‘Demonic’ fish with spikes of armor glows red in terrifying photo

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker is a funny-looking fish with a round body, bubbly eyes and a mouth agape. But under fluorescent lighting it looks terrifying — “demonic” even.

That’s the conclusion Leo Smith, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Kansas, drew as he researched different techniques to capture head-on images of the fish’s skeleton for a method paper. He plans to submit his findings to the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

“Inherently, it’s like Cartman from ‘South Park,'” Smith told Fox News, adding that it’s one of his favorite fish. “They’re really cute. They’re fun. These guys are best known for their pelvic sucking discs, so they can hold onto things like little rocks.”

He stripped the creature down to its skeleton and cartilage, dunking the fish in cow-stomach enzymes to get rid of its muscle, stained the body with colorful dye and then encased it in gelatin and glycerin — which is “relatively cheap and gooey to the touch.” This allowed him to see the blob-like fish’s coat of armor clearly.

“It got flaccid, like a character in ‘Scooby Doo.’ When you pull the skeleton out it collapses on itself,” said Smith, explaining that he had to hold the figure still in the gelatin for at least an hour until it dried.

Once the casing was ready, Smith turned on fluroescent lights and placed the ping pong ball-sized figure under a micropsope. He snapped several pictures of the spikey fish glowing in the dark with visibly empty eye sockets. The lighting, he said, really helped capture the lumpsucker’s boney spikes called “tubercles.”

“They can’t swim away from anything.They have a spiny build with spikes that are like little thumb tacks. Biting down on them would be really unpleasant,” Smith said, comparing them to porcupines.

Lumpsucker

A view of the Pacific spiny lumpsucker in white light.  (Leo Smith/The University of Kansas)

Smith said his research could help others properly position and capture head-on views of fish and reptiles. He compared the case with the gelatin to metal frames archaeologists use to display dinosaurs.

“We’ve been trying doing this for a long time,” he said. “This allows us to pose certain kinds of creatures to reenact natural positions we couldn’t do before.”

Smith has been studying marine life for more than 23 years.

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A look at the inside the Pacific spiny lumpfish’s mouth.  (Leo Smith/The University of Kansas)

He grew up in the mountains of New Mexico and was a star soccer player in high school. But a heart defect left him unable to continue his athletic career, so he found another hobby: fish.

His father brought home fish one day after a visit to the doctor and he was in charge of taking care of them. He eventually volunteered at a local aquariuam, where he determined he wanted to be a “fish guy.”

“It kind of snowballed,” Smith said. “By the time I graduated I had about 13 or 14 [fish] tanks.”

He then went on to study at University of California, San Diego, researching specimens that were hundreds of years old. Now he spends his time teaching and conducting research projects.

“All fish are different. There are different aspects to study,” Smith said. “I like the funny, awkward characteristics.”

They’re easier to study when they’re already dead, Smith said, pointing to his most recent project involving the lumpfish.

“When they’re dead, you can stop projects and start all over,” he added. “You don’t have to try to maintain the living.”

Stunning dinosaur discovery: Experts may have unearthed a baby Tyrannosaur fossil in Montana

Paleontologists in Montana have unearthed a fossil that may be the remains of a baby Tyrannosaurus rex.

Researchers and students from the University of Kansas recently excavated the fossil from the Hell Creek Formation in central Montana. The remains include a complete section of the upper jaw with all of the teeth intact, as well as parts of the dinosaur’s skull, foot, hips and backbones, according to the University of Kansas.

The remains likely belong to a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex that lived 66.5 million years ago, according to researchers, but could also belong to another species of small, carnivorous dinosaur.

“The teeth suggest it’s a Tyrannosaurus rex; however, there is still more work to be done,” said David Burnham, preparator of vertebrate paleontology at Kansas University’s Biodiversity Institute. “Because a young T. rex is so rare, there are only a few that have been found over the years, so it’s difficult to discern what are changes due to growth or if the differences in the bones reflect different species.”

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University of Kansas researchers found the fossil glowed under a black light  (David Burnham)

Burnham noted that the University of Kansas is fortunate that it has an older T. rex to use as comparison with the latest find, as well another young T. rex on loan.

University of Kansas paleontologists are now analyzing their find and are planning to return to Hell Creek Formation. “We’re going to go back out this summer — we’re going right to that spot,” said Burnham. “We think and hope there’s more there.”

The researchers hope to publish their results in the coming months.

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The University of Kansas excavation crew at work  (David Burnham)

Paleontologists are shedding new light on the time of the dinosaurs. An incredible dinosaur path, for example, which even shows the tracks of a baby dinosaur, has been discovered at NASA’s Space Flight Center. Experts also recently announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur in Egypt, marking an important prehistoric link between prehistoric Africa and Europe. The fossilized remains of Mansourasaurus shahinae, a school-bus sized dinosaur, were found in the Sahara desert.

