World’s oldest fossil mushroom discovery in Brazil


This video says about itself:

7 June 2017

The world’s oldest fossilized mushroom, dating from 115 million year ago, has been discovered in Brazil and is being called a ‘scientific wonder’. The mushroom fell into a river and began its journey in becoming a fossil at the time when Earth’s supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart.

It made its way into a highly saline lagoon, sank through the stratified layers of salty water, and was covered in layers of fine sediment, in time becoming a fossil. The world’s oldest fossil mushroom was preserved in limestone, an extraordinarily rare event, researchers say.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA:

World’s oldest fossil mushroom found

June 7, 2017

Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey. Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE.

The mushroom somehow made its way into a highly saline lagoon, sank through the stratified layers of salty water and was covered in layer upon layer of fine sediments. In time — lots of it — the mushroom was mineralized, its tissues replaced by pyrite (fool’s gold), which later transformed into the mineral goethite, the researchers report.

“Most mushrooms grow and are gone within a few days,” said Illinois Natural History Survey paleontologist Sam Heads, who discovered the mushroom when digitizing a collection of fossils from the Crato Formation of Brazil. “The fact that this mushroom was preserved at all is just astonishing.

“When you think about it, the chances of this thing being here — the hurdles it had to overcome to get from where it was growing into the lagoon, be mineralized and preserved for 115 million years — have to be minuscule,” he said.

Before this discovery, the oldest fossil mushrooms found had been preserved in amber, said INHS mycologist Andrew Miller, a co-author of the new report. The next oldest mushroom fossils, found in amber in Southeast Asia, date to about 99 million years ago, he said.

“They were enveloped by a sticky tree resin and preserved as the resin fossilized, forming amber,” Heads said. “This is a much more likely scenario for the preservation of a mushroom, since resin falling from a tree directly onto the forest floor could readily preserve specimens. This certainly seems to have been the case, given the mushroom fossil record to date.”

The mushroom was about 5 centimeters (2 inches) tall. Electron microscopy revealed that it had gills under its cap, rather than pores or teeth, structures that release spores and that can aid in identifying species.

Fungi evolved before land plants and are responsible for the transition of plants from an aquatic to a terrestrial environment,” Miller said. “Associations formed between the fungal hyphae and plant roots. The fungi shuttled water and nutrients to the plants, which enabled land plants to adapt to a dry, nutrient-poor soil, and the plants fed sugars to the fungi through photosynthesis. This association still exists today.”

The researchers place the mushroom in the Agaricales order and have named it Gondwanagaricites magnificus.

Japan’s biggest ever dinosaur discovery


The bones of the dinosaur Mukawaryu which have been cleaned so far. These likely represent more than half of the bones the dinosaur had

From Hokkaido University in Japan:

Japan’s largest complete dinosaur skeleton discovered

June 6, 2017

Summary: The complete skeleton of an eight-meter-long dinosaur has been unearthed from marine deposits dating back 72 million years at Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, making it the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan.

Excavations to uncover a fossilized duck-billed dinosaur (Hadrosauridae) in the Hobetsu district of Mukawa Town have been underway since 2013. It is the third time a complete skeleton of a Hadrosaurid from a marine stratum has ever been discovered, according to the research team from Hokkaido University and Hobetsu Museum in Mukawa.

Hadrosaurids, or duck-billed dinosaurs, were common herbivores during the Late Cretaceous Period (about 100 million to 66 million years ago) and thrived on the Eurasian, North and South American continents as well as at Antarctica. Complete hadrosaur skeletons have been unearthed on these continents, but it is extremely rare for a complete skeleton of a land dinosaur to be discovered in a marine stratum.

In 1936, a complete hadrosaur skeleton was unearthed from a marine stratum in Sakhalin and named Nipponosaurus by Professor Takumi Nagao of Hokkaido Imperial University (predecessor of Hokkaido University). It had been the only such fossilized dinosaur from a marine stratum that was assigned a name. The latest discovery of the fossilized skeleton, nicknamed “Mukawaryu” (Mukawa dragon), represents the third such discovery in the world, including a complete skeleton of an undescribed specimen.

