The North Pole wasn’t always a winter wonderland. Rewind 90 million years, and scientists think it was probably as warm as parts of Florida. A new clue supporting that idea is a fossilized wing bone belonging to a newly discovered prehistoric bird found in the Canadian Arctic. The duck-size creature looked like a cross between a sea gull and a cormorant, but with a beak full of teeth. It could both fly and dive, and it most likely lived alongside turtles, crocodilelike reptiles and a whole lot of fish. John Tarduno, a geophysicist from the University of Rochester, and his team published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. Scientists aren’t sure why Earth was stifling hot for several million years during the Cretaceous period, but according to Tarduno, the prevailing hypothesis is that the atmosphere was filled with heat-trapping carbon dioxide, most likely the result of extraordinary volcanic activity. The resulting greenhouse effect would have transformed the polar ecosystem into a place where Tingmiatornis arctica and its prey could thrive.
Hawaii’s newest fish named after Obama
While scuba diving among the Pacific’s deep-sea corals in June, marine biologist Richard Pyle spied a tiny fish the size of a toy race car. Googly-eyed and blush pink, the creature wore a prominent splotch of bluish red on the rear of its dorsal fin. The creature just snatched from the far, rarely explored depths of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was a new species. But what to call it? Pyle decided the distinguished red fleck that had initially attracted his attention looked like the logo of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Obama’s home state has not named anything in his honor during his presidency. That changed Pyle and two colleagues officially dubbed the newest member of the basslet family Tosanoides obama.
Supervolcano may be stirring once again
The Italian name for the caldera — Campi Flegrei, or “burning fields” — is apt. The 7.5-mile-wide cauldron is the collapsed top of an ancient volcano, formed when the magma within finally blew. Though half of it is obscured beneath the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean, the other half is studded with cinder cones and calderas from smaller eruptions. The whole area seethes with hydrothermal activity, and things seem to be heating up. In the journal Nature, scientists report that the caldera is nearing a critical point at which decreased pressure on rising magma triggers a runaway release of gas and fluid, potentially leading to an eruption. Forecasting volcanic eruptions is a famously dicey endeavor, and right now, it’s impossible to say if and when Campi Flegrei might erupt. But an eruption would be devastating to the 500,000 people living in and around it. The site’s last major eruption happened over the course of a week in 1538.