Dutch tyrannosaur to Spain, France, Macau


This 15 November 2016 video is called TRIX: Tyrannosaurus Rex at Naturalis in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Translated from Unity TV in the Netherlands:

December 2, 2016

LEAD – T. rex Trix will also seen after the end of the exhibition T. rex in Town in Leiden in Barcelona, Paris and Macau before finally getting a place of honour in the renovated Naturalis museum in February 2018.

Trix can be visited until June 5 next year in the Pesthuis building in Leiden. After that, Trix, and parts of the exhibition, will be on tour in Europe and China. From November 8, 2017 to February 26, 2018 she will be on display at the Science Museum Cosmo Caixa in Barcelona. From June 11, 2018 to September 15, 2018 the skeleton will be in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. The 66 million year old skeleton will also travel to Macau, China, where it will be exhibited at the Macao Science Center.

The exhibition T. rex in Town is very well attended. Therefore Naturalis will seize the opportunity to introduce even more people to this particular fossil. Att the end of 2018 Trix will be back home in Leiden.

Feathered dinosaur’s tail discovery in Myanmar


This video says about itself:

Dinosaur’s Feathered Tail Found Remarkably Preserved in Amber | National Geographic

8 December 2016

An extraordinarily well-preserved dinosaur tail, with a fluffy covering of feathers, lies trapped within a piece of amber. The animal it belonged to would have lived about 99 million years ago. Researchers from China and Canada identify it as a juvenile of some type of coelurosaur, a group that includes birdlike dinosaur species that walked on two legs. But because the bones of the tail are flexible and not fused as in a bird’s tail, the specimen must be a terrestrial dinosaur rather than an actual bird. Lida Xing, first author of the study announcing the discovery, found the amber for sale in a northern Myanmar (Burma) market.

From Smithsonian.com in the USA:

This 99-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tail Trapped in Amber Hints at Feather Evolution

The rare specimen provides new insights into how feathers came to be

By Danny Lewis

December 8, 2016 12:37PM

Once thought to to be scaly-skinned beasts, many dinosaurs likely sported fantastical feathers and fuzz. Though early ancestors of birds, many pieces of their evolutionary timeline remain unclear. But a recent find could fill in some of these gaps: the tip of a fuzzy young dino’s tail encased in amber.

In 2015, Lida Xing, a researcher from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, was wandering through an amber market in Myanmar when he came across the specimen on sale at a stall. The people who had dug it out of a mine had thought that the fossilized tree resin contained a piece of some sort of plant and were trying to sell it to be made into jewelry. But Xing suspected that the hunk of ancient tree resin could contain a fragment from an animal and brought it to his lab for further study.

His investment paid off.

What looked like a plant turned out to be a tip of a tail covered in simple, downy feather. But it’s unclear exactly what kind of creature it belonged to. Researchers took a closer look at the amber piece using CT scans and realized that it belonged to a true dinosaur, not an ancient bird. The researchers detailed their find in a study published in the journal Current Biology.

“We can be sure of the source because the vertebrae are not fused into a rod or pygostyle as in modern birds and their closest relatives,” Ryan McKellar, a researcher at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and co-author of the study says in a statement. “Instead, the tail is long and flexible, with keels of feathers running down each side.”

Without the rest of the skeleton, it’s unclear exactly what kind of dinosaur this tail belonged to, though it was likely a juvenile coelurosaur, a creature closely related to birds that typically had some kind of feathers. And what’s most intriguing about this 99-million-year-old fossil are the feathers. In the past, most information on dinosaur feathers has come from two-dimensional impressions left in stone or feathers that weren’t attached to the rest of the remains.

This fossil could help settle a debate over how feathers evolved in the first place, says Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

See also here.

Dinosaur age bird’s colour research


Eoconfuciusornis zhengi reconstruction

From Science News:

Cretaceous bird find holds new color clue

First evidence of pigment pods embedded in keratin found in fossil feathers

By Meghan Rosen

3:30pm, November 21, 2016

A 130-million-year-old bird holds a clue to ancient color that has never before been shown in a fossil.

