Tyrannosaurs hunted in packs?


This video is called Tyrannosaur Rivalry – Planet Dinosaur – Episode 3 – BBC One.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Researchers find first sign that tyrannosaurs hunted in packs

Discovery of three sets of dinosaur trackways in Canada reveals that predators were running together

Ian Sample, science editor

Wednesday 23 July 2014 19.36 BST

The collective noun is a terror of tyrannosaurs: a pack of the prehistoric predators, moving and hunting in numbers, for prey that faced the fight of its life.

That tyrannosaurs might have hunted in groups has long been debated by dinosaur experts, but with so little to go on, the prospect has remained firmly in the realm of speculation.

But researchers in Canada now claim to have the strongest evidence yet that the ancient beasts did move around in packs.

At a remote site in the country’s northeast, they uncovered the first known tyrannosaur trackways, apparently left by three animals going the same way at the same time.

Unlike single footprints which have been found before, tyrannosaur trackways are made up of multiple steps, revealing the length of stride and other features of the animal’s movement. What surprised the Canadian researchers was the discovery of multiple tracks running next to each other – with each beast evidently keeping a respectable distance from its neighbour.

Richard McCrea at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in British Columbia was tipped off about one trackway in October 2011 when a hunting guide working in the area emailed him some pictures. The guide had found one footprint that was already exposed and later uncovered a second heading in the same direction. McCrea made immediate plans to investigate before the winter blanketed the site with snow.

He arrived later the same month and found a third footprint that belonged to the same trackway under volcanic ash. But the real discovery came a year later, when the team returned and uncovered two more sets of tyrannosaur tracks running in the same south-easterly direction.

“We hit the jackpot,” said McCrea. “A single footprint is interesting, but a trackway gives you way more. This is about the strongest evidence you can get that these were gregarious animals. The only stronger evidence I can think of is going back in a time machine to watch them.”

The footprints were so well-preserved that even the contours of the animals’ skin were visible. “You start wondering what it would have been like to have been there when the tracks were made. The word is terror. I wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley at night,” McCrea said.

From the size of the footprints, the researchers put the beasts in their late 20s or early 30s – a venerable age for tyrannosaurs. The depth of the prints and other measurements suggest the tracks were left at the same time. They date back to nearly 70m years ago.

Close inspection of the trackways found that the tyrannosaur that left the first set of prints had a missing claw from its left foot, perhaps a battle injury. Details of the study are published in the journal Plos One.

During the expedition, McCrea’s team unearthed more prehistoric footprints from other animals, notably hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs. Crucially, these were heading in all sorts of directions, evidence, says McCrea, that the tyrannosaurs chose to move as a pack, and were not simply forced into a group by the terrain.

“When you find three trackways together, going in same direction, it’s not necessarily good evidence for gregarious behaviour. They could be walking along a shore. But if all the other animals are moving in different directions, it means there is no geographical constraint, and it strengthens the case,” said McCrea.

Biggest ever apatosaurus discovery in Colorado


This video is called Origami Dinosaur: APATOSAURUS.

From the Grand Junction Free Press in the USA:

Record dinosaur bone found in Colorado quarry

By Brittany Markert

07/21/2014 12:01:00 AM MDT

Rabbit Valley’s Mygatt-Moore quarry is home to hundreds of fossils left behind by dinosaurs and extinct sea creatures. Its most notable recent find was a 6-foot-7-inch-long, 2,800-pound apatosaurus femur.

That is the largest apatosaurus ever found anywhere, said Dinosaur Journey curator of paleontology Julia McHugh.

It is a groundbreaking discovery because it belonged to a beast likely 80 to 90 feet long, which is 15 to 25 feet longer than average, she said.

After five summers of work excavating the dinosaur leg bone, it was lifted Thursday morning from the quarry outside Grand Junction near the Utah border. A crew of experts led by the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey Museum oversaw the excavation.

“It’s funny that it was discovered from a small piece exposed about the size of a pancake,” volunteer Dorthy Stewart said.

The creature ordinarily grew up to 69 feet long and ate plants.

According to the National Park Service, “You may have heard it referred to by its scientifically incorrect name, Brontosaurus. This sauropod (long-necked dinosaur) was discovered and named Apatosaurus, or ‘false lizard,’ because of its unbelievably large size. After Apatosaurus was named, other sauropod specimens were named Brontosaurus. It was later determined that both names actually referred to the same animal, Apatosaurus.”

Stolen endangered iguanas are back in the Bahamas


This video is called Seacology: Protecting the Iguanas of San Salvador, Bahamas.

