Dinosaur with big nose discovery


This video is about hadrosaurs.

From North Carolina State University in the USA:

Hadrosaur with huge nose discovered: Function of dinosaur’s unusual trait a mystery

September 19, 2014

Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs — a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University, lived in what is now Utah approximately 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

Rhinorex, which translates roughly into “King Nose,” was a plant-eater and a close relative of other Cretaceous hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. Hadrosaurs are usually identified by bony crests that extended from the skull, although Edmontosaurus doesn’t have such a hard crest (paleontologists have discovered that it had a fleshy crest). Rhinorex also lacks a crest on the top of its head; instead, this new dinosaur has a huge nose.

Terry Gates, a joint postdoctoral researcher with NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and colleague Rodney Sheetz from the Brigham Young Museum of Paleontology, came across the fossil in storage at BYU. First excavated in the 1990s from Utah’s Neslen formation, Rhinorex had been studied primarily for its well-preserved skin impressions. When Gates and Sheetz reconstructed the skull, they realized that they had a new species.

“We had almost the entire skull, which was wonderful,” Gates says, “but the preparation was very difficult. It took two years to dig the fossil out of the sandstone it was embedded in — it was like digging a dinosaur skull out of a concrete driveway.”

Based on the recovered bones, Gates estimates that Rhinorex was about 30 feet long and weighed over 8,500 lbs. It lived in a swampy estuarial environment, about 50 miles from the coast. Rhinorex is the only complete hadrosaur fossil from the Neslen site, and it helps fill in some gaps about habitat segregation during the Late Cretaceous.

“We’ve found other hadrosaurs from the same time period but located about 200 miles farther south that are adapted to a different environment,” Gates says. “This discovery gives us a geographic snapshot of the Cretaceous, and helps us place contemporary species in their correct time and place. Rhinorex also helps us further fill in the hadrosaur family tree.”

When asked how Rhinorex may have benefitted from a large nose Gates said, “The purpose of such a big nose is still a mystery. If this dinosaur is anything like its relatives then it likely did not have a super sense of smell; but maybe the nose was used as a means of attracting mates, recognizing members of its species, or even as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak. We are already sniffing out answers to these questions.”

The scientific dewscription of this new species is here.

See also here.

Carboniferous fossil discoveries in England


This video is called The Carboniferous Period.

From Wildlife Extra:

Yorkshire‘s hidden fossil haven reveals an exotic past

A derelict mining tip in Doncaster has given up its 310-million-year-old secrets after a host of new fossils – including some fossilised plants and creatures that may even be new to science – were found. One of the most exciting finds was that of a fossilised shark egg case, hinting at Yorkshire’s more exotic history.

Also among the fossils were some horseshoe crabs and previously unrecorded seed pods, all of which were found in preserved rocks that formed within the coal and shale deposits in what is one of the few fossil locations of its kind left in the UK.

The tip, located in Edlington, southwest of Doncaster, has been identified as being the only tip in the borough where fossils could still potentially be collected. All others in the area have been landscaped, or turned into parks, leaving any fossils that may be lying beneath inaccessible.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, described what the fossils indicate Yorkshire might have been like hundreds of millions of years ago: “The fossils unlock a window into a long distant past, buried deep beneath residents’ feet. They are proof that parts of Yorkshire were once a tropical water-logged forest, teeming with life that may have looked something similar to today’s Amazon delta, a mix of dense forest, lakes, swamps and lagoons.

“The shark egg case is particularly rare and significant, because it’s soft bodied and an unusual object to find fossilised. We hope that future organised collecting of the site may reveal further rare discoveries, such as dragonflies, beetles, spiders and further evidence of vertebrates. And who knows, maybe we will even find the actual shark.”

It is hoped that further fossil specimens unearthed at the site will continue to be found. Speaking from Doncaster Heritage Services, Peter Robinson said: “We hope this important discovery will encourage ex-miners from the borough to bring forward and donate fossil specimens from the now defunct collieries, which were collected whilst extracting coal from the pit face. We have heard many stories of some of the wonderful fossils that have been found.”