Eoconfuciusornis’ feathers contain not only microscopic pigment pods called melanosomes, but also evidence of beta-keratin, a protein in the stringy matrix that surrounds melanosomes, Mary Schweitzer and colleagues report November 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Together, these clues could strengthen the case for inferring color from dinosaur fossils, a subject of debate for years (SN: 11/26/16, p. 24). Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has long pointed out that the microscopic orbs that some scientists claim are melanosomes may actually be microbes. The two look similar, but they have some key differences. Microbes aren’t enmeshed in keratin, for one.

In Eoconfuciusornis’ feathers, Schweitzer and colleagues found round, 3-D structures visible with the aid of an electron microscope. And a molecular analysis revealed bundles of skinny fibers, like the filaments of beta-keratin in modern feathers. The authors don’t speculate on the bird’s color, but they do offer a new way to support claims for ancient pigments.

“Identifying keratin is key to ruling out a microbial source for microbodies identified in fossils,” they write.

Woolly mammoths, why extinct?


This video says about itself:

18 November 2016

What caused woolly mammoths to die-off so quickly? New evidence suggests an unfavorable climate may have contributed to a loss of grazing habitats, which eventually drove them to extinction.

From: MAMMOTHS: GIANTS OF THE ICE AGE.

Oviraptor dinosaur discovery in China


This video from China ays about itself:

10 November 2016

A newly discovered species of dinosaur has been identified from an extraordinarily complete fossil almost destroyed by dynamite.

Preserved raising its beaked head, with feathered wings outstretched, in the mud it was mired in when it died 72 million years ago, it was one of the last surviving dinosaurs in Asia.

From Science News:

Dragon dinosaur met a muddy end

Feathered oviraptorosaurs surged at the end of the age of dinosaurs

By Meghan Rosen

9:00am, November 10, 2016

A bizarre new birdlike dino was part of an evolutionary extravaganza at the end of the age of dinosaurs. And it was a real stick-in-the-mud, too.

Construction workers blasted Tongtianlong limosus out of the Earth near Ganzhou in southern China. “They very nearly blew this thing to smithereens,” says paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The find is one of six oviraptorosaur species discovered from roughly the same place and time — around 72 million to 66 million years ago. Like its feathered cousins, Tongtianlong walked on two legs and had a sharp beak. But each species had distinct skeletal quirks.

Tongtianlong, for one, had a bony, domelike crest on its skull. Oviraptorosaurs were churning out lots of new species during the last stage of the Cretaceous Period, Brusatte says. Tongtianlong was part of “the final wave of dinosaur diversification before the asteroid came down and ended everything.”

This particular fossilized animal lies in a bed of reddish-purple mudstone, preserved in an unusually awkward position: head stuck out, neck arched, wings outspread. It may have died after a desperate struggle to free itself from mud, researchers suggest November 10 in Scientific Reports. That’s actually how the dinosaur gets its name: Tongtianlong limosus is a mix of Chinese Pinyin and Latin meaning “muddy dragon on the road to heaven.”

Neanderthals ate plants as well


This video says about itself:

26 June 2014

According to the oldest fossil evidence of human feces ever discovered, the extinct species known as Neanderthals probably ate vegetables. Researchers from the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands in Spain, working along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed fossil samples that include 50 thousand year-old feces from a Neanderthal campfire site close to Alicante, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the oldest fossil evidence of human feces ever discovered, the extinct species known as Neanderthals probably ate vegetables.

Researchers from the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands in Spain, working along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed fossil samples that include 50 thousand year-old feces from a Neanderthal campfire site close to Alicante, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Data from the study shows that the Neanderthal diet was mostly meat, but the fossil evidence indicates also the presence of plants in their excrement.

Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna is quoted as saying: “If you find it in the faeces, you are sure that it was ingested. This molecular fossil is perfect to try to know the proportion of both food sources in a Neanderthal meal.”

Neanderthals are modern humans’ closest extinct relative living between 250 thousand to 40 thousand years ago, and some experts believe that Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens before they became extinct.

