Sweden's Highest Peak Shrinks in Arctic Heatwave
Between July 2 and July 31, "four meters of snow and ice have melted, an average of 14 cm per day," Stockholm University Geography Professor and Head of the Tarfala Research Station near the mountain, Gunhild Rosqvist, said in a press release.
As of Tuesday, the southern glaciated peak measured 2,097 meters (96,880 feet) above sea level, only 20 centimeters (6 inches) higher than the northern peak 2096.8 meters, which is free of ice.
Then on Thursday, Rosqvist told AFP that the northern peak is almost certainly the country's new highest point.
"We haven't gone up today to measure it, but we've checked the temperature and it was really warm yesterday, it was over 20 degrees C (68 F) so it has surely melted" below the height of the northern peak, she said.
Here researcher Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist @Stockholm_Uni measures the height of the south peak at Kebnekaise.… https://t.co/3bOAECQsLn— Stockholm University (@Stockholm University)1533304199.0
The team will measure the peak again in September. "It could easily be a meter under the northern peak by the end of summer," Rosqvist predicted.
Rosqvist said the melting glacier is a visible indicator of our changing climate
"It's quite scary," she told AFP. "This glacier is a symbol for all the glaciers in the world. This whole environment is melting, the snow is melting, and it affects the entire ecosystem: the plants, the animals, the climate, everything."
"You see the effects of climate change so clearly here," she added.
The southern glacier, whose height has been recorded since 1880, has shrunk one meter every year over the last two decades, according to Stockholm University.
The Arctic Is Burning: Wildfires Rage from Sweden to Alaska. https://t.co/bb1NfUmyzI #ActOnClimate #Arctic #Wildfires— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro Voter Project)1531916077.0
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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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