New dinosaur species discovered in Alberta, Canada


This video says about itself:

‘Stalker’ Velociraptor Relative Sported Feathers, Serrated Teeth

17 July 2017

About 71 million years ago, a feathered dinosaur that was too big to fly rambled through parts of North America, likely using its serrated teeth to gobble down meat and veggies, a new study finds.

The newly named paleo-beast is a type of troodontid, a bird-like, bipedal dinosaur that’s a close relation of Velociraptor. Researchers named it Albertavenator curriei, in honor of the Canadian province where it was found (Alberta), its stalking proclivity (venator is Latin for “hunter”) and Philip Currie, a renowned Canadian paleontologist.

“The delicate bones of these small feathered dinosaurs are very rare,” lead study researcher David Evans, the senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, said in a statement. “We were lucky to have a critical piece of the skull that allowed us to distinguish Albertavenator as a new species.”

From the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada:

New species of dinosaur named after Canadian icon

Dinosaur species from Alberta

July 17, 2017

Summary: A new species of troodontid theropod dinosaur identified, Albertavenator curriei, named after renowned Canadian palaeontologist Dr. Philip J. Currie. Palaeontologists initially thought that the bones of Albertavenator belonged to its close relative Troodon, which lived around 76-million-years-ago. This new species of troodontid in the Late Cretaceous of North America indicates that small dinosaur diversity in the latest Cretaceous of North America is likely underestimated due to the difficulty of identifying species from fragmentary fossils.

Scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum have identified and named a new species of dinosaur in honour of renowned Canadian palaeontologist Dr. Philip J. Currie. Albertavenator curriei, meaning “Currie’s Alberta hunter.” It stalked Alberta, Canada, about 71 million years ago in what is now the famous Red Deer River Valley. The find recognizes Currie for his decades of work on predatory dinosaurs of Alberta. Research on the new species is published July 17 in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Palaeontologists initially thought that the bones of Albertavenator belonged to its close relative Troodon, which lived around 76-million-years-ago — five million years before Albertavenator. Both dinosaurs walked on two legs, were covered in feathers, and were about the size of a person. New comparisons of bones forming the top of the head reveal that Albertavenator had a distinctively shorter and more robust skull than Troodon, its famously brainy relative.

“The delicate bones of these small feathered dinosaurs are very rare. We were lucky to have a critical piece of the skull that allowed us to distinguish Albertaventaor as a new species.” said Dr. David Evans, Temerty Chair and Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, and leader of the project. “We hope to find a more complete skeleton of Albertavenator in the future, as this would tell us so much more about this fascinating animal.”

Identifying new species from fragmentary fossils is a challenge. Complicating matters of this new find are the hundreds of isolated teeth that have been found in Alberta and previously attributed to Troodon. Teeth from a jaw that likely pertains to Albertavenator appears very similar to the teeth of Troodon, making them unusable for distinguishing between the two species.

“This discovery really highlights the importance of finding and examining skeletal material from these rare dinosaurs,” concluded Derek Larson, co-author on the study and Assistant Curator of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.”

The identification of a new species of troodontid in the Late Cretaceous of North America indicates that small dinosaur diversity in the latest Cretaceous of North America is likely underestimated due to the difficulty of identifying species from fragmentary fossils.

“It was only through our detailed anatomical and statistical comparisons of the skull bones that we were able to distinguish between Albertavenator and Troodon,” said Thomas Cullen, a Ph.D. student of Evans at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study.

The bones of Albertavenator were found in the badlands surrounding the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which Dr. Currie played a key role in establishing in the early 1980s. The rocks around the museum are the same age as some of the most fossiliferous rocks in the area of the newly erected Philip J. Currie Museum, also named in Dr. Currie’s honour. Although Dr. Currie has also had several dinosaurs named after him, this is only the second one from Alberta, where he has made his biggest impact.

