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  CSIRO   Lloyd's Register
10 April 2015
 
  Science by Email  
  
News: Scientists revive Brontosaurus    
   

 
Have you ever heard of the Brontosaurus? This giant dinosaur pops up in books, movies, television shows, in fact, almost everywhere! Even when it was thrown out by scientists, we didn't want to let it go from our collective imagination. The good news is that this much-loved dinosaur is back.


 The history of the Brontosaurus is long and colourful. Over 100 years ago, there was a race to discover new dinosaurs, known as ‘the bone wars’. Paleontologist O.C. Marsh found many new dinosaurs during this time – in 1877 he described the Apatosaurus and in 1879, the Brontosaurus was greeted as a newly found dinosaur.

Several years later, Marsh’s evidence was revised. Scientists compared both dinosaurs to a new skeleton. They came to the conclusion that all three dinosaurs were the same species. Since Apatosaurus was named first, the name Brontosaurus was relegated to the dustbin.

For 100 years, scientists thought Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were the same dinosaur. But recently, old information regarding the Brontosaurus has been formally re-assessed.

The researchers studied the evolutionary relationship of different dinosaurs using their remaining fossil bones. They found conclusive evidence that Brontosaurus is distinct from Apatosaurus and can now be reinstated as its own unique genus.

Science is a constantly changing subject, not just a dusty pile of old facts. The Brontosaurus’ resurrection is an example of how new research can change previously accepted science.
 

More information

Time to reinstate the Brontosaurus
The bone wars
 
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An artist's impression of a Brontosaurus.
Image: An artist's impression of a Brontosaurus.
Credit: ©istock.com/CoreyFord
 
 
   
    Quiz questions    
   
  1. What happens when the largest female clownfish in a group dies?
  2. What does the name Brontosaurus mean?
  3. What would you use an Archimedes’ screw to do?
  4. Steel is mostly comprised of what element?
  5. Which takes longer? A photon escaping from the core of the Sun to the surface of the Sun, or that same photon travelling from the surface of the Sun to the Earth.
   
Try this: Squishy eggs  
 
 
 
Pouring vinegar into a bottle with two eggs inside
Pour vinegar over the eggs.
The eggs have bubbles of carbon dioxide sitting on them.
As the vinegar breaks down the shell, bubbles of carbon dioxide form on the eggs.
Hands holding an egg with the shell removed.
After two days, the egg shell is gone and the egg feels super squishy.
 
 
   
   
 

You will need

  • White vinegar
  • 2 eggs: 1 hardboiled, 1 raw
  • Spoon, large enough to fit an egg on it
  • Jar

What to do

  1. Carefully place your eggs in the jar, being mindful of how fragile they are.
  2. Pour white vinegar into the jar so it completely covers both eggs.
  3. Let the eggs sit in the white vinegar for 24 hours. Don’t put a lid on it – it might pop off!
  4. After 48 hours, pour out the vinegar along with the eggs. Once again, be careful, as the eggs are fragile.
  5. You can now play with your shell-less eggs! Try squeezing them softly and notice how squishy they are.

What’s happening?

When an egg is submerged in white vinegar the shell breaks down and dissolves. This is due to the acetic acid in vinegar. This acid breaks down the calcium carbonate in the egg shell, leaving the soft inner membrane intact.

After an hour or so, you will notice bubbles forming on the egg that float to the surface. These bubbles are carbon dioxide, released from the carbonate in the eggshells. In time, the bubbles will stop forming as there is no more egg shell to dissolve.

The raw egg can be very fragile – a small break in the membrane will allow the egg to leak out. The boiled egg should be more resilient as it is solid all the way through!
 

Applications


Limestone caves are found around the world. They form when limestone (calcium carbonate) dissolves in acidic water. Water becomes slightly acidic when it combines with carbon dioxide from the soil and air to form carbonic acid. This is a different acid to the acetic acid in vinegar, but works much the same way. The limestone in the land dissolves and is washed away by the water. This leaves a cave.  
 

More information

Make a glowing bouncy egg (video)
What is ocean acidification? (video)

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Read it!

What do spiders think of climate change? Warmer weather might make spiders faster, bigger and more venomous.
 

See it!

Check out these amazing science images, finalists in the Wellcome Image Awards.
 

Watch it!

Many museums are filled with ancient lifeless things. But hidden inside, there are laboratories where scientific breakthroughs are made. Watch TED-Ed as they go behind the scenes at a museum.
   
   
 
 
 
A screenshot from a video about museums.
 
 
   
    Quiz answers    
   

  1. Clownfish are hermaphrodites and live in groups. When a female clownfish dies, the large male clownfish in the group develops as a female to replace it.
  2. Brontosaurus means ‘thunder lizard’ in modern Latin.
  3. An Archimedes’ screw is usually used to lift water and other liquids.
  4. Steel is mostly iron, with a small amount of carbon and other elements.
  5. It can take 40 000 years from a photon to get to the surface of the Sun. It takes 8.5 minutes to get from the Sun to the Earth.
   
  
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