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Europe Has Warmest Winter 'by Far' on Record
By Elliot Douglas
Europe has just experienced "by far" its warmest winter since records began, the European Union climate change observer Copernicus announced on Wednesday.
The average temperature in Europe between December 2019 and February 2020 was 3.4 degrees Celsius warmer than the average temperature between 1981 and 2010, according to the report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
The average temperature was also 1.4 degrees Celsius above the warmest winter ever, which was 2015/16.
📢February #temperature highlights from #Copernicus #C3S: 🌡️Last month was the second warmest February in our recor… https://t.co/js4MIbTg2x— Copernicus ECMWF (@Copernicus ECMWF)1583347338.0
The temperature in the north and east of the continent was especially high. Despite some extreme storms, Germany was among the countries that experienced an especially warm winter.
There are concerns around agriculture across Europe. This was the first winter ever that Germany was unable to produce any "ice wine," a local delicacy made from grapes harvested when they are frozen.
Temperatures Rise Around the Globe
"Considerably above-average temperatures were not confined to Europe, but extended over most of Russia," the climate service wrote on their website.
"Other regions that were quite substantially warmer than average include north-western Africa, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, and much of China, with smaller pockets in North and South America, central and southern Africa and Western Australia," they explained.
Global warming was not the only culprit, Copernicus director Carlo Buontempo said, explaining that winter temperatures vary significantly from year to year.
"But it is likely that this type of events were made more extreme by the global warming trend," he said.
The EU's official weather service uses information from satellites, ships, planes and weather stations to determine its findings.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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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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