Australia's FIRST Submarine Found 103 YEARS After MYSTERIOUS Disappearance

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SYDNEY (AP) — One of Australia's oldest naval mysteries has been solved after the discovery of the wreck of the country's first submarine more than 103 years after its disappearance in World War I.

The AE1 vanished off the New Guinean island of New Britain on September 14, 1914, with 35 crew aboard from Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

It was the first Allied submarine loss of the war and the first wartime loss for the Royal Australian Navy, yet the exact reason for its sinking remains unclear.

No fewer than 12 fruitless hunts for the sub had been carried out over the past several decades, but Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said Thursday it was located more than 300 meters (984 feet) below the surface in a search using a Dutch-owned survey vessel that started only last week.

While the reasons for the submarine's sinking remain unclear, Payne said the Australian government was now trying to contact descendants of those killed on board.

"It was the first loss for the RAN and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I — a significant tragedy felt by our nation and our allies," Payne said in a statement.

Payne said a commemorative service was held to remember those who died after the vessel was found. Australia will now discuss with the Papua New Guinean government the building of a lasting memorial and ways to preserve the site.

The AE1 made final contact with an Australian ship at 2:30 p.m. the day it disappeared. Mystified villagers on a nearby island at the time spoke of seeing a "monster" or "devil fish" that appeared and quickly disappeared into the water.

It has always been assumed the AE1 was not a victim of enemy action, since the only German vessel nearby at the time was a small survey ship.

Because no wreckage, oil or bodies were found, it was also believed the AE1 sank intact, most likely after striking a reef that punched a hole in the pressure hull. Whether or not this is what happened is still to be publicly verified.

New Giant Ancient Penguin Discovered in New Zealand

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby. It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches (1.77 meters) long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds (101 kilograms).

If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3 (1.6 meters).

The newly found bird is about 7 inches (18 centimeters) longer than any other ancient penguin that has left a substantial portion of a skeleton, said Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. A potentially bigger rival is known only from a fragment of leg bone, making a size estimate difficult.

The biggest penguin today, the emperor in Antarctica, stands less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.

Mayr and others describe the giant creature in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications. They named it Kumimanu biceae, which refers to Maori words for a large mythological monster and a bird, and the mother of one of the study's authors. The fossils are 56 million to 60 million years old.

That's nearly as old as the very earliest known penguin fossils, which were much smaller, said Daniel Ksepka, curator at the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, Connecticut. He has studied New Zealand fossil penguins but didn't participate in the new study.

The new discovery shows penguins "got big very rapidly" after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that's best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email.

That event played a big role in penguin history. Beforehand, a non-flying seabird would be threatened by big marine reptile predators, which also would compete with the birds for food. But once the extinction wiped out those reptiles, the ability to fly was not so crucial, opening the door for penguins to appear.

Birds often evolve toward larger sizes after they lose the ability to fly, Mayr said. In fact, the new paper concludes that big size appeared more than once within the penguin family tree.

What happened to the giants?

Mayr said researchers believe they died out when large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food.  The newcomers may also have hunted the big penguins, he said.

New Species Discovered: 6 Tiny Tree-Climbing Anteaters

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The never-ending tale of the hunt for the tricky tree-climbing mini anteaters of Brazil.

For years, researchers thought there was just one anteater species, that is until one relentless lady found 6 more in hiding.

A biologist named Flavia Miranda was studying anteaters in Brazil and noticed something strange in some of their fur. She "began to see differences between the colors of the population of the Amazon and the Atlantic forest."

Well, after over 10 years and 10 expeditions of Miranda and her team searching jungles and museums in South America, they collected DNA samples from 313 anteaters; 280 from museums and 33 from wild ones. 

They passed out flyers to the local native peoples asking for their help finding these tricky tree-climbers and their hard work paid off... eventually.

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"It took us two years to capture the first animal," Miranda says.

Since these lived high up in the trees, only came out at night, and are pretty small you can imagine the difficulties of trying to find and capture some specimens for live study. The average person might have given up the hunt but Miranda was inspired and on a mission. 

These furry little animals seem to have followed ants up the trees, finding enough food to happily stay up there while avoiding larger predators down below. They're only 20" long and super cute. 

Basically, they found smaller tree-climbing species with different silky fur.

