4-year-old girl’s 220-million-year-old dinosaur footprint discovery


This 30 January 2020 video says about itself:

“Dino-mite” invention: Lily Wilder, 4, finds 215-million-year-old ‘two-footed’ dinosaur footprint

A girl from Wales has discovered a perfectly preserved 215-million-year-old dinosaur print, described as the ‘finest’ of its type found in 10 years.

Read more here.

Only Irish dinosaurs described


This December 2018 video says about itself:

Dinosaurs existed for over 170 million years and lived all over the Earth. You might expect to find fossil evidence of them everywhere you look, but only two dinosaur fossils have been found in Ireland.

Dr Mike Simms, Senior Curator of Natural History at National Museums Northern Ireland, explains why.

Read more on this story here.

From the University of Portsmouth in England:

Only dinosaurs found in Ireland described for the first time

November 26, 2020

Summary: The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts. The two fossils are from two different dinosaurs, a four-legged plant-eater called Scelidosaurus and a two-legged meat-eater similar to Sarcosaurus.

The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts from the University of Portsmouth and Queen’s University Belfast, led by Dr Mike Simms, a curator and palaeontologist at National Museums NI.

The two fossil bones were found by the late Roger Byrne, a schoolteacher and fossil collector, who donated them along with many other fossils to Ulster Museum. Analysis has confirmed they are from early Jurassic rocks found in Islandmagee, on the east coast of County Antrim.

Ulster Museum has announced plans to put them on display when it reopens after the latest rounds of restrictions are lifted.

Dr Simms, National Museums NI, said: “This is a hugely significant discovery. The great rarity of such fossils here is because most of Ireland’s rocks are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it nearly impossible to confirm dinosaurs existed on these shores. The two dinosaur fossils that Roger Byrne found were perhaps swept out to sea, alive or dead, sinking to the Jurassic seabed where they were buried and fossilised.”

The article, published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, is part of a larger project to document Jurassic rocks in Northern Ireland and draws on many fossils in Ulster Museum’s collections.

Originally it was assumed the fossils were from the same animal, but the team were surprised to discover that they were from two completely different dinosaurs. The study, employing the latest available technology, identified the type of dinosaur from which each came. One is part of a femur (upper leg bone) of a four-legged plant-eater called Scelidosaurus. The other is part of the tibia (lower leg bone) of a two-legged meat-eater similar to Sarcosaurus.

The University of Portsmouth team, researcher Robert Smyth, originally from Ballymoney, and Professor David Martill, used high-resolution 3D digital models of the fossils, produced by Dr Patrick Collins of Queen’s University Belfast, in their analysis of the bone fragments.

Robert Smyth said: “Analysing the shape and internal structure of the bones, we realised that they belonged to two very different animals. One is very dense and robust, typical of an armoured plant-eater. The other is slender, with thin bone walls and characteristics found only in fast-moving two-legged predatory dinosaurs called theropods.”

“Despite being fragmentary, these fossils provide valuable insight on a very important period in dinosaur evolution, about 200 million years ago. It’s at this time that dinosaurs really start to dominate the world’s terrestrial ecosystems.”

Professor Martill said: “Scelidosaurus keeps on turning up in marine strata, and I am beginning to think that it may have been a coastal animal, perhaps even eating seaweed, like marine iguanas do today.”

To find out when the fossils will go on display at the Ulster Museum follow @ulstermuseum on Twitter, @ulstermuseumbelfast on Facebook and @ulstermuseum on Instagram.

Titanosaur dinosaur infected by parasites


An illustration of the titanosaur with open wounds caused by parasites. Hugo Cafasso

From New Scientist:

Ancient parasites in a titanosaur’s bones made it look like a zombie

20 November 2020

By Joshua Rapp Learn

Some of the oldest evidence of bone disease may have been caused by tiny 83-million-year-old parasites infecting a titanosaur, which are among the largest land animals that ever lived. This is the first discovery of parasites in a dinosaur bone.

“It’s a new kind of parasite,” says Aline Ghilardi at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil. “We don’t have anything similar to it.”

