Canadian dinosaurs’ blood discovery


This video from Britain about dinosaur research says about itself:

4 June 2015

Scanning electron micrographs and 3D reconstructions from serial sections of erythrocyte-like structures. Credit: Bertazzo et al., Nature Communications.

This video shows scanning electron micrographs being reconstructed into 3D shapes based on the serial sections taken of the red blood cell-like structures.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

75-million-year-old dinosaur blood and collagen discovered in fossil fragments

Scientists accidentally discover what appear to be red blood cells and collagen fibres during analysis of ‘crap’ fossils dug up in Canada 100 years ago

Ian Sample, Science editor

Scientists have discovered what appear to be red blood cells and collagen fibres in the fossilised remains of dinosaurs that lived 75 million years ago.

Traces of the soft tissues were found by accident when researchers at Imperial College in London analysed eight rather shabby fossils that had been dug up in Canada a century ago before finding their way to the Natural History Museum in London.

The finding suggests that scores of dinosaur fossils in museums around the world could retain soft tissues, and with it the answers to major questions about dinosaur physiology and evolution. More speculatively, it has made scientists ponder whether dinosaur DNA might also survive.

Most of the fossils the scientists studied were mere fragments and in very poor condition. They included a claw from a meat-eating therapod, perhaps a gorgosaurus, some limb and ankle bones from a duck-billed dinosaur, and a toe bone from [a] triceratops-like animal.

Intact soft tissue has been spotted in dinosaur fossils before, most famously by Mary Schweitzer at North Carolina State University, who in 2005 found flexible, transparent collagen in the fossilised leg of a Tyrannosaurus rex specimen.

What makes the latest discovery so remarkable is that the blood cells and collagen were found in specimens that the researchers themselves describe as “crap”. If soft tissue can survive in these fossils, then museum collections of more impressive remains could harbour troves of soft dinosaur tissue. Those could help unravel mysteries of dinosaur physiology and behaviour that have been impossible to crack with bony remains alone.

“It’s really difficult to get curators to allow you to snap bits off their fossils. The ones we tested are crap, very fragmentary, and they are not the sorts of fossils you’d expect to have soft tissue,” said Susannah Maidment, a paleontologist at Imperial.

The fossils are a smattering of pieces collected last century, probably directly from the ground, at the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada. To analyse the remains, the scientists broke tiny pieces off the fragments to expose fresh, uncontaminated surfaces inside.

Sergio Bertazzo, a materials scientist at Imperial, had been working on the build up of calcium in human blood vessels when he met Maidment and asked if he could study some fossils with an array of electron microscope techniques.

Months after the specimens arrived, Bertazzo began to look at thin sections of the fossils. He began with the therapod [sic; theropod] claw. “One morning, I turned on the microscope, increased the magnification, and thought ‘wait – that looks like blood!’,” he said.

Bertazzo suspected the blood was historic contamination: a curator or a collector had a cut when they handled the specimen. But Maidment suggested a check. Mammals are unusual among vertebrates in having red blood cells that lack a cell nucleus. If the fossil’s blood cells had nuclei, they could not be human. When they sliced through one of the cells to check, they saw what looked like a nucleus. “That ruled out someone bleeding on the sample,” said Maidment.

Another surprise was to come. Bertazzo was examining another fossil fragment, a piece of rib from some unidentified dinosaur, which had been sliced in two inside the microscope. He spotted bands of fibres, which further tests found to contain amino acids known that make up collagen, the protein-based material that forms the basis for skin and other soft tissues.

More work is needed to be sure the features are genuine blood cells and collagen. The scientists now hope to scour more fossils for soft tissues, and then work out what sorts of burial and environmental conditions are needed for their preservation.

“It may well be that this type of tissue is preserved far more commonly than we thought. It might even be the norm,” said Maidment, whose study appears in Nature Communications. “This is just the first step in this research.”

A detailed study of the soft tissues could unravel some of the long-standing mysteries of dinosaur evolution. The dinosaurs evolved from cold-blooded ancestors, but their modern descendants are warm-blooded birds. When did the transition occur? Red blood cells may hold the answer.

If collagen and red blood cells can survive for 75 million years, what about dinosaur DNA, bearing the genetic code to design, or potentially even resurrect, the beasts?

