Bears find mates through wildlife crossings


This video from Canada is called The Alberta Story: Banff Wildlife Crossing.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife crossings help bears find mates

February 2014: The wildlife crossings of the Trans-Canada Highway have helped bears safely cross the road and find mates on the other side of the road, research shows.

Roads connect human populations across vast distances but they can have an adverse effect on the populations of wildlife for as well as being possible victims of traffic accidents. Noisy traffic can also deter animals from approaching busy highways and groups can become isolated and fragmented with little chance for genetic mixing.

To counteract this fragmenting effect wildlife underpasses and overpasses have been built along major roads including the Trans-Canada Highway, Canada’s primary east-west transportation route. The highway runs through Banff, Canada’s oldest national park which is home to an array of wildlife, including two species of bear.

The researchers studied 20 of the 25 bear crossings along the Trans-Canada Highway using hair-snagging traps.

Through collecting thousands of hair samples over their three year study the team were able to identify hundred of bears including 15 grizzlies and 17 black bears who crossed, sometimes frequently, the Trans-Canada Highway. They found that bear populations were not isolated on either side of the road and that male and female bears from both species were using crossings to successful migrate, breed and carry genes over the road.

The team behind this study say young bears may be learning to use the crossings from their mothers.

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New Edmontosaurus dinosaur discovery


This video is called Scientists Discover Duck Billed Dinosaur And An Unusual ‘Fleshy Comb’.

By Emily Chung, CBC News in Canada:

Alberta dinosaur’s head adorned with fleshy comb

Other dinosaurs may have looked quite different from what bones alone show

Dec 12, 2013 11:02 AM ET

An unusually well-preserved fossil of a duck-billed dinosaur has revealed a body part never seen before on any dinosaur.

The Edmontosaurus regalis specimen found west of Grand Prairie, Alta., last year had a soft, fleshy comb on its head, similar to those found on roosters.

“It’s a structure that was completely unexpected,” said Victoria Arbour, a University of Alberta paleontologist who co-authored the scientific paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, describing the new fossil.

“It kind of makes us wonder what other dinosaurs might have had.”

Edmontosaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur with a duck-like bill that grew to be 12 metres long — about the length of a bus. It was thought to have roamed North America in herds during the late Cretaceous, about 75 and 65 million years ago, and belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs, which were the most common dinosaurs on the continent at the time.

Fossils typically only preserve the bones of an animal, not fleshy structures such as a rooster’s comb or an elephant‘s trunk.

Phil Bell, lead author of the paper, said the new findings are “equivalent to discovering for the first time that elephants had trunks.”

Bell, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, added in a statement, “These findings dramatically alter our perception of the appearance and behaviour of this well-known dinosaur.”

In particular, the existence of the comb adds to evidence that Edmontosaurus was a social animal, as ornaments like combs and crests are typically used for communication among animals such as roosters, especially in relation to competition for females.

“We might imagine a pair of male Edmontosaurus sizing each other up, bellowing, and showing off their head gear to see who was the dominant male and who is in charge of the herd,” Bell said.

Bell was a paleontologist with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum currently under construction in Grand Prairie, Alta., when he uncovered the fossil last summer with geologist Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna. The museum is named after a renowned University of Alberta dinosaur expert who also co-authored the new paper.

Not a true mummy

It was a rare fossil type of fossil that paleontologists describe as “mummified.” Arbour said such fossils aren’t true mummies, in which flesh is preserved under very dry conditions.

Rather, they are simply well-preserved fossils in which the bones are in the same positions relative to each other that they would have been in life, with impressions of the skin preserved on top.

At the time Edmontosaurus roamed Alberta, its habitat was actually a subtropical, swampy coastal area, Arbour said.

It’s not clear what conditions lead the preservation of skin impressions, she added, but it likely involves the animals dying in a flood and being quickly buried by sand or mud.

She added that even when skin impressions are preserved, they are often only visible in certain lighting or when the rock breaks a certain way, which may be why combs hadn’t been noticed on earlier “mummified” Edmontosaurus fossils.

“It’s something that’s kind of easy to miss.”

Such impressions would have been lost from the fossils when paleontologists later cleaned the rock away from the bone.

While earlier hadrosaurs had bony crests, researchers thought the crest had been completely lost in Edmontosaurus. The new discovery suggests that, in fact, the dinosaurs’ crests had changed, but remained an important feature.

Bell said it also suggests that similar structures may have been missed in other dinosaurs.

“There’s no reason that other strange fleshy structures couldn’t have been present on a whole range of other dinosaurs, including T. rex or Triceratops.”

See also here.

Alberta dinosaur brought to life by NAIT students. Digital media students give flesh and feathers to bare bones of Drumheller fossil find: here.