This fossilised parasite was seen in a sample from a dwarf titanosaur.

Rubeosaurus, Styracosaurus, same dinosaur species?


This 13 November 2020 video says about itself:

Was “Rubeosaurus” Styracosaurus After All? YDAW Synapisode #6

New research came out this year with bearing upon everyone’s favorite centrosaurine(s), so here’s more than you probably wanted to know about parietals.

Dinosaur eggs, new research


This 2015 video is called Fossilized Dinosaur Eggs Unearthed in South China.

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Cracking the secrets of dinosaur eggshells

October 28, 2020

Since the famous discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert in the early 1920s, the fossilized remains have captured the imaginations of paleontologists and the public, alike. Although dinosaur eggs have now been found on every continent, it’s not always clear to scientists which species laid them. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Omega have narrowed down the list for an unknown eggshell from Mexico by comparing its microstructure and composition with four known samples.

Because many dinosaur eggs are similar in size and shape, it can be difficult to determine what type of dinosaur laid them. Clues can come from fossilized embryos (which are rare), hatchlings in the same nest or nearby adult remains. Scientists also have identified microscopic features of eggshells that differ among groups of dinosaurs. In addition, researchers have studied the elemental composition of fossil eggshells to learn more about the paleoenvironment and conditions that led to the eggs’ fossilization. Abel Moreno and colleagues wanted to compare the microstructure and composition of five dinosaur eggshells from nests in the El Gallo Formation of Baja California, Mexico. Based on the eggs’ shapes and sizes and the fossil record of the area, the researchers had concluded that three of the eggs were laid by ornithopods (bipedal herbivores) of the hadrosaur family (duck-billed dinosaurs) and one by a theropod (bipedal carnivores) of the troodontidae family (small, bird-like dinosaurs). The remaining sample was too damaged to classify by the naked eye.

Using scanning electron microscopy, the team examined the external and internal surfaces and a cross-section of each eggshell. In contrast to the smooth outer surface of the theropod shell, the shells from the ornithopods and the unknown sample had nodes at different distances across the shell. Images of shell cross-sections from the ornithopods revealed that mammillary cones — calcite crystals on the inner surface of the shell — formed thin, elongated columns arranged in parallel, with irregular pores. In contrast, the eggshell from the theropod showed thicker, shorter cones arranged in a bilayer, with wider pores. The unknown sample more closely resembled the ornithopod eggshells, leading the researchers to hypothesize that it was probably also from the hadrosaur family. In addition, the researchers conducted an elemental composition analysis, which they say is the first such analysis on dinosaur eggshells collected in Mexico. They say the findings might help reveal how the fossilization process varied among species and locales.

Gliding dinosaurs, new research


This 2017 video says about itself:

The Five-Winged Dinosaur

Microraptor was a very important discovery that added a great deal to our knowledge on how birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors. This creature has helped to create a better picture of the evolution of flightless dinosaurs to fully flight-capable ones, and the quality of its incredible fossils has even allowed scientists to reveal what colour it was when Microraptor was alive.

From ScienceDaily:

These two bird-sized dinosaurs evolved the ability to glide, but weren’t great at it

October 22, 2020

Despite having bat-like wings, two small dinosaurs, Yi and Ambopteryx, struggled to fly, only managing to glide clumsily between the trees where they lived, researchers report October 22 in the journal iScience. Unable to compete with other tree-dwelling dinosaurs and early birds, they went extinct after just a few million years. The findings support that dinosaurs evolved flight in several different ways before modern birds evolved.

“Once birds got into the air, these two species were so poorly capable of being in the air that they just got squeezed out,” says first author Thomas Dececchi, Assistant Professor of Biology at Mount Marty University. “Maybe you can survive a few million years underperforming, but you have predators from the top, competition from the bottom, and even some small mammals adding into that, squeezing them out until they disappeared.”