From Wildlife Extra:

Smuggled endangered iguanas fly back to the Bahamas

Twelve critically endangered San Salvador rock iguanas seized from smugglers at London’s Heathrow Airport have been returned home to the Bahamas.

The reptiles were discovered stuffed inside socks in the baggage of Romanian nationals Angla-Alina Bita, and Vitora-Oliva Bucsa by staff carrying out customs checks.

Following the seizure, officers from Border Force’s specialist CITES team worked with the Bahamas High Commission in London to arrange their return to their native islands.

They have been transported to a government research station on the island of San Salvador where they will be monitored by experts, with the eventual aim of retuning them to the wild.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: “We are pleased that the criminals involved have been brought to justice and that these critically endangered animals have been returned home to live out their lives in their natural habitat. Wildlife belongs in the wild.”

Slow worm, video


This is a video about a slow worm in Kennemerduinen national park in the Netherlands in May 2014.

Hilma Ex made the video.

Four-winged Chinese dinosaur discovery


This video says about itself:

Reptiles of the Skies – Walking with Dinosaurs in HQ – BBC

9 November 2012

The Cretaceous period saw the breaking up of the northern and southern landmasses. Flying dinosaurs like Tapejara would master the air and the new coast lines of prehistoric Earth. The largest flying dinosaur Ornithocheirus prepares for a long flight to breeding grounds.

However, this video is about pterosaurs: flying non-dinosaurs, living at the same time as dinosaurs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Four-winged flying dinosaur unearthed in China

Newly discovered Changyuraptor yangi lived 125m years ago and was like ‘a big turkey with a really long tail’

Nishad Karim

Tuesday 15 July 2014 17.18 BST

A new species of prehistoric, four-winged dinosaur discovered in China may be the largest flying reptile of its kind.

The well-preserved, complete skeleton of the dinosaur Changyuraptor yangi features a long tail with feathers 30cm in length – the longest ever seen on a dinosaur fossil. The feathers may have played a major role in flight control, say scientists in the latest issue of Nature Communications, in particular allowing the animal to reduce its speed to land safely.

The 125m-year-old fossil, believed to be an adult, is completely covered in feathers, including long feathers attached to its legs that give the appearance of a second set of wings or “hind wings”. It is the largest four-winged dinosaur ever found, 60% larger than the previous record holder, Microraptor zhaoianus, in the family of dinosaurs known as microraptors.

These beasts were smaller versions of their closely related, larger cousins, the velociraptors made famous in the Jurassic Park movies. They belong to an even wider group including the king of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex. At 1.3 metres long and weighing 4kg, the meat-eating C. yangi is one of the largest members of the microraptor family, which tended to weigh 1kg or less.

Microraptors, which are close relatives of modern birds, had many anatomical features that are now only seen in birds, such as hollow bones, nesting behavior, feathers and possibly flight. They were dinosaurs rather than pterosaurs, the more well known flying prehistoric reptiles.

C. yangi was [like] a big turkey with a really long tail,” said Dr Alan Turner from Stony Brook University, one of the authors of the paper. “We don’t know for sure if C. yangi was flying or gliding, but we can sort of piece together this bigger model by looking at what its tail could do. Whether or not this animal could fly is part of a bigger puzzle and we’re adding a piece to that puzzle.”

The fossil was discovered in Liaoning province, northeastern China, an area noted for the large number of feathered dinosaurs found over the past decade, including the first widely acknowledged feathered dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx prima, in 1996.

Before this study, it was thought that the small size of microraptors was a key adaptation needed for flight, but the discovery of C. yangi suggests that aerial ability was not restricted to smaller animals in this group.

See also here.

Diver saves sea turtle, video


This video says about itself:

3 July 2014

Divers off the coast of Mexico save a sea turtle that became tangled in rope.

Special thanks to Colin Sutton & Cameron Dietrich who freed the turtle and shared their footage with us.

By Cate Matthews in the USA about this:

Diver Saves Sea Turtle And Receives Adorable Thank You (VIDEO)

07/14/2014 11:59 pm EDT

Not every story about sea life mistakenly caught in a net ends this beautifully, so it’s important to recognize when one does.

According to Dominican Republic social news site Lifestyle Cabarete, dive partners Cameron Dietrich and Colin Sutton were out spearfishing for tuna off the coast of Mexico earlier this year when Dietrich noticed something was not quite right. A sea turtle had been caught in the line.

