose locusts because their tiny antennae are filled with about 50,000 olfactory neurons.

 

Scientists put sensors on the insects to monitor neural activity and decode the odors presents in the environment. (Baranidharan Raman)

Scientists put sensors on the insects to monitor neural activity and decode the odors presents in the environment. (Baranidharan Raman) (Baranidharan Raman)

Researchers chose locusts because they are sturdy and can carry heavy payloads, according to the preprint paper. They implanted electrodes into the insects’ brains to analyze their neural activity when they were around different substances.

The U.S. Office of Naval Research had allocated $750,000 for the project back in 2016.

Although the team has not commented about its new work, lead scientist Baranidharan Raman, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University at St. Louis, expressed optimism when he received the grant.

“We expect this work to develop and demonstrate a proof-of-concept, hybrid locust-based, chemical-sensing approach for explosive detection,” Raman told The Source.

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‘Curse tablets’ found in 2,500-year-old Greek well

Archaeologists have unearthed 30 tablets, each engraved with curses, at the bottom of an ancient well in Greece, according to a report.

The small “curse tablets” discovered in the Kerameikos cemetery in Athens invoke the gods of the underworld in order to cause harm, or curse, others.

Jutta Stroszeck, director of the excavation on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, told Greek City Times last week that it’s unclear who ordered the curses because they are never mentioned by name — unlike the recipient.

Curses on tablets were fairly typical practices in ancient Rome and Greece, according to historians. The tablets date back to the fourth century BCE.

Thirty curse tablets have been found in an ancient well in the Athenian cemetery Kerameikos (seen here).

Thirty curse tablets have been found in an ancient well in the Athenian cemetery Kerameikos (seen here). (Chris Hellier/Corbis/Getty)

Christopher Faraone, a professor of classics at the University of Illinois, said that in ancient Athens, most curses were not about killing a person.

“Most of the curses are what we call binding spells: they aim at binding or inhibiting the performance of a rival. A lot of them have to do with legal cases. They say things like, ‘Bind the tongue and the thoughts of so-and-so, who is about to testify against me on Monday,'” Faraone said in a question-and-answer. “We have some that are aimed at rival musicians or actors, and a couple that seem to be connected with athletics. We have some that run something like this, ‘Bind Helen, so that she is unsuccessful when she flirts or makes love with Demetrius.’ But the great majority of them seem to be connected with lawsuits.”

Kerameikos is named after a community of potters that once lived there, according to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Besides tablets, the team also found pottery for drinking, some wooden products, cooking pots, clay lamps and bronze coins.

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4,000-year-old guide to Egyptian underworld could be oldest illustrated ‘book’

Archaeologists have unearthed a 4,000-year-old copy of a guidebook that provided ancient Egyptians with two pathways to a glorious afterlife.

Known as the “Book of Two Ways,” the intricate map could be the first illustrated “book” in history, according to a report in The New York Times.

“The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with life in all its forms,” Rita Lucarelli, an Egyptology curator at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Times. “Death for them was a new life.”
The floor of one of the coffins of Gua, a physician of the governor Djehutyhotep.

The floor of one of the coffins of Gua, a physician of the governor Djehutyhotep. (Werner Forman/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

According to the Times, the guidebook would have provided directions and spells to help Egyptians navigate challenges in the underworld, whether a soul chose to travel by land or by sea, in order to reach the realm of Osiris, the god of death.

Rebirth in ancient Egypt was linked closely to male gods, researchers have noted, and dead women were reportedly expected to adopt the pronoun “he” to be more like Osiris.

“The funny thing is the whole idea of how you survive in the netherworld is expressed in male terms,” study author Harco Willems, an Egyptologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, told New Scientist.

The discovery was described in a paper in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology and gives researchers a better sense of how ancient literature developed.

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Georgia museum devoted to Bigfoot

CHERRY LOG, Ga. (AP) — Along a bustling four-lane highway that winds through the north Georgia mountains, an unassuming wooden structure breaks the monotony of churches, billboards and stores selling kitschy knickknacks.

Once a BYOB supper club, it’s now ground zero in the search for a legendary beast.

Welcome to Expedition: Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum.

“I can remember my great-grandmother talking about having a cabin in the woods, and she saw Sasquatch,” says Sherry Gaskinn of Villa Rica, Georgia, who was driving by one afternoon and had to stop in. “I’ve always been curious.”

Her husband, Phillip Blevins, lets out a skeptical chuckle.

“If it was up to me,” he says, “I’d already be on down the road.”