The fossils of Albertavenator studied by Evans and his team are housed in the collections of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This is another example of a new species of dinosaur being discovered by re-examining museum research collections, which continually add to our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth. This study suggests that more detailed studies of fragmentary fossils may reveal additional, currently unrecognized, species.

Endangered Cuban crocodiles back in the wild


This video says about itself:

Wild Cuba [Nature Documentary] HD

12 July 2015

Cuba’s political and economic isolation has provided the outside world little opportunity to see its wildlife … until now. It may be renowned for its politics and its cigars, but Cuba is home to some of the most unusual creatures on earth, including the feisty Cuban crocodile, the world’s smallest bird and frog, and migrating land crabs.

Cuba’s diverse wildlife stems from its unique natural history. Cuba was not originally in the Caribbean Sea but in the Pacific Ocean, where the island was situated 100 million years ago, before the forces of continental drift slowly brought it into the Caribbean. As the island migrated over the ages, an astonishing variety of life arrived by air, sea, and possibly by land bridges that may have once existed. Over time, these animals adapted to their new environment. Today, more than half of Cuba’s plants and animals, including more than 80 percent of its reptiles and amphibians, are found nowhere else on the planet.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Endangered Cuban crocodiles come home

July 13, 2017

Experts from WCS’s Global Conservation Programs and WCS’s Bronx Zoo assisted Cuban conservationists in the recent release of 10 Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer) into Cuba’s Zapata Swamp as part of an ongoing recovery strategy for this Critically Endangered species.

These genetically pure crocodiles came from a breeding facility near the Zapata swamp. Hybridization with American crocodiles, which occur in the Southwestern tip of the Zapata Peninsula, is an ongoing issue and has contributed to the Cuban crocodile’s continuing decline. Cuban crocodiles face other threats, such as an increase in illegal hunting in recent years, so the release of captive bred Cuban crocodiles and the protection of these reptiles from poaching and hybridization is critical to the survival of the species in the wild.

The crocodiles were released in the Wildlife Refuge Channels of Hanabana (Refugio de Fauna Canales de Hanábana) — a 570 hectare (1,400 acre) mosaic of water channels, lagoons, marsh grasslands, and swamp forests in the easternmost Zapata Peninsula where Cuban crocodiles historically occurred. Marsh grasslands in this refuge provide crucial habitat for not only Cuban crocodiles, but prey including bird, fish and mammal species. No American crocodiles or hybrids are found in this Wildlife Refuge.

The recent release, which took place on June 8th, is the second reintroduction since Cuba started to release Cuban crocodiles in 2016. The decision to release the crocodiles followed a workshop of crocodile experts organized by WCS and Cuban institutions, including the Fundación Antonio Nuñez Jiménez, CITMA Ciénaga de Zapata, and Empresa Nacional para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna. The workshop brought together 40 Cuban nationals working for the conservation of crocodiles in Cuba, and 30 international experts.

The workshop resulted in a series of agreed priorities for improving the conservation of crocodiles, including: strengthening the research and monitoring of Cuban crocodiles in the wild; increasing efforts to reintroduce and monitor reintroduced animals in Channels of Hanabana; working with local communities to reduce poaching through alternative livelihoods and environmental education; and working with local authorities to strengthen compliance to reduce illegal selling of crocodile meat.

Said Natalia Rossi, WCS Cuba Program Manager: “This workshop was important because it enabled the second release of Cuban crocodiles into the wild and motivated all participants to do even more to save this critically endangered species. Our workshop was fundamental to bring everyone together to share the work being done to save the Cuban crocodile.”

The critically endangered Cuban crocodile has the smallest, most restricted geographic distribution among all living crocodilian species, being only found in parts of the Zapata and Lanier swamps. Historically it was found throughout the Zapata Peninsula, but indiscriminate hunting for skins beginning in the second half of the 19th century and lasting until the early 1960s decimated most populations. Today, Cuban crocodiles inhabit a territory of about 77,600 hectares (191,700 acres), sharing habitat with the American crocodile and the hybrids of both species.

