New dinosaur species from Thailand


This video is about dinosaurs at the 1st Geological Adventure Tour Festival 2017 which was held in Lumpini Park, Bangkok, Thailand.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Thai dinosaur is a cousin of T. rex

Researchers identify fossils found 30 years ago

May 28, 2019

Scientists from the University of Bonn and the Sirindhorn Museum in Thailand have identified two new dinosaur species. They analyzed fossil finds that were already discovered 30 years ago in Thailand. Both species are distant relatives of T. rex, but with a somewhat more primitive structure. They were efficient predators. The results have now been published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Three decades ago a Thai museum employee discovered some fossilized bones during excavations. He handed them over to the Sirindhorn Museum, where they were never examined in detail. “Five years ago I came across these finds during my research,” explains Adun Samathi. The Thai paleontologist is currently doing his doctorate at the Steinmann Institute of Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology at the University of Bonn. He brought some casts of the fossils here to analyze them together with his doctoral supervisor Prof. Dr. Martin Sander using state-of-the-art methods.

The results take a new look at the history of the megaraptors (“giant thieves”). The relatives of this group of carnivorous predatory dinosaurs include the Tyrannosaurus rex. Like the T. rex, they ran on their hind legs. Unlike the tyrant lizard, however, their arms were strong and armed with long claws. They also had more delicate heads that ended in a long snout. “We were able to assign the bones to a novel megaraptor, which we baptized Phuwiangvenator yaemniyomi,” explains Samathi. The name is reminiscent on the one hand of the location, the Phuwiang district, and on the other hand of the discoverer of the first Thai dinosaur fossil, Sudham Yaemniyom.

Phuwiangvenator and Vayuraptor were fast and dangerous predators. Although only half as long as its relative, the T. rex, Phuwiangvenator almost reached the size of an Asian elephant. © Adun Samathi/Uni of Bonn

Phuwiangvenator was probably a fast runner. With a length of about six meters, it was considerably smaller than the T. rex, who measured about twelve meters. Megaraptors have so far been discovered mainly in South America and Australia. “We have compared the Thai fossils with the finds there,” says Samathi. “Various characteristics of Phuwiangvenator indicate that it is an early representative of this group. We take this as an indication that the megaraptors originated in Southeast Asia and then spread to other regions.”

During his research in Thailand, the doctoral student discovered further unidentified fossils. They also belong to a predatory dinosaur, which was a bit smaller with a length of about 4.5 meters. The material was not sufficient to clarify the exact ancestry. However, scientists assume that smaller dinosaur, named Vayuraptor nongbualamphuenisis, is also related to Phuwiangvenator and T. rex. “Perhaps the situation can be compared with that of African big cats,” explains Samathi. “If Phuwiangvenator were a lion, Vayuraptor would be a cheetah.”

The two new predatory dinosaurs will be presented to the public today on the tenth anniversary of the Sirindhorn Museum. With blue-blooded support: The event will be opened by the Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

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Bedbugs’ dinosaur age origins


This April 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Bedbugs have pestered us for centuries. These bedbug fossils were recently recovered from Paisley Caves, Oregon, the site of the oldest dated archaeological human remains in North America, and are approximately 9,400 years old.

Bedbugs nearly vanished in the United States during the 1940s and ’50s due to improved hygiene … but are on the rise again due to global travel and a increasing resistance to common pesticides.

A new study finds that bedbugs — just like flies and other insects — have favorite colors. They really like dark red and black, and they shun dazzling white and bright yellow. These apple seed-sized insects probably instinctively prefer black and red shelters over white and yellow ones because they offer better protection from predators such as ants and spiders, Pereira said.

By Jennifer Leman, 1:47pm, May 16, 2019:

Bloodthirsty bedbugs have feasted on prey for 100 million years

New genetic analyses reveal the insects evolved from at least the Cretaceous

The first bedbug infestations may have occurred in the beds of Cretaceous critters.

