In AD 132, Zhang Heng of China’s Han dynasty invented the first seismoscope (by the definition above), which was called Houfeng Didong Yi (literally, “instrument for measuring the seasonal winds and the movements of the Earth”). The description we have, from the History of the Later Han Dynasty, says that it was a large bronze vessel, about 2 meters in diameter; at eight points around the top were dragon’s heads holding bronze balls. When there was an earthquake, one of the mouths would open and drop its ball into a bronze toad at the base, making a sound and supposedly showing the direction of the earthquake.
On at least one occasion, probably at the time of a large earthquake in Gansu in AD 143, the seismoscope indicated an earthquake even though one was not felt. The available text says that inside the vessel was a central column that could move along eight tracks; this is thought to refer to a pendulum, though it is not known exactly how this was linked to a mechanism that would open only one dragon’s mouth. The first ever earthquake recorded by this seismograph was supposedly somewhere in the east. Days later, a rider from the east reported this earthquake.
Contributing Source : Click Here
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Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. Unique amongst megalithic monuments, Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe, and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain.
Constructed around 2600 BC, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises a large henge(that is a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.2 : Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks. It is in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Archaeologists believe it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating in 2008 suggested that the first stones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, whilst another theory suggests that bluestones may have been raised at the site as early as 3000 BC.
The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned bythe Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle in Orkney, Scotland. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception, ranking with Avebury (and to a lesser extent Stonehenge) among the greatest of such sites. The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between theLochs of Stenness and Harray.
These are the northernmost examples of circle henges in Britain. Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle, but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that wooden structures, for example, may be present. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.4 : The Callanish Stone
The Callanish Stones, are situated near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles of Scotland). Construction of the site took place between 2900 and 2600 BC, though there were possibly earlier buildings before 3000 BC.
The tallest of the stones marks the entrance to a burial cairn where human remains have been discovered. An excavation campaign in 1980 and 1981 showed that the burial chamber was a late addition to the site, and that it had been modified a number of times. Pottery finds suggested a date of 2200 BC for the erection of the circle.5 : Castlerigg Stone Circle
The stone circle at Castlerigg is situated near Keswick inCumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
Various archaeologists have commented positively on the beauty and romance of the Castlerigg ring and its natural environment. Current thinking has linked Castlerigg with the Neolithic Langdale axe industry in the nearby Langdale fells, with the circle acting as a meeting place where these axes were traded or exchanged.
Ritually deposited stone axes are frequently found all over Britain, suggesting that their use went far beyond their mundane practical capabilities. Because of this, any exchange or trading of stone axes may not have been possible without first taking part in a ritual or ceremony. Castlerigg stone circle could have been the space in which these rituals and ceremonies were enacted.6 : Swinside Stone Circle
Swinside, which is also known as Sunkenkirk and Swineshead, is a stone circle lying beside Swinside Fell, part ofBlack Combe in southern Cumbria, North West England. it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC.
The stones used in the construction of Swinside were porphyritic slate collected from the adjacent fells, and are of the type that was known locally as ‘grey cobbles’ by the 20th century. The ring has a diameter of about 93 ft 8ins (26.8m), and currently contains 55 stones, although when originally constructed there probably would have been around 60.
The Rollright Stones are a complex of three Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monuments located near to the village ofLong Compton on the borders of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire in the English Midlands.
8 : Mitchell’s Fold
Constructed from local oolitic limestone, the three separate monuments, now known as The King’s Men, The King Stone and The Whispering Knights, are each distinct in their design and purpose, and were each built at different periods in late prehistory. The stretch of time during which the three monuments were erected here bears witness to a continuous tradition of ritual behaviour on sacred ground, from the 4th to the 2nd millennium BC.
Mitchell’s Fold (sometimes called Medgel’s Fold or Madges Pinfold) is a Bronze Age stone circle in South-West Shropshire, located near the small village of White Grit on dry heathland at the south-west end of Stapeley Hill in the civil parish of Chirbury with Brompton, at a height of 1083 ft (330m)
As with most sites of this type, its true history is unknown. The name of the circle may derive from ‘micel’ or ‘mycel’, Old English for ‘big’, referring to the size of this large circle.
