Pterosaur exhibition in the USA


This video from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in the USA says about itself:

4 March 2014

They flew with their fingers. They walked on their wings. Some were gigantic, while others could fit in the palm of a hand. Millions of years ago, the skies were ruled by pterosaurs, the first animals with backbones to fly under their own power. In the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, rare fossils, life-size models, and hands-on interactives bring these ancient animals to life.

Step back in time to see pterosaurs, including giants such as Tropeognathus mesembrinus, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, and find out how they moved on land and in the air. Get a first-hand look at the rare pterosaur fossils that have helped paleontologists learn all that we know about these animals. In a virtual flight lab, use your body to pilot a pterosaur over a prehistoric landscape. Encounter the exceptional creatures that flew in the age of dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is on view from April 5, 2014, through January 4, 2015. Learn more about the exhibition at http://www.amnh.org/pterosaurs.

This video, linked to the erxhibition, is called Pterosaur App and Card Game.

See also here.

North American mastodons and mammoths, new study


This video from the USA is about mastodons and mammoths.

From LiveScience:

Mammoths and Mastodons of the Ohio Valley Were Homebodies

By Laura Geggel, Staff Writer | July 28, 2014 01:55pm ET

People may imagine mammoths and mastodons as enormous beasts that roamed the vast North American continent more than 10,000 years ago. But the mammoths and mastodons of present-day southwestern Ohio and northwestern Kentucky were homebodies that tended to stay in one area, a new study finds.

The enamel on the animals’ molars gave researchers clues as to where the mammoths and mastodons lived throughout their lives and what they ate. They discovered that mammoths ate grasses and sedges, whereas mastodons preferred leaves from trees or shrubs. Mammoths favored areas near retreating ice sheets, where grasses were plentiful, and mastodons fed near forested spaces, the researchers said.

“I suspect that this was a pretty nice place to live, relatively speaking,” lead researcher Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. “Our data suggest that animals probably had what they needed to survive here year-round.” [Image Gallery: Stunning Mammoth Unearthed]

Both animals, now extinct, likely came to North America across the Bering Strait land bridge that connected Alaska to Russia when sea levels were lower than they are today, Crowley told Live Science in an email.

Mammoths — which had teeth ideal for grinding grasses, as well as curved tusks and humped heads — are more closely related to elephants than mastodons are, Crowley said. Mammoths came to North America during the mid-Pleistocene Epoch, about 1 million years ago, she added.

Mastodons arrived much earlier. They had spread across America by the Pliocene Epoch, around 5 million years ago. Their molars were shaped to crush plants, such as leaves and woody stems, and they had long, straight tusks that could grow up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) long, Crowley said.

In the study, the researchers looked at the remnants of carbon, oxygen and strontium, a naturally occurring metal, in the enamel of molars from eight mammoths and four mastodons that lived in Ohio and Kentucky about 20,000 years ago.

The carbon analysis helped researchers learn about the animals’ diet, whereas the traces of oxygen told them about the general climate at the time. Strontium provides insights into how much the animal traveled as their molars developed. Researchers can look at the type of strontium within the enamel and determine where it came from by comparing it to local samples of strontium in the environment.

“Strontium reflects the bedrock geology of a location,” Crowley said. This means that if a local animal has traces of strontium in its tooth, researchers can deduce where that type of strontium came from in the area. “If an animal grows its tooth in one place and then moves elsewhere, the strontium in its tooth is going to reflect where it came from, not where it died,” she said.

Surprisingly, the researchers said, the strontium in the mammoth and mastodon teeth matched local water samples in 11 of the 12 mammals. Only one mastodon appeared to have traveled from another area before settling in the Ohio Valley.

The findings, however, only apply to the animals that lived in that region. “A mammoth in Florida did not behave the same as one in New York, Wyoming, California, Mexico or Ohio,” Crowley said.

The study was published July 16 in the journal Boreas.

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.”

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.

Hedgehog fossil discovery in Canada


This video is called Tiny Hedgehog Fossil Could Answer Climate-Change Questions.

From Wildlife Extra:

Fossils of tiny, unknown, hedgehog found in Canada

Fossil remains of a tiny hedgehog, about two inches long, that lived 52 million years ago have been discovered in British Columbia by scientists from University of Colorado Boulder.

Named Silvacola acares, which means tiny forest dweller, it is perhaps the smallest hedgehog ever to have lived and is both a genus and species new to science.

“It is quite tiny and comparable in size to some of today’s shrews,” said lead author Jaelyn Eberle.

“We can’t say for sure it had prickly quills, but there are ancestral hedgehogs living in Europe about the same time that had bristly hair covering them, so it is plausible Silvacola did, too.”

The fossils were found in north-central British Columbia at a site known as Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park that was likely to have been a rainforest environment during the Early Eocene Epoch.

See also here. And here.

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.

Dinosaurs shrank for 50 million years to become birds: here.

Biggest bird ever discovery in South Carolina


This video is called Pelagornis sandersi: World Biggest Flying Bird Fossil Revealed; 6.4 m Wing Span.

By Jane Hu in the USA:

The World’s Largest Flying Bird

If we had lived 3 million years ago, our holiday beach visits would not have been so pleasant. North American ocean fronts were home to Pelagornis sandersi, the largest known marine bird. It had a wingspan of up to 24 feet. For comparison, imagine the length of four humans head-to-toe, or the height of a two-story building. If its size isn’t terrifying enough, the bird also had pseudoteeth—all the better to impale its prey with.

