May 2024

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at [my personal website][1] or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to [my real estate website][2].

Bird Brains and Beaks

Why Birds Survived, and Dinosaurs Went Extinct, After an Asteroid Hit Earth

With hindsight, birds can be categorized as avian dinosaurs and all the other sorts—from Stegosaurus to Brontosaurus—are non-avian dinosaurs. The entire reason paleontologists make that split is because of a catastrophe that struck 66 million years ago. An asteroid more than 6 miles across struck what’s now the Yucatan Peninsula, triggering the fifth mass extinction in the world’s history. Some of the debris thrown into the atmosphere returned to Earth, the friction turning the air into an oven and sparking forest fires as it landed all over the world. Then the intensity of the heat pulse gave way to a prolonged impact winter, the sky blotted out by soot and ash as temperatures fell. All told, more than 75 percent of species known from the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, didn’t make it to the following Paleogene period. The geologic break between the two is called the K-Pg boundary, and beaked birds were the only dinosaurs to survive the disaster.

[...]

Both fossils and the timeline of bird evolution discerned from their genetic relationships indicates that early members of modern bird groups—such as birds related to ducks, parrots, and chickens—were around by time the asteroid struck. These groups still suffered losses, but enough survived to set up a new pulse of bird evolution in the millions of years following the catastrophe. Many bird lineages became smaller in size while maintaining their brain size. Through evolutionary shrinking, birds wound up with larger brains compared to their body size, setting the stage for avian intelligence beyond what the non-avian dinosaurs could have evolved.

Life Find a Way

Two lifeforms merge in once-in-a-billion-years evolutionary event

In the 4-billion-odd-year history of life on Earth, primary endosymbiosis is thought to have only happened twice that we know of, and each time was a massive breakthrough for evolution. The first occurred about 2.2 billion years ago, when an archaea swallowed a bacterium that became the mitochondria. This specialized energy-producing organelle allowed for basically all complex forms of life to evolve. It remains the heralded “powerhouse of the cell” to this day.

The second time happened about 1.6 billion years ago, when some of these more advanced cells absorbed cyanobacteria that could harvest energy from sunlight. These became organelles called chloroplasts, which gave sunlight-harvesting abilities, as well as a fetching green color, to a group of lifeforms you might have heard of – plants.

And now, scientists have discovered that it’s happening again. A species of algae called Braarudosphaera bigelowii was found to have engulfed a cyanobacterium that lets them do something that algae, and plants in general, can’t normally do – “fixing” nitrogen straight from the air, and combining it with other elements to create more useful compounds.

Around Augusta

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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

Hi, that's me!

How kind of you to make your way down here.

A bit about me: I can be interested in anything, for better or worse. I love photography, travel, golf, and baseball. My latest pursuit is learning the guitar. I write a rad newsletter that I publish monthly.

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