Major Earthquake Strikes Japan in Latest String of Natural Disasters
The 6.7-magnitude quake struck at 3:09 a.m. local time at a depth of 40 kilometers (24 miles), according to the Associated Press.
Meteorological agency officials told the public broadcaster NHK that the earthquake reached the maximum level on Japan's seismic intensity scale.
"We punched in seismic data from new locations to analyze today's earthquake. In the town of Atsuma, the earthquake measured 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale," Toshiyuki Matsumori of the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
A strong earthquake hit Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands, on Thursday.USGS
Five people are confirmed dead and another four people do not have vital signs. About 300 are injured and about 30 more are missing, NHK reported.
Video footage of the temblor's destructiveness shows collapsed buildings, buckled roads, landslides that exposed entire hillsides in the hard-hit town of Atsuma and vehicles submerged in mud. The quake also grounded flights and halted train and bus services.
Power has been restored for about 330,000 buildings but Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told NHK, "It will take more than a week to fully restore the power supply in Hokkaido."
The earthquake comes just days after Typhoon Jebi, the strongest typhoon in 25 years, hit Japan on Tuesday that caused widespread flooding, pushed an oil tanker into a major bridge, forced Kansai International Airport to close and stranding 3,000 travelers and killed at least 11 people, according to NHK.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed condolences to victims of the earthquake. He has dispatched up to 25,000 troops and other personnel to help with rescue efforts.
北海道胆振東部地震によりお亡くなりになられた方々にお悔やみを申し上げるとともに被災されたすべての方々に心よりお見舞いを申し上げます。自衛隊、警察、消防、海上保安庁が現時点で２万１千人、ヘリ５１機、艦船１２隻の態勢で救命・救助活動に… https://t.co/2mEk1Vu1AG— 安倍晋三 (@安倍晋三)1536231461.0
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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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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