Coloured fossil beetle discovery


A 600,000-year-old leaf beetle, Plateumaris sp., is shown as it was recovered after being preserved in a slightly acidic and watery environment. Photo by Gengo TanakaBy Jennifer Viegas:

Beetle’s Brilliant Hue Preserved After 600,000 Years

The blue-green leaf beetle remains may be the oldest example of vivid color preserved on a prehistoric creature

Mon Feb 22, 2010 03:56 AM ET

THE GIST:

* Scientists have found a 600,000-year-old leaf beetle with its original bright colors preserved.
* The ancient beetle represents only one of two known fossils from early periods that retain substantial color molecules.
* Like pickles in vinegar, slightly acidic environments preserve specimens well over time.

Ancient history often appears black and white, since artifacts, fossils and other remains usually lose their color over time. But researchers have just found an iridescent blue-green bug that looks like it did 600,000 years ago when it was alive.

The leaf beetle, Plateumaris sp., is one of just two such advanced age insect fossils that retain substantial original color molecules. Another beetle, dating to 50 million years ago, also appears to have sported the same hues, but the color preservation is better in this middle Pleistocene specimen, project leader Gengo Tanaka told Discovery News.

The male bug, along with other “exceptionally well-preserved insect fossils,” was recently excavated from the Hirabaru Formation in Kyushu, Japan. The male’s flash was for females since its “structural color would be used in mating displays,” said Tanaka, a researcher at Japan’s Gunma Museum of Natural History.

He added that its “color changed from green to dark blue by changing the angle of incident light.”

Romanian miniature dinosaurs discovered


This video is called Dinosaur Planet – Pod’s Travel’s – Part 1.

This National Geographic video is about recently discovered fossil crocodiles from the age of dinosaurs.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Found: ‘Jurassic Parkette’ – the prehistoric island ruled by dwarf dinosaurs

A prehistoric “lost world” ruled by miniature dinosaurs has been discovered by palaeontologists.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Feb 2010

The creatures lived on an island – a kind of pigmy Jurassic Park – and were up to eight times smaller than some of their mainland cousins.

One of the island-dwelling dinosaurs, named Magyarosaurus, was little bigger than a horse, but was related to some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth – gigantic titanosaurs such as Argentinosaurus, which reached up to 100 feet long and weighed around 80 tons.

Another of the dinosaurs was found to be a primitive dwarfed species similar to large duck-billed herbivores like Iguanodon, which could grow to be up to 10 feet long and weighed more than three tons.

Fossils from the dwarf dinosaurs were found in what is now modern day Romania, in an area known as Hateg, which, 65 million years ago – when the creatures were living there – was an island.

Professor Michael Benton, from the University of Bristol, who carried out the research with scientists at the Universities of Bucharest and Bonn, said the dinosaurs seemed to have evolved smaller bodies after becoming marooned there.

He said: “Most of the famous dinosaurs that we know about were living on big landmasses at the end of the Cretaceous period.

“The curious thing about Europe at this time was that it was largely covered by sea and much of Eastern Europe was a sort of archipelago of islands.

“If you are a big dinosaur on a small island with limited food and space, then the evolutionary pressure is either to go extinct or to get smaller.”

The findings will overturn some popular perceptions about dinosaurs, which are generally considered the largest animals to have ever stalked the Earth. Even their name, derived from the Greek for “fearfully great lizard”, implies that dinosaurs were gigantic creatures.

The dwarf bones were found by a 19th century fossil hunter called Baron Franz Nopcsa, who observed at the time that the species he discovered were unusually small.

His observations sparked debate among palaeontologists about whether the dinosaurs were entirely new dwarfed species or merely just juveniles of larger dinosaurs.

Most large dinosaurs were adapted to roaming across huge landmasses where their territories and food sources were plentiful. Their large size also offered protection against predators.

However, at the end of the Cretaceous period, around 65 million years ago, much of Europe was under water and Hateg, which is now landlocked in central Romania, is thought to have formed a 30,000 square mile island – about half the size of modern Britain.

Palaeontologists believe that the rising sea levels in Europe cut many species of dinosaurs off the rest of the world, forcing them to adapt to their new, smaller habitats.

Modern analysis techniques have now allowed the scientists to confirm the remains of two common species of dinosaur found on the island, and possibly a third, were in fact dwarfed species.

The researchers found that the four legged herbivore Magyarosaurus had an estimated body length of just 16 to 19 feet and weighed just an eighth of its larger relatives such Argentinosaurus and the Paralititan, which grew up to 100 feet length and weighed up to 80 tons.

A hadrosaurid called Telmatosaurus was also found to be just 13 feet long, compared to the 22 to 32 feet of its closest relations. It is estimated to have weighed just an eighth of relatives such as the five ton Maiasaura.

