Pacific parrotlets’ and ancestral birds’ flight

This 24 May 2017 video says about itself:

From Science News:

Petite parrots provide insight into early flight

by Helen Thompson

9:00am, May 24, 2017

When it comes to hopping between branches, tiny parrots try only as hard as they need to. The finding comes from high-speed video taken to measure how Pacific parrotlets (Forpus coelestis) shift momentum from takeoff to landing.

Bird flight is though to have started with jumping and gliding. When traveling short distances, parrotlets get most of their oomph from their legs, probably because it’s a more efficient way to accelerate than pushing against air with their wings. Still, small wingbeats do help support some of the birds‘ bodyweight. The farther the trip, the more that wings contribute to keeping the birds in the air. The birds also optimize their takeoff angles to apply as little mechanical energy as possible, Diana Chin and David Lentink of Stanford University report May 17 in Science Advances.

The researchers also found that one partial wingbeat can support 15 to 30 percent of a parrotlet’s weight — on par with feathered, flightless dinosaurs like Archaeopteryx. With a bit of mathematical modeling, they determined that one such flap in flight could have extended Archaeopteryx’s jumping range by 20 percent, perhaps giving the dinos an edge in foraging for food.

Chin says the simulation provides a potential explanation for how feathered dinosaurs and early birds refined their tree hopping skills, ultimately giving rise to foraging flights of modern parrotlets and other birds.

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.


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.

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.”

Triassic dinosaur predecessors, new research

This video says about itself:

Meet Teleocrater, a Croc-Like Early Dinosaur Relative

12 April 2017

A 245-million-year-old creature with crocodilian-like legs is an early relative of dinosaurs.

From Virginia Tech in the USA:

Early dinosaur cousin had a surprising croc-like look

Paleobiologist’s latest discovery of Teleocrater rhadinus has overturned popular predictions

April 12, 2017

Summary: Teleocrater and other recently discovered dinosaur cousins show that these animals were widespread during the Triassic Period and lived in modern day Russia, India, and Brazil. Furthermore, these cousins existed and went extinct before dinosaurs even appeared in the fossil record.

For decades, scientists have wondered what the earliest dinosaur relatives looked like. Most assumed that they would look like miniature dinosaurs, be about the size of a chicken, and walk on two legs.

A Virginia Tech paleobiologist’s latest discovery of Teleocrater rhadinus, however, has overturned popular predictions. This carnivorous creature, unearthed in southern Tanzania, was approximately seven to 10 feet long, with a long neck and tail, and instead of walking on two legs, it walked on four crocodylian-like legs.

The finding, published in the journal Nature April 12, fills a critical gap in the fossil record. Teleocrater, living more than 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, pre-dated dinosaurs. It shows up in the fossil record right after a large group of reptiles known as archosaurs split into a bird branch (leading to dinosaurs and eventually birds) and a crocodile branch (eventually leading to today’s alligators and crocodiles). Teleocrater and its kin are the earliest known members of the bird branch of the archosaurs.

“The discovery of such an important new species is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Sterling Nesbitt, an assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Science.

He and Michelle Stocker, a co-author and also an assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Science, will give a free public talk with the fossils at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13, 2017 at the Virginia Tech Museum of Geosciences on the second floor of Derring Hall.

Teleocrater fossils were first discovered in Tanzania in 1933 by paleontologist F. Rex Parrington, and the specimens were first studied by Alan J. Charig, former Curator of Fossil Reptiles, Amphibians and Birds at the Natural History Museum of London, in the 1950s.

Largely because the first specimen lacked crucial bones, such as the ankle bones, Charig could not determine whether Teleocrater was more closely related to crocodylians or to dinosaurs. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to complete his studies. The new specimens of Teleocrater, found in 2015, clear those questions up. The intact ankle bones and other parts of the skeleton helped scientists determine that the species is one of the oldest members of the archosaur tree and had a crocodylian look.

Nesbitt and co-authors chose to honor Charig’s original work by using the name he picked out for the animal, Teleocrater rhadinus, which means “slender complete basin” and refers to the animal’s lean build and closed hip socket.