Scientists previously assumed bloodsuckers’ first hosts were bats. But a new genetic analysis of 34 bedbug species reveals that bedbugs appeared 30 million to 50 million years before the nocturnal mammals, says Michael Siva-Jothy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sheffield in England, and his colleagues.

The analysis, published online May 16 in Current Biology, pegs the emergence of ancient bedbugs at more than 100 million years ago. It also fleshes out more of the pests’ history. For instance, two bedbug species that humans are most familiar with didn’t evolve just to plague us. The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) and the tropical bedbug (C. hemipterus) emerged around 47 million years ago, long before early human ancestors meandered into bedbug-infested caves, the team found (SN Online: 4/10/17).

The new study “puts the Cimicidae family on the map in terms of understanding its diversity, understanding its evolutionary history in a way that no other previous studies had,” says Zach Adelman, a molecular geneticist at Texas A&M University in College Station, who was not involved in the study.

To build a collection of bedbug specimens, a global network of scientists plucked insects from damp caves and dusty museum exhibits over 15 years. For each species, researchers looked at four genes known to mutate at a constant rate, like an evolutionary timekeeper. The team then calibrated that data with the known fossil records from two insects — an ancient species of bedbug and a closely related insect species — to create its timeline.

The genetic analysis can’t say what Cretaceous critters ancient bedbugs snacked on. But a computer simulation and modern-day behavior — bedbugs prefer hosts that sleep for long periods in one place — suggest that the insects probably fed on small mammals and birds.

Using the feeding habits of modern bedbugs, the team also mapped the likeliest hosts their ancestors would have preyed on. It found that bedbugs were initially picky eaters that preyed on only one type of mammal or bird. Some bedbug lineages continue to dine on a single host. But over time, some swapped furry for feathered prey, and a few even broadened their palate to include a variety of hosts, including humans.

Small Tyrannosaur relative discovered


This 6 May 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

I attended the press conference this morning at the Arizona Museum of Natural History where I volunteer in Mesa, AZ announcing a new species of tyrannosaur, Suskityrannus hazelea, which means Hazel’s Coyote Tyrant. Suski is the word for coyote in the Zuni language from the area where the discovery was made on the border of Arizona and New Mexico.

The speakers are Museum Director Tom Wilson, Hazel Wolfe (namesake), Paleontologist Doug Wolfe, Curator of Paleontology Dr. Robert McCord, Paleo Artist Benji Paysnoe, and Curator of Education Alison Stoltman. Dr. Sterling Nesbitt was just 16 years old when he discovered the first fossil specimens of this species while on a dig with Doug Wolfe and the Southwest Paleontological Society.

I can’t stress enough the importance that organizations like that have in promoting Citizen Science and how they have lead to many new discoveries. Please check out my video on Citizen Science at the link. It also features other dinosaur discoveries here in Arizona.

From Virginia Tech in the USA:

New 3-foot-tall relative of Tyrannosaurus rex

May 6, 2019

Summary: ‘Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet,’ said Sterling Nesbit.

A new relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex — much smaller than the huge, ferocious dinosaur made famous in countless books and films, including, yes, “Jurassic Park” — has been discovered and named by a Virginia Tech paleontologist and an international team of scientists.

The newly named tyrannosauroid dinosaur — Suskityrannus hazelae — stood roughly 3 feet tall at the hip and was about 9 feet in length, the entire animal only marginally longer than just the skull of a fully grown Tyrannosaurus rex, according to Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor with Department of Geosciences in the Virginia Tech College of Science. In a wild twist to this discovery, Nesbitt found the fossil at age 16 whilst a high school student participating in a dig expedition in New Mexico in 1998, led by Doug Wolfe, an author on the paper.

In all, Suskityrannus hazelae is believed to have weighed between 45 and 90 pounds. The typical weight for a full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex is roughly 9 tons. Its diet likely consisted of the same as its larger meat-eating counterpart, with Suskityrannus hazelae likely hunting small animals, although what it hunted is unknown. The dinosaur was at least 3 years old at death based on an analysis of its growth from its bones.

