Dinosaur exhibition in Minnesota, USA


This video says about itself:

Dinosaur egg fossils – Walking with Dinosaurs: Ballad of Big Al – BBC

Scientists step back 145 million years to tell the story of ‘Big Al’, a complete skeleton of an adolescent Allosaurus found in Wyoming in 1991. The story starts in the Atlantic coast of Portugal where the discovery of remarkable fossils of dinousaur egg shells shed light on how Big Al was born.

From the Post-Bulletin in Minnesota in the USA:

Family Time: Exhibit explores dinosaur family life

Thursday, February 27, 2014 9:32 am

Lindy Lange, life@postbulletin.com

It’s all about family at Quarry Hill Nature Center‘s “Hatching the Past: Dinosaur Eggs & Babies.” With a focus on dinosaur family life, the month-long special exhibit features replicas of baby dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs as well as three life-size pteranodon models.

“Everyone loves dinosaurs and everyone loves babies,” said Pam Meyer, Quarry Hill Nature Center executive director. “This exhibit looks at dinosaur family life, how they cared for their young, and what we can tell about it from fossils and eggs.”

“Hatching the Past” is Quarry Hill’s fifth large-scale fossil exhibit. The first was Stan, the Tyrannosaurus rex, in 2006. Other exhibits included a giant sea turtle, a wooly mammoth and a giant ground sloth. Altogether, nearly 75,000 visitors have enjoyed the exhibits.

“That’s why people enjoy these exhibits so much — they make people think and ask questions. It puts them in the mindset of scientific observation,” Meyer said. “At ‘Hatching the Past,’ there’s a lot for families to explore and learn about.”

The exhibit also features family-friendly dig pits, where kids can practice their junior paleontologist skills, and a giant dinosaur nest, where kids can dress up like a dinosaur and play dinosaur mom and dad.

“We’ve kept admission the same as it’s been for a number of years so it’s affordable and accessible to families,” Meyer said. “And it’s right here in your own backyard at your neighborhood nature center. All proceeds go right back into the nature center. Not only are you going to have a great time, but you’re supporting a great organization.”

The exhibit is open daily. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children.

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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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Devonian era animals and plants


This video is called Devonian forest.

From LiveScience:

Devonian Period: Climate, Animals & Plants

By Mary Bagley, Live Science Contributor

February 22, 2014 03:46am ET

The Devonian Period occurred from 416 million to 358 million years ago. It was the fourth period of the Paleozoic Era. It was preceded by the Silurian Period and followed by the Carboniferous Period. It is often known as the “Age of Fishes,” although significant events also happened in the evolution of plants, the first insects and other animals.

Climate and geography

The supercontinent Gondwana occupied most of the Southern Hemisphere, although it began significant northerly drift during the Devonian Period. Eventually, by the later Permian Period, this drift would lead to collision with the equatorial continent known as Euramerica, forming Pangaea.

The mountain building of the Caledonian Orogeny, a collision between Euramerica and the smaller northern continent of Siberia, continued in what would later be Great Britain, the northern Appalachians and the Nordic mountains. Rapid erosion of these mountains contributed large amounts of sediment to lowlands and shallow ocean basins.  Sea levels were high with much of western North America under water. Climate of the continental interior regions was very warm during the Devonian Period and generally quite dry.

Marine life

The Devonian Period was a time of extensive reef building in the shallow water that surrounded each continent and separated Gondwana from Euramerica. Reef ecosystems contained numerous brachiopods, still numerous trilobites, tabulate and horn corals. Placoderms (the armored fishes) underwent wide diversification and became the dominant marine predators. Placoderms had simple jaws but not true teeth.  Instead, their mouths contained bony structures used to crush or shear prey. Some Placoderms were up to 33 feet (10 meters) in length. Cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays were common by the late Devonian. Devonian strata also contain the first fossil ammonites.

