2019

The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2019  

Ranker Science
January 3, 2019 34.9k views 12 items

The world's top scientists and researchers are always pushing to discover, prove, and create innovations in the world of science and technology. Their breakthroughs alter life on Earth and change our perception of reality. The greatest scientific discoveries are an inspiring testament to the profound capabilities of the human mind. Each year, scientists make incredible discoveries. What scientists learned in 2017 could help them make new advances in 2018, and scientific discoveries in 2018 can influence 2019 scientific advancements.

This list of 2019 scientific discoveries features breakthroughs and recent informative works that span a wide range of disciplines. From learning new things about the worlds beyond our planet to unlocking possibilities within our very cells, these breakthroughs will give you hope for the future even in bleak times.  

The latest in science news is inspirational for a new generation of thinkers who will continue to push the boundaries of human capability. Read on to find out the biggest discoveries of 2019 and the latest scientific advancements.

The First Southern White Rhino In North America Conceived Through Artificial Insemination Is Born
The First Southern White Rhino... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2019
Photo: San Diego Zoo/Fair Use

On July 28, 2019, the first southern white rhinoceros conceived through successful artificial insemination in North America was born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and appears to be in healthy condition. Victoria, the mother, endured 493 days of pregnancy and 30 minutes of labor after being inseminated by a frozen sample from a southern white rhino named Maoto on March 22, 2018. The calf is male. 

The birth marks a major step toward preserving the nearly extinct species of the northern white rhinoceros, a close relative of the southern white rhino. As of 2019, only two northern white rhinos are known to exist, and both are female. Because the San Diego Zoo's conservation organization has proven a healthy birth is possible following hormone-induced ovulation and artificial insemination, the institute now plans to convert 12 individual northern white rhino cells into stem cells that could develop into sperm and eggs. 

Eventually, scientists hope to use artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to impregnate surrogate southern white rhinos with northern white rhino embryos, effectively saving the species. This process could take another 10 to 20 years. 

A New Glow-In-The-Dark Shark Species Is Identified
A New Glow-In-The-Dark Shark S... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2019
Photo:  Tulane researcher Michael Doosey/Fair Use

A 5 1/2-inch Western North Atlantic Ocean kitefin shark that emits a bioluminescent fluid was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico in February 2010. Researchers from the Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute began studying the shark in 2015, and in July 2019 they officially identified it as a new species of pocket shark. This new species uses its glowing powers to attract prey, and is the first of its kind known to humans.

The kitefin, also known as an American pocket shark, is only the second pocket shark ever studied. The first pocket shark, discovered in 1979 in the east Pacific Ocean, is thought to be an entirely different species, however. 

According to the Tulane University Study, the kitefin they discovered emits the bioluminescent fluid from a gland near its front fins, which draws prey attracted to the glow. The shark itself is hardly visible beneath the luminescence, making it a stealthy predator. 

A 210,000-Year-Old Skull Changes The Timeline Of Human Migration
A 210,000-Year-Old Skull Chang... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2019
Photo: Max Pixel/Public Domain

In the early '70s, in Greece, scientists discovered two skulls in a cave they named Apidima 1 and 2. Though Apidima 2 was quickly identified as a 170,000-year-old Neanderthal, Apidima 1 remained a mystery for years. Because the scientists who authored the study, "Apidima Cave fossils provide earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia," only had the back of the skull for Apidima 1, and assumed it to be at least 40,000 years older than Apidima 2, identifying its origin proved difficult. Apidima 1 has a rounded shape, a characteristic known only to modern humans. It also proved to come from a very different environment than Apidima 2, according to one of the scientists, Rauner Grün. The fact that both skulls were found in conjunction with one another appeared to be a coincidence, or a "wonder," as Grün said. 

Using CT scans, the scientists on the case reconstructed Apidima 1 decades after its discovery. They concluded the specimen was a 210,000-year-old human, changing our previously understood timeline of migration. For one, Eurasia, where the skulls were found, is known to have been populated by Neanderthals, but according to scientist and author Katerina Harvati, it is possible Neanderthals and Homo sapiens co-existed for a time before Neanderthals took over the region. 

Though the timeline of human migration has shifted, it is still true that modern humans did leave Africa and take the place of Neanderthals in Europe from 45,000 to 35,000 years ago. 

A New Australian Dinosaur Is Identified
A New Australian Dinosaur Is I... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2019
Photo:  Mokeshah/pixabay/Public Domain

In June 2019, Australian researchers published a paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology identifying the Fostoria dhimbangunmal, a new plant-eating mid-Cretaceous dinosaur from the land down under. In 1984, a man named Robert Foster alerted paleontologists about opal encrusted fossils which were later displayed at the Australian Museum in Sydney for decades before being donated to Australian Opal Centre. 

Researcher Phil Bell from the University of New England in Armidale lead the investigation into the opalized fossils in which he and his team discovered about 60 opal encrusted bones with a blue/green hue to them, belonging to a single individual adult dhimbangunmal. The adult fossil was found with three juveniles, leading paleontologists to conclude this dinosaur traveled in packs.

The creatures are said to belong to the same group of dinosaurs who evolved from the duck-billed hadrosaurs elsewhere, which, according to paleontologist Terry Gates from the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University, "fills in a glaring gap in our understanding of duck-billed dinosaur evolution in a spectacular way." 

Photos of of the colorful fossils laced with opal can be found on National Geographic.