Australian dinosaur tracks, world’s most diverse


This 27 March 2017 video is called Dinosaur tracks found at ‘Australia’s Jurassic Park‘ in Walmadany.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

‘Australia’s Jurassic Park’ the world’s most diverse

March 27, 2017

Summary: An unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometer stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed ‘Australia’s Jurassic Park.’ A team of paleontologists has unveiled the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in 127 to 140 million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

An unprecedented 21 different types of dinosaur tracks have been identified on a 25-kilometre stretch of the Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed “Australia’s Jurassic Park.”

A team of palaeontologists from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and James Cook University‘s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences braved sharks, crocodiles, massive tides and the threat of development to unveil the most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks in the world in 127 to 140 million-year-old rocks in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Lead author Dr Steve Salisbury said the diversity of the tracks around Walmadany (James Price Point) was globally unparalleled and made the area the “Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti.”

“It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period,” Dr Salisbury said.

“It’s such a magical place — Australia’s own Jurassic Park, in a spectacular wilderness setting.”

In 2008, the Western Australian Government selected Walmadany as the preferred site for a $40 billion liquid natural gas processing precinct.

The area’s Traditional Custodians, the Goolarabooloo people, contacted Dr Salisbury and his team, who dedicated more than 400 hours to investigating and documenting the dinosaur tracks.

“We needed the world to see what was at stake,” Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe said.

The dinosaur tracks form part of a song cycle that extends along the coast and then inland for 450 km, tracing the journey of a Dreamtime creator being called Marala, the Emu man.

“Marala was the Lawgiver. He gave country the rules we need to follow. How to behave, to keep things in balance,” Mr Roe said said.

“It’s great to work with UQ researchers. We learnt a lot from them and they learnt a lot from us.”

Dr Salisbury said the surrounding political issues made the project “particularly intense,” and he was relieved when National Heritage listing was granted to the area in 2011 and the gas project collapsed in 2013.

“There are thousands of tracks around Walmadany. Of these, 150 can confidently be assigned to 21 specific track types, representing four main groups of dinosaurs, ” Dr Salisbury said.

“There were five different types of predatory dinosaur tracks, at least six types of tracks from long-necked herbivorous sauropods, four types of tracks from two-legged herbivorous ornithopods, and six types of tracks from armoured dinosaurs.

“Among the tracks is the only confirmed evidence for stegosaurs in Australia. There are also some of the largest dinosaur tracks ever recorded. Some of the sauropod tracks are around 1.7 m long.”

“Most of Australia’s dinosaur fossils come from the eastern side of the continent, and are between 115 and 90 million years old. The tracks in Broome are considerably older.”

The research has been published as the 2016 Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Ancient Mexican palace discovery


This video about archaeology in Mexico is called Palenque (New Documentary 2014).

From Science News:

Palace remains in Mexico point to ancient rise of centralized power

Ruler ruled, lived in, maybe even performed ritual sacrifices in 2,300-year-old structure

By Bruce Bower

3:10pm, March 27, 2017

Remnants of a royal palace in southern Mexico, dating to between around 2,300 and 2,100 years ago, come from what must have been one of the Americas’ earliest large, centralized governments, researchers say.

Excavations completed in 2014 at El Palenque uncovered a palace with separate areas where a ruler conducted affairs of state and lived with his family, say archaeologists Elsa Redmond and Charles Spencer, both of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Only a ruler of a bureaucratic state could have directed construction of this all-purpose seat of power, the investigators conclude the week of March 27 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The royal palace, the oldest such structure in the Valley of Oaxaca, covered as many as 2,790 square meters, roughly half the floor area of the White House. A central staircase connected to an inner courtyard that probably served as a place for the ruler and his advisors to reach decisions, hold feasts and — based on human skull fragments found there — perform ritual sacrifices, the scientists suggest. A system of paved surfaces, drains and other features for collecting rainwater runs throughout the palace, a sign that the entire royal structure was built according to a design, the researchers say.

El Palenque’s palace contains no tombs. Its ancient ruler was probably buried off-site, at a ritually significant location, Redmond and Spencer say.

Dinosaur age bird discovery in China


This 2015 video is called Dinosaur Discoveries: Confuciusornis.

