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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse The Seventy Great Mysteries of the
Natural World
for presenting us with an overview of
what we do know and what we do not.

The Seventy Great Mysteries
of the Natural World

Edited by Michael Benton

The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World (2008) - 304 pages
The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World at Amazon.com

The latest findings about life on Earth and the mysteries of the planet

  • 1: How did the Earth form?
  • 2: The origins of life
  • 3: The origins of multicellular life
  • 4: The Cambrian evolutionary 'explosion'
  • 5: The biggest mass extinction of all time
  • 6: Were the dinosaurs warm-blooded?
  • 7: Giant dinosaurs: how did they get so big?
  • 8: Why did the dinosaurs die out?
  • 9: Why do mammals rule the world?
  • 10: The hunt for the earliest human ancestor
The Earth
  • 11: Why does the compass point north?
  • 12: How continents and oceans form
  • 13: Is Mount Everest getting higher?
  • 14: Where did the oxygen in the atmosphere come from?
  • 15: What makes volcanoes explode?
  • 16: The formation of diamonds
  • 17: Which was the largest volcanic eruption ever?
  • 18: The mystery of tsunamis
  • 19: Asteroid and comet impacts on Earth
  • 20: Where does oil come from?
  • 21: The evidence for evolution
  • 22: How did the eye evolve?
  • 23: Why do so many people not accept evolution?
  • 24: Disentangling the genetic code
  • 25: Selfish-gene theory
  • 26: Drawing the tree of life
  • 27: Human genetic variation
  • 28: How do new species form?
  • 29: Exploring the links between evolution and development
  • 30: Are five fingers essential?
Biogeography and Environments
  • 31:Numbers of species in the tropics and at the poles
  • 32: The evolution of deserts
  • 33: How do plants and animals live in the desert?
  • 34: Has there always been ice at the poles?
  • 35: How deep can life live under ice and rock?
  • 36: Why are islands special?
  • 37: What do we know about Darwin's finches?
  • 38: The origins of Australia's special wildlife
  • 39: Breathing sulphur: life on the abyssal black smokers
  • 40: Extremophiles and life on other planets
Plants and Animals
  • 41: Estimating present-day global biodiversity
  • 42: Why are insects so diverse?
  • 43: Why are some organisms small and some large?
  • 44: What is the largest living organism?
  • 45: Engineering limits to the body size of land animals
  • 46: Running, hopping, skipping: animal locomotion
  • 47:Flying and walking: animal locomotion
  • 48: How do dogs see the world?
  • 49: Why are animals coloured?
  • 50: How do animals adapt to the deep?
Animal Behavior
  • 51:Instinct and learning in animal behaviour
  • 52: Is an ant colony a superorganism?
  • 53: Why are animals nice to each other?
  • 54: How do animals navigate?
  • 55: Sexual selection
  • 56: Why do deer have antlers: fighting or display?
  • 57: Invisible signalling: pheromones
  • 58: Do animals have emotions?
  • 59: The language of honey bees
  • 60: Animal consciousness
Global Warming and the Future
  • 61: Global warming
  • 62: What will Earth's climate be like in the future?
  • 63: El Nino: extreme weather on the increase?
  • 64: Greenhouse gases and Earth's natural rhythms
  • 65: Predicting future human population levels
  • 66: Flu pandemics and eastern Asia
  • 67: Wildlife extinction and conservation
  • 68: What will replace liquid hydrocarbon fuels?
  • 69: Humanity's ecological footprint
  • 70: Human behaviour and saving the planet

What we know and what we predict about the nature of life and the future of life on Earth.

Every day we read about or experience massive changes in the environment and the natural world. But what do we really know about the functioning of Earth and of life? What do we still have to learn?

Here, over sixty of the world's most eminent scientists - from the United States and the UK to France and Germany, from Italy and the Netherlands to India and Australia - share privileged insights into their cutting-edge research and findings.

The book's seven sections explore the origins of the planet and of life, the inner and outer workings of the Earth, the concept and evidence for evolution, biogeography and environments, plants and animals, animal behavior and the future. We journey from the core of the Earth to the top of Mount Everest, from microbes living without oxygen in the deepest oceans to the remarkable ways in which bees communicate. We investigate the secrets of animal locomotion and migration and the rigors of the desert.

The authors address a broad range of questions. Were the dinosaurs warm-blooded or not? Which was the largest volcanic eruption ever? How did the eye evolve? Why do we have five fingers and toes? Has there always been ice at the poles? Are humans the only animals with consciousness? Is the largest living thing a whale, a giant redwood, or a fungus? What will happen to climates in the future?

Visually stunning and highly tropical, The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Natural World is of the utmost relevance to the future of our species and our planet.

Michael J. Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology and was formerly Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. He has written over 180 scientific articles and over 50 books, many of them standard reference works and textbooks, as well as popular books about dinosaurs and the history of life, including When Life Nearly Died, published by Thames & Hudson.

3-12-21 Signs that Earth was once almost entirely molten found in ancient rock
Chemical signatures in 3.7-billion-year-old basalt rocks from Greenland support the long-held theory that Earth was once almost entirely molten. We know very little about what early Earth looked like – but one theory says that at several times it was almost entirely molten, a magma ocean. These oceans were probably caused by a series of massive impacts with other objects in our solar system that each generated enough energy to melt our planet’s interior. One of the last such collisions is thought to have formed the moon. Now, Helen Williams at the University of Cambridge and her colleagues have found evidence of these early magma oceans in ancient rocks. They collected samples of 3.7-billion-year-old basalt from the Isua supracrustal belt, an area of rocks in south-west Greenland, and measured the iron isotopes in them using chromatography and mass spectroscopy. They found unusually high levels of heavy iron isotopes – lighter ones are commonly found in younger basalt rocks. These heavy iron isotopes are typical of the high pressures of magma ocean crystallisation, says Williams. “We are looking at a real signature of the process.” The team found that the Greenland rocks contained iron-rich minerals that hold a history of repeated crystallisation from magma oceans beginning as early as 4.1 billion years ago. Some of the minerals may have formed at least 700 kilometres below Earth’s surface. “The unusual ratios of iron isotopes are best explained by crystals having formed in a deep magma ocean and then being transported to the upper mantle where they melted again to form the Greenland rocks,” says Catherine McCammon at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, who wasn’t involved in the research. “Old rocks, such as the ones from Greenland, are melted reconstructions of ancient material.”

The Seventy Great Mysteries
of the Natural World

Edited by Michael Benton

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse The Seventy Great Mysteries of the
Natural World
for presenting us with an overview of
what we do know and what we do not.