Month: September, 2017

A French Man Has Regained Consciousness After 15 Years In a Vegetative State

A French man has regained consciousness after 15 years in a vegetative state, doctors reported Monday in the journal Current Biology.

The man, who remains unnamed, was in a car crash at age 20 and has spent the last 15 years in a vegetative state, able to occasionally open his eyes (therefore ruling out a coma, which results in no bodily movement), but with no other signs of awareness.

The study was led by Dr. Angela Sirigu of the Institut des Sciences Cognitives — Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, who, along with a team of researchers, discovered that the key to waking the man up lied in the vagus nerve.




The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve, extending from the colon all the way up through the abdomen, chest, and neck to the brain.

It’s in charge of tasks like regulating heart rate, sweating and controlling muscles in the small intestine. Doctors stimulate the vagus nerve to treat depression and seizures from epilepsy.

Sirigu and her team stimulated the nerve by implanting a device underneath the skin in his chest, similar to a pacemaker, and sending electrical currents along the nerve to the brain stem.

They saw improvement after just a month, but six months later, he was able to move and consciously respond to external stimuli.

The man still suffers severe brain damage and cannot speak, but he was able to follow movement with his eyes, turn his head when someone was speaking to him and even appeared to cry upon hearing his favorite song.

Because traumatic brain injuries have so many different causes, this technique may not work for all patients in similar vegetative states, but it is a key to “challenging the belief that disorders of consciousness persisting after 12 months are irreversible,” states the study.

Vegetative states lasting more than a year are typically seen as lost causes, but this French man isn’t the first person to wake up after long-term unconsciousness lasting over a decade.

Martin Pistorius, from South Africa, was in a vegetative state for 12 years, Terry Wallis of Arkansas woke from a 19-year coma in 2003 and Jan Grzebski, from Poland, woke from his 19-year coma in 2006.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Why Is The Speed Of Light The Speed Of Light?


You may be familiar with the speed of light, but the reason it exists and how we discovered it is pretty fascinating.

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LINKS LINKS LINKS:

PBS Space Time videos:

The Speed of Light is NOT About Light

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msVuC…

The Geometry of Causality

https://youtu.be/1YFrISfN7jo

http://www.iflscience.com/space/solar…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_o…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lene_Hau

https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-the-spe…

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/s…

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Transcript:

So when we talk about the speed of light, the first thing to remember is that light is just a sliver of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from gamma rays to radio waves.

So we’re really talking about the speed of electromagnetism.

James Clerk Maxwell was the genius who first described the properties of electromagnetism into physics equations.

From these equations, we can calculate the speed of light 299,792 kilometers per second.

Einstein was able to prove his theory of special relativity that the closer you get to the speed of light, the more time slows down for a person in that relative frame.

And if you were to go the speed of light, time would stop altogether.

So if you were able to travel faster than light through spacetime, time itself would actually flip. Time would go backward. And that would break causality.

The effect would precede cause, which is impossible. The speed of light is the speed of causality.

The other prediction that supports a speed limit is the idea that inertia increases as velocity approaches the speed of light.That means mass increases.

So mass is a speed impediment. Nothing that has mass can go the speed of light.

But if you are massless, you can only go the speed of light, because you have no speed impediments. And photons are massless particles.

Particles that must travel at the speed of light and because they are traveling at the speed of light, time stands still from its point of view.

So really, that video I talked about earlier is all wrong, from the perspective of the photon, that journey would have occurred instantly.

So when you look at a star at night, that massless photon might have traveled a million light-years to reach you, but its experience was instantaneous.

Now there is another theory that’s a little controversial but starting to gain some ground.

It says that the speed of light is actually caused by quantum vacuum fluctuations.

See, quantum field theory claims that empty space is actually not empty at all but filled with quantum fluctuations and virtual particles popping in and out of existence.

And two different teams of researchers have calculated c using electromagnetic properties of the quantum vacuum, so it could be that the quantum foam of virtual particles and fluctuations may be slowing the speed of light.

But what if the speed of light wasn’t the speed of light?

What if Galileo was right and the speed is infinite?

Then nothing would exist. Because matter is made of energy, it would take infinite energy to create any mass. Time and space wouldn’t exist because all things communicate with each other instantaneously. Cause and effect wouldn’t exist.

