Earth and Planetary Sciences

Meteorites Show Transport of Material in Early Solar System

September 08, 2020

New studies of a rare type of meteorite show that material from close to the sun reached the outer solar system even as the planet Jupiter cleared a gap in the disk of dust and gas from which the planets formed. The results, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to an emerging understanding of how our solar system formed and how planets form around other stars.

Ichthyosaur’s Last Meal is Evidence of Triassic Megapredation

August 19, 2020

Some 240 million years ago, a dolphin-like ichthyosaur ripped to pieces and swallowed another marine reptile only a little smaller than itself. Then it almost immediately died and was fossilized, preserving the first evidence of megapredation, or a large animal preying on another large animal. The fossil, discovered in 2010 in southwestern China, is described in a paper published Aug. 20 in the journal iScience.

Newly Formed Center to Study Principles That Affect Planetary Bodies

August 10, 2020
University of California, Davis, will be part of a new National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center focusing on understanding the physics and astrophysical implications of matter under pressures so high that the structure of individual atoms is disrupted.

Earliest Ichthyosaur Munched on Shellfish

May 13, 2020

The ichthyosaurs were sleek, dolphin-like marine reptiles that roamed the oceans while dinosaurs ruled on land. But the earliest known member of the group was a short, seal-like animal that could likely pull itself onto land.

Now, scanning of that animal’s skull shows that it likely fed on hard-shelled animals such as shellfish and crabs. The appearance of similar teeth in other ichthyosaurs gives insight into how these animals were evolving in the wake of the mass extinction at the end of the Permian era, 250 million years ago.

New Leak Detector for Earth’s Core

April 10, 2020
Earth’s molten core may be leaking iron, according to researchers who analyzed how iron behaves inside our planet.

Explaining the Tiger Stripes of Enceladus

December 09, 2019
Saturn’s tiny, frozen moon Enceladus is a strange place. Just 300 miles across, the moon is thought to have an outer shell of ice covering a global ocean 20 miles deep, encasing a rocky core. Slashed across Enceladus’ south pole are four straight, parallel fissures or “tiger stripes” from which water erupts. These fissures aren’t quite like anything else in the solar system. 

Statistics and Space: Three New AAAS Fellows

November 26, 2019
Three faculty members of the College of Letters and Science are among the 10 UC Davis faculty elected to the 2019 class of fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The new fellows are Jiming Jiang, professor of statistics; Thomas C.M. Lee, professor of statistics; and Sarah Stewart, professor of earth and planetary sciences.

Mutant Fern Spores Point to Mass Extinction Culprit

October 24, 2019
About 200 million years ago, much of the life on Earth was wiped out in the end-Triassic mass extinction. The catastrophe may have been caused by climate change related to massive volcanic eruptions.

Pockets of Primordial Earth Still Remain

September 18, 2019
New research suggests specific giant rock regions in the mantle have existed for 4.5 billion years, since Earth’s beginning.

Understanding How Pressures in Planets Evolve

September 04, 2019

A new study from Caltech and the UC Davis College of Letters and Science shows that giant impacts can dramatically lower the internal pressure of planets, a finding that could significantly change the current model of planetary formation.