Stolen Mongolian dinosaur’s head recovered, scientifically important


This video is called Finding gastralia of Deinocheirus – The Land of Dinosaurs, #16, 데이노케이루스 늑골 발견.

From New Scientist:

18:34 12 May 2014 by Jeff Hecht

Palaeontologists have recovered the stolen head and feet of one of the world’s weirdest dinosaurs. The fossils were somehow smuggled out of Mongolia, but have now been returned. They reveal that Deinocheirus, already known for its massive arms and the hump on its back, had a peculiar skull that looked like a cross between an ostrich and a duck.

In 1965, the first remains of Deinocheirus were found in the Gobi desert by Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, now at the Institute of Paleobiology in Warsaw, Poland. All she found was a pair of 2.4-metre arms with fearsome claws.

These arms were unlike any seen before, and earned the fossil its name, which means “terrible hands”. Kielan-Jaworowska realised the bones belonged to a two-legged theropod, the family that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and birds.

Decades of searching for the rest of the bizarre beast yielded nothing until 2006, when the Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Project found a 70-million-year-old skeleton in the Gobi desert. Another followed in 2009. Between them they contained most of the major bones, except the head and feet.

Last year the researchers described Deinocheirus as an ornithomimosaur, or “ostrich dinosaur“, a group that includes the Gallimimus featured in Jurassic Park. But at 12 metres long, it was similar in size to T. rex, far larger than any other ornithomimosaur, and had a camel-like hump or sail on its back. However, without the head and feet they were missing key information, including what it ate – although gizzard stones in its stomach hint that it ate plants.

Fossil smugglers

Meanwhile François Escuillié, director of fossil dealership Eldonia in Gannat, France, spotted a strange skull and associated feet in a private European collection. In 2011, he asked Pascal Godefroit of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels to take a look. Suspecting the bones might be the missing pieces of Deinocheirus, the two checked with the Korean-Mongolian team and found that the skull fit perfectly with the body found in 2006.

It remains unknown how the fossils were smuggled out of Mongolia and made their way to Europe. The collector has not been identified.

Escuillié eventually acquired the fossil and donated it to the Royal Belgian Institute. Then, on 1 May, he and Godefroit presented it to the Mongolian government. The bones will be deposited at the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs in Ulaanbaatar, along with the rest of the Deinocheirus skeleton, and a Tarbosaurus that was also previously stolen.

The skull shows Deinocheirus was even weirder than palaeontologists had thought. “It looked to me like the product of a secret love affair between a hadrosaur and Gallimimus,” says Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland in College Park. In overall body shape, Deinocheirus was similar to ornithomimosaurs like Gallimimus. The hadrosaur link comes from its snout.

Hadrosaurs are known as “duck-billed dinosaurs” because their snouts were long and flattened. Deinocheirus‘s mouth has a similar duck-billed shape.

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Finding fossils in Mongolia


From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA, about this video:

Last summer, a team led by the Museum’s Provost of Science Michael Novacek and Paleontology Division Chair Mark Norell headed to the Gobi for the joint American Museum of Natural History/Mongolian Academy of Sciences expedition. The group included Aki Watanabe, one of Mark Norell’s students at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, who was recently chosen as a beta-tester for Google Glass and who recorded video on Glass throughout the trip.

In this video, Watanabe takes us with him as he prospects for fossils in the Gobi Desert to collect and bring back to the Museum. Along the way, he shows the tools that he uses to find fossils, and how you can tell what is real fossil and what isn’t.

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Deinocheirus dinosaur discoveries in Mongolia


This South Korean TV video is called Finding gastralia of Deinocheirus – The Land of Dinosaurs, #16.

From New Scientist:

Is it a sloth? Is it a camel? No, it’s a dinosaur

16:49 18 November 2013 by Jeff Hecht

A hug with Deinocheirus would have been a memorable experience. Its 2.4-metre-long arms and 20-centimetre claws were all that was unearthed of this dinosaur from Mongolia‘s Gobi desert in 1965. Recent fossil finds are now filling in our image of what the dino-beast, which lived 70 million years ago, might have looked like.

Two skeletons, also from the Gobi desert, show Deinocheirus was an ornithomimosaur – a group mostly composed of small and nimble ostrich-like dinosaurs.

But this was no mini-dino. “The animal is as big as Tarbosaurus,” says Philip Currie of the University of Alberta in Canada, referring to a massive tyrannosaurid that is likely to have coexisted with Deinocheirus.

Currie was part of the team that excavated the skeletons. They show that the beast was 11 to 12 metres long and a cousin of T. rex with enormous spines on its lower back and tail that may have formed part of a huge sail or hump, making it look like a strange bipedal camel. At the other end, Deinocheirus had a long, ostrich-like neck that reached high into the trees – higher even than the sauropods did.

Armed and dangerous?

