Romanian fossil Balaur, dinosaur or bird?


This 2011 video is called Ancient Reptile Tribute Three: Balaur bondoc / Dromaeosaurid – Dinosaur.

From PeerJ:

The phylogenetic affinities of the bizarre Late Cretaceous Romanian theropod Balaur bondoc (Dinosauria, Maniraptora): dromaeosaurid or flightless bird?

June 18, 2015

Abstract

The exceptionally well-preserved Romanian dinosaur Balaur bondoc is the most complete theropod known to date from the Upper Cretaceous of Europe. Previous studies of this remarkable taxon have included its phylogenetic interpretation as an aberrant dromaeosaurid with velociraptorine affinities.

However, Balaur displays a combination of both apparently plesiomorphic and derived bird-like characters. Here, we analyse those features in a phylogenetic revision and show how they challenge its referral to Dromaeosauridae. Our reanalysis of two distinct phylogenetic datasets focusing on basal paravian taxa supports the reinterpretation of Balaur as an avialan more crownward than Archaeopteryx but outside of Pygostylia, and as a flightless taxon within a paraphyletic assemblage of long-tailed birds.

Our placement of Balaur within Avialae is not biased by character weighting. The placement among dromaeosaurids resulted in a suboptimal alternative that cannot be rejected based on the data to hand. Interpreted as a dromaeosaurid, Balaur has been assumed to be hypercarnivorous and predatory, exhibiting a peculiar morphology influenced by island endemism.

However, a dromaeosaurid-like ecology is contradicted by several details of Balaur’s morphology, including the loss of a third functional manual digit, the non-ginglymoid distal end of metatarsal II, and a non-falciform ungual on the second pedal digit that lacks a prominent flexor tubercle. Conversely, an omnivorous ecology is better supported by Balaur’s morphology and is consistent with its phylogenetic placement within Avialae. Our reinterpretation of Balaur implies that a superficially dromaeosaurid-like taxon represents the enlarged, terrestrialised descendant of smaller and probably volant ancestors.

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.

Fitting Tyrannosaurus rex bone fragments together


People trying to fit Tyrannosaurus bone fragments together

Translated from ANP news agency and RTL Nieuws in the Netherlands today:

Nearly two hundred people have this weekend worked in Leiden on a special puzzle. They tried to fit the tiny skeletal remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex together.

In Naturalis museum there are thousands of shards of neck vertebrae and ribs of the T-rex. Eventually, 30 bits were found to fit together.

The bone remnants are part of the skeleton of a T-rex which lived 66 million years ago. Scientists of Naturalis excavated the dinosaur’s remains in 2013 in the United States.

Five million euros

Last year, the museum bought the complete skeleton. Using crowd funding and sponsorship, the museum received the required 5 million euros. The whole skeleton will come in September next year to Leiden. In 2018, it will get a place of honour in the new museum building.

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.

Gigantic shark from the dinosaur age discovered


This 2011 video says about itself:

Effects of Climate Change on Cretaceous Sharks

From PLOS ONE:

A Gigantic Shark from the Lower Cretaceous Duck Creek Formation of Texas

Joseph A. Frederickson, Scott N. Schaefer, Janessa A. Doucette-Frederickson

Published: June 3, 2015

Abstract

Three large lamniform shark vertebrae are described from the Lower Cretaceous of Texas. We interpret these fossils as belonging to a single individual with a calculated total body length of 6.3 m. This large individual compares favorably to another shark specimen from the roughly contemporaneous Kiowa Shale of Kansas.

Neither specimen was recovered with associated teeth, making confident identification of the species impossible. However, both formations share a similar shark fauna, with Leptostyrax macrorhiza being the largest of the common lamniform sharks. Regardless of its actual identification, this new specimen provides further evidence that large-bodied lamniform sharks had evolved prior to the Late Cretaceous.

Hundreds of dinosaur footprints discovered in Canada


This video says about itself:

Dinosaur Discovery GalleryTumbler Ridge, British Columbia

21 April 2015

The gallery contains displays primarily focused on interpreting regional vertebrate palaeontology including material from B.C.’s two dinosaur excavations. There are also displays on dinosaur and other vertebrate tracks and traces which make up the vast majority of the terrestrial vertebrate record of western Canada. One of British Columbia’s best-kept secrets is the massive fossil record of Triassic marine fish and reptiles from this region. Our volunteers and scientists have collaborated to bring together an impressive and rapidly growing collection of specimens for ongoing scientific research and public interpretation here in the gallery.

