Fossil dinosaur and fossil wildebeest, discoveries and simillarities


This video says about itself:

Shared noses: Extinct wildebeest relative was remarkably dinosaur-like

5 February 2016

An artist’s interpretation of Rusingoryx atopocranion on the Late Pleistocene plains of what is now Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria.

From the Christian Science Monitor in the USA:

Weird convergence: Extinct wildebeest cousin and dinosaur shared noses

Scientists discover two unrelated, extinct animals had the same strange nose.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer February 5, 2016

You might not expect to find many similarities between a mammal and a reptile, particularly if they lived millions of years apart. But scientists have found that two such extinct beasts share a rare, distinctive facial feature.

An extinct relative of the wildebeest and a duck-billed dinosaur both had bizarre crests on their heads. But it wasn’t the protruding bump that has most intrigued scientists, it’s what they found beneath.

The bony crest is hollow, forming a trumpet-shaped nasal passage unlike any seen outside these two species. No other animal, living or dead, has been found with such a feature.

So how did two beasts from two very different taxa come to have such a mysterious commonality? Convergent evolution, scientists say in a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

“We have an animal that its skeleton looks a lot like a wildebeest – it’s actually very closely related to modern wildebeests – but its face looks a lot more like something you would see if you went way back in time to the Cretaceous and looked at hadrosaur dinosaurs,” study lead author Haley O’Brien tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

Rusingoryx atopocranion, the mammal, lived about 65 thousand years ago, during the late Pleistocene, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs, the dinosaur, lived closer to 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous – and yet both animals evolved the same strange nose.

And not only do their nasal passages look alike, she said, the feature also appears to develop the same way as the animals grow up from juveniles to adults, as a variety of fossils display.

“When I first saw the complete skulls, I was blown away,” vertebrate paleontologist David C. Evans, who was not part of the study, writes in an email to the Monitor. “The resemblance between Rusingoryx and some hollow-crested dinosaurs in the form of their nasal structures is truly striking, and there are clear parallels in how they evolved and grew. Both groups elongated their noses to such a degree that they evolved highly domed skulls to house their nasal passages on top of their heads, above their eyes.”

Different origins, same result

“It’s probably one of the best examples of convergence in large animals that I’ve seen in a long time,” Ali Nabavizadeh, a researcher in evolutionary biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study, tells the Monitor.

One was a mammal and the other a reptile, and millions of years elapsed between their tenure on Earth, but still, these animals developed the same adaptation.

Convergent evolution occurs when two species along different lineages independently evolve the same, or similar, features for the same function. One example is how insects, birds, and bats can all fly.

Convergence typically occurs when different species face the same ecological pressures. So what did Rusingoryx and the hadrosaurs have in common?

Both animals were herbivores and lived in herds. Rusingoryx was a ruminant and hadrosaurs have been called the cows of the Cretaceous, but the similarities, besides the shared nose, stop there.

Rusingoryx lived on the savanna, a dry wide open plain, while Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs were thought to have lived in a tropical rainforest.

Understanding this mysterious convergence might hinge on the purpose that these strange nasal passages served.

Inner trumpets

Without looking inside the animals’ skulls, the crest might appear to be simply for visual display or some other external use.

“We have known for decades that visual display and physical combat have strongly shaped skull evolution in many groups of animals with elaborate horns and crests,” Dr. Evans says. But the long, trumpet-shaped interior suggests a more complex purpose.

The hollow cavity, part of the respiratory tract, loops up over the animal’s head and seems to connect to the vocal tract.

To determine the purpose behind this strange nose, scientists focused on the mammal’s living cousins, wildebeests and antelopes. While researchers can look at their soft tissue for clues, all that’s left of the dinosaurs is bone.

The unusual nose could have helped the animals smell, bugle, or even regulate their temperature, Evans says. “The case for vocalization as the primary function of the nasal dome in Rusingoryx is by far the most convincing, as the authors advocate.”