But if the speed of light were slower, that might be even cooler. Because then we could see all the way back to the big bang.

The speed of light, of course, is just one of many constants in the universe, like gravity, the specific charges and masses of the fundamental particles, quantum effects, and the list goes on.

A whole handful of very specific constants that if they were just a little bit different, we would never exist.

How To Eat Healthy And Save The Planet

Dieticians and food companies are awaiting the US Department of Agriculture’s highly anticipated new dietary guidelines by the end of this year with one key question in mind: will they include environmental considerations?

The USDA updates its guidelines on what’s healthy for Americans to eat and what’s not every five years. This year, for the first time, the USDA’s advisory panel recommended that those guidelines should also include sustainability.

The government agency is being asked to factor in whether or not a food is good for the planet when deciding whether its healthy.

The move caused a major uproar throughout the food industry, with thousands of commenters arguing that environmental concerns were beyond the scope of the guidelines and that addressing them was an overreach of the USDA’s authority.

The public comment period closed last month and the USDA will be releasing final dietary guidelines by the end of the year.




The finished product may or may not include references to sustainability. Regardless, it’s clear that nutritionists are increasingly drawing connections between health and the environment.

According to Geagan, consumers are driving the push for dietary sustainability – and encouraging dietitians to get onboard.

Consumers aren’t just looking for what’s on the nutrition fact panel anymore – they have a whole list of other things they want to know about and how they define eating right,” she says.

Supermarkets are also looking at the intersections of health and environmental concerns, Geagan adds.

Supermarket dietitians are very interested in this as a way to engage consumers and create value,” she says, pointing to Kroger’s Free From 101+ as a prime example.

The supermarket chain conducted consumer testing and surveyed shoppers to pinpoint 101 ingredients they don’t want in their food, and are now in the process of weeding them out of stores nationally.

Christopher Gardner, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, says he sees the various aspects of sustainability – creating local economies, fair labor practices, animal rights, and environmental impacts – as useful drivers of behavior modification.

I spent decades doing all this research to show people what they should be eating and I had very little success getting anyone to change their diet,” he said during a presentation at the Sustainable Foods Institute in Monterey, CA, last month.

But when I started adding in discussions about animal rights or labor practices or climate change, I saw really meaningful shifts in people’s willingness to change.

The reason, he says, is that most people relate to at least one of those drivers, and that adding multiple reasons to shift a behavior tends to be more effective than focusing on any one.

There may even be a business benefit to shifting the composition of our dinner plates.

Wasserman points out that, while McDonald’s is somewhat locked into the quarter pound beef patty, some newer entrants to the industry – like Five Guys – are offering smaller meat servings.

In the process, they’re delivering health benefits to customers, environmental benefits to the planet, and financial benefits to the company, all without sacrificing quality or customer satisfaction.

It’s hard for people to get jazzed up about changing eating habits for a result they’ll see 10 years from now,” Geagan says.

But framing it as a more immediate payoff or benefit – in terms of weight loss, health, energy, really focusing on the health benefit overlap of these issues, that’s where I think health professionals can really add value to the conversation.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Optical Illusion: How Your Eyes Trick Your Mind

Visual, or optical, illusions show us that our minds tend to make assumptions about the world – and what you think you see is often not the truth.

Throughout history, curious minds have questioned why our eyes are so easily fooled by these simple drawings.

Illusions, we have found, can reveal everything from how we process time and space to our experience of consciousness.

Early illusions

Illusions have a long history, going as far back as the ancient Greeks.

In 350BC, Aristotle noted that “our senses can be trusted but they can be easily fooled”.

He noticed that if you watch a waterfall and shift your gaze to static rocks, the rocks appear to move in the opposite direction of the flow of water, an effect we now call “motion aftereffect” or the waterfall illusion.

Tracking the flow of the water seems to “wear out” certain neurons in the brain as they adapt to the motion.

When you then shift your gaze to the rocks, other competing neurons over-compensate, causing the illusion of movement in the other direction.




Mind shift

The real boom in studying illusions began in the 19th Century. A school of scientists who studied perception – among many other things – created simple illusions to shed light on how the brain perceives patterns and shapes, which kick-started the early theories on how our eyes can play tricks on our mind.

In-depth view

Around the same time, the Ponzo illusion illustrated that context is also fundamental for depth perception.