The fossils are being safely stored at Doncaster Museum and have been integrated into the museum’s fossil collection.

Spinosaurus bigger than Tyrannosaurus, new research


This video is called Bigger Than T. rex: Spinosaurus.

From the University of Chicago in the USA:

Massive hunter prowled water’s edge

UChicago collaboration rediscovers African dinosaur Spinosaurus, 9 feet longer than T. rex

By Claire Gwatkin Jones

Scientists have unveiled what appears to be the first truly semiaquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.

The fossils also indicate that Spinosaurus was the largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth, measuring more than 9 feet longer than the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. These findings, published online Sept. 11 on the Science Express website, also are featured in the October National Geographic magazine cover story.

An international research team—including paleontologists Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago; Cristiano Dal Sasso and Simone Maganuco from the Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy; and Samir Zouhri from the Université Hassan II Casablanca in Morocco—found that Spinosaurus developed a variety of previously unknown aquatic adaptations. The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing new fossils uncovered in the Moroccan Sahara and a partial Spinosaurus skull and other remains housed in museum collections around the world. They also used historical records and images from the first reported Spinosaurus discovery in Egypt more than 100 years ago. According to lead author Ibrahim, a 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, “Working on this animal was like studying an alien from outer space; it’s unlike any other dinosaur I have ever seen.”

Aquatic adaptations of Spinosaurus

The aquatic adaptations of Spinosaurus differ significantly from earlier members of the spinosaurid family that lived on land but were known to eat fish. These adaptations include:

Small nostrils located in the middle of the skull. The small size and placement of the nostrils farther back on the skull allowed Spinosaurus to breathe when part of its head was in water.
Neurovascular openings at the end of the snout. Similar openings on crocodile and alligator snouts contain pressure receptors that enable them to sense movement in water. It’s likely these openings served a comparable function in Spinosaurus.
Giant, slanted teeth that interlocked at the front of the snout. The conical shape and location of the teeth were well-suited for catching fish.
A long neck and trunk that shifted the dinosaur’s center of mass forward. This made walking on two legs on land nearly impossible, but facilitated movement in water.
Powerful forelimbs with curved, blade-like claws. These claws were ideal for hooking or slicing slippery prey.
A small pelvis and short hind legs with muscular thighs. As in the earliest whales, these adaptations were for paddling in water and differ markedly from other predatory dinosaurs that used two legs to move on land.
Particularly dense bones lacking the marrow cavities typical to predatory dinosaurs. Similar adaptations, which enable buoyancy control, are seen in modern aquatic animals like king penguins.
Strong, long-boned feet and long, flat claws. Unlike other predators, Spinosaurus had feet similar to some shorebirds that stand on or move across soft surfaces rather than perch. In fact, Spinosaurus may have had webbed feet for walking on soft mud or paddling.
Loosely connected bones in the dinosaur’s tail. These bones enabled its tail to bend in a wave-like fashion, similar to tails that help propel some bony fish.
Enormous dorsal spines covered in skin that created a gigantic “sail” on the dinosaur’s back. The tall, thin, blade-shaped spines were anchored by muscles and composed of dense bone with few blood vessels. This suggests the sail was meant for display and not to trap heat or store fat. The sail would have been visible even when the animal entered the water.

Discovery more than century in making

More than a century ago, German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach first discovered evidence of Spinosaurus in the Egyptian Sahara. Sadly, all of Stromer’s fossils were destroyed during the April 1944 Allied bombing of Munich, Germany. Ibrahim, however, was able to track down Stromer’s surviving notes, sketches and photos in archives and at the Stromer family castle in Bavaria to supplement Stromer’s surviving publications.

The new Spinosaurus fossils were discovered in the Moroccan Sahara along desert cliffs known as the Kem Kem beds. This area was once a large river system, stretching from present-day Morocco to Egypt. At the time, a variety of aquatic life populated the system, including large sharks, coelacanths, lungfish and crocodile-like creatures, along with giant flying reptiles and predatory dinosaurs.

