Mammoth teeth in the Netherlands


From Dutch news agency ANP:

Orvelte, 25 September. The Nederlandse Gasunie, while working in Orvelte (Drenthe province) near the Oranjekanaal has discovered special mammoth remains. The company said that this Friday. It is about two molars and one tusk, belonging to one or more mammoths and a woolly rhinoceros‘ forearm bone.

The bones are 41,000 years old. According to mammoth researcher Anton Verhagen this discovery is really special. ,,Most bones in the Netherlands have been found by fishermen in the North Sea or during dredging. That means that the exact places where the fossils used to be remain unknown.”

This mammoth was probably found in the environment where it had lived. In this way, scientists may learn more about life then.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2009) — Europe’s southern-most skeletal remains of Mammuthus primigenius were unearthed in a moor on the 37°N latitude [in Spain]. This is considerably south of the inhospitable habitat than one usually imagines for mammoths, and for the characteristically dry and cold climate that prevailed during the ice ages in the north of Eurasia: here. And here.

Studies of recreated mammoth haemoglobin, published today (Monday 3 May 2010) in Nature Genetics, reveal special evolutionary adaptations that allowed the mammoth to cool its extremities down in harsh Arctic conditions to minimise heat loss: here.

Did the ancient Egyptians know of pygmy mammoths? Well, there is that tomb painting: here.

Bird, older than Archaeopteryx, discovered


This video says about itself:

A tribute to 3 Dinosaurs all discovered/discovered to have feathers this year, all discovered in china. Packed all into 40 seconds. …

Heres a brief summary and whats so special about these critters:

Epidexipteryx
A small maniraptorian dinosaur known only from one fossil. It lived 152-162 MYA. Its skeleton shows that it had four long tail feathers, and wore a coat of downy fur. The skeleton measures only 10 inches and it weighed about 164 grams. It also had a long bird-like third finger.

Anchiornis
A small, feathered, Maniraptorian dinosaur. it is very closely related to birds. It was about 13 inches long and lived during the Jurassic/Cretaceous period. Scientists suggest it could probably fly, as it is very similar to Achaeopteryx.

Tianyulong
A tiny Heterodontid Dinosaur of only 70cm (as estimated in the holotype subadult based on Heterodontosaurus.) It is unique because its skeleton shows fragmentary structures that resemble feathers. This confused paleontologists because Heterodontosaurs were once thought to be in no way related to birds, belonging to a group that gave no ancestral link to birds. This strange herbivore lived in the Early Cretaceous, and has small tusks in its mouth. It is also the earliest feathered dinosaur known.

The song is Lunatic Calm by the Jackal.

From New Scientist:

Oldest feathered dinosaur is earliest bird

* 12:42 25 September 2009 by Colin Barras

The record for the oldest feathered dinosaur, which has stood for almost 150 years since the discovery of Archaeopteryx, has finally fallen to an even older fossil unearthed in China, shedding new light on the origin of birds.

The first full skeleton of Archaeopteryx, “that strange bird” as Darwin described it, was discovered in the Jurassic limestone of Solnhofen, Germany, just two years after the publication of On the Origin of Species. It has remained something of an evolutionary anomaly ever since.

Spectacular feathered dinosaurs discovered in the last decade or so show clearly how a small group of theropod dinosaurs gave rise to the first birds, but these specimens are almost exclusively Cretaceous in origin, at least 20 million years younger than Archaeopteryx. Feathered dinosaurs pre-dating Archaeopteryx have remained elusive, largely because the Jurassic theropod fossil record is so poor.

The closest palaeontologists have come to a feathered dinosaur older than Archaeopteryx is Pedopenna, discovered in Inner Mongolia in 2005. But there’s some confusion over exactly how old the Inner Mongolian sediments are, and it’s likely that Pedopenna is actually slightly younger than Archaeopteryx.

Four wings good

Not so the new Chinese find Anchiornis huxleyi, the latest of a number of specimens found in the past year and the first to sport feathers. It comes from the Tiaojishan formation of Jianchang county, recently dated to between 161 and 151 million years old and therefore older than the 150-million-year-old Archaeopteryx-bearing German rocks.

Anchiornis possesses well-developed feathers on all four limbs, a trait that would have seemed bizarre if the fossil had been discovered a decade ago. But palaeontological finds in recent years suggest the four-wing pattern may have been the rule rather than the exception in proto-birds – both Microraptor, discovered in 2003, and Pedopenna have feathered hind limbs.

See also here.

New lizard species discovered on Socotra island


The newly discovered gecko species of Socotra

From National Geographic:

“Misunderstood” Gecko Discovered

September 24, 2009—After millions of years of obscurity, this little gecko is finally getting some respect, thanks to a new study.

Newly identified as its own species, the tiny pinkish-brown gecko, which scurries through rocky habitat on the Arabian Sea island of Socotra (map), was long thought to be another kind of gecko.

“That’s why we chose to call it the Latin word for ‘misunderstood,’” said study co-author Fabio Pupin.

The gecko’s new scientific name, Gekkonidae Hemidactylus initellectus, roughly translates to “misunderstood half-toed gecko.”

During field surveys between 2007 and 2009, Pupin and colleagues had observed and collected several of the roughly two-inch-long (five-centimeter-long) geckos.

The team then compared H. initellectus’ genetics and physical appearance with those of similar gecko species, including some museum specimens. The gecko turned out to be unique—large nodules on its back, for example, set the lizard apart. The team reports its findings in the September issue of the journal Acta Herpetologica.

(See pictures of another new gecko, a flying frog, and more.)

The newly named, nocturnal lizard adds to the “incredible” uniqueness of the Yemeni island, where 95 percent of the native reptiles are found nowhere else on Earth, said Pupin, an ecologist at the University of Pavia in Italy.

Situated between Somalia and Yemen, the 62-mile-long (100-kilometer-long) island is like “a desert in the middle of the ocean,” he said. Six million years of isolation from the mainland—and little competition—has allowed Galápagos-like diversity to flourish.

Though H. initellectus is a common sight on Socotra, some of the island‘s other wild animals and plants may be threatened by goats and other animals kept by a booming human population, said Pupin, who hopes news of the misunderstood gecko will lead to greater understanding of the need for conservation.

“When you discover a new species, you show to all the people how great nature is,” he said. “If we don’t know what we have in our planet, we cannot protect it.”

—Christine Dell’Amore

Photograph courtesy Fabio Pupin

Common lizard swimming in the Netherlands: here.

New insect discoveries on Socotra: here.

The ‘lost world’ of Socotra, a remote island with plants up to 20 MILLION years old. Read more: here.