It shows that identically sized lines can appear to be different lengths when placed between converging parallel lines.

This shows how our sense of perspective works.

Like a train track, the slanted lines make us believe the top line is further away.

This confuses the brain, and it overcompensates, making the line appear bigger – as it would have to be in real life to produce those kinds of proportions.

Early illusions like this appeared at a ground-breaking time for the study of perception, says illusion historian Nicholas Wade from the University of Dundee in Scotland.

They were of interest theoretically because they went against the prevailing view that you could understand vision if you understood the way in which an image is formed in the eye.

The phenomena were small but reliable; they were experimentally tractable and it generated this incredible boom of variations on simple figures.

Yet this period also saw a series of misguided attempts to find a ‘unifying theory’ of illusions. The literature on illusions is “littered with over-interpretations”, says Wade.

As researchers would later discover, our reactions to illusions can be even more complicated than the early pioneers realised.

Today, illusion research is booming once more. Technology advances now allow scientists to peer inside our brains as we look at illusions, and to begin to understand the underlying mechanisms going on inside our head.

ll of this research points to one thing: our visual system remains too limited to tackle all of the information our eyes take in.

For that our brain would need to be bigger than a building, and still then it wouldn’t be enough,” says Martinez-Conde.

And so our minds take shortcuts. Like betting for the best horse in a race, our brain constantly chooses the most likely interpretation of what we see.

Seeing, then, is certainly not always believing.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A NASA Spacecraft Is About To Slingshot Around Earth To Meet Up With An Asteroid

On Friday, a spacecraft the size of an SUV will slingshot around Earth’s South Pole, altering its trajectory through space.

The probe is NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, and its upcoming maneuver around our planet is known as a gravity assist — a way to harness Earth’s gravity to alter its orbit.

The move is critical, since it will put OSIRIS-REx on course to meet up with an asteroid in the fall of 2018.

OSIRIS-REx launched last year with a relatively straightforward purpose: grab a sample of rocks from an asteroid and bring them back to Earth.

If all goes well, the vehicle should retrieve the largest sample ever collected from an asteroid, and give scientists the chance to study the space rock components in more detail than ever before.

But first, the probe has to reach its target — a nearby asteroid named Bennu.




NASA picked Bennu partly because the asteroid’s orbit is similar to Earth’s orbit, and that makes it an easier target to reach.

But their paths aren’t the exact same: Bennu’s orbit is tilted by about six degrees compared to Earth’s. In the past year, OSIRIS-REx has been orbiting in the same plane as Earth, traveling slightly ahead of our planet.

And now it’s time for OSIRIS-REx to match Bennu’s orbit in space.

There are two main options to change a spacecraft’s trajectory: one is to use the vehicle’s onboard engines to propel the spacecraft in a certain direction.

The problem with this option is that it uses up the spacecraft’s finite amount of fuel. And OSIRIS-REx would have needed a lot of fuel to alter its course to reach Bennu in time — more than the vehicle is carrying.

So instead, the probe’s navigators opted to use the second option — a gravity assist. “This was the only option to reach Bennu, launching in 2016,” Michael Moreau, a flight engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said.

This maneuver has been used on many previous space missions, to increase or decrease a spacecraft’s speed and course. It’s essentially an exchange of energy, similar to when a roller coaster speeds up while going down a hill.

When OSIRIS-REx swings by Earth, it will steal a little bit of our planet’s momentum in order to change its orbit. Earth is so massive that the maneuver won’t really affect our planet.

But OSIRIS-REx will change its speed and course by more than 8,400 miles per hour. That’s nearly twice the amount the spacecraft would get if it used up all its fuel.

OSIRIS-REx will approach the Earth at a speed of 19,000 miles per hour, flying over Australia first. It will then make its closest approach to Earth at 12:52PM ET, coming within 11,000 miles of Antarctica.

Around that time, the vehicle will lose contact with NASA since it will be out of range with the space agency’s closest tracking stations.

The blackout should last just 50 minutes, though, and NASA expects to regain communications around 1:40PM ET.

The vehicle is also supposed to come into areas dominated by satellites, but NASA says it has taken steps to make sure no collisions happen during the assist.

After Friday’s maneuver, OSIRIS-REx will cruise through space for another year, reaching Bennu in October.