“We haven’t found any genetic material in our fossils, but generally in science, it is unwise to say never,” said Maidment. Bertazzo is hedging his bets too: “This opens up the possibility of loads of specimens that may have soft tissue preserved in them, but the problem with DNA is that even if you find it, it won’t be intact. It’s possible you could find fragments, but to find more than that? Who knows?”

Anjali Goswami, a paleontologist at University College London, said that if dinosaur soft tissues were found in many more fossils, it could have a transformative effect on research. “If we can expand the data we have on soft tissues, from fossils that are poorly preserved, that has real implications for our understanding of life in deep time,” she said.

New horned dinosaur discovery in Canada


This video from Canada says about itself:

4 June 2015

This is the skull of Regaliceratops peterhewsi—a newly described genus and species of ceratopsid (horned dinosaur).

Generally, when new dinosaurs are found, they are only known from single bones or small parts of the skeleton. In this case, nearly the entire skull was preserved three-dimensionally, making scientific diagnosis relatively easy. Regaliceratops peterhewsi is a chasmosaurine, but it surprisingly shares some features of centrosaurines. What makes it different is the small size of the horns over the eyes and the large triangular and spade-shaped bony projections from the frill; features that are unexpected given that this new animal is closely related to the chasmosaurine Triceratops.

Video created by ORTHOSHOP Geomatics Ltd.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

New species of dinosaur, the regaliceratops, discovered in Canada

Nicknamed Hellboy, the dinosaur had short horns over the eyes and a long nose horn, the opposite of the features sported by its close relative triceratops

Ian Sample, science editor

Thursday 4 June 2015 17.33 BST

When fossil experts first clapped eyes on the skull, it was clearly from a strange, horned dinosaur. When they noticed how stunted the bony horns were, its nickname, Hellboy, was assured.

The near-complete skull of the 70 million-year-old beast was spotted by chance 10 years ago, protruding from a cliff that runs along the Oldman river south of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Painstakingly excavated, cleaned up and measured since then, the fossilised remains have now been identified as a relative of the three-horned triceratops, and the first example of a horned dinosaur to be found in that region of North America.

Like triceratops, the new species was a herbivore. But it sported a more impressive shield, or frill, at the back of its skull, decorated with large triangular and pentagonal plates. The extraordinary features led researchers to name the new species Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a reference to the impressive crown-like frill, and to Peter Hews, a Calgary-based geologist who first spotted part of the skull jutting from the rockface in 2005.

Researchers came up with the Hellboy nickname long before they had liberated the full skull from the cliff face. The main reason was that the rock the fossil was embedded in was incredibly hard, making excavation a hellish, and years-long, task. That job was made even tougher because the Oldman river is a protected fish-breeding ground, meaning the scientists had to erect a dam at the site to prevent debris from the excavation falling into the river.

“It was a coincidence, but when we noticed that the skull had these short horns over the eyes, that really solidified the nickname,” Caleb Brown at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta told the Guardian. In the Hellboy comics and movies, the eponmymous demon grinds his horns to stumps with an electric sander to help him fit in with mere mortals.

But the horns of the dinosaur tell a more interesting story. Triceratops belonged to a group of horned dinosaurs called chasmosaurines. These had a small horn over the nose and two larger horns over the eyes. And while regaliceratops is definitely a chasmosaurine, it has a long nose horn and puny horns over its eyes. These features, opposite to those characteristic of triceratops, are seen in a different group of horned dinosaurs, called centrosaurines, which were extinct by the time regaliceratops came along.

The bizarre mix of features is an example of convergent evolution, where one species evolves bodily characteristics that arose separately in other species through the course of prehistory. Brown and his colleague, Donald Henderson, describe the creature’s remains in Current Biology.

“This is a really interesting new dinosaur,” said Steve Brusatte, a vertebrate paleontologist at Edinburgh University. “It’s a close relative of triceratops, but its horns and skull frill are very different. They look a lot more like other types of horned dinosaurs that lived earlier in time, which went extinct before triceratops thrived.

“What it’s indicating is that there was massive convergence between the horns and frills of those horned dinosaurs that were thriving during the final few million years before the asteroid hit and killed off the dinosaurs. Because this new dinosaur is one of the latest surviving horned dinosaurs, living at a similar time as triceratops, it is also telling us that horned dinosaurs remained quite diverse right until the end. To me, this is a strong hint that these dinosaurs were at or near the top of their game when that asteroid fell out of the sky,” he said.