The fossil dates back 92 million years to the Cretaceous Period, a time when some of the largest dinosaurs ever found lived.

“Suskityrannus gives us a glimpse into the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they take over the planet,” Nesbitt said. “It also belongs to a dinosaurian fauna that just proceeds the iconic dinosaurian faunas in the latest Cretaceous that include some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as the Triceratops, predators like Tyrannosaurus rex, and duckbill dinosaurs like Edmo[n]tosaurus.”

The findings are published in the latest online issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution. In describing the new find, Nesbitt said, “Suskityrannus has a much more slender skull and foot than its later and larger cousins, the Tyrannosaurus rex. The find also links the older and smaller tyrannosauroids from North America and China with the much larger tyrannosaurids that lasted until the final extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.

(Tyrannosaurus rex small arm jokes abound. So, if you’re wondering how small the arms of Suskityrannus were, Nesbitt and his team are not exactly sure. No arm fossils of either specimen were found, but partial hand claws were found. And, they are quite small. Also not known: If Suskityrannus had two or three fingers.)

Two partial skeletons were found. The first included a partial skull that was found in 1997 by Robert Denton, now a senior geologist with Terracon Consultants, and others in the Zuni Basin of western New Mexico during an expedition organized by Zuni Paleontological Project leader Doug Wolfe.

The second, more complete specimen was found in 1998 by Nesbitt, then a high school junior with a burgeoning interest in paleontology, and Wolfe, with assistance in collection by James Kirkland, now of the Utah Geological Survey. “Following Sterling out to see his dinosaur, I was amazed at how complete a skeleton was lying exposed at the site,” Kirkland said.

For much of the 20 years since the fossils were uncovered, the science team did not know what they had.

“Essentially, we didn’t know we had a cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex for many years,” Nesbitt said. He added the team first thought they had the remains of a dromaeosaur, such as Velociraptor. During the late 1990s, close relatives [of] Tyrannosaurus rex simply were not known or not recognized. Since then, more distant cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex, such as Dilong paradoxus, have been found across Asia.

The fossil remains were found near other dinosaurs, along with the remains of fish, turtles, mammals, lizards, and crocodilians. From 1998 until 2006, the fossils remain[ed] stored at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, Arizona. After 2006, Nesbitt brought the fossils with him through various postings as student and researcher in New York, Texas, Illinois, and now Blacksburg. He credits the find, and his interactions with the team members on the expedition, as the start of his career.

“My discovery of a partial skeleton of Suskityrannus put me onto a scientific journey that has framed my career,” said Nesbitt, also a member of the Virginia Tech Global Change Center. “I am now an assistant professor that gets to teach about Earth history.”

The name Suskityrannus hazelae is derived from “Suski”, the Zuni Native American tribe word for “coyote,” and from the Latin word ‘tyrannus’ meaning king and ‘hazelae’ for Hazel Wolfe, whose support made possible many successful fossil expeditions in the Zuni Basin. Nesbitt said permission was granted from the Zuni Tribal Council to use the word “Suski”.

Duck-billed dinosaurs, new research


This 2018 video is called Hadrosaurs Size Comparison.

From the University of Bristol in England:

Chewing versus sex in duck-billed dinosaurs

Evolutionary bursts led to weird and wonderful head crests

May 2, 2019

The duck-billed hadrosaurs walked the Earth over 90 million years ago and were one of the most successful groups of dinosaurs. But why were these 2-3 tonne giants so successful? A new study, published in Paleobiology, shows that their special adaptations in teeth and jaws and in their head crests were crucial, and provides new insights into how these innovations evolved.