From Oxford University Press in the USA:

Scientists make new discovery about bird evolution

March 24, 2017

Summary: A team of scientists has described the most exceptionally preserved fossil bird discovered to date, in a newly published article. The new specimen from the rich Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota (approximately 131 to 120 million years old) is referred to as Eoconfuciusornis, the oldest and most primitive member of the Confuciusornithiformes, a group of early birds characterized by the first occurrence of an avian beak.

In a new paper published in National Science Review, a team of scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature, and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (all in China) described the most exceptionally preserved fossil bird discovered to date.

The new specimen from the rich Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota (approximately 131 to 120 million years old) is referred to as Eoconfuciusornis, the oldest and most primitive member of the Confuciusornithiformes, a group of early birds characterized by the first occurrence of an avian beak. Its younger relative Confuciusornis is known from thousands of specimens but this is only the second specimen of Eoconfuciusornis found. This species comes only from the 130.7 Ma Huajiying Formation deposits in Hebei, which preserves the second oldest known fossil birds. Birds from this layer are very rare.

This new specimen of Eoconfuciusornis, housed in the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature, in Eastern China, is a female. The ovary reveals developing yolks that vary in size, similar to living birds. This suggests that confuciusornithiforms evolved a period of rapid yolk deposition prior to egg-laying (crocodilians, which are archosaurs like birds, deposit yolks slowly in all eggs for months with no period of rapid yolk formation), which is indicative of complex energetic profiles similar to those observed in birds.

This means Eoconfuciusornis and its kin, like living birds, was able to cope with extremely high metabolic demands during early growth and reproduction (whereas energetic demands in crocodiles are even, lacking complexity). In contrast, other Cretaceous birds including the more advanced group the Enantiornithes appear to have lower metabolic rates and have required less energy similar to crocodilians and non-avian dinosaurs (their developing yolks show little size disparity indicating no strong peak in energy associated with reproduction, and much simpler energetic profiles, limited by simpler physiologies).

Traces of skin indicate that the wing was supplemented by flaps of skin called patagia. Living birds have numerous wing patagia that help the bird to fly. This fossil helps show how bird wings evolved. The propatagium (the flap of skin that connects the shoulder and wrist) and postpatagium (the flap of skin that extends off the back of the hand and ulna) evolved before the alular patagium (the flap of skin connecting the first digit to the rest of the hand), which is absent in Eoconfuciusornis. Even more unique is the preservation of the internal structure of the propatagium which reveal a collagenous network identical to that in living birds. This internal network gives the skin flap its shape, allowing it to generate aerodynamic lift and aid the bird in flight.

The nearly complete plumage preserves remnants of the original plumage pattern, revealing the presence of spots on the wings and the earliest documentation of sexual differences in plumage within birds. This new specimen suggests that female Eoconfuciusornis were smaller than males and lacked tail feathers, similar to many sexually dimorphic living birds and the younger Confuciusornis in which the plumage of the males and females are different from each other. Samples of the feathers viewed under a microscope reveal differences in color characteristics, allowing scientists to reconstruct the plumage. Female Eoconfuciusornis had black spotted wings and gray body with a red throat patch.

Researchers have not found fossils from any other bird from the Jehol period that reveal so many types of soft tissue (feathers, skin, collagen, ovarian follicles). These remains allow researchers to create the most accurate reconstruction of a primitive early bird (or dinosaur) to date. This information provides better understanding of flight function in the primitive confuciusornithiforms and of the evolution of advanced flight features within birds.

“This new fossil is incredible,” said co-author Dr. Jingmai O’Connor. “With the amount of information we can glean from this specimen we can really bring this ancient species to life. We can understand how it grew, flew, reproduced, and what it looked like. Fossils like this one from the Jehol Biota continue to revolutionize our understanding of early birds.”

Why do birds sing?


This video from Cornwall says about itself:

17 September 2014

Robin Birds Chirping and Singing – Beautiful Video, Bird Song and Nature Sounds in HD – The National Bird of Great Britain

In a recent poll the robin was voted Britain’s Favourite.

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall

From BirdLife:

Why do birds sing?

