SciTech Briefs

Dakosaurus stumps the Crocodile Hunter

Scientists may have just unearthed the Tyrannosaurus rex of crocodiles. Nicknamed ?Godzilla,? the Dakosaurus andiniensis was approximately four meters long and stood in stark contrast to the crocodiles we see today. Researchers have called it ?the most bizarre marine crocodile known to date? ? a monstrous creature with flipper-like feet and a fishlike tail that dominated the seas 135 million years ago.
?It?s like a crocodile with a dinosaur head on it,? says James Clark, a professor of biology at George Washington University. The prehistoric crocodile probably occupied a niche similar to modern-day killer whales and ripped apart prey with its 52 serrated teeth. ?I?m sure it wasn?t nice,? said Diego Pol, a researcher at Ohio State University.

Source: Yahoo! News

Scientists turn to animals in order to understand sleep

A team of scientists at Indiana State University has taken a novel approach to the study of sleep. Armed with brain-wave recording wires, the group is part of a growing faction of scientists using animals to better understand human behavior. Originally thought to be unique to vertebrates, recent studies showed that both honeybees and crayfish sleep as well. This discovery has led many scientists to look at sleep as an evolutionary phenomenon. In this way, they hope to better understand the primordial functions of sleep and why it exists in the first place.

Source: The New York Times

Early detection of Down syndrome is key

According to a new study, tests done during the first trimester of pregnancy are better at identifying fetuses with Down syndrome than tests done later in pregnancy. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that tests conducted during the first trimester detected 87 percent of fetuses with the extra chromosome, as opposed to 81 percent in the second trimester. The study, which spanned 15 hospitals and involved over 38,000 women, is the government?s most comprehensive effort to date in helping expectant couples identify the risk of their child?s developing Down syndrome. Down syndrome affects more than two million people worldwide, and occurs once in every 700 to 900 live births.


Lost and found ? and then lost again

NASA?s Mars Polar Lander, which disappeared six years ago, is still lost. In 2000, scientists thought they had spotted the missing lander when the Mars Global Surveyor sent back pictures of a white dot (thought to be sunshine bouncing off metal) inside a black dot (thought to be the blast marks from the lander?s rocket engine). Another look this September revealed that the white and black marks were no longer there. ?Five years would be too little time for the dust to obscure the lander completely,? said Michael Malin, president of Malin Space Science Systems, which operates the Global Surveyor camera. Instead, Malin blamed the error on a camera glitch. ?It appears to have been a noisy pixel,? he said. Somewhere, Martians are happily playing with a NASA lander.

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Compiled by
Sheila Prakash