Mass of Giant Sloths Died Together, and Scientists Can’t Figure out Why

Paleontologists Dig Into a Giant Sloth Boneyard

By Scientific American. . .Fossilization is a fairly rare occurrence to start with. Most lives that ever have been lived left no record of their existence or passing. So when paleontologists come across dense pockets of bone, representing not just one animal but many, how such an ancient treasure trove was assembled is one of the core threads that we can pull on to unravel the mystery of a time long gone. So it is with a massive accumulation of sloths found in Santa Elena, Ecuador.

The site, called Tanque Loma, has just gotten a detailed description from paleontologist Emily Lindsey and colleagues. It’s a fantastically-rich Ice Age bonebed, containing the remains of at least 22 individual Eremotherium laurillardi – one of the largest of the giant ground sloths. What’s more, the bones are entombed in sediment rich in asphalt and the mashed-up plant material found at the site are the sloth’s feces, gut contents, or both. So how did so many sloths wind up buried in the same spot?

First, the asphalt is something of a red herring. This place wasn’t a sticky trap like the famous La Brea asphalt seeps in Los Angeles. Instead, the bonebed was created in a watery environment that was later infiltrated by asphalt. Digging deeper, Lindsey and coauthors write, Tanque Loma was “a low-energy, anoxic, marshy aquatic environment” that sometimes went dry for long enough to let terrestrial plants to grow there. And this backdrop may hold the key to what befell the sloths. . .

But why at this place, and why so many? There are other bonebeds near Tanque Loma, but none contain Eremotherium in such great abundance. And bonebeds like this can form in very different ways. Perhaps the sloths stuck around a dried-up watering hole too long. Maybe some local catastrophe killed a whole bunch of the sloths at once. Maybe this place took victims over time, with mud or some other trapping mechanism preventing sloth after sloth from escaping. Or perhaps ancient humans with a hunger for sloths created this site. (Read more from “Paleontologists Dig Into a Giant Sloth Boneyard” HERE)

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A Bone Bed Reveals Mass Death of Herd of Giant Ground Sloths

By Nature. . .The team found that the animals ranged from juveniles to full-grown adults, hinting that these Ice Age behemoths might have travelled in herds. The site, which has been carbon dated to roughly 18,000 to 23,000 years ago, features copious remains of the beasts’ digested food.

Ground sloths found at other fossil sites died after becoming mired in asphalt seeps. But the authors hypothesize that the Tanque Loma animals might have been gathered in a drying waterhole — as modern-day hippopotamuses do — when they perished of thirst or disease. (Read more from “A Bone Bed Reveals Mass Death of Herd of Giant Ground Sloths” HERE)

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Immune Discovery ‘May Treat All Cancer’

A newly-discovered part of our immune system could be harnessed to treat all cancers, say scientists.

The Cardiff University team discovered a method of killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests. . .

The scientists were looking for “unconventional” and previously undiscovered ways the immune system naturally attacks tumours.

What they found was a T-cell inside people’s blood. This is an immune cell that can scan the body to assess whether there is a threat that needs to be eliminated. . .

“It raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population.” (Read more from “Immune Discovery ‘May Treat All Cancer'” HERE)

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One of the Most Common Ingredients in the Western Diet Has Been Found to Alter Genes in the Brain

The use of soybean oil has increased dramatically over the last few decades, to the extent that is has become the most widely consumed edible oil in the US and other Western nations. However, its rise has coincided with an alarming escalation in metabolic conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity, and a new study indicates that this may be down to the way that soybean oil causes genetic changes in the brain.

Previous research has shown that mice fed a diet that is high in soybean oil are much more likely to develop these conditions than rodents fed on other fats like coconut oil. Further studies hinted that the culprit may be linoleic acid, as mice that consumed soybean oil that had been modified to lack this key ingredient were spared many of these harmful effects.

To better understand how soybean oil produces these negative consequences, scientists decided to investigate its impact on the expression of genes in the hypothalamus, a brain region that regulates metabolism and a range of other essential processes. . .

Writing in the journal Endocrinology, the study authors explain that soybean oil was found to modify the expression of around 100 different genes in the hypothalamus, affecting processes such as metabolism, neurological disease, and inflammation.

Among the altered genes were some that are associated with schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease, although by far the most affected was a gene that codes for the production of a hormone called oxytocin. (Read more from “One of the Most Common Ingredients in the Western Diet Has Been Found to Alter Genes in the Brain” HERE)

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Overweight Terrorist Arrested in Iraq Sparks Stream of Internet Memes

A massive 560-pound jihadi dubbed “Jabba the Jihadi” has been nicked by Iraqi forces, sparking a stream of hilarious Internet memes.

Hate preacher Abu Abdul Bari had to be loaded onto a flatbed truck after he was nabbed in his Mosul bolthole by Iraqi security forces. . .

Macer Gifford, a Brit who fought against the death cult in Syria, tweeted: “I’m delighted to say that the Islamic State’s very own Jabba the Hutt has been captured in Mosul.

