Fort McMurray, Canada wildfire disaster continues

This video says about itself:

Wildfires Force Canadian City Evacuation

6 May 2016

Nearly all Fort McMurray‘s 90,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes due to several wildfires that are ravaging their city since Sunday.

The huge wildfire that has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray—the northern Alberta city that is the hub of Canada’s tar-sands oil industry—continued to rage uncontrollably yesterday: here.

Fort McMurray teacher describes chaotic evacuation: here.

Plesiosaur discovery in Alberta, Canada

Plesiosaur skeleton

In Alberta, Canada, a fossil plesiosaur from the Cretaceous age has been discovered in November 2011: here.

Talking about fossils: Oldest Hairy Microbe Fossils Discovered.

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.