Yi and Ambopteryx were small animals from Late Jurassic China, living about 160 million years ago. Weighing in at less than two pounds, they are unusual examples of theropod dinosaurs, the group that gave rise to birds. Most theropods were ground-loving carnivores, but Yi and Ambopteryx were at home in the trees and lived on a diet of insects, seeds, and other plants.

Curious about how these animals fly, Dececchi and his collaborators scanned fossils using laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF), a technique that uses laser light to pick up soft-tissue details that can’t be seen with standard white light. Later, the team used mathematical models to predict how they might have flown, testing many different variables like weight, wingspan, and muscle placement.

“They really can’t do powered flight. You have to give them extremely generous assumptions in how they can flap their wings. You basically have to model them as the biggest bat, make them the lightest weight, make them flap as fast as a really fast bird, and give them muscles higher than they were likely to have had to cross that threshold,” says Dececchi. “They could glide, but even their gliding wasn’t great.”

While gliding is not an efficient form of flight, since it can only be done if the animal has already climbed to a high point, it did help Yi and Ambopteryx stay out of danger while they were still alive.

“If an animal needs to travel long distances for whatever reason, gliding costs a bit more energy at the start, but it’s faster. It can also be used as an escape hatch. It’s not a great thing to do, but sometimes it’s a choice between losing a bit of energy and being eaten,” says Dececchi. “Once they were put under pressure, they just lost their space. They couldn’t win on the ground. They couldn’t win in the air. They were done.”

The researchers are now looking at the muscles that powered Yi and Ambopteryx to construct an accurate image of these bizarre little creatures. “I’m used to working with the earliest birds, and we sort of have an idea of what they looked like already,” Dececchi says. “To work where we’re just trying to figure out the possibilities for a weird creature is kind of fun.”

The authors were supported by Mount Marty University and The University of Hong Kong.

Big Money ruining Tyrannosaurus science


This 16 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Mr. Nick talks about Stan, the resident T-rex at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha.

By Michael Greshko in National Geographic, 12 October 2020:

‘Stan’ the T. rex just sold for $31.8 million—and scientists are furious

The fossil was priceless to paleontologists, but experts fear it may be lost to research now that it belongs to an unknown bidder.

More than three decades ago in South Dakota, an amateur paleontologist named Stan Sacrison discovered a titan of the ancient Earth: the fossil of a mostly complete, 39-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex. Nicknamed “Stan” after its discoverer, the beast was excavated in 1992 and has long been housed at the private Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota. But even if you’ve never been there, chances are good that you’ve seen this particular T. rex. Dozens of high-quality casts of its bones are on display in museums around the world, from Tokyo to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Now, an auctioneer’s hammer has thrown Stan’s future into question, with the dinosaur bones sold off to the highest—and, so far, anonymous—bidder, stoking fear among experts that this beloved T. rex may be lost to science.

On October 6, the London-based auction house Christie’s sold the T. rex for a record $31.8 million, the highest price ever paid at auction for a fossil. The previous record was set in 1997 with the sale of “Sue,” a largely complete T. rex dug up by the same South Dakota institute and eventually purchased by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for $8.36 million (equivalent to nearly $13.5 million today).

The day after Stan was sold, paleontologist Lindsay Zanno of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences described the sale price as “simply staggering.”

“That’s an astronomical price that borders on absurdity, based on my knowledge of the market,” added paleontologist David Evans, the vertebrate paleontology chair at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, who suggested the anonymous buyer could have spent the same funds in a far more effective way to deepen humanity’s understanding of the prehistoric beasts. “If this kind of money [were] invested properly, it could easily fund 15 permanent dinosaur research positions, or about 80 full field expeditions per year, in perpetuity,” he wrote in an email interview.

Scientists also have raised concerns about the negative ripple effects the sale could have on the study of dinosaurs by incentivizing people to seek out and sell well-preserved fossils rather than leaving them for paleontologists to study. (Find out more about the U.S. fossil trade in National Geographic magazine.)

