Hadrosaur dinosaur discovery in Alaska

This video from the USA says about itself:

Research Team Discovers ‘Lost World’ of Cold Weather Dinosaurs

22 September 2015

A collaborative team between Florida State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks has spent the last five years digging in a remote bone-bed of dinosaur remains in the remote Prince Creek Formation in Alaska. FSU Professor Gregory Erickson is excited for the new species of duck-billed dinosaurs uncovered in the dig and believes it opens up a lost province of Arctic adapted dinosaurs. The new dino, Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, is closely related to Edmontosaurus, another duck-billed dinosaur found further south near Alberta, Montana, and South Dakota, but several structural differences in adult skeletons helped Erickson and Pat Druckenmiller of the University of Alaska Fairbanks determine it is in fact a different species.

From the University of Alaska Fairbanks:

22 September 2015

New hadrosaur species discovered on Alaska’s North Slope

Research team finds evidence for ‘lost world’ of cold weather dinosaurs

Researchers working with specimens at the University of Alaska Museum of the North have described a new species of hadrosaur, a type of duck-billed dinosaur that once roamed the North Slope of Alaska in herds, living in darkness for months at a time and probably experiencing snow. Ugrunaaluk (oo-GREW-na-luck) kuukpikensis (KOOK-pik-en-sis) grew up to 30 feet long and was a superb chewer with hundreds of individual teeth well-suited for eating coarse vegetation.

Earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller said the majority of the bones used in the study came from the Liscomb Bone Bed, a fossil-rich layer along the Colville River in the Prince Creek Formation, a unit of rock deposited on the Arctic flood plain about 69 million years ago.

“Today we find these animals in polar latitudes,” Druckenmiller said. “Amazingly, they lived even farther north during the Cretaceous Period. These were the northern-most dinosaurs to have lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. They were truly polar.”

The name, which means ancient grazer, was a collaborative effort between scientists and Iñupiaq speakers. Druckenmiller worked with Ronald Brower Sr., an instructor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Language Center, to develop a culturally and geographically appropriate name that honors the native Iñupiaq people who live there today.

Druckenmiller; UAF graduate student Hirotsugu Mori, who completed his doctoral work on the species; and Florida State University’s Gregory Erickson, a researcher who specializes in the use of bone and tooth histology to interpret the paleobiology of dinosaurs, published their findings in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, an international quarterly journal that publishes papers from all areas of paleontology.

Druckenmiller and Erickson have previously published documentation suggesting that during this time period, a distinct, polar fauna existed in what is now northern Alaska. At the time, Arctic Alaska was covered in a polar forest because the climate was much warmer. Since it was so far north, the dinosaurs had to contend with months of winter darkness and snow. “The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur’s physiology,” Erickson said. “It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?”

The fossil site where the discovery was made is named for geologist Robert Liscomb, who found the first dinosaur bones in Alaska while mapping along the Colville River for Shell Oil Company in 1961. At the time, Liscomb did not recognize that the bones were from a dinosaur.

Since then, museum scientists have excavated and cataloged more than 6,000 bones from the new species, primarily small juveniles estimated to have been about 9 feet long and 3 feet tall at the hips. “It appears that a herd of young animals was killed suddenly, wiping out mostly one similar-aged population to create this deposit,” Druckenmiller said.

Currently, there are three named dinosaurs documented from the North Slope, including two plant eaters and one carnivore. However, most of those species are known from incomplete material. “Ugrunaaluk is far and away the most complete dinosaur yet found in the Arctic or any polar region,” Druckenmiller said. “We have multiple elements of every single bone in the body.”

“So far, all dinosaurs from the Prince Creek Formation that we can identify as species are distinct from those found anywhere else. The recognition of Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis provides further evidence that the dinosaurs living in polar latitudes in what is now Alaska were not the same species found from the same time periods in lower latitudes.”