“The discovery of Teleocrater fundamentally changes our ideas about the earliest history of dinosaur relatives,” said Nesbitt. “It also raises far more questions than it answers.”

“This research sheds light on the distribution and diversity of the ancestors of crocodiles, birds, and dinosaurs,” says Judy Skog, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, “and indicates that dinosaur origins should be re-examined now that we know more about the complex history and traits of these early ancestors.”

Teleocrater and other recently discovered dinosaur cousins show that these animals were widespread during the Triassic Period and lived in modern day Russia, India, and Brazil. Furthermore, these cousins existed and went extinct before dinosaurs even appeared in the fossil record.

The team’s next steps are to go back to southern Tanzania this May to find more remains and missing parts of the Teleocrater skeleton. They will also continue to clean the bones of Teleocrater and other animals from the dig site in the paleontology preparation lab in Derring Hall.

“It’s so exciting to solve puzzles like Teleocrater, where we can finally tease apart some of these tricky mixed assemblages of fossils and shed some light on broader anatomical and biogeographic trends in an iconic group of animals,” said Stocker.

Stocker and Nesbitt are both researchers with the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech. Other co-authors on the paper include: Richard J. Butler with the University of Birmingham; Martin D. Ezcurra with Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales; Paul M. Barrett with the Natural History Museum of London; Kenneth D. Angielczyk with the Field Museum of Natural History; Roger M. H. Smith with the University of the Witwatersrand and Iziko South African Museum; Christian A. Sidor with the University of Washington; Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki with Uppsala University; Andrey G. Sennikov with Borissiak Paleontological Institute and Kazan Federal Univeristy; and Charig.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant, a National Geographic Society for Young Explorers grant, and the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.

See also here.

New tyrannosaur relative discovered

This video from the USA says about itself:

30 March 2017

Researchers from several American universities have finally given a name to a species of tyrannosaur dinosaur that was unearthed 25 years ago, helping build a clearer understanding of the T-rex family tree.

The new species, called Daspletosaurus horneri, was found in Montana and might have had sensitive facial skin.

From Carthage College in the USA:

New dinosaur species sheds light on evolution, provides facial makeover for tyrannosaurs

March 30, 2017

Summary: Scientists have discovered a new relative of T. rex that is the geologically youngest species of the lineage called Daspletosaurus, the ‘frightful lizards’. The new species of dinosaur, Daspletosaurus horneri, evolved directly from its geologically older relative, D. torosus. The excellently preserved fossils reveal that the face of tyrannosaurs was covered by a mask of large flat scales, with smaller patches of armor-like skin and sheaths of horn. The arrangement of scales suggests D. horneri had a crocodile-like pressure sensing snout.

An investigation by a team of scientists from Australia, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin has identified and named a new species of the tyrannosaur clan: Daspletosaurus horneri — “Horner’s Frightful Lizard.”

The species is named for renowned dinosaur paleontologist John “Jack” R. Horner, formerly curator at the Museum of the Rockies (MOR) in Bozeman, Montana. The tyrannosaur‘s name honors his discoveries of numerous dinosaur fossils and his mentorship of so many students that launched them to accomplished scientific careers. The type (name-bearing) specimens are stored in the research collections of the MOR.

The research is led by Thomas Carr, a professor in Carthage College’s Biology Department and an expert on the evolution and growth of Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, collectively called tyrannosaurs.

The fossil resources of Montana, where the new tyrannosaur was found, are central to studies of dinosaur evolution, explains Professor David Varricchio of Montana State University: “These specimens emphasize the excellent record of dinosaurs to be found in Montana. They highlight both the quality of the specimens, the preservation revealing the details of how these giant carnivores once looked in life, as well as the overall collection of specimens that provides insight into the evolution of the tyrannosaur group. Montana remains a wonderful place to explore the Cretaceous.”

In addition to adding a new species to the tyrannosaur family tree, the team’s research provides new information about the mode of evolution and life appearance of tyrannosaurs — specifically the face. This latest study, published today in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, found evidence for a rare, nonbranching type of evolution in tyrannosaurs and that tyrannosaurs had scaly, lipless faces and a highly touch-sensitive snout.

