Scipionyx baby dinosaur discovery


This 24 March 2020 video says about itself:

The Baby Dinosaur With Fossilised OrgansScipionyx

The discovery that this baby dinosaur fossil had preserved large parts of the internal organs for over 110 million years was one of the greatest revelations in recent palaeontology. So what can this amazing fossil tell us about extinct dinosaur biology?

Diplocaulus, prehistoric Permian ‘hammerhead salamanders’


This 22 May 2020 video about Diplocaulus says about itself:

The Hammerheaded Salamander

This boomerang head has been a part of every prehistoric background scene. Why is this, and what did it do with those horns?

Pleistocene South African animals and early humans


This 27 April 2019 video says about itself:

Pelorovis (“monstrous sheep”) is an extinct genus of African wild cattle.

It first appeared in the Pliocene, 2.5 million years ago, and became extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene about 12,000 years ago or even during the Holocene, some 4,000 years ago.

Studies show that the early forms of the genus (P. turkanensis and P. oldowayensis) are close relatives, and possibly the first members, of the genus Bos.

In contrast, the late Pleistocene form (Pelorovis antiquus) seems to be a close relative of the modern African buffalo (Syncerus caffer).

Pelorovis resembled an African buffalo, although it was larger and possessed longer, curved horns.

Pelorovis probably weighed about 1,200 kilograms (2,600 lb), with the largest males attaining 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb).

This ranks it as one of the largest bovines, and indeed ruminants ever to have lived, rivaling the extinct American long-horned bison (Bison latifrons) and the extant African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardis).

The bony cores of the horns were each about 1 meter (3.3 ft) long; when covered with keratin (which does not survive fossilization) they could have been up to twice this length.

The horns pointed away from the head, each forming a half-circle in the species Pelorovis oldowayensis and Pelorovis turkanensis.

The horns of Pelorovis antiquus were also magnificent but resembled in shape more those of the water buffalo (Bubalus).

P. antiquus was even placed in the genus Bubalus by early specialists.

Pelorovis oldowayensis was broadly the same size as modern African buffalo, but its legs were longer, and the elongated head of this species was reminiscent to those of the modern Alcelaphinae.

Pelorovis antiquus was about the same size, but it was more robust.

Pelorovis antiquus disappeared around 12,000 years ago from southern and eastern Africa. Fossil and archaeological evidence indicates that this species lived in North Africa until 4,000 years ago.

Pelorovis oldowayensis occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and disappeared 800,000 years ago.

The best fossils of Pelorovis oldowayensis are known from the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania; a complete skeleton of Pelorovis antiquus was found near Djelfa in Algeria.

From the University of Colorado Denver in the USA:

Migration patterns reveal an Eden for ancient humans and animals

May 22, 2020

Summary: Researchers have discovered a new migration pattern (or lack of) at Pinnacle Point, a now-submerged region in South Africa. While it was first believed large omnivores would travel to follow the growth of vegetation to survive, our researcher came to a completely new conclusion through studying antelope teeth! They discovered that this region was an Eden to all living species that called it home, including the earliest humans.

Pinnacle Point, a series of archaeological sites that overlook a now-submerged section of South Africa’s coastline and one of the world’s most important localities for the study of modern human origins, was as much of an Eden for animals as it was for early humans. Jamie Hodgkins, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at University of Colorado Denver, and her team drilled ancient herbivore teeth to find that many local animals stayed put in the ecologically rich ecosystem, which may explain why humans flourished there, too.

Home to the Earliest Modern Humans

Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Co-author Curtis Marean, PhD, Arizona State University, has worked with teams of scientists for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

In this study, the researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago.

“During glacial cycles, the coastal shelf was exposed,” said Hodgkins. “There would have been a huge amount of land in front of the cave sites. We thought it was likely that humans and carnivores were hunting animals as they migrated east and west over the exposed shelf.”

A Lack of Migratory Pattern

Hodgkins and her team wanted to understand those migratory patterns. They studied the carbon and oxygen isotopes within the tooth enamel of many large herbivores, including Redunca, or reedbuck, a nonmigratory antelope. Tooth enamel can reveal a pattern of migration by tracking changing levels of carbon from the plants an animal eats as its teeth grow.

In general, wetter, cooler environments are home to C3 plants; hotter, drier environments are home to C4 plants. Animals like lush vegetation, which means they tend to follow the rain patterns: in this case east for summer rain (C4 grasses), and west for winter rain (C3 grasses). If animals were migrating between summer and winter rainfall zones, their tooth enamel would register that annual C3 and C4 plant rotation as a sinusoidal curve as their teeth grew.