The Rusingoryx are very social, says Ms. O’Brien. “They live in herds and they use a lot of vocal signals to communicate. When we looked into the function of what this skull type might be doing in Rusingoryx, we really couldn’t prescribe a function outside of that social vocalization.”

“There are obviously a lot of things that animals do with their faces,” she says. “But we don’t think that this crazy nasal dome would have really changed those more normal functions for this animal. We think that it was using the nasal crest to modify the way that it’s producing these vocalizations and communicating.”

That makes sense, says Thomas E. Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who was not part of the study.

“When you have any kind of a tubing, it becomes naturally resonant,” he explains. “So the idea that it’s being used somehow to amplify certain frequencies of sound, it will do that,”

Not your average moo

O’Brien and her colleagues suggest that Rusingoryx, and perhaps the dinosaurs by extension, used this bizarre nasal dome to communicate at frequencies other animals cannot hear. This is called infrasound, and animals like elephants and cassowaries use it to communicate under the radar.

That’s possible, says Dr. Nabavizadeh. “If you have a very gregarious group of animals and they’re in a big arid, open environment, as these bovids are, then you are under the selective pressure to start to create more lower bellowing sounds that are possibly outside of the hearing range of carnivores, so they can communicate without being found in big open environments.”

But the environment doesn’t preclude the dinosaurs from needing this ability too, says Dr. Williamson. “Infrasound … is able to travel over great distances and open areas and in closed environments. It pretty much goes everywhere,” he says. And cassowaries, the living birds thought to communicate in infrasound, live in dense tropical rainforests.

Extremely big dinosaur discovery in Argentina


This 22 January 2016 Argentine TV video, in Spanish, is about the recent discovery of the Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi dinosaur.

From Nature:

A gigantic new dinosaur from Argentina and the evolution of the sauropod hind foot

18 January 2016

Abstract

Titanosauria is an exceptionally diverse, globally-distributed clade of sauropod dinosaurs that includes the largest known land animals. Knowledge of titanosaurian pedal structure is critical to understanding the stance and locomotion of these enormous herbivores and, by extension, gigantic terrestrial vertebrates as a whole. However, completely preserved pedes are extremely rare among Titanosauria, especially as regards the truly giant members of the group.

Here we describe Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi gen. et sp. nov. from the Upper Cretaceous of Mendoza Province, Argentina. With a powerfully-constructed humerus 1.76 m in length, Notocolossus is one of the largest known dinosaurs. Furthermore, the complete pes of the new taxon exhibits a strikingly compact, homogeneous metatarsus—seemingly adapted for bearing extraordinary weight—and truncated unguals, morphologies that are otherwise unknown in Sauropoda. The pes underwent a near-progressive reduction in the number of phalanges along the line to derived titanosaurs, eventually resulting in the reduced hind foot of these sauropods.

A Culture24 top ten of the best dinosaur museums and collections in the UK: here.

Jurassic dinosaur discovery in Wales


This video about Wales says about itself:

New dinosaur: Welsh dragon Dracoraptor hanigani discovered

20 January 2016

Scientists have discovered the fossilised skull and bones of a dinosaur on a Severn Estuary beach near the town of Penarth. Report by Sarah Duffy.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Ancient ‘dragon’ found in Wales, named Dracoraptor hanigani

The apparently youthful dinosaur was running around Wales about 200 million years ago

Andrew Griffin

Dragons really did roam around Wales. But about 200 million years ago.

Scientists have found the skull and bones of a huge beast near Penarth. The creature has been named Dracoraptor hanigani and is one of the world’s oldest Jurassic dinosaurs.

Dracoraptor is Latin for “dragon robber”, an apparent reference to the dragon on Wales’ flag.

Flag of Wales

The rest of the name comes from Nick and Rob Hanigan, the amateur fossil-hunters who found the bones while they were looking for ichthyosaur remains.

The dragon was related to the Tyrannosaurus rex. But it was a lot less terrifying, scientists say.

The bones aren’t yet fully formed, and so the specimen probably belongs to a youngster.

The dragon would have roamed before dinosaurs took over the world, when it was instead dominated by crocodiles and mammals.