Rare northern hawk-owl in Dutch city


This video from Canada says about itself:

Northern Hawk Owl

Grand Valley and Larsen Pasture Roads, near the gate of Direct Energy (north access) gas well, NW of Cochrane, Alberta – April 20, 2012.

Recently, there was a report on this blog, about a Finnish canoeist saving a drowning northern hawk-owl.

Today, more northern hawk-owl news: an individual of this species, very rare in western Europe, is now in Zwolle city in the Netherlands.

Dutch Bird Alerts reports that it is easiest to see the bird from the local BP petrol station.

Let us all hope that the owl will not drown in BP oil, like happened to Gulf of Mexico seabirds

Here is a photo of birdwatchers which came to see this bird.

Alberta, Canada wildlife needs more protection


This video is called Wildlife in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

From Wildlife Extra:

More protection needed for vulnerable wildlife in Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta

July 2013. A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS Canada) calls for the designation of new Wildland Provincial Parks in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta to protect vulnerable wildlife and provide for their safe passage in an increasingly fragmented landscape. The report focused on determining important, secure habitats (“safe havens”) and landscape connections (“safe passages”) for six species-bull trout, West Slope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. These species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change.

Nestled between Banff and Waterton Parks, the Southern Canadian Rockies in Alberta has been overshadowed by these two iconic national parks. Yet this area contains spectacular landscapes, supports one of the most diverse communities of big animals in North America, and is a stronghold for the six vulnerable species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south.

In the report entitled Protecting and Connecting Headwater Havens, WCS Canada’s award-winning Conservation Scientist, Dr. John Weaver concluded that “Once abundant populations have disappeared from some regions, but remnant ones persist in remaining strongholds. These represent hope and opportunity to protect and recover the wildlife heritage of Alberta. Designation of new Wildland Provincial Parks would demonstrate stronger commitment to safeguard these headwater havens of wildlife and water treasures in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta.”

Weaver assessed 6,452 square kilometres of land to determine its conservation value for the vulnerable species and the cumulative challenges of expanding industrial resource extraction and mechanized recreation facing each of them. For example, about 20 percent of the land is prime habitat for the threatened grizzly bear but may serve as ‘attractive traps’ due to the high density of roads. As climate changes, warmer winters will reduce mountain snow cover and suitable habitat for the rare wolverine, a species highly adapted to persistent snow pack. Reduced stream flow and warmer stream temperatures will diminish habitat for westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout, native fish adapted well to cold waters – while favouring introduced rainbow trout and brook trout.

Recommendation to designate 257,065 ha of Crown land as Wildland Provincial Parks

Weaver recommends designating 257,065 ha of Crown land as Wildland Provincial Parks because it would be a smart investment that would conserve 66 percent of important habitats on 40 percent of the land. Vital places with particular concentration of present and future habitat include Castle Special Place, lands on the north and south of the Crowsnest Pass, the headwaters of the Oldman River, and the headwater basins of the Highwood River. The new direction would recognize the value of wildlife diversity and headwater sources of clean water but require improved management of other land uses.

“This report will help inform discussions and decisions about land management in the Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta,” said Weaver. “These spectacular landscapes provide some of the best remaining strongholds for vulnerable fish and wildlife. Protecting lands for conservation will help ensure that this rich diversity of fish and wildlife will be enjoyed by people today and generations yet to come.”

Pachycephalosaur discovery in Canada


Researchers think Acrotholus audeti looked much like this. Image Courtesy: Julius Csotonyi

From Science Fare Media:

New dog-sized pachycephalosaur unearthed in southern Alberta

Small size hints that more similar-sized dinosaurs are still probably waiting to be discovered

Lee Flohr

May 7, 2013

When Roy Audet let researchers scour his ranch for creatures that roamed there roughly 85 million years ago, he didn’t expect them to find the fossil of a new dinosaur with features that he’ll jokingly admit they might share – he didn’t expect it to be named after him either.

But, a team of researchers from Canada and the United States did just that when they found a skull cap belonging to a new species of pachycephalosaur on his southern Alberta ranch in 2008.

“I get lots of jokes because I am a bit hard headed you know,” Audet told SciFare.com.

Formally named Acrotholus audeti, it’s the oldest pachycephalosaur dome found in North America – maybe even the world – it’s roughly two inches thick and sat on the head of a dinosaur that’s about as big as a large dog, but stretched roughly six feet long from tip-to-tip.

“It has a very well developed dome for its geological age,” David Evans, study co-author and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, told SciFare.com. “The vast majority of dome-headed dinosaurs in the fossil record are basically based on isolated skull caps.”

Fortunately for researchers, they found a less complete dome sitting on their shelf after it was recovered from the same region, more than 50 years ago.