A) Map of South Africa (SA) showing the distribution of C4 grasses associated with the percentage of summer rain from east to west along the coast, and with the winter rainfall zone in the west (modified from Vogel, 1978); B) A map of SA showing the area of the Greater Cape Floristic Region with the expanded PAP and hypothesized animals migration (i.e. It is hypothesized that animals would have been undertaking long-distance migrations between the east coast in summer rainfall zone and west coast in the winter rainfall zone)

But when Hodgkins and her team used the nonmigratory reedbuck as their control animal, they found that the enamel from its typically migratory pals — like the wildebeest, hartebeest, and springbok — showed no discernible migratory pattern. Most animals seemed happy right where they were.

“They weren’t struggling at Pinnacle Point,” says Hodgkins. “We now know that powerful river systems supplied the expanded coast, thus animals didn’t have to be migratory. It was a great location, resource-wise. During interglacials when the coast moved closer to the caves humans had shellfish and other marine resources, and when the coast expanded in glacial times hunters had access to a rich, terrestrial environment. Hunters wouldn’t need to be as mobile with all of these herbivores wandering around.”

Thriving in an Ecogeological Haven

Hodgkins’ team’s findings of this prehistoric Eden echoed another recent discovery. Seventy-four-thousand years ago, one of Earth’s largest known eruptions at Mount Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, created a global winter, causing population crashes. In 2018, researchers from Marean’s group found that humans at Pinnacle Point not only survived, but thrived in the haven.

Hodgkins says this is just a first attempt at using isotopic data to test the hypothesis of east and west migration patterns at these sites and further research will be done.

“It is quite possible that animal migration patterns changed as the coastline moved in and out during glacial and interglacial cycles,” said Hodgkins.

Funders for this project include the National Science Foundation, the Hyde Family Foundations, and the John Templeton Foundation at the Institute of Human Origins (IHO) at Arizona State University.

First fossil great white shark nursery discovered


This September 2014 video says about itself:

Scientists discover a great white shark pupping ground in the Sea of Cortez.

From the University of Vienna in Austria:

First fossil nursery of the great white shark discovered

Paleo-kindergarten ensured evolutionary success millions of years ago

May 22, 2020

Summary: An international research team discovered the first fossil nursery area of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias in Chile. This discovery provides a better understanding of the evolutionary success of the largest top predator in today’s oceans in the past and could contribute to the protection of these endangered animals.

The great white shark is one of the most charismatic, but also one of the most infamous sharks. Despite its importance as top predator in marine ecosystems, it is considered threatened with extinction; its very slow growth and late reproduction with only few offspring are — in addition to anthropogenic reasons — responsible for this.

Young white sharks are born in designated breeding areas, where they are protected from other predators until they are large enough not to fear competitors any more. Such nurseries are essential for maintaining stable and sustainable breeding population sizes, have a direct influence on the spatial distribution of populations and ensure the survival and evolutionary success of species. Researchers have therefore intensified the search for such nurseries in recent years in order to mitigate current population declines of sharks by suitable protection measures. “Our knowledge about current breeding grounds of the great white shark is still very limited, however, and palaeo-nurseries are completely unknown,” explains Jaime Villafaña from the University of Vienna.

He and his colleagues analysed statistically 5 to 2 million-year-old fossil teeth of this fascinating shark, which were found at several sites along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru, to reconstruct body size distribution patterns of great white shark in the past. The results show that body sizes varied considerably along the South American paleo-Pacific coast. One of these localities in northern Chile, Coquimbo, revealed the highest percentage of young sharks, the lowest percentage of “teenagers.” Sexually mature animals were completely absent.

This first undoubted paleo-nursery of the Great White Shark is of enormous importance. It comes from a time when the climate was much warmer than today, so that this time can be considered analogous to the expected global warming trends in the future. “If we understand the past, it will enable us to take appropriate protective measures today to ensure the survival of this top predator, which is of utmost importance for ecosystems,” explains palaeobiologist Jürgen Kriwet: “Our results indicate that rising sea surface temperatures will change the distribution of fish in temperate zones and shift these important breeding grounds in the future.”

This would have a direct impact on population dynamics of the great white shark and would also affect its evolutionary success in the future. “Studies of past and present nursery grounds and their response to temperature and paleo-oceanographic changes are essential to protect such ecological key species,” concluded Jürgen Kriwet.

