Water-dwelling dinosaur breaks the mould

Spinosaurs’ semi-aquatic habits helped them coexist with tyrannosaurs.


Spinosaurs may have spent much of their lives in water. Marc Simonetti

Researchers have found evidence of dinosaurs that spent much of their time in water. The discovery, made by analysing oxygen isotopes found in the fossils of a spinosaur that fed on fish, shows how the dinosaur might have coexisted with other large predators such as tyrannosaurs.

The results, published in Geology by Romain Amiot at the University of Lyon in France and a team of colleagues, show that dinosaurs were not in fact restricted to land as had been previously thought1. Water-dwelling animals such as Plesiosaurus and Ichthyosaurus, which although dinosaur-like in appearance, are not part of the dinosaurian lineage.

Baryonyx walkeri, from the spinosaur family, had a long, crocodile-like skull littered with iconic cone-shaped teeth. When it was found, theories swirled that with piercing teeth, rather than the serrated teeth so often found in closely related meat eaters such as Tyrannosaurus rex, and a long snout, the dinosaur was a fish feeder. Read more

Water vapour could be behind warming slowdown

Mysterious changes in the stratosphere may have offset greenhouse effect.


A loss of water vapour from the Earth’s stratosphere may have been behind the last decade being cooler than expected.NASA

A puzzling drop in the amount of water vapour high in the Earth’s atmosphere is now on the list of possible culprits causing average global temperatures to flatten out over the past decade, despite ever-increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Although the decade spanning 2000 to 2009 ranks as the warmest on record, average temperatures largely levelled off following two decades of rapid increases. Researchers have previously eyed everything from the Sun and oceans to random variability in order to explain the pause, which sceptics have claimed shows that climate models are unreliable.

Now a team led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, report that a mysterious 10% drop in water vapour in the stratosphere — the atmospheric layer that sits 10–50 kilometres above Earth’s surface — since 2000 could have offset the expected warming due to greenhouse gases by roughly 25%. Just as intriguingly, their model suggests that an increase in stratospheric water vapour might have boosted earlier warming by about 30% in the 1980s and 1990s. Read more

Tools for protecting drinking water

We place high demands on the quality of our drinking water. If pathogens or toxic substances found their way into the piping system, many people could become infected or injured very quickly. That’s why this risk must be kept low. To do this, experts have developed technologies for a comprehensive monitoring, early warning and emergency management system.

Tools-water1Drinking water is indispensable for every human being. Public works and water utilities must not only protect the supply system from impurities, but also from possible manipulation. Every day, they collect probes and analyze drinking water quality in a lab, but such analysis takes time. Preventative methods and tools are needed for continuous monitoring in order to identify contaminations quickly and also catch unexpected toxic substances. Even a few drops could have devastating consequences – toxins that make their way into the water supply reach millions of users within hours. Read more

Hamwells e-Shower rains down water and energy savings

In the move toward sustainable homes, the progress of showers has been more of a trickle. Ten minutes in a traditional shower can use up to 100 l (22 gal) of water. The Hamwells e-Shower, however, promises high pressure and volume, while saving up to 90 percent on water and 80 percent on energy.

hamwells-e-shower-1Hamwells was founded only this year, with the aim of building a shower that could make significant savings on water and energy, while still providing the comfort of a traditional shower. The startup says that it found shower heat recovery systems to be inefficient and wasteful of water, low-flow showers to waste water and recycling showers to require expensive maintenance.

In addition to saving water and energy, the firm wanted its shower to be “cool,” easy-to-use, hygienic and self-cleaning. The key to achieving this was creating a design that would reuse water, filtering it as it went. Read more

Solar and wind technology delivers power and clean water to villagers in the West Bank

An Israeli-Palestinian NGO is using solar and wind energy to transform the lives of a marginalized community of Palestinian famers and shepherds.

comet-me-1According to the NGO, Comet-ME, the arid, windswept south Hebron hills region of the West Bank has been home to dozens of small Palestinian family groups and villages for centuries. Located in Area C of the occupied Palestinian territories, all live under the threat of demolitions and forced displacement, with no electricity or water, and no infrastructure allowed.

The communities live in caves and tents and rely on traditional non-mechanised agriculture and herding to produce butter and dairy products for sale and family consumption. Most of the families have either no access to electricity or rely on expensive diesel generators, which they can only run occasionally. Read more