Fossil dinosaur and fossil wildebeest, discoveries and simillarities


This video says about itself:

Shared noses: Extinct wildebeest relative was remarkably dinosaur-like

5 February 2016

An artist’s interpretation of Rusingoryx atopocranion on the Late Pleistocene plains of what is now Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria.

From the Christian Science Monitor in the USA:

Weird convergence: Extinct wildebeest cousin and dinosaur shared noses

Scientists discover two unrelated, extinct animals had the same strange nose.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer February 5, 2016

You might not expect to find many similarities between a mammal and a reptile, particularly if they lived millions of years apart. But scientists have found that two such extinct beasts share a rare, distinctive facial feature.

An extinct relative of the wildebeest and a duck-billed dinosaur both had bizarre crests on their heads. But it wasn’t the protruding bump that has most intrigued scientists, it’s what they found beneath.

The bony crest is hollow, forming a trumpet-shaped nasal passage unlike any seen outside these two species. No other animal, living or dead, has been found with such a feature.

So how did two beasts from two very different taxa come to have such a mysterious commonality? Convergent evolution, scientists say in a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

“We have an animal that its skeleton looks a lot like a wildebeest – it’s actually very closely related to modern wildebeests – but its face looks a lot more like something you would see if you went way back in time to the Cretaceous and looked at hadrosaur dinosaurs,” study lead author Haley O’Brien tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

Rusingoryx atopocranion, the mammal, lived about 65 thousand years ago, during the late Pleistocene, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs, the dinosaur, lived closer to 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous – and yet both animals evolved the same strange nose.

And not only do their nasal passages look alike, she said, the feature also appears to develop the same way as the animals grow up from juveniles to adults, as a variety of fossils display.

“When I first saw the complete skulls, I was blown away,” vertebrate paleontologist David C. Evans, who was not part of the study, writes in an email to the Monitor. “The resemblance between Rusingoryx and some hollow-crested dinosaurs in the form of their nasal structures is truly striking, and there are clear parallels in how they evolved and grew. Both groups elongated their noses to such a degree that they evolved highly domed skulls to house their nasal passages on top of their heads, above their eyes.”

Different origins, same result

“It’s probably one of the best examples of convergence in large animals that I’ve seen in a long time,” Ali Nabavizadeh, a researcher in evolutionary biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study, tells the Monitor.

One was a mammal and the other a reptile, and millions of years elapsed between their tenure on Earth, but still, these animals developed the same adaptation.

Convergent evolution occurs when two species along different lineages independently evolve the same, or similar, features for the same function. One example is how insects, birds, and bats can all fly.

Convergence typically occurs when different species face the same ecological pressures. So what did Rusingoryx and the hadrosaurs have in common?

Both animals were herbivores and lived in herds. Rusingoryx was a ruminant and hadrosaurs have been called the cows of the Cretaceous, but the similarities, besides the shared nose, stop there.

Rusingoryx lived on the savanna, a dry wide open plain, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs were thought to have lived in a tropical rainforest.

Understanding this mysterious convergence might hinge on the purpose that these strange nasal passages served.

Inner trumpets

Without looking inside the animals’ skulls, the crest might appear to be simply for visual display or some other external use.

“We have known for decades that visual display and physical combat have strongly shaped skull evolution in many groups of animals with elaborate horns and crests,” Dr. Evans says. But the long, trumpet-shaped interior suggests a more complex purpose.

The hollow cavity, part of the respiratory tract, loops up over the animal’s head and seems to connect to the vocal tract.

To determine the purpose behind this strange nose, scientists focused on the mammal’s living cousins, wildebeests and antelopes. While researchers can look at their soft tissue for clues, all that’s left of the dinosaurs is bone.

The unusual nose could have helped the animals smell, bugle, or even regulate their temperature, Evans says. “The case for vocalization as the primary function of the nasal dome in Rusingoryx is by far the most convincing, as the authors advocate.”