Ancient Triassic woodlouse discovery in Dutch Winterswijk


Winterswijk quarry with reconstruction drawing of Gelrincola winterswijkensis.  © Photo: Herman Winkelhorst, drawing by Erik-Jan Bosch (Naturalis Biodiversity Center)

Gelrincola winterswijkensis, A: Light microscope photo. B: Fluorescence microscope photo. C: Interpretative drawing. © Mario Schädel & prof. dr. Joachim Haug, Bulletin of Geosciences

Translated from Utrecht University in the Netherlands today:

Oldest woodlouse in the Netherlands discovered in Winterswijk quarry

A fossil woodlouse from the Triassic age, aged between 247 and 242 million years, has been discovered in the Winterswijk quarry. Never before has such an old woodlouse fossil been found in the Netherlands. It also turns out to be a new species. The find is extra special because fossil woodlice are extremely rare: until recently only nine species from the Triassic were known worldwide. The special fossil can be admired from 8 June on in Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Woodlice do not only live in dark places or under stones: about half of all woodlouse species live in the sea. This in itself is not remarkable since woodlice are closely related to crabs and lobsters. The Winterswijk woodlouse also lived in the sea. The researchers named the new species Gelrincola winterswijkensis after the fossil site.

Gelrincola means ‘inhabitant of Gelderland province’.

The first woodlice appeared about 300 million years ago, during the Carboniferous. There are not many remains as ancient as Gelrincola winterswijkensis. Only ten species of woodlice are known from before the Triassic. More woodlice species are known from the eras after the Triassic. Today, more than ten thousand species of these crustaceans live.

The Winterswijk animal originates from the middle Triassic, a period of 247 to 242 million years ago. Back then Winterswijk was located on the edge of a large inland sea, the so-called Muschelkalk Sea. Along the coast of this Muschelkalk Sea there were extensive tidal plains where many remains of animals have been preserved in the lime mud. In Winterswijk you will find fossils from the sea as well as remains of animals that lived on land.

This yields a wide variety of fossils, including marine reptiles (such as Nothosaurus), fish, seashells, snails, ammonites, lobsters, a horseshoe crab, plant remains, pollen grains, footprints of terrestrial reptiles, and even fossil insects. So now a marine woodlouse can be added to this fossil biodiversity. This creates an increasingly complete picture of the ecosystem of the time. …

In our country, rocks from that interesting period only occur in the Winterswijk quarry.

This summer Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Utrecht University will continue to search for fossils there. A new visitors centre will be built next to the quarry, where the most important fossils from the quarry will be exhibited.

How giant prehistoric fish Titanichthys fed


This 30 December 2018 video says about itself:

Titanichthys is a genus of giant, aberrant marine placoderm from shallow seas of the Late Devonian of Morocco, Eastern North America, and possibly Europe. Many individuals of the species approached Dunkleosteus in size and build.

Unlike its relative, however, the various species of Titanichys had small, ineffective-looking mouth-plates that lacked a sharp cutting edge. It is assumed that Titanichthys was a filter feeder that used its capacious mouth to swallow or inhale schools of small, anchovy-like fish, or possibly krill-like zooplankton, and that the mouth-plates retained the prey while allowing the water to escape as it closed its mouth

From the University of Bristol in England:

Ancient giant armored fish fed in a similar way to basking sharks

May 19, 2020

Scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Zurich have shown that the Titanichthys — a giant armoured fish that lived in the seas and oceans of the late Devonian period 380-million-years ago — fed in a similar manner to modern-day basking sharks.

Titanichthys has long been known as one of the largest animals of the Devonian — its exact size is difficult to determine, but it likely exceeded five metres in length; like in the basking shark, its lower jaw reached lengths exceeding one metre. However, unlike its similarly giant contemporary Dunkleosteus, there is no previous evidence of how Titanichthys fed.

Where the lower jaw of Dunkleosteus and many of its relatives had clear fangs and crushing plates, the lower jaw of Titanichthys is narrow and lacking any dentition or sharp edges suitable for cutting.

Consequently, Titanichthys has been presumed to have been a suspension-feeder, feeding on minute plankton by swimming slowly with the mouth opened widely through water to capture high concentrations of plankton — a technique called continuous ram feeding.

However, this has remained uncertain, as no fossilised evidence of suspension-feeding structures such as elongate projections that cover the gills in modern suspension-feeding fish has ever been found.

Instead, the team sought to investigate the question indirectly, using biomechanical analysis to compare the lower jaw of Titanichthys with those of other species. Their findings are reported today in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Lead author Sam Coatham carried out the research while studying for his masters in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences.

He said: “We have found that Titanichthys was very likely to have been a suspension-feeder, showing that its lower jaw was considerably less mechanically robust than those of other placoderm species that fed on large or hard-shelled prey.

“Consequently, those feeding strategies (common amongst its relatives) would probably have not been available for Titanichthys.”

