What City Will Run Out of Water First?
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That's led experts to investigate what major world city could be the first to run out of water entirely. And it could be a city right here in the U.S.
A study done at the Environmental Hydrology Laboratory at the University of Florida ranks the 225 American cities with populations greater than 100,000 on fresh water availability and vulnerability. And while many of the most vulnerable cities are in the southwest, as one might expect with drought conditions sweeping California and Texas, there are some surprises.
The study rates ten cities as having a high level of vulnerability. San Antonio, with a metro area population of just under 2.3 million, comes in at 225. But it's followed by Miami, Florida, at 224 the second most vulnerable city. The largest metropolitan area threatened is Los Angeles, ranked 220 in terms of water security.
The other U.S. cities bringing up the rear are Lincoln, NE (223), San Jose, CA (222), San Diego, CA (221), Salt Lake City, UT (219), Riverside/San Bernadino, CA (218), Mission Viejo, CA (217) and El Paso, TX/NM (216). Other areas with a population of more than a million that face lesser but still high threats of water depletion are New York, Chicago, Cleveland, and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
"High-ranking cities tend to be adjacent to very large lakes, such as the Great Lakes, and large rivers, such as the Mississippi or Columbia," says the study.
"For example, the highest-availability city (Duluth, MN) is the only U.S. city on Lake Superior, the third-largest freshwater body in the world (by volume). The other Great Lakes have smaller volumes and are shared by more (and larger) cities. Low-ranking cities are often found in arid regions (for example Los Angeles and Las Vegas), have low storage per capita (for example Miami and Atlanta) or share sources with multiple other cities (for example Chicago and Tallahassee)."
Worldwide, Environmental Defense Fund Business reports that experts predict Sana'a, Yemen, with a population of nearly two million, could be the first capital city to run out of water in slightly more than a decade. Other large metro areas such as Istanbul (population more than 14 million) also face threats of running out of water in that time period, just as the populations of developing countries are increasingly urbanized.
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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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