"This is a good example of the startling results that can emerge when a widespread animal that has hardly ever been studied in any detail is examined with modern techniques for the first time," says Kristofer Helgen, a mammalogist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. "I won't be surprised if future research on these beautiful animals shows even more overlooked species," he says.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm more curious as to how these researchers were able to spend 10 years roaming the Brazillian forests looking for some little anteaters. This seems like quite an expense over that long period of time and for an, arguably, insignificant discovery of more kinds of anteaters. Anyway, I'm sure Miranda wasn't the only one relieved when she finally found them. 

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Miranda's team measured the anteaters' skulls and recorded the various colorings of their silky fur to divide the groups they found. So, in total, the team discovered 6 new species that were previously overlooked.

Not surprisingly, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified C. didactylus as a species of least concern, because they're found all over the place. However, now that this main anteater family tree is divided into more branches, each one may be in a uniquely dangerous situation. 

But not to worry, Miranda is excited to continue her grand adventure to protect these newfound animals from deforestation and pollution.

"The work is just beginning," she says.

Have Scientists Found the Real Santa Claus' Sacred Remains?

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The Santa Claus character is based on a real person named Saint Nicholas who lived in the ancient city of Myra, which is now the town of Demre in Turkey. 

According to records, he was born in the Mediterranean Sea port-city Patara, Turkey on March 15, 270 and died December 6, 343. While a young man, Saint Nicholas made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine to strengthen his faith, becoming Bishop of Myra shortly after returning home. During the Diocletian persecution, he was thrown into prison until being released after the accession of Constantine. 

 File photo shows the interior of St Nicholas Church in Demre, Turkey. Experts believe that the grave of St. Nicholas, the historical inspiration for Santa Claus, may be beneath the church.  (Kenan Olgun/iStock)

File photo shows the interior of St Nicholas Church in Demre, Turkey. Experts believe that the grave of St. Nicholas, the historical inspiration for Santa Claus, may be beneath the church.  (Kenan Olgun/iStock)

Saint Nicholas became known as "Nikolaos the Wonderworker" for performing miracles and is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe. Today, he is most famous for starting the tradition of secret gift-giving that is now embodied by the Santa Claus character.

Because of his sainthood, Saint Nicholas' bodily remains were regarded as sacred and somehow or another split up and spread to different churches around the world. 

A new study by Oxford University reveals the bones claimed to belong to Good Old Saint Nick do correctly match the date. Professor Tom Higham and Dr. Georges Kazan, the Directors of the Oxford Relics Cluster at Keble College's Advanced Studies Center, tested one of these alleged Saint Nicholas bones for the first time ever. They took a very tiny bone fragment, radiocarbon-dated it, and found it to belong to the 4th century AD, which correlates to the saint's recorded death in 343 AD.

Professor Higham said: ‘Many relics that we study turn out to date to a period somewhat later than the historic attestation would suggest. This bone fragment, in contrast, suggests that we could possibly be looking at remains from St Nicholas himself.’

The bone they studied is one of several belonging to Father Dennis O'Neill, of St. Martha of Bethany Church, Shrine of All Saints, in Morton Grove Illinois, USA. He collected the bones from various churches and private owners across Europe and one is just half a pelvis bone. The interesting thing is, that another collector has the other half of this pelvis, which sparked the Oxford professor's curiosity to validate their authenticity. This was the oldest artifact Oxford University has ever studied dating back some 1,700 years.

Dr. Kazan said: ‘These results encourage us to now turn to the Bari and Venice relics to attempt to show that the bone remains are from the same individual. We can do this using ancient palaeogenomics, or DNA testing. It is exciting to think that these relics, which date from such an ancient time, could, in fact, be genuine.'

Despite advanced breakthroughs in scientific analysis, without knowing which bones actually belonged to the real Saint Nicholas, there can be no strong confirmation that any of the 500 bone fragments are his either. Researchers can only narrow down the possibilities to increase the probability. 

Basically, the study can only say some of these remains belong to the same man that died approximately the same time as Saint Nicholas. So, it seems somethings will just have to be left to faith, and faith is what the holy days are all about anyway. 

2 New Ancient Tombs Discovered in Luxor, Egypt Attract Flood of Tourists

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By AHMED HATEM, Associated Press

LUXOR, Egypt (AP) — Egypt on Saturday announced the discovery of two small ancient tombs in the southern city Luxor dating back some 3,500 years and hoped it will help the country's efforts to revive its ailing tourism sector.

