Dinosaur-age reptile live birth discovery


This video says about itself:

9 September 2015

“Tanystropheus” was a 6 metre long reptile that dated from the Middle Triassic period. It is recognizable by its extremely elongated neck, which measured 3 metres long – longer than its body and tail combined. The neck was composed of 12–13 extremely elongate vertebrae. Fossils have been found in Europe, the Middle East and China. Complete skeletons of juvenile individuals are most abundant in the Besano Formation of Italy, dating to 232 million years ago during the middle Triassic period.

“Tribelesodon”, originally considered to be a pterosaur by Francesco Bassani in 1886, is now recognized as a junior synonym to “Tanystropheus“. The best-known species is “Tanystropheus longobardicus“. Other currently recognized species include “T. conspicuus” and “T. meridensis”.

Another junior synonym of “Tanystropheus” is “Procerosaurus”. Two specimens were initially identified as “Procerosaurus”: The first was described as “P. cruralis” by von Huene in 1902. The second was described by Antonin Fritsch in 1878 as a species of “Iguanodon“, and is a highly doubtful dinosaurian-like bit of bone from the Cenomanian of the Czech Republic. He reassigned the species to “Procerosaurus” in 1905 intending to erect it as a new genus, unaware that the genus name was already in use. George Olshevsky in 2000 substituted “Ponerosteus” for this species.

In 2002, fossils of a related genus, “Dinocephalosaurus“, were collected in marine Triassic deposits in southwestern China. This new creature was 2.7 metres long, 1.7 metres of which was its neck and head. The specimen was described in 2004.

From Discover magazine:

Mamma Mia! Fossil Is First Hint Of Live Birth In Ancient Reptile

By Gemma Tarlach | February 14, 2017 10:00 am

Here’s some egg-citing news: for the first time in the fossil record, researchers have discovered a specific type of marine reptile that was carrying an advanced embryo at time of death. Why is that interesting? Because the specimen is an archosauromorph, an early member of the same gang of vertebrates that includes dinosaurs as well as pterosaurs, birds and crocodiles, all of which we thought, based on previous evidence, were exclusively egg-layers. Today that changes.

Some 245 million years ago, Dinocephalosaurus was a marine reptile swimming around what’s now southwest China. Paleontologists have found other examples of this ridiculously long-necked animal, but this one in particular met her maker with a developmentally advanced embryo in her abdominal cavity — providing science with the first example of viviparity in an archosauromorph.

Viva Viviparity!

Aside from being a great weapon to have in your arsenal when playing Scrabble, viviparity just means giving birth to live young rather than oviparity (egg-laying).

Viviparity has evolved a number of times among vertebrates, from lizards to mammals, but has never before been seen in the archosauromorphs, a rather large group of animals that emerged about 260 million years ago and eventually evolved into archosaurs, more famously known as things like dinosaurs and pterosaurs, the great and diverse flying reptiles.

Birds and the various crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc.) are the only archosaurs still wandering about, and all are oviparous.

Baby On Board…or Breakfast?

I can hear a few of my more cynical readers grumbling over their keyboards “how do we know this is an embryo and not just a cannibalistic snack?” Right back atcha with findings from the paper, which ruled out both cannibalism and superposition (the possibility the two were separate individuals that died at the same time and were fossilized one atop the other).

The case against superposition: The fossilized embryo is completely enclosed by the fossilized adult, which means it must have been inside Mom when she died.

The case against cannibalism is a little more complex, but stay with me. The embryo is oriented with its neck pointing forward. For these marine reptiles, however, prey is typically swallowed and digested head-first, or neck pointing backward. In fact, the researchers did find a partially digested fish in the same mama fossil, in her abdominal cavity (not the Reptowomb location of Junior’s fossil), that had been swallowed and was moving along her digestive system head-first.

Want more evidence? Okay. The embryosaurus was curled in the typical fetal position, there was no evidence of eggshell anywhere around the fossil, and its baby bones were well ossified, which means it was in an advanced developmental stage; egg-laying animals drop baby bombs in significantly earlier stages of development.

Babymaking, Reptile Style

Today’s study, published in Nature Communications, is the earliest evidence we’ve got of the whole babymaking process for archosauromoprhs by about 50 million years. And understanding the reproductive biology of these animals, including dinosaurs, furthers our knowledge of how they lived, and maybe even why they went extinct.

Researchers thought for a long time, given what they were seeing in the fossil record, that dinosaurs, birds and crocodilians laid eggs because there was something in their archosauromorph biology that prohibited live births.

(Fun fact about crocodilians in particular: it’s after the egg is laid, and based on the ambient temperature as it incubates, that the sex of the babycroc is determined. Obviously that’s different than in viviparous Dinocephalosaurus. Since its offspring developed at body temperature, the sex of an individual Dino-c must have been determined genetically as it is for humans and other viviparous sorts.)

Because we now know at least one species of archosauromorph gave birth to live offspring, it suggests the lack of viviparity in later archosaurs was an adaptation to their environment, or provided some advantage not yet identified. Or maybe the fossil of a viviparous archosaur is somewhere out there, just waiting to be found.

See also here.

Young snakes born in India


This 17 January 2017 video says about itself:

Venomous Red-Tailed Viper Snake giving birth to 12 babies in India – National Geographic

Dinosaur discoveries in China


This video says about itself:

Zhejiang Museum of Natural History – Hangzhou – Zhejiang – China

06.07.2014

From the Daily Star in Britain:

Real life Jurassic Park uncovered as scientists find DINOSAUR fossils hidden underground

A REAL life Jurassic Park once home to six species of dinosaur has been uncovered after researchers found almost 100 fossil sites.

By Jess Bell / Published 12th February 2017

A team of experts carrying out a six-year survey in east China’s Zhejiang Province have shared their incredible findings.

They found 82 fossil sites and 25 types of eggs during the excavation between 2006 and 2013.

Scientists from the Zhejiang Institute of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History worked together on the research.

They used a range of techniques from geology and paleobiology to chronostratigraphy which identifies the deposition of rocks.

Experts also combined site inspections and excavations to scour the site in minute detail.

The survey covered a vast area of 11,000 square kilometres [around] the province’s capital Hangzhou.

Jin Xingsheng, deputy curator of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, said: “It has been proved that a large quantity of dinosaurs lived in Zhejiang during the Cretaceous period, about 65 million to 145 million years ago.

“Compared with other southeastern provinces, Zhejiang has the largest amount of dinosaur fossils.”

The researchers’ new findings also provide evidence that a comet or asteroid was responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs.

Scientists discovered the sedimentary rocks, where most of the fossils were discovered, were encased by layers of volcanic rocks. Experts studying the volcanic Deccan Traps recently revealed new details of a double disaster which could have been responsible for the dinosaur extinction.

Their findings show two plumes of magma could have combined with a devastating asteroid hit to ravage the Earth 65 million years ago.

Sea turtles and climate change


This video from Mexico says about itself:

6 March 2010

Baby leatherback turtles emerged from their eggs and nests this morning and made their painstaking way to the Sea of Cortez.

From Science News:

Hot nests, not vanishing males, are bigger sea turtle threat

Climate change killing nestlings with heat could be worse than sex ratios going too female

By Susan Milius

7:05pm, February 7, 2017

Worries about climate change threatening sea turtles may have been misdirected.

Warming that could lead to far more female hatchlings than males isn’t the most immediate danger from climate shifts. Lethally overheated beach nests are more important, researchers argue February 8 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Climate change can meddle with sex ratios of the seven species of sea turtles because their embryos start life without a genetically fixed sex. Nest temperatures greater than roughly 29° Celsius tip the ratio toward more female hatchlings, explains marine ecologist Graeme Hays of Deakin University in Warrnambool, Australia.

Warm the nesting beaches enough, and sea turtle populations with few to no male mates might get feminized to extinction, biologists have warned. Yet records from 75 sea turtle nesting sites around the world suggest that many still-abundant populations are skewed to extreme female bias. “That’s not really the No. 1 concern,” Hays says. “A few male turtles already go a long way.” Instead, youngsters dying in overheated nests appears to be a more serious problem and needs a worldwide effort at data collection, Hays and colleagues say.

One reason heavily female turtle populations haven’t crashed yet is the difference between male and female breeding frequency, the researchers say. A male shows up to mate in the waters off the nesting beach roughly twice as frequently as a female does, perhaps every two years instead of every four, Hays says.

Disproportionately higher death rates among female hatchlings also could temper the female bias generated by upward creeping nest temperatures. Warmer spots in nesting beaches that are more likely to make embryos turn female are also more likely to cook them.

At extreme temperatures, however, everybody loses. Should a nest reach 35° C, a group of 100 eggs would yield on average only five living female hatchlings plus a ghost of a fraction of a male, mathematical simulations predict.

Vincent Saba has seen hatchling losses firsthand at the leatherback turtle nesting site he studied in Costa Rica. There, computer simulations suggest that as the beach overheats the dwindling survival of young turtles could nearly wipe out the population within a century, says Saba, a biological oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Princeton University.

Just how much a beach heats up depends largely on rainfall, which in turn depends on how the climate changes, says Saba. Sorting out the effects on sea turtle populations is going to take science done “beach by beach.”

Wildlife in Croatia and Slovenia, video


This video about wildlife in Croatia and Slovenia was made in 2015 by Jasper Schiphof from the Netherlands.

Featuring hummingbird hawkmoth, butterflies, banded demoiselle, beetles, lizards, common sandpiper, redshank, and golden eagle.

South African boy discovers dinosaur tooth


This video from South Africa says about itself:

Dinosaur find in Knysna

6 February 2017

Ben Ingel, a learner at Oakhill School, found the tooth of a 120 million year-old dinosaur.

Video Elaine King, Knysna-Plettt Herald.

Read more here.

From eNCA.com in South Africa:

Grade 8 pupil discovers tooth of dinosaur in Knysna

Wednesday 8 February 2017 – 5:33am

JOHANNESBURG – Knysna has landed itself prominently on the archaeological map.

Thirteen-year-old Grade 8 pupil, Benjamin Ingel discovered a tooth there — and it very likely comes from a dinosaur.

Ingel reportedly found the tooth while walking near Knysna lagoon. He brought it home to show his family.

Ingel’s grandfather, Vernon Rice, approached some experts to verify the authenticity of the find. Geologists Rob Muir and Roger Schoon agreed to come to his house to have a look.

Rice said: “They took one look and I could see from their faces we had something.”

Palaeontologist Robert Gess at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown invited Ben and his grandfather to the museum to allow palaeontologists to examine the specimen more closely.

Wits University palaeontologist Jonah Choiniere, who has seen photographs of the tooth, believes that it is about 140 million years old and belonged to a carnivorous theropod.

Choiniere believes the dinosaur weighed between 500kg and a ton.

“This was a meat-eater of considerable size; his head would bump on the ceiling of my house,” said palaeontologist Dr Billy de Klerk, who has also seen the tooth.

“These teeth are so rare that in a span of 30 years I have only seen 15 decent teeth,” De Klerk added.

Ingel is prepared to donate the tooth to a museum after he shows it to his friends at school.

Probably, the teeth belongerd to an individual of the Allosaurus family.

Rare olive ridley turtle beaches in Wales


This video says about itself:

7 Wonders of India: Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

6 February 2009

Found in the Indian Ocean along the Bay of Bengal is Orissa. Average weight of the turtles is just over 100 lb (up to 50 kgs). They have a high-domed shell, with a carapace length of only 30 inches (70 cms). Olive Ridleys are omnivorous, feeding on crabs, shrimp, rock lobsters, sea grasses, snails, fish, sessile or pelagic tunocates and small invertebrates.

The Orissa coast is one of the three sites worldwide where mass nesting of the Olive Ridley Turtle occurs. This sea turtle is especially known for its mass nesting when several thousand turtles migrate to the breeding ground to mate and nest simultaneously. Hindu mythology worships sea turtles as an incarnation of one of their gods. Over the past five years, sea turtles have suffered mass mortality along the Orissa coast due to death by drowning as incidental catch in trawl – fishing nets. About 5,000 to 10,000 dead turtles have been washed ashore each year, a total of over 100,000 in the last 10 years.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

A rare visitor washes up on Britain’s shores

Friday 3rd February 2017

Sea turtles are coming ashore in increasing numbers. But we’ve now had a rare visitor, writes PETER FROST

AN OVER two-foot long rare olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) came ashore on an Anglesey beach last November.

It was the first ever example of this very rare species to be found alive on a British beach. Local people nicknamed the turtle Menai.

The animal was in poor condition, she was severely hypothermic when found stranded.

She was around 15,000 miles from her usual habitat, warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The stranded turtle was looked after at Anglesey Sea Zoo and then taken 400 miles by road to Hertfordshire’s Royal Veterinary College for a CAT scan and more sophisticated care.

The aim is to get her fit enough to be returned to the wild. The scans discovered Menai has gas inside her carapace, making it difficult for her to submerge and swim underwater. She is also suffering lung damage.

But experts who are caring for Menai called the results “good news.” “There are no huge worries,” Anglesey Sea Zoo director Frankie Hobro told us.

“We are happy now that we know what the problem is. We can now research what treatment she needs to recover. The next stage is to drain the gas and correct her buoyancy problems.”

Menai is the first olive ridley turtle to be sighted in Britain since records began in 1748. Now olive ridley turtle experts are planning her rehabilitation and hope to release her back into the wild.

The olive ridley is the second smallest sea turtle after the very closely related Kemp’s ridley. Olive ridleys weigh between 75-100 pounds and reach 2-2 ½ feet in length.

They are named for their pale green carapace or shell and are the most abundant of all sea turtle species.

Olive ridleys occur globally and are found mainly in tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian and southern Atlantic Oceans.

They are primarily pelagic, spending much of their life in the open ocean but may also inhabit bays and estuaries.

Some olive ridleys lay eggs on solitary beach sites but some come together for huge and spectacular beach invasions where thousands of females land on the same beach at the same time to lay their eggs. These spectacular mass-egg layings are called arribadas (“arrival” in Spanish).

Strangely there are only a few places in the world where olive ridley arribadas occur. In other parts of the world, they are solitary nesters.

Though arribadas are not well understood; the timing may coincide with weather events such as strong winds or cloudy days, or with moon and tide cycles.

The turtles congregate in large groups offshore of nesting beaches and then simultaneously come ashore to nest.

Females may remain offshore near nesting beaches throughout the nesting season.

These turtles eat a variety of prey including crabs, shrimp, lobster, urchins, jelly fish, algae and fish.

Despite their relative abundance in comparison to other sea turtles, olive ridleys are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and are listed as threatened in the US.

Although they are still the most abundant species, their numbers have decreased by approximately half since the 1960s.

Historically, the olive ridley has been hunted for food, bait, oil, leather and fertiliser.

The meat is not considered a delicacy. The eggs however are said to be delicious and have always been a valuable commodity. Egg collection is illegal in most of the countries where olive ridleys nest, but these laws are rarely strictly enforced.

Legal egg harvesting has been allowed in several localities. Perhaps the biggest is in Ostional, Costa Rica, where villagers have been able to harvest and sell around three million eggs each year.

Over 27 million eggs are left un-harvested and villagers claim they play a large role in protecting these nests from predators, thereby increasing hatching success.

In most other regions, illegal poaching of eggs is considered a major threat to olive ridley populations and attracts much criticism from conservationists and sea turtle biologists.

As well as egg digging, other major threats to the turtle include degradation of nesting beaches, particularly in India where large commercial coastal developments threaten traditional turtles nesting sites.

Many of their nesting beaches have already been destroyed by coastal development and subsequent erosion.

Other threats include the direct harvest of turtles and eggs for human consumption and the accidental capture of turtles in commercial fishing gear.

It is estimated that more than 60,000 sea turtles, mainly olive ridleys, are caught and drowned in commercial shrimp trawl nets each year.

Over the last few years, winter storms have led to a steep rise in the number of turtles being washed up on our British beaches.

Last winter, a total of 16 warm-water turtles — some critically endangered — were found on the British shoreline, the highest total since 2008 according to environmental groups.

Most of the comatose turtles washed up are juveniles, less able to cope with strong waves, and they are usually starving and suffering from hypothermia.

Here is some advice for those taking winter walks on our beaches who may find a sea turtle washed up by recent gales.

The reptiles can’t stand the cold weather, which shuts them down and they eventually wash up on our shores.

When they wash up they are so moribund that, to the casual observer, they may appear to be dead but actually they may still be alive, and with expert care can be rescued and nurtured back to health to make a full recovery.

Under no circumstances should turtles be put back into the sea, as the thermal shock from the cold waters would certainly kill them.

You should immediately report any stranded animals to the RSPCA.