The Rusingoryx are very social, says Ms. O’Brien. “They live in herds and they use a lot of vocal signals to communicate. When we looked into the function of what this skull type might be doing in Rusingoryx, we really couldn’t prescribe a function outside of that social vocalization.”

“There are obviously a lot of things that animals do with their faces,” she says. “But we don’t think that this crazy nasal dome would have really changed those more normal functions for this animal. We think that it was using the nasal crest to modify the way that it’s producing these vocalizations and communicating.”

That makes sense, says Thomas E. Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who was not part of the study.

“When you have any kind of a tubing, it becomes naturally resonant,” he explains. “So the idea that it’s being used somehow to amplify certain frequencies of sound, it will do that,”

Not your average moo

O’Brien and her colleagues suggest that Rusingoryx, and perhaps the dinosaurs by extension, used this bizarre nasal dome to communicate at frequencies other animals cannot hear. This is called infrasound, and animals like elephants and cassowaries use it to communicate under the radar.

That’s possible, says Dr. Nabavizadeh. “If you have a very gregarious group of animals and they’re in a big arid, open environment, as these bovids are, then you are under the selective pressure to start to create more lower bellowing sounds that are possibly outside of the hearing range of carnivores, so they can communicate without being found in big open environments.”

But the environment doesn’t preclude the dinosaurs from needing this ability too, says Dr. Williamson. “Infrasound … is able to travel over great distances and open areas and in closed environments. It pretty much goes everywhere,” he says. And cassowaries, the living birds thought to communicate in infrasound, live in dense tropical rainforests.

Diver meets big crocodile, video


This video says about itself:

Diver Has Lucky Escape From Crocodile – Super Giant Animals – BBC

5 February 2016

The team follow a crocodile slide into the water to find out where it goes but when they come face to face with it how will they cope?

This was a Nile crocodile in the Okavango delta in Botswana.

Turtle smuggling discovered in China


This video says about itself:

12 February 2012

A total of 79 illegal alien live turtles were intercepted by inspection and quarantine authorities Saturday at an airport in Shanghai, east China.

From Xinhua news agency in China today:

Thousands of smuggled turtles seized in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, Jan. 31 — Shanghai customs said Sunday they seized more than 2,000 endangered turtles last November in what could be the city’s largest turtle smuggling case.

Customs officials said they discovered large numbers of live turtles hidden in six containers of crabs imported from Indonesia on Nov. 19. The containers were claimed by a Shanghai company.

Most of the turtles were endangered species including Amboina box turtle, pig-nosed turtle and spotted pond turtle.

The turtles are now in the care of local zoos, officials said.

The customs did not give more details, saying the investigation was still underway.

Environmentalists have warned China’s rising market for rare and exotic pets, such as turtles and snakes, has fueled smuggling.

Extremely big dinosaur discovery in Argentina


This 22 January 2016 Argentine TV video, in Spanish, is about the recent discovery of the Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi dinosaur.

From Nature:

A gigantic new dinosaur from Argentina and the evolution of the sauropod hind foot

18 January 2016

Abstract

Titanosauria is an exceptionally diverse, globally-distributed clade of sauropod dinosaurs that includes the largest known land animals. Knowledge of titanosaurian pedal structure is critical to understanding the stance and locomotion of these enormous herbivores and, by extension, gigantic terrestrial vertebrates as a whole. However, completely preserved pedes are extremely rare among Titanosauria, especially as regards the truly giant members of the group.

Here we describe Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi gen. et sp. nov. from the Upper Cretaceous of Mendoza Province, Argentina. With a powerfully-constructed humerus 1.76 m in length, Notocolossus is one of the largest known dinosaurs. Furthermore, the complete pes of the new taxon exhibits a strikingly compact, homogeneous metatarsus—seemingly adapted for bearing extraordinary weight—and truncated unguals, morphologies that are otherwise unknown in Sauropoda. The pes underwent a near-progressive reduction in the number of phalanges along the line to derived titanosaurs, eventually resulting in the reduced hind foot of these sauropods.