The scientists completed a detailed study of all the different skull bones of this animal and compared them to close relatives. Some features were shared while others, particularly those in the skull and around the mouth, were seen only in the Alaska material. Mori, who is now a curator for the Saikai City Board of Education in Japan, said, “The new species has a unique combination of characteristics not seen in other dinosaurs. It lacks a pocket on the orbital rim, which Edmontosaurus has.”

Old Triceratops dinosaurs, new discoveries

This is a 9 May 2013 video from Wyoming, USA. Triceratops fossils had already been found there. Since then, even more have been found.

Translated from Vroege Vogels TV in the Netherlands:

Triceratops did not live on its own

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 19:07

The excavation by a Naturalis team of five Triceratops skeletons in one location means that the theory about solitary Triceratops should be reviewed. This is the conclusion of paleontologist Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute. “This changes everything. We have always believed that Triceratops lived alone and not in herds or families. Until this excavation,” says Larson on Vroege Vogels TV on Tuesday September 8th 19:20. After the excavations, the bones will be brought to Naturalis in Leiden for further research.

Unique discovery

Peter Larson is present at the excavations by Anne Schulp of Naturalis with his expedition team in Wyoming. Here a number of young and adult specimens have been found. That there are so many of them together makes the discovery unique. The bones are very well preserved. This will ensure that the skeletons will be properly mounted. Concerning Triceratops skeletons, so far worldwide only two individuals had been found which were complete for more than half. Only when the entire excavation will be finished, it will be possible to say exactly how complete the skeletons are. Triceratops lived over 66 million years ago and is a herbivorous dinosaur.

Naturalis will bring the skeletons to Leiden for further research. 2018 will see the Triceratops skeletons in the new permanent exhibition which will include the previously found T. rex.

Naturalis paleontologist Martijn Guliker, a participant in the expedition, writes about discovering hundreds of Triceratops bones, in his blog about this excavation.

Why are dinosaurs extinct? You asked Google – here’s the answer, by Brian Switek: here.

New horned dinosaur species discovered in South Dakota, USA?

This video from the USA is called Dinosaur Discoveries: Protoceratops and other Ceratopsians.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Owner: Dinosaur Skull Thought To Be New Ceratopsian Species

September 8, 2015, 2:18 PM

TOPEKA, KS – The Kansas owner of a dinosaur skull found in 2012 in South Dakota field says the fossil is thought to be a new species and genus of ceratopsian.

The ceratopsians is a family of dinosaurs that lived mostly during the Cretaceous Period and includes the triceratops.

A professional fossil hunter from Buffalo, South Dakota, discovered the skull that was later purchased by Lawrence artist Alan Dietrich.

Dietrich says the skull is “extraordinary” because of the placement of its 17-inch nose horn, plus other unique characteristics. He says he might display it at the Denver Coliseum Mineral, Fossil and Gem Show scheduled for mid-September.

See also here.

Dinosaur discoveries in Spain

Artist's rendering of small dromaeosaur from the South Pyrenees. Credit: Sydney Mohr (artist), University of Alberta

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Big dinosaur discoveries in tiny toothy packages

August 7, 2015

Researchers have examined one of the smallest parts of the fossil record—theropod teeth—to shed light on the evolution of dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Findings published in the prestigious journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica have effectively quadrupled the dinosaur diversity in the area of study, eight localities from Treviño County, Huesca and Lerida—including the exceptional site of Laño. There were previously only two known species in the area.

The study of 142 isolated teeth from the Campanian-Maastrichtian of the South Pyrenean Basin suggests six additional species of toothed theropods (five small, one large) were present in the region. “Studying these small parts helps us reconstruct the ancient world where lived and to understand how their extinction happened,” says lead author Angelica Torices, post-doctoral fellow in biological sciences at the University of Alberta. “Teeth are especially important in the study of Upper Cretaceous creatures in Spain and the rest of Europe because we don’t have complete skeletons of theropods from that time in those locations. We have to rely on these small elements to reconstruct the evolution of these dinosaurs, particularly the theropods.”

