11-Year-Old Discovers Fossil of Ancient Creature Bigger Than a Blue Whale: Unearthing History

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As Earth Day approaches, and the Wonder Theory newsletter celebrates its third anniversary, I’m filled with hope for the future.

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Encouragement and the pursuit of knowledge foster growth. Celebrated primatologist Jane Goodall, nurtured by her mother as a child, is now 90 and continues to inspire through her Roots & Shoots program, encouraging young people worldwide to create positive change within their communities.

Despite the ongoing climate crisis, Goodall remains optimistic that humanity can save the planet. “Don’t forget that you as an individual make an impact on the environment every single day,” she told CNN. “And it’s up to you to choose what sort of impact you make.”

In May 2020, then 11-year-old Ruby Reynolds and her father, Justin, were searching for fossils on a beach in Somerset, England, when she made a remarkable discovery. Fossils she found turned out to be part of a giant ichthyosaur’s jawbone, a marine reptile that roamed the seas 202 million years ago. This creature likely rivaled the size of a blue whale, the largest animal on Earth.

“It was so cool to discover part of this gigantic ichthyosaur. I am very proud to have played a part in a scientific discovery like this,” Ruby said.

In India, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee discovered evidence of a different massive reptile: a prehistoric snake that was longer than a school bus.

Meanwhile, archaeologists uncovered a dramatic collapse of an ancient Maya dynasty in Guatemala’s pyramids. They found burned remains of four adults, along with luxurious adornments and weapons, suggesting these people were of royal lineage. The remains were likely burned as a sign of desecration during a turbulent period of political and societal change for the Maya.

Separately, two 5,500-year-old skeletons found at an archaeological site in southwest France belonged to women who may have been buried alive in a sacrificial rite that used Italian Mafia-style torture methods.

Astronomers detected a rare phenomenon on a planet outside our solar system for the first time: a rainbow-like effect called a glory. The Cheops space telescope spotted the unexpected glow on WASP-76b, a scorching-hot exoplanet located 637 light-years away. The glory appears as colorful concentric rings and has only been observed on Earth and Venus until now.

Scientists also found evidence that an ancient cataclysmic collision with another planet likely created the bright, white heart seen on Pluto’s surface.

A star’s unusual wobble led astronomers to discover what they describe as a cosmic “sleeping giant” in the Milky Way. The Gaia space telescope identified Gaia BH3, the most massive known stellar black hole in our galaxy, with a mass nearly 33 times that of our sun. It’s located only 1,926 light-years away.

A fascinating accidental discovery revealed that queen common eastern bumblebees can survive underwater for up to a week. This happened when researchers accidentally submerged a specific type of hibernating bumblebee in water. It’s believed that queens enter a state of suspended growth, called diapause, which helps them survive.

As billions of cicadas prepare to emerge this spring after over a decade underground, scientists are anticipating some will be manipulated by a zombifying fungus. The pathogen transforms these cicadas into “saltshakers of death,” as described by Dr. Matt Kasson, an associate professor at West Virginia University. The fungus takes over their bodies, creating a bizarre spectacle of nature.

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