Nov 272012
 

diatrymaThe footprints of the Giant bird Diatryma proved that it was a gentle herbivore, not a fierce carnivore, says scientists.

The investigations that have done previous suggested that the giant bird was a carnivorous predator or scavenger. But due to absence of raptor like claws in the footprints supports the theory that Diatryma was not a meat eater.

A team of researchers from Washington, US, examined tracks uncovered in a landslide in 2009.

diatryma

The giant flightless bird Diatryma is commonly illustrated as a fierce predator in both scientific works and popular media. It was 7 ft (2.13m) tall with a huge head and beak. According to geologist and team member George Mustoe, Western Washington University in Bellingham, US, “it is thought as the bird that replaced dinosaurs as the top predator”.

The study, published in the journal Paleontology, analysed a set of footprints made 55.8 to 48.6 million years ago in the Lower Eocene. Preserved in sandstone, the prints formed part of the Chuckanut Formation in northwest Washington, US.

The team concluded that the multiple, well-preserved tracks were most likely to have been made by Diatryma.

That would make them the only known footprints left behind by this giant bird, and they provide new evidence about what it ate.

“[The tracks] clearly show that the animals did not have long talons, but rather short toenails,” said David Tucker, from Western Washington University, who also worked on the study.

“This argues against an animal that catches prey and uses claws to hold it down. Carnivorous birds all have sharp, long talons.”

Early palaeontologists studying Diatryma fossils concluded that the giant bird was a predator because of its size, huge head and large beak.

The first Diatryma skeleton found in the US was preserved alongside bones of tiny horses and other small mammals. Some scientists posited that these must have been the bird’s prey, explained Mr Mustoe.

However, Diatryma also had relatively short legs, leading others to suggest it could not have run fast enough to capture prey, and was therefore a herbivore.

Further analysis has shown that the bird did not have a hook on the end of its beak – a feature found in all raptors which helps them to hold prey and tear into carcasses.

The research team’s conclusion that the animal did not have talons “[adds] ammunition to the herbivory diet hypothesis”, Mr Tucker told BBC Nature.

“A more likely scenario [than being a carnivore] would be a gentle Diatryma that used its beak to harvest foliage, fruits, and seeds from the subtropical forests that it inhabited,” Mr Mustoe added.

The team believe that the similarities of Diatryma to those of the carnivorous South American Phorusracids or “terror birds” led early palaeontologists to assume that the two were ecologically similar.

According to the study: “The common belief that Diatryma… was likewise a carnivore is more a result of guilt by association than actual anatomical evidence”.

– Michelle Warwicker BBC Nature

 Posted by at 3:40 pm
Nov 272012
 

The latest development in Singapore has attracted a lot of views due to its solar-powered Supertrees. The development will finally blossom later this month, with an imposing canopy of artificial trees up to 50 meters high towering over a vast urban oasis.supertree

The colossal solar-powered supertrees are found in the Bay South garden, which opens to the public on June 29. It is part of a 250-acre landscaping project — Gardens by the Bay — that is an initiative from Singapore’s National Parks Board that will see the cultivation of flora and fauna from foreign lands.

Since  it is a man-made mechanical forest that consists of 18 supertrees that act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater. There are 11 supertrees that are converting sunlight into energy so as to generate electricity which provides lighting and aids water technology within the conservatories below.


supertrees

Varying in height between 25 and 50 meters, each supertree features tropical flowers and various ferns climbing across its steel framework. The large canopies also operate as temperature moderators, absorbing and dispersing heat, as well as providing shelter from the hot temperatures of Singapore’s climate to visitors walking beneath.

The project is part of a redevelopment scheme to create a new downtown district in the Marina Bay area, on Singapore’s south side. Project organizers hope the completed Gardens by the Bay will become an eco-tourist destination showcasing sustainable practices and plants from across the globe.

Speaking at a preview event last November, Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of the Republic of Singapore, said the project would “showcase what we can do to bring the world of plants to all Singaporeans,” adding that the gardens would become “thesolar-powered supertrees pride of Singapore.”

Bridges dubbed “skywalks” have been erected connecting several of the higher 50-meter supertrees (the same height as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris), letting visitors stroll between them and view the gardens from dizzying heights.

The horticultural heaven also boasts two green conservatories in close proximity — the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome — climate-controlled biomes inspired by the shape of an orchid flower, which project organizers hope will become the park’s main attractions. The biomes are the equivalent size of four football fields and will become the new home for 220,000 plants from almost every continent. These are some of the only areas where an admission fee is charged — approximately US$22 (S$28) for holiday-makers or US$16 (S$20) for Singapore residents.


One of the sustainable features of the Flower Dome is that horticultural waste feeds a massive steam turbine and generates the electricity on-site to help maintain the cool temperatures of the biome.

However, the supertrees and biomes only make up 5% of the multimillion-dollar landscaping development won after an international design competition by UK landscape architects Grant Associates. The remainder of the Bay South garden will pay homage to the ethnic makeup of the country. In the Heritage Gardens, visitors can explore the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Colonial-themed areas and learn about the links between plants and Singapore’s history. Surrounding these cultural green spaces in the rest of the 103-acre Bay South park are sprawling areas complete with lakes and bridges.

Launched seven years ago by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally, Gardens by the Bay has been a much-celebrated green undertaking with the other gardens, Bay East and Bay Central, opening to much fanfare. The grand opening of Bay South park area will most likely be another illustrious event.

The horticultural oasis will be a contrast to the country’s extremely dense urban environment, forming part of the government’s overall strategy to transform Singapore into a “city in a garden.”

– CNN.com