Dietrich immediately jumped in to save the turtle, working quickly to remove the mess of ropes around its left flipper. Sutton followed close behind, his GoPro camera on and ready to capture the rescue.

The turtle swam away once freed, but then, to the two divers’ surprise, it circled back to Dietrich. For an incredible, breathtaking moment it rested inches above him in the water, close enough for Dietrich to reach out and hold it. It was almost as if the sea turtle was saying thank you.

The World Wildlife Fund names human fishing gear as the single greatest threat to sea turtles worldwide, so the fact that Dietrich and Sutton dived in means something. Most species of sea turtles are endangered, and it’s going to take everyone, from recreational spearfishers to commercial fisheries, to move them back from the red.

And with any luck, that means we’ll get more moments like this.

Skinks in North America


This video from the USA says about itself:

Four-Lined Skink Found In Bush Alongside Brownsville Texas

11 February 2014

Plestiodon tetragrammus. The four-lined skink is a species of lizard, which is endemic to North America. It feeds on insects and spiders. It is a medium-sized member of the Plestiodon skinks. It ranges through Central and southern Texas, south into Mexico, north to south-central Arizona and extreme southwestern New Mexico.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Blue Streak Special— Ever See A Skink?

Thursday, July 10, 2014 by eNature

There’s a rustling in the leaves. You look to see what made the sound, and bam—a blue streak vanishes into the duff. Was it a snake? A lizard? Was that intense cobalt color even real?

Yes, it was real. The creature responsible for the streak was a lizard called a skink. Now’s the time when the newborns hatch, and the intense blue tails of the juveniles are as bright as neon signs.

There are fifteen species of skinks in North America, a small percentage of the 1,200-plus species found worldwide (it’s the largest family of lizards). Most species keep their blue tails for the first two years of life; the tails of adults fade to gray or brown. As for why the young skink needs such a gaudy appendage, the standard textbook answer is that predators like birds and mammals will grab first at the bright tail. Because the tail easily detaches, the lizard escapes—tailless, yes, but at least still alive.

If this strategy is so advantageous, though, why don’t adult skinks have blue tails? One possible explanation is that young skinks tend to spend more time above ground where they’re subject to more predators. When they become adults, skinks establish territories inside rotting logs or under rocks and spend little time moving from place to place. (To tell the difference between a mature male and a mature female, look for the orange highlights on the male’s head.)

Mating takes place in the spring. Then, in late spring, the adult females retreat to burrows or other sheltered recesses, often deep in the ground, where they lay eggs and remain with them until hatching. A female may keep its eggs moist by licking them or otherwise moistening them or it may simply guard the clutch of two to six eggs. When the eggs hatch, adult females and their brightly colored newborns come to the surface to feed on insects and spiders for the summer. The first chill of autumn sends them underground, where they wait until the first warm days of spring beckon them back to the surface.

Have you come across skinks or other colorful amphibians? We always enjoy your stories!

Skinks are not amphibians, of course, but reptiles.

Steven Spielberg attacked by Facebook users for ‘killing dinosaur’


Steven Spielberg with 'dead' Triceratops

These Facebook users should reserve their criticism for people like the king of Spain or the United States Trump dynasty, who really kill animals which are still alive today, contrary to dinosaurs

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Steven Spielberg mercilessly trolled by Facebook users who think he killed a dinosaur

This is not a joke – Facebook users riot over an image of the director on the set of Jurassic Park

Ella Alexander

Friday 11 July 2014

Steven Spielberg has been trolled by numerous Facebook users after a photo was shared of the director with a mechanical Triceratops on the set of 1993 film Jurassic Park.

The image was posted on the Facebook page of Jay Branscomb as a joke, alongside the caption:

“Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.”

Incredibly, a fair few members of the public didn’t grasp that the picture was taken from the Jurassic Park set, believing that Spielberg had actually poached a dinosaur; dinosaurs, a breed of animals that became extinct 66 million years ago.

The image has been shared over 33,000 times attracting thousands of comments, initially from misinformed users (apparently unaware that dinosaurs are no longer) and also those lamenting their stupidity.

Tyrell Patrick branded Spielberg “a worthless son of a b****!”, while Scoomp Pi called it a “sad, disgusting scene”.

Becky Daigle said: “One day we realise that we are killing all animals on this planet and we need them to survive. But, when we realise it will be too late.”

“I did not know that Steven Spielberg is a dinosaur hunter,” said Andrea O’Donnell Koran. “I am not only outraged, but disgusted!!”

“This is no sport!!” cried Omega McCracken, as Sondre Jorstad questioned: “Why did he kill such a rare animal?”