The first P. sandersi fossil was found in 1983, when crews in South Carolina began construction to expand the Charleston International Airport. Charleston Museum volunteer James Malcom and museum curator Albert Sander removed a stone block containing the fossil and brought it to the museum for further inspection. (The sandersi in the species name is a homage to Sanders.) Nearly 30 years later, paleontologist Daniel Ksepka rediscovered it when he was invited to study the Charleston Museum’s fossils. “I was pretty confident it was a new species right away,” says Ksepka. “The size jumps out at you. I found a single wing bone longer than my arm, so I thought, this must be important.” Ksepka’s results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The newly described monster bird is part of a family of giant seabirds called Pelagornithids, named for teeth found on the edges of their bills. Unlike human teeth, which have roots and are covered with enamel, pelagornithids’ teeth were made of bone and were likely covered with beak tissue. Scientists believe these birds’ beaks resembled those of modern birds, only with bony, saw-like edges. “They were very sharp, but not made for slicing,” Ksepka says. “They could use them to catch fish or squids near the surface and impale them.”

The pelagornithid family was known for its ubiquity; species within the family have been discovered on every continent. According to Ksepka, it’s fairly rare for bird families to inhabit so many different climates. “Not that many birds make it to Antarctica,” he says.

Based on the structure of its bones, scientists are fairly certain that P. sandersi did fly. This raises one big mystery: How did something so large stay in the air? Bigger animals require more power to keep their bodies in flight. “It’s a scaling problem,” says Ksepka: Theoretically, extremely large birds cannot fly, because the amount of power they need to fly surpasses the power of their muscles. Some researchers calculate that this upper limit is around 17 feet, so by these estimates, a flying Pelagornis sandersi should be impossible. However, these calculations are based on the energy required for birds to stay in flight by flapping their wings; in new calculations, Ksepka proposes that large flying birds could have used other strategies. “They could harvest energy from the environment, like taking advantage of wind gusts,” he says. Like modern-day albatrosses, Pelagornis sandersi could have used their long wings to catch ocean winds and glide across the sky, rather than powering their flight with energy-intensive flapping.

This study is a first glimpse at an amazing ancient animal, but much is still unknown about how Pelagornis sandersi flew and hunted. “I’m looking forward to finding out how they launched and landed, and how maneuverable they were,” says Ksepka. Next time you’re at the beach, be thankful you have to shoo away only seagulls from your picnic snacks.

Jurassic fly larva, parasite on salamanders, discovered


This video says about itself:

The fossil of two froghopper insects in the act of mating has been uncovered by archaeologists in northeastern China after being buried for around 165 million years.

From World Science:

Bizarre parasite from Jurassic found

June 25, 2014

Courtesy of the University of Bonn and World Science staff

Re­search­ers from the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn and from Chi­na have dis­cov­ered a fos­sil fly lar­va with such a spec­tac­u­lar suck­ing ap­pa­rat­us, they have named it by the Chin­ese word for “bizarre.”

Around 165 mil­lion years ago, a spec­tac­u­lar par­a­site was at home in the fresh­wa­ter lakes of pre­s­ent-day In­ner Mon­go­lia in Chi­na, re­search­ers say. It was a ju­ve­nile fly with a thor­ax, or “ch­est,” formed en­tirely like a suck­ing plate.

With it, the an­i­mal could stick to sala­man­ders and suck their blood with its mouth­parts formed like a sting, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists. To date no in­sect is known with a si­m­i­lar de­sign. The in­terna­t­ional sci­en­tif­ic team is now pre­sent­ing its find­ings in the jour­nal eLIFE.

The par­a­site, a long fly lar­va around two cen­time­ters (a bit un­der an inch) long, had un­der­gone ex­treme changes over the course of ev­o­lu­tion, the re­search­ers said. The head is ti­ny in com­par­i­son to the body, tube-shaped with piercer-like mouth­parts at the front. The mid-body, or thor­ax, has been com­pletely trans­formed un­derneath in­to a gi­gantic suck­ing plate; the hind-body, or ab­do­men, has caterpillar-like legs.

The re­search team be­lieves that this un­usu­al an­i­mal lived in a land­scape with vol­ca­noes and lakes what is now north­east­ern Chi­na around 165 mil­lion years ago. In this fresh wa­ter hab­i­tat, they say, the par­a­site crawled on­to pass­ing sala­man­ders, at­tached it­self with its suck­ing plate, and pen­e­trated the thin skin of the am­phib­ians in or­der to suck blood from them.

“The par­a­site lived the life of Reil­ly,” said paleon­tologist Jes Rust from the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn. This is be­cause there were many sala­man­ders in the lakes, as fos­sil finds at the same loca­t­ion near Ningcheng in In­ner Mon­go­lia (Chi­na) have shown. “There sci­en­tists had al­so found around 300,000 di­verse and ex­cep­tion­ally pre­served fos­sil in­sects,” said the Chin­ese sci­ent­ist Bo Wang, a post­doc­tor­al re­searcher in paleon­tology at the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn.

The lar­va, which has re­ceived the sci­en­tif­ic name of Qiyia juras­si­ca, how­ev­er, was a quite un­ex­pected find. “Qiyia” in Chin­ese means “bizarre”; “jur­as­si­ca” refers to the Ju­ras­sic pe­ri­od to which the fos­sils be­long. A fine-grained mud­stone en­sured the good state of pre­serva­t­ion of the fos­sil.