3 Mar 2017

By Lipu & Alice Paone

When we talk about birdsong, we cannot simply refer to a single “voice”. It is a great chorus of complex sounds, it is a real language in itself. The dry “teak” of a sparrow, the plaintive “gheck gheck gheck” of a woodpecker, the shrill “chirrip” of a lark – each sound has its own purpose and is used in very specific circumstances. For birdwatchers, learning how to ‘decode’ the secret language of birds is a great way to identify different species and to better understand their behaviour.

The language of birds

Just as vowels and consonants provide the foundation for our words and sentences, birds produce a series of calls, songs and melodies in a ‘language’ so nuanced it could rival our very own alphabet! This is all thanks to a special vocal organ called the syrinx – the size of a pea, it sits at the junction of the trachea and the bronchi in the lungs. Its structure – which varies with each species – makes such different songs and sounds possible. Each sound has a different purpose and this, in turn, makes it possible for birds to communicate with each other in different circumstances.

The warning calls

These involve sharp and penetrating sounds – warning signals used by birds whenever they feel threatened and want to warn companions of danger. They are usually short sounds strong enough to be heard at great distances. The same sound is often used by predatory birds as part of their attack.

The cries for help

“Mom Mom Mom!” Just as children call for their mother with arms outstretched, small birds emit little moans and chirps to attract their mother’s attention, often flapping their wings for good measure. The call intensity is low, but it can still be clearly perceived in the vicinity of a nest. Small birds frequently continue to use these calls after leaving the nest too – because mom is always mom!

The contact calls

“Hey, are you all right?” Contact calls for birds are more or less the equivalent of us making sure a friend is ok. They use contact calls when they travel in flocks, want to call each other or even just share news about a good food source. These calls are characterised by moderately strong chirps, similar to a “hum” but not as penetrating as the warning calls.

The mid-flight calls

We have business calls – the ones where you use a more formal tone because etiquette demands it. Similarly, birds have specific calls that are only used during flight – and, interestingly, these are the most accurate calls to go by when trying to identify different species. These sounds are highly musical, especially when they announce the passage of flocks during migration season.

Why do birds sing at dawn?

The singing of birds in the morning signals a pleasant awakening. But why do birds usually showcase their vocal talents at this time of the day? The answer comes down to simple “vanity”: it is so they appear to be fit and healthy. Birds mainly feed during the day, so the early morning – when they are unfed and hungry – is when they are weakest. Singing at dawn is a technique used by males to prove their health and vigour to potential partners. No wonder: the singing is strictly linked to the birds’ “love life” and it is important throughout every stage of the relationship, from courtship to nest.

When the song becomes music

The lark’s morning song is not the only melody to have inspired poets and composers. Sweet birdsong has always touched the heart of man, inspiring verses and immortal music. Grieg, Ravel and Prokofiev, amongst others – have been so fascinated by the melody of blackbirds, nightingales and doves that they have turned their calls into music.

This classical music video is called Vivaldi – Flute concert Il Gardellino [The Goldfinch] – Dóra Seres + DRUO.

Vivaldi composed the famous “Goldfinch” concert while Girolamo Frescobaldi’s “Capriccio sopra Cucho” is a testament to the charms of the cuckoo. Beethoven famously incorporated imitations of the nightingale and quail – performed by flute and oboe respectively – in the second movement of the “Pastoral Symphony No. 6″. And Wagner notably included the song “The bird in the woods” in his opera ‘Siegfried’.

How you can learn to recognise birds by their song

Of course, the best way to learn how to recognise birds by their song is to go out into the great outdoors and simply listen to the most beautiful music ever made. The chorus that you can hear in a forest or a national park is a true symphony, especially for those able to grasp the nuances. For starters, it can be useful to have a handbook that – together with maps and photographs of the different species – explains the different vocal characteristics. But rest assured, with a little bit of practice and patience, anyone can unlock the secret of birdsong.

Ancient bird Archaeopteryx and Donald Trump


This video says about itself:

23 May 2014

In 1860 in Germany, an unusual fossil was found that shocked the world. It seemed to be a strange combination of a dinosaur and a bird. It was the 150 million-year-old fossil of Archaeopteryx. The skeleton looked like a normal two-legged meat-eating dinosaur, but it had one very special feature: feathers. Its feathers are how it got its name, which means “ancient wing”.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Archaeopteryx takes to the skies

Friday 24th March 2017

The fossil which proved the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds is on tour. PETER FROST explains why this scientific discovery is still relevant today

CHARLES DARWIN published his earth-shattering book On the Origin of Species in 1859. The book outlined the theory of evolution that is still, despite its compelling evidence, being argued about today, especially in the United States bible belt and even in President Donald Trump’s White House.