If a complete skeleton is defined as a skeleton containing more than 50 percent of the bones, Mukawaryu represents the second complete dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan after Fukuivenator, a 2.5-meter carnivore from the Early Cretaceous Period (about 145 million to 100 million years ago) discovered in Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture. Mukawaryu is the first complete skeleton of a herbivore from the Late Cretaceous Period and from a marine stratum in Japan.

Dr. Yoshitsugu Kobayashi of the research team said “We first discovered a part of the fossilized Mukawaryu skeleton in 2013, and after a series of excavations, we believe we have cleaned more than half of the bones the dinosaur had, making it clear that it is a complete skeleton.”

There are more than 50 kinds of dinosaurs in the hadrosaurid dinosaurs, which is grouped into two groups: uncrested (Hadrosaurinae) and crested members (Lambeosaurinae). “Although Mukawaryu has some characteristics of both groups, our preliminary analysis indicated it might belong to the Hadrosaurinae. Further cleaning of the fossils and detailed research should make it clearer which group the Mukawaryu skeleton belongs to,” says Kobayashi.

Bus-sized pliosaur discovery in Russia


This video says about itself:

26 May 2017

Scientists have discovered a “highly unusual” new species of extinct sea-dwelling reptile in Russia.

Similar in appearance to a river dolphin or gharial crocodile, the fish-eating sea-beast would have had a long beak-like snout.

Related to the top predators who ruled the ocean during the dinosaur age, its lengthy “rostrum” set it apart from its relatives who had large and powerful toothed jaws.

The “pliosaur Luskhan itilensis” is estimated to have measured about 6.5m (21.3ft) – the size of a small bus.

It would have had four large flippers which evolved from feet over a long period of time, and an oar-like tail.

The marine reptile‘s skull was unearthed from the bank of the Volga River near the Russian city of Ulyanovsk.

The skull alone, with its long and slender snout, measured 1.5m (5ft) – the average height of a 13 year old boy.

Scientists believe that the animal’s unusual beak suggests that this family of marine reptiles – called plesiosaurs – colonised a much wider range of ecological niches than previously believed.

From the University of Liège in Belgium:

New species of bus-sized fossil marine reptile unearthed in Russia

May 25, 2017

Summary: A new species of a fossil pliosaur (large predatory marine reptile from the ‘age of dinosaur[s]’) has been found in Russia and profoundly change[s] how we understand the evolution of the group, says an international team of scientists.

A new species of a fossil pliosaur (large predatory marine reptile from the ‘age of dinosaur[s]’) has been found in Russia and profoundly change[s] how we understand the evolution of the group, says an international team of scientists.

Spanning more than 135 Ma during the ‘Age of Dinosaurs‘, plesiosaur marine reptiles represent one of longest-lived radiations of aquatic tetrapods and certainly the most diverse one. Plesiosaurs possess an unusual body shape not seen in other marine vertebrates with four large flippers, a stiff trunk, and a highly varying neck length. Pliosaurs are a special kind of plesiosaur that are characterized by a large, 2m long skull, enormous teeth and extremely powerful jaws, making them the top predators of oceans during the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’.

In a new study to be published today in the journal Current Biology, the team reports a new, exceptionally well-preserved and highly unusual pliosaur from the Cretaceous of Russia (about 130 million years ago). It has been found in Autumn 2002 on [the] right bank of the Volga River, close to the city of Ulyanovsk, by Gleb N. Uspensky (Ulyanovsk State University), one of the co-authors of the paper. The skull of the new species, dubbed “Luskhan itilensis,” meaning the Master Spirit from the Volga river, is 1.5m in length, indicating a large animal. But its rostrum is extremely slender, resembling that of fish-eating aquatic animals such as gharials or some species of river dolphins. “This is the most striking feature, as it suggests that pliosaurs colonized a much wider range of ecological niches than previously assumed” said Valentin Fischer, lecturer at the Université de Liège (Belgium) and lead author of the study.