Golden eagles in southern Scotland


This video from Canada says about itself:

16 August 2011

Birds of prey expert John Campbell teaches his nephew to put an identifying band on a golden eagle chick. Close up and personal views of the nest, its reluctant inhabitant, and the birds’ food sources. Spectacular views of Southern Alberta. The banding is part of a program to protect the species. The band goes on fairly tightly because the birds’ legs don’t grow further in diameter as the bird grows.

From Wildlife Extra:

Golden eagles could return to southern Scotland

Improvements to habitats in the south of Scotland could lead the area to become a stronghold for golden eagles.

A study carried out by the Scottish Natural Heritage showed that the area could potentially support up to 16 pairs, almost four times the present number.

At the moment there are thought to be no more than one or two pairs in Galloway and no more than three in the Scottish Borders.

Prof Des Thompson of SNH, who led the research, told the BBC “We would now like to see on-the-ground, practical work to improve the habitat for golden eagles in the south of Scotland.

“With habitat improvements, we could see connections with the small reintroduced population in Ireland. This would help both groups of eagles and could even help bolster the population in the north of England.”

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management, said: “These magnificent birds should be given every opportunity to recover and reoccupy lost range, and must be protected in practice from the effects of human persecution, which remains a significant threat to this species, and in particular to this perilously small and isolated population.”

The total number of golden eagles in Scotland is 440 pairs, with most of the birds found in the Highlands and Islands.

New horned dinosaur discovery in North America


This video is called Meet Mercuriceratops gemini.

From Tech Times:

Meet Mercuriceratops gemini, a horned-dinosaur with a Roman god’s helmet

By Alexander Saltarin, Tech Times

June 19, 11:13 AM

Scientists have discovered and named a new type of horned dinosaur. Due to the frills on the dinosaur resembling the wings usually found on the helmet of Mercury in depictions of the Roman god, the scientists decided to christen the dinosaur as Mercuriceratops gemini.

The discovery was made after a team of scientists analyzed and studied fossils found in two locations in North America. Some of the fossils were found in Alberta, Canada while the others were found in the state of Montana. Analysis of the fossils showed that the new horned dinosaur would have weighed as much as 2 tons and would have grown to a length of around 20 feet. However, the most distinct feature of the Mercuriceratops is its unique frill. The later part of the scientific name “Gemini” is a reference to the fact that two similar fossils were found in two different locations.

“Mercuriceratops took a unique evolutionary path that shaped the large frill on the back of its skull into protruding wings like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars,” said Cleveland Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Michael Ryan. “It definitively would have stood out from the herd during the Late Cretaceous.”

Ryan is also the lead author of a paper on the subject published in the online journal Naturwissenschaften.

Scientists believe that the Mercuriceratops thrived during the Late Cretaceous Period approximately 77 million years ago. The name the scientists have chosen literally means “Mercury horned-face,” which aptly described the way the dinosaur’s face would have appeared. The fossil samples found in Canada were discovered in the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. The park is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many discoveries have been made in the area. The American fossil on the other hand was found in the north central part of Montana.

The new dinosaur was of particular interest to paleontologists due to the fact that the shape of its skull was unlike any other dinosaur previously known. A dinosaur’s frill, which is often referred to as a neck shield, protects the necks of some dinosaurs like the Triceratops and the newly discovered Mercuriceratops from predators during attacks. The butterfly shaped frill found on the Mercuriceratops shows that evolution had numerous tricks up its sleeves in terms of dinosaur morphology.

Bears find mates through wildlife crossings


This video from Canada is called The Alberta Story: Banff Wildlife Crossing.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife crossings help bears find mates

February 2014: The wildlife crossings of the Trans-Canada Highway have helped bears safely cross the road and find mates on the other side of the road, research shows.

Roads connect human populations across vast distances but they can have an adverse effect on the populations of wildlife for as well as being possible victims of traffic accidents. Noisy traffic can also deter animals from approaching busy highways and groups can become isolated and fragmented with little chance for genetic mixing.

To counteract this fragmenting effect wildlife underpasses and overpasses have been built along major roads including the Trans-Canada Highway, Canada’s primary east-west transportation route. The highway runs through Banff, Canada’s oldest national park which is home to an array of wildlife, including two species of bear.

The researchers studied 20 of the 25 bear crossings along the Trans-Canada Highway using hair-snagging traps.

Through collecting thousands of hair samples over their three year study the team were able to identify hundred of bears including 15 grizzlies and 17 black bears who crossed, sometimes frequently, the Trans-Canada Highway. They found that bear populations were not isolated on either side of the road and that male and female bears from both species were using crossings to successful migrate, breed and carry genes over the road.