By the mid-Devonian, the fossil record shows evidence that there were two new groups of fish that had true bones, teeth, swim bladders and gills. The Ray-finned fish were the ancestors of most modern fish. Like modern fish, their paired pelvic and pectoral fins were supported by several long thin bones powered by muscles largely within the trunk. The Lobe-finned fish were more common during the Devonian than the Ray fins, but largely died out. (The coelacanth and a few species of lungfish are the only Lobe-finned fishes left today.) Lobe-finned fishes had fleshy pectoral and pelvic fins articulating to the shoulder or pelvis by a single bone (humerus or femur), which was powered by muscles within the fin itself. Some species were capable of breathing air through spiracles in the skull. Lobe-finned fishes are the accepted ancestors of all tetrapods.

Plants

Plants, which had begun colonizing the land during the Silurian Period, continued to make evolutionary progress during the Devonian. Lycophytes, horsetails and ferns grew to large sizes and formed Earth’s first forests.  By the end of the Devonian, progymnosperms such as Archaeopteris were the first successful trees. Archaeopteris could grow up to 98 feet (30 meters) tall with a trunk diameter of more than 3 feet. It had a softwood trunk similar to modern conifers that grew in sequential rings. It did not have true leaves but fern-like structures connected directly to the branches (lacking the stems of true leaves). There is evidence that they were deciduous, as the most common fossils are shed branches. Reproduction was by male and female spores that are accepted as being the precursors to seed-bearing plants. By the end of the Devonian Period, the proliferation of plants increased the oxygen content of the atmosphere considerably, which was important for development of terrestrial animals. At the same time carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, was depleted from earlier levels. This may have contributed to the cooling climate and the extinction event at the end of the Devonian.

Animals

Arthropod fossils are concurrent with the earliest plant fossils of the Silurian. Millipedes, centipedes and arachnids continued to diversify during the Devonian Period. The earliest known insect, Rhyniella praecusor, was a flightless hexapod with antennae and a segmented body. Fossil Rhyniella are between 412 million and 391 million years old.

Early tetrapods probably evolved from lobe-finned fishes able to use their muscular fins to take advantage of the predator-free and food-rich environment of the new wetland ecosystems. The earliest known tetrapod is Tiktaalik rosae. Dated from the mid-Devonian, this fossil creature is considered to be the link between the lobe-finned fishes and early amphibians. Tiktaalik was probably mostly aquatic, “walking” on the bottom of shallow water estuaries. It had a fish-like pelvis, but its hind limbs were larger and stronger than those in front, suggesting it was able to propel itself outside of an aquatic environment.  It had a crocodile-like head, a moveable neck, and nostrils for breathing air.

Mass extinction

The close of the Devonian Period is considered to be the second of the “big five” mass extinction events of Earth’s history. Rather than a single event, it is known to have had at least two prolonged episodes of species depletion and several shorter periods. The Kellwasser Event of the late middle Devonian was largely responsible for the demise of the great coral reefs, the jawless fishes and the trilobites. The Hangeberg Event at the Devonian/Carboniferous Boundary killed the Placoderms and most of the early ammonites. Causes of the extinction are debated but may be related to cooling climate from CO2 depletion caused by the first forests. Although up to 70 percent of invertebrate species died, terrestrial plants and animals were largely unaffected by these extinction events.

Related:

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First dinosaur discovery in Malaysia


This video is called First Malaysian dinosaur fossil found in Pahang: Researchers.

From The Star in Malaysia:

Tuesday February 18, 2014 MYT 11:00:34 AM

Fish-eating dinosaur fossil discovered in Pahang

By Isabelle Lai

PETALING JAYA: Fossil remains of a carnivorous “fish-eating” dinosaur has been discovered in Malaysia, with Universiti Malaya set to unveil the evidence today.

Discovered in the rural interiors of Pahang, the fossil remains of the spinosauridae dinosaur are believed to be from the late Mesozoic era, most likely from the Cretaceous period between 65 million and 145.5 million years ago.

This is believed to be the first time that fossil remains of a dinosaur have been found in Malaysia.

The dinosaur remains had been identified by a team led by Associate Professor Dr Masatoshi Sone of the university’s geology department in collaboration with reptile paleontology specialist Professor Ren Hirayama from Tokyo’s Waseda University.

Spinosauridae is a particular family of carnivorous dinosaurs characterised by its elongated, crocodile-like skulls with conical teeth that had either very tiny or with no serrations.

Another spinosauridae fossil had also been discovered in Australia in 2011, before which the species was believed to have existed only in the northern hemisphere.

