Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Magnitude 1.4 Earthquake on the Isle of Mull.

The British Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 1.4 Earthquake at a depth of 7 km beneath the northwest Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, slightly after 2.10 am British Summertime (slightly after 1.10 am GMT), on Monday 28 July 2014. There is no danger of any damage or injuries from a quake this size, but it may have been felt locally.

The approximate location of the 28 July 2014 Isle of Mull Earthquake. Google Maps.

Earthquakes become more common as you travel north and west in Great Britain, with the west coast of Scotland being the most quake-prone part of the island and the northwest of Wales being more prone  to quakes than the rest of Wales or most of England.

The precise cause of Earthquakes in the UK can be hard to determine; the country is not close to any obvious single cause of such activity such as a plate margin, but is subject to tectonic pressures from several different sources, with most quakes probably being the result of the interplay between these forces.

Britain is being pushed to the east by the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by the impact of Africa into Europe from the south. It is also affected by lesser areas of tectonic spreading beneath the North Sea, Rhine Valley and Bay of Biscay. Finally the country is subject to glacial rebound; until about 10 000 years ago much of the north of the country was covered by a thick layer of glacial ice (this is believed to have been thickest on the west coast of Scotland), pushing the rocks of the British lithosphere down into the underlying mantle. This ice is now gone, and the rocks are springing (slowly) back into their original position, causing the occasional Earthquake in the process. 

(Top) Simplified diagram showing principle of glacial rebound. Wikipedia. (Bottom) Map showing the rate of glacial rebound in various parts of the UK. Note that some parts of England and Wales show negative values, these areas are being pushed down slightly by uplift in Scotland, as the entire landmass is quite rigid and acts a bit like a see-saw. Climate North East.

Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. If you felt this quake, or were in the area but did not (which is also useful information) then you can report it to the British Geological Survey here.

See also...


The British Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 2.9 Earthquake at a depth of 5 km roughly 10 km to the west of Fort William in Highland County, Scotland, slightly after 7.35 pm British Summertime (slightly after 6.35 pm GMT) on Thursday 3 July 2014. This is a large quake for Scotland, but not dangerous and there are...




The British Geological Survey recored a Magnitude 1.3 Earthquake at a depth of 7 km on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the...


 Magnitude 1.0 Earthquake off the Isle of Jura.

The British Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 1.0 Earthquake at a depth of 2 km, about 5 km off the west coast of the Isle of Jura...


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Families evacuated after Trinidad oil leak.

Several families have been forced to evacuate their homes after an oil well in Penal on southwest Trinidad began leaking at about 11 pm local time on Saturday 26 July 2014. Resident in the area have described being woken by a loud noise that sounded like and explosion, then seeing oil and gas spraying about 12 m into the air and raining down on rooftops and gardens, a situation which persisted for at several hours before operators Petrotrin were able to shut it off. A clean-up operation in the village went on for much of the following day.

Workers clearing up after an oil spill in Penal, Trinidad, on Sunday 27 July 2014. Dave Persad/Trinidad Express.

The Trinidad Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) has called for an investigation into management practices at Petrotrin following an series of similar incidents. Six workers were fired from the company following a leak in December, but the union claims the problems are caused by a systematic failure of management rather than the fault of ordinary workers.

The approximate location of the 26 July 2014 Trinidad oil leak. Google Maps.

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Beaches in South Trinidad were closed by authorities after being covered by a thick layer of crude oil on 18 December 2013. Local fishermen have also been prevented from putting to sea by the event, putting livelihoods at risk, and residents have complained of nausea...



An oil and gas rig 95 km off the coast off Louisiana which has been burning for a day has begun to collapse into the Gulf of Mexico. The Walter Oil & Gas owned Hercules 265 jack-up rig (an oil rig that...



Two workers are feared dead after an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday 16 November 2012. The men, described...


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Two new species of Chalinid Dermosponge from Western Australia.