By analysing two new and comprehensive datasets that describe the anatomy and ecomorphology of plesiosaurs with cutting edge techniques, the team revealed that several evolutionary convergences (a biological phenomenon where distantly related species evolve and resemble one another because they occupy similar roles, for example similar feeding strategies and prey types in an ecosystem) took place during the evolution of plesiosaurs, notably after an important extinction event at the end of the Jurassic (145 million years ago). The new findings have also ramifications in the final extinction of pliosaurs, which took place several tens of million years before that of all dinosaurs (except some bird lineages). Indeed, the new results suggest that pliosaurs were able to bounce back after the latest Jurassic extinction, but then faced another extinction that would — this time — wipe them off the depths of ancient oceans, forever.

Dinosaur with skin, guts content intact


This video from Canada says about itself:

Discovery of Ankylosaur at Suncor’s Millennium Mine

On March 21, 2011 a shovel operator in Suncor’s Millennium Mine discovered an important piece of Alberta‘s history when he uncovered a dinosaur fossil.

By Nina Golgowski:

05/14/2017 03:38 pm ET

Canada Unveils ‘Dinosaur Mummy’ Found With Skin And Gut Contents Intact

“We don’t just have a skeleton. We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

After 110-million years encased in stone, an impeccably preserved, dragon-like dinosaur has been unveiled by paleontologists in Canada and it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before.

The remains of an armor-plated nodosaur, a 3,000-pound plant-eating horned creature, went on display in Alberta on Friday after its accidental discovery by miners nearly six years ago, National Geographic reported.

“We don’t just have a skeleton,” Caleb Brown, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology where the fossil went on display, told the magazine. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

Researchers say the fossil is remarkable, with it being a never-before-seen species of nodosaur, as well as the oldest dinosaur ever found in Alberta. It’s preserved skin and gut contents are also providing invaluable clues on these extinct creatures.

“I’ve been calling this one the Rosetta Stone for armor,” Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, told National Geographic.

“It’s basically a dinosaur mummy ― it really is exceptional,” Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research, also told The New York Times.

For the last five years, researchers have spent more than 7,000 hours chiseling away at the fossil’s surrounding rock to expose the incredible creature.

The researchers have had their share of ups and downs, with the fossil breaking into pieces upon its removal from Alberta’s Millennium Mine in 2011.

The 15,000-pound, plaster-covered block it was encased in is seen shattering during a video uploaded to YouTube by Suncor Energy [see top of thuis blog post], which owns the mine.

“One of the good things about this, believe it or not, is because it’s in smaller pieces it will make preparation go a little faster,” Darren Tanke, a paleo technician with the Royal Tyrrell Museum, says in the video.

“This is restorable. Everything broke cleanly and in big pieces,” he adds. “It’s unfortunate that this happened but this is restorable.”

Biggest ever oviraptor-like dinosaur discovery in China


This video says about itself:

Oviraptorid fights to protect nest – Planet Dinosaur – BBC

26 July 2013

A female Oviraptorid guards her nest from attackers large and small, but can do nothing about the threat of nature itself.

Narrated by John Hurt, Planet Dinosaur tells the stories of the biggest, deadliest and weirdest creatures ever to walk the Earth, using the latest fossil evidence and immersive computer graphics.

From Sci-news.com:

Beibeilong sinensis: Paleontologists Identify New Species of Cassowary-Like Dinosaur

May 10, 2017 by News Staff

A team of paleontologists from Canada, China, the United States and Slovak Republic has identified a partial clutch of large dinosaur eggs with a closely associated baby dinosaur skeleton as an embryo and eggs of a new, large caenagnathid oviraptorosaur, Beibeilong sinensis.

Beibeilong sinensis (meaning ‘baby dragon from China’) lived in what is now central-eastern China during the Late Cretaceous, about 90 million years ago.

It is described by the paleontologists based on dinosaur eggs and an associated embryo that were collected in China’s Henan Province in 1993.

The unprepared specimen was imported into the United States in mid-1993 by the Stone Company, which exposed the embryo and eggs during preparation.

The specimen was featured in a cover article for National Geographic Magazine, and the embryo became popularly known as ‘Baby Louie’ in recognition of Louis Psihoyos, the photographer for the article.

“This particular fossil was outside the country for over two decades and its return to China finally allowed us to properly study the specimen and name a new dinosaur species,” said team member Prof. Lü Junchang, a paleontologist at the Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, and lead co-author of a report published this week on Beibeilong sinensis in the journal Nature Communications.

