Unusual herbivorous dinosaur discovery


This video says about itself:

op 26 October 2017

An ‘ugly’ dinosaur with huge scissor-style teeth that roamed the south of France 80 million years ago has been discovered by scientists.The plant eater – which grew to more than 16 feet long – had an unusually short face with powerful jaws that enabled it to snack on tough riverside palm trees.Its two-and-a-half inch teeth worked ‘like a pair of scissors’ as it chewed the hard foliage, before swallowing.

Matheronodon provincialis has been identified as a member of rhabdodontids – a group of herbivorous bipedal dinosaurs – from the late Campanian period about 84 to 72 million years ago. They were descendants of the iguanodontian dinosaurs from the Upper Jurassic.

By Helen Thompson, 4:00pm, October 26, 2017:

New dinosaur sported a curious set of chompers

Fossils discovered in France linked to previously unknown Cretaceous species

An ancient vegetarian dinosaur from the French countryside has given paleontologists something to sink their teeth into.

The most striking feature of a new species of rhabdodontid that lived from 84 million to 72 million years ago is its oversized, scissorslike teeth, paleontologist Pascal Godefroit, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, and his colleagues report October 26 in Scientific Reports. Compared with other dinos of its kind, Matheronodon provincialis’ teeth were at least twice as large but fewer in number. Some teeth reached up to 6 centimeters long, while others grew up to 5 centimeters wide. They looked like a caricature of normal rhabdodontid teeth, Godefroit says.

Of hundreds of fossils unearthed over the last two decades at a site called Velaux-La Bastide Neuve in the French countryside, a handful of jaw bones and teeth now have been linked to this new species, Matheronodon provincialis. The toothy dino belongs to a group of herbivorous, bipedal dinosaurs common in the Cretaceous Period. Rhabdodontids sported bladelike teeth, and likely noshed on the tough woody tissue parts of plants. Palm trees, common in Europe at the time, might have been on the menu.

Rhabdodontid teeth have ridges covered by a thick layer of enamel on one side and little to no ridges or enamel on the other. Teeth in the upper jaw have more ridges and enamel on the outer edge, while the reverse is true for bottom teeth. A closer look at the microstructure of M. provincialis’ teeth revealed an exaggerated version of this — many more ridges and lopsided enamel coating. Enamel typically protects from wear and tear, so chewing would have sharpened the dino’s teeth. “They operated like self-sharpening serrated scissors,” Godefroit says.

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Cretaceous dinosaur discovery in Uzbekistan


This 2013 video is called Alvarezsaurus-the fast dino.

From PLOS ONE:

Alvarezsaurid dinosaur from the late Cretaceous found in Uzbekistan

Several distinctive bones identify this rare theropod

October 25, 2017

Bones from an Alvarezsaurid dinosaur were discovered in Uzbekistan and could shed light on the evolution and origin of the species, according to a study published October 25, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Alexander Averianov of Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia and Hans-Dieter Sues of the Smithsonian Institution, USA.

Previous studies have described Alvarezsauridae as small, long-legged, bipedal dinosaurs with short forelimbs that featured bird-like hands. Since Alvarezsaurid remains are extremely rare, there is plenty to learn about the evolution of this species.

The authors of this study analyzed previously excavated Alvarezsaurid remains from the Turonian Bissekty Formation of Uzbekistan. They examined the vertebrae, the bird-like bone that fuses the wrist and knuckle known as the carpometacarpus, and pieces of what would be the fingers or toes, known as the phalanx. They then measured and compared the shapes and sizes of these bones with those from similar species from the literature.

The authors state that the characteristics for the Alvarezsaurid bones are so distinctive that it could be identified just from the seven bones collected at the Bissekty Formation. These distinctive features included rounded vertebrae located close to the tail, a large and depressed second metacarpal, and a robust second digit with a claw-like end.

While there are competing theories about where the Alvarezsaurid originated, the authors suggest that the discovery of an Alvarezsaurid at this site in Uzbekistan indicates that this group had an evolutionary history in Asia and provides evidence that this continent could have been where the clade originated.

