Celebrating 3 ‘Lazarus’ Species That Were Once Thought To Be Long Gone

A “Lazarus Taxon” is a group of living things that are assumed to be extinct, but then later discovered to exist either later in the fossil record or are unexpectedly found to be alive on the planet today. In a period where extinctions are occurring at a rapid rate, finding species that are elusive (such as the recently re-discovered Voeltzkow’s chameleon) presumed extinct is a particularly special treat.

So, on this Halloween, instead of excavating corpses, let’s celebrate in the resurrection of these formerly extinct species!

1. The Coelacanth

Quite possibly the best-known species to be absolved of its extinct status, the coelacanth was assumed to have perished along with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The skeletal structure of its fossilized lobed fins suggested that its species was a crucial juncture in the evolution four-limbed land animals (”tetrapods”). Then, in the 20th century two different living species of coelacanth were discovered. First, in 1938, the West Indian Ocean coelacanth was caught near South Africa. And then, in 1998 the Indonesian coelacanth was caught off the coast of – you guessed it! – Indonesia. It is surprising how cryptic these species are, given that they are nearly six feet long and weigh close to 200 pounds.

2. New Guinea Big-Eared Bat

In 2012, Australian researchers were studying the effects of logging on microbats in Papua New Guinea. They caught several bats spanning nine known species, and a single, unidentifiable female bat. It wasn’t until 2014 that Australian Museum researcher, Harry Parnaby, was able to determine that the specimen was a New Guinea Big-Eared Bat, a species that had only been observed once before in 1890. What set this bat apart from other species was the skin near its nostrils, the size of its ears and the curve of its nose — nuanced characteristics that would certainly require a bat aficionado to distinguish. Unfortunately, as logging continues in Papua New Guinea and the Big-Eared Bat’s habitat disappears, it may be difficult – if not impossible – to find another specimen and learn more about this species’ ecology.

3. Goblin Shark

The last species on this list, the Goblin Shark, might be the most mysterious of all! Very little is known about the goblin shark, which is thought to be related to an ancient group of sharks (the Mitsukurinidae). Dead ones have been caught on occasion, but there are only a handful of accounts of live sightings.

In January 2007, a strange-looking shark was caught in the net of some Japanese fishermen who had been targeting fish 500 feet

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TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT | Pandemic Reveals Cornell’s Long Path to Better Career Advising

Many institution’s structural shortcomings are typically hidden from public view and usually garner little attention. That is, until a crisis hits.

A crisis, especially one as consequential as COVID-19, forces an immediate assessment of institutional preparedness. Cornell’s students, staff, faculty and senior leadership, for example, demonstrated the resilience of our people and the University by successfully undertaking a campus reopening during a global pandemic.

But during the recent virtual career fair mishap, the pandemic revealed an important insight: There’s much work to be done with Cornell’s career advising.

Last month, technical difficulties forced Cornell Career Services (CCS) to postpone Career Fair Days, an annual Barton Hall mingling of students and employers, which relocated to an online platform due to the pandemic. Students were repeatedly logged out of the website and kicked out of employer queues – only then to be randomly signed in as a different person, sometimes as a student, and at other times, an employer. The experience likely did not leave a positive impression of Cornell on employers.

Earlier this year, I emphasized the need for a new approach to career advising — one that pools dispersed, college-based resources for the University’s common good as a whole. What students witnessed during the virtual fair were symptoms of the convolution of Cornell’s career advising system, which rendered it unable to quickly adapt to the COVID-era’s new demands. Of course, CCS did not build the career fair software — an external vendor did. But perhaps better testing and evaluation of the platform and its suitability would have revealed the significant insufficiencies prior to deployment.

Notably, not all universities experienced a painful transition to a virtual career fair. For example, the University of Notre Dame, a peer institution known for its practical approach to career advising, successfully executed its annual fair on Handshake, a web service also used by Cornell, for other career advising functions. Stanford, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania also held successful virtual career fairs on the platform. CCS’ choice, Brazen, was newly introduced to Cornell this year, after the onset of the pandemic.

It is not by chance that the telltales of a structurally untenable career services enterprise have largely flown under the radar before the pandemic. Frankly, even without effective career counseling, Cornell students can leverage the university brand, education and, for some, their family background as means of landing positions at top companies. In terms of employment outcomes, Cornell, with its career offices operating at the current limited capacity, will still substantially outperform most of the nation’s universities at their full capacity.

Indeed, the accurate measure of career advising success is not how we prepare our best-resourced students but the most disadvantaged. Red herrings on postgraduate outcome reports, like the select list of highest-paying, brand-name employers that hire Cornellians gravely overstate the University’s returns on investment in career services. Instead, we must inspect how Cornell prepares students from less-privileged and non-U.S. backgrounds, who may not be able to rely on friends and relatives for employment

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Coastal Carolina’s long road to becoming college football’s must-see attraction

It was Tuesday, July 30, 2002, when Coastal Carolina University dignitaries — the chancellor, the athletic director, the football coach, a couple of trustees — gathered beneath a pop-up tent in the sweltering Grand Strand, South Carolina, sun. They smiled from beneath their hard hats, stuck their ceremonial shovels into the sandy soil of Conway, South Carolina, and broke the ground that would become the foundation for their new football stadium.

“It was a great moment,” remembers Coastal Carolina athletic director Matt Hogue. “Once we had all the wild watermelons moved out of the way.”

It was indeed a great moment. A moment of big-time football dreaming, even though the payoff for that vision was still 6,666 days away. To be clear, that’s today. The day when the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are the toast of college football. When the phone won’t stop ringing in the offices of the stadium that was started on that day in 2002, interview requests ranging from Sports Illustrated to College GameDay, eager to tell a feel-good story in the middle of a feel-bad year.