Carnivorous dinosaurs replaced their teeth continuously, with just one dinosaur producing a huge number of these dental pieces and an endless number of clues for understanding these mysterious creatures. This study demonstrates the value of isolated teeth in reconstructing the composition of dinosaur paleofaunas when other, more complete material is not present, allowing interpretation of the evolution of diversity through time.

The findings provide huge strides in understanding not only the diversity of carnivorous dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous in Europe, but also how the diversity of large animals responds to climatic changes. “It completely changes the vision of the ecosystem,” says Torices. “Moreover, we now understand that these dinosaurs disappeared very quickly in geological time, probably in a catastrophic event. Climatic models show that we may reach Cretaceous temperatures within the next century, and the only way we can study biodiversity under such conditions is through the fossil record.”

More information: “Theropod dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous of the South Pyrenees Basin on Spain” appeared in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica in August, 2015.

Big dinosaur age shark discovery

Cretaceous fossil sharks reconstruction. Credit: Frederickson et al.

From LiveScience:

20-Foot Monster Shark Once Trolled Mesozoic Seas

by Tia Ghose, Senior Writer

June 03, 2015 02:01pm ET

A giant shark the size of a two-story building prowled the shallow seas 100 million years ago, new fossils reveal.

The massive fish, Leptostyrax macrorhiza, would have been one of the largest predators of its day, and may push back scientists’ estimates of when such gigantic predatory sharks evolved, said study co-author Joseph Frederickson, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Oklahoma.

The ancient sea monster was discovered by accident. Frederickson, who was then an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had started an amateur paleontology club to study novel fossil deposits. In 2009, the club took a trip to the Duck Creek Formation, just outside Fort Worth, Texas, which contains myriad marine invertebrate fossils, such as the extinct squidlike creatures known as ammonites. About 100 million years ago the area was part of a shallow sea known as the Western Interior Seaway that split North America in two and spanned from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, Frederickson said.

While walking in the formation, Frederickson’s then-girlfriend (now wife), University of Oklahoma anthropology doctoral candidate Janessa Doucette-Frederickson, tripped over a boulder and noticed a large vertebra sticking out of the ground. Eventually, the team dug out three large vertebrae, each about 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) in diameter. [See Images of Ancient Monsters of the Sea]

“You can hold one in your hand,” but then nothing else will fit, Frederickson told Live Science.

The vertebrae had stacks of lines called lamellae around the outside, suggesting the bones once belonged to a broad scientific classification of sharks called lamniformes that includes sand tiger sharks, great white sharks, goblin sharks and others, Frederickson said.

After poring over the literature, Frederickson found a description of a similar shark vertebra that was unearthed in 1997 in the Kiowa Shale in Kansas, which also dates to about 100 million years ago. That vertebra came from a shark that was up to 32 feet (9.8 meters) long.

By comparing the new vertebra with the one from Kansas, the team concluded the Texas shark was likely the same species as the Kansas specimen. The Texan could have been at least 20.3 feet (6.2 m) long, though that is a conservative estimate, Frederickson said. (Still, the Texas shark would have been no match for the biggest shark that ever lived, the 60-foot-long, or 18 m, Megalodon.)

By analyzing similar ecosystems from the Mesozoic Era, the team concluded the sharks in both Texas and Kansas were probably Leptostyrax macrorhiza. Previously, the only fossils from Leptostyrax that paleontologists had found were teeth, making it hard to gauge the shark’s true size. The new study, which was published today (June 3) in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests this creature was much bigger than previously thought, Frederickson said.

Still, it’s not certain the new vertebrae belonged to Leptostyrax, said Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University in Chicago, who unearthed the 1997 shark vertebra.

