Dinosaur with feathers and bat-like wings discovered


This video says about itself:

A new dinosaur: Flying without feathers

29 April 2015

Birds evolved from dinosaurs – but it wasn’t a smooth transition. Plenty of creatures tried different ways to get into the air – like this newly discovered dinosaur species, Yi qi, unearthed in China. This pigeon-sized creature had elongated fingers that held a membrane wing, more like a bat than a bird. In this Nature Video, we look at what makes this fossil so special, and consider what this dinosaur may have looked like.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Is it a bird? Is it a bat? Meet Yi qi, the dinosaur that is sort of both

Incredible new find from China has both feathers and bat-like wings

Dr Dave Hone

Wednesday 29 April 2015 18.01 BST

Researchers today announced the discovery of a stunning new dinosaur fossil: a glider with wings similar to both birds and bats. It has been named Yi qi (meaning ‘strange wing’) and is a small feathered dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic age fossil beds of China that have yielded a host of important fossils in recent years. Yi qi, like so many other small dinosaurs, is preserved with a full coating of feathers and was a close relative of the lineage that ultimately gave rise to birds.

However, what sets this animal apart from numerous other dinosaurian gliders and proto-birds is the composition of its wings. In addition to some unusual feathers that are positioned on the long arms and fingers, there is a truly gigantic bone on each wrist that extends backwards, and between this bone and the fingers is preserved a membrane-like soft tissue that would have given the animal something of a wing, like that of bats.

Yi qi is not a direct ancestor of birds, and more particularly has nothing to do with the origins of the mammalian bats, but its wings are an excellent example of convergent evolution. At various times a great many animals have evolved a similar arrangement of a large bone in the wrist or hand and a supporting membrane, most obviously in numerous gliding mammal lineages. In addition to the bats that are capable of active powered flight, various passive gliders like flying squirrels, sugar gliders and the so-called “flying lemurs” have all independently evolved some extension that that helps to support a membranous wing. At some level then, this is a quite common feature, but it is a real shock to see it in such a dinosaur.

Professor Xu Xing, lead author of the study from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing said “It definitely evolved a wing that is unique in the context of the transition from dinosaurs to birds.”

There are a number of feathered dinosaurs close to the origins of birds that are thought to have been some form of glider. All were small and light and had extensive feathers that would have formed the flight surface and allowed them to move effectively through the air. Yi qi is from a very odd group of small dinosaurs called scansoriopterygids, who are known from only two other specimens and little is known about their biology or lifestyle, so there is not much to go on. However, it is clearly remarkable that such an animal that had numerous other relatives with large feathers on their arms and would apparently “experiment” with different forms of flight at various times (not least ultimately producing birds) would take such a dramatically different route towards gliding, even if it was one commonly explored by other [sic] mammals.

The evolutionary implications are therefore quite incredible. There have already been suggestions that perhaps powered flight evolved multiple times in the dinosaurs and early birds, with perhaps several different groups making the final jump from gliding to a more active form of movement in the air. Given how few and far between the scansoriopterygids are as fossils, this implies that they never really got going as a group – certainly they are much more restricted in both time and space than their near relatives, so at first approximation the bat-bird combination of Yi qi did not lead to a major new radiation of dinosaurs.

However, quite how the animal may have flown is most unclear. The incomplete preservation of the wings and the uncertain position of the long wrist bone means that it could have had a very broad wing or a narrow one, and the flattened nature of the skeleton makes it hard to tell if this animal might have had the muscles and joints needed for powered flight. Professor Xu notes that “We don’t know if Yi qi was flapping, or gliding, or both”, but it does seem clear that the small size of the animal and large surface area of the wings and feathers would have permitted some form of aerial locomotion.

Dr Mike Habib of the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the study, said “All told, this is an unexpected, exciting specimen that changes our views on the evolution of flight in dinosaurs. It appears that multiple types of wing surfaces evolved within the relatives of birds, making the origins of avian flight potentially more complicated than previously thought.” That alone makes the origins of birds, already an area of intense study, a little more complicated and rather intriguing. The pathway to both birds and powered flight from small feathered dinosaurs, though with a few bumps and oddities on the way shows a relatively consistent progression but Yi qi adds a new twist with one evolutionary branch taking a dramatically different route into the air.