Lead author Hans Sues says: “Our paper reports the discovery of the earliest known alvarezsaurid dinosaur from the Northern Hemisphere, based on 90-million-year-old fossils from Central Asia. Alvarezsaurids were unusual small predatory dinosaurs that had very short but powerfuly built arms that ended in a single large digit.”

Dinosaur age bird could already fly well


Holotype of Junornis houi. (From Liu et. al; 2017)

From PLOS ONE:

Flight aerodynamics in enantiornithines: Information from a new Chinese Early Cretaceous bird

Di Liu, Luis M. Chiappe, Francisco Serrano, Michael Habib, Yuguang Zhang, Qinjing Meng

October 11, 2017

Abstract

We describe an exquisitely preserved new avian fossil (BMNHC-PH-919) from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of eastern Inner Mongolia, China.

Although morphologically similar to Cathayornithidae and other small-sized enantiornithines from China’s Jehol Biota, many morphological features indicate that it represents a new species, here named Junornis houi.

The new fossil displays most of its plumage including a pair of elongated, rachis-dominated tail feathers similarly present in a variety of other enantiornithines. BMNHC-PH-919 represents the first record of a Jehol enantiornithine from Inner Mongolia, thus extending the known distribution of these birds into the eastern portion of this region.

Furthermore, its well-preserved skeleton and wing outline provide insight into the aerodynamic performance of enantiornithines, suggesting that these birds had evolved bounding flight—a flight mode common to passeriforms and other small living birds—as early as 125 million years ago.

See also here.

Tyrannosaur discovery in Utah, USA


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

“Teratophoneus” is a genus of carnivorous tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur which lived during the late Cretaceous period in what is now Utah, USA. It is known from an incomplete skull and postcranial skeleton recovered from the Kaiparowits Formation. “Teratophoneus” was named by Thomas D. Carr, Thomas E. Williamson, Brooks B. Britt and Ken Stadtman in 2011 and the type species is “T. curriei”. The generic name is derived from Greek “teras”, “monster”, and “phoneus”, “murderer”. The specific name honors Philip J. Currie.

From the University of Utah in the USA:

New tyrannosaur fossil is most complete found in Southwestern US

Researchers are amazed to find nearly complete skeleton with many bones in life position

October 19, 2017

A remarkable new fossilized skeleton of a tyrannosaur discovered in the Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in southern Utah was airlifted by helicopter Sunday, Oct 15, from a remote field site, and delivered to the Natural History Museum of Utah where it will be uncovered, prepared, and studied. The fossil is approximately 76 million years old and is most likely an individual of the species Teratophoneus curriei, one of Utah‘s ferocious tyrannosaurs that walked western North America between 66 and 90 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period.

“With at least 75 percent of its bones preserved, this is the most complete skeleton of a tyrannosaur ever discovered in the southwestern US,” said Dr. Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the Museum and associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah. “We are eager to get a closer look at this fossil to learn more about the southern tyrannosaur’s anatomy, biology, and evolution.”

GSENM Paleontologist Dr. Alan Titus discovered the fossil in July 2015 in the Kaiparowits Formation, part of the central plateau region of the monument. Particularly notable is that the fossil includes a nearly complete skull. Scientists hypothesize that this tyrannosaur was buried either in a river channel or by a flooding event on the floodplain, keeping the skeleton intact.

“The monument is a complex mix of topography — from high desert to badlands — and most of the surface area is exposed rock, making it rich grounds for new discoveries, said Titus. “And we’re not just finding dinosaurs, but also crocodiles, turtles, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and plant fossils — remains of a unique ecosystem not found anywhere else in the world,” said Titus.

Although many tyrannosaur fossils have been found over the last one hundred years in the northern Great Plains region of the northern US and Canada, until relatively recently, little was known about them in the southern US. This discovery, and the resulting research, will continue to cement the monument as a key place for understanding the group’s southern history, which appears to have followed a different path than that of their northern counterparts.