Called the ‘sheep of the Mesozoic’ as they filled the landscape in the Late Cretaceous period, hadrosaurs walked on their hind legs and were known for their powerful jaws with multiple rows of extremely effective teeth. They also had hugely varied head display crests that signalled which species each belonged to and were used to attract mates. Some even trumpeted and tooted their special call, using nasal passages through the head crests.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and the Catalan Institute of Paleontology in Barcelona used a large database describing morphological variety in hadrosaur fossils and computational methods that quantify morphological variety and the pace of evolution.

Dr Tom Stubbs, lead author of the study and a researcher from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “Our study shows that the unique hadrosaur feeding apparatus evolved fast in a single burst, and once established, showed very little change. In comparison, the elaborate display crests kept diversifying in several bursts of evolution, giving rise to the many weird and wonderful shapes.”

Professor Mike Benton, the study’s co-author from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, added, “Variation in anatomy can arise in many ways. We wanted to compare the two famous hadrosaur innovations, and by doing so, provide new insights into the evolution of this important dinosaur group. New numerical methods allow us to test these kinds of complex evolutionary hypotheses.”

“Our methods allowed us to identify branches on the hadrosaur evolutionary tree that showed rapid evolution in different parts of the skeleton,” said co-author Dr Armin Elsler. “When we looked at the jaws and teeth, we only saw fast evolution on a single branch at the base of the group. On the other hand, the bones that form the display crests showed multiple fast rate branches.”

Dr Albert Prieto-Márquez, co-author and world-leading expert on hadrosaurs from the Catalan Institute of Paleontology in Barcelona, added: “Our results suggest that evolution can be driven in different ways by natural selection and sexual selection. Hadrosaurs apparently fixed on a feeding apparatus that was successful and did not require massive modification to process their food. On the other hand, sexual selection drove the evolution of more complex crest shapes, and this is reflected by multiple evolutionary bursts.”

Strange dinosaur age crab discovery


This video says about itself:

Researchers discovered a ‘platypus of the sea.’ It’s cute — but it’s extinct

On April 24 [2019], scientists announced the discovery of “Callichimaera perplexa”, a new species of crab that lived 95 million years ago.

From Yale University in the USA:

Meet Callichimaera perplexa, the platypus of crabs

April 24, 2019

The crab family just got a bunch of new cousins — including a 95-million-year-old chimera species that will force scientists to rethink the definition of a crab.

An international team of researchers led by Yale paleontologist Javier Luque announced the discovery of hundreds of exceptionally well-preserved specimens from Colombia and the United States that date back to the mid-Cretaceous period of 90-95 million years ago. The cache includes hundreds of tiny comma shrimp fossils, several true shrimp, and an entirely new branch of the evolutionary tree for crabs.

The most intriguing discovery, according to the researchers, is Callichimaera perplexa, the earliest example of a swimming arthropod with paddle-like legs since the extinction of sea scorpions more than 250 million years ago. The name derives from a chimera, a mythological creature that has body features from more than one animal. Callichimaera’s full name translates into “perplexing beautiful chimera.”

Luque noted that Callichimaera’s “unusual and cute” appearance, including its small size — about the size of a quarter — large compound eyes with no sockets, bent claws, leg-like mouth parts, exposed tail, and long body are features typical of pelagic crab larvae. This suggests that several of the larval traits seen in this “perplexing chimera” might have been retained and amplified in miniaturized adults via changes in the timing and rates of development. This is a process called “heterochrony,” which may lead to the evolution of novel body plans.

“Callichimaera perplexa is so unique and strange that it can be considered the platypus of the crab world,” said Luque. “It hints at how novel forms evolve and become so disparate through time. Usually we think of crabs as big animals with broad carapaces, strong claws, small eyes in long eyestalks, and a small tail tucked under the body. Well, Callichimaera defies all of these ‘crabby’ features and forces a re-think of our definition of what makes a crab a crab.”

A study about the discovery appears in the April 24 online edition of the journal Science Advances.

