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Dinosaurs Evolved Faster Than We Thought

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Paleontologists have long believed that dinosaurs evolved from their early ancestors into the creatures we’re familiar with over the course of at least 10 million years. Now, a recent study suggests that this process may have occurred much faster than we thoughtwithin a period of less than 5 million years.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, illustrates how Randall Irmis of the Natural History Museum of Utah and his colleagues used radioactive dating to analyze the rocks found around some of the earliest fossils of these ancient relatives to the dinosaur. The dating put the sediments somewhere between 234 million and 236 million years old, which would make the fossils the same age. 

The main differences between the dinosaurs and their predecessors were the dinosaurs' ball-and-socket hip joints and extra vertebrae at the end of their spines, which helped to strengthen their hips. Their early ancestors, which are part of the broad dinosauromorph group along with dinosaurs, have been dated by scientists before using a technique called biostratigraphy. The method employed in this most recent study is much more accurate, which is why the early dinosauromorphs have been found to live 5 to 10 million years earlier than paleontologists previously believed. These new findings suggest that the evolution of dinosaurs spanned a much shorter timeline.

According to the researchers, although the dinosaurs's emergence was rapid, their eventual domination over paleo-Earth progressed at a much slower pace. "You don't seem to see dinosaurs showing up and immediately taking over," Irmis told LiveScience. "It really emphasizes that there wasn't much special about the first dinosaurs. They were pretty similar to their early dinosauromorph relatives and probably doing very similar things." If that was indeed the case, a new question for scientists to explore would be what exactly caused the early dinosauromorphs to die out while dinosaurs grew stronger. 

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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