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Friday, July 27, 2007

Giant Prehistoric Tusks Found in Greece

ATHENS, Greece - Researchers in northern Greece have uncovered two massive tusks of a prehistoric mastodon that roamed Europe more than 2 million years ago — tusks that could be the largest of their kind ever found.

The remains of the mastodon, which was similar to the woolly mammoth but had straighter tusks as well as different teeth and eating habits, were found in an area about 250 miles north of Athens where excavations have uncovered several prehistoric animals over the past decade.

One of the tusks measured 16-feet-4-inches long and the other was more than 15 feet long, the research team said. They were found with the animal's upper and lower jaws — still bearing teeth — and leg bones, said Evangelia Tsoukala, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Thessaloniki, who led the team that excavated the site.

"To find a tusk 5 meters (more than 16 feet) long, that was a big surprise," Tsoukala told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the site late Wednesday.

"It's a very significant find because with these sections of the skeleton we can draw conclusions about this animal and its development," she added. "We are also looking for clues about its extinction."

Mastodons, an ancestor of the elephant, roamed Europe, Asia and North America, but how they became extinct remains a mystery. They are thought to have disappeared in Europe and Asia some 2 million years ago, but survived in North America until 10,000 years ago.

Tsoukala said the male animal discovered in Greece lived about 2.5 million years ago.

"This animal was in its prime. It was 25 to 30 years old; they lived until about 55. It was about 3.5 meters (11 1/2 feet) tall at the shoulder, and weighed around six tons," Tsoukala said.

Dutch researcher Dick Mol, who assisted with the excavation, said plant material found near the tusks would be analyzed to try to determine the environment the animal lived in.

He said the skeleton could also provide information.

"It's really a gold mine," said Mol, a research associate at the Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam. "These are the best preserved skeletons in the world of this species."

Dave Martill, a paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth in England, said scientists can analyze the growth rings in the tusks to learn more about the world's climate at the time the mastodon lived.

"These animals, in their bones, hold a whole load of information about the environment at the time — not just the animal," said Martill, an independent expert not connected with the excavation.

The bones will also be scoured for the remote chance of finding DNA material.

Researchers from Germany and the United States recently analyzed genetic material from an American mastodon recovered from fossils up to 130,000 years old found in Alaska, providing clearer insight into the evolution of elephants.

If DNA is recovered from the animal found in Greece — which Mol acknowledges is "very doubtful" — it could allow researchers to compare it to other European and American mastodon fossils at an unprecedented level of detail.

The tusks were discovered in October by an excavation machine operator working at a sand quarry, but it took months for the scientific investigation to be organized.

Tsoukala, who has been conducting excavations in the region since 1990, found a mastodon tusk measuring more than 14 feet long in the same area 10 years ago. She said the latest discovery is more significant because the skeletal remains are more complete.

Yes it is another Van Damme Friday



Metal Pen- 30 bucks no lead or ink


How does it work?In the Medieval period, artists and scribes often used a metal stylus in order to draw on a specially prepared paper surface. Generally known as Metalpoint, or Silverpoint when the stylus was made of silver, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer and Rembrandt all used this technique. http://www.silverpointweb.com/index.html
gives a lot of information about how it works.The pens we sell are a modern version (and do not use silver). The solid metal 'nib' consists of a metal alloy, that leaves a mark on most types of paper. If you use the sort of paper typically used in printers and photocopiers, the pen leaves a mark that looks as if it was made by a pencil. However the line will not smudge, and cannot be rubbed out.Since there is no ink, there is nothing to dry out, so the pen will work just as well in 25 years time as it does today. And of course it never needs sharpening!I would guess that in time the nib would begin to wear down, as you are leaving a small amount of metal on the page. However this has got to be a much slower process than with a pencil, which wears down pretty quickly. If you are planning to write the definitive 21st century novel, I would recommend a regular pen. However as a scientific curiousity, we like this pen a lot.The pen comes in a very smart, circular, silver coloured metal presentation tin, and would make a very unusual gift.

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Hurray for Van Damme Friday


Chrysler Ups the Ante With Lifetime Powertrain Warranty

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — In what it described as an "unprecedented announcement," Chrysler Group said on Thursday that it is offering a lifetime powertrain warranty on all of its 2007 and 2008 models starting today. The new powertrain warranty covers everything from the 4.7-liter V8 in the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee to the 600-hp 8.4-liter V10 in the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10.

"We just finished a call with all of our dealers across the country," said Steven Landry, executive vice president of Chrysler Group North American sales and marketing, service and parts. " 'Turning point,' 'jump start' were some of the words the dealers were using." The warranty is nontransferable to subsequent owners. Landry said it will be limited to the first owner or holder of the first retail lease. Subsequent owners will get the three-year/36,000-mile coverage. Landry said the new warranty covers the "most expensive" parts on a vehicle and also covers front- and rear-wheel-drive components. Consumers are required to have a mandatory powertrain inspection at the dealership once every five years to maintain the warranty. Landry also said the new powertrain deal could bring the company's incentive spending down, although "we are not going to count on that." The Chrysler Group had one of the most paltry warranties in the auto industry prior to today, at three years/36,000 miles. The Korean manufacturers pioneered warranty coverage with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which was quickly emulated by automakers from Suzuki to General Motors. Suzuki currently offers a seven-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. GM offers a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that is fully transferable to other owners of the vehicle. What this means to you: Chrysler demonstrates enormous confidence in its new powertrains with this industry-first warranty coverage. And that's good news for buyer

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