Short Science, December 7, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 December, 2014, 7:43am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 December, 2014, 7:43am

Humans off the hook for mastodon decline

Mastodons, the giant cousins of mammoths and elephants, likely disappeared from Alaska and the Yukon long before humans arrived from Asia, researchers say. Mastodons were once believed to have roamed the Arctic alongside the first human colonists some 13,000 to 14,000 years ago, but new evidence suggests they disappeared tens of thousands of years earlier and were not hunted to extinction. Scientists now think that mastodons probably only lived in the Arctic for a short time some 125,000 years ago, when the conditions were warmer. AFP


Scientists seek contract talks on free speech

A union representing 15,000 Canadian government scientists said their right to speak publicly about their work regardless of what they discovered should be addressed in contract talks. The scientists feel they are not allowed to speak freely to the media - especially if findings contradict government positions - because of rules requiring them to seek permission first, according to the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. AFP


2015 climate pledges just the start, UN says

Government pledges due in 2015 to cut rising world greenhouse gases will be too weak to avert the worst of global warming and merely be part of a long haul to agree to far tougher curbs, the United Nations has said. Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said it was unrealistic to expect a miracle solution at a UN summit in Paris in a year's time. Governments agreed in 2010 to a long-term goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to avert the worst of heatwaves, floods, desertificiation and rising sea levels. Reuters


US dino skull to head back home to Mongolia

The remains of a 70 million-year-old dinosaur that was falsely labeled as a cheap replica and smuggled into New York earlier this year can be returned to its native Mongolia, the United States Attorney's Office has said. A federal court judge in the Eastern District of New York ruled that the skull and vertebrae of the Alioramus dinosaur, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, must be forfeited by the French fossil dealers who exported the remains. Reuters