WCS’s John Thorbjarnarson began working on Cuban crocodiles in the 1990s, and WCS’s Bronx Zoo was the first U.S. zoo to successfully breed Cuban crocodiles. The first one hatched in 1983; six more hatched in 1984, and 21 in 1985. There has been no reproduction since then, but the zoo has a new young pair of crocodiles that will be introduced to each other late this year.

Kevin Torregrosa, Herpetology Collections Manager for WCS’s Bronx Zoo, attended the workshop to establish collaboration opportunities with individuals working with crocodiles in the breeding centers as well as with wild populations.

Said Torregrosa: “Cuba is a fairly isolated island and getting the chance to see the conservation effort in practice was very enlightening. I believe the Cubans were very happy to have the opportunity to show the international community the work that they have been doing.”

How long-necked plesiosaurs swam


This video says about itself:

Plesiosaurs flapped like penguins

17 December 2015

Using a digital, three-dimensional, articulated, free-swimming plesiosaur in a simulated fluid, researchers found that plesiosaurs were forelimb-dominated swimmers that used their hind limbs mainly for maneuverability and stability.

From the Society for Experimental Biology:

Sticking your neck out: How did plesiosaurs swim with such long necks?

July 5, 2017

When dinosaurs ruled the land, plesiosaurs ruled the oceans. Famous for their incredibly long necks — some of which were up to 7 metres long — plesiosaurs have remained an evolutionary mystery for hundreds of years. Pernille V. Troelsen, a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University, UK is simulating plesiosaur locomotion with a 3D model to understand how they could swim with such long necks.

“A steady neck would be more hydrodynamic than a bent neck, and due to the pressure on a bent neck, plesiosaurs would probably only bend them when moving at slow speeds or when floating,’ says Ms Troelsen.

She reveals that not only increasing the bend in a plesiosaurs neck would have a big effect on the production of ‘hydrodynamic drag’, but the location of the bending may also play a large role. She adds that plesiosaurs would likely have had a more patient hunting style similar to today’s crocodiles and snakes.

“We have some ideas about why they had long necks and they mainly concern feeding strategies, but we still don’t fully understand how they moved,” explains Ms Troelsen. “These were extremely successful animals that existed for 140 million years, but we don’t have any living equivalents to compare with.”

Several possible theories suggest that plesiosaurs may have developed long necks to extend their feeding range. By laying immobile on the sea floor or floating at the surface and using their protruding necks to hunt, they may have been able to sneak up on their prey more easily, or simply been more effective at snapping up fast-moving prey.

To test the hydrodynamic effects of different neck bending degrees and locations, Ms Troelsen created a digital 3D model based on a simplified plesiosaur body shape and uses computational fluid dynamics to visualise and determine how bending the neck affects the flow of water around the animal.

To improve these 3D models for in future, Ms Troelsen will be looking at fossil evidence for more information about the shape and bendiness of plesiosaur necks: “Further studies will include digitized neck vertebrae from actual plesiosaurs which will allow us to have an even more realistic approach.”

Ms Troelsen believes that these and future results will provide deeper insights into this mysterious group of marine reptiles: “We hope that we can shed some light on the biomechanical implications of having such a long neck and learn more about the lifestyle and evolutionary history of plesiosaurs.”

Spinosaur dinosaurs, new study


This 2015 video says about itself:

Today we talk about my favorite dinosaur: Spinosaurus! We will talk about topics like: Who would win in a fight, Spinosaurus or T-rex? and What did the real spino look like?

From Acta Geologica Sinica in China:

A Century of Spinosaurs – A Review and Revision of the Spinosauridae with Comments on Their Ecology

June 2017

About the first author: HONE David William Elliott: Male; born in 1978 in London, UK; PhD; Lecturer in Zoology, Queen Mary University of London. He is interested in the study of sexual selection and behaviour in the fossil record.