“This is terrible for science and is a great boost and incentive for commercial outfits to exploit the dinosaur fossils of the American West,” says tyrannosaur expert Thomas Carr, a paleontologist at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Paleontologists fear that if the buyer turns out to be a private collector, researchers and the public could lose access to the fossil, limiting their ability to repeat results such as measurements of its bones or conduct new analyses with more advanced tools and techniques. (Find out how scientists are reimaging dinosaurs in today’s “golden age” of paleontology.)

The ability to repeat experiments is “a tenet of science; it’s part of our ethical foundation,” Zanno says. “The paleontological world is holding its breath” to find out Stan’s future. …

For years, the Black Hills Institute had Stan on display in its Hill City museum. In addition to selling resin casts to other museums, the institute gave researchers access to the fossil, resulting in a flurry of scientific papers about everything from T. rex’s immense bite force to how the skull of T. rex could flex and move.

“The skeleton of Stan is without doubt one of the very best Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found, and it’s been published in the scientific literature many times,” Evans says. “Stan is one of the keystone specimens for understanding T. rex.”

Carr, for one, included Stan in three studies of tyrannosaur diversity and skull shape earlier in his career. He now regrets that decision because the fossil was always in private hands and therefore at risk of being sold. “In the end, I wound up contributing to the successful sales pitch of the fossil … along with the other 45 scientific publications on Stan,” he says. “We shouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”

Stan’s path to the auction block began in 2015, when Neal Larson, a 35-percent shareholder in the Black Hills Institute (and brother of the institute’s president, paleontologist Pete Larson), sued the company to liquidate its assets. According to South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal, the company had removed Neal Larson from its board of directors three years earlier, after a bitter dispute over business dealings and his defense of a former employee accused of sexual misconduct.

A judge ruled in 2018 that Stan had to be auctioned off to pay Neal Larson for his stake in the institute, according to a company press release. …

In the U.S., fossil bones found on federal land are public property and can be collected only by researchers with permits. These remains also must stay in the public trust, in approved repositories such as accredited museums.

However, fossils discovered on U.S. private land can be bought and sold, and Stan isn’t the only U.S. dinosaur fossil recently on the auction block. In 2018, the French auctioneer Arguttes sold off a skeleton of the predatory dinosaur Allosaurus, drawing criticism from scientists because its sale, like Stan’s, risked creating the perception that dinosaurs were worth more in dollars than they were in discoveries.

The 2,000-member Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), which represents paleontologists around the world, opposes fossil auctions and has long discouraged the study of privately held fossils, out of concern that researchers and the public wouldn’t always be guaranteed access to them.

New dinosaur species discovered in Mongolia


This 7 October 2020 video is called Newly discovered species of toothless, two-fingered dinosaur thrived more than 68 million years ago.

From the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:

Toothless dino’s lost digits point to spread of parrot-like species

October 6, 2020

A newly discovered species of toothless, two-fingered dinosaur has shed light on how a group of parrot-like animals thrived more than 68 million years ago.

The unusual species had one less finger on each forearm than its close relatives, suggesting an adaptability which enabled the animals to spread during the Late Cretaceous Period, researchers say.

Multiple complete skeletons of the new species were unearthed in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia by a University of Edinburgh-led team.

Named Oksoko avarsan, the feathered, omnivorous creatures grew to around two metres long and had only two functional digits on each forearm. The animals had a large, toothless beak similar to the type seen in species of parrot today.

The remarkably well-preserved fossils provided the first evidence of digit loss in the three-fingered family of dinosaurs known as oviraptors.

The discovery that they could evolve forelimb adaptations suggests the group could alter their diets and lifestyles, and enabled them to diversify and multiply, the team says.

Researchers studied the reduction in size, and eventual loss, of a third finger across the oviraptors’ evolutionary history. The group’s arms and hands changed drastically in tandem with migrations to new geographic areas — specifically to what is now North America and the Gobi Desert.