Experts say that the prehistoric human diet probably varied quite a bit by region and availability, so it is plausible that some populations of Neanderthals ate plants and vegetables.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Neanderthals on cold steppes also ate plants

25 October 2016

Neanderthals in cold regions probably ate a lot more vegetable food than was previously thought. This is what archaeologist Robert Power has discovered based on new research on ancient Neanderthal dental plaque. PhD defence 1 November.

Mammoth steppe

Plants were an important part of the menu of Neanderthals who lived in the warmer Mediterranean regions of Eurasia between 180,000 and 30,000 years ago. But paleoanthropologists had for a long time assumed that the same did not apply in colder regions such as the Mammoth steppes. The Mammoth steppe, a region of steppe tundra almost completely devoid of trees, was the dominant landscape from Central Europe to East Asia during the cold periods of the Pleistocene era. Neanderthals in these areas were thought to have been carnivores, eating virtually only the flesh of large wild animals. This very limited diet made this hominid species vulnerable and may well have contributed to their becoming extinct, anthropologists reasoned.

Plant consumption

Leiden archaeologist Robert Power discovered that Neanderthals must have consumed regularly plants as food even in this cold and dry environment. ‘The Mammoth steppe is an environment that we don’t really understand because it no longer exists due to climate change and megafauna extinction. It may well be that these ancient grasslands were far more useful to Neanderthals than we thought.’

New research methods

The lack of comprehensive methods for tracing food consumptions is the reason why researchers have difficulty in establishing ancient diets. Thanks to emerging microscopy methods, plaque has become a good source of traces of food that can now be analysed. Power studied microbotanical particles in the plaque of Neanderthals from six different archaeological sites, including Croatia, Italy and Russia. His results from 48 teeth found that in all regions Neanderthals regularly ate plant food.

Research on chimpanzees

Power also examined the reliability of dental plaque as a source in reconstructing diet. He did this by examining the plaque of a group of chimpanzees that had recently died from natural causes and whose diet was monitored over a period of 20 years. His findings confirm that plaque can be a reflection of diet over an extended period of life.

Diverse climatic zones and periods

Power compared data from different periods, and his research showed that, irrespective of climatic region and also irrespective of time period, plants were a significant part of the diet.

Neanderthals have unique pattern

Power: ‘One of the big lessons of my work on Neanderthals was that the only reason we find the result surprising is that we expect Neanderthals to resemble modern human hunter gatherers in the way they foraged for food, but they didn’t. In the past we saw them as primitive cavemen with very basic behaviour, but now we have updated our view and see them as very modern. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to pigeonhole Neanderthals into our own particular version of humanity. They had their own unique pattern.’

Primate ancestry, new research


This video says about itself:

24 April 2014

From opposable thumbs to bipedalism, follow the human evolution timeline in this gripping biology video that’s perfect for the classroom.

All primates, including humans, evolved from a common ancestor 50 million years ago. Our shared evolutionary history has resulted in many shared features, like hands that grasp and forward-facing eyes. Watch Neil Shubin find evidence of evolution in modern-day squirrel monkeys.

For more videos on human evolution, see our evolution playlist.

From Science News:

Picture of primate common ancestor coming into focus

New family tree analysis points to nocturnal, rodent-sized, tree-climbing critter

By Erin Wayman

7:00am, October 29, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY — The earliest primate was a tiny, solitary tree dweller that liked the night life. Those are just some conclusions from new reconstructions of the primate common ancestor, presented October 27 at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Eva Hoffman, now a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues at Yale University looked at behavioral and ecological data from 178 modern primate species. Examining patterns of traits across the primate family tree, the researchers inferred the most likely characteristics of ancestors at different branching points in the tree — all the way back to the common ancestor.

This ancient primate, which may have lived some 80 million to 70 million years ago, was probably no bigger than a guinea pig, lived alone and gave birth to one offspring at a time, the researchers suggest. Living in trees and active at night, the critter probably ventured out to the ends of tree branches to eat fruits, leaves and insects.

But this mix of traits probably didn’t arise in primates, Hoffman says. After adding tree shrews and colugosprimates’ closest living relatives — to the analysis, the researchers concluded these same attributes were also present in the three groups’ common ancestor. So explanations of early primate evolution that rely on these features need to be reconsidered, Hoffman says.