Chalinid Dermosponges are among the hardest Sponges to classify taxonomically due to their simple anatomies and variable morphologies. They are encrusting Sponges with skeletons made up of individual spicules which support their structure, but are not helpful taxonomically. Species are often distinctively coloured, but this is not visible in preserved specimens, making comparison to museum specimens extremely difficult. Chalinid Dermosponges are found globally and at all depths, but are most abundant and diverse in shallow subtidal waters (i.e. just below the low-tide level).

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 9 July 2014, Jane Fromont of the Aquatic Zoology Department at the Western Australian Museum and David Abdo of the Marine Ecology and Monitoring Section of the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Western Australia describe two new species of Chalinid Dermosponge from temperate coastal waters off the coast of Western Australia, both of which are placed in the genus Haliclona.

The first new species is named Haliclona djeedara, which means 'brown' in the Nyoongar language, spoken by the indigenous people of south Western Australia. Haliclona djeedara is an erect, lobate, encrusting Sponge, light brown or beige in colour. It is firm, but compressible with a springy texture and large internal canals. It was found living on limestone reefs at depths of 3-30 m, in temperate waters south of 30˚ south, from Jurien Bay in the north to Bremer Bay in the south. It was observed giving birth to cylindrical parenchymellae larvae (planktonic Sponge larvae consisting of clumps of ciliated cells) in February, which is summer in Western Australia. The individual Sponges are gonochoric (sexed, can be male or female).

Underwater image of Haliclona djeedara. David Abdo in Fromont & Abdo (2014).

The second new species is named Haliclona durdong, meaning 'green' in the Nyoongar language. Haliclona durdong is an erect or massive Dermosponge with a smooth, velvety surface. It is compressible and easily damaged. It was found living on limestone reefs at depths of 3-30 m, in temperate waters south of 30˚ south, from Jurien Bay in the north to Bremer Bay in the south. It gives birth to to cylindrical parenchymellae larvae in the summer; individuals can apparently be gonochoric or hermaphroditic. 

Underwater image of Haliclona durdong. David Abdo in Fromont & Abdo (2014).

See also…


Theonellid Sponges are predominantly deepwater Sponges found across the globe, with a rigid skeleton made up of interlocking silica spicules. They are noted for the production of an array of unusual...



Unlike most Sponges (Porifera), which feed by filter feeding water pumped through their bodies, Carnivorous Sponges (Cladorhizidae) feed by capturing Crustaceans and other small animals on hooked spicules on filaments, then digesting them externally.  The group are predominantly found in deep water, where carnivory...



 A hypercalcified Chaetetid Demosponge from the Late Carboniferous of northwest Spain.

Sponges (Porifera) are considered to be the most primitive form of animals. They lack differentiated cells, and can reform if...


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The larvae of an Apochrysinid Green Lacewing.


All Insects undergo a set number of moults in their lifetimes, with the phases between these moults known as ‘instars’. Many Insects undergo a dramatic metamorphosis with their final moult, producing an adult instar that bears little resemblance to the larval instars. This can make understanding the life-cycles of Insects difficult, since the larvae often lead very different lifestyles to the adults and may not be readily identifiable. The Apochrysinae are an ancient group of Green Lacewings (Chrysopidae), with  an abundent fossil record but only 25 known living species divided into six genera, of these only the third larval instar of a single Japanese species (Apochrysa matsumurae) has ever been described.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 10 July 2014, Catherine Tauber of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University and the Department of Entomology & Nematology at the University of California, Davis, describes the larvae of a second Apochrysinid Green Lacewing species, Apochrysa voeltzkowi from the Tsitsikamma National Park in South Africa.

One specimen each of the first and second instars were examined, and two specimens of the third instar. The second instar specimen was judged to be close to moulting, so that its head and body were slightly swollen and distorted. For this reason formal descriptions of only the first and third instars were made.