The tombs, located on the west bank of the river Nile in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, are the latest discovery in the city famed for its temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

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"It's truly an exceptional day," Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said. "The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it's the first time to enter inside the two tombs."

Al-Anani said the discoveries are part of the ministry's efforts to promote Egypt's vital tourism industry, partially driven by antiquities sightseeing, that was hit hard by extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

The ministry said one tomb has a courtyard lined with mud-brick and stone walls and contains a six-meter (yard) burial shaft leading to four side chambers. The artifacts found inside were mostly fragments of wooden coffins. Wall inscriptions and paintings suggest it belongs to era between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, both pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.

The other tomb has five entrances leading to a rectangular hall and contains two burial shafts located in the northern and southern sides of the tomb.

Among the artifacts found inside are funerary cones, painted wooden funerary masks, clay vessels, a collection of some 450 statues and a mummy wrapped in linen who was likely a top official. A cartouche carved on the ceiling bears the name of King Thutmose I of the early 18th dynasty, the ministry said.

Afterward, al-Anani headed to a nearby site where the famous Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is located to open for the first time the temple's main sanctuary known as the "Holy of Holies."

Since the beginning of 2017, the Antiquities Ministry has made a string of discoveries in several provinces across Egypt — including the tomb of a royal goldsmith, in the same area and belonging to the same dynasty, whose work was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun.

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Hidden DNA Reveals Extinct Rare Horses Once Wild in North America

 This illustration depicts a family of stilt-legged horses ( Haringtonhippus francisci ) in Yukon, Canada, during the last ice age. Credit: Jorge Blanco

This illustration depicts a family of stilt-legged horses (Haringtonhippus francisci) in Yukon, Canada, during the last ice age. Credit: Jorge Blanco

A team of researchers from around the world have been studying the DNA from ancient horse fossils of the mysterious "New World stilt-legged horse." The fossils have been found across North America in the Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming, Gypsum Cave in Nevada, and the Klondike Goldfields of Canada. Dating back to the last Ice Age some 15,000 years ago, scientists have only just begun to crake the code of their ancient DNA lineage. 

 

New "Haringtonhippus Francisci" Horses

Before, researchers thought this stilt-legged horse was related to some modern horses, donkeys, or zebras, but it actually genetically split from modern horses 4-6 million years ago.

"The evolutionary distance between the extinct stilt-legged horses and all living horses took us by surprise, but it presented us with an exciting opportunity to name a new genus of horse," said senior author Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz.

The team decided to name this new horse after a man who spent his career studying ice age fossils in Northern Canada and researched stilt-legged horses since the 1970's. Richard Harington is also emeritus curator of Quaternary Paleontology at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

"I had been curious for many years concerning the identity of two horse metatarsal bones I collected, one from Klondike, Yukon, and the other from Lost Chicken Creek, Alaska. They looked like those of modern Asiatic kiangs, but thanks to the research of my esteemed colleagues they are now known to belong to a new genus," said Harington. "I am delighted to have this new genus named after me. "

 Two skulls of the new genus  Haringtonhippus  from Nevada (upper) and Texas (lower). Credit: Eric Scott

Two skulls of the new genus Haringtonhippus from Nevada (upper) and Texas (lower). Credit: Eric Scott

"The horse family, thanks to its rich and deep fossil record, has been a model system for understanding and teaching evolution. Now ancient DNA has rewritten the evolutionary history of this iconic group," said first author Peter Heintzman, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz.

Their studies also reveal the Haringtonhippus francisci did not interbreed with other horse species despite being neighbors. Finding this hidden DNA in younger fossils shows that they also lived 19,000 years longer than previously known. These horses, along with other ancient mammals in North America, were wiped out by the end of the last Ice Age. Fortunately, some horse species in Eurasia survived the freeze, so we can still marvel at their majestic beauty. 

"We are very pleased to name this new horse genus after our friend and colleague Dick Harington. There is no other scientist who has had greater impact in the field of ice age paleontology in Canada than Dick," said coauthor Grant Zazula, a Government of Yukon paleontologist. "Our research on fossils such as these horses would not be possible without Dick's life-long dedication to working closely with the Klondike gold miners and local First Nations communities in Canada's North".

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New Blue Tarantula Discovered in South American Forest

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Scientists discovered a rare spider in Guyana, South America.

If you thought the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker was amazing, you haven't seen this blue tarantula.