“It is also entirely possible that they may belong to an extinct shark with very small teeth so far not recognized in the present fossil record,” Shimada, who was not involved in the current study, told Live Science. “For example, some of the largest modern-day sharks are plankton-feeding forms with minute teeth, such as the whale shark, basking shark and megamouth shark.”

Either way, the new finds change the picture of the Early Cretaceous seas.

Previously, researchers thought the only truly massive predators of the day were the fearsome pliosaurs, long-necked, long-snouted relatives to modern-day lizards that could grow to nearly 40 feet (12 m) in length. Now, it seems the oceans were teeming with enough life to support at least two top predators, Frederickson said.

As for the ancient shark’s feeding habits, they might resemble those of modern great white sharks, who “eat whatever fits in their mouth,” Frederickson said. If these ancient sea monsters were similar, they might have fed on large fish, baby pliosaurs, marine reptiles and even full-grown pliosaurs that they scavenged, Frederickson said.

First four-legged snake fossil discovery

This video says about itself:

Tetrapodophis amplectus – A four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana

24 July 2015

Tetrapodophis amplectus appears to be a four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana. Dr. Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, says that this discovery could help scientists to understand how snakes lost their legs.

From the BBC:

Four-legged snake ancestor ‘dug burrows’

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

24 July 2015

A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.

Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.

Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.

The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.

“This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it’s pretty clearly not aquatic,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new study published in Science magazine.

Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature’s tail wasn’t paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.

“It’s pretty straight-up adapted for burrowing,” he said.

When Dr Longrich first saw photos of the 19.5cm fossil, now christened Tetrapodophis amplectus, he was “really blown away” because he was expecting an ambiguous, in-between species.

Instead, he saw “a lot of very advanced snake features” including its hooked teeth, flexible jaw and spine – and even snake-like scales.

“And there’s the gut contents – it’s swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature.

“It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It’s just got little arms and little legs.”

Deadly embrace?

At 4mm and 7mm long respectively, those arms and legs are little indeed. But Dr Longrich was surprised to discover that they were far from being “vestigial” evolutionary leftovers, dangling uselessly.

“They’re actually very highly specialised – they have very long, skinny fingers and toes, with little claws on the end. What we think [these animals] are doing is they’ve stopped using them for walking and they’re using them for grasping their prey.”

That comparatively feeble grasp, which may have also been applied during mating, is where the species gets its name. Tetrapodophis, the fossil’s new genus, means four-footed snake, but amplectus is Latin for “embrace”.

“It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake,” Dr Longrich said.

In order to try to pinpoint the huggy snake’s place in history, the team constructed a family tree using known information about the physical and genetic make-up of living and ancient snakes, plus some related reptiles.

That analysis positioned T. amplectus as a branch – the earliest branch – on the the very same tree that gave rise to modern snakes.

Neglected no more

Remarkably, this significant specimen languished in a private collection for decades, before a museum in Solnhofen, Germany, acquired and exhibited it under the label “unknown fossil”.

It was there that Dr Dave Martill, another of the paper’s authors, stumbled upon it while leading a student field trip. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 they were principally visiting to see the museum’s famous Archaeopteryx fossil.

“All of a sudden my jaw absolutely dropped, when I saw this little fossil like a piece of string,” said Dr Martill, from the University of Portsmouth.

As he peered closer, he managed to spot the four tiny legs – and immediately asked the museum for permission to study the creature.

Dr Bruno Simoes, who studies the evolution of snake vision at the Natural History Museum in London, told the BBC he was impressed by the new find because the snake’s limbs are so well preserved, and appear so well developed.

“It’s quite a surprise, especially because it’s so close to the crown group – basically, the current snakes,” he said.

“It gives us a good idea of what the ancestral snake was like.”

Dr Simoes suggested that alongside several other recent findings, this new fossil evidence had clinched the argument for snakes evolving on land.

“All [the latest findings] suggest that the ancestor of all snakes was a terrestrial animal… which lived partially underground.”

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.