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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: An Atmospheric Flip-Flop
18 March 2012 2:00 pm
About 2.45 billion years ago, Earth might have been confused for Titan. Research published today in Nature Geoscience suggests that our planet had the same hazy, methane-rich atmosphere as Saturn's largest moon (pictured). Scientists analyzed 2.65-billion- to 2.5-billion-year-old sediments from South Africa in order to reconstruct past ocean and atmosphere chemistry. They were surprised to find that, rather than a single, consistent past atmospheric state, Earth flip-flopped between "organic haze," or hydrocarbon smog, and "haze-free" conditions. Methane-producing microbes in the ocean, the researchers say, drove these cycles. Some oxygen was being produced by other seafaring microbes, but little of it reached the atmosphere. It was not until about 100 million years later that photosynthetic organisms known as cyanobacteria dominated the seas and injected massive amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere, creating conditions similar to those we enjoy today.
See more ScienceShots.