“It is very exciting that today we keep finding completely new branches in the tree of life from a distant past, especially from regions like the tropics, which despite being hotspots of diversity today, are places we know the least about in terms of their past diversity,” Luque said.

Aquatic ankylosaur dinosaur discovery?


This 21 April 2019 video says about itself:

An Aquatic Ankylosaur?

There were once some very strange dinosaurs, but one of the strangest may have been a species of small, possibly fish-eating aquatic ankylosaurLiaoningosaurus paradoxus.

Beetle-ant symbiosis in the dinosaur age


Detailed photos of the newly discovered Promyrmister kistneri beetle's morphology through its amber encasement. Credit: Courtesy of the Parker laboratory / eLife

From the California Institute of Technology in the USA:

These beetles have successfully freeloaded for 100 million years

Ancient beetle infiltrated earliest-known ant colonies like its modern relatives

April 17, 2019

Summary: An ancient and rare beetle fossil is the oldest example of a social relationship between two animal species.

Almost 100 million years ago, a tiny and misfortunate beetle died after wandering into a sticky glob of resin leaking from a tree in a region near present-day Southeast Asia. Fossilized in amber, this beetle eventually made its way to the desk of entomologist Joe Parker, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech. Parker and his colleagues have now determined that the perfectly preserved beetle fossil is the oldest-known example of an animal in a behaviorally symbiotic relationship.

A paper describing the work appears on April 16 in the journal eLife.

Symbiotic relationships between two species have arisen repeatedly during animal evolution. These relationships range from mutually beneficial associations, like humans and their pet dogs, to the parasitic, like a tapeworm and its host.

Some of the most complex examples of behavioral symbiosis occur between ants and other types of small insects called myrmecophiles — meaning “ant lovers.” Thanks to ants’ abilities to form complex social colonies, they are able to repel predators and amass food resources, making ant nests a highly desirable habitat. Myrmecophiles display elaborate social behaviors and chemical adaptations to deceive ants and live among them, reaping the benefits of a safe environment and plentiful food.

Ants’ social behaviors first appear in the fossil record 99 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, and are believed to have evolved not long before, in the Early Cretaceous. Now, the discovery of a Cretaceous myrmecophile fossil implies that the freeloading insects were already taking advantage of ants’ earliest societies. The finding means that myrmecophiles have been a constant presence among ant colonies from their earliest origins and that this socially parasitic lifestyle can persist over vast expanses of evolutionary time.

“This beetle-ant relationship is the most ancient behavioral symbiosis now known in the animal kingdom,” says Parker. “This fossil shows us that symbiosis can be a very successful long-term survival strategy for animal lineages.”

The fossilized beetle, named Promyrmister kistneri, belongs to a subfamily of “clown” beetles (Haeteriinae), all modern species of which are myrmecophiles. These modern beetles are so specialized for life among ants that they will die without their ant hosts and have evolved extreme adaptations for infiltrating colonies. The beetles are physically well protected by a thick tank-like body plan and robust appendages, and they can mimic their host ants’ nest pheromones, allowing them to disguise themselves in the colony. They also secrete compounds that are thought to be pacifying or attractive to ants, helping the beetles gain the acceptance of their aggressive hosts. The fossilized Promyrmister is a similarly sturdy insect, with thick legs, a shielded head, and glandular orifices that the researchers theorize exuded chemicals to appease its primitive ant hosts.

Depending on another species so heavily for survival has its risks; indeed, an extinction of the host species would be catastrophic for the symbiont. The similarities between the fossilized beetle and its modern relatives suggest that the particular adaptations of myrmecophile clown beetles first evolved inside colonies of early “stem group” ants, which are long extinct. Due to Promyrmister’s remarkable similarity to modern clown beetles, Parker and his collaborators infer that the beetles must have “host switched” to colonies of modern ants to avoid undergoing extinction themselves. This adaptability of symbiotic organisms to move between partner species during evolution may be essential for the long-term stability of these intricate interspecies relationships.