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Chicken Eggs as Drug Factories
Protecting Cows—and People—from a Deadly Disease
Keeping Bugs Away from Food
Amphibians
Tree Frogs
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Salamanders and Newts
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Hearing Whales
Walktopus
Red Apes in Danger
Behavior
A brain-boosting video game
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Reading Body Language
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A Meal Plan for Birds
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Gooey Secrets of Mussel Power
Moon Crash, Splash
Popping to Perfection
Computers
Earth from the inside out
It's a Small E-mail World After All
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Dinosaurs Grow Up
A Rainforest Trapped in Amber
Three strikes wiped out woolly mammoths
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Petrified Lightning
Warmest Year on Record
Getting the dirt on carbon
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Fishing for Fun Takes Toll
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Finding the Past
A Big Discovery about Little People
Stone Age Sole Survivors
Stone Tablet May Solve Maya Mystery
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Dogfish
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Making good, brown fat
In Search of the Perfect French Fry
Strong Bones for Life
GSAT English Rules
Order of Adjectives
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Secrets of an Ancient Computer
It's a Math World for Animals
Human Body
Heart Revival
Foul Play?
A Better Flu Shot
Invertebrates
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Dust Mites
Lice
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Golden Retrievers
Great Danes
Mouse
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How children learn
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Powering Ball Lightning
Einstein's Skateboard
Plants
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Assembling the Tree of Life
Seeds of the Future
Reptiles
Komodo Dragons
Gila Monsters
Snakes
Space and Astronomy
Melting Snow on Mars
Catching a Comet's Tail
Phantom Energy and the Big Rip
Technology and Engineering
Crime Lab
Shape Shifting
Toy Challenge
The Parts of Speech
What is a Noun
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
Transportation
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Where rivers run uphill
How to Fly Like a Bat
Weather
Catching Some Rays
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
The solar system's biggest junkyard
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Fingerprinting Fossils

A bone is a bone is a bone. Or so it seems. To an untrained eye, a fossilized bone doesn't tell much of a story. Scientists, on the other hand, can date a fossil with amazing precision. They can also tell a lot of things about how the animal lived and died. Now, they can even learn about the place where the fossil originally formed. Geologists from Temple University in Philadelphia have found a way to determine the kind of soil that fossils came from, even when the fossils are millions of years old and far from their original locations. Their method relies on detecting atoms of certain elements known as rare earths. The bodies of living animals contain tiny amounts of rare-earth elements. When an animal dies and is buried in mud or dirt, its bones gradually pick up additional amounts of rare earths from the soil. The process takes up to 30,000 years, at which point the fossil holds a permanent record of the soil's composition at the time. The rare earths serve as a sort of fingerprint. Different soils may contain different concentrations of various rare-earth elements. By comparing a fossil's rare-earth composition with that of different soils, it's possible to pinpoint the type of soil and possibly where the fossil came from. Scientists hope that the new method will help them piece together the ecology of ancient times. For example, the Temple researchers were able to figure out whether certain animals, whose fossils were from different parts of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, were buried in ancient flood plains or in stagnant lakes. If soil signatures differ from one place to another, the technique might also help law enforcement officials nab people who illegally steal fossils from protected lands. Fossil poaching is a big problem in the Badlands, and park rangers would be able to tell if a seized fossil actually came from the park.

Fingerprinting Fossils
Fingerprinting Fossils








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