“Even though I had recognized it as being something distinct, it wasn’t until Caleb found the really good specimen in 2008 that we really clinched it,” Evans said. “It’s very well preserved, has a lot of detail and shows how a lot of characteristics of pachycephalosaurs that we thought appeared later in the fossil record, actually occurred earlier.

In order to look dome’s internal structure, researchers used a CT-scanner and found that by the time the dinosaur started walking into the fossil record it had already evolved into one complete unit.

“So, the acquisition of a very tall dome had occurred, at least, by the time of Acrotholus, 85 million years ago,” he added.

The CT-scan also allowed them to determine the dinosaur’s life stage without destroying it – traditional methods require them to slice the bone and dye it – and weighing roughly 100 pounds, it was entirely possible that it belonged to a juvenile.

“We can tell by the density how mature the individuals are,” Evans said. “In this case the dome’s extremely dense and that’s something we only see in the most mature adults.”

Turns out their thick skulls actually have profound consequences for the entire fossil record – their unique head gear may be the only reason we know them at all.

By dinosaur standards, Acrotholus is small. The researchers say that if a mature, small bodied pachycephalosaur exists, small bodied versions of other dinosaurs should exist too – but they don’t.

“Their bones are very small and susceptible to weathering and destruction by predators,” Evans said. “Something about the size of a small dog would be one bite for a predator, and all of those bones would be gone.”

So, if they didn’t end up as hors d’oeuvres, their skeletons were certainly ground up by the sands of time – the planet looked a lot different 85 million years ago.

When the researchers added the new find to the pachycephalosaur family tree, they found Acrotholus’ dome was closely related to a pachycephalosaur from Mongolia, known as Prenocephale.

Fortunately, its skeleton is more complete and researchers were able to use it to generate the image of Acrotholus’ – the turtle in the picture was also found on Audet’s ranch and described by a team that included Evans in 2012.

Eric Snively studies how pachycephalosaurs might have used their thick skulls – he wasn’t part of this discovery though. He told SciFare.com the research is interesting because it shows much there’s still left learn about this time period – known technically as the Santonian – and pachycephalosaur evolution during it.

“They would have split off from their sister group, which are horned dinosaurs like Triceratops and their relatives, many millions of years before we find the first good pachycephalosaur fossils,” Snively, who’s currently a post-doctoral researcher at Ohio University, told SciFare.com.

“There are still a lot of gaps to fill in, but we know that by the time this animal was around they were pretty standard looking pachycephalosaurs,” he added.

He’s also intrigued by the idea that many other small-sized dinosaurs are likely waiting to be discovered – if their existence hasn’t been ground out of the fossil record.

“It’s showing us more evidence that there’s greater diversity of small dinosaurs than we thought,” Snively said.

Evans said his team’s gearing up to head back to Audet’s ranch later this spring so they can hunt for more new and cool fossils. For Audet, it’s just another chance to learn something cool about the creatures that once dominated his ranch, 85-million years ago.

“It’s always fun for me when someone comes along from the scientific community because I can always learn something,” Audet said. “It’s not difficult for me to help ‘em across the river with a canoe or let ‘em park in the yard.”

The new dinosaur was described in the journal, Nature Communications.

Dinosaurs could swim, new research


This video is called Extreme Dinosaurs (BBC Documentary).

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

New study produces strong evidence that two-legged dinosaurs were good swimmers

Dinosaurs are long extinct but their role in understanding life on Earth in the 21st century is vital, says a dinosaur researcher at the University of Alberta.

“Humans have been around for about 200,000 years; dinosaurs ruled for Earth for 160 million years,” says U of A paleontologist Scott Persons. “From dinosaurs we’ve learned about colour vision in some of today’s animals, and the ancient animals are linked to the evolution of other life we take for granted, like birds and flowering plants.”

Persons’ latest PhD research has produced some of the strongest evidence ever found that dinosaurs could paddle long distances. Persons arrived at that conclusion after examining unusual claw marks on fossilized rocks found in China.

Persons’ swimming-dinosaur study involved working with an international team of researchers in China’s Szechuan Province. Persons determined that a series of claw marks found in now well-known dinosaur tracks were left by the tips of a two-legged dinosaur’s feet.

“The dinosaur’s claw marks show it was swimming along in this river and just its tiptoes were touching bottom,” said Persons.

The claw marks cover a distance of 15 metres, which the researchers say is evidence of a dinosaur’s ability to swim with co-ordinated leg movements. Persons says the tracks were made by a carnivorous, two-legged dinosaur he estimates to have stood roughly one metre at the hip.

The research was conducted with a team of paleontologists on the ground in China, but Persons says he and his fellow U of A dinosaur hunters don’t have to go far afield to make important discoveries—one of the reasons he decided to study at the university.

I don’t even have to leave the Edmonton city limits, and when I do, the fossil treasure trove in the Alberta badlands is less than a day’s leisurely drive away,” said Persons.