Part of Darwin’s argument predicted finding fossil evidence for the transitional stage between dinosaurs and what would become birds. At the time of his writing, Darwin predicted that evidence would be uncovered to prove his theory. Critics scoffed and noted the absence of any fossil evidence.

Then in 1861, just two years after his book was published, the fossil of a single feather was uncovered in the limestone layers of Solnhofen in Bavaria, southern Germany. It was clear evidence for the transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds that Darwin had predicted. The great scientist was vindicated, to the dismay of his critics.

That same year more proof arrived when the first complete specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered. That first skeleton, later to be known as “the London specimen,” was unearthed near Langenaltheim, Germany. It finally proved the link between dinosaurs and birds.

The fossil was given to local physician Karl Haberlein in return for medical services. Over the years, ten more fossils of Archaeopteryx have surfaced all in the same limestone layers of Solnhofen.

These fossil archaeopteryx have since become key evidence for the origin of birds, the transitional fossils debate and the confirmation of evolution.

The original German fossil was purchased by Britain in 1863 for £700 and was kept initially at the British Museum. When the Natural History Museum opened in South Kensington in 1881, the fossil became one of its most important exhibits.

Until this year it had never left the museum, but since March 18 it has been the star exhibit in a travelling exhibition at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.

At first glance the fossil might seem to be just a ragtag assortment of bones, but on closer inspection you can understand why Archaeopteryx is so interesting and important.

Today, the thin limestone slabs that contain the bones of this pivotal creature are considered priceless. If one ever came to auction it would sell for millions of pounds.

The delicate stone has been carefully reinforced using a strong plastic resin but is still incredibly delicate. Museums officials are satisfied the iconic fossil will come to no harm in transit or during its time on display in Japan.

The Archaeopteryx fossil has beautiful impressions of feathers and wings — like a bird. But then it also displays the claws, the long bony tail and the serrated teeth more normally associated with dinosaurs.

Archaeopteryx was roughly the size of a small chicken, with broad wings that were rounded at the ends and a long tail compared to its body length.

Its feathers were very similar in structure to modern-day bird feathers. Unlike modern birds, Archaeopteryx had small teeth as well as a long bony tail, features which the species shared with other dinosaurs of the time.

Directors of modern dinosaur films may have used their computers to make Archaeopteryx into a soaring elegant flyer — something like a giant condor. In reality, it was probably an ungainly beast capable only of flapping flight from one low shrub to another.

In a world where more and more fundamentalist religious views are arguing against the science of evolution, it is important that the convincing evidence of fossils is made as widely known as possible.

President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were asked for their thoughts on evolution and Darwin. Pence told Congress he believed in teaching creationism in schools to balance out the theory of evolution.

In answer to a journalists question, he replied: “Do I believe in evolution? I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the Earth, the seas and all that’s in them.”

Pence wants the biblical story of creation taught in biology class alongside evolution.

With backwoodsman Trump as president, it will certainly happen.

Sadly the pair of them are in good company as many people in the United States agree with them.

While the majority of people in Europe and in many other parts of the world accept evolution, the United States lags behind.

Today, four in every 10 adults in the US believe that humans have existed in our present form since the beginning of time. In many religious groups, that number is even higher.

Perhaps then it is good news that the remarkable Archaeopteryx fossil is making the journey to Tokyo as just one of 300 exhibits from the collection of London’s Natural History Museum.

The travelling exhibition features all sorts of objects, including many animals that inspired Darwin directly and demonstrate the truth of evolution.

The artefacts range from a lion from the royal menagerie to an exquisite glass model of an octopus. All have a fascinating science backstory.

“Science is a global endeavour fuelled by wonder and curiosity. So it has been an ambition for us to share these extraordinary treasures with a wider audience,” Natural History Museum director Sir Michael Dixon told us.

“They are the essence of the scientific exploration that inspired pioneers and continues today at the Natural History Museum.”

Other destinations for this exciting touring exhibition beyond Japan will be announced in due course, but I doubt they will be welcome in Trump and Pence’s Washington.