Cambrian trilobites from China, new research

This American Museum of Natural History video from the USA says about itself:

Niles Eldredge: Trilobites and Punctuated Equilibria

17 December 2015

In the late 1960s, Curator Emeritus Niles Eldredge was a graduate student with a passion for trilobite eyes. He had been taught to expect slow and steady change between the specimens of these Devonian arthropods he collected for his dissertation. Only his trilobites were doing one of two things: staying the same, or evolving in leaps.

Several years later, Eldredge, along with co-author Stephen Jay Gould, turned his observations into a theory known as “punctuated equilibria”: the idea that species stay relatively the same, or at equilibrium, throughout the fossil record save for rare bursts of evolutionary change.

A former Chairman and Curator of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, Eldredge remains at the hub of evolutionary discussion and debate, as well as one of the world’s experts on trilobites, specializing in mid-Paleozoic phacopids. He has also analyzed the relationship between global extinctions of the geologic past and the present-day biodiversity crisis, as well as the general relationship between extinction and evolution.

Learn more about Trilobites: here.

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Early trilobites had stomachs, new fossil study finds

Remarkable Chinese specimens contradict previous assumptions about trilobite digestive systems and evolution

September 21, 2017

Exceptionally preserved trilobite fossils from China, dating back to more than 500 million years ago, have revealed new insights into the extinct marine animal’s digestive system. Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, the new study shows that at least two trilobite species evolved a stomach structure 20 million years earlier than previously thought.

“Trilobites are one of the first types of animals to show up in large numbers in the fossil record,” said lead author Melanie Hopkins, an assistant curator in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “Their exoskeletons were heavy in minerals, and so they preserved really well. But like all fossils, it’s very rare to see the preservation of soft tissues like organs or appendages in trilobites, and because of this, our knowledge of the trilobite digestive system comes from a small number of specimens. The new material in this study really expands our understanding.”

Trilobites are a group of extinct marine arthropods — distantly related to the horseshoe crab — that lived for almost 300 million years. They were extremely diverse, with about 20,000 species, and their fossil exoskeletons can be found all around the world. Most of the 270 specimens analyzed in the new study were collected from a quarry in southern Kunming, China, during an excavation led by Hopkins’ co-author, Zhifei Zhang, from Northwest University in Xi’an.

Previous research suggests that two body plans existed for trilobite digestive systems: a tube that runs down the length of the trilobite’s body with lateral digestive glands that would have helped process the food; or an expanded stomach, called a “crop,” leading into a simple tube with no lateral glands. Until now, only the first type had been reported from the oldest trilobites. Based on this, researchers had proposed that the evolution of the crop came later in trilobite evolutionary history and represented a distinct type of digestive system.

The Chinese trilobite fossils, about 20 percent of which have soft tissue preservation, are dated to the early Cambrian, about 514 million years ago. Contradictory to the previously proposed body plans, the researchers identified crops in two different species within this material. In addition, they found a single specimen that has both a crop and digestive glands — suggesting that the evolution of trilobite digestive systems is more complex than originally proposed.

The study backs up an earlier announcement made by a separate research team, which found evidence for the unusual crop and gland pairing in a single juvenile trilobite specimen from Sweden from the late Cambrian. But the Chinese material presents the oldest example of this complex digestive system in a mature trilobite, wiping away doubts that the dual structures might just be part of the animal’s early development.

“This is a very rigorous study based on multiple specimens, and it shows that we should start thinking about this aspect of trilobite biology and evolution in a different way,” Hopkins said.


Jurassic ‘flying’ mammals discovery

This video says about itself:

Flying Squirrel | World’s Weirdest

9 January 2013

Flying isn’t just for the birds. A stretchy membrane and rudder-like tail help this little mammal sail through the treetops, avoiding land-bound predators with ease.