Scientists had discovered a 125-million-year-old neck vertebrae identical to that of a Baryonx

sic; Baryonyx

in Victoria, Australia.

Dr Masatoshi will be attending today’s press conference, along with Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, UM vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin and the Science Faculty dean Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Sofian Azirun.

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Kangaroo evolution and climate change in Australia


This video is called Mutant Planet- The Evolution of Marsupials.

Talking about Australia and climate change

From Murdoch University in Australia today:

Kangaroo evolution maps climate change

2 hours ago

The evolution of kangaroos has given a clear picture of Australia’s changing climate, according to a new study.

Murdoch University’s Dr Natalie Warburton and Dr Gavin Prideaux from Flinders University have analysed changes to the kangaroo skeleton over time which reflect Australia’s changing environment and climate.

Dr Warburton said in this way represent a sort of barometer for .

“This is important for our understanding of historical climate change in Australia,” she said.

“Our study represents the most comprehensive anatomical analysis of the evolution of modern and fossil kangaroos on the basis of the skull, teeth and skeleton – including some of the new fossil we recently identified from caves on the Nullarbor.”

The findings, published this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, will be the most reliable and detailed kangaroo family tree to date.

They show how the abundance and diversity of macropods – which includes kangaroos, wallabies and tree-kangaroos – matches the spread of woodlands and grasslands in Australia as forests retreated to the coast over millions of years.

Macropods have been around for at least 30 million years, but difficulties in working out which species are related and when certain lineages evolved have hampered research for more than a century.

By comparing skeletons from 35 living and extinct macropod species, the researchers established that while early forms were adapted to the abundant soft-leaved forest plants, later macropods had to adapt to more arid conditions.

“The skull and teeth give us a good understanding of the sorts of food that was available in the environment,” Dr Warburton said.

“The , and in particular the feet, give us important clues about how far and fast the animals were moving, which in turn shows us whether the habitat was dense or open.”

The study also found that the small, endangered merrnine, or banded-hare wallaby, was much more distantly related to the other kangaroos and wallabies than previously thought.

“The merrnine is actually the sole survivor of an ancient group of kangaroos that separated from the rest of the family around 20 million years ago,” said Dr Warburton.

“It’s now only found on the islands of Shark Bay in Western Australia – this highlights that conservation for this species is a priority.”

Explore further: New DNA test on roo poo identifies species.

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Oldest reptile live birth fossil discovery


This video is called The history of paleoillustrations: Ichthyosauria.

From LiveScience:

Oldest Fossil of Reptile Live Birth Found

By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer | February 12, 2014 05:04pm ET

A new fossil that captures both birth and death reveals the earliest ancestors of the giant prehistoric sea predators called ichthyosaurs birthed their babies headfirst, according to a new study.

The fossil of an ancient Chaohusaurus mother that likely died while in labor also suggests that reptilian live birth only evolved on land, researchers report today (Feb. 12) in the journal PLOS ONE.

Ichthyosaurs were top ocean predators during the age of the dinosaurs. Sleek, streamlined swimmers that grew as long as a bus, they had teeth-filled snouts and enormous eyes for snatching prey. These air-breathing carnivores arose from land reptiles that moved into the water from land during the early Triassic period, between 251 million and 247 million years ago. (The Triassic period follows one of the biggest mass extinctions on Earth, which killed 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species.) [Image Gallery: Ancient Monsters of the Sea]

Previously found fossils of pregnant ichthyosaurs had already revealed the reptiles carried live embryos, not eggs. And one spectacular fossil of a Stenopterygius ichthyosaur in “childbirth,” from the Jurassic period, between 201 million and 145 million years ago, showed at least one species had newborns come out tail-first.

However, researchers didn’t know whether the earliest ichthyosaurs also gave birth headfirst or tail-first. Most air-breathing marine creatures that bear live young, such as whales and dolphins, birth their babies tail-first, so the newborns don’t suffocate during labor. But on land, babies tend to come out headfirst. And the earliest whales, which also evolved from land mammals, birthed their newborns headfirst.

The new fossil confirms that the first ichthyosaur babies came out headfirst, the study reports. The ichthyosaur mother died with three young: one outside the mother, one half-emerged headfirst from her pelvis and one still inside, waiting to be born. Because of the burial positions, it’s unlikely the babies were expelled from the mother after death, the researchers said.