This southern tyrannosaur fossil is thought to be a sub-adult individual, 12-15 years old, 17-20 feet long, and with a relatively short head, unlike the typically longer-snouted look of northern tyrannosaurs.

Collecting such fossils from the monument can be unusually challenging. “Many areas are so remote that often we need to have supplies dropped in and the crew hikes in,” said Irmis. For this particular field site, Museum and monument crews back-packed in, carrying all of the supplies they needed to excavate the fossil, such as plaster, water and tools to work at the site for several weeks. The crews conducted a three-week excavation in early May 2017, and continued work during the past two weeks until the specimen was ready to be airlifted out.

Irmis said with the help of dedicated volunteers, it took approximately 2,000-3,000 people hours to excavate the site and estimates at least 10,000 hours of work remain to prepare the specimen for research. “Without our volunteer team members, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this work. We absolutely rely on them throughout the entire process,” said Irmis.

Irmis says that this new fossil find is extremely significant. Whether it is a new species or an individual of Teratophoneus, the new research will provide important context as to how this animal lived. “We’ll look at the size of this new fossil, it’s growth pattern, biology, reconstruct muscles to see how the animal moved, how fast could it run, and how it fed with its jaws. The possibilities are endless and exciting,” said Irmis.

During the past 20 years, crews from the Natural History Museum of Utah and GSENM have unearthed more than a dozen new species of dinosaurs in GSENM, with several additional species awaiting formal scientific description. Some of the finds include another tyrannosaur named Lythronax, and a variety of other, plant-eating, dinosaurs — among them duck-billed hadrosaurs, armored ankylosaurs, dome-headed pachycephalosaurs, and a number of horned dinosaurs, such as Utahceratops, Kosmoceratops, Nasutoceratops, and Machairoceratops. Other fossil discoveries include fossil plants, insect traces, snails, clams, fishes, amphibians, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, and mammals. Together, this diverse bounty of fossils is offering one of the most comprehensive glimpses into a Mesozoic ecosystem. Remarkably, virtually all of the dinosaur species found in GSENM appear to be unique to this area, and are not found anywhere else on Earth.

Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, the “polar bear lizard”, is barely two-thirds the size of Tyrannosaurus rex. It is the only tyrannosaur ever found outside temperate regions. The discovery happened in Alaska’s North Slope back in 2006, when Anthony Fiorillo of the Perot Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, took a few basketball-size rocks back home: here.

Some herbivorous dinosaurs really omnivorous?


This 2012 video from the USA says about itself:

Maiasaura: Learn About Dinosaurs with World Book’s Professor Nick

Maiasaura was a large plant-eating dinosaur noted for its nesting behavior. Its name means good mother lizard, though dinosaurs were not lizards. Evidence suggests that its hatchlings were completely dependent on their parents for food and protection. Maiasaura lived about 75 to 80 million years ago in the area of what is now Montana. It belonged to a group known as duckbilled dinosaurs or hadrosaurids. These dinosaurs ate plants using a beak that somewhat resembled a duck’s bill.

By Carolyn Gramling, 9:00am, September 21, 2017:

Shhhh! Some plant-eating dinos snacked on crunchy critters

Crustacean shells discovered in fossilized poop reveal diet secrets of ancient herbivores

Some dinosaurs liked to cheat on their vegetarian diet.

Based on the shape of their teeth and jaws, large plant-eating dinosaurs are generally thought to have been exclusively herbivorous. But for one group of dinosaurs, roughly 75-million-year-old poop tells another story. Their fossilized droppings, or coprolites, contained tiny fragments of mollusk and other crustacean

Mollusks and crustaceans are two different groups.

shells along with an abundance of rotten wood, researchers report September 21 in Scientific Reports. Eating the crustaceans as well as the wood might have given the dinosaurs an extra dose of nutrients during breeding season to help form eggs and nourish the embryos.