Mammals just started their evolution during the early Jurassic, and were not dominant yet.

The climate of Wales would also have been very different and much warmer.

Dinosaur scientist Steven Vidovic, from the University of Portsmouth, one of the experts whose description of D. hanigani appears in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, said: “The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event is often credited for the later success of dinosaurs through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but previously we knew very little about dinosaurs at the start of this diversification and rise to dominance.

“Now we have Dracoraptor, a relatively complete two metre-long juvenile theropod from the very earliest days of the Jurassic in Wales.”

Gigantopithecus, biggest ape ever, why extinct?


This video says about itself:

6 October 2015

The Largest Ape that Ever Lived, National Geographic documentary

The Gigantopithecus blacki stood up to 3 m (9.8 ft).

From Wildlife Extra:

Why Earth’s Largest Ape Went Extinct

Little is known about the mysterious Gigantopithecus blacki, a distant relative to orangutans that stood up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighed up to 595 lbs. (270 kilograms).

However, a new analysis of its diet suggests it lived and ate exclusively in the forest. When its forest habitats shrank about 100,000 years ago, the enormous ape may not have been able to snag enough food to survive and reproduce, and went extinct as a result, said study co-author Hervé Bocherens, a paleontologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Dragon teeth?

Scientists know almost nothing about the mysterious ape. The first hint of its existence came in 1935, when German paleontologist Gustav von Koenigswald happened upon Gigantopithecus molars in a pharmacy in China; the molars were labeled as “dragon teeth,” which practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe can heal a variety of maladies.

For years, that was the only trace of the greatest ape that ever lived. Since then, however, researchers have found dozens of teeth and a few partial jaws of Gigantopithecus in several spots in southern China, Vietnam and even India.

“There is no skull, no postcranial skeleton. Everything is very mysterious,” Bocherens told Live Science.

Based on fossils, researchers believe G. blacki roamed throughout Southeast Asia for at least 1 million years, going extinct around 100,000 years ago. Its morphology suggests its closest living relatives are orangutans, meaning that African primates such as chimps are more closely related to humans than to G. blacki, he said.

Overgrown pandas?

Scientists still knew relatively little about how the gigantic beast lived and why it died out, though theories abound. Noting the similarity between the large size of G. blacki’s molars and the overgrown chompers of giant pandas, some have argued G. blacki dined exclusively on bamboo. But wear and tear on the teeth of G. blacki suggested it ate a diet heavy on fruits, with leaves and roots in the mix, Bocherens said.

To get a better picture, Bocherens and his colleagues conducted a chemical analysis of a Gigantopithecus blacki tooth first uncovered in a cave in Thailand near a dam teeming with other fossils, including remnants of orangutans, deer, buffalo and porcupine.

Because grasses and leafy plants use slightly different chemical pathways for photosynthesis, grasses accumulate higher levels of carbon-13 (meaning carbon with seven neutrons) than carbon-12 (which has six neutrons). As animals up the food chain eat these plants, they retain the chemical signature of their diet in the ratio of these carbon isotopes present in their bones and teeth. As a result, the scientists were able to identify the diet and habitat of G. blacki based on the ratio of carbon isotopes in its tooth enamel. The team also analyzed the dietary signature of the other large mammals found at the Thailand site, as well as the diets of existing large mammals.

Doomed to extinction

It turned out that G. blacki ate, and presumably lived, exclusively in forested regions. But the carbon ratios in the other animals from the cave revealed they were eating a mix of foods from both the savanna and the forest. That suggests that at the time the gigantic ape lived, Southeast Asia was a mosaic of forest and savanna. So Gigantopithecus blacki lived near huge swaths of grassland, yet didn’t forage in the nearby grasslands.

The combination of this restricted diet and its huge size may have doomed the giant creatures, Bocherens said.

“Living in the forest was really the only option for Gigantopithecus. So if the forest disappears, there is no possibility to find another habitat,” Bocherens said.