Carr said: “Daspletosaurus horneri was the youngest, and last, of its lineage that lived after its closest relative, D. torosus, which is found in Alberta, Canada. The close evolutionary relationship between the species taken with their geographic proximity and their sequential occurrence suggests that together they represent a single lineage that changed over geological time, where D. torosus has morphed into D. horneri.”

Jason Moore, a professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, elaborated: “One of the difficulties in demonstrating anagenetic change, as we suggest occurred in the Daspletosaurus lineage, is establishing that the different species in question don’t overlap in time. The new radiometric dates we measured from the Two Medicine Formation not only help support that D. torosus and D. horneri did not live at the same time, but also help us refine the timeline of environmental and ecological changes recorded by the Two Medicine Formation.”

Eric Roberts, a professor in geosciences with the College of Science and Engineering at James Cook University, explained: “Advances in radioisotopic dating of sedimentary deposits is key to testing this and many other evolutionary and ecological questions about dinosaurs and other ancient organisms. New age dates presented in this study are just the tip of the iceberg. Ongoing work in this field will provide unprecedented improvements in the dating of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs from western North America over the next few years.”

Continued Carr, “When we consider the geological ages of the two species, the evolution of Daspletosaurus gives us an indication of how slowly evolution can act on large dinosaurs, which in this case happened over a span of 2.3 million years.

“This type of speciation is called anagenesis, which is different from the more common type called cladogensis, where an ancestral species splits into two or more descendant species. Although uncommon in many evolutionary studies, anagenesis has been reported in some duck-billed dinosaurs and horned dinosaurs. Daspletosaurus and these other dinosaurs point the way forward in picking out the evidence for anagenesis in the fossil record.”

The team’s work literally changes the face of tyrannosaurs, which they found was covered by a lipless “mask” of large flat scales and extensive patches of armor-like skin. This conclusion results from comparison of tyrannosaur skulls with those of crocodilians, birds, and mammals, and earlier work by other researchers who had matched bone texture with different types of skin covering.

Jayc Sedlmayr, a professor at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans, explained, “Much of our research went beyond field paleontology: it was generated from lab based comparative anatomy, where you get arms deep in “blood and guts” dissecting birds as living dinosaurs and crocodilians as their closest living relatives and based on the similarities of the facial nerves and arteries we found in those same groups that left a trace on the bones, we were able to then reconstruct them in the new tyrannosaur species.”

“It turns out that tyrannosaurs are identical to crocodilians in that the bones of their snouts and jaws are rough, except for a narrow band of smooth bone along the tooth row. In crocodilians, the rough texture occurs deep to large flat scales; given the identical texture, tyrannosaurs had the same covering,” explained Carr. “We did not find any evidence for lips in tyrannosaurs: the rough texture covered by scales extends nearly to the tooth row, providing no space for lips.

“However, we did find evidence for other types of skin on the face, including areas of extremely coarse bone that supported armor-like skin on the snout and on the sides of the lower jaws. The armor-like skin would have protected tyrannosaurs from abrasions, perhaps sustained when hunting and feeding.”

“Strikingly, the large horn behind the eye is elevated beyond the side of the head, indicating a covering of keratin, the hard and shiny material that makes up human fingernails,” he continued.

In crocodilians and tyrannosaurs, the snout and jaws are penetrated by numerous small nerve openings, allowing hundreds of branches of the trigeminal nerve to innervate the skin, producing a sensitivity that, in crocodilians, is as sensitive as human fingertips. “Given that the foramina are identical in tyrannosaurs indicates that they had super-sensitive skin as well,” explained Carr.

This sensitivity is part of a bigger evolutionary story, explained Sedlmayr. “Our findings of a complex sensory web is especially interesting because it is derived from the trigeminal nerve, which has an extraordinary evolutionary history of developing into wildly different ‘sixth senses’ in different vertebrates, such as sensing magnetic fields for bird migration, electroreception for predation in the platypus bill or the whisker pits of dolphins, sensing infrared in pit vipers to identify prey, guiding movements in mammals through the use of whiskers, sensing vibrations through the water by alligators, and turning the elephant trunk into a sensitive ‘hand’ similar to what has been done to the entire face of tyrannosaurs.”