“The reason for this animal dying is likely difficulty in labor,” said Ryosuke Motani, lead study author and a paleobiologist at the University of California, Davis. Motani believes the first baby was born dead, and the mother may have died of a labor complication from the second, which is stuck half-in, half-out of her body. “Obviously, the mother had some complications,” he said.

The skeleton was a lucky find. It was hidden in a rock slab with a Saurichthys fish fossil, and was only discovered when the fish fossil was prepared in the team’s lab in China. (The two fossils aren’t from the same time period, the researchers said.)

The Chaohusaurus fossil, from one of the oldest ichthyosaur species, is about 10 million years older than other fossil embryos from reptiles found so far.

The specimen is now at the Anhui Geological Museum in Hefei, China. The team recovered more than 80 new ichthyosaur skeletons during a recent field expedition to a fossil quarry in south Majiashan, China.

Earliest newborns

Live birth evolved independently in more than 140 different species, including about 100 reptiles. Other extinct aquatic reptiles that gave birth to live young include the plesiosaur and the mosasaur; in 2011, scientists discovered a pregnant plesiosaur, a marine reptile, which lived some 78 million years ago.

The new ichthyosaur fossil pushes back the known records of live birth to the earliest appearance of marine reptiles 248 million years ago, during the beginning of the Mesozoic era.

Until now, researchers thought live birth first appeared in marine reptiles after they took to the seas, Motani said. The ichthyosaur fossil counters this assumption, by providing an evolutionary link to the headfirst, terrestrial style of childbirth.

“This land-style of giving birth is only possible if they inherited it from their land ancestors,” Motani told Live Science. “They wouldn’t do it if live birth evolved in water.”

And because ichthyosaurs evolved from land reptiles, the discovery suggests that land reptiles also bore live young in the earliest Mesozoic, Motani said. The oldest fossil evidence for live birth in land reptiles is no more than 125 million years old, more than 100 million years younger than the new fossil discovery.

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Crocodiles can climb trees, new research


This video is called Rare Gigantic Crocodiles [DOCUMENTARY].

From Wildlife Extra:

Crocodiles are able to climb trees

February 2014: Although mostly seen skulking in water or labouring across the ground they can also climb tree new research show.

Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has found that the reptiles can climb trees as far as the crowns. Research assistant professor Vladimir Dinets and his team observed crocodile species on three continents—Australia, Africa and North America—and examined previous studies and anecdotal observations.

They found that four species climbed trees—usually above water—but how far they ventured upward and outward varied by their sizes. The smaller crocodiles were able to climb higher and further than the larger ones. Some species were observed climbing as far as four meters high in a tree and five meters down a branch.

Their research is published in the journal Herpetology Notes and can be found here. “The most frequent observations of tree-basking were in areas where there were few places to bask on the ground, implying that the individuals needed alternatives for regulating their body temperature. Likewise, their wary nature suggests that climbing leads to improved site surveillance of potential threats and prey.”

The data suggests that at least some crocodile species are able to climb trees despite lacking any obvious morphological adaptations to do so.

“These results should be taken into account by paleontologists who look at changes in fossils to shed light on behaviour,” said Dinets. “This is especially true for those studying extinct crocodiles or other Archosaurian taxa.”

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Canadian Cambrian fossils discovery


This video from Canada says about itself:

4 July 2012

Associate Curator, Jean-Bernard Caron presents an overview of the fossil collection from the Burgess Shale, B.C., highlighting a number of specimens.

From the London Free Press in Canada:

‘Epic’ new fossil site found in B.C. national park

QMI Agency

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:30:33 EST AM

Researchers hit the “motherload” when they discovered a new fossil site in a B.C. national park.

In 2012, Canadian, U.S., and Swedish researchers made the discovery of a new Burgess Shale fossil site in Kootenay National Park, just 42 km away from what is hailed the world’s most important fossil site, located in Yoho National Park.

“We were already aware of the presence of some Burgess Shale fossils in Kootenay National Park. We had a hunch that if we followed the formation along the mountain topography into new areas with the right rock types, maybe, just maybe, we would get lucky — though we never in our wildest dreams thought we’d track down a motherload like this,” geologist Robert Gaines of Pomona College in California said in a release Tuesday.

