Short Science, June 16, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 4:07am


Clue to abdominal muscles in ancient fish

Palaeontologists have made the surprising evolutionary discovery that ancient fish may have had abdominal muscles, previously thought to have only developed in land animals. Researchers mapping the oldest fossilised vertebrate muscles ever seen - in gogo fish thought to be 380 million years old -- worked out the position of the muscles and the orientation of the muscle fibres, in a study published in the journal Science. The fossils, found in Western Australia's Kimberley region, are enclosed in limestone nodules and are known for their exceptional preservation. AFP


50 years since first woman flew into space

Fifty years ago today, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly into space in a scientific feat that was a major propaganda coup for the Soviet Union. Two years after Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight, Tereshkova became a national heroine at 26 when she blasted off in a Vostok-6 spaceship. She remains the only woman to have made a solo space flight. In April 1962, officials selected five candidates for the flight: two engineers, a school teacher, a typist and a factory worker who had made 90 parachute jumps: this was Tereshkova. After seven months of intensive training, they chose Tereshkova. AFP


Cheetahs generate four times the power of Bolt

Cheetahs can generate four times the maximum power output of world-record runner Usain Bolt when they sprint and have a manoeuvrability unmatched by any other animal when hunting prey, according to scientists who tracked the big cats in their natural habitat. "[Cheetahs] are getting lateral accelerations bigger than a motorbike can achieve," said Alan Wilson of the Royal Veterinary College in England. "They're operating at the extreme of athletic performance." His team attached collars, enabled with GPS and accelerometers, to five cheetahs in Botswana and tracked the speed and fancy footwork of 367 runs. They recorded a top speed of 93.3km/h - making cheetahs the fastest land animal - but the average was much lower, about 50.7km/h. Most of the runs were under 72.4km/h. "When you consider a racehorse or greyhound goes at [64.4km/h], that's quite impressive," Wilson said. Guardian