It is hoped that some were sarcastic, but some were so detailed it’s difficult to believe they weren’t sincere.

“He’s a disgusting inhumane p***k,” said Penelope Rayzor Buchand. “I’d love to see these hunters be stopped. I think zoos are the best way to keep these innocent animals safe… assholes like this piece of s**t are going into these beautiful animals’ homes… and killing them. It’s no different to someone coming into your home and murdering you… I’m not watching any of your movies again ANIMAL KILLER.”

Branscomb shared the picture in the wake of Facebook’s decision to delete the photos of Texan cheerleader Kendall Jones, which showed her standing next to animals that she had killed, including a leopard and a lion.

See also here.

‘Birds descended not from dinosaurs, but from more ancient reptiles’


This video is called Wing evolution 1 of 4.

And these three videos are the sequels.

From Wildlife Extra:

Forensic examination reveals that birds did not descend from dinosaurs

The re-examination of a sparrow-sized fossil from China challenges the commonly held belief that birds evolved from ground-dwelling theropod dinosaurs that gained the ability to fly.

The birdlike fossil is not actually a dinosaur, as previously thought, but rather the remains of a tiny tree-climbing animal that could glide, say American researchers Stephen Czerkas of the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, Utah, and Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina.

The study appears in Springer’s Journal of Ornithology.

Their findings validate predictions first made in the early 1900s that the ancestors of birds were small, tree-dwelling archosaurs which enhanced their incipient ability to fly with feathers that enabled them to at least glide.

This “trees down” view is in contrast with the “ground up” view embraced by many palaeontologists in recent decades that birds derived from terrestrial theropod dinosaurs.

The fossil of the Scansoriopteryx (which means “climbing wing”) was found in Inner Mongolia, and is part of an ongoing cooperative study with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

It was previously classified as a coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur, from which many experts believe flying dinosaurs and later birds evolved.

The research duo used advanced 3D microscopy, high resolution photography and low angle lighting to reveal structures not clearly visible before.

These techniques made it possible to interpret the natural contours of the bones.

Many ambiguous aspects of the fossil’s pelvis, forelimbs, hind limbs, and tail were confirmed, while it was discovered that it had elongated tendons along its tail vertebrae similar to Velociraptor.

Czerkas and Feduccia say that Scansoriopteryx unequivocally lacks the fundamental structural skeletal features to classify it as a dinosaur.

They also believe that dinosaurs are not the primitive ancestors of birds.

The Scansoriopteryx should rather be seen as an early bird whose ancestors are to be found among tree-climbing archosaurs that lived in a time well before dinosaurs.

Through their investigations, the researchers found a combination of plesiomorphic or ancestral non-dinosaurian traits along with highly derived features.

It has numerous unambiguous birdlike features such as elongated forelimbs, wing and hind limb feathers, wing membranes in front of its elbow, half-moon shaped wrist-like bones, bird-like perching feet, a tail with short anterior vertebrae, and claws that make tree climbing possible.

The researchers specifically note the primitive elongated feathers on the forelimbs and hind limbs.

This suggests that Scansoriopteryx is a basal or ancestral form of early birds that had mastered the basic aerodynamic maneouvers of parachuting or gliding from trees.

“The identification of Scansoriopteryx as a non-dinosaurian bird enables a re-evaluation in the understanding of the relationship between dinosaurs and birds,” explained Czerkas.

“Scientists finally have the key to unlock the doors that separate dinosaurs from birds.”

Feduccia added: “Instead of regarding birds as deriving from dinosaurs, Scansoriopteryx reinstates the validity of regarding them as a separate class uniquely avian and non-dinosaurian.”

Criticism of this: here.

Escher art in Costa Rica


Metamorphosis III, 30 March 2014

Still 30 March 2014, in the botanical garden of Heredia in Costa Rica. Not just birds in that garden; art as well. This art, based on the woodcut print Metamorphosis III by Dutch artist M.C. Escher, was in one of the garden buildings; a round gazebo.

Escher, Metamorphosis III reptiles, 30 March 2014

In Escher’s work, reptile forms slowly morph into other forms.

Escher, Metamorphosis III more reptiles, 30 March 2014

Escher, Metamorphosis III bees, 30 March 2014

And bees morph into other insects.

Escher, Metamorphosis III birds, 30 March 2014

And birds into fish.

Escher, Metamorphosis III birds and mammals, 30 March 2014

And birds into mammals.

Escher, Metamorphosis III yet more reptiles, 30 March 2014

Until we were back at the reptiles again.