A Culture24 top ten of the best dinosaur museums and collections in the UK: here.

Jurassic dinosaur discovery in Wales


This video about Wales says about itself:

New dinosaur: Welsh dragon Dracoraptor hanigani discovered

20 January 2016

Scientists have discovered the fossilised skull and bones of a dinosaur on a Severn Estuary beach near the town of Penarth. Report by Sarah Duffy.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Ancient ‘dragon’ found in Wales, named Dracoraptor hanigani

The apparently youthful dinosaur was running around Wales about 200 million years ago

Andrew Griffin

Dragons really did roam around Wales. But about 200 million years ago.

Scientists have found the skull and bones of a huge beast near Penarth. The creature has been named Dracoraptor hanigani and is one of the world’s oldest Jurassic dinosaurs.

Dracoraptor is Latin for “dragon robber”, an apparent reference to the dragon on Wales’ flag.

Flag of Wales

The rest of the name comes from Nick and Rob Hanigan, the amateur fossil-hunters who found the bones while they were looking for ichthyosaur remains.

The dragon was related to the Tyrannosaurus rex. But it was a lot less terrifying, scientists say.

The bones aren’t yet fully formed, and so the specimen probably belongs to a youngster.

The dragon would have roamed before dinosaurs took over the world, when it was instead dominated by crocodiles and mammals.

Mammals just started their evolution during the early Jurassic, and were not dominant yet.

The climate of Wales would also have been very different and much warmer.

Dinosaur scientist Steven Vidovic, from the University of Portsmouth, one of the experts whose description of D. hanigani appears in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, said: “The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event is often credited for the later success of dinosaurs through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but previously we knew very little about dinosaurs at the start of this diversification and rise to dominance.

“Now we have Dracoraptor, a relatively complete two metre-long juvenile theropod from the very earliest days of the Jurassic in Wales.”

Vietnamese mourn rare turtle’s death


This video from Vietnam is called Turtle of Hoàn Kiếm lakeHanoi. Seen the 30th December 2010.

From the BBC in Britain today:

Cu Rua: Vietnam mourns revered Hanoi turtle

By Nga Pham BBC News, Bangkok

Vietnam is mourning an ancient turtle revered as a symbol of auspiciousness, whose death has shocked the country.

Thought to be one of only four living Yangtze giant softshell turtles, it was found floating in the Hanoi lake where it lived. Cause of death is unclear. …

The reptile – known as Cu Rua (great-grandfather) – will now be embalmed.

“Cu” is the Vietnamese word used to refer to old and revered people, giving some indication of the special place he occupied in the hearts of Hanoi’s inhabitants.

And not only Hanoians – people from all over the country also used to come to Hoan Kiem lake in Vietnam’s capital to try to catch a glimpse of him. Some even waited for days.

Social media in Vietnam has been flooded with posts lamenting his death, which came on a gloomy windy and wintry Tuesday afternoon.

Facebook user Nguyen Viet Nam said: “The turtle was a sacred animal for us Hanoians. Such sadness, such regret.” …

Douglas Hendrie, a Hanoi-based wildlife expert, says Cu Rua was one of only four known living specimens of his kind in the world.

“But more than that, the turtle also had a significant historical, cultural and spiritual value for the Vietnamese,” he adds.

Legend has it that the turtle – believed to be more than 100 and the oldest in Vietnam – was the incarnation of a mythical creature living in the lake in the 15th century.

Local legend has it that Le Loi, a real figure from Vietnamese history who would become emperor of Vietnam, borrowed a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against Vietnam’s then Chinese oppressors.

After claiming independence for the Viets, he came to the lake and returned the sword to its divine owner via its disciple – a giant turtle which surfaced to take it from his hands before disappearing beneath the jade waters.

The lake duly became known as Hoan Kiem, or the Lake of the Returned Sword.