The Chants are that story, sitting 5-0 and ranked 20th in all the land. A quirky, fun-loving squad that fills our social media timelines with mullets, teal turf and a dollar store Georgia Southern Eagles mascot being elbow-dropped through a folding table like it was Macho Man Randy Savage on “Monday Nitro.”

“There aren’t a lot of us who are still around from that day,” Hogue recalls. “But those of us who are, I think our shared goal is the same. Our eyes are always focused on the next step, but let’s allow ourselves a moment to enjoy this ride, especially in the middle of a year like 2020 has become.”

Hogue started working at Coastal in 1997, when people in Conway were still getting used to the name Coastal Carolina University, only four years into the school’s declaration of independence from the University of South Carolina’s system of satellite campuses in which it shed its former name, USC Coastal Carolina College, or as it was known throughout the state, USC Coastal. Hogue, a young sports broadcaster, was hired to be the radio play-by-play announcer for the Chanticleers’ basketball team. He has been there ever since, from Coastal’s decision to explore the idea of adding football in 1999 until today, including that stadium groundbreaking in 2002 at the corner of South Carolina Highway 544 and University Boulevard.

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“When I started working here, that was the location of Conway High School’s football stadium,” Hogue remembers. “They decided to build a new stadium on their campus, so it left that lot open for us. But it sat there empty for seven or eight months between their last game and our groundbreaking, so it was completely overgrown with weeds and watermelons.”

Wait … watermelons?

“Yeah, if you know anything about the sandy soil down

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Studying craters on asteroid Bennu shows how long it has been orbiting near Earth

Sunlight cracking rocks on Bennu
Exfoliation features on a cliff face (a) and on boulders (b-f) with varying size and location on asteroid Bennu from images taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REX spacecraft. The bright dome on the horizon of panel (a) is a boulder behind the exfoliating cliff. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

A team of researchers affiliated with a host of institutions in the U.S., Canada and Italy has found that studying the craters on asteroid Bennu allowed them to calculate how long it has been orbiting near Earth. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their study of craters formed on boulders on the asteroid.

Asteroid Bennu has made headlines lately. It is the asteroid that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on recently, collecting samples. That mission marked the first time that NASA has landed and collected samples from an asteroid. In this new effort, the researchers have been using data from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to calculate how long the asteroid has been orbiting near Earth.

To learn more about the age of the asteroid and its time spent orbiting near the Earth, the researchers focused their efforts on craters in boulders on the surface of the asteroid. Prior research has suggested that Bennu was once part of a larger body and was knocked off by a collision with another object while orbiting in the circumstellar disc, an asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.

After the collision, researchers believe Bennu slowly made its way out of the asteroid belt. During that time, it was struck by other objects, some of which hit boulders on its surface, resulting in large craters. After it made its way out of the asteroid belt, Bennu continued to be hit by other smaller objects, some of which also struck boulders on its surface, but the researchers with this new effort believe those newer strikes resulted in smaller impact craters. And because Bennu moved into a near-Earth orbit, those smaller craters represent the timeline of its move to the new orbit. By studying the size and depth of those craters using data from OSIRIS-Rex, the researchers were able to estimate their age—approximately 1.75 million years—which also shows how long Bennu has been in a near-Earth orbit.

NASA to launch delicate stowing of OSIRIS-REx asteroid samples

More information:
R.-L. Ballouz et al. Bennu’s near-Earth lifetime of 1.75 million years inferred from craters on its boulders, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2846-z

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So, How Long Until We Can Drink Moon Water?

When I heard that water was recently discovered on the surface of the moon, I’m not going to lie: My first thought was, I bet it tastes great.

I’m not alone in this, right? As a water lover — yes, we exist — I’m always chasing what food critic Jeffrey Steingarten refers to in his 1997 book, The Man Who Ate Everything: “that pure, clear, ethereal Alpine spring of our imaginations.” I picture moon water to be my ethereal Alpine spring: glacially cold and crisp; satisfyingly thirst-quenching; achingly crystalline. 

Sadly, I may never know the joys of sipping on a refreshing glass of lunar liquid. The water isn’t hidden away in small ice-cold grottos tucked below the moon’s surface, like I was hoping. Instead, these water molecules are spread so far away from each other that they don’t even technically form a liquid. “To be clear, this is not puddles of water, but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water,” Casey I. Honniball, the lead author of the study published in Nature Astronomy, said in a phone press briefing. A NASA press release stated that the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what was detected on the moon.

It will take scientists a long time to figure out how to gather up and mash together enough of those molecules to fill up the first Lunar Water™ bottle. (I think that’s how it’ll work, anyway.) Until then, here’s everything we know about the liquid that we really should be calling Moon Juice.

How exactly do we know that the moon is wet? 

Scientists have suspected that there’s been water on the moon for a while now — they just didn’t know what kind: H2O (the stuff we drink) and hydroxyl (the stuff you find in drain cleaner). Big difference — and something you probably want to know before you take a swig. 

That’s where NASA’s flying observatory, SOFIA, came in. (Yes, it took a womxn!). SOFIA, aka Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a modified Boeing that NASA uses as an observational aircraft. It allowed the scientists to study the moon’s surface in more detail — using a six micron wavelength, versus the puny three micron wavelength they’d been relying on before. This confirmed that the chemical signature of much of what’s on the surface of the moon is, indeed, the good ol’ H2O, said Honniball.

Even better? That water is cold. Another study confirmed that ice covers more of the moon than we once thought. It’s not just sticking at the moon’s poles, but scattered in shadowed pockets across the moon’s surface. 

Where does the moon water come from? 

Okay, so we now know the moon is a WAPlanet. But how? “The water that we observed has two potential sources,” Honniball explained during the press briefing. “It could be either from the solar wind or micrometeorites.” In other words, solar wind

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