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New Species of Tiny Frogs, Human Hibernation, and 30 Exocomets

Six new species of tiny frogs from Mexico

Scientists have identified six new species of fingernail-sized frogs in Mexico’s forests, with one earning the distinction of Mexico’s smallest frog.

All six species are smaller than an Australian nickel, at just 15mm long when fully grown, according to a new study published in Herpetological Monographs.

The newly discovered species are known as “direct development” frogs: instead of hatching into tadpoles like most frogs, they emerge from eggs as perfect miniature frogs.

A researcher gently holds the tiny leg of a frog, Craugastor rubinus.
A researcher gently holds the tiny leg of Craugastor rubinus. Credit: Jeffrey W Streicher, Natural History Museum, London

The researchers studied 500 frog specimens that had originally been collected in Mexico but have been collected in museums around the world.

They used DNA sequencing to classify the frogs into groups based on the similarity of their genes, then used CT scans to create 3D models of the frogs’ skeletons so physical details could be compared.

The six new species are all from the same genus. Craugastor.

30 exocomets discovered in a young planetary system

The star Beta Pictoris has fascinated astronomers for 30 years because it allows them to observe a planetary system in the process of formation.

It is made up of at least two young planets and also contains comets, which were detected as early as 1987. These were the first comets observed around a star other than the Sun, which are known as exocomets.

Now, an international team of astrophysicists has discovered 30 exocomets orbiting Beta Pictoris and determined the size of their nuclei, the solid central part of a comet, which vary between three and 14 kilometers in diameter.

They were also able to determine the ratio of small to large comets and found that their size distribution was strikingly similar to that of those orbiting the Sun, indicating that they too were formed by a series of collisions and breakups.

The research is published in scientific reports.

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Artist’s impression of exocomets orbiting the star β Pictoris. Credit: © ESO/L. Calçada

Suspended Animation Space Travel May Never Be Possible

How realistic is human hibernation for hypothetical future space travel?

Bad news for science fiction fans: the answer is not very, according to a new study by Chilean researchers published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. We just wouldn’t save enough energy.

They calculated the actual amount of energy savings from hibernation and its dependence on body mass for a variety of hibernating animals, from bats to bears.

They found that hibernating daily energy expenditure scales isometrically with mass, meaning that a hibernating gram of bat has a metabolism similar to that of a 20,000 times larger bear gram.

Calculating the likely metabolism of a hibernating human based on our own mass, they found that we save more energy by sleeping than if we hibernated.

No more nasty nanotube entanglements

A new acid-based solvent has been developed to simplify the processing of carbon nanotubes, which are prone to tangle like spaghetti, according to a recent article in the journal. Progress of science.

The unique combination of acids, including methanesulfonic (MSA), toluenesulfonic, and oleum acids, help separate carbon nanotubes in solution and convert them into films, fibers, or other materials.

Oleum and chlorosulfonic acids have long been used to dissolve nanotubes without changing their structures, but both are highly corrosive. By combining oleum with two weaker acids in a solvent that is compatible with conventional manufacturing processes, chemical engineers have developed a process that enables new manufacturing of nanotube products.

Study Reveals Stonehenge Landscape Before World-Famous Monument

Four thousand years before Stonehenge was built, the land within the World Heritage site was covered by open woodland, with meadow-like clearings, inhabited by grazing animals and hunter-gatherers, according to new research published in plus one.

Geologists exploring Blick Mead, a Mesolithic archaeological site just over a mile from the iconic Standing Stones, have found evidence that the land was not covered by dense, closed canopy forests during the Late Mesolithic period, as reported. I had previously thought.

The research team analyzed pollen, fungal spores, and DNA traces preserved in ancient sediments (sedaDNA), combined with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon dating to produce an environmental history of the site.

Instead, they found that it was partially forested and populated by aurochs (cattle), red deer, elk and wild boar, making it a good hunting ground for humans who lived off the land opportunistically, before the arrival of the first farmers.