“Living herd animals do occasionally turn carnivore to fulfill a particular nutritional need,” says vertebrate paleontologist Paul Barrett of the Natural History Museum in London. “Sheep and cows are known to eat carcasses or bone when they have a deficiency in a mineral such as phosphorus or calcium, or if they’re pregnant or ill.” But the discovery that some plant-eating dinos also ate crustaceans is the first example of this behavior in an extinct herbivore, says Barrett, who was not involved in the new study.

Ten years ago, paleoecologist Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder described finding large pieces of rotted wood in dino dung. The coprolites were within a layer of rock in Montana, known as the Two Medicine Formation, dating to between 80 million and 74 million years ago. That layer also contained numerous fossils of Maiasaura, a type of large, herbivorous duck-billed dinosaur, or hadrosaur (SN: 8/9/14, p. 20).

Chin wondered whether the wood itself was the dino’s real dietary target. “The coprolites in Montana were associated with the nesting grounds of the Maiasaura,” she says. “I suspected that the dinosaurs were after insects in the wood. But I never found any insects in the coprolites there.”

Her hunch wasn’t too far off. Now she’s found evidence of some kind of crustaceans in dino poop. The new evidence comes from an 860-meter-thick layer of rock in Utah known as the Kaiparowits Formation, which dates to between 76.1 million and 74 million years ago. Ten of the 15 coprolites that Chin and her team examined contained tiny fragments of shell that were scattered throughout the dung. They were too small to identify by species, and may have been crabs, insects or some other type of shelled animal, Chin says. Based on the scattering of shell fragments, the animals were certainly eaten along with the wood rather than being later visitors to the dung heap.

Since bones from hadrosaurs are especially abundant in the Kaiparowits Formation, Chin suspects those kinds of dinos deposited the dung. Other large herbivores, such as three-horned ceratopsians and armored ankylosaurs, also roamed the area (SN: 6/24/17, p. 4).

The crustacean diet cheat may have been a seasonal event, related perhaps to breeding to obtain extra nutrients, Chin and colleagues say.

But how often — or why — the dinosaurs ate the shelled critters is hard to prove from the fossil dung alone, Barrett says. Herbivore coprolites are rare in the fossil record because a diet of leaves and other green plant material doesn’t leave a lot of hard material to preserve (unlike bones in carnivore dung). Coprolites with crustaceans, on the other hand, are more likely to get fossilized — and that preferential preservation might make it appear that this behavior was more frequent than it actually was. “These kinds of things give neat snapshots of specific behaviors that those animals are doing at any one time,” he adds. “But it’s difficult to build that into a bigger picture.”

‘Prehistoric frog ate dinosaurs’


This 2014 video about Beelzebufo ampinga is called Prehistoric News : Devil Frog had Spikes and Armor.

From Sci-News.com:

Giant Prehistoric Frogs Ate Small Dinosaurs, Claim Scientists

Sep 20, 2017

Exceptionally large individuals of Beelzebufo ampinga, an extinct species of frog that lived in Madagascar during the Late Cretaceous epoch, about 68 million years ago, were capable of eating small dinosaurs, according to an international research team led by California State Polytechnic University scientists.

This conclusion comes from a study of the bite force of extant South American horned frogs (genus Ceratophrys).

“Unlike the vast majority of frogs which have weak jaws and typically consume small prey, horned frogs ambush animals as large as themselves — including other frogs, snakes, and rodents,” explained co-author Dr. Marc Jones, from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum.

“And their powerful jaws play a critical role in grabbing and subduing the prey.”

Dr. Jones and co-authors from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia found that small horned frogs, with head width of about 1.8 inches (4.5 cm), can bite with a force of 30 newtons (N), or about 3 kg/6.6 lbs.

A scaling experiment, comparing bite force with head and body size, calculated that large horned frogs that are found in the tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests of South America, with a head width of up to 4 inches (10 cm), would have a bite force of almost 500 N. This is comparable to reptiles and mammals with a similar head size.

“This would feel like having 50 liters of water balanced on your fingertip,” explained lead author Professor Kristopher Lappin, of California State Polytechnic University.