From the University of Chicago Medical Center in the USA:

First winged mammals from the Jurassic period discovered

160-million-year-old fossils suggest a new model of life — gliding — for the forerunners of mammals, in an evolutionary parallel to modern mammal gliders

August 9, 2017

Two 160 million-year-old mammal fossils discovered in China show that the forerunners of mammals in the Jurassic Period evolved to glide and live in trees. With long limbs, long hand and foot fingers, and wing-like membranes for tree-to-tree gliding, Maiopatagium furculiferum and Vilevolodon diplomylos are the oldest known gliders in the long history of early mammals.

The new discoveries suggest that the volant, or flying, way of life evolved among mammalian ancestors 100 million years earlier than the first modern mammal fliers. The fossils are described in two papers published this week in Nature by an international team of scientists from the University of Chicago and Beijing Museum of Natural History.

“These Jurassic mammals are truly ‘the first in glide,'” said Zhe-Xi Luo, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and an author on both papers. “In a way, they got the first wings among all mammals.”

“With every new mammal fossil from the Age of Dinosaurs, we continue to be surprised by how diverse mammalian forerunners were in both feeding and locomotor adaptations. The groundwork for mammals’ successful diversification today appears to have been laid long ago,” he said.

Adaptations in anatomy, lifestyle and diet

The ability to glide in the air is one of the many remarkable adaptations in mammals. Most mammals live on land, but volant mammals, including flying squirrels and bats that flap bird-like wings, made an important transition between land and aerial habitats. The ability to glide between trees allowed the ancient animals to find food that was inaccessible to other land animals. That evolutionary advantage can still be seen among today’s mammals such as flying squirrels in North America and Asia, scaly-tailed gliders of Africa, marsupial sugar gliders of Australia and colugos of Southeast Asia.

Maiopatagium reconstruction, © April I. Neander, University of Chicago

The Jurassic Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon are stem mammaliaforms, long-extinct relatives of living mammals. They are haramiyidans, an entirely extinct branch on the mammalian evolutionary tree, but are considered to be among forerunners to modern mammals. Both fossils show the exquisitely fossilized, wing-like skin membranes between their front and back limbs. They also show many skeletal features in their shoulder joints and forelimbs that gave the ancient animals the agility to be capable gliders. Evolutionarily, the two fossils, discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation northeast of Beijing, China, represent the earliest examples of gliding behavior among extinct mammal ancestors.

The two newly discovered creatures also share similar ecology with modern gliders, with some significant differences. Today, the hallmark of most mammal gliders is their herbivorous diet that typically consists of seeds, fruits and other soft parts of flowering plants.

But Maiopatagium and Vilevolodon lived in a Jurassic world where the plant life was dominated by ferns and gymnosperm plants like cycads, gingkoes and conifers — long before flowering plants came to dominate in the Cretaceous Period, and their way of life was also associated with feeding on these entirely different plants. This distinct diet and lifestyle evolved again some 100 million years later among modern mammals, in examples of convergent evolution and ecology.

“It’s amazing that the aerial adaptions occurred so early in the history of mammals,” said study co-author David Grossnickle, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. “Not only did these fossils show exquisite fossilization of gliding membranes, their limb, hand and foot proportion also suggests a new gliding locomotion and behavior.”

Thriving among dinosaurs

Early mammals were once thought to have differences in anatomy from each other, with limited opportunities to inhabit different environments. The new glider fossils from the dinosaur-dominated Jurassic Period, along with numerous other fossils described by Luo and colleagues in the last 10 years, however, provide strong evidence that ancestral mammals adapted to their wide-ranging environments despite competition from dinosaurs.

“Mammals are more diverse in lifestyles than other modern land vertebrates, but we wanted to find out whether early forerunners to mammals had diversified in the same way,” Luo said. “These new fossil gliders are the first winged mammals, and they demonstrate that early mammals did indeed have a wide range of ecological diversity, which means dinosaurs likely did not dominate the Mesozoic landscape as much as previously thought.”