Persons and his colleagues from the Szechuan Province fossil site will continue to analyze the dinosaurs’ swimming prowess with hopes that it will yield evidence related to today’s animals. In the meantime, Persons offers a few links paleontology has already established between life on Earth 65 million years ago and today.

“Want to know why our pet dogs or livestock have limited colour vision? It’s because early mammals sacrificed cones for rods in their eyes so they could see better in the dark and better avoid dinosaurs.

“Want to understand the widespread success of modern flowering plants? Well, they evolved under the selective pressures of herbivorous dinosaurs.

“Want to know where birds come from? Dinosaurs.”

Persons was a co-author on the research, which was published April 8 in the journal Chinese Science Bulletin.

See also here.

Canadian garden birds webcam


This video says about itself:

Bird feeder in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Small birds in HD.

May 2010, house finch, black capped chickadee, nuthatch, sparrow.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

New FeederWatch Cam

Our newest Bird Cam takes you to the well-stocked feeders of Tammie and Ben Hache in chilly Manitouwadge, Ontario, Canada, over 40 miles north of Lake Superior. The Haches invite you to look in on their rotating ensemble of winter birds, including redpolls, grosbeaks, nuthatches, jays, and even the occasional Ruffed Grouse. Each week the cam host posts her Project FeederWatch counts for the week and you can see whether she’s spotted something you missed. The cam is offline during the night (generally 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M.)

Enjoy this addition to our Bird Cams, and marvel at the resilience of these winter birds, which seem to shrug off frigid temperatures. There’s also still time to sign up for this year’s Project FeederWatch season and start making your bird watching “count”! Watch the cam anytime between the hours of 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. Eastern time.

Horned dinosaur discovery in Canadian museum


This video is called Tribute to Ceratopsids.

By Michael Tutton in Canada:

November 8, 2012 | 4:05 am

Horned dinosaur discovery in Alberta

A piece of a fossilized reptilian horn that sat in an Ottawa museum for decades has led to the discovery of a new dinosaur species the size of a rhinoceros that roamed Alberta 80 million years ago.

Pieces of skulls from the recently named Xenoceratops were originally dug up from rocky sediments in southern Alberta sediments in 1958.

However, a pair of paleontologists rediscovered the bones a decade ago and gradually pieced together the sweeping neck plate of the four-footed, horn-headed giants.

Their work has been published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

The 3,000-kilogram creatures used their beak-like mouths to munch on plants and had a fearsome appearance due to a sweeping neck shield topped by two protruding spikes.

Canadian paleontologists Michael Ryan and David Evans say in their paper that the fossils were first discovered at a dig near Foremost, Alta., by American paleontologist Jann Langston Jr., who was working in Canada at the time.

They said Langston, now a professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, left the bone fragments wrapped up and shelved in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Evans said he and Ryan started to wonder in 2003 about two pieces of the neck shield — known as the frill — stored loosely in metal cabinets at the Ottawa museum. One was a spike and the other was an unusually large socket, he recalled.

He said the pieces aroused his curiosity in part because they came from rock formations that contained some of the oldest dinosaur fossils in Alberta.

That led them to investigate further in 2009, when they found Langston’s bone fragments from at least three animals, wrapped in a plaster and burlap casing. They were helped by Kieran Shepherd, curator of paleobiology for the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“Sure enough there was much more material and that was the key to identifying the new species,” Evans said in an interview.

The paleontologists took the fragments to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where they pieced together the metre-long piece of neck bone and then returned it to Ottawa.

They named the animal with the Greek words meaning “alien-horned face,” due in part to its unusual appearance.

Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, said he gradually learned that they had come upon the oldest known big-horned dinosaurs known as ceratopsids.

The herbivores are part of a family that later diversified, featuring a remarkable array of varying horn and frill configurations, said Ryan.

Orphaned bones like the ones they came across sometimes only make sense decades after they’re found, he added.

“The early fossil record of ceratopsids remains scant,” said Ryan. “This discovery highlights just how much more there is to learn about the origin of this diverse group.”

The scientists also suggest the size of the horns may have played a role in reproductive success — the bigger the horn, the more attractive they were to their female counterparts.

“We feel they were actually used for mate recognition. … We think the male dinosaurs with the biggest horns were the most reproductively successful,” said Ryan, though he added that this theory is a source of debate.

“It was that ornamental arms race on their skulls that drove the evolution.”

This dinosaur is just the latest in a series of new finds made by Ryan and Evans as part of their Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project, designed to improve knowledge of late Cretaceous dinosaurs and their evolution.

The project focuses on the paleontology of some of the oldest dinosaur-bearing rocks in Alberta, which is not as well studied as that of the famous badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller.

See also here. And here.

Einiosaurus: here.