The team also discovered that Oksoko avarsan — like many other prehistoric species — were social as juveniles. The fossil remains of four young dinosaurs were preserved resting together.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, was funded by The Royal Society and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. It also involved researchers from the University of Alberta and Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Canada, Hokkaido University in Japan, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

Dr Gregory Funston, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “Oksoko avarsan is interesting because the skeletons are very complete and the way they were preserved resting together shows that juveniles roamed together in groups. But more importantly, its two-fingered hand prompted us to look at the way the hand and forelimb changed throughout the evolution of oviraptors — which hadn’t been studied before. This revealed some unexpected trends that are a key piece in the puzzle of why oviraptors were so diverse before the extinction that killed the dinosaurs.”

How heavy were dinosaurs?


This 2015 video says about itself:

Discovery Dinosaurs Europe

From the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada:

How to weigh a dinosaur

September 1, 2020

How do you weigh a long-extinct dinosaur? A couple of ways, as it turns out, neither of which involve actual weighing — but according to a new study, different approaches still yield strikingly similar results.

New research published September 1 in the journal Biological Reviews involved a review of dinosaur body mass estimation techniques carried out over more than a century.

The findings should give us some confidence that we are building an accurate picture of these prehistoric animals, says study leader Dr. Nicolás Campione — particularly our knowledge of the more massive dinosaurs that have no correlates in the modern world.

“Body size, in particular body mass, determines almost at all aspects of an animal’s life, including their diet, reproduction, and locomotion,” said Dr. Campione, a member of the University of New England’s Palaeoscience Research Centre.

“If we know that we have a good estimate of a dinosaur’s body mass, then we have a firm foundation from which to study and understand their life retrospectively.”

Estimating the mass of a dinosaur like the emblematic Tyrannosaurus rex is no small feat — it is a creature that took its last breath some 66 million years ago and, for the most part, only its bones remain today. It is a challenge that has taxed the ingenuity of palaeobiologists for more than a century. Scientific estimates of the mass of the biggest land predator of all time have differed substantially, ranging from about three tonnes to over 18 tonnes.

The research team led by Dr. Campione compiled and reviewed an extensive database of dinosaur body mass estimates reaching back to 1905, to assess whether different approaches for calculating dinosaur mass were clarifying or complicating the science.

Although a range of different methods to estimating body mass have been tried over the years, they all come down to two fundamental approaches. Scientists have either measured and scaled bones in living animals, such as the circumference of the arm (humerus) and leg (femur) bones, and compared them to dinosaurs; or they have calculated the volume of three-dimensional reconstructions that approximate what the animal may have looked like in real life. Debate over which method is ‘better’ has raged in the literature.

The researchers found that once scaling and reconstruction methods are compared en masse, most estimates agree. Apparent differences are the exception, not the rule.

“In fact, the two approaches are more complementary than antagonistic,” Dr. Campione said.

The bone scaling method, which relies on relationships obtained directly from living animals of known body mass, provides a measure of accuracy, but often of low precision; whereas reconstructions that consider the whole skeleton provide precision, but of unknown accuracy. This is because reconstructions depend on our own subjective ideas about what extinct animals looked like, which have changed appreciably over time.

“There will always be uncertainty around our understanding of long-extinct animals, and their weight is always going to be a source of it,” said Dr. David Evans, Temerty Chair of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, senior author on the new paper. “Our new study suggests we are getting better at weighing dinosaurs, and it paves the way for more realistic dinosaur body mass estimation in the future.”

The researchers recommend that future work seeking to estimate the sizes of Mesozoic dinosaurs, and other extinct animals, need to better-integrate the scaling and reconstruction approaches to reap their benefits.

Drs. Campione and Evans suggest that an adult T. rex would have weighed approximately seven tonnes — an estimate that is consistent across reconstruction and limb bone scaling approaches alike. But the research emphasizes the inaccuracy of such single values and the importance of incorporating uncertainty in mass estimates, not least because dinosaurs, like humans, did not come in one neat package. Such uncertainties suggest an average minimum weight of five tonnes and a maximum average weight of 10 tonnes for the ‘king’ of dinosaurs.

“It is only through the combined use of these methods and through understanding their limits and uncertainties that we can begin to reveal the lives of these, and other, long-extinct animals,” Dr Campione said.