Xu et al., 2015. A bizarre Jurassic maniraptoran theropod with preserved evidence of membranous wings. Nature. DOI: 10.1038

Vegetarian Tyrannosaurus rex relative discovery in Chile


A reconstruction of the skeleton and external appearance of Chilesaurus. Paleontologists have labelled it “a truly odd mix”. Illustration: Gabriel Lío

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

‘Bizarre’ Jurassic dinosaur discovered in remarkable new find

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi was related to Tyrannosaurus rex, but was vegetarian and has other curious features

Ian Sample, science editor

Monday 27 April 2015 16.25 BST

Fossil hunters in Chile have unearthed the remains of a bizarre Jurassic dinosaur that combined a curious mixture of features from different prehistoric animals.

The evolutionary muddle of a beast grew to the size of a small horse and was the most abundant animal to be found 145 million years ago, in what is now the Aysén region of Patagonia.

The discovery ranks as one of the most remarkable dinosaur finds of the past 20 years, and promises to cause plenty of headaches for paleontologists hoping to place the animal in the dinosaur family tree.

“I don’t know how the evolution of dinosaurs produced this kind of animal, what kind of ecological pressures must have been at work,” said Fernando Novas at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires.

“What’s surprising is that in this locality the most bizarre dinosaur is not the exception, but the rule. It is the most abundant animal we find,” he added.

The first fossilised bones of the beast were discovered in 2004 when a Chilean couple, who are geologists, were studying rocks in the Andes to understand how the mountain range formed. The couple’s son, Diego, was playing nearby when he found a fossilised bone that turned out to belong to the new species.

The discovery prompted the geologists, Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz, to team up with Novas and other scientists and return to the site, called Black Hill, in a breathtaking rocky expanse near General Carrera Lake in southern Chile.

On returning to the site, the researchers found bones from at least a dozen of the strange animals, including four nearly complete and well-preserved skeletons. The skeletons showed that the weird mix of head, neck, shoulder, rib, pelvis, leg and tail bones all belonged to the same creature.

Named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi after 7-year-old Diego, the animal belongs to the theropod group of dinosaurs, which includes the carnivorous tyrannosaurs and velociraptors. But unlike its meat-eating cousins, Chilesaurus had switched diets and become a vegetarian. Meat eaters tend to have sharp teeth and large heads supported by thick necks. Chilesaurus had a horny beak, flatter teeth for chomping plants, a small head and slender neck. “It’s a theropod that turned vegetarian,” said Novas. Details are published in the journal Nature.

Other anatomical peculiarities have surprised paleontologists. Its forelimbs were stocky, like an allosaurus, and instead of sharp claws, it sported two stumpy fingers. Most of the Chilesaurus remains belonged to juveniles, no larger than turkeys, but the team found bones from adults too that suggest the animals reached 3 metres from snout to tail when fully grown.

The remains of the animals were found alongside bones of small prehistoric crocodiles and huge herbivorous cousins of diplodocus. The researchers hope to return to the site next year to uncover more bones, including those of the predators that must have stalked the land long before the Andes had formed.

The curious form of Chilesaurus is an extreme example of mosaic convergent evolution, where different parts of an animal adapt to the environment along the same path taken by other creatures.

Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum in London said Chilesaurus ranks as one of the most interesting dinosaur discoveries of the past 20 years.

“It has an unbelievably weird mixture of anatomical features. If you found isolated bones from this one animal in different places you’d probably conclude that the bones came from completely different dinosaur groups, rather than representing one unusual species,” he said.

“Some of the bones look like they belong to an early theropod, others like they belong to a group of weird plant-eating theropods called therizinosauroids and yet others look like they belong to a completely different dinosaur group, the prosauropods. A truly odd mix.”

“It shows that dinosaurs were experimenting with a wide range of body types and that some unexpected features like a vegetarian diet turned up independently again and again in the ‘predatory’ theropod dinosaurs.”

“Its relationships to other dinosaurs are really tricky to pin down because of this mix of features and it wouldn’t surprise me if its position in the dinosaur evolutionary tree changes regularly as more people see the material,” he said.

See also here.

Dinosaurs, humans, sun and earth, medieval religious dogmas in Spain


This video says about itself:

Dinosaurs, and Creationism Debunked

1 March 2015

To believe that non-avian dinosaurs exist today or have ever existed with mankind is to show the highest level of ignorance in history, archaeology, and paleontology. This is my debunking of a creationist video that says dinosaurs once existed with man and that there is evidence for this in history.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

One in three Spaniards thinks humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs

Today in worrying news, 30 per cent of people in Spain think humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

A government-backed study also showed 25 per cent of respondents think the Sun orbits the Earth.