Big protest against French policeman killing Chinese man for preparing fish

This video from France says about itself:

30 March 2017

Members of the Parisian Chinese community held a vigil mourning the death of 56-year-old Liu Shaoyo, who was shot dead by police, Thursday. The vigil was followed by a peaceful protest.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Thousands protest police murder of Liu Shaoyo in Paris

4 April 2017

Around 8,000 people joined a protest held in Paris on Sunday by Asian organizations against the murder of Chinese immigrant Liu Shaoyo on March 26 by police. Protesters were also defying a reactionary media campaig, launched by French domestic intelligence services, insinuating that their opposition to the extra-judicial execution of the 56-year-old father of five children is simply a state operation launched by China.

A banner was stretched around the statue in the center of Republic Square, that read “Police killers, we want justice.” Protesters carried banners that read “Truth, justice, dignity” or “I love France.”

One youth, Chen Hui, told the press that he had come to the protest “so as not to be the next one to be killed by a policeman,” adding that he feared that the Asian community would now be a “target” of police violence.

Sacha Lin-Jung, one of the organizers of the protest who also leads the “Chinese Living in France” non-governmental organization (NGO), wrote on Twitter: “Police violence affects all French people. We are raising our voices today in order to fulfill our responsibilities.” He added that the goal of the demonstration was to “put pressure and support the family, to establish the truth and to struggle against police violence.”

The murder, coming only weeks after the police rape of Théo in the working class district of Aulnay-sous-Bois, points to the rapid rise of police brutality against people of all ethnic origins under France’s state of emergency.

According to Liu’s daughters, police battered down the door to their apartment in a popular neighborhood of Paris and, without warning, shot their father, who had scissors in his hands to cut up a fish he was cooking. They say Liu made no physical contact with police.

Police presented multiple versions of events, without ever explaining why they shot Liu. First, it claimed that he took his scissors and attacked one of the policemen, wounding him and forcing him to go to the hospital in a “relatively urgent state.” Then it declared that in fact, the policeman had not been wounded at all, and that his bullet-proof vest stopped Liu’s scissors. However, neither account explains why police would have had to shoot and kill Liu.

The incident compelled the Chinese government to publicly ask France to protect its citizens on French soil and to also “fully bring to light what happened in this matter.”

French domestic intelligence has reacted to the popular protests by launching a reactionary media campaign, seeking to discredit the Liu family’s supporters, and more broadly all the organizations in the Chinese community hostile to police violence—which it implies are agents either of Beijing or the Chinese mob.

On March 30, Le Parisien published an article summarizing a note of the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI). It reportedly alleges that the Chinese mob, including a “big fish” tied to prostitution and gambling, is trying to “infiltrate” the protests. It also claimed that “someone close to the Chinese Communist Party and a secret agent, both of whom have infiltrated the NGO movement in France,” were joining the protests because “Beijing is very nervous about the operations of mafia networks.”

At the same time, according to Le Parisien, the DGSI complained that protesters were rejecting all accusations that they were being manipulated by Beijing or the mob: “Indeed, the movement is gathering many young people, who are very militant, and who do not want to hear anything about Beijing’s influence or mafia groups.”

The next day, FranceInfo published extracts from another DGSI briefing which, this time, placed the blame squarely on “the Chinese authorities,” which it said are “actively implicated in leading the protests.” The passages cited from this note sought to whip up suspicion and hysteria against the protesters. It added that Chinese NGOs in France “are very directly manipulated by Chinese diplomatic and consular authorities” and “seem unusually mobilized.”

The Liu family’s lawyer, Calvin Job, rejected the intelligence services’ insinuations against the protesters, calling them “defamatory.”

“This is the response we see systematically whenever there is an issue of police violence,” Job noted. “Considering the recent cases, like that of Théo, when they began to really attract attention, then things came out about a supposed abusive use of public funds by the family of the young Théo. Today, they want to make us believe that, since the citizens of the Chinese community are not sufficiently mature to organize themselves and to protest the injustices they are suffering, they are necessarily being manipulated!”