Along with the dinosaur embryo, the Baby Louie fossil contains between six and eight very large eggs.

These eggs were given their own scientific name, Macroelongatoolithus xixiaensis (meaning ‘large elongate stone eggs’).

“The eggs are up to 18 inches (45 cm) long and weighed about 5 kg, making them some of the largest dinosaur eggs ever discovered,” the researchers said.

“They were found in a ring-shaped clutch, which was part of a nest that was about 6.5-10 feet (2-3 m) in diameter and probably contained two dozen or more eggs.”

Lead co-author Darla Zelenitsky, a professor at the University of Calgary, and her colleagues Philip Currie and Kenneth Carpenter first began examining the Baby Louie fossil shortly after it arrived in the United States.

They noticed the eggs and embryo skeleton looked similar to those of oviraptorosaurs, a group of meat-eating dinosaurs that superficially look like cassowaries, but the eggs were far too large to have been laid by any known species of such dinosaurs at the time.

“Although the identity of the dinosaur embryo could not be determined due to its state of preservation, I had recognized that the large eggs in the nest belonged to an oviraptorosaur, based on various characteristics of the eggshell,” Prof. Zelenitsky said.

“This meant that Baby Louie’s parents must have been truly gigantic, far larger than any known oviraptorosaur species at the time.”

“Dinosaur embryos, because they are so small and are only present for a short time interval in the egg, are very rarely preserved as fossils. So discovering a fossilized dinosaur embryo is equivalent to winning the lottery,” Prof. Zelenitsky noted.

“Baby Louie is the only embryo of a giant oviraptorosaur known in the world,” she said.

Ring-shaped nests of eggs of smaller oviraptorosaur species have been found with the adults sitting in the centre of the nest, so an adult Beibeilong sinensis probably shared similar behaviors.

With their parrot-like skulls, feathers, and two-legged stance, Beibeilong sinensis, weighing in at around 3 tons, are the largest dinosaurs likely to have sat on their nests to brood their clutch of eggs.

See also here.

Dinosaur age beetles, parasites of ants


This video says about itself:

3 October 2014

Beetles have been known to invade ant colonies.

Now, scientists have discovered a 52-million-year old fossil of a beetle preserved in amber, which is the oldest example of that species ever found.

The beetle is part of a group that preys on ants by living along side them in the nest and then eating their eggs, or taking over their supplies.

There are around 370 species of beetles that participate in this kind of behavior, and experts say there could be several hundred more that haven’t yet been discovered.

Other predators give off pheromones that trigger the ants defense system to take down any threats.

These certain kinds of beetles are somehow able to avoid that, and live a comfortable life in the nest with the ants.

Lead researcher Joseph Parker, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University is quoted as saying: “These beetles live in a climate-controlled nest that is well protected against predators, and they have access to a great deal of food, including the ants’ eggs and brood, and most remarkably, liquid food regurgitated directly to their mouths by the worker ants themselves.”

The fossil is believed to be the first of its kind, with marked differences between the beetle’s body and those of modern species.

And now, an even older beetle with a similar lifestyle has been found.

From Science News:

Beetles have been mooching off insect colonies for millions of years

99-million-year-old amber shows two species that pilfered from ancient ants and termites

By Laurel Hamers

4:00pm, April 24, 2017

Mooching roommates are an ancient problem. Certain species of beetles evolved to live with and leech off social insects such as ants and termites as long ago as the mid-Cretaceous, two new beetle fossils suggest. The finds date the behavior, called social parasitism, to almost 50 million years earlier than previously thought.

Ants and termites are eusocial — they live in communal groups, sharing labor and collectively raising their young. The freeloading beetles turn that social nature to their advantage. They snack on their hosts’ larvae and use their tunnels for protection, while giving nothing in return.

Previous fossils have suggested that this social parasitism has been going on for about 52 million years. But the new finds push that date way back. The specimens, preserved in 99-million-year-old Burmese amber, would have evolved relatively shortly after eusociality is thought to have popped up.

