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Study: 70 million years ago a day lasted 23.5 hours, year had 372 days

Study: 70 million years ago a day lasted 23.5 hours, year had 372 days

A full day on Earth hasn’t always been 24 hours long. A new study reveals that a day on our planet once lasted approximately 23.5 hours, and it wasn’t that long ago that days were significantly shorter. The finding was made possible by studying the fossilized shells of a mollusk that died 70 million years ago.

By closely examining the growth things of the mollusk shells, and knowing what they already know about how fast mollusk shells grow, the researchers were able to measure the number of days in a year. When the mollusks lived — some 70 million years ago — there were actually 372 days in a year instead of 365, and each day was roughly a half-hour shorter than our days are now.

The results of the study, published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, means that Earth rotated more rapidly 70 million years in the past. The difference isn’t dramatic, but it would be noticeable to us today. Ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? How about having 30 minutes less each day? Yeah, that doesn’t sound good.

The conclusions made by the researchers were only possible because of the quality of the fossil and high-resolution imaging of the growth rings. The scientists were able to observe individual rings of growth occurring by the day, effectively offering a detailed log of the day/night cycle the creatures lived with. The shells grew faster during the day and that growth slowed at night. Read More...

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