The first instar (neonate) is about 1.6 mm in length and cream in colour with light brown markings on the head; the rest of the body lacked markings. The eyes protrude sideways, and the mandibles are long, thin and curved.

The first instar larvae of Apochrysa voeltzkowi in dorsal view. Tauber (2014).


The third instar was 7.3-8.9 mm in length with a white body with a grey median line and brown markings. The mandibles were long, thin and curved. This was essentially similar to the third instar larvae of Apochrysa matsumurae, although the latter lacked markings.

The third instar larvae of Apochrysa voeltzkowi in dorsal view. Tauber (2014).

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Silky Lacewings (Psychopsidae) are a group of...

Osmylids (Osmylidae) are a group of Neuropteran Insects with a fossil record dating back to the Early Jurassic and are still in existence today. They appear to have been at their most numerous and diverse in the Middle-Late Jurassic, with a number of lineages...




Snakeflies (Raphidioptera) are a group of carnivorous flying insects related to the Lacewings, Antlions and Alderflies. They have long life cycles, with a number of larval stages, but still feed as adults. Modern Snakeflies...


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Asteroid 2014 MG55 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MG55 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 10 080 000 km (26.22 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 6.7% of the average distance between the Earth an the Sun), slightly after 12.25 pm GMT on Friday 25 July 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would have presented a serious threat. 2014 MG55 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 28-90 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 28-90 m in diameter), and an object towards the upper end of this range would be predicted to be capable of passing through the Earth's atmosphere relatively intact, impacting the ground with an energy equivalent to about 35 megatons of TNT (roughly 2000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb). Such an event would result in a crater about 1 across, cause devastation on a wide scale and would have the potential to affect the climate globally for years after the impact event.

The calculated orbit of 2014 MG55. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 MJ55 was discovered on 27 June 2014 (28 days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope on Mount Haleakala on Maui. The designation 2014 MG55 implies that it was the 1382nd asteroid (asteroid G55) discovered in the second half of June 2014 (period 2014 M).

While 2014 MG55 occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 1027 day orbit, at an angle of 9.8° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.07 AU from the Sun (1.07 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 2.91 AU from the Sun, (2.91 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, almost twice the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid.

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 Asteroid 2014 OP2 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 OP2 passed by the Earth at a distance of 199 700 km (0.52 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon), at about 8.35 am GMT on Thursday 24 July 2014. There was no...


 Asteroid 2014 MJ55 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MJ55 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 11 080 000 km (28.83 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 7.4% of the average distance between the Earth and...


 Asteroid 2014 MA6 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MA6 passed by the Earth at a distance of 7 275 000 km (18.93 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 4.9% of the average distance between the Earth and the...


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Monday, 28 July 2014

Magnitude 3.2 Earthquake in Payne County, Oklahoma.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.2 Earthquake at a depth of 4.5 km in northeast Payne County, Oklahoma, slightly before 5.20 pm local time (Slightly before 10.20 pm GMT) on Sunday 27 July 2014. There are no reports of any damage or injuries associated with this event, though it was felt locally.

The approximate location of the 27 June 2014 Payne County Earthquake. Google Maps.

Oklahoma is naturally prone to Earthquakes, particularly in the southwest of the state, near the Meers Fault Zone, but since 2009 has suffered a sharp increase in the number of small quakes in the central and northeast parts of the state. While most of these quakes have been quite small, a few have been large enough to potentially cause problems, and any unexplained increase in seismic activity is a cause for concern. 

In a paper published in the journal Geology on 26 March 2013, a team of geologists led by Katie Keranen of the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma linked one of the largest of these quakes, a Magnitude 5.7 event in November 2011 which caused damage locally and was felt across 17 states, to the practice of pumping liquids (usually brine) into injection wells, which is common in the hydrocarbons industry and used to displace oil or gas, which can then be extracted from nearby extraction wells (where this is done in bursts at pressure to intentionally break up rock it is called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking). Significantly they suggested that the practice could lead to quakes years or even decades after the actual injection.