One beetle, Mesosymbion compactus, was reported in Nature Communications in December 2016. A different group of researchers described the other, Cretotrichopsenius burmiticus, in Current Biology on April 13. Both species have shielded heads and teardrop-shaped bodies, similar to modern termite-mound trespassers. Those adaptations aren’t just for looks. Like a roommate who’s found his leftovers filched one too many times, termites frequently turn against their pilfering housemates.

Moabosaurus dinosaur discovery in Utah, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

12 April 2017

BYU [Brigham Young University] professors have discovered a new species of dinosaur Moabosaurus utahensis, named to honor Moab, Utah, which paleontologists consider Utah’s ‘gold mine’.

The bones of the dinosaur were unearthed near Moab, Utah.

The 32-foot herbivore is a relative of the long-necked Brontosaurus and Brachiosaurus.

An assembled skeleton is on display at BYU’s Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah.

From Brigham Young University in the USA:

Moabosaurus discovered in Utah‘s ‘gold mine’

April 13, 2017

Summary: Move over, honeybee and seagull: it’s time to meet Moabosaurus utahensis, Utah’s newly discovered dinosaur, whose past reveals even more about the state’s long-term history. The bones of the 125-million-year-old dinosaur were extracted over the course of four decades from a quarry near Arches National Park.

Move over, honeybee and seagull: it’s time to meet Moabosaurus utahensis, Utah’s newly discovered dinosaur, whose past reveals even more about the state’s long-term history.

The Moabosaurus discovery was published this week by the University of Michigan’s Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology. The paper, authored by three Brigham Young University researchers and a BYU graduate at Auburn University, profiles Moabosaurus, a 125-million-year-old dinosaur whose skeleton was assembled using bones extracted from the Dalton Wells Quarry, near Arches National Park.

BYU geology professor and lead author Brooks Britt explained that in analyzing dinosaur bones, he and colleagues rely on constant comparisons with other related specimens. If there are enough distinguishing features to make it unique, it’s new.

“It’s like looking at a piece of a car,” Britt said. “You can look at it and say it belongs to a Ford sedan, but it’s not exactly a Focus or a Fusion or a Fiesta. We do the same with dinosaurs.”

Moabosaurus belongs to a group of herbivorous dinosaurs known as sauropods, which includes giants such as Brontosaurus and Brachiosaurus, who had long necks and pillar-like legs. Moabosaurus is most closely related to species found in Spain and Tanzania, which tells researchers that during its time, there were still intermittent physical connections between Europe, Africa and North America.

Moabosaurus lived in Utah before it resembled the desert we know — when it was filled with large trees, plentiful streams, lakes and dinosaurs. “We always think of Moab in terms of tourism and outdoor activities, but a paleontologist thinks of Moab as a gold mine for dinosaur bones,” Britt said.

In naming the species, Britt and his team, which included BYU Museum of Paleontology curator Rod Scheetz and biology professor Michael Whiting, decided to pay tribute to that gold mine. “We’re honoring the city of Moab and the State of Utah because they were so supportive of our excavation efforts over the decades it’s taken us to pull the animal out of the ground,” Britt said, referencing the digs that began when he was a BYU geology student in the late ’70s.

A previous study indicates that a large number of Moabosaurus and other dinosaurs died in a severe drought. Survivors trampled their fallen companions’ bodies, crushing their bones. After the drought ended, streams eroded the land, and transported the bones a short distance, where they were again trampled. Meanwhile, insects in the soils fed on the bones, leaving behind tell-tale burrow marks.

“We’re lucky to get anything out of this site,” Britt said. “Most bones we find are fragmentary, so only a small percentage of them are usable. And that’s why it took so long to get this animal put together: we had to collect huge numbers of bones in order to get enough that were complete.”

BYU has a legacy of collecting dinosaurs that started in the early 1960s, and Britt and colleagues are continuing their excavation efforts in eastern Utah. Moabosaurus now joins a range of other findings currently on display at BYU’s Museum of Paleontology — though, until its placard is updated, it’s identified as “Not yet named” (pronunciation: NOT-yet-NAIM-ed).

“Sure, we could find bones at other places in the world, but we find so many right here in Utah,” Britt said. “You don’t have to travel the world to discover new animals.”