Tag: rainforest

Lost Cities In The Amazon Rainforest Were Home To A Million People Before Europeans Arrived

Aerial photo of archaeological site Mt05, a circular enclosure located in the Amazon rainforest containing evidence of pre-Columbian societies living there ( José Iriarte )

Up to a million people once lived in parts of the Amazon previously thought to have been uninhabited, according to new findings.

Working in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team led by archaeologists at the University of Exeter unearthed hundreds of villages hidden in the depths of the rainforest.

These excavations included evidence of fortifications and mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs.

The discovery supports the theory that millions of people lived in the Amazon prior to the arrival of Europeans – who eradicated much of the indigenous population through a combination of disease and warfare.

“The idea of Amazonia as a paradise that has never been touched by humans is not true,” Dr Jonas Gregorio de Souza, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter said.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Gregorio de Souza and his colleagues describe their exploration of a 1800 km stretch of southern Amazonia that was occupied by pre-Columbian “earth-building cultures” until around 1500.

Researchers have traditionally assumed ancient Amazonian communities stuck close to the region’s river systems.

Early estimates for the population of the Amazon prior to the arrival of Europeans were therefore fairly conservative – around one million for the entire region.

Part of the ditch of archaeological site Mt09 in the southern Amazon (José Iriarte)

However, the new findings suggest the occupation of the Amazon was far more extensive, with settlements spreading far inland.

This gives weight to recent estimates that the population of the region was closer to ten million at the time of European arrival.

As with other parts of the Amazon and South America as a whole, the arrival of Europeans in the form of Portuguese explorers and colonisers likely led to the collapse of these once-flourishing societies.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Tiny Prehistoric Frogs Trapped In Amber Show That Death Comes At You Fast

Four pieces of amber found in Myanmar contain ancient fossilized frogs.

Life’s too short. By the time you’ve figured a few things out, the years have slipped away. All you can do is love others, let yourself be loved, and try to leave the world a better place.

Unfortunately, the same can’t necessarily be said for a group of Cretaceous frogs that got trapped in tree sap and preserved in amber, which a team of scientists described in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday.

It’s impossible to say whether these 99-million-year-old frogs loved each other, but as the oldest frogs to be found preserved in amber and the oldest evidence of frogs inhabiting wet tropical forests, they definitely died before they got a chance to see the legacy they left the world.

These days, we’re used to picturing frogs in wet, hot climates, but we don’t know for sure when they began to occupy their preferred ecosystem.

Scientists believe that frogs emerged over 200 million years ago, but as with many animals, there exist major gaps in that fossil record, large swaths of evolutionary time for which we have no direct evidence.

In this new paper, researchers write that four small pieces of amber found in Myanmar contain evidence that could help fill in the frog’s evolutionary timeline.

These amber fossils provide direct evidence that frogs inhabited wet tropical forests before the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous,” Lida Xing, an associate professor at China University of Geosciences in Beijing and first author on the paper.

By studying the remains of these four frogs, which are each about 22 millimeters long — as well as the plant, insect, and spider remains trapped in the amber with them — Xing and his colleagues established that about 99 million years ago frogs lived in an environment similar to ones that they currently inhabit.

The study’s authors dubbed the species Electrorana limoae, from the Latin words for “amber” (electrum) and “frog” (rana), as well as Mrs. Mo Li, “who purchased and provided these specimens for study,” they write.

These four pieces of amber (specimen B and D are each shown from multiple angles) are the oldest amber-preserved frogs ever found.

And while the researchers were fortunate to come into possession of the specimens, the quality of the remains did pose issues.

As you can see, the frog remains are either ripped apart or curled up, and not one of them remained intact.

Fortunately, micro-CT scans allowed the researchers to penetrate the amber to get a better look at the frogs’ anatomies and figure out where they sit in the evolutionary tree.

They determined that E. limoae is likely an ancestor of these existing species, as well as some that have been long extinct.

Living in a wet environment, most frog specimens from E. limoae’s home environment had no chance of being preserved as fossils, so this amber from Myanmar gave scientists a rare opportunity to glimpse into the tree of life and add one more piece to the puzzle of evolution.

I can only hope that there are more spectacular fossils to come,” Blackburn tells National Geographic. “In today’s tropical forests, there is a rich diversity of living frog species.

“So, there might be many more species to discover still in the Cretaceous amber from Myanmar.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Company Dumps Thousands of Tons of Orange Peels onto Land. 16 Years Later, It Turns Something Surprising

Unfortunately, the world we live in today has countries all around the world burning down rainforests to fuel capitalist industries while leaving many acres of land deforested.

One example of these barren lands was Costa Rica.

Fortunately, there are some people out there who are trying to save these ecosystems – ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs.

In the 1990s, the two of them approached orange juice manufacturer Del Oro and exchanged a deal for them to donate a part of their land in exchange for the ecologists granting permission for them to deposit agricultural waste on the degraded land for free.

Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on that land.

Over the years, Del Oro offloaded over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, orange compost onto the worn-out plot until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park.

TicoFruit won the lawsuit and the land went overlooked for over a decade.

A sign was placed on the site for researchers to locate and study it if they wanted to.

16 years later, environmental researches decided to evaluate the site and discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass.

The researchers concluded that regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us reduce the carbon footprint we create.

With so many food companies out there that need a way to eliminate their food waste, this is the perfect opportunity for recycling at its best.

Thanks to these two humble ecologists, they may have discovered something that could impact the future of our planet for the better.

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Pass it on: Popular Science