Other finds include the fossilized remains of a tiny duck-sized dinosaur with rainbow feathers were recently discovered in China. Experts also found the remains of a turkey-sized dinosaur in south Eastern Australia, while the 150-million-year-old fossil remains of a bird-like dinosaur were found in Germany.

WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGE: Python gets stomach pumped after swallowing slipper whole

A wild coastal carpet python slithered into an elderly Australian couple’s house this week and found what it believed to be a tasty snack: a fuzzy slipper.

The pair called Norman Hill with N&S Snake Catcher to remove the large python from their home. They saw a large lump under the snake’s skin and realized one of their slippers was missing.

“I’ve got a silly question, but do you think the snake’s eaten a slipper?’” the female homeowner asked Hill, according to Australia’s Courier Mail.

Hill has been in the reptile business for nearly 30 years, but he’d never seen anything quite like this.

“You could see the outline of some foreign material in the stomach,” Josh Llinas, a veterinarian with Greencross Vets in Queensland, told Courier Mail.

Snake Shoe

A professional snake catcher brought the nearly 7-foot long creature into the Australian clinic.  (HerpVet)

Llinas said the professional snake catcher brought the nearly 7-foot long python into the clinic. The vet took several X-rays to confirm the snake had indeed ingested the shoe.

“This made for one of the most impressive radiographs I have seen,” HerpVet, a reptile department within the Greencross Jindalee Veterinary Clinic, wrote in a Facebook post that contained several graphic images. “You can’t make this stuff up folks.”

The shoe was too large and lodged too far into the snake’s body to come out naturally, so Llinas prepared for surgery.

“Sometimes you can remove the foreign bodies by helping them after they’ve been relaxed … by helping them move it up the digestive tract and out of the mouth,” Llinas said. “This was just way too big and it wasn’t going to come out.”

HerpVet said the reptile was under general anaesthesia while the vet performed a coeliotomy and gastrotomy – the opening of the stomach with an incision. With a 17-inch opening, the doctor was able to extract the object from the snake’s body in about an hour.

Snake Shoe

HerpVet said the reptile was under general anaesthesia while the vet performed coeliotomy and gastrotomy.  (HerpVet)

“After removal of the slipper … the stomach was closed in two layers, the body wall muscle was closed and surgical staples were used for the skin,” HerpVet explains.

The python was given fluids and pain killers and will rest for up to eight weeks. Llinas did not elaborate on where the snake will go next when it fully recovers.

“He woke up well and is off to for rehabilitation in a couple of days,” HerpVet said on Monday.

It’s not unusual for snakes to eat random objects. They’ll pretty much devour anything that they think looks tasty, Llinis said.

“I had a pillow case removed from a black-headed python, and just a few months ago, I had a tennis ball removed from a snake,“ Llinis said. “This was probably one of the more unusual things I’ve removed. I’ve heard of others swallowing thongs, stuffed toys. You name it, they will eat it.”

Interstellar visitor ‘Oumuamua’ never should have left home, theories say

An interstellar object that whizzed through our solar system last year is confounding astronomers trying to understand how planets, comets and asteroids form.

The object, called ‘Oumuamua, has a composition that suggests it should have formed close to its parent star. But in a twist, astronomers said it’s hard to imagine how the object left its parent solar system, because it’s hard to eject an object orbiting so close to a star

After looking at ‘Oumuamua’s high speed and highly inclined path through the solar system, scientists at the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center concluded the object was interstellar. The discovery of ‘Oumuamua marks the first time an interstellar object was confirmed in our solar system.

“This object was likely ejected from a distant star system,” said Elisa Quintana, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a NASA statement.

“What’s interesting is that just this one object flying by so quickly can help us constrain some of our planet-formation models,” added Quintana, who is a co-author of a new paper in the journal the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper, released today (March 27), describes what ‘Oumuamua observations are revealing about the formation of planetesimals, which are small, rocky objects that could come together under gravity’s pull to form planets.

Icy mystery

Observations of ‘Oumuamua suggest that the object was probably pretty dry. Before its discovery, ‘Oumuamua zoomed past the sun at about 196,000 mph (315,400 km/h). While the object was traveling fast enough to escape our solar system, its speed was somewhat similar to that of a comet passing by the sun, NASA said.

Comets are loose collections of ice and rock. As they draw near the sun, their surface warms, and this loosens gas and dust to escape into space. ‘Oumuamua didn’t leave behind such a trail.

Some scientists have suggested that in its own solar system, ‘Oumuamua likely formed in a different region than comets formed in our own neighborhood. But the new paper has a counterargument.

Solar systems such as our sun and its planets form out of vast clouds of gas, dust and ice. Objects, such as comets, that form far away from their parent sun can remain icy. If the objects are close to the sun, it’s too hot for ice to remain, so they coalesce into objects such as asteroids.

But if ‘Oumuamua formed as close to its star as an asteroid, it’s difficult to imagine how it was ejected away from that zone, the new paper suggests.

