Mysterious fossils in Dutch Oosterschelde estuary

This 1961 video is about finding fossil mammal bones with a fishing boat, from the bottom of the Oosterschelde estuary in Zeeland province in the Netherlands.

Astrid Kromhout of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden reported on 7 September 2015 about two mysterious fossil bones, fished on 5 September 2015.

One of the bones used to belong to an aurochs, or, really, an aurochs ancestor; the other one to a mammoth.

Scratches on early Pleistocene aurochs ancestor bone

On both bones are parallel scratches. Hyena teeth or rodents’ gnawing don’t look being the causes of these scratches. Did a human ancestor cause them? But the mammoth bone is about 2.3 million year old; and the bovine bone is from the early Pleistocene as well. Then, all human ancestors still lived in Africa. The oldest traces of human ancestors in the Netherlands are 250.000 years old. So, mysterious indeed.

On 5 September, also other fossils were found, a molar and a bone of a 2,3 million year old mastodon.

Since 65 years ago, paleontologists go year after year aboard a fishing boat to use fishing nets to find fossils. During that time, 2174 fossils were found, mostly roughly 2 million years old.

Old Triceratops dinosaurs, new discoveries

This is a 9 May 2013 video from Wyoming, USA. Triceratops fossils had already been found there. Since then, even more have been found.

Translated from Vroege Vogels TV in the Netherlands:

Triceratops did not live on its own

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 19:07

The excavation by a Naturalis team of five Triceratops skeletons in one location means that the theory about solitary Triceratops should be reviewed. This is the conclusion of paleontologist Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute. “This changes everything. We have always believed that Triceratops lived alone and not in herds or families. Until this excavation,” says Larson on Vroege Vogels TV on Tuesday September 8th 19:20. After the excavations, the bones will be brought to Naturalis in Leiden for further research.

Unique discovery

Peter Larson is present at the excavations by Anne Schulp of Naturalis with his expedition team in Wyoming. Here a number of young and adult specimens have been found. That there are so many of them together makes the discovery unique. The bones are very well preserved. This will ensure that the skeletons will be properly mounted. Concerning Triceratops skeletons, so far worldwide only two individuals had been found which were complete for more than half. Only when the entire excavation will be finished, it will be possible to say exactly how complete the skeletons are. Triceratops lived over 66 million years ago and is a herbivorous dinosaur.

Naturalis will bring the skeletons to Leiden for further research. 2018 will see the Triceratops skeletons in the new permanent exhibition which will include the previously found T. rex.

Naturalis paleontologist Martijn Guliker, a participant in the expedition, writes about discovering hundreds of Triceratops bones, in his blog about this excavation.

Why are dinosaurs extinct? You asked Google – here’s the answer, by Brian Switek: here.

New horned dinosaur species discovered in South Dakota, USA?

This video from the USA is called Dinosaur Discoveries: Protoceratops and other Ceratopsians.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Owner: Dinosaur Skull Thought To Be New Ceratopsian Species

September 8, 2015, 2:18 PM

TOPEKA, KS – The Kansas owner of a dinosaur skull found in 2012 in South Dakota field says the fossil is thought to be a new species and genus of ceratopsian.

The ceratopsians is a family of dinosaurs that lived mostly during the Cretaceous Period and includes the triceratops.

A professional fossil hunter from Buffalo, South Dakota, discovered the skull that was later purchased by Lawrence artist Alan Dietrich.

Dietrich says the skull is “extraordinary” because of the placement of its 17-inch nose horn, plus other unique characteristics. He says he might display it at the Denver Coliseum Mineral, Fossil and Gem Show scheduled for mid-September.

See also here.

Ancient big sea scorpion discovery in Iowa, USA

Pentecopterus decorahensis. Image: Patrick Lynch/Yale University

From in the USA:

This Prehistoric Sea Scorpion Was the Size of a Person

Written by Becky Ferreira

1 September 2015 // 01:00 AM CET

The fossilized remains of an enormous sea scorpion have been found in a Iowan fossil bed at the bottom of an ancient impact crater. (Take a moment to let all that sink in.)