Abstract

The spinosaurids represent an enigmatic and highly unusual form of large tetanuran theropods that were first identified in 1915. A recent flurry of discoveries and taxonomic revisions of this important and interesting clade has added greatly to our knowledge. Spinosaur body fossils are however generally rare and most species are known from only limited skeletal remains. Their unusual anatomical adaptations to the skull, limbs and axial column all differ from other large theropods and point to an unusual ecological niche and a lifestyle intimately linked to water.

Tyrannosaurus rex, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

Kinect 3D Scanning of SUE the T-rex

This was done at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL on 10/10/2016.

In charge of the scanning was Anshuman Das, PhD. He is a Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Media Lab & MIT Data Center for Technology+Design.

The consultant for animal bite marks was Kenneth Cohrn DDS, D-ABFO. He is a Forensic Odontologist, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Pathology and Immunology and consultant to C. A. Pound Identification Lab and Veterinary School, University of Florida.

From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA:

Kinect scan of T. rex skull addresses paleontological mystery

July 5, 2017

Summary: A new system with $150 worth of hardware offers alternative to 3-D scanners that cost 200 times as much, report scientists who have used it on the skull of a T. rex dinosaur.

Last year, a team of forensic dentists got authorization to perform a 3-D scan of the prized Tyrannosaurus rex skull at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, in an effort to try to explain some strange holes in the jawbone.

Upon discovering that their high-resolution dental scanners couldn’t handle a jaw as big as a tyrannosaur‘s, they contacted the Camera Culture group at MIT’s Media Lab, which had recently made headlines with a prototype system for producing high-resolution 3-D scans.

The prototype wasn’t ready for a job that big, however, so Camera Culture researchers used $150 in hardware and some free software to rig up a system that has since produced a 3-D scan of the entire five-foot-long T. rex skull, which a team of researchers — including dentists, anthropologists, veterinarians, and paleontologists — is using to analyze the holes.

The Media Lab researchers report their results in the latest issue of the journal PLOS One.

“A lot of people will be able to start using this,” says Anshuman Das, a research scientist at the Camera Culture group and first author on the paper. “That’s the message I want to send out to people who would generally be cut off from using technology — for example, paleontologists or museums that are on a very tight budget. There are so many other fields that could benefit from this.”

Das is joined on the paper by Ramesh Raskar, a professor of media arts and science at MIT, who directs the Camera Culture group, and by Denise Murmann and Kenneth Cohrn, the forensic dentists who launched the project.

The system uses a Microsoft Kinect, a depth-sensing camera designed for video gaming. The Kinect’s built-in software produces a “point cloud,” a 3-D map of points in a visual scene from which short bursts of infrared light have been reflected back to a sensor. Free software called MeshLab analyzes the point cloud and infers the shape of the surfaces that produced it.

A high-end commercial 3-D scanner costs tens of thousands of dollars and has a depth resolution of about 50 to 100 micrometers. The Kinect’s resolution is only about 500 micrometers, but it costs roughly $100. And 500 micrometers appears to be good enough to shed some light on the question of the mysterious holes in the jaw of the T. rex skull.

Cretaceous conundrum

Discovered in 1990, the Field Museum’s T. rex skeleton, known as Sue, is the largest and most complete yet found. For years, it was widely assumed that the holes in the jaw were teeth marks, probably from an attack by another tyrannosaur. Ridges of growth around the edges of the holes show that Sue survived whatever caused them.

But the spacing between the holes is irregular, which is inconsistent with bite patterns. In 2009, a group of paleontologists from the University of Wisconsin suggested that the holes could have been caused by a protozoal infection, contracted from eating infected prey, that penetrated Sue’s jaw from the inside out.

The 3-D scan produced by the MIT researchers and their collaborators sheds doubt on both these hypotheses. It shows that the angles at which the holes bore through the jaw are inconsistent enough that they almost certainly weren’t caused by a single bite. But it also shows that the holes taper from the outside in, which undermines the hypothesis of a mouth infection.

One of the great advantages of 3-D scans is that they can be shared remotely. The Field Museum limits the time that researchers can spend with Sue’s skull, so the Wisconsin paleontologists’ analysis was largely based on photographs. But photographs don’t permit the comparison of the holes’ diameters at the inner and outer surfaces.