At that point, the vehicle is supposed to fly around the asteroid for two years, surveying the rock’s surface, before actually grabbing the coveted sample and returning to Earth.

The gravity assist is the first step to getting there, and it’ll allow the mission team to meet up with Bennu exactly when they needed to, while saving on fuel.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Study Says That Plant-Eating Dinosaurs May Have Dined Shellfish On Special Occasions

Think dinosaurs didn’t mix things up at mealtime? Think again.

Researchers studying fossilized dinosaur feces from about 75 million years ago have discovered that at least some plant-eating dinosaurs also snacked on shellfish.

The discovery of crustacean remains in the droppings, described in Scientific Reports, reveals that large herbivorous dinosaurs such as hadrosaurs may have had far more complex eating habits than we usually give them credit for.

We need to refine our presumptions about dinosaur diets,” said lead author Karen Chin, a paleontologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Scientists studying the creatures of the lost world, which was ultimately annihilated by an asteroid some 66 million years ago, typically look at the bones these animals left behind.




But though bones reveal much about an animal’s shape, they reveal only so much about how an animal actually interacted with its environment for example, how it fit into its ecosystem’s complex food web.

That’s why a dinosaur’s poo is a paleontologist’s precious stone. In the rare event that it happens to be deposited in the right environmental conditions to become a fossil, it can reveal much about what a dinosaur was actually eating.

Direct evidence for diet in the fossil record is very rare,” Chin said.

We are usually forced to rely simply on the bones, so we study the teeth and the jaw and other aspects of functional morphology. So when we find coprolites like these … they do provide a different perspective on the diet.”

These particular coprolites were discovered in southern Utah at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s Kaiparowits Formation.

They were dark a sign that they had been filled with rotting wood and were marked by backfilled dung-beetle tunnels.

The researchers could tell that the wood had been rotting before the animals ate it because it was so fragmented. This meant that a tough polymer in the cell walls called lignin had been broken down.

Animals have a tough time eating fresh wood because they can’t properly digest lignin but fungi can, which allows animals to then access the wood’s complex sugars.

Though it might seem weird that a plant-eater would eat rotting tree bits, it’s not totally out of the question, Chin said.

Cattle in Chile are known to eat rotting logs on occasion, probably for the same reason.

Similar wood-filled dinosaur dung had been found in Montana, too, about 1,000 miles or so away from the Utah site.

The really strange component of the dung was this: fragments of what appeared to be crustacean shell in 10 of the 15 specimens studied.

The researchers are not sure exactly what species these crustaceans might be, but the shell comes in tubular shapes reminiscent of appendages and flat, thin-layered structures that would have made up crustaceans’ cuticle, their hard outer layer.

One specimen full of crustacean bits could have been a fluke, but Chin and her colleagues found the shell-filled dung over three different levels of rock.

That implies this eating behavior persisted over time perhaps very long periods of time.

The scientists say the plant-eating dinosaurs were probably hadrosaurs, large duck-billed dinosaurs that ate plants and thrived in the area.

And with rows of teeth housed in their mouths, they would have been one of the few of their plant-eating peers that could chomp through wood and even cuticle.

Why would these animals eat crustaceans? Chin suspects the herbivores couldn’t rely on rotting wood year-round, because there wasn’t enough of it to go around.

The crustaceans may have been eaten along with the rotting wood during breeding season, when the dinosaurs needed extra calcium and protein to lay their eggs, she said.

This idea might have a parallel in the behavior of some birds, which are dinosaurs’ only living descendants.

Chin pointed out that some seed-eating birds look for insects when it comes time to lay eggs, probably seeking out the extra proteins and minerals.

If that’s the case for these dinosaurs, then their eating habits may have been far more complex than previously thought, Chin said.

The findings came as something of a surprise, said Jordan Mallon, a paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa who was not involved in the study.

Duck-billed dinosaurs are a group that we’ve known about for a long time, well over 100 years, and we thought we had them figured out and we thought we had them pinned as these strict herbivores,” Mallon said.

So to find that in fact their feces occasionally contain these crustacean cuticles kind of caught us off-guard.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to discern the animals’ intentions. But scientists can’t help but wonder: Were the crustaceans eaten by accident or by choice?