Named for a Greek warship called the penteconter, Pentecopterus decorahensis is like some kind of evolutionary fever dream. The newly-discovered species was decked out with lethal clawlike appendages and an idiosyncratic, paddle-shaped leg that was likely used for locomotion.

Measuring almost six feet long, Pentecopterus was a veritable giant in the seas of the Ordovician period, some 467 million years ago.

“It was probably the largest animal in its ecosystem,” paleontologist James Lamsdell told me. Lamsdell is the lead author of a paper describing the animal, published today in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

“From what we know, there was nothing else around that would have been likely to consider Pentecopterus prey,” he added. “It seems that Pentecopterus was the dominant animal in its ecosystem.”

This is even more impressive considering this species is the oldest eurypterid—the scientific term for sea scorpion—ever found in the fossil record. Eurypterids were a very diverse group of creatures that flourished for over 200 million years, before dying off at the dawn of the Triassic period. Among their ranks were the largest arthropods that ever roamed the Earth, and their close relatives live on today in the arachnid family.

The discovery of Pentecopterus pushes the evolutionary timeline of these influential animals back about nine million years, though Lamsdell said the eurypterid family tree’s roots run even deeper.

“We know that Pentecopterus is actually a relatively advanced eurypterid,” he told me. “The exciting thing about this is that it means that there must have been a number of other eurypterid groups around at the time too that we have yet to discover.”

“It is clear however that Pentecopterus was one of the earliest large predators in these complex ecosystems,” he added.

What’s more, Pentecopterus left behind the kind of beautifully fossilized remains that most paleontologists only dream about. “It is very rare to find such exquisite preservation in fossils of this age,” Lamsdell said. “I have never seen anything like this before in a eurypterid.”

The fine state of the specimens is due to the unique nature of Iowa’s Decorah crater where the fossils, which include both adult and juvenile members of the species, were excavated.

The crater was formed about 470 million years ago, when a 200-meter-wide meteorite impacted the Earth. The Ordovician oceans flooded the deformation, creating a shallow marine environment of brackish water. Here, Pentecopterus communities flourished, and when individuals died, they were etched into geological history by the crater’s deoxygenated seafloor, which provided perfect conditions for fossilization.

Indeed, according to Lamsdell, some of the fossils have even retained the creature’s hair and skin patterns. “The really exciting thing is that fine details like hair patterns can tell us a lot about the animals’ ecology,” he said.

“For animals with an external exoskeleton, hairs are the primary way in which they sense the world around them, as eyes can only be looking at one place at any one time,” he continued. “From looking at hair patterns we can see which parts of the animal were particularly sensitive.”

“For example, there are many hairs on the margins of the swimming paddle, meaning that it would have been very sensitive to changes in current flow, which would have helped it as a swimmer,” Lamsdell said.

So, to sum up: Paleontologists have inferred intimate details about a monster species of sea scorpion, the oldest yet found, which lived in the cozy fallout of a planetary collision nearly half a billion years ago. If that doesn’t rate high on your wow meter, you need to get it fixed.

See also here. And here. And here.

Pterosaur fossil with poop discovery

The full Rhamphorhynchus specimen (Hone et al., PeerJ DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1191/fig-1 (CC-BY 4.0))

From in the USA:

Fossilized Poop is Rare, Fossilized Poop Inside a Fossilized Dinosaur is Even Rarer

This title is a bit misleading; as the article is about a pterosaur, a flying reptile which is not a dinosaur.

Fossilized feces are always interesting, and researchers may have just found an extra special example

By Marissa Fessenden

24 August 2015

Paleontologists get really excited when they find poop — or at least, fossilized feces, called coprolites. They are not alone in the research world in this regard. Finding coprolites still within the animal that created it is rare indeed, but that may be exactly what a newly discovered specimen of Rhamphorhynchus, a winged reptile, contains.