One positive to take from the Social Perception of Science study, from Spain’s Foundation for Science and Technology, is that at least scientific knowledge is improving in the country – in 2006 the proportion of people believing the previous two incorrect assertions was 50 per cent for dinosaurs and 40 per cent for the Sun.

Overall, nine years ago people answered 58 per cent of questions correctly, while now the ratio is 70 per cent.

This video says about itself:

Testing Geocentrism

15 November 2012

… a series on geocentrism, these videos take a wry look at the subject and how it stacks up against basic observations. This part [1] looks at whether the geocentrist explanation of the seasons holds any merit, why Polaris doesn’t move and how basic observations of the inner and outer planets hold up to the ideas of the geocentrist. A simple introduction is given to relevant concepts, providing topic pointers for the viewer who wants to find out more for themselves.

Subtitles: English
Guidance: Contains some mild language within a comedy context.

* I noticed after completing this video that the introduction should have said “Over two thousand years after Aristarchus” not “Nearly one thousand”.

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.

Brontosaurus coming back to dinosaur science?


Brontosaurus as researchers imagined it in the late 1800s, on a chocolate wrapper. Photograph: Picasa

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Brontosaurus is back! New analysis suggests genus might be resurrected

Despite its relegation to a subset of the Apatosaurus family in 1903, new research suggests that the Brontosaurus is distinct enough to be a genus

Hannah Devlin, science correspondent

Tuesday 7 April 2015 12.52 BST

The Brontosaurus is famous for having been resigned to extinction twice – the second time when scientists concluded that it was another long-necked dinosaur that had been misclassified.

Now, the “thunder lizard” looks set to make a comeback, after a new analysis suggests that Brontosaurus skeletons really are distinct enough to warrant their own genus.

The scientists behind the work hope the findings will trigger the resurrection of the Brontosaurus genus, which was discarded by most academics more than 100 years ago.

“It’s a nice example of how science works. A new finding can overturn more than 100 years of beliefs,” said Emanuel Tschopp, who led the study at the Nova University in Lisbon.

The discovery of Brontosaurus dates back to the so-called “Bone Wars”, a period in the US when a wealth of new dinosaur fossils were being discovered and rival palaeontologists were racing to name as many as possible. Brontosaurus was hastily named in 1870, a few years after another bulky long-necked specimen, the Apatosaurus (deceptive lizard), was discovered.

By 1903, it had been relegated to a subset of the Apatosaurus family, but the dinosaur has lived on as a mainstay in popular culture. “It’s probably because when it was found it was one of the first really complete long-necked dinosaurs,” said Tschopp. “It also just has a really good name.”

The argument for bringing back the iconic title is entirely objective, the scientists say. “Although I was excited when I found it might be the case,” he added.

Professor Paul Barrett, a senior dinosaur researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, said he is ready to re-adopt the Brontosaurus title, based on the findings. “It’s the biggest study on this family, they martial a lot of evidence and make a very good case,” he said.

“It’s taken us a long time to convince people that we shouldn’t be using the name ‘Brontosaurus’,” he added. “Just as we’ve got to that point, it looks like we’re going to have to turn around and say ‘Actually, it’s alright again’.”

Brian Switek, author of My Beloved Brontosaurus and amateur palaeontologist based in Utah, said: “I want to believe, but I’m not sure the Brontosaurus is here to stay just yet.”

The problem, he said, is that there is no standard way of picking which anatomical traits are significant, meaning there will always be a degree of subjectivity in drawing up distinctions between closely related species. Done a different way, another analysis could easily sink Brontosaurus back into the Apatosaurus genus. The question is unlikely to be definitively agreed, Switek predicts, without the discovery of new fossils, in particular a Brontosaurus skull.

The latest analysis focussed on the Diplodocidae clade, the family containing Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and several other long-necked specimens.

The Diplodocidae dinosaurs lived from 170 to 130 million years ago, and are distinguished by their short legs (they are sometimes dubbed the “dachshund” of dinosaurs) and incredible length. The average length of an Apatosaurus was 22m, but a related species, Supersaurus, was thought to have reached 34m head to tail.

The scientists analysed around 50 skeletons and measured around 500 anatomical traits to assess the hierarchy of differences within the family. Statistically, they found there were two main groups: one containing more slender species, such as Diplodocus, and a second containing the bulkier Apatosaurus. Within the Apatosaurus group, though, there were further considerable distinctions, including the fact that Apatosaurus had a thicker neck, according to the PeerJ report.

