Teratorns, big prehistoric American vultures


This 10 May 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Teratorns – The Monster Birds

Millions of years ago giant birds of prey ruled the Americas – the Teratorns. But our understanding of these animals has changed greatly in the last few decades.

Giant orchid, new species in the Netherlands


This 2018 video from Cyprus about Himantoglossum robertianum, giant orchids, says about itself:

Plant is found growing on grassy hillsides and woodland areas of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Balearic Islands, France, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Italy, Yugoslavia, the Aegean Islands, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey at elevations of 0 to 1100 meters.

And this spring, this biggest orchid species in Europe, for the first time in the Netherlands.

Translated from Nature Today in the Netherlands:

Six beautiful specimens of the giant orchid were discovered on March 11 in the coastal sand dunes near Noordwijk. It is a new species, never seen before in the Netherlands. It is a great surprise to the experts that the giant orchid has reached the Netherlands.

Esmee Winkel, botanical artist and one of the illustrators of the new Heukels’ Flora of the Netherlands, immortalized the first specimen found in the Netherlands on a watercolour (see image). The giant orchid is shown in full size and in detail.

Esmee Winkel draws the giant orchid, photo by Casper Zuyderduyn

Dinosaur age reptile had mammal-like teeth


Priosphenodon avelasi reconstruction

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Ancient reptile had mammal-like tooth enamel

Priosphenodon specimens found in Argentina show the Late Cretaceous reptile evolved to have resilient tooth enamel similar to that in mammals

May 12, 2020

A new study by University of Alberta paleontologists shows that one type of ancient reptiles evolved a special type of tooth enamel, similar to that of mammals, with high resistance to wear and tear. The study is the first to report this kind of enamel in a fossil reptile.

The reptile — known as Priosphenodon — was a herbivore from the Late Cretaceous period that was about one metre in length. Part of a group of reptiles called sphenodontians, these reptiles are unique in that they lost their ability to replace individual teeth. Instead, sphenodontians added new teeth to the back ends of their jaws as they grew.

“Priosphenodon has the strangest teeth I have personally ever seen,” said Aaron LeBlanc, postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Science Department of Biological Sciences and lead author on the study. “Some aspects of their dental anatomy are reminiscent of what happened in the evolution of early mammal teeth.”

The specimens were found in Argentina’s Río Negro province as part of ongoing collaborative fieldwork and research between Michael Caldwell, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Argentinian paleontologist and fieldwork leader Sebastián Apesteguía. In order to look more closely at the teeth of Priosphenodon, the researchers cut open pieces of jaw and examined tissue-level detail preserved inside the teeth. They also used non-invasive CT scans to examine more complete jaw specimens.

“Priosphenodon enamel is not only thicker than that of most other reptiles, the enamel crystals are ‘woven’ into long threads that run through the whole width of the enamel. These threads are called enamel prisms, and they are almost exclusively found in mammals,” said LeBlanc, who is working under Caldwell’s supervision. “Our results suggest that strong selective pressures can force reptiles to come up with some very innovative solutions to the problems associated with tooth wear and abrasive diets — some of which mirror what happened in our earliest mammal ancestors.”

The scientists also note that there is one kind of lizard alive today that has prismatic enamel, like Priosphenodon — the spiny-tailed lizard of Australia. Like Priosphenodon, it mostly eats plants and has lost the ability to replace its worn teeth. However, the two reptiles are not closely related.

Collaborators on this study include Sebastián Apesteguía from Universidad Maimónides and the Fundación de Historia Natural Félix de Azara in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Hans Larsson from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Funding for this research was provided by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica in Argentina, National Geographic, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).