The most important of the new fossils, a partial skeleton uncovered by a local fossil hunter, was spirited out of the country. As a result, critical information about the context of the find was seemingly lost, and locating the local fossil hunter in Morocco was nearly impossible. Remarked Ibrahim, “It was like searching for a needle in a desert.” After an exhaustive search, Ibrahim finally found the man and confirmed the site of his original discovery.

To unlock the mysteries of Spinosaurus, the team created a digital model of the skeleton with funding provided by the National Geographic Society. The researchers CT scanned all of the new fossils, which will be repatriated to Morocco, complementing them with digital recreations of Stromer’s specimens. Missing bones were modeled based on known elements of related dinosaurs. According to Maganuco, “We relied upon cutting-edge technology to examine, analyze and piece together a variety of fossils. For a project of this complexity, traditional methods wouldn’t have been nearly as accurate.”

The researchers then used the digital model to create an anatomically precise, life-size 3-D replica of the Spinosaurus skeleton. After it was mounted, the researchers measured Spinosaurus from head to tail, confirming their calculation that the new skeleton was longer than the largest documented Tyrannosaurus by more than 9 feet. According to Sereno, head of the University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab, “What surprised us even more than the dinosaur’s size were its unusual proportions. We see limb proportions like this in early whales, not predatory dinosaurs.”

Added Dal Sasso, “In the last two decades, several finds demonstrated that certain dinosaurs gave origins to birds. Spinosaurus represents an equally bizarre evolutionary process, revealing that predatory dinosaurs adapted to a semiaquatic life and invaded river systems in Cretaceous North Africa.”

Other authors of the Science paper are David Martill, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom; Matteo Fabbri, University of Bristol, United Kingdom; Nathan Myhrvold, Intellectual Ventures; and Dawid Iurino, Sapienza Università di Roma in Italy. Important contributors to the making of the digital Spinosaurus include Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy and Erin Fitzgerald of the Fossil Lab at the University of Chicago.

Originally published on September 11, 2014.

Ancient mammals discovery in China


This video is called Ancient Mammals. Mammal evolution from the Triassic to now.

From Science News:

Fossils push back origins of modern mammals

Common ancestor evolved over 200 million years ago

by Meghan Rosen

2:39pm, September 10, 2014

Modern mammals’ ancestors may have emerged millions of years earlier than scientists suspected — around the time the first dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

The fossilized remains of six little tree-dwelling animals push the lineage of today’s mammals back to the Late Triassic, more than 200 million years ago, researchers report September 10 in Nature.

“That’s really, really old,” says paleontologist Robert Asher of the University of Cambridge, who was not involved with the work. Scientists had thought that the common ancestor of those animals originated sometime in the Jurassic, he says. “This is very exciting stuff.”

Xianshou songae is the name of the newly discovered dinosaur age mammal.

Columbian mammoths’ red hair discovery


This video is called BBC: Columbian Mammoth, Death by Tar – Ice Age Death Trap.

From Smithsoniam.com in the USA:

Rare, Red Mammoth Hair Found on Californian Artichoke Farm

Columbian mammoths roamed Western North America thousands of years ago, and now we have a better idea of what they looked like

By Mary Beth Griggs

September 5, 2014

Columbian mammoths were redheads. Well, at least one Columbian mammoth was. Back in 2010, two brothers on an artichoke farm in California came across the bones of many prehistoric animals, including the remains of a 46-year-old mammoth with a small tuft of its hair still intact.

Archaeologist Mark Hylkema spoke to Western Digs about the find.

“What was particularly significant is that the hair was red,” Hylkema said. “It was the same color of my golden retriever.” “We can envision cattle on the landscape today,” he added. “Picture herds of red-colored mammoths.”

Hair from other mammoth species has been recovered, particularly from wooly mammoth remains, which have been found preserved in ice (also with a reddish-hued coat in some cases). But finding the hair of a Columbian Mammoth is a very rare occurrence, as they tended to live in more temperate climates, which don’t tend to preserve hair or tissue as well as more icy climates. A fact sheet about the Columbian mammoth published just a few years ago by the San Diego Zoo lists its pelage (fur) as unknown, because there just weren’t enough samples of hair to figure out what it would have looked like. Now, with this find, we have a better idea.