Sadly, poachers stole the skull, hands and feet of the skeletons, so we still don’t know what the beast’s head looked like. But Curries says it probably ate plants and swallowed rocks to help digestion – more than 1000 stomach stones, or gastroliths, were found with the skeletons.

And those enormous arms and impressive claws? You could be forgiven for thinking they were fearsome weapons, but their real purpose was probably a little more tame. “Deinocheirus claws were not for hooking into flesh,” says Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland in College Park. They were too blunt for that. Rather, the huge limbs remind Holtz of giant ground sloths, meaning the claws might have been for digging or grabbing onto trees.

Currie agrees. The proportions of the limbs suggest Deinocheirus was slow-moving, he says, and the creature may have used its long arms to pull down high branches to feed on.

So now you know. Deinocheirus had the curved hump of a camel, long neck of an ostrich, huge but blunt claws of giant ground sloth – and a monstrous hug.

Yuong-Nam Lee of the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources presented the latest finds on 1 November at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Los Angeles.

Mongolian dinosaurs’ eggs discovery


This video is called Walking with Dinosaurs: Therizinosaurus.

Several egg clutches, like this one, were found in Mongolia. Credit: Yoshitsugu Kobayashi

From LiveScience:

Nests of Big-Clawed Dinosaurs Found in Mongolia

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer   |   November 02, 2013 12:52pm ET

LOS ANGELES — A nursery of bizarre-looking dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs has been found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

The nesting colony contained at least 17 clutches of eggs.

“Not only is this the largest colony of nonavian theropods, but this is the best documented site,” said study co-author Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a vertebrate paleontologist at Hokkaido University in Japan, who presented the findings here at the 73rd annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference.

Oddball dinos

Therizinosaurs, which lived about 70 million years ago, sported huge, round guts; stumpy legs; a long neck; and a turtlelike head and beak.

Despite being members of the carnivorous group known as theropods — which includes the deadly king of the predators Tyrannosaurus rex — the waddling dinosaurs were herbivores. They also had enormous Edward Scissorhands-like, three-digit claws that may have been used to grasp branches and scrape up plant material, similar to the way bamboo-eating pandas do today.

Kobayashi and his colleagues discovered the nest while in southeastern Mongolia in 2011. On the last day of their trip, they decided to leave the area they were excavating known for therizinosaur bones to instead examine another bone bed nearby.

“There aren’t many bones from this formation, so we didn’t expect to find anything good,” Kobayashi told LiveScience.

As the sun was setting, a guide pointed out an eggshell, and the team soon found one nest site right next to their car. Further investigation revealed four more nest sites. The following year, they returned and excavated a total of 17 clutches, for a total of about 75 eggs.

Hatched youngsters

The eggs were round, with about a 5-inch (13 centimeters) diameter and rough outer shells. Based on size analysis and the species found in nearby areas, the team concluded that therizinosaurs laid the eggs. The animals would have been about 220 lbs. (99 kilograms) when full-grown.

None of the eggs harbored dinosaur embryos. However, many of them had holes with eggshells inside, as if a baby dinosaur had poked a hole in the top of the egg and the broken shells had fallen back inside. The presence of eggshells inside the eggs suggested that most of the baby dinosaurs had hatched.

That finding, in turn, indicated the adults must have guarded the eggs to protect them from predators, Kobayashi said.

Communal animals

The finding bolsters the notion that therizinosaurs were social animals that hung out together.

“We have some very intriguing evidence of mass congregation in therizinosaurs,” said Lindsay Zanno, director of the paleontology and geology research laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

“We have several mass-death quarries,” said Zanno, who was not involved in the study. “So the question for us is, what does that represent in terms of their ecology? Did they live in herds, or were they gathering periodically?”

The new finding suggests the animals at least gathered together for nesting, Zanno told LiveScience.

Rottum island wildlife report


This video says about itself:

Two different Richard’s Pipits (Anthus richardi), probably a pair, plus breeding habitat (foreground) near Zerleg, Khovsgol Aimag, Mongolia, July 2009.

The wardens of desert island Rottum in the Netherlands report about the past months.

Translated from the report:

Ahead of the official reporting (and provisionally!) we can report that we recorded 140 species of birds during our stay. Probably no new species for Rottumeroog, but some (personal) highlights, such as Richard’s pipit, crane, crossbill, common rosefinch, Caspian tern, sea eagle, goosander and white-bellied brent goose. At least 30 species of birds nested, including no fewer than nine species on the red list!

Butterflies

The same prolonged cold also resulted in insect life beginning late. Only during the last two weeks of our stay we recorded significant numbers of butterflies. We found three species on the red list. On August 1, we found a new species for Rottumeroog: the silver-washed fritillary (red list status; extinct in the Netherlands). The Niobe fritillary, a few individuals, was seen for the first time since 2000 and the grayling seemed, despite a shaky start, to still fly around on Rottumeroog in considerable numbers in late July.