The owner of this intriguing piece of Americana at the southern edge of the Appalachians is David Bakara, a longtime member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization who served in the Navy, drove long-haul trucks and tended bar before opening the museum in early 2016 with his wife, Malinda.

He’s looking to provide both entertainment and enlightenment in an area known for apple orchards and blazing fall colors.

“I wanted to take what I know about Bigfoot as an active researcher and investigator, but I’m also a huge Disney World fan,” the 57-year-old Bakara says. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe I can make this thing like a family attraction.'”

Instead of Space Mountain, the attraction not far from the Tennessee state line has an elaborate display of Bigfoot laying siege to a remote cabin, with a hatchet-wielding mannequin desperately trying to bar the door as two hairy paws burst over the top. Color-coded maps document hundreds of alleged sightings, a towering reproduction depicts a hairy 8-foot-tall beast, and the famed 1967 video of an alleged Sasquatch sighting plays on a loop, along with harrowing recollections from those who claim to have encountered a Bigfoot.

“The reason I didn’t shoot it is, it was just too human,” a hunter says in one account. “I couldn’t pull the trigger because something told me this ain’t right.”

There’s even a glass case claiming to hold feces collected from a Sasquatch in Oregon.

This Aug. 8, 2019, photo shows a plaster cast of footprints believed to be made by a Bigfoot on display at Expedition: Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum in Cherry Log, Ga. The owner of this intriguing piece of Americana at the southern edge of the Appalachians is David Bakara, a longtime member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization who served in the Navy, drove long-haul trucks and tended bar before opening the museum in early 2016 with his wife, Malinda. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This Aug. 8, 2019, photo shows a plaster cast of footprints believed to be made by a Bigfoot on display at Expedition: Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum in Cherry Log, Ga. The owner of this intriguing piece of Americana at the southern edge of the Appalachians is David Bakara, a longtime member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization who served in the Navy, drove long-haul trucks and tended bar before opening the museum in early 2016 with his wife, Malinda. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Believers continually add to the already ample collection. On a recent day, the mail carrier delivered two casts of footprints supposedly made by foreign Bigfoots.

“You want to see an Australian cast?” Bakara asks, tearing into the package.

He has filled up the former supper club and is planning to expand his museum, which welcomes about 50,000 visitors a year.

For those who think Bigfoot is a phenomenon confined to the Pacific Northwest, where that grainy video from more than five decades ago gave Sasquatch its greatest brush with fame, Bakara is quick to point out countless sightings the world over.

In Australia, the mythical creature is known as Yowie. In the Himalayas, they call it Yeti. In Russia, it goes by Alma.

Closer to home, there’s the Florida Skunk Ape, the Georgia Booger, the Missouri Momo.

“There are several subspecies of these things,” Bakara claims, displaying nothing but sincerity. “Some have short hair. Others have long, red flowing hair. Some are multicolored, almost like a squirrel where’s there’s gray and red and brown mixed together. Some of them have a very human-like face. They just run the gamut.”

He’ll gladly tell you about the time he saw a pair of the elusive beasts.

In 2010, Bakara says, he was summoned by a Florida man who had spotted strange creatures on his property. Using a thermal imager, he and his team were able to make out a pair of creatures emerging from a nearby swamp.

“We took turns looking at them,” he says. “They finally figured out we could see them, so they left.”

Bakara could talk all day about what’s become his life’s work but clams up on the most obvious questions:

What is Bigfoot?

Where did it come from?

“That’s a secret we’re not supposed to know about,” he replies ominously.

Bakara implies that the creatures are the unintended consequence of a government experiment gone haywire, hinting that his life would be disrupted if he ever went public with his entire body of work.

Bakara has been interested in Bigfoot since a young age, spurred on by early news reports and the 1972 cult classic “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” a sort of docudrama about a Sasquatch-like creature supposedly hunkered down in Arkansas.

He knows he’ll never persuade all the people — even most of the people — of Bigfoot’s existence, and he’s fine with that.

“Does everybody need to know everything you know?” Bakara asks. “No. It’s best they don’t know.’

There are doubters, of course.

One person signed the guestbook as “Bigfoot,” listing his home as the “Woods.” In the section that asks “How did you hear about us,” the visitor writes: “People were taking my picture.”

But Bakara says most visitors treat the museum with respect, at least while they’re on the grounds.

“I’m just curious,” says Angie Langellier, who stopped in with her family recently while passing through on a trip from Illinois. “So far, I’ve had nothing that’s convinced me.

“But obviously, a lot of people have seen a lot of things that have convinced them.”

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