Scientists are not yet sure what killed Cu Rua – pollution, climate change or simple old age – but his body is being examined by experts. The authorities have already announced that it will be preserved.

New snake species discovery in Mexico


This video says about itself:

NEW SPECIES of Pitviper from Mexico

26 December 2015

HERP.MX is proud to introduce two new species of Ophryacus: the Emerald Horned Pitviper, Ophryacus smaragdinus, and the Broad-Horned Pitviper, Ophryacus sphenophrys. The description in Mesoamerican Herpetology is available here: www.herp.mx/pubs/2015-Grunwald-et-al-Oph­ryacus.pdf

——

The story starts in the 1850s with Swiss naturalist, Francis Sumichrast in the eastern state of Veracruz. Among Sumichrast’s important reptile and amphibian collections was a series of horned vipers which he sent to various collections around the world – including the Milan Natural History Museum in Italy. Two of these unusual vipers landed in the hands of museum director Georg Jan, who, described them as the new species Trigonocephalus (Atropos) undulatus, now Ophryacus undulatus in 1859 (www.herp.mx/pubs/1859-Jan-Atropos-undul­atus.pdf). Typical of this era, Jan included a brief summary of the two specimens and three simple line drawings – illustrations that would prove critical when the type specimens were later destroyed during WWII.

Dozens of specimens were collected across several states in the decades that followed – including a particularly interesting snake from southern Oaxaca. During the summer of 1949, W. Leslie Burger collected a pitviper that, while superficially similar to other Ophracus undulatus, possessed distinctly wide, wedge-shaped horns, and a lower number of scales between the eyes and on the underside of the tail. Based on these differences, in 1960 Hobart Smith described Burger’s specimen as the new species: Bothrops sphenophrys and inferred a close relationship to B. undulatus (now Ophryacus) (www.herp.mx/pubs/1960-Smith-New-and-Not­eworthy-Reptiles-from-Oaxaca-Mexico.pdf)­.

Fast forward to 1971. Without explanation, W. Leslie Burger, the very same individual who collected the original specimen of Ophryacus sphenophrys, placed the species in synonymy with Ophryacus undulatus in his unpublished PhD dissertation at the University of Kansas. 18 years later, Campbell and Lamar followed his lead but this time noting that most of the distinguishing characters for O. sphenophrys fall within the range of known variation for O. undulatus. Unbeknownst to all parties, this “variation” was contaminated by a third, undescribed species of horned viper.

Fall of 2010 found the HERP.MX Field Team in Sierra Madre Oriental searching for the eastern limit of Crotalus aquilus in the soggy cloud forests of Veracruz. Just before 11PM on the evening of Septemer 16th, Mexican Independence Day, while returning from field work on a windy, pot-holed mountain road, a bright green pit-viper appeared in the headlights. Though similar to specimens of O. undulatus observed elsewhere, several conspicuous differences suggested the snake represented an undescribed form. Subsequent trips, specimens, and reviewing museum specimens began to shed some light on the horned viper puzzle – largely thanks to the horn itself.

Even though Jan’s original specimens had been destroyed in WWII, his drawings were precise enough to determine which snake he’d been studying half a world away, over 150 years ago. The profile view shows a narrow horn immediately above the snake’s eye, typical of Ophryacus undulatus, while these new specimens from east-central Veracruz had rounded horns separated from the eye by other smaller scales. In a stroke of good luck, a search of museum specimens revealed a second Ophryacus sphenophrys at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – from the same area, and consistent with Smith’s original description. With the range of variation of O. undulatus adjusted to exclude scale counts from the new species from the north, it was apparent that Smith wasn’t off the mark after all, and Burger’s specimen from 1949 did in fact represent a distinct species.

Some time, additional specimens, scale counts, lab work, and writing later —the team is excited and proud to introduce the new species Ophryacus smaragdinus and resurrect Hobart Smith’s O. sphenophrys. Enjoy!

See also here.