Vegetation

The development of vegetation was slow this spring. We recorded at least one new species: bugleweed.

The report also mentions that gray lag geese laid the first bird eggs of the island this year, already before 8 April. 2013 was a successful year for Rottum gray lag geese nests.

Spoonbills had a reasonable succesful nesting season as well. On Schiermonnikoog island, scores of spoonbills died this summer from still mysterious causes. On the Rottum archipelago, that problem was not so big. Only one (adult) dead spoonbill was found, on Zuiderduin islet. It will be investigated about what caused its death.

Rottum and the 5 December 2013 storm: here.

Rottum warden’s house removed after storm: here.

Snow leopard and snow goose research


This video is called Help save the Snow Leopards! Help The Snow Leopard Trust!

From the StarPhoenix in the USA:

From geese to snow leopards, scientist tracks wildlife

By Bob Florence

April 1, 2013

Gustaf Samelius saw a cat – a big cat.

Samelius was in southern Mongolia last November. His trip into the Tost Mountains near the border with China took two days, the ground covered by a skiff of snow.

Vultures flew above him in the mountains one day. He used binoculars to look at a shadowy image near a creek in the valley. He saw a dead horse. Next to the horse was a mountain ghost – a snow leopard.

“They’re majestic,” Samelius said. “They’re mystic.”

Samelius is an assistant science director with Snow Leopard Trust, an international group that protects the cats. A native of Sweden, he has a masters and PhD in biology from the University of Saskatchewan.

He joined Snow Leopard Trust last October. A month later he saw a snow leopard for the first time, going to the South Gobi in Mongolia to help Sweden’s Orjan Johansson do field work. Johansson has collared 19 snow leopards since 2008, tracking leopards by GPS radio signals for PhD research. Johansson finds out where the cats travel in the mountains, the size of their territorial range, their interaction with people and livestock.

Much about snow leopards is still being learned. What is known is their tail is like an extension cord. A metre long, the tail gives the cat balance on narrow mountain ridges and around loose rock. Snow leopards usually hunt at dawn and dusk. They eat Siberian ibex and blue sheep and partridge. In some areas they eat livestock. Instead of roaring, snow leopards make a puffing sound called a chuff. They can jump the length of a Greyhound bus.

After Johansson collared a young male early last spring he posted a message on his blog.

“Now we are eagerly waiting for the females,” Johansson said. “Pretty much the same as a lot of other guys on a Friday evening.”

The head office for Snow Leopard Trust is in Seattle. Samelius’s base is a wildlife research station in the forest of Riddarhyttan, Sweden, two hours west of Stockholm. His job with the trust is to promote and develop its conservation program. He travels. The trust has teams in Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. The five countries are home to about three-quarters of the estimated 4,000 snow leopards in the world.

“People in the mountains don’t have a problem with snow leopards per se, but they don’t want to lose their livestock,” Samelius said. “My driving principle is let’s not forget the local people. Collaborate. Keep the local people involved. All the people with the trust in Mongolia are from Mongolia. The same goes for the other countries we work in.”

Because herders in remote mountain areas make less than $2 a day, the trust has a three-point plan to help them and to protect snow leopards. Vaccinating livestock reduces the number of animals lost to disease. Insurance pays herders for livestock killed by snow leopards and discourages poaching. The trust buys crafts made by the families, selling camel wool hats and felt rugs and embroidered slippers on its website.

After visiting Mongolia last fall, Samelius plans to return in June.

When Samelius first arrived at the University of Saskatchewan in 1991, he thought he would be here for a year. It became 13 years. Ray Alisauskas, a research scientist in Saskatoon who is a PhD adviser, landed Samelius a technician’s job with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Samelius went to the tundra in Canada’s high north for a combination of work and school.

Nicknamed Goose, he studied snow geese on Egg River at Banks Island in the Northwest Territories. In Nunavut he tracked and caught Arctic fox at Karrak Lake south of the Arctic Ocean. He started each day by listening to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. To bait fox traps he used sardines.

“A friend said if I ever write a memoir, call it Another Can of Sardines,” Samelius said.

“We gave ID numbers to each fox, but it’s easier to remember them by name. In the evening we’d sit around and talk about different names. Foxes could have rabies, so we always made sure to put welding gloves on. One time I had a young American guy with me. I said I would hand a fox to him. The fox pinched me hard. When I took my hand out of the glove my thumb was covered with blood. I’m thinking this is not good. I soon realized (the bite) didn’t go through the glove, which was good. We called the fox Captain Insaneo.

“Kangowan was a male I caught at his den in May. One of his eyes was all infected. Cloudy. Puffy. Next spring we caught him again. His socket was empty. I don’t know if the eye fell out or what. He was a tough bugger.”