Its doleritic stones came from nearby Stapeley Hill. Many of them are now missing and others are fallen. In the beginning there may have been some thirty stone pillars. The survivors that still stand range in height from 10ins to 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), and stand in an ellipse 89 ft (27 m) NW-SE by 82 ft (25 m) The tallest is at the south-east end of the major axis, standing, perhaps by coincidence or design, close to the line of the southern moonrise. This pillar and a companion have been taken to flank an entrance about 6 ft (1.8 m) wide.9 : Long Meg and Her Daughters
Long Meg and Her Daughters is a Bronze Age stone circle near Penrith in Cumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC. The stone circle is the sixth-biggest example known from this part of north-western Europe, being slightly smaller than the rings at Stanton Drew in Somerset, the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney and Newgrange in County Meath.
It primarily consists of 59 stones (of which 27 remain upright) set in an oval shape measuring 100 m on its long axis. There may originally have been as many as 70 stones. Long Meg herself is a 3.6 m high monolith of red sandstone 25 m to the southwest of the circle made by her Daughters. Long Meg is marked with examples of megalithic art including acup and ring mark, a spiral and rings of concentric circles.10 : Stanton Drew stone circles
The Stanton Drew stone circles are just outside the village of Stanton Drew in the English county of Somerset. The largest stone circle is the Great Circle, 113 metres (371 ft) in diameter and the second largest stone circle in Britain (after Avebury); it is considered to be one of the largest Neolithic monuments to have been built. It was made a scheduled monument in 1982.
The Great Circle was surrounded by a ditch and is accompanied by smaller stone circles to the north east and south west.There is also a group of three stones, known as The Cove in the garden of the local pub. Slightly further from the Great Circle is a single stone, known as Hautville’s Quoit. Some of the stones are still vertical, however the majority are now recumbent and some are no longer present.
Contributing Source : WikiPedia
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Hawkins’s models, which still stand in Crystal Palace Park in London, were the first life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs. They gripped the public imagination, and dinosaurs have never left it since.
Yet today, dinosaurs are stereotypical symbols of failure, because, apart from birds, none of their lineage have survived. A massive meteorite strike caused their mass extinction about 65 million years ago. But this event negatively skews our perception of the dinosaur story. In fact, far from failures, dinosaurs were highly successful.
Dinosaurs reigned as the dominant large vertebrates on land for 135 million years, twice the length of time of mammal dominance which followed the dinosaur extinction. During this time dinosaurs diversified into more than 1,000 ecologically and morphologically diverse species. They lived on all continents including Antarctica and ranged in size from pigeon-sized species weighing less than 1 kg up to 70 tonne herbivorous giants that were the largest animals to ever walk on land. While most attention has been on their extinction, a more interesting question is: how and why did the dinosaurs become so successful?
Our research team at the University of Birmingham and theLapworth Museum are hoping to unravel the story of dinosaur origins in the Triassic period. Now is an exciting time to research dinosaurs. In the last two decades the rate of discovery of new dinosaur fossils and species has rapidly increased – a new dinosaur species is now named every 1.5 weeks. Our research team alone has described 11 new species since 2005.
The first dinosaurs appear in the fossil record around 240 million years ago, in the Middle Triassic. Growing evidence suggests that dinosaur origins may have formed part of the long-term recovery of ecosystems from the Permo-Triassic (PT) mass extinction. The PT extinction was the most severe in the history of Earth, and was probably driven by intense volcanic eruptions and associated rapid climate change. This extinction decimated many of the earlier reptile and amphibian groups, and may have created environmental space for dinosaurs and other new groups to evolve.
For the first 40 million years of their evolution dinosaurs remained the minority in a world ruled by other reptile groups – those with obscure names such as therapsids, aetosaurs and rauisuchians. Our research is focused on understanding this “long fuse” in dinosaur evolution. By combining evolutionary trees with data such as body size, we are able to quantitatively and explicitly test hypotheses about the timing, rate and processes of the dinosaur radiation.
At the end of the Triassic, 200 million years ago, many of the other reptile groups died out in the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction, again linked to massive volcanic activity and climate change. Dinosaurs survived, and rapidly increased in diversity and underwent dramatic size increases, marking the onset of the age of dinosaurs.
Why dinosaurs survived this extinction, but other groups of reptiles did not, is still poorly understood. However, as palaeontologists understand more about dinosaur biology, we are beginning to recognise that unique features such as rapid growth rates or highly efficient bird-like lungs may have helped dinosaurs prosper as others died out.
