Dalmatian Mountain

This pattern of black and white was created by a combination of ash from Iceland’s 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, snow on a nearby slope that survived until the middle of summer, dark exposed volcanic rock, and occasional patches of moss. The ash was sculpted into certain areas by the blowing winds as it fell – the same winds carried much of the eruption’s ash southeast towards Europe, disrupting air travel across the continent.


Image credit: http://imaggeo.egu.eu/view/1870/

Populations of bacteria live in the spumes of volcanic thermal vents on the ocean floor, multiplying in water above the boiling point. And far beneath Earth’s surface, to a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) or more, dwell the SLIMES (subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems), unique assemblages of bacteria and fungi that occupy pores in the interlocking mineral grains of igneous rock and derive their energy from inorganic chemicals. The SLIMES are independent of the world above, so even if all of it were burned to a cinder, they would carry on and, given enough time, probably evolve new life-forms able to re-enter the world of air and sunlight.
—  Edward O. Wilson

New evidence for palaeoenvironmental conditions across the Nullarbor Plain.

New research, from a team led by Dr Simon Holford, shows the now arid Nullarbor Plain was full of fast flowing rivers during the Cretaceous period.

But what is the Nullarbor?

The Nullarbor (from the Latin meaning no tree), is the world’s single largest piece of limestone, and is about 200,000 square km in area. The limestone was deposited in a shallow sea, as evidenced by the presence of foraminifera, echinoids, bryozoans, and red algae fossils. The climate of the Nullarbor today is typical of a desert, with temperature reaching up to 48.5 °C during the day, and reaching freezing conditions at night.

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Complex multicellular organisms may have evolved earlier than we thought

Recently, researchers in China discovered fossils of multicellular life forms that are over 600 million years old. The researchers found that their fossils possessed features characteristic of complex multicellular life similar to modern multicellular organisms, like cell specialization, cell differentiation, adhesion between cells, and programmable cell death.

This discovery may sound fairly innocuous, but what makes it stand out is that these fossils are 60 million years older than the oldest known fossils of complex multicellular organisms. The sudden boom of complex multicellular organisms in the geologic record — animals with supporting skeletons, shells, and multiple appendages — is famously known as the Cambrian explosion, which occurred 540 million years ago. Before the emergence of complex, multi-limbed organisms, communities of unicellular and simple multicellular bacteria and algae had ruled the Earth for over 2 billion years.

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