Giant lemur fossils discovery in Madagascar


This video says about itself:

Enormous Underwater Fossil Graveyard Found

8 January 2015

National Science Foundation-funded anthropologists and paleontologists uncovered what could be the largest single collection of lemur remains ever found. What’s more, they found it in a most unusual place–hidden in a series of underwater caves in a remote desert region of Madagascar.

Described as a lemur graveyard, the discovery of hundreds of potentially thousand-year old skeletons make it one of the most unique sites in the world. The finding, reported in this video, could be important for understanding human relatives and other animals and result in a totally new era for underwater paleontology.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

In an underwater graveyard, scientists discover bones of giants from Madagascar’s past

By Sarah Kaplan

February 19 2015

Not too long ago, huge animals dominated the island of Madagascar: elephant birds the height of professional basketball players, giant, lumbering tortoises, massive lemurs that weighed up to 15 times as much as their smaller, living relatives.

Those creatures have all but died out within the past thousand years in one of the swiftest extinction events known to scientists. Researchers still puzzle over what exactly led to their demise. But a newly-discovered “underwater graveyard” filled with thousands of fossils may offer a key to understanding what happened to Madagascar’s megafauna.

A team led by National Geographic fellow and Brooklyn College professor Alfred Rosenberger found three flooded caves in Tsimanampesotse National Park, each containing an unprecedented number of large, perfectly preserved specimens. One in particular, Aven Cave, is so packed with bones that divers felt them every time they put their hands down.

“It’s just phenomenal,” researcher Laurie Godfrey, a paleontologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “A huge cache of fossils like this has never been explored before. Now that we know that it’s there, it’s opening up a new era in paleontological exploration.”

The researchers’ most prized findings are the bones of several extinct species of giant lemurs, ranging from several hundred to several thousands of years old. Among them are specimens of Megaladapis, a big-nosed, beady-eyed creature whose heavy, squat body more closely resembled a koala’s than those of the diminutive lemurs we know today, and Archaeoindris, the largest known lemur species that was the same size and weight as a gorilla.

The discovery, which National Geographic announced Tuesday, is just the first step in what Godfrey hopes will be a more thorough investigation of the caves. The initial sweep brought up so many fossils that researchers haven’t even begun to dig into the sediments on the cave floors. Once they do, Godfrey estimates they’ll find thousands of specimens from dozens of extinct species.

The caves remained unexplored for so long because of the difficulty of probing their flooded interiors. In Aven Cave, where the fossils were most abundant, the water is 130 feet deep and often murky.

But that same water is also what makes the caves such perfect places to find fossils.

“In a flooded cave the preservation can be just marvelous,” Godfrey said. “Nothing’s bothering them, nothing’s disturbing them.”

The quality of the fossils will be key for scientists’ research into the causes of the animals’ disappearance. Godfrey said that researchers will likely be able to obtain DNA samples from the specimens, carbon date them to see when they died, and examine them for cut marks or other signs of human butchering.

“All of this information can help us flesh out the story that we’re telling about what happened to the giant lemurs and the associated fauna,” she said.

It’s long been understood that human arrival on Madagascar about 2,000 years ago coincided with the sudden die-off of much of the island’s wildlife. Two-thirds of the species that lived on the island a millennium ago are now extinct, in part because of changes caused by humans, Godfrey said. What’s not clear is exactly how those changes led to the animals’ demise.

“You’re dealing with a situation where not only are humans coming but they’re bringing a lot of other animals and plants that transform the habitat. They’re hunting,” for example, she said, and “it could be that certain species didn’t want to come near water or food sources because humans were around. There’s competition with new introduced species. There’s a number of long, complicated stories people have put forth as to why these animals are extinct.”

Untangling those stories isn’t just a matter of understanding history — it can help with conservation efforts today. Lemurs are the most threatened mammal species on Earth, according to a policy paper published last year in the journal Science, and Madagascar is the only place where they are found in the wild.

“It’s a very sad situation in Madagascar. The threat to species is tremendous, there’s a high rate of extinction,” Rosenberger said in a video for National Geographic. “We’d like to know what the interaction was between people, climate change, habitat change … that contributed to the demise of the giant lemurs. Because knowing that might give us some perspective on what we have to prepare for the future.”

Eocene fossil seashell discovery on Texel island


Venericor planicosta

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands, 19 February 2015:

Never before had a Venericor planicosta seashell been found across the whole Wadden Sea region. The shell lived in the Eocene epoch, 56 to 42 million years ago.

Subtropical

Last year, Ms. Kenselaar found it on the beach at Den Hoorn. The shell for a while remained in her cottage, but last week she took it to Ecomare. Curator Arthur Oosterbaan showed it to various experts, