4-year-old girl’s 220-million-year-old dinosaur footprint discovery


This 30 January 2020 video says about itself:

“Dino-mite” invention: Lily Wilder, 4, finds 215-million-year-old ‘two-footed’ dinosaur footprint

A girl from Wales has discovered a perfectly preserved 215-million-year-old dinosaur print, described as the ‘finest’ of its type found in 10 years.

Read more here.

Triassic marine reptile Atopodentatus


This 22 December 2020 video says about itself

The Triassic Reptile With “Two Faces”

Figuring out what this creature’s face actually looked like would take paleontologists years. But understanding this weird animal can help us shine a light on at least one way for ecosystems to bounce back from even the worst mass extinction.

Only Irish dinosaurs described


This December 2018 video says about itself:

Dinosaurs existed for over 170 million years and lived all over the Earth. You might expect to find fossil evidence of them everywhere you look, but only two dinosaur fossils have been found in Ireland.

Dr Mike Simms, Senior Curator of Natural History at National Museums Northern Ireland, explains why.

Read more on this story here.

From the University of Portsmouth in England:

Only dinosaurs found in Ireland described for the first time

November 26, 2020

Summary: The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts. The two fossils are from two different dinosaurs, a four-legged plant-eater called Scelidosaurus and a two-legged meat-eater similar to Sarcosaurus.

The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts from the University of Portsmouth and Queen’s University Belfast, led by Dr Mike Simms, a curator and palaeontologist at National Museums NI.

The two fossil bones were found by the late Roger Byrne, a schoolteacher and fossil collector, who donated them along with many other fossils to Ulster Museum. Analysis has confirmed they are from early Jurassic rocks found in Islandmagee, on the east coast of County Antrim.

Ulster Museum has announced plans to put them on display when it reopens after the latest rounds of restrictions are lifted.

Dr Simms, National Museums NI, said: “This is a hugely significant discovery. The great rarity of such fossils here is because most of Ireland’s rocks are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it nearly impossible to confirm dinosaurs existed on these shores. The two dinosaur fossils that Roger Byrne found were perhaps swept out to sea, alive or dead, sinking to the Jurassic seabed where they were buried and fossilised.”

The article, published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, is part of a larger project to document Jurassic rocks in Northern Ireland and draws on many fossils in Ulster Museum’s collections.

Originally it was assumed the fossils were from the same animal, but the team were surprised to discover that they were from two completely different dinosaurs. The study, employing the latest available technology, identified the type of dinosaur from which each came. One is part of a femur (upper leg bone) of a four-legged plant-eater called Scelidosaurus. The other is part of the tibia (lower leg bone) of a two-legged meat-eater similar to Sarcosaurus.

The University of Portsmouth team, researcher Robert Smyth, originally from Ballymoney, and Professor David Martill, used high-resolution 3D digital models of the fossils, produced by Dr Patrick Collins of Queen’s University Belfast, in their analysis of the bone fragments.

Robert Smyth said: “Analysing the shape and internal structure of the bones, we realised that they belonged to two very different animals. One is very dense and robust, typical of an armoured plant-eater. The other is slender, with thin bone walls and characteristics found only in fast-moving two-legged predatory dinosaurs called theropods.”

“Despite being fragmentary, these fossils provide valuable insight on a very important period in dinosaur evolution, about 200 million years ago. It’s at this time that dinosaurs really start to dominate the world’s terrestrial ecosystems.”

Professor Martill said: “Scelidosaurus keeps on turning up in marine strata, and I am beginning to think that it may have been a coastal animal, perhaps even eating seaweed, like marine iguanas do today.”

To find out when the fossils will go on display at the Ulster Museum follow @ulstermuseum on Twitter, @ulstermuseumbelfast on Facebook and @ulstermuseum on Instagram.

Titanosaur dinosaur infected by parasites


An illustration of the titanosaur with open wounds caused by parasites. Hugo Cafasso

From New Scientist:

Ancient parasites in a titanosaur’s bones made it look like a zombie

20 November 2020

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Some of the oldest evidence of bone disease may have been caused by tiny 83-million-year-old parasites infecting a titanosaur, which are among the largest land animals that ever lived. This is the first discovery of parasites in a dinosaur bone.

“It’s a new kind of parasite,” says Aline Ghilardi at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. “We don’t have anything similar to it.”

This fossilised parasite was seen in a sample from a dwarf titanosaur.

Rubeosaurus, Styracosaurus, same dinosaur species?


This 13 November 2020 video says about itself:

Was “Rubeosaurus” Styracosaurus After All? YDAW Synapisode #6

New research came out this year with bearing upon everyone’s favorite centrosaurine(s), so here’s more than you probably wanted to know about parietals.

Triassic mammal-like reptile discovery in Arizona, USA


An artist’s impression of Kataigidodon venetus. Image credit: Ben Kligman / Hannah R. Kligman

From Virginia Tech university in the USA:

New species of ancient cynodont, 220 million years old, discovered

November 4, 2020

Fossilized jaw bone fragments of a rat-like creature found at the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona last year by a Virginia Tech College of Science Ph.D. candidate are in fact a newly discovered 220-million-year-old species of cynodont or stem-mammal, a precursor of modern-day mammals.

The finding of this new species, Kataigidodon venetus, has been published today in the journal Biology Letters by lead author Ben Kligman, a doctoral student in the Department of Geosciences.

“This discovery sheds light on the geography and environment during the early evolution of mammals,” Kligman said. “It also adds to evidence that humid climates played an important role in the early evolution of mammals and their closest relatives. Kataigidodon was living alongside dinosauromorphs and possibly early dinosaurs related to Coelophysis — a small bipedal predator — and Kataigidodon was possibly prey of these early dinosaurs and other predators like crocodylomorphs, small coyote-like quadrupedal predators related to living crocodiles.”

Kligman added that finding a fossil that is part of Cynodontia, which includes close cousins of mammals, such as Kataigidodon, as well as true mammals, from Triassic rocks is an extremely rare event in North America. Prior to Kligman’s discovery, the only other unambiguous cynodont fossil from the Late Triassic of western North America was the 1990 discovery of a braincase of Adelobasileus cromptoni in Texas. Note that 220 million years ago, modern-day Arizona and Texas were located close to the equator, near the center of the supercontinent Pangaea. Kataigidodon would have been living in a lush tropical forest ecosystem.

Kligman made the discovery while working as a seasonal paleontologist at Petrified Forest National Park in 2019. The two fossil lower jaws of Kataigidodon were found in the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation. Because only the lower jaws were discovered and are quite small — half an inch, the size of a medium grain of rice — Kligman only has a semi-picture of how the creature looked, roughly 3.5 inches in total body size, minus the tail.

Along with the jawbone fossils, Kligman found incisor, canine, and complex-postcanine teeth, similar to modern day mammals. Given the pointed shape of its teeth and small body size, it likely fed on a diet of insects, Kligman added. (Why are jaw fossils commonly found, even among small specimens? According to Kligman, the fossil record is “biased” toward only preserving the largest and most robust bones in a skeleton. The other smaller or more fragile bones — ribs, arms, feet — disappear.)

Kligman carried out fieldwork, specimen preparation, CT scanning, conception, and design of the study and drafting of the manuscript. He added that he and his collaborators only discovered the fossils were of a new species after reviewing the CT scan dataset of the jaws and comparing it to other related species.

“It likely would have looked like a small rat or mouse. If you were to see it in person you would think it is a mammal,” Kligman added. Does it have fur? Kligman and the researchers he worked with to identify and name the creature actually don’t know. “Triassic cynodonts have not been found from geological settings which could preserve fur if it was there, but later nonmammalian cynodonts from the Jurassic had fur, so scientists assume that Triassic ones did also.”

The name Kataigidodon venetus derives from the Greek words for thunderstorm, “kataigidos,” and tooth, “odon,” and the Latin word for blue, “venetus,” all referring to the discovery location of Thunderstorm Ridge, and the blue color of the rocks at this site. Kligman didn’t name the creature, though. That task fell to Hans Dieter-Sues, coauthor and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian National Museum.

Additional collaborators include Adam Marsh, park paleontologist at Petrified Forest National Park, who found the jaw fossils with Kligman, and Christian Sidor, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Biology. The research was funded by the Petrified Forest Museum Association, the Friends of Petrified Forest National Park, and the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences.

“This study exemplifies the idea that what we collect determines what we can say,” said Michelle Stocker, an assistant professor of geosciences and Kligman’s doctoral advisor. “Our hypotheses and interpretations of past life on Earth depend on the actual fossil materials that we have, and if our search images for finding fossils only focuses on large-bodied animals, we will miss those important small specimens that are key for understanding the diversification of many groups.”

With Kataigidodon being only the second other unambiguous cynodont fossil from the Late Triassic found in western North America, could there be more new species out there waiting to be found?

Kligman said most likely. “We have preliminary evidence that more species of cynodonts are present in the same site as Kataigidodon, but we are hoping to find better fossils of them,” he added.

Triassic marine reptiles, new research


This video is called Newly discovered Triassic lizard could float underwater to pick off prey 2020 10 28.

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient marine predator had a built-in float

New 240 million-year-old species uncovered in China

October 28, 2020

About 240 million years ago, when reptiles ruled the ocean, a small lizard-like predator floated near the bottom of the edges in shallow water, picking off prey with fang-like teeth. A short and flat tail, used for balance, helps identify it as a new species, according to research published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Paleontologists at the Chinese Academy of Scientists and Canadian Museum of Nature have analysed two skeletons from a thin layer of limestone in two quarries in southwest China. They identified the skeletons as nothosaurs, Triassic marine reptiles with a small head, fangs, flipper-like limbs, a long neck, and normally an even longer tail, probably used for propulsion. However, in the new species, the tail is short and flat.

“Our analysis of two well-preserved skeletons reveals a reptile with a broad, pachyostotic body (denser boned) and a very short, flattened tail. A long tail can be used to flick through the water, generating thrust, but the new species we’ve identified was probably better suited to hanging out near the bottom in shallow sea, using its short, flattened tail for balance, like an underwater float, allowing it to preserve energy while searching for prey,” says Dr Qing-Hua Shang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.

The scientists have named the new species Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis, from the Latin ‘brevi’ for ‘short,’ ‘caudo’ for ‘tail,’ and the Greek ‘sauros’ for ‘lizard.’ The most complete skeleton of the two was found in Jiyangshan quarry, giving the specimen its species name. It’s just under 60cm long.

The skeleton gives further clues to its lifestyle. The forelimbs are more strongly developed than the hind limbs, suggesting they played a role in helping the reptile to swim. However, the bones in the front feet are short compared to other species, limiting the power with which it could pull through the water. Most of its bones, including the vertebrae and ribs, are thick and dense, further contributing to the stocky, stout appearance of the reptile, and limiting its ability to swim quickly but increasing stability underwater.

However, thick, high-mass bones act as ballast. What the reptile lost in speed, it gained in stability. Dense bones, known as pachyostosis, may have made it neutrally buoyant in shallow water. Together with the flat tail, this would have helped the predator to float motionless underwater, requiring little energy to stay horizontal. Neutral buoyancy should also have enabled it to walk on the seabed searching for slow-moving prey.

Highly dense ribs may also suggest the reptile had large lungs. As suggested by the lack of firm support of the body weight, nothosaurs were oceanic nut they needed to come to the water surface for oxygen. They have nostrils on the snout through which they breathed. Large lungs would have increased the time the species could spend underwater.

The new species features a bar-shaped bone in the middle ear called the stapes, used for sound transmission. The stapes was generally lost in other nothosaurs or marine reptiles during preservation. Scientists had predicted that if a stapes was found in a nothosaur, it would be thin and slender like in other species of this branch of the reptilian family tree. However, in B. jiyangshanensis it is thick and elongate, suggesting it had good hearing underwater.

“Perhaps this small, slow-swimming marine reptile had to be vigilant for large predators as it floated in the shallows, as well as being a predator itself,” says co-author Dr. Xiao-Chun Wu from the Canadian Museum of Nature.

How pterosaurs learned flying, new research


This 2017 video is a documentary about pterosaurs.

From the University of Reading in England:

Giant lizards learnt to fly over millions of years

Study uses new method to show that Pterosaurs became twice as good at flying over their existence

October 28, 2020

Pterodactyls and other related winged reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs steadily improved their ability to fly to become the deadly masters of the sky over the course of millions of years.

A new study published in the journal Nature has shown that pterosaurs — a group of creatures that became Earth’s first flying vertebrates — evolved to improve their flight performance over their 150 million-year existence, before they went extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Scientists from the Universities of Reading, Lincoln and Bristol carried out the most detailed study yet into how animals evolve to become better suited to their environments over time. They combined fossil records with a new model of flight based on today’s living birds to measure their flight efficiency and fill in the gaps in our knowledge of their evolutionary story.

This allowed the scientists to track the gradual evolution of pterosaurs and demonstrate that they became twice as good at flying over the course of their history. It also showed that their evolution was caused by consistent small improvements over a long period, rather than sudden evolutionary bursts as had been previously suggested.

Professor Chris Venditti, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading and lead author of the study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, said: “Pterosaurs were a diverse group of winged lizards, with some the size of sparrows and others with the wingspan of a light aircraft. Fans of the movie Jurassic World will have seen a dramatisation of just how huge and lethal these creatures would have been. Their diet consisted mostly of other animals, from insects to smaller dinosaurs.

“Despite their eventual prowess in the air being well-known, the question of whether pterosaurs got better at flying and whether this gave them an advantage over their ancestors has puzzled scientists for decades. There are many examples of how natural selection works on relatively short time scales, but until now it has been very difficult to demonstrate whether plants or animals adapt to become more efficient over a long period.”

Sea turtle nests in Florida, USA


This 2017 video says about itself:

A baby green turtle’s journey to the sea

This turtle hatchling is in a hurry to reach the sea before she dies of dehydration. It’s a journey filled with danger—hungry birds and crabs are waiting patiently to make a meal out of her. Her troubles hardly end once she enters the sea, in fact they’ve only just begun, she has to brave countless fish and other predators as she makes her way to the open ocean.

Here’s a short video we made with clips sent to us by Al Badush, a researcher who works with our Oceans and Coasts team!

From the University of Central Florida in the USA:

Sea turtle nesting season winding down in Florida, some numbers are up and it’s unexpected

Green turtle nest counts are the fifth highest recorded since 1982, in a year when their numbers were supposed to be down

October 28, 2020

Florida’s sea turtle nesting surveying comes to a close on Halloween and like everything else in 2020, the season was a bit weird.

The number of green sea turtle nests on central and southern Brevard County, Florida beaches monitored by University of Central biologists were way up during a year they should have been down based on nearly 40 years of historical data.

“Usually, green turtles alternate between high years and low years, but this year they defied expectations,” says Chris Long, a doctoral candidate and research assistant with UCF’s Marine Turtle Research Group. “Green turtles had the fifth highest year on the Archie Carr Refuge that we’ve recorded since 1982. There is no evidence pointing to high nesting as a result of fewer people on the beaches or anything pandemic-related like that. It’s difficult to know why nesting differed from expectation.”

East-Central Florida’s coastline (from Brevard to Indian River County) is among the most important nesting areas in the world for loggerhead sea turtles, and it also hosts about one-third of all green turtle nests in the state. The region is at the northern end of a “hotspot” for leatherbacks, which nest on the local beaches at a smaller scale as well. All sea turtles in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

UCF has run a sea turtle monitoring and research program on the beaches of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR) in southern Brevard County for more than 35 years. UCF findings about sea turtle abundance and behavior are among the reasons the refuge was created in 1991. The UCF Marine Turtle Research Group focuses on long-term nesting beach and coastal juvenile sea turtle research in Brevard and Indian River counties locally. The group also studies the oceanic “lost years” tracking turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, North and South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

Green turtle nests:

  • 2020: 8,110 (unexpectedly high for a “low year”)
  • 2019: 15,784 (record, “high year”)
  • 2018: 1,230 (typical “low year”)

Loggerhead nests:

  • 2020: 12,968
  • 2019: 10,813
  • 2018: 11,901

Leatherback nests:

  • 2020: 40
  • 2019: 36
  • 2018: 17
  • Note: there are no clear trends in local leatherback counts; the highest recorded total nests was 55 in 2016.

Dinosaur eggs, new research


This 2015 video is called Fossilized Dinosaur Eggs Unearthed in South China.

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Cracking the secrets of dinosaur eggshells

October 28, 2020

Since the famous discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert in the early 1920s, the fossilized remains have captured the imaginations of paleontologists and the public, alike. Although dinosaur eggs have now been found on every continent, it’s not always clear to scientists which species laid them. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Omega have narrowed down the list for an unknown eggshell from Mexico by comparing its microstructure and composition with four known samples.

Because many dinosaur eggs are similar in size and shape, it can be difficult to determine what type of dinosaur laid them. Clues can come from fossilized embryos (which are rare), hatchlings in the same nest or nearby adult remains. Scientists also have identified microscopic features of eggshells that differ among groups of dinosaurs. In addition, researchers have studied the elemental composition of fossil eggshells to learn more about the paleoenvironment and conditions that led to the eggs’ fossilization. Abel Moreno and colleagues wanted to compare the microstructure and composition of five dinosaur eggshells from nests in the El Gallo Formation of Baja California, Mexico. Based on the eggs’ shapes and sizes and the fossil record of the area, the researchers had concluded that three of the eggs were laid by ornithopods (bipedal herbivores) of the hadrosaur family (duck-billed dinosaurs) and one by a theropod (bipedal carnivores) of the troodontidae family (small, bird-like dinosaurs). The remaining sample was too damaged to classify by the naked eye.

Using scanning electron microscopy, the team examined the external and internal surfaces and a cross-section of each eggshell. In contrast to the smooth outer surface of the theropod shell, the shells from the ornithopods and the unknown sample had nodes at different distances across the shell. Images of shell cross-sections from the ornithopods revealed that mammillary cones — calcite crystals on the inner surface of the shell — formed thin, elongated columns arranged in parallel, with irregular pores. In contrast, the eggshell from the theropod showed thicker, shorter cones arranged in a bilayer, with wider pores. The unknown sample more closely resembled the ornithopod eggshells, leading the researchers to hypothesize that it was probably also from the hadrosaur family. In addition, the researchers conducted an elemental composition analysis, which they say is the first such analysis on dinosaur eggshells collected in Mexico. They say the findings might help reveal how the fossilization process varied among species and locales.