Chin points out that the shelled animals were probably at least 5 centimeters, big enough that a hadrosaur would have noticed and could have spit it out if it wanted, the way that ducks spit out bits of food they’ve decided aren’t worth eating.

Mallon said he didn’t think the dinosaurs were intentionally eating the crustaceans; in all likelihood, they were an unintentional addition to the meal.

Plenty of ocean animals today end up with plastic or other man-made debris in their guts, Mallon pointed out — trash that offered no nutritional value and should have been avoided.

Yes, animals can be selective, but you don’t have to look very long to find counter-examples in the world today,” he said.

And the fact that both shell and wood were found in the same droppings does not necessarily mean they were part of the same entrée, Mallon said.

They could have been eaten at separate times, but because both are tough materials that take time to digest, they might have ended up making their exit together.

Regardless, he added, the findings highlight how important it is to continue digging into dinosaur droppings.

I think what she’s been showing is that these fossilized blobs of poo are worth looking at a little further,” Mallon said of Chin and her work.

It’s showing that there’s some interesting things to be found in there; that we bear to learn a lot from looking at them.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Bootes Void: A Giant Hole in the Universe


The Boötes Void is giant super void spanning 250 million light years across with almost nothing in it. Its existence has challenged astronomers for decades.

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This Upside-Down Jellyfish Seems Sleeping All The Time

Scientific Name:

Cassiopeia xamachana

Animal Type:

Invertebrates

Diet:

Food produced by tiny plants called zooxanthellae; zooplankton

Size:

Up to 1 foot (30 cm) wide and 2 inches (51 mm) high

Relatives:

Sea nettle, moon jelly; Family: Cassiopeidae

Habitat:

Coastal Waters




Natural History

Down is up for this jelly—it rests its bell on the seafloor and waves its lacy underparts up toward the sun. Why? This jelly is a farmer.

Its brownish color is caused by symbiotic algae living inside the jelly’s tissues. By lying upside-down, the jelly exposes its algae to the sun, allowing it to photosynthesize.

The jelly lives off food the algae produce, as well as zooplankton.

An upside-down jelly doesn’t have a central mouth—instead, the edges of its eight oral arms are fused and folded into elaborate frills containing hundreds of tiny mouth openings.

The mouth openings are connected by channels to its stomach. By pulsing its bell, it forces zooplankton into the nematocysts on its mouth openings.

Conservation

Upside-down jellies are more vulnerable than jelly species that live in the open ocean or the deep sea. They live in mangrove forests and shallow lagoons along tropical coasts.

Mangrove forests are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth; they’re constantly under siege from coastal development or questionable farming practices.

People clear mangroves to build hotels, housing and fish farms. Pollution flows into mangrove forests from these coastal developments, endangering all life in this rich forest habitat.

Cool Facts

This jelly is rarely found alone—it flips upside-down alongside others of its kind. Turned upside-down, with stubby oral arms pointed toward the sun, the jelly looks like a flower. It can grow to the size of a pie plate.

This jelly is a favorite meal for ocean sunfish and the endangered leatherback sea turtle.

The upside-down jelly uses its bell much like a suction cup to stick to the seafloor.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Why It Is So Hard To Predict Where And When Earthquakes Will Strike?

Can earthquakes ever be predicted? This question is timely after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal recently. If authorities had more warning that the earthquake was coming, they may have been able to save more lives.

While Nepal is a documented area of previous seismic activity, at the moment there is no technique that provides predictions of sufficient clarity to allow for evacuations at short notice.

So if we cannot predict these events now, are there avenues of research to provide useful predictions in the future?

The key word here is “useful”. It is possible to make long-term forecasts about future earthquake activity, partly by using the past record of earthquakes as a guide.

There is no reason to believe that a region of the Earth is going to behave differently in the next few thousands of years from its pattern over the same range back in time.




In the short term, seismologists can draw on data from recording stations, with records going back roughly 40 years on a global scale.

Within hours of a major earthquake there are estimates of its epicentre, magnitude (the amount of energy released), the depth at which it originated, the orientation of the geological fault that caused it and the direction in which it moved.

The event in Nepal was a thrust fault, meaning that the upper part of the Earth was shortened by a few metres, with the rock lying above the fault plane moving southwards over the rock lying beneath it.