It’s likely that each time the climate got cooler and drier at various points in the Pleistocene epoch, the forested region shrank and the population of G. blacki crashed. Sometime around 100,000 years ago, a cold snap occurred and there were simply too few of the giant beasts left to survive, the researchers speculate.

As supporting evidence for this hypothesis, Bocherens notes that similar “population bottlenecks” reduced the range of orangutans from almost all of Southeast Asia to their current tiny habitats in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. However, orangutans have smaller bodies and can reduce their metabolism to very low levels during seasons when fruit is unavailable, which likely helped keep their population stable during periods when forest habitat was sparse. Gigantopithecus may not have had that option.

Still, the story doesn’t completely explain why G. blacki disappeared when it did, Bocherens said.

“There were a lot of fluctuations of climate, and there were also colder and drier conditions.” Bocherens said. “I see this as a beginning study. It’s putting a new piece in the puzzle, and the puzzle is not very complete.”

What Californian pygmy mammoths ate


This May 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

The Pygmy Mammoths on the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, California.

From Quaternary International:

5 January 2016

Dietary reconstruction of pygmy mammoths from Santa Rosa Island of California

Abstract

Microwear analyses have proven to be reliable for elucidating dietary differences in taxa with similar gross tooth morphologies. We analyzed enamel microwear of a large sample of Channel Island pygmy mammoth (Mammuthus exilis) molars from Santa Rosa Island, California and compared our results to those of extant proboscideans, extant ungulates, and mainland fossil mammoths and mastodons from North America and Europe.

Our results show a distinct narrowing in mammoth dietary niche space after mainland mammoths colonized Santa Rosa as M. exilis became more specialized on browsing on leaves and twigs than the Columbian mammoth and modern elephant pattern of switching more between browse and grass. Scratch numbers and scratch width scores support this interpretation as does the Pleistocene vegetation history of Santa Rosa Island whereby extensive conifer forests were available during the last glacial when M. exilis flourished.

The ecological disturbances and alteration of this vegetation (i.e., diminishing conifer forests) as the climate warmed suggests that climatic factors may have been a contributing factor to the extinction of M. exilis on Santa Rosa Island in the Late Pleistocene.

Extinct Ice Age elephant discovery in England


This is a 1961 Spanish video, about a fossil Palaeoloxodon antiquus elephant, discovered in the Manzanares river in Madrid.

From the BBC:

Isle of Wight extinct elephant fossil on display in Sandown

2 January 2016

A fossil from an extinct species of elephant dating back 100,000 years has gone on display on the Isle of Wight.

The shoulder bone of the Palaeoloxodon antiquus was found protruding from the sand on the west coast of the island by local resident Paul Hollingshead.

The bone is at the Dinosaur Isle museum in Sandown and is thought to date from the Eemian interglacial period.

Mr Hollingshead said: “I was shocked how big it was and spent around two and a half-hours digging it out.”

He found the bone back in March but the museum said it had taken a long time to conserve so that it was fit for display.

Alex Peaker from Dinosaur Isle said: “You don’t really associate elephants with the Isle of Wight but this find shows they did roam the island many years ago.”

Mr Hollingshead, who has donated the bone to the museum, said: “I remember it was a big five-metre tide, so I knew the water would go out a long way, when I saw what looked like a bit of bone showing from the sand.

“I stopped and realised it was a bit bigger, so I started clearing all of the sand and stones away from it.

“I was hoping it was a dinosaur bone, so was quite shocked to find out it was from an elephant.”

Tyrannosaurus rex in Leiden museum ‘an old lady’


This is a February 2015 Dutch TV video about a Tyrannosaurus rex going from Montana in the USA to the Netherlands.

In 2016, for the first time ever, people will be able to see a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in a museum outside North America: in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. The fossil skeleton will arrive there in mid-2016.

This dinosaur was found in Montana in 2013.

This morning, Naturalis paleontologist Anne Schulp, involved in the excavation, was interviewed by Dutch radio on this.

He said this Tyrannosaur is probably a female of over 30 years old. That would make her the Tyrannosaur with the longest life found so far.