And if researchers working with a scan needed to examine a particular feature in close detail, they could use a 3-D printer to build a replica. To demonstrate this capacity, Das and his colleagues used their scan of Sue’s skull to produce a few models of it, at one-eighth the actual size.

Remote research

Das envisions that Kinect scans could prove as useful in other fields, such as archaeology and anthropology, as they could in paleontology. An archaeologist who unearths a large, fragile, artifact in a remote corner of the world could scan it and immediately share the scan with colleagues around the world.

“It’s that critical size,” Das says. “If it’s something really small, you can use a 3-D scanner. But if you have something stationary that’s difficult to move, you just put on the [Kinect] rig and walk around.”

Indeed, when Das scanned Sue’s skull, he mounted the Kinect in a modified camera harness and wore it on his chest. The space in which he performed the scan was irregularly shaped and presented various immovable obstacles, so it took him some time to find a route that would permit him to maintain a fixed distance from the skull as he walked around. But once he identified the route, the scan itself took about two minutes.

In ongoing work, Das, Murmann, Cohrn, Raskar, and a team of collaborators including the Wisconsin paleontologists, are looking at fragmentation patterns at the edges of the holes and at the holes’ depths and diameters, to see if they can infer anything about the shape, hardness, and velocity of whatever object might have caused them.

Gigantic Jurassic crocodile discovered in Madagascar


This video from Italy says about itself:

Reconstructing the skull of Razanandrongobe sakalavae

4 July 2017

Computed tomography of the fossil cranial bones of Razanandrongobe sakalavae (this is the name of this Jurassic crocodylomorph) provided information on the tooth replacement process and tooth/root size. The largest dentary tooth is 14 cm long and the largest premaxillary tooth measures 15 cm. CT data also allowed to 3-D print the missing counterlateral bones at FabLab Milan, and so to reconstruct the front of the skull at the Natural History Museum of Milan. Technician Andrea Passoni mounts the bone pieces.

Video: Cristiano Dal Sasso.

From ScienceDaily:

Gigantic crocodile with T. rex teeth was a top land predator of the Jurassic in Madagascar

Paleontologists document the features of a giant crocodile relative — the largest and oldest known ‘notosuchian‘, predating the other forms by 42 million years

July 4, 2017

Summary: Little is known about the origin and early evolution of the Notosuchia, hitherto unknown in the Jurassic period. New research on fossils from Madagascar begin to fill the gap in a million-year-long ghost lineage. Deep and massive jaw bones armed with enormous serrated teeth that are similar in size and shape to those of a T. rex strongly suggest that these animals fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.

Little is known about the origin and early evolution of the Notosuchia, hitherto unknown in the Jurassic period. New research on fossils from Madagascar, published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ by Italian and French paleontologists, begin to fill the gap in a million-year-long ghost lineage.

Deep and massive jaw bones armed with enormous serrated teeth that are similar in size and shape to those of a T-rex strongly suggest that these animals fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon. The full name of the predatory crocodyliform (nicknamed ‘Razana’) is Razanandrongobe sakalavae, which means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”

A combination of anatomical features clearly identify this taxon as a Jurassic notosuchian, close to the South American baurusuchids and sebecids, that were highly specialized predators of terrestrial habits, different from present-day crocodilians in having a deep skull and powerful erect limbs. “Like these and other gigantic crocs from the Cretaceous, ‘Razana’ could outcompete even theropod dinosaurs, at the top of the food chain,” says Cristiano Dal Sasso, of the Natural History Museum of Milan.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae is by far the oldest — and possibly the largest — representative of the Notosuchia, documenting one of the earliest events of exacerbated increase in body size along the evolutionary history of the group.

“Its geographic position during the period when Madagascar was separating from other landmasses is strongly suggestive of an endemic lineage. At the same time, it represents a further signal that the Notosuchia originated in southern Gondwana,” remarks co-author Simone Maganuco.