The scientists say a third species, a two legged herbivore known as Zalmoxes, was a possible dwarf species related to the 26 foot long Tenontosaurus, and weighed around a quarter as much as its two ton relative.

The new findings will be published in the scientific journal Palaeogreography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Professor Benton said many of the fossils were quite primitive in evolutionary terms for the late Cretaceous period, lending support for the theory that they had become marooned on the island.

He said: “There is evidence that this island was tropical, just north of the equator, with rich vegetation and insects, but in order to support even several hundred animals, the evolutionary pressure would have been for them to get smaller or die out.

“There is very little evidence for large flesh eating dinosaurs, so the pressure for large body size to avoid being eaten was not the same.”

The fossilised dwarf dinosaur bones are some of the earliest examples of “island dwarfing” – where large species stranded on islands become smaller.

The evolutionary process has been a hotly debated topic among scientists following a series of discoveries of dwarf species of elephant, woolly mammoths and even human ancestors on islands.

Most recently an intense row broke out over whether the bones of an extinct species of human discovered on the island of Flores, in Indonesia – which became known as the Hobbit – were from a dwarfed species of human or a youngster.

Dr Paul Barrett, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London where reference fossils of the dwarfed dinosaurs are kept, said: “This certainly suggests that the evolutionary processes involved in island dwarfing have been operating over millions of years.

“Although dinosaurs are typically portrayed as being gigantic, this research also helps to emphasis that some of them were in fact quite small.”

Gulp! Long-Necked Dinosaurs Didn’t Bother Chewing: here.

Muttaburrasaurus in Australia: here.

The Iguanodon explosion: How scientists are rescuing the name of a “classic” ornithopod dinosaur, part 1: here. See also here and here.

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CIA torture flights in Poland, new disclosures


This video is called Outlawed: Extraordinary Renditions -Torture & Disappearances.

From British daily The Guardian:

Poland admits role in CIA rendition programme

Warsaw air control service confirms that at least six CIA flights landed at disused military air base in northern Poland in 2003

* Ian Traynor, Europe editor

* Monday 22 February 2010 11.59 GMT

The Polish authorities have for the first time admitted their involvement in the CIA‘s secret programme for the rendition of high-level terrorist suspects from Iraq and Afghanistan, it emerged today.

After years of stonewalling, Warsaw’s air control service confirmed that at least six CIA flights had landed at a disused military air base in northern Poland in 2003.

“It is time for the authorities to provide a full accounting of Poland’s role in rendition,” Adam Bodnar, of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said.

“These flight records reinforce the troubling findings of official European inquiries and global human rights groups, showing complicity with CIA abuse across Europe.”

For years, European and human rights investigators have believed Poland played a key role in the secret renditions programme, which became a human rights scandal for the George Bush administration.

An extensive Council of Europe investigation in 2007 found that “especially sensitive high-value detainees” were held at a prison facility, rented by the CIA from the Poles, near the Szymany airfield in northern Poland.

The Polish authorities told the investigators they were not aware of flight data that would reveal the traffic in kidnapping.

But following a freedom of information campaign from the Helsinki Foundation and the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative, the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency released flight data showing that at least two of the aircraft used in the CIA operations flew from Kabul and Rabat, in Morocco, to Szymany at least six times between February and September 2003.

“We know that CIA detainees were held in those two locations in the period in question,” the campaigners said.

The two aircraft, a Boeing 737 and a Gulfstream V, were US-registered and previously known to be part of the CIA operation.

“In the past, the Polish government denied its involvement in rendition. It failed to provide any of these flight records to previous investigations,” the campaigners said.

Analysis of the flight logs also indicated an attempted joint coverup by the CIA and the Polish authorities, with the aviation authorities being told that several of the flights were destined not for Szymany but for Warsaw.

“The CIA filed ‘dummy’ and false flight plans, or no flight plans at all, for the incoming and outgoing flights of N379P,” the campaigners added.

“[The Polish aviation authority] collaborated with the CIA by accepting the task of navigating these disguised flights into and out of Szymany airport without adhering to the requirements of international flight planning regulations.

“The most remarkable aspect is that the Polish government, which maintained for more than four years that no such records existed – or that, if they did, they were untraceable – has now provided an apparently comprehensive list of these landings, compiled and presented in an orderly and coherent fashion.”

Britain: Legal action charity Reprieve will begin legal proceedings on Tuesday against the government’s infamous “torture policies” used by intelligence agents to guide interviews of prisoners held abroad: here.

DATA STRING ANALYSIS SUBMITTED AS EVIDENCE OF POLISH INVOLVEMENT IN
U.S. EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION AND SECRET DETENTION PROGRAM: here.