The fossils of Titanichthys used in the study were found in the Moroccan part of the Sahara Desert by co-author Christian Klug, a researcher at the University of Zurich. He added: “When you do fieldwork in the Anti-Atlas, massive skull bones of placoderms can be found quite frequently.”

The team tested the resilience of the jaws by virtually applying forces to the jaws, using a technique called Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to assess how likely each jaw was to break or bend.

This revealed that the lower jaw of Titanichthys was much less resistant to stress and was more likely to break than those of the other placoderm species, such as the famous Dunkleosteus. Therefore, the jaw of Titanichthys probably would not have been able to withstand the higher stresses associated with their strategies of feeding on large prey, which thus exert more mechanical stress on the jaws.

This pattern was consistent in both sharks and whales, with the suspension-feeder proving less resistant to stress than the other species within the same lineage. Further analyses comparing the distribution of stress across the jaws showed similar patterns in Titanichthys and the basking shark, reinforcing this comparison.

It has been established that there were almost certainly giant suspension-feeding vertebrates living 380 million years ago, at least 150 million years before the suspension-feeding Pachycormidae (previously the earliest definitive example) and about 350 million years before the first baleen whales.

The research team believes that there are other extinct species that would have filled a similar ecological role, including other placoderms (armoured fish) and at least one species of plesiosaur.

Sam Coatham added: “Our methods could be extended to identify other such species in the fossil record and investigate whether there were common factors driving the evolution and extinction of these species.

“We suggest a link between oceanic productivity and the evolution of Titanichthys, but this should be investigated in detail in the future. An established link could have implications for our understanding of the conservation of modern suspension-feeders.”

Ichthyosaur discovery in London Natural History Museum


This 27 January 2020 video from England says about itself:

197-Million-Year-Old Ichthyosaur Fossil Saved

The prehistoric fossil was discovered by amateur fossil hunter Jon Gopsill when he was out walking his dogs on 14 December 2019. The five-and-a-half foot long marine reptile had been exposed by recent storms. The specimen was successfully extracted on 27 December by experts working against the clock in the intertidal zone of Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve.

From Baylor University in the USA:

Fishing rod ‘selfie stick’ and scientific sleuthing turn up clues to extinct sea reptile

May 19, 2020

A Russian paleontologist visiting the Natural History Museum in London desperately wanted a good look at the skeleton of an extinct aquatic reptile, but its glass case was too far up the wall. So he attached his digital camera to a fishing rod and — with several clicks — snagged a big one, scientifically speaking.

Images from the “selfie stick” revealed that the creature, whose bones were unearthed more than a century ago on a coast in southern England, seemed very similar to a genus of ichthyosaurs he recognized from Russian collections.

He emailed the photos of the dolphin-like ichthyosaur to fellow paleontologist Megan L. Jacobs, a Baylor University doctoral candidate in geosciences. She quickly realized that the animal’s skeletal structure matched not only some ichthyosaurs she was studying in a fossil museum on the English Channel coast, but also some elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Jacobs and paleontologist Nikolay G. Zverkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences — who “fished” for the ichthyosaur — merged their research, studying their collective photos and other materials and ultimately determining that the Russian and English ichthyosaurs were of the same genus and far more common and widespread than scientists believed.

Their study is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

“Ichthyosaurs swam the seas of our planet for about 76 million years,” Jacobs said. “But this 5-foot ichthyosaur from some 150 million years ago was the least known and believed to be among the rarest ichthyosaurs. The skeleton in the case, thought to be the only example of the genus, has been on display in the Natural History Museum in London since 1922.

Nikolay’s excellent detailed photos significantly expand knowledge of Nannopterygius enthekiodon,” she said. “Now, after finding examples from museum collections across the United Kingdom, Russia and the Arctic — as well as several other Nannopterygius species — we can say Nannopterygius is one of the most widespread genera of ichthyosaurs in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Additionally, the study described a new species, Nannopterygius borealis, dating from about 145 million years ago in a Russian archipelago in the Arctic. The new species is the northernmost and youngest representative of its kind, Jacobs said.

Previously, for the Middle and Late Jurassic epochs, the only abundant and most commonly found ichthyosaur was Ophthalmosaurus, which had huge eyes and was about 20 feet long. It was known from hundreds of specimens, including well-preserved skeletons from the Middle Jurassic Oxford Clay Formation of England, Jacobs said.

“For decades, the scientific community thought that Nannopterygius was the rarest and most poorly known ichthyosaur of England,” Zverkov said. “Finally, we can say that we know nearly every skeletal detail of these small ichthyosaurs and that these animals were widespread. The answer was very close; what was needed was just a fishing rod.”