The team behind this study say young bears may be learning to use the crossings from their mothers.

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New Edmontosaurus dinosaur discovery


This video is called Scientists Discover Duck Billed Dinosaur And An Unusual ‘Fleshy Comb’.

By Emily Chung, CBC News in Canada:

Alberta dinosaur’s head adorned with fleshy comb

Other dinosaurs may have looked quite different from what bones alone show

Dec 12, 2013 11:02 AM ET

An unusually well-preserved fossil of a duck-billed dinosaur has revealed a body part never seen before on any dinosaur.

The Edmontosaurus regalis specimen found west of Grand Prairie, Alta., last year had a soft, fleshy comb on its head, similar to those found on roosters.

“It’s a structure that was completely unexpected,” said Victoria Arbour, a University of Alberta paleontologist who co-authored the scientific paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, describing the new fossil.

“It kind of makes us wonder what other dinosaurs might have had.”

Edmontosaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur with a duck-like bill that grew to be 12 metres long — about the length of a bus. It was thought to have roamed North America in herds during the late Cretaceous, about 75 and 65 million years ago, and belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs, which were the most common dinosaurs on the continent at the time.

Fossils typically only preserve the bones of an animal, not fleshy structures such as a rooster’s comb or an elephant‘s trunk.

Phil Bell, lead author of the paper, said the new findings are “equivalent to discovering for the first time that elephants had trunks.”

Bell, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, added in a statement, “These findings dramatically alter our perception of the appearance and behaviour of this well-known dinosaur.”

In particular, the existence of the comb adds to evidence that Edmontosaurus was a social animal, as ornaments like combs and crests are typically used for communication among animals such as roosters, especially in relation to competition for females.

“We might imagine a pair of male Edmontosaurus sizing each other up, bellowing, and showing off their head gear to see who was the dominant male and who is in charge of the herd,” Bell said.

Bell was a paleontologist with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum currently under construction in Grand Prairie, Alta., when he uncovered the fossil last summer with geologist Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna. The museum is named after a renowned University of Alberta dinosaur expert who also co-authored the new paper.

Not a true mummy

It was a rare fossil type of fossil that paleontologists describe as “mummified.” Arbour said such fossils aren’t true mummies, in which flesh is preserved under very dry conditions.

Rather, they are simply well-preserved fossils in which the bones are in the same positions relative to each other that they would have been in life, with impressions of the skin preserved on top.

At the time Edmontosaurus roamed Alberta, its habitat was actually a subtropical, swampy coastal area, Arbour said.

It’s not clear what conditions lead the preservation of skin impressions, she added, but it likely involves the animals dying in a flood and being quickly buried by sand or mud.

She added that even when skin impressions are preserved, they are often only visible in certain lighting or when the rock breaks a certain way, which may be why combs hadn’t been noticed on earlier “mummified” Edmontosaurus fossils.

“It’s something that’s kind of easy to miss.”

Such impressions would have been lost from the fossils when paleontologists later cleaned the rock away from the bone.

While earlier hadrosaurs had bony crests, researchers thought the crest had been completely lost in Edmontosaurus. The new discovery suggests that, in fact, the dinosaurs’ crests had changed, but remained an important feature.

Bell said it also suggests that similar structures may have been missed in other dinosaurs.

“There’s no reason that other strange fleshy structures couldn’t have been present on a whole range of other dinosaurs, including T. rex or Triceratops.”

See also here.

Alberta dinosaur brought to life by NAIT students. Digital media students give flesh and feathers to bare bones of Drumheller fossil find: here.

Rare northern hawk-owl in Dutch city


This video from Canada says about itself:

Northern Hawk Owl

Grand Valley and Larsen Pasture Roads, near the gate of Direct Energy (north access) gas well, NW of Cochrane, Alberta – April 20, 2012.

Recently, there was a report on this blog, about a Finnish canoeist saving a drowning northern hawk-owl.

Today, more northern hawk-owl news: an individual of this species, very rare in western Europe, is now in Zwolle city in the Netherlands.

Dutch Bird Alerts reports that it is easiest to see the bird from the local BP petrol station.

Let us all hope that the owl will not drown in BP oil, like happened to Gulf of Mexico seabirds

Here is a photo of birdwatchers which came to see this bird.