Researchers have recovered about 40 percent of the mammoth and many other creatures from the site, but many of the remains weren’t in good condition, unlike the remains found at the La Brea Tar Pits. Excavation of the site has stopped, but researchers are still working on the remains already recovered, and the mammoth discovery has obviously left an impression on the farmers, who began selling “Mammoth” brand artichokes after the big find.

Bird flight evolution, new research


This video from Canada says about itself:

The chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar)

Chukar partridge were introduced to the Kamloops area in the early 1950’s. They established themselves quickly and expanded in numbers due in a large part to the poor quality of our range land. With improved grazing practices and aggressive weed control the habitat has shrunk for these beautiful birds.

From Wildlife Extra:

Falling chicks could reveal the mysterious origins of flight

Two researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, may have just disproved a widely-accepted theory of how the origins of flight began.

Dennis Eva Evangelista, post-doctoral researcher at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Robert Dudley, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, undertook research to assess how baby birds (in this case the team used chukar partridges) react when they fall upside down.

Their results revealed that even birds that were just one-day old successfully flapped their wings in order to right themselves when they fell.

In the nest, the chicks used their wings to flip or roll themselves around. Nine days after hatching, 100 per cent of birds that were analysed in the study were found to have developed coordinated flapping and body pitch control, enabling them to right themselves.

“These abilities develop very quickly after hatching,” said Evangelista, who emphasised that no chicks were harmed during the research. “The results highlight the importance of manoeuvring and control in development and evolution of flight in birds.”

Dudley had argued for more than a decade against the popular theory of wing-assisted incline running (WAIR), which theorises that flight originated in theropod dinosaurs – the ancestors of birds – when they used symmetric wing flapping while running up an incline.

This theory argues that wings assisted running by providing lift, and that the ability to steer or manoeuvre is absent early on in the evolution of flight. To test this, the researchers tested the chicks to see if they flapped their wings while running up an incline. However, none of the birds did.

Dudley’s theory is that flight developed in tree-dwelling animals falling, and then evolving the ability to glide and fly. He believes that midair manoeuvrability preceded the development of flapping flight, allowing the ancestors of today’s birds to use their forelimbs as rudimentary wings.

The results of the study reveal that aerial righting using uncoordinated, asymmetric wing flapping, is very early development. “This experiment illustrates that there is a much broader range of aerodynamic capacity available for animals with these tiny, tiny wings than has been previously realised,” Dudley explains.

Flowering plants after dinosaur extinction


This video is called Angiosperm (flowering plant) Life Cycle.

From Smithsonian.com in the USA:

Flowering Plants Appeared in Forest Canopies Just a Few Million Years After Dinosaurs Went Extinct

A new study gives scientists some more insight into the weird history of flowering plants

By Mary Beth Griggs

Taking a minute to smell the flowers isn’t that hard nowadays, but angiosperms (a.k.a. flowering plants) weren’t always as ubiquitous as they are now. They appeared rather suddenly in the fossil record, definitively showing up around 132 million years ago. Their sudden appearance has puzzled scientists from Darwin on to the present day, and while today we understand a bit more about how they diversified, scientists are still learning new things about their history.

In a new study published in Geology, scientists think that they’ve figured out another piece of the angiosperm puzzle. Researchers looked at the patterns of leaf veins of flowering plants in tropical forests in Panama and a temperate forest in Maryland. They looked at the leaves of 132 species, reaching the top of the forest canopy with a 131-foot tall crane, and also taking a look at the leaves that had fallen to the forest floor. Leaves that originated at the very top of the trees tended to have a denser collection of veins than the ones further down the tree trunk.

The scientists then compared the patterns found on the leaves in the forests to leaves found in the fossil record, and discovered that flowering plants had reached the heights of the forest canopy around 58 million years ago, during the Paleocene, just a few million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.