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Not your typical ghost town

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It may not seem like much today, but at the turn of the century the boomtown of Rhyolite was the talk of Nevada. Gold was discovered there in 1904, and by 1907 the town had 10,000 residents, three railroads stopped there and by comparison the tiny desert outpost of Las Vegas was little more than a waystation for people on their way to Rhyolite.

Unlike most boom towns, though, Rhyolite was more than a tent city and a few scattered structures -- assuming their town was destined to be the next major city on the ever-expanding map of the American West, they built Rhyolite to last. It featured a grid of streets, a railroad depot, a two-story schoolhouse, a three-story concrete bank, and at least 50 saloons. (This proliferation of watering holes explains why Rhyolite boasted three houses made from cemented-together beer and champagne bottles, one of which still stands.)

The bottle house:
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As a result, a number of structures remain, and wandering its now-desolate streets one gets a sense of what it must've been like to live here. But just as quickly as Rhyolite boomed, it went bust: in 1908, the mines began to peter out, and the double-whammy of the San Francisco earthquake (1906) and the financial panic of 1907 effectively dried up investment money which might've searched for new mines. By 1910, the population was down to 675, they turned the lights and power off in 1916 and by 1920 just twenty people eked out their lives in there -- in the dark -- some of whom are buried in its cemetery. (The ghost cemetery of a ghost town; yes, it's as creepy and evocative as it sounds. See pictures.)

A wooden grave marker in Rhyolite cemetery:
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These days, Rhyolite is the site of occasional movie shoots (a scene from Michael Bay's The Island was shot here) and serves as a potent warning to would-be investors of every stripe: before you build in concrete, test the market with a tent city first.

More pictures after the jump!

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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