Science Wrap: Dinosaur nests in India, green comet, and dodos to come back?

Shaurya ThapaFebruary 4, 2023 | 08:00 IST

Much like the rest of the natural species of the world, the dinosaurs were first researched upon extensively by the so-called First World, mainly the European countries and the United States. However, with Hollywood’s increased connections with dinosaurs in the post-Jurassic Park era, Indians might tend to forget their own country and subcontinent’s connections with some of these iconic giant lizards. 

Now, another recent discovery of dinosaur nests with more than 200 eggs in the Narmada Valley is bound to regenerate interest in studying dinosaur fossils in the country. Talking about extinct species, this week in science also saw an attempt to bring back the dodo bird! Did Jurassic Park not warn us enough about resurrecting the dead? 

Know more about these biological developments along with a visually-striking comet and what this year’s budget has to say about AI and green growth. 

1- Dinosaur nests with 256 eggs recovered in Narmada Valley: A team of paleontologists (dinosaur experts) under lead researcher Harsha Dhiman have recovered 92 dinosaur nests with 256 eggs in the Dhar district portion of the Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh. These fossilised eggs belong to the herbivorous Titanosaurs, one of the largest known dinosaurs in recorded existence. 

A 3D render of Titanosaurus, one of the largest dinos to roam the planet (photo-Dinosaur Pictures and Facts)

The presence of these eggs might imply that the Narmada Valley was an ideal hatching location for these dinosaurs millions of years ago. However, this is not the first time that dinosaur eggs and other dinosaur-related remains have been recovered from the country. Apart from Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat has been an active site for such discoveries.

Two titanosaur egg shells that were also discovered at Madhya Pradesh's Dhar in 2022 (photo-India Today)

The Kheda district in Gujarat has a quarry that made the researchers chance upon numerous dinosaur eggs, baby dinosaur fossils, and egg shells, most of which belong to the titanosauridae, a grouping of dinosaurs that included sauropods (dinosaurs with long tails, long necks, four legs, and small heads). In Madhya Pradesh, places like Jabalpur and Jhalua have also bore witness to discoveries similar to the one in Dhar District. 

2- American gene company planning to revive the Dodo: The dodo bird is such a poster child of extinction that it also lent its name to the phrase “dead as a dodo”. With the bird last spotted in Mauritius more than 350 years ago, the dodo has been long gone. Not only was the bird’s population size affected by increasing colonial activity in the island nation but the dodo’s own fertility rate hardly offered any hope. The bird used to lay only one egg in over a year!

An illustrated depiction of dodo (photo-Colossal Biosciences)

But now, Dallas-based gene editing company Colossal Laboratories &  Biosciences is making the bold announcement of reviving the extinct bird. The company, which was formed in 2021 and has raised $225 million so far, has justified its intentions that it’s human responsibility to motivate people to think about the ongoing extinction crisis. 

How will Colossal achieve this goal? The company which also receives partial investments and sponsorships from the CIA’s tech-focused venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, are planning on studying the similarities between the dodo and its close relative the Nicobar pigeon to successfully remake the extinct bird’s original genetic makeup. If the genome is replicated successfully, “an artificial womb” might also be relied upon. 

Dutch soldiers pursuing dodos, painting by Walter Paget (photo-Colossal Biosciences)

The concept is, of course, still in its theoretical stage but if Colossal actually gets to achieve its goal, it would be a landmark moment for genetic science and a warning sign for the debate on human vs nature. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s iconic character Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park

3- The rare green comet came closest to the Earth: C/2022 E3 (ZTF) AKA the rare green comet came closest to our planet on February 1 (Wednesday), flying to Earth as close as 40 million kms. Astronomers and stargazers were able to spot the comet in a once-in-a-lifetime moment as it will only return after 50,000 years now. This means that the last time the comet passed through Earth was during the Stone Age. 

The comet spotted from the Spanish peak Pico de las Nieves (photo-Reuters)

Unofficially named after the green flare of the comet, the celestial body was first spotted last March by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility. The comet was in Jupiter’s orbit back then and has only gone to become brighter since then. Stunning photos were captured during its Earth detour by professional and amateur photographers likewise. 

The comet observed from the telescope of the Kryoneri observatory, in Kryoneri, Greece. (Photo: Reuters)

4- Budget highlights for Artificial Intelligence and green growth: Green growth seemed to be one of the key themes of India’s 2023 Union Budget that was revealed on February 1 like every year. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her speech at Parliament, announced that the National Green Hydrogen Mission will make it easier for the economy to shift to one with a lower carbon footprint and less reliance on imported fossil fuels.

(photo-NITI Aayog)

Another major highlight with regards to the environment was the announcement of the inter-state transmission system for evacuation, grid integration of 13 GW of renewable energy from Ladakh, which are to be constructed with investment of Rs 20,700 crore.

Additionally, the Finance Minister also announced the development of 3 Centres of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence. These centres will be built in prestigious Indian institutions with the goal of advancing India's AI ecosystem and development. The guiding principle behind these initiatives appears to be "Make AI in India and Make AI Work for India."

Last updated: February 04, 2023 | 08:00
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