(Read more from “Overweight Terrorist Arrested in Iraq Sparks Stream of Internet Memes” HERE)

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Three Mountain Lions Euthanized After Being Found Feeding on a Human Body in Arizona

Wildlife officials in Arizona euthanized three mountain lions this week, after the animals were discovered feeding on the body of a human near a hiking trail north of Tucson.

While authorities do not believe the big cats killed the individual whose remains they were found eating, the Arizona Game and Fish Department killed the mountain lions due to the animals’ “abnormal behavior” toward officers. . .

“Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers. A mountain lion eating human remains is abnormal behavior. Those that do are more likely to attack a human being in the future,” AGBFD Regional Supervisor Raul Vega explained to KVOA-TV. “In addition, they did so 50 yards from a popular hiking trail and within sight of homes, and repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers.” . . .

NBC News reported that deputies from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department found the human remains at the Pima Canyon Trail on Monday “while investigating an incident,” and that authorities believe the individual was already dead before the mountain lions found their body. (Read more from “Three Mountain Lions Euthanized After Being Found Feeding on a Human Body in Arizona” HERE)

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Nudist Resort Burns Down in Major Fire During ‘Nude Year’s Eve’ Party

Firefighters from three states responded to a nudist resort as a major blaze broke out during its “Nude Year’s Eve” party.

Avalon Resort’s lodge, located on 140 acres of woods in Paw Paw, West Virginia, was a total loss, but the pool and bar were spared, firefighters told the Cumberland Times-News. . .

“On New Years Eve we had a fire in the lodge. Thankfully no one (including pets) was injured. The aquatic center was not affected at all. The Nudsino needs some work and clean-up, but can be back up and running. The Bare Barn was untouched,” according to the resort’s Facebook page. “We are temporarily closed but are already working on plans to reopen.” (Read more from “Nudist Resort Burns Down in Major Fire During ‘Nude Year’s Eve’ Party” HERE)

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Hard-Boiled Eggs Recall Expanded in Deadly Listeria Outbreak

Almark Foods has expanded its recall of hard-boiled eggs to include products sold at stores nationwide, including Costco, Walmart, Kroger and Trader Joe’s.

The company first issued the recall Dec. 20 after the Food and Drug Administration linked the eggs to a listeria outbreak that killed one person and caused illness in several others. . .

The affected products have a “Best If Used By” code starting with a “G,” indicating they were made at the Gainesville location. The recall includes hard-boiled or hard-cooked eggs sold under brands such as Egglands Best, Great Day, Giant Eagle, Kirkland Signature, Kroger, Great Value, Lucerne, Simple Truth Organics and ShopRite. (Read more from “Hard-Boiled Eggs Recall Expanded in Deadly Listeria Outbreak” HERE)

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Dead Ponies Found Partially Eaten by Something in a Pasture

A week after investigators closed the book on a rash of mysterious horse attacks along the North Carolina-South Carolina border, reports of four ponies found dead in their pasture surfaced. . .

The Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department is investigating their deaths in Chesnee after meeting with the owner Wednesday, WYFF reported. . .

The owner, James Sexton, told WSPA he found the Welsh Ponies in their pasture off Highway 11 on Dec. 8, when he went to bring them hay and feed.

“Whatever got them ate her throat out and the two black colts, it ate their faces off,” he said, according to WSPA.

An incident report stated there weren’t any wounds indicative of “human-related involvement,” the media outlet reported. (Read more from “Dead Ponies Found Partially Eaten by Something in a Pasture” HERE)

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Man Dies After Triggering His Own Homemade Booby Traps

A Maine man died after setting off his own homemade booby trap on the night of Thanksgiving, according to local authorities.

The Van Buren Police Department announced that 65-year-old Ronald Cyr had died after triggering his homemade security device which fired a handgun, striking the man. Cyr was able to call 911 after being shot by the device, but officers were unable to save him by the time they arrived.

When authorities got to Cyr’s home, they found several similar homemade booby traps, forcing them to contact the Maine State Police Bomb Squad.

(Read more from “Man Dies After Triggering His Own Homemade Booby Traps” HERE)

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Ford Backs Away from Tesla Tug-Of-War, but Musk Is Doing It Anyway

Ford executive Sunny Madra tweeted a challenge to Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday for a rematch of a tug-of-war Tesla conducted between its electric Cybertruck and an F-150 that has been criticized by many, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, for being unfairly matched, to which Elon Musk replied: “Bring it on”.

However, when asked if Tesla had reached out to Ford to set up a competition, a Ford spokeswoman said “Sunny’s tweet was tongue in cheek to point out the absurdity of Tesla’s video, nothing more.”

“With America’s best-selling truck for 42 years, we’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do. We look forward to our all-new F-150 hybrid coming next year and all-electric F-150 in a few years,” she added.

Nevertheless, Musk agreed to do right by deGrasse Tyson’s suggestion that the heavier weight of the battery-powered Cybertruck gave it a traction advantage and that Musk should level the playing field and repeat the test.

(Read more from “Ford Backs Away from Tesla Tug-Of-War, but Musk Is Doing It Anyway” HERE)

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