Samelius enjoys adventure. When he was younger he read Robinson Crusoe, following his older sister Lotta’s interest in reading. He has studied wolverines and lynx. Last weekend he went orienteering, using a compass and map to travel by foot.

“I am a curious person,” he said. “I want to learn. I want to grow.”

Bring on the snow leopard.

Saving wild camels in China, Mongolia


This video is called Wild Bactrian Camels.

From Wildlife Extra:

15 years dedicated to saving Critically Endangered wild Bactrian camels

The Wild Camel Protection Foundation

January 2013. Fifteen years ago, John Hare and Kathryn Rae decided it was time to take a major step and establish the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) as a UK registered charity. Until 1997 funding for their work in China and Mongolia had been erratic. In order to try and guarantee secure funding for the last herds of the IUCN listed critically endangered wild Bactrian camels in China and Mongolia, the establishment of a charitable environmental Foundation seemed a sensible option.

Fifteen years later, thanks to a loyal membership many of whom having been with the Foundation since its establishment, finance has been raised to accomplish an incredible amount of work. Several supporters donated what they could on an annual basis, funded a Nature Reserve entry station, or ran in fund-raising events, while others generously sponsored a young camel at the Wild Camel Conservation, Breeding and Research Centre in Mongolia. Through these individual efforts, and funding from institutions, trusts and companies, the following has been achieved:

The establishment in 2002 of one of the largest nature reserves in the world, the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Reserve in Xinjiang Province, China. This was set up in spite of what appeared to be insurmountable odds, working with Chinese scientists turning the heart of the former Chinese nuclear test area of Lop Nur into a National Nature Reserve, protecting not only the wild camel but many other Red Book listed endangered fauna and flora.
The organisation and hosting of a meeting in 2001 in Beijing between the Chinese and Mongolian vice-Ministers of the Environment and Nature which resulted in a joint Letter of Intent signed by both governments to pledge mutual cooperation for the protection of the wild Bactrian camel.
The upgrading in 2003 of the Chinese reserve from a Provincial Reserve to a National Reserve with the same status as the Giant Panda Reserve. This ensured that future funding was secure, as it would come from the National government.
A training course held in Kenya in 2004 with sponsorship from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), for Chinese and Mongolian scientists to establish joint working procedures for the protection of the wild Bactrian camel in both countries.
The establishment in 2004 of the Hunter Hall Wild Camel Breeding Centre, the first and only breeding centre in the world for wild camels, at Zakhyn Us, in Mongolia with the consent of the Mongolian government. Twelve captive wild camels were taken into a fenced area in the Buffer Zone of the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area ‘A’, the only ecosystem in Mongolia where the wild camels still exist in the wild.
A five-year agreement with the ZSL to advise the WCPF on the management of the Mongolian captive wild Bactrian camel breeding programme and all related scientific issues.
Joint funding with the ZSL of a Chinese and Mongolian ZSL EDGE scientist to study the wild Bactrian camel and its habitat food and water resources in both countries.
On-going genetic testing of wild Bactrian camel samples from China and Mongolia at the Veterinary University of Vienna and in China. The results show a consistent variation from the DNA of the domestic Bactrian camel. This has culminated in 2010 with the announcement that the wild Bactrian camel is a new and separate species henceforth to be known simply as the wild camel.
An environmental educational awareness-raising campaign which has raised awareness of the plight of the wild Bactrian camel around the world.
An excellent on-going working relationship with the Chinese Environmental Protection Bureau and the Director of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve. WCPF has an agreement with the Reserve to act as their international consultant on all matters relating to the wild camel and its unique desert habitat. In Mongolia WCPF works directly with the Ministry of Nature and the Environment and Tourism and the Director of the Great Gobi Special Protected Area “A”.
The establishment of a series of school nature clubs in Mongolia to raise environmental awareness among school children and employment for people local to the breeding centre making knitted products from wild Bactrian camel wool.

Pressure on wild camels

For the wild camel its habitat is equally fragile and endangered. Increasing pressure by man on this desert habitat, through malign influences such as illegal mining, means the future for large mammals in both countries is precarious. WCPF is committed to funding the Hunter Hall Wild Camel Breeding Centre, further scientific and field research, and participating in the long-term management plan for the conservation and protection of the wild camel a Red Book listed species in both countries. The wild camel is an ‘umbrella’ or ‘keystone’ species. By protecting the wild camel and it fragile desert habitat many other endangered flora and fauna are protected. We are looking forward to the next ten years and the work still required encouraged by the support and recognition WCPF has received internationally from both scientists and conservationists for our efforts to protect the wild camel in its native habitat.

The proclamation of a new and separate species of camel makes the work of the WCPF even more valuable and important. WCPF is the only organization in the world with the sole aim of protecting the critically endangered wild camel from extinction.