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19 December 2013 12:36 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
After 20 years of trying, researchers have finally convicted massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia as the culprit in...
Five federally funded optical and radio telescopes in the United States could be forced to shut down over the next 3...
A 2-year budget agreement pushes back the threat of sequestration but leaves scientists still wondering how much money...
After a decade away from physics, Robert Laughlin, a Nobel laureate at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California,...
Computer scientists and others have teamed up to persuade the 117 state parties to the Convention on Certain...
The swine flu pandemic of late 2009 had a peculiar aftereffect in parts of Europe: a spike in children being diagnosed...
- 19 December 2013 12:36 pm , Vol. 342 , #6165
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ScienceShot: Snake Legs—Going, Going, Gone
7 February 2011 4:10 pm
Snakes evolved from four-limbed ancestors, and scientists have long wondered how they lost their legs. A new type of CT scan of a 95-million-year-old fossil suggests how genetics stunted the limbs’ growth. Using a newly developed x-ray technique called synchrotron-radiation computed laminography, researchers probed details of the vestigial hind limbs of the ancient marine snake Eupodophis descouensi. Each pixel in images of the rock-cloaked bones was barely more than 30 micrometers across. By virtually reconstructing an 0.8-centimeter-long limb, layer by thin layer, the researchers found that—unlike the snake’s vertebrae and most of its other bones—the leg bones didn’t have thick-walled shafts. That’s a clue, the researchers say in a paper scheduled to be published online today by the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, that the limbs were small because they grew either much more slowly or for a much shorter time than did the other bones.
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