9-Year-Old Girl Tossed in the Air by Charging Yellowstone Bison
A 9-year-old-girl's vacation to Yellowstone National Park took a frightening turn Monday when a bull bison charged and tossed her into the air, the National Park Service (NPS) confirmed Tuesday. The incident is a dramatic object lesson in the importance of giving park bison plenty of grazing room.
"Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild. When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space," NPS advised.
The girl, from Odessa, Florida, was with a group of people in the Old Faithful Geyser area of the park who were standing more than 7 times closer to the bison than park officials recommend. The group eventually caused the bison to charge and toss the child. The injured girl was first treated by emergency medical workers at the Old Faithful Lodge and then taken to the Old Faithful Clinic for further treatment before being released.
A video of the incident, first shared on Twitter Monday, soon went viral. The original video drew more than four million views in the two days before it was deleted, The Washington Post reported.
"My brother and I were looking at the hot springs, and we saw a bunch of people running down the path to the bridge. We saw through the trees some people petting the bison, super close," 18-year-old Hailey Dayton, who filmed the incident, told NBC News. "Because it was agitated by all the people and noise, it just kind of attacked," she added. "After that, everyone was screaming. There were a bunch of kids crying."
The park service said a group of around 50 people had been standing five to 10 feet from the bison for at least 20 minutes before causing it to charge. The park recommends that visitors stand 25 yards from large animals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves.
The park said it was still investigating the incident and had not issued any citations.
Bison are responsible for more visitor injuries than any other Yellowstone animal, The Washington Post explained. They are both large and fast: Bulls can grow to be 2,000 pounds and six feet tall, and bison are able to run as fast as 30 miles per hour, three times human speed.
A spate of 33 bison injuries from 1983 to 1985 prompted park officials to launch a safety information campaign, handing out fliers at park entrances and placing warning signs at campgrounds and visitor centers. But some visitors still aren't getting the memo. A 2018 study found that 80 percent of the 25 people injured by Yellowstone bison between 2000 and 2015 "actively approached" the animals. Close to half of them approached in order to take photos, the study found. On average, they were standing around 11 feet from the animals before being injured.
"Every year, there are regrettable accidents caused by people getting too close to these massive animals," NPS said, as The Washington Post reported. "It's great to love the bison, but love them from a distance."
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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