These attempts to establish an amalgam between the Republic Square protest and the activities of spies and the mob is a sinister and absurd provocation, aiming essentially to de-legitimize and ultimately illegalize all opposition to police violence and the state of emergency in France.

An innocent man was murdered by police and people of all ethnic origins in cities and suburbs across France fear they could be next. By throwing accusations against one or another NGO, without presenting any proof but simply on the say-so of unidentified intelligence officials, the security forces are trying to discredit the legitimate anger of the thousands who have exercised their constitutionally-protected right to protest.

Class tensions are explosive in France and across Europe. Tens of millions of European workers are unemployed; the PS government is deeply unpopular after having crushed protests against its retrogressive labor law; and France has been under a semi-permanent state of emergency that has suspended basic democratic rights for a year and a half. However, according to France’s spies, social anger and opposition today are the fault of Chinese agents!

The security forces’ decision to present such arguments must be taken as a warning to working people. Aware of the social gulf separating the elite from the masses, they are preparing arguments that equate all protest with treason and would thus justify banning protests and any NGO or organization that they consider to be an obstacle. Ultimately it is a sign of the deep political crisis in France, and of the panic and isolation of the ruling class.

French police kills Chinese man for preparing food

This 30 March 2017 video is called France: Chinese Parisians demand justice for police shooting of Liu Shaoyo.

In France, there is police violence against Algerians. And against sub-Saharan Africans. And against Roma.

And against Asians as well, it seems.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Paris protests after death of Chinese man by police bullet continue

Today, 15:46

The Chinese Foreign Ministry complains to France about the death of a Chinese resident of Paris. “We want as soon as possible a thorough investigation of this,” said a spokesperson in Beijing.

On Sunday Shaoyo Liu at his home in northeast Paris was killed by a policeman who came to what seemed like a family quarrel. The 56-year-old Liu is said to have brandished a pair of scissors, and the undercover policeman ‘in self defence’ drew his weapon. The man’s family says he was filleting fish with the scissors and never hurt anyone.


The incident led to much unrest in the Chinese community in Paris. Last night many Asians took to the streets to protest against police violence. They shouted “murderers” and formed with candles on the street the words ‘opposition to violence’.

… At least 35 people were arrested.

This afternoon there was again unrest when about a hundred Asians came together and called “the killer must be punished.” The French Foreign Ministry said that an investigation has been launched about what took place Sunday in the home of Liu.

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.”

Dinosaur discoveries in China

This video says about itself:

Zhejiang Museum of Natural History – Hangzhou – Zhejiang – China


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.

Giant otter fossil discovery in China

This video from the USA says about itself:

23 January 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator of paleobotany and paleoecology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, discusses the discovery of a new species of prehistoric otter, named Siamogale melilutra.

From Science News:

Ancient otter of unusual size unearthed in China

by Meghan Rosen

5:13pm, January 24, 2017

Fossils of a giant otter have emerged from the depths of an open-pit mine in China.

The crushed cranium, jaw bone and partial skeletons of at least three animals belong to a now-extinct species of otter that lived some 6.2 million years ago, scientists report January 23 in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

At roughly 50 kilograms in weight, the otter would have outclassed today’s giant otter, a river-dwelling South American mammal weighing in at around 34 kilograms. Scientists named the new species Siamogale melilutra, a nod to its unusual mix of badger and otter features. Melilutra is a mash-up of the Latin words for both creatures.

Badgers and otters both belong to a group of carnivorous animals called Mustelidae, but scientists have had trouble figuring out where to place extinct members in the mammalian family tree. (European badgers and modern otters share similar-looking teeth and skulls.) Still, Siamogale melilutra, however badgerlike, is indeed an otter, researchers concluded after CT scanning, reconstructing and analyzing the fossil skull.

Based on plant and animal fossils found near the collection site, scientists believe that the ancient otter probably lived in the shallow lake of a warm and humid swamp, lush with broad-leaved evergreens and grasses.