Witness accounts of quakes can help geologists to understand these events and the rock structures that cause them. If you felt this quake (or if you were in the area but did not, which is also useful information) you can report it to the USGS here.

See also...


The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.1 Earthquake at a depth of 2.4 km in southern Grant County...



The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.3 Earthquake at a depth of 4.4 km in southwest Grant County...



The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.6 Earthquake at a depth of 5.0 km in northern Lincoln County...


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A Turiasaurian Sauropod from the Late Jurassic of Portugal.

Sauropod Dinosaurs reached their most diverse in the Late Jurassic, with about 180 species described from around the world. The best known Sauropod faunas from this period are from the Morrison Formation in the United States, the Tendaguru Formation in Tanzania and the Iberian Peninsula. The Sauropod fauna of Iberia appears to be very similar to that of the Morrison Formation, but with two important differences. Firstly the Morrison Formation contains a range of Sauropods of different sizes, suggesting an ecological diversity of animals with different feeding strategies, while all the Iberian Sauropods appear to have been very large animals. It has been suggested that the niches occupied by smaller Sauropod Dinosaurs in the Morrison Formation may have been occupied by other, non-Sauropod herbivores in Iberia, though the absence of juvenile members of the known species cannot be explained this way. Secondly three of the Iberian species, Galveosaurus herreroi, Losillasaurus giganteus and Turiasaurus riodevensis (all from Spain) appear to form a distinct evolutionary lineage, outside the Neosauropoda, which has been named the Turiasauria. This group is entirely absent from North America, although isolated teeth and fragmentary remains from elsewhere in Europe and Tanzania have been attributed to it.

In a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on 6 may 2014, Octávio Mateus of the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and the Museu da Lourinhã, Philip Mannion of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London and Paul Upchurch of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, describe a new species of Turiasaurian Sauropod from the Late Jurassic Lourinhã Formation of west-central Portugal.

The new Dinosaur is named Zby atlanticus, where ‘Zby’ honours the distinguished Russian-French palaeontologist Georges Zbyszewski, who spent much of his career studying the geology and palaeontology of Portugal, and ‘atlanticus’ refers to the site where the specimen was found, in a bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Zby atlanticus is described from a right pectoral girdle (shoulder) and forelimb, plus an isolated tooth and parts of two vertebrae (check). It shows close affinities to Turiasaurus riodevensis, but there are sufficient differences on the limited available material to merit placing it in a different genus.

Locality of Zby atlanticus. (A) photograph of the elements in the ground; (B) line drawing of the elements in the ground. Numbers refer to (1) chevron; (2) scapula; (3) coracoid; (4) humerus; (5) ulna; (6) radius; (7) metacarpal I; (8) metacarpal III; (9) metacarpal IV; (10) manual ungual phalanx I-2; (11) tooth. Note that the additional two manual phalanges are not visible in this view. Scale bar equals 500 mm. Mateus et al. (2014).

Silhouette outline and line drawings of Zby atlanticus. (A) Humerus; (B) tooth; (C) coracoid; (D) scapula; (E) chevron; (F) radius; (G) ulna; (H) metacarpal I; (I) metacarpal III; (J) metacarpal IV; (K) manual phalanx I-1; (L) manual ungual claw I-2. Figures not proportionally to scale to one another. Mateus et al. (2014).

See also…


Titanosaurs were the dominant group of Sauropod Dinosaurs in many Late Cretaceous faunas. The group included the very largest Sauropods, and therefore also the very largest known land animals of any type. Titanosaur remains were first found in Madagascar in the 1890s, though the first species from Madagascar...




Sauropod dinosaurs were massive, long-necked...


Sauropod dinosaurs were massive, long-necked, long-tailed creatures that have long been regarded as the largest land animals ever to have lived. They reached...


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