“The differences we found between Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were at least as numerous as the ones between other closely related genera, and much more than what you normally find between species,” said Roger Benson, a co-author from the University of Oxford.

The distinction between species and genera is without clear rules, but should at least be self-consistent, the authors argue.

Unlike with living species, there is no official procedure for creating a new genus or reinstating an old one, and whether Brontosaurus makes a comeback will depend on popular consensus within the community. “Other researchers will now need to test the evidence for resuscitating Brontosaurus,” said Tschopp.

The authors said the research was only possible due to the recent discovery of several new dinosaurs similar to both Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus, which made it possible to undertake a detailed investigation of how different they actually were.

“Our research would not have been possible at this level of detail 15 or more years ago,” said Tschopp. “In fact, until very recently, the claim that Brontosaurus was the same as Apatosaurus was completely reasonable, based on the knowledge we had.”

Irrespective of the scientific outcome, the dinosaur is likely to live on in the popular imagination. “The ghost of Brontosaurus will always be with us,” said Switek.

See also here.

Very long-necked dinosaur discovered in China


This 2014 video is called Finding Dinosaur Documentary.

By Jacqueline Howard:

New Dinosaur Species Discovered In China Takes Long Necks To A Whole New Level

01/29/2015 2:59 pm EST

A new dinosaur species discovered in China is being called “extreme”–and for good reason. The dino’s neck is so long that it makes up more than half of the creature’s huge 49-foot-long body.

The dinosaur–dubbed Qijianglong guokr, or “dragon of Qijiang“–is believed to have roamed Asia about 160 million years ago in the Late Jurassic Period. It was identified by skull and vertebrae fossils unearthed in 2006 by construction workers near Quiang City in the southern part of the country.

“If you imagine a big animal that is half neck, you can see that evolution can do quite extraordinary things,” Tetsuto Miyashita, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in Canada and a member of the team of scientists who identified the dinosaur, said in a written statement. “Qijianglong shows that long-necked dinosaurs diversified in unique ways in Asia during Jurassic times—something very special was going on in that continent.”

Qijianglong is believed to belong to mamenchisauridae, a family of dinosaurs known for extremely long necks. But unlike most mamenchisaurids, Qijianglong had vertebrae that were hollow and so tightly linked that the dinosaur’s neck is believed to have been stiff like a construction crane.

A paper describing the newly identified dinosaur was published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on Jan. 26, 2015.

Purgatorius, world’s oldest primate?


This video says about itself:

PurgatoriusExtinction of the Dinosaurs

29 November 2014

Purgatorius and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scenes from Animal Planet‘s Animal Armageddon.

From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

Oldest known euarchontan tarsals and affinities of Paleocene Purgatorius to Primates

Significance

Purgatorius has been considered a plausible ancestor for primates since it was discovered, but this fossil mammal has been known only from teeth and jaw fragments. We attribute to Purgatorius the first (to our knowledge) nondental remains (ankle bones) which were discovered in the same ∼65-million-year-old deposits as dentitions of this putative primate. This attribution is based mainly on size and unique anatomical specializations known among living euarchontan mammals (primates, treeshrews, colugos) and fossil plesiadapiforms.

Results of phylogenetic analyses that incorporate new data from these fossils support Purgatorius as the geologically oldest known primate. These recently discovered tarsals have specialized features for mobility and provide the oldest fossil evidence that suggests arboreality played a key role in earliest primate evolution.

Abstract

Earliest Paleocene Purgatorius often is regarded as the geologically oldest primate, but it has been known only from fossilized dentitions since it was first described half a century ago. The dentition of Purgatorius is more primitive than those of all known living and fossil primates, leading some researchers to suggest that it lies near the ancestry of all other primates; however, others have questioned its affinities to primates or even to placental mammals.

Here we report the first (to our knowledge) nondental remains (tarsal bones) attributed to Purgatorius from the same earliest Paleocene deposits that have yielded numerous fossil dentitions of this poorly known mammal. Three independent phylogenetic analyses that incorporate new data from these fossils support primate affinities of Purgatorius among euarchontan mammals (primates, treeshrews, and colugos).

Astragali and calcanei attributed to Purgatorius indicate a mobile ankle typical of arboreal euarchontan mammals generally and of Paleocene and Eocene plesiadapiforms specifically and provide the earliest fossil evidence of arboreality in primates and other euarchontan mammals. Postcranial specializations for arboreality in the earliest primates likely played a key role in the evolutionary success of this mammalian radiation in the Paleocene.