Science briefs: Flying reptiles were a social lot

  • Updated: June 21, 2014 - 4:25 PM
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A fossilized pterosaur egg, in an undated handout photo. The discovery of intact eggs, along with dozens of pterosaur fossils, in China suggests that the creatures nested in large groups. (Maurilio Oliveira via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED SCI WATCH BY SINDYA N. BHANOO. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. ORG XMIT: XNYT48

Scientists have discovered the first intact eggs from pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs. Scientists report in the journal Current Biology that the pterosaurs belong to a new genus and species, Hamipterus tianshanensis, dating to the Early Cretaceous, 145 million to 100 million years ago. They had wingspans of five to 11 feet. About 40 fossils, both male and female, were recovered from the site, said senior author Alexander W.A. Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “This is the best evidence showing that at least this new pterosaur species was gregarious, meaning that several lived together, perhaps nested together,” he said. The pterosaurs may have buried their eggs in sand along an ancient lake to keep them from drying out.

480 new wheat varieties, one world food prize

A scientist credited with developing hundreds of varieties of disease-resistant wheat adaptable to many climates and difficult growing conditions was named as the 2014 recipient of the World Food Prize. Sanjaya Rajaram, 71, won the $250,000 prize founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug that honors vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Rajaram — who was born in a village in the Uttar Pradesh state in India, where people lived on very little — is credited with developing 480 wheat varieties that have been released in 51 countries on six continents. The next big challenge, he said, is developing plants with more drought tolerance, staving off the effects of saltwater intrusion as oceans rise, and other issues related to climate change. Secretary of State John Kerry said that by inventing heartier crops and new species, Rajaram led an effort to save 1 billion lives.

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