“The total real estate that’s hot enough for that is almost zero,” said lead author Sean Raymond, an astrophysicist at the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Bordeaux, in the same statement. “It’s these tiny, little, circular regions around stars. It’s harder for that stuff to get ejected, because it’s more gravitationally bound to the star. It’s hard to imagine how ‘Oumuamua could have gotten kicked out of its system if it started off as an asteroid.”

“If we understand planet formation correctly, ejected material like ‘Oumuamua should be predominantly icy,” added Thomas Barclay, an astrophysicist at Goddard and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “If we see populations of these objects that are predominantly rocky, it tells us we’ve got something wrong in our models.”

How ‘Oumuamua’s journey began

While researchers are further investigating where ‘Oumuamua formed, they have come up with a plausible scenario for how it was ejected. Based on simulations from other work, they suggest a gas giant planet — something similar to a Jupiter — flung ‘Oumuamua into interstellar exile.

As a gas giant plows by small objects such as asteroids, the planet exerts intense gravitational forces on the objects. In some cases, gravity breaks the objects apart. In the case of ‘Oumuamua, the planet’s gravity exerted pressure on the object, forcing it into the cigar-like shape observed today.

“The researchers calculated the number of interstellar objects we should see, based on estimates that a star system likely ejects a couple of Earth-masses of material during planet formation,” NASA said. “They estimated that a few large planetesimals will hold most of that mass but will be outnumbered by smaller fragments like ‘Oumuamua.”

7-foot alligator, who mistakenly thinks it’s ‘mating season,’ caught roaming around Tampa home

Raw video: Florida family calls cops after 7-foot alligator banging on their gate wakes them up.

Homeowners in a Tampa neighborhood were surprised to find out the banging they kept hearing early Friday morning was the work of a 7-foot alligator roaming around their property.

Residents inside a home on Yellow Clover Road called police after hearing a banging on their gate for about 45 minutes.

When officers arrived, they found a 7-foot female alligator roaming around the home. It ducked under the family’s car before going back to the gate.

After a few close calls and a lot of snarling from the reptile, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation trapper was able to wrangle her into the bed of his truck.

Robb Upgrove, the trapper, told FOX13 it appeared the gator was trying to bust through the gate to go into the family’s backyard – possibly searching for a body of water or even a date.

He said mating season typically begins in May, but the warm temperatures may have some of the reptiles confused.

“It’s starting to warm up,” Upgrove said. “So that triggers them to move into mating season.”

He said he expects alligator nuisance calls to increase as the season begins.

The captured alligator will be taken to a wildlife sanctuary.

Florida beachgoers discover ‘holy grail of shipwrecks’ after remains of 18th century ship wash ashore

The wreckage was later determined to be a well-preserved section of a wooden ship's hull.

Part of a centuries-old old sailing ship washed ashore on Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida overnight Tuesday, local officials said.

Julie Turner and her 8-year-old son Patrick first came across the ship early Wednesday, Tonya Creamer of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum told Fox News. Initially, the two thought it was a part of a fence, but realized soon after it was “a historical piece of an artifact,” Turner told CBS47.

“They’ve been so fantastic — they’ve been watching it all unfold,” Creamer said of Turner and her son.

Archaeologists with the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, along with other organizations, have been investigating the wreckage and suspect that it is a well-preserved section of a wooden ship’s hull, Creamer said.

Researchers with the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum have been documenting the artifact. Creamer said archaeologists on her team believe the ship could date back as far as the 1700s, but “statistics show that it might be from the 1800s,” because of the amount of ship traffic around St. Augustine during that time.

As of now, archaeologists don’t have a definitive date and are continuously working to find out where the ship is from originally, Creamer said. Finding a piece of wreckage like the one on Ponte Vedra beach is “unprecedented,” she said, adding that it is one of the largest to wash up in the area in a little over a decade.

“To actually see this survive and come ashore. This is very, very rare. This is the holy grail of shipwrecks,” Marc Anthony, the owner of Spanish Main Antiques in St. Augustine, told CBS47.

Anthony, who has spent more than 20 years searching for shipwreck artifacts and treasure coins, among other historical items, said the wreckage appeared to be from the 18th century.

What will happen to the wreckage next is not entirely clear.

Creamer said the ship washed ashore on state land, so Florida officials will ultimately decide what to do with the artifact. And while researchers “made a valiant effort” earlier this week to move the wreckage out of the way of the high-tide, they were unsuccessful. As a last resort, they used rope and stakes to try to keep the ship in place so they can continue to study it. For now, that method seems to be working, she said.

However, there’s still a chance the sea could reclaim the 48-foot section of the ship. That’s part of the reason why researchers from the museum and the Florida Public Archaeology Network have taken photos and measured the vessel to create a 3D model of it, Creamer said.

Creamer said she’s encouraging members of the public to check out the ship’s remains.

“We want the public to come take pictures, see it and talk about it because sometimes archaeology is done in areas that people can’t see,” she said. “We are all collectively excited about this.”