A 99 million-year-old baby bird, Mario’s high-flying odyssey, and other amazing images of the week

Newsworthy eye candy
amber bird
Amber-enclosed Cutie Xing et al, Gondwana Research 2017
Mako Shark
Mako shark. By Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry takes Popsci readers up-close and personal with sharks through images from his new book Shark. From snapshots of their underwater nurseries to this aggressive-looking Mako, Skerry wants to see that they’re more than predators. He says of his subjects, “They’re fascinating, multidimensional animals with rich lives.”

Meerkat anal pouch
Meerkat’s stinky graffiti Courtesy of Lydia Greene, Duke University

A new study out this week on how bacterial communities differ from meerkat to meerkat had researchers swabbing animal anal glands to discover the unique composition that makes their individual musk. This creature-specific scent is important for scent-marking in highly hierarchical meerkat families, and acts like animal smell-graffiti.

This chunk of amber holds a 99 million-year-old baby bird that is the most complete fossil of its kind. It’s from an extinct evolutionary group called enantiornithes that represent an interesting middle ground in the evolutionary trajectory of the last dinosaurs— they even had teeth in their beaks.

test launch for NASA and Orbital ATK
Testing NASA

This week, NASA as well as private space company Orbital ATK carried out a test of NASA’s launch abort motor. In the event of an emergency, the abort motor would provide the energy and thrust to push the capsule up and away from the now dangerous rocket, allowing the capsule (and human passengers inside) to land back on Earth safely. If everything continues to go as planned, this abort system will be put into use on the Space Launch System’s first flight in 2019.

Mario Odyssey flight
Mario Odyssey E3 Trailer Reveal Super Mario Odyssey Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 Trailer

At the E3 (the video game industry’s annual trade show) this past week, companies revealed trailers and release dates for all the latest video games and consoles. Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch looks like the next chapter in the classic series. Check out the full list of Switch games here, or the rest of our E3 coverage here.