The story of dinosaur evolution appears, therefore, to have been driven by three enormous extinctions caused by rapid, traumatic and massive environmental change. The first, at the end of the Permian, created environmental space for dinosaurs to evolve. The second, at the end of the Triassic, allowed dinosaurs to rise to dominance and evolve seemingly unfeasible body sizes. And the third, at the end of the Cretaceous, brought the dinosaurs their doom.
As we head into another mass extinction, this time driven by humans, the fossil record, including that of dinosaurs, provides unique insights into the role of mass extinction in shaping and altering the course of evolutionary history.
Header Image : Wiki Commons
Contributing Source : The Conversation
The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.
Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.
The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.
Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.
“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”
The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads. During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.
“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.
“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”
The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.
Header Image Credit : Oregon State University
Contributing Source : Oregon State University
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Over time, the monkeys forged their own niches across the New World, evolved new forms and spread as far north as the Caribbean and as far south as Patagonia.
Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Richard Kay applied decades’ worth of data on geology, ancient climates and evolutionary relationships to uncover several patterns in primate migration and evolution in the Americas. The analysis appears online this week in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
Today, more than 150 species of monkeys inhabit the New World, ranging in size from the pygmy marmoset, which weighs little more than a bar of soap, to the muriqui, a long-limbed monkey that tips the scales at 25 pounds.
“We know from molecular studies that the monkeys have their closest relatives in Africa and Asia — but that doesn’t explain how they got to South America, just that they did,” said Kay, a professor in the evolutionary anthropology department and division of earth and ocean sciences at Duke.
South America split from Africa long before monkeys evolved, and the scarcity of monkey ancestors in the North American fossil record makes a southward migration highly unlikely. That’s led scientists to speculate that the animals made the ambitious transatlantic crossing on a vegetation raft, perhaps hurled seaward by a powerful storm. Or, they could have hopped more gradually, using islands that now lie at the bottom of the ocean.
About 11 million years passed between their arrival and the first fossil evidence of monkeys in the Americas, leaving the details of their early evolution an unknown ‘ghost lineage.’ The humid, heavily forested environment of what is now the Amazon Basin has made both fossil formation and modern-day discovery difficult, but understanding what happened there is the key to New World monkey evolution.
“However they got to South America, they were evolving in the Amazon Basin, and from time to time they managed to get out of the basin,” Kay said. “So if you want to learn about what was going on in the Amazon, you have to look at its periphery.” Luckily, Kay said, scientists can do that in places like Chile and Patagonian Argentina, where he has worked collaboratively for the past quarter century.
“We know the Amazon has been warm and wet for a very long time, and that from time to time we got expansions and contractions of these climatic conditions, like an accordion.”
The Amazon Basin functioned as a reservoir of primate biodiversity. When climate and sea level were just right, the animals spread and new species emerged in peripheral regions — Patagonia, the Caribbean islands, Central America — where the geology was more conducive to fossil preservation. Kay has uncovered and meticulously studied the monkey fossils from these areas to piece together their evolutionary relationships.
“The gold standard is molecular evidence,” he said. By sequencing the DNA of living monkeys, scientists have come to a clear consensus of how the different species and genera are related. But genetic material deteriorates, so researchers studying extinct species must rely on a proxy: the minute differences in shape, size and structure in fossilized bones. “It’s the only tool we have,” said Kay, but “it does a pretty good job.”
Kay studied 399 different features of teeth, skulls and skeletons from 16 living and 20 extinct monkey species from South America and Africa. Then, using software that reconstructs evolutionary relationships, he built a family tree. He compared that to a second tree, built strictly from the molecular studies of living species, to see if the two types of studies affirmed or contradicted one another. Except for a few cases, the trees looked remarkably similar, validating conclusions based on the anatomy of fossils.
Kay also looked at how long-term changes in South America’s ancient climate, mountain-building and fluctuating sea levels might make sense of the evolutionary pattern revealed by the monkey fossils. His research zeroes in on when and how monkeys extended their ranges to the Caribbean islands and the far southern end of South America, which is thousands of miles south of where they now live and only 600 miles from Antarctica.
The analysis further explains why the lineages that evolved outside the Amazon Basin were evolutionary dead ends. When the climate in Patagonia, for instance, turned cool and arid, the primates there went extinct, leaving no living descendants. Within the past 6,000 years, monkeys of the Caribbean islands also went extinct as a result of the appearance of humans and/or sea level rise. The paper suggests these monkeys came from South America rather than Central America, floating there by chance, the same way their ancestors crossed the Atlantic.
Contributing Source : Duke University
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