Soft things like tissue and stomach contents don’t preserve in the fossil record well, explains Shaena Montanari for Forbes. As a result, it is “often difficult for paleontologists to fully understand the diet and ecology of extinct creatures. While there are ways of analyzing tooth shape and also chemical signatures in fossils to determine diet, an easier way to see direct feeding behavior is fossilized gut contents,” she writes.

The pterosaur specimen dates back to the Late Jurassic, about 161 to 146 million years ago. Paleontologists originally found this Rhamphorhynchus  the Schernfeld quarry from Bavaria, Southern Germany in 1965. Now, the fossil is held by the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palenotology in Alberta, Canada. There, a research team recently got the chance to analyze the fossil in depth. 

The team notes in their paper, published in PeerJ, that the specimen is in good condition — some soft tissues such as wing membranes and the skin that stretch from the hindlimbs to the tail are visible. In addition, lying amongst the specimen’s guts are the bones of what may be fish. There’s also a mass of something below the creature’s sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of the spine, close to where the cloaca would be.

The possible coprolite has structures in it that look like hooks. These structures, the team hypothesizes, may be the remains of spines from some kind of marine invertebrate (perhaps a sponge or relative of a starfish). If the suspiciously-located mass really is a coprolite then it will be the first found for any kind of pterosaur.

Eurasian cave lion fossil discovery by seven-year-old

This video says about itself:

World Of The [Eurasian] Cave Lion

20 January 2014

Simba‘s European Cousin.

Translated from in the Netherlands:

Boy finds in Gelderland bones of prehistoric cave lion

August 16, 2015 20:20

The now ten-year-old Enzo Smink in the Gelderland town Wekerom has found an absolutely unique find. On a secluded beach nearby he found the lower jaw of a rare prehistoric cave lion.

That is reported by paleontological museum De Groene Poort in Boxtel this Sunday.

Smink made the discovery as early as the summer of 2012, but no one then realized what the boy had found. The remains landed in a box with his grandmother.

Only when the boy earlier this year got the bones out again for a speech, his mother decided to send a picture of it to specialists.

“An archaeological finding of this format is probably done once in twenty years,” says director René Fraaije of the museum to “Cave lions at that time were already rare, let alone that ten thousand years later their bones are often found.”

Cave drawings

The cave lion was the largest predator of the time of the mammoths. This animal lived in most of Europe then. The name does not refer to the lifestyle of the enormous feline, but to the place where most of the remains of the lions have been found.

The animal became extinct at the end of the last ice age, roughly ten thousand years ago. This was due to the changing climate and the extinction of the prey animals that the lions fed on. Most information about the appearance of the cave lion is derived from prehistoric cave drawings.

Enzo Smink will transfer the find officially to the prehistoric museum on Monday. There the lower jaw will get a special place in the collection.

Mignon Talbot and the forgotten women of paleontology


On female paleontologist Mary Anning, see here.

Originally posted on Letters from Gondwana.:

Sin título Mignon Talbot  (From Turner et al, 2010)

The nineteenth century was the “golden age” of Geology, and women began to play an important role in the advance of this field of science. They collected fossils and mineral specimens, and were allowed to attend scientific lectures, but they were barred from membership in scientific societies. It was common for male scientists to have women assistants, often their own wives and daughters. A good example of that was Mary Lyell (1808–1873), daughter of the geologist Leonard Horner and the wife of eminent geologist Charles Lyell. But for most of men, the participation of women in geology and paleontology was perceived as a hobby.

Mary Anning (1799-1847), was a special case. She was the most famous woman paleontologist of her time, and found the first specimens of what would later be recognized as Ichthyosaurus, the first complete Plesiosaurus, the first pterosaur skeleton outside Germany…

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