The researchers are from the Global Wildlife Conservation that went hunting through the forests for exciting new species and this is just 1 out of 30 new species they found in the Kaieteur National Park, which includes:

  • 3 plants
  • 5 dragonflies
  • 6 fish
  • 15 swimming beetles
Guyana is one of the world’s most important countries for biodiversity conservation with the second highest percentage of forest cover on Earth, high levels of biological diversity and species that are found nowhere else.
— Global Wildlife Conservation spokesperson

In case you don't know, there are actually already 40 different kinds of blue spiders in the world with another blue tarantula found only in a very small region of India. It's categorized as "critically endangered" because of this limited habitat and since that location's pollution and is getting worse and worse. That one is bright blue with white stripes and called poecilotheria metallica. 

In a 2015 study of blue tarantulas leader, Mr. Bor-Kai Hsiung told the BBC: 'It evolved from multiple origins and different mechanisms produce the very same blue color. That's very strong evidence to suggest that this blue color has a very important visual signaling function. But if it's not for other tarantulas, then it must be to some other receivers out there.'

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Archaeologists Find Buried Medieval Treasure in French Abbey

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Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — French archaeologists have discovered a medieval treasure on the site of a famous abbey in central France that had remained buried for over eight centuries.

The rare find that included more than 2,000 medieval coins and myriad gold objects was unearthed in September, but only announced late Tuesday by the archaeology team from Lyon University.

The treasure also contained 21 gold dinars originating from 12th-century Spain and Morocco, and a gold bejeweled ring.

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The team was conducting routine excavations at the Cluny Abbey, which was one of medieval Western Europe's largest.

Calling it an "exceptional discovery," researcher Anne Baud said that it remains a mystery of history why the treasure was hidden there, and why its owner never managed to dig it back up.

709-Carat Diamond Found in Sierra Leone Sells for $6.5M

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Officials say a 709-carat diamond found in Sierra Leone has been sold for more than $6.5 million.

The diamond is said to be the 14th-largest ever discovered, according to the Rapaport Group, which auctioned the stone in New York on behalf of Sierra Leone's government.

The company says 59 percent of the money will go to the government of the West African nation, while 26 percent will benefit the artisanal diggers who found the diamond. Its discovery in March caused a sensation.

The Rapaport Group has dubbed the stone the "peace diamond" and says its sale "will provide vital lifesaving infrastructure to the area where the diamond was found."

New Bizarre Looking Dinosaur was First Carnivorous Bipedal Swimmer 75 Million Years Ago

BY SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc's, a swanlike neck and killer claws, a new dinosaur species uncovered by scientists looks like something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up.

It also had flippers like a penguin, and while it walked like an ostrich it could also swim. That's the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur.

The tiny creature, only about 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall, roamed 75 million years ago in what is now Mongolia. Its full curled-up skeleton was found in a sandstone rock.

"It's such a peculiar animal," said Dennis Voeten, a paleontology researcher at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. "It combines different parts we knew from other groups into this one small animal."

In a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature , Voeten and coauthors named it Halszkaraptor escuilliei  (HAHL-shka-rap-tor ES-key-lay-ee) or "Halszka" after the late Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.

Paleontologist Kristi Curry Rogers of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, who didn't participate in the study, called it "a pretty crazy chimera: a swan neck and dinosaur body, but with a mouthful of tiny teeth and hands and feet that look like they might be good for swimming."

Its mashup body let it run and hunt on the ground and fish in fresh water, said study co-author Paul Tafforeau. He's a paleontologist at the ESRF , known as the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, a powerful X-ray generator where numerous tests were made on the fossil.

Lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy, said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil's authenticity, both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and left in a private collector's hands.

"I asked myself, 'Is this a real, natural skeleton, or an artifact, a chimera? If this is a fake, how could I demonstrate it?'" Cau said in an email. "Assuming it was a fake instead of starting assuming that the fossil is genuine was the most appropriate way to start the investigation of such a bizarre fossil."

So researchers used the Synchrotron to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the creature was indeed a single animal and not a concoction built up from several sources. For example, an arm hidden in the rock perfectly matched the visible left arm, and lines indicating growth matched up across the bones.

Even though the creature wasn't dreamed up by Dr. Seuss, it got a blessing from a Dr. Sues.

Hans Sues, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution who wasn't part of the research, praised the work and said it "shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were."

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears and his work can be found here .