Our recently expanded Dinosaur Discovery Gallery contains several new and enhanced palaeontology exhibits including a full-scale re-creation of a 100 million-year-old dinosaur track environment. An interactive theatre provides several presentation options for visitors to view and learn about the pre-history of the Peace Region of British Columbia.

From the Canadian Press:

B.C. dinosaur path tracks heyday of prehistoric beasts

Discovered dinosaur path 115 million years old

Sunday, April 26, 2015 1:00 am

Dirk Meissner

VICTORIA – A type of dinosaur Autobahn, with a riot of ancient footprints that are likely more than 100 million years old, has been discovered in northeastern British Columbia.

Hundreds of prints from extinct carnivores and herbivores are pressed into the flat, rocky surface spanning an area the size of three Canadian football fields, indicating the site was a major dinosaur thoroughfare.

Many of the three-toed prints at the site — located near Williston Lake about 1,500 kilometres northeast of Vancouver — closely resemble the Toronto Raptors logo.

“From what I saw there is at least a score or more of trackways, so 20-plus trackways of different animals,” said paleontologist Rich McCrea.

“We’re looking at a few hundred foot prints that were exposed when I visited the site. If it keeps up that density and we are able to peel back a bit of the surface and expand it by another 1,000 square metres we’re likely to find there are thousands of foot prints.”

McCrea is the curator of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. He believes the dinosaur path has major potential as a world-class scientific and tourism site, but said he’s concerned the B.C. government’s approach to protecting and promoting dinosaur zones is somewhat prehistoric.

“It would be one of the top sites, unquestionably,” said McCrea, who’s part of a local crowdfunding campaign to raise $190,000 to research and promote the dinosaur track site. “It already looks like it’s going to be one of the biggest sites in Canada. That also means one of the biggest sites in the world.”

He said his visits to the secret site indicate the area was a major travel zone for the Allosaurus, a Jurassic Park look-alike, 8.5-metre-long, two-legged predator with a huge head and rows of teeth.

McCrea said the area is also ripe with tracks made by the Anklosaurus [sic; Ankylosaurus], a four-legged, nine-metre-long herbivore, that weighed almost 6,000 kilograms and was known for its distinctive armour-plated head and long, club-like tail.

He estimated those tracks are between 115 million and 117 million years old.

“This was still in the dinosaurs’ heyday,” said McCrea. “It’s kind of like the middle age of dinosaurs.”

He said he wants the area protected by the B.C. government, and he’s part of a pitch to create a Peace Country dinosaur tourist zone that rivals Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller. McCrea envisions dinosaur tours to Tumbler Ridge, Williston Lake and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in nearby Wembley, Alta.

Last fall, Tumbler Ridge was designated as a UNESCO global geopark that recognizes geological heritage. The community converted a school into a dinosaur museum and repository for the dinosaurs fossils discovered in the area.

McCrea said he wants to see a tourist building overlooking the dinosaur trackway area at Williston Lake. A similar concept at China’s Zigong Dinosaur Museum attracts seven million people a year, he said.

Tumbler Ridge Liberal MLA Mike Bernier said he’s been trying to convince cabinet ministers that the area is an important asset and needs heritage and fossil protection policies.

“People go crazy when they see dinosaur bones and fossils. There’s something about it: the old Jurassic Park movie coming to life in your riding,” he said.

Bernier said he’s reviewing heritage protection laws from across North America and plans to submit a proposal to government this year.

B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson, whose ministry covers fossil protection, said he’s seen the Tumbler Ridge dinosaur site and has met with Bernier on strengthening the province’s fossil management.

Five years ago the government protected the world-renowned McAbee fossil beds near Cache Creek in B.C.’s Interior from professional fossil hunters and others who were mining the area for cat litter.

“We are looking at what legislative adjustments might be needed to be put in place,” said Thomson.

McCrea said Alberta and others have protected and profit from their fossil heritage, while B.C. remains behind the times.

“We’re missing out on all the opportunities, not just tourism and education, but also, how about just pride that the province itself is the custodian of all its natural resources,” he said.

Mosasaur fossil discovery by teenage boy


THis Dutch video was recorded in the natural history museum in Maastricht, the Netherlands. There, teenager Lars Barten tells about his discovery of a fossil mosasaur.

On Saturday 18 April, 14-year-old Lars Barten (14) from Rijkevoort village in Noord-Brabant province in the Netherlands, together with his father Jos, discovered a mosasaur fossil near Maastricht city in Limburg province.

That mosasaur is about 66 million years old. It was called Lars, as Lars Barten discovered it.

The discovery includes tail, flipper, backbone and finger bones.

At the natural history museum in Maastricht, there will be more research on the fossils.