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said the area and its fossils will help scientists better understand the sudden explosion of animal life during the Cambrian Period.

The study’s lead author, Jean-Bernard Caron of the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, called the discovery “an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century.”

In more than 100 years of research, about 200 animal species have been identified at the original Burgess Shale discovery in Yoho National Park.

In just 15 days of field collecting, 50 animal species were unearthed at the new Kootenay National Park site.

The team will go back to the park this summer in the hopes of discovering new species.

See also here.

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Plesiosaur discovery in Chile


This video says about itself:

This animation shows how the juvenile plesiosaur, discovered in Antarctica by an American-Argentine research team, might have appeared.

From I Love Chile News:

Chile’s Loch Ness Monster: New Marine Reptile Fossil Found

February 10 15:28 2014

by Josh King

Paleontologists working in Chile’s Bío Bío region have discovered the fossilized remains of a previously unknown species of marine reptile.

Bío Bío — The fossilized remains of a species of plesiosaur has been discovered by a group of Chilean paleontologists working in the country’s Bío Bío region. The Aristonectes quiriquinensis specimen is over 60 million years old and lived in the seas of the Southern hemisphere as long ago as 251 million years.

That is a confusing sentence. 60 million and 251 million is quite a difference. Aristonectes is said to be from the Late Cretaceous, 100-66 million years ago. So, this species did not exist yet 251 million years ago. And 60 million years ago, all plesiosaurs, like all dinosaurs, had become extinct.

The plesiosaur was a large marine reptile that inhabited all of the world’s oceans. They appeared during the late Cretaceous period,

No, the origin of plesiosaurs is earlier. During the Triassic.

and since being found and named in 1821, over a hundred species have been found. They are probably most well-known in modern popular culture as the template for the Loch Ness Monster, which has the benefit of making this species quite famous and generating interest for the study of ancient creatures, but also often makes people mistake the plesiosaur for a made-up fantasy creature. Much to the dismay of any paleontologist.

This new species was first found in 2001, when only its skull was discovered. In 2009, however, parts of its neck were found and it was seen to have a slightly shorter neck than those found in the Northern Hemisphere. This meant that there was a notable difference between Northern and Southern species.

Having published their findings in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the paleontologists are now studying the remains to find out why these differences have occurred.

With evidence of new extinct creatures being discovered all the time, such as the large meat-eating dinosaur found last year in Utah, it’s just as exciting as ever to hear about new findings of these ancient giants and beginning to sort out the fantasy from the reality.

The scientific description of the species newly discovered in Chile is here.

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Dimetrodon ancient reptile, new discoveries


This dimetrodon video is called Paleoworld- Tale Of A Sail (Part 1).

From Sci-News.com:

Dimetrodon Had Steak-Knife Teeth, Scientists Say

Feb 10, 2014

An international team of paleontologists suggests dimetrodon – a 4-m-long prehistoric reptile that lived during the early Permian period, between 295 million and 272 million years ago, and went extinct about 40 million years before the appearance of first dinosaurs – was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop serrated ziphodont teeth.

Dimetrodon was the top of the terrestrial food chain in the early Permian and is considered to be the forerunner of mammals.

According to a new study reported in the journal Nature Communications, dimetrodons had a diversity of previously unknown tooth structures and were also the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop cusps – teeth with raised points on the crown, which are dominant in mammals.

The study also suggests ziphodont teeth were confined to later species of dimetrodon, indicating a gradual change in feeding habits.

“This research is an important step in reconstructing the structure of ancient complex communities,” said senior author Prof Robert Reisz from the University of Toronto Mississauga.

“Teeth tell us a lot more about the ecology of animals than just looking at the skeleton.”

“We already know from fossil evidence which animals existed at that time but now with this type of research we are starting to piece together how the members of these communities interacted.”

Prof Reisz and his co-author, Kirstin Brink from the University of Toronto Mississauga, studied the changes in dimetrodon teeth across 25 million years of evolution.

The analysis indicated the changes in tooth structure occurred in the absence of any significant evolution in skull morphology. This indicates a change in feeding style and trophic interactions.

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