“Many people find horned frogs hilarious because of their big heads and fat, round bodies,” said co-author Sean Wilcox, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Riverside.

“Yet, these predators have given us a rare opportunity to learn something more about the biology of a huge extinct frog.”

The team estimated the bite force of the extinct frog Beelzebufo ampinga may have had a bite up to 2,200 N, comparable to formidable mammalian predators such as wolves and female tigers.

“At this bite force, Beelzebufo ampinga would have been capable of subduing the small and juvenile dinosaurs that shared its environment,” Dr. Jones said.

“This is the first time bite force has been measured in a frog,” Professor Lappin said.

“And, speaking from experience, horned frogs have quite an impressive bite, and they tend not to let go.”

“The bite of a large Beelzebufo ampinga would have been remarkable, definitely not something I would want to experience firsthand.”

The study appears today in the journal Scientific Reports.

New plesiosaur species discovery in Germany


Skull reconstruction of Lagenanectes richterae. Credit: Jahn Hornung

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

New ancient sea reptile found in Germany, the earliest of its kind

August 28, 2017

A previously unrecognized 132 million-year-old fossilized sea monster from northern Germany has been identified by an international team of researchers. Findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The bizarre sea creature was a plesiosaur, an extinct long-necked aquatic reptile resembling the popular image of the Loch Ness monster, which dominated the seas during the Age of Dinosaurs.

The remains of the eight-meter-long skeleton were collected in 1964 by private fossil collectors. The perfectly preserved bones were rescued from heavy machinery excavating a clay-pit at Sarstedt near Hannover.

Despite being discovered nearly half a century ago, a group of international scientists was only recently invited to study the specimen by the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover. “It was an honor to be asked to research the mysterious Sarstedt plesiosaur skeleton” says Sven Sachs from the Natural History Museum in Bielefeld, Germany, and lead author on the study. “It has been one of the hidden jewels of the museum, and even more importantly, has turned out to be new to science.”

The new plesiosaur was named Lagenanectes richterae, literally meaning ‘Lagena swimmer’, after the medieval German name for the Leine River near Sarstedt. The species was named for Dr Annette Richter, Chief Curator of Natural Sciences at the Lower Saxony State Museum, who facilitated documentation of the fossil.

The skeleton of Lagenanectes includes most of the skull, which had a meshwork of long fang-like teeth, together with vertebrae, ribs and bones from the four flipper-like limbs.

“The jaws had some especially unusual features.” says Dr Jahn Hornung a palaeontologist based in Hamburg and co-author on the paper. “Its broad chin was expanded into a massive jutting crest, and its lower teeth stuck out sideways. These probably served to trap small fish and squid that were then swallowed whole.”

Internal channels in the upper jaws might have housed nerves linked to pressure receptors or electroreceptors on the outside of the snout that would have helped Lagenanectes to locate its prey.

The bones also showed evidence of chronic bacterial infection suggesting that the animal had suffered from a long-term disease that perhaps eventually claimed its life.

“The most important aspect of this new plesiosaur is that it is amongst the oldest of its kind” says Dr Benjamin Kear from the Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden and senior author on the study. “It is one of the earliest elasmosaurs, an extremely successful group of globally distributed plesiosaurs that seem to have had their evolutionary origins in the seas that once inundated Western Europe.”

Elasmosaurs had spectacularly long necks — the longest of any vertebrate — including up to 75 individual vertebrae. Not all of the neck vertebrae of Lagenanectes were recovered but it is estimated that around 40 or 50 must have originally been present.

Elasmosaurs flourished during the Cretaceous period but went extinct with the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Lagenanectes lived in a shallow sea that covered northern Germany around 132 million years ago. It thus predates the last elasmosaurs by nearly 70 million years.

The skull of Lagenanectes will be displayed as a centerpiece in the ‘Water Worlds’ exhibition at the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover.

A new study has shed light on the swimming style of plesiosaurs by creating a robot to mimic its movements: here.