Ancient sharks bit plesiosaur


Fossil shark feeding frenzy

From National Geographic:

“Sea Monster” Bones Reveal Ancient Shark Feeding Frenzy

Matt Kaplan
for National Geographic News

September 28, 2009

A gang of ancient sharks took on an enormous “sea monster” 85 million years ago, according to a new fossil analysis.

The bones of the prehistoric reptile, known as a plesiosaur, were found in Japan in 1968. But a lack of comparative samples and other resources meant that scientists didn’t release a formal description of the fossil until recently.

“As a child in Japan, I had heard that there were some shark teeth embedded in the plesiosaur,” recalled Kenshu Shimada, a paleontologist at DePaul University in Chicago.

“But the [new] description revealed over 80. That is a lot of teeth to have in a fossil,” he said.

After reading the report, Shimada wanted to take a closer look at the types of shark teeth. Based on his findings, he estimates that at least seven sharks of different ages attacked the plesiosaur.

The scientist was even more shocked when he identified the species of attacking shark: the extinct, nine-foot-long (three-meter-long) Cretalamna appendiculata.

By contrast, the sharks’ plesiosaur prey was a roughly 23-foot-long (7-meter-long) animal armed with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and powerfully muscled, paddlelike limbs.

Feeding Frenzy

Sharks regularly lose some of their many teeth whenever they bite prey. These teeth fall out and are regrown throughout their lives.

Shimada and colleagues found that the teeth they removed from the plesiosaur were from the same species but of different sizes and shapes.

This suggests there was a multigenerational feeding frenzy, said Jürgen Kriwet, a paleontologist at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany.

Among modern-day great white sharks, for instance, juveniles will ravenously bite prey in a group but flee as soon as larger adult sharks arrive, said Kriwet, who was not involved in the new research.

A similar event may have taken place when the ancient sharks attacked, he said.

(See shark pictures submitted by National Geographic readers.)

Wounded Prey

Harder to determine is whether the sharks went after a live, wounded, or dead plesiosaur.

(Related: “Giant ‘Sea Monster’ Fossil Discovered in Arctic.”)

“In the modern day, we usually see sharks of this size scavenging on animals larger than themselves,” Kriwet said.

“And if they do attack, they are often attacking large animals that are already wounded.”

DePaul University’s Shimada said he thinks the plesiosaur was dead or nearly so.

“A healthy plesiosaur,” he said, “would have badly beat up these sharks.”

Findings reported last week at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Bristol, England

Tags reveal white sharks have neighbourhoods in the north Pacific, say Stanford researchers: here.

Brown shyshark (Haploblepharus fuscus): here.

US soldiers kill 13-year-old Afghan boy


From the site of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan:

US soldiers gun down schoolboy in Paktika

The teenager was hit in the head by foreign soldiers.

Obaid Kharotai

SHARAN: US forces shot dead a schoolboy on his way home in the southeastern province of Paktika on Monday, the victim’s father said.

Ghulam Shah, father of the 13-year-old Zeeshan, told Pajhwok Afghan News his son was returning home on a bicycle from school. He alleged NATO-led soldiers opened fire on the boy in Madatkhel area on the outskirts of Sharan, the provincial capital.

“No one can ask American troops about the killings of our sons, brothers and sisters,” an angry Ghulam Shah said, adding that his son also worked with a mechanic in the main Sharan bazaar during his free time.

A Sharan Civil Hospital employee, Najibullah, confirmed receiving Zeeshan’s bullet-riddled body. The teenager was hit in the head by foreign soldiers. The ISAF press office in the eastern zone also confirmed the incident and admitted it was a mistaken firing incident.

USA: Anti-war cafe opens in the shadow of Fort Hood: here.

Torosaurus, Triceratops, the same species?


From Scientific American:

Sep 28, 2009 12:00 PM

Are Torosaurus and Triceratops one and the same?

By Kate Wong

A rare horned dinosaur known as Torosaurus may not be a distinct species after all, according to a presentation given Friday at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Bristol, England.

Researchers have long recognized similarities between Torosaurus and Triceratops, the main distinctions being that Torosaurus is larger and has an expanded frill at the rear of the skull. But John Scannella, a doctoral student at Montana University, and his advisor, John R. Horner, have found that specimens attributed to the two species actually form a developmental continuum rather than falling into discrete groups. A Triceratops skeleton on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, for example, exhibits a number of skull traits reminiscent of Torosaurus, including thin parietal bones and elongated squamosal bones. In addition, microscope examinations of thin slices of bone from Triceratops and Torosaurus specimens reveal that individuals attributed to Torosaurus are more mature than any of the ones assigned to Triceratops. Scannella and Horner therefore believe that the fossils that have been categorized as Torosaurus are just Triceratops individuals that reached mature adulthood before they died.

Scientists have wondered how two such similar groups could have shared the landscape—both ranged from Colorado to Saskatchewan at the end of the Cretaceous period. If Scanella and Horner are right, the answer is simply that the animals are one and the same species.

But the finding raises the question of why fossil hunters have recovered so few of the mature “Torosaurus” specimens—fewer than a dozen, compared to the many dozens of younger Triceratops. “If Torosaurus is Triceratops, then we’re finding a lot of animals that had a lot of growing up to do,” Scannella comments. Insights may come once researchers determine a more precise age at death for the individuals.

The finding provides more evidence that dinosaur diversity was declining before the animals became extinct, which, Scannella says, supports the idea that something other than an asteroid impact extinguished them.

A three-horned dinosaur long known as Torosaurus may actually represent an adult Triceratops, according to paleontologists: here. And here.

Stolen Montserrat orioles are back


This video from England says about itself:

Three small clips of birds at London zoo.

My favourite birds here are the little hooded pitta. They look like little bandits on a rescue mission.

The rarest species in these clips is the Montserrat oriole. They only live on the tiny island of Montserrat, and are Critically endangered.

The other bird in these clips is the beautiful wood hoopoe. The complexity of the colours in its plumage are too hard to describe!

From Dutch news agency ANP:

Stolen rare birds are back in Avifauna

29 September 2009

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN -
The rare Montserrat oriole couple which had been stolen nearly two weeks ago from bird park Avifauna in Alphen aan den Rijn, are back.

A man who, according to a park spokesperson, had bought them in good faith, got suspicious after reading in the media about the theft. ‘When he bought them, he did not know which birds they were’, the spokesman said on Tuesday. The man also brought back four other birds, which ‘were not as irreplaceable’. He said about five hundred Montserrat orioles are still alive in the wild, and fifty live in zoos worldwide.

During the theft, about twenty birds [of various species] disappeared, so most of them are not back yet.

Update 2012: young Montserrat oriole born in Alphen.

Aided by recent advances in technology, scientists have discovered new populations of several seriously imperiled species: here.

Bullock’s Oriole Icterus bullockii: here.

St Lucia oriole: here.

Bahama Oriole on the edge: The recently recognised Bahama Oriole is one of the rarest birds in the Caribbean: here.

A previous BirdLife Community Blog highlighted the threat posed by feral livestock to the Centre Hills on Montserrat and actions being taken by the Darwin Initiative funded project ‘Reducing the impact of feral livestock in and around the Centre Hills’ to tackle this: here.

Documenting new seabird-colony Important Bird Areas, finding previously undocumented colonies and colonies thought to be extirpated: these are just some of the exciting discoveries reported within Environmental Protection in the Caribbean’s (EPIC’s) ground-breaking Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles: here.