Gathering the data

Information about past earthquakes comes from a number of sources, not least historical records. But such records are incomplete, even in earthquake-prone countries with long traditions of documenting natural disasters, such as China and Iran.

Other lines of evidence are available, including measuring and dating the offsets of man-made or natural features that can be accurately dated, such as the walls of a castle or a city. Faults cutting the Great Wall of China have been documented in this way.

Seismologists also dig trenches across faults known or suspected to be active, and can recover rocks and sediments affected by earthquakes.

These events can dated, for example by radiocarbon analysis of plant remains disturbed by the faulting.

By combining the earthquake ages with the size of the damaged areas, it is possible to understand earthquake patterns over hundreds or even thousands of years.

Scientists use this information as a guideline for future behaviour, but it is clear that the faults do not slip after the same period of time between earthquakes.

Nor does a fault necessarily rupture in the same place in successive earthquakes.

An earthquake releasing stress along one fault segment may place more stress on an adjacent region, thereby increasing the earthquake likelihood in that area.

This may occur soon after the original event, which explains the phenomenon of aftershocks. Nepal has already seen aftershocks of a magnitude greater than six, and is likely to see more.

Global hotspots

Instrumental and historical records combine to make a global picture of earthquake activity. There are, unfortunately, many danger areas.

Eurasia bears the brunt, because of the collision of the Indian and Arabian plates with the rest of Eurasia. Therefore China, Iran, Pakistan and India all share Nepal’s susceptibility to large earthquakes.

Other danger areas lie along the margins of the Pacific and Indian oceans, where one plate slides under another in a process called subduction. Earthquakes at such plate boundaries can cause devastating tsunamis, like in Japan in 2011.

Newer lines of research include precise measurements of the movement of a fault during earthquakes and the motion of the Earth’s surface between earthquakes.

Across the Himalayas there is around 20mm of convergence (shortening) every year, roughly half of the overall convergence between the Indian and Eurasian plates.

The remainder is accommodated further north, in ranges such as the Tian Shan and the Tibetan Plateau.

In other words, every year a person in Siberia becomes roughly 40 mm closer to a person in central India, as the Earth’s crust deforms across the broad region between them.

This strain builds up over time and is released in an earthquake like the snapping of an elastic band.

Faster strain, longer faults and greater strength in the upper part of the Earth in a particular region can all lead to larger earthquakes.

The Himalayas feature a deadly combination of these factors, leading to very large events of the kind experienced on April 25.

It is not sensible to be naively optimistic about improvements in earthquake prediction, but all research on the past and present behaviour of active faults is to be welcomed.

It is timely that the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has just announced funding for research into earthquakes and resilience to earthquakes.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Giant Frog From Hell Ate Baby Dinosaurs

Name:

Beelzebufo (Greek for “devil frog”); pronounced bee-ELL-zeh-BOO-foe

Habitat:

Woodlands of Madagascar

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About a foot and a half long and 10 pounds

Diet:

Insects and small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; unusually capacious mouth




About Beelzebufo (Devil Frog)

Slightly outweighing its contemporary descendant, the seven-pound Goliath Frog of Equatorial Guinea, Beelzebufo was the largest frog that ever lived, weighing about 10 pounds and measuring nearly a foot and a half from head to tail.

Unlike contemporary frogs, which are mostly content to snack on insects, Beelzebufo must have chowed down on the smaller animals of the late Cretaceous period, perhaps including baby dinosaurs and full-grown “dino-birds” in its diet.

Reprising a common theme, this prehistoric amphibian evolved to its giant size on the relatively isolated Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, where it didn’t have to deal with the large, predatory, theropod dinosaurs that ruled the earth elsewhere.

Recently, researchers investigating a second fossil specimen of Beelzebufo made an amazing discovery: as big as it was, this frog may also have sported sharp spikes and a semi-hard, turtle-like shell along its head and back.

Presumably, these adaptations evolved to keep the Devil Frog from being swallowed whole by predators, though they may also have been sexually selected characteristics, the more heavily armored males being more attractive to females during Devil Frog mating season.

This same team also determined that Beelzebufo was similar in appearance to, and perhaps related to, horned frogs, genus name Ceratophrys, which today live in South America–which may hint at the exact time of the breakup of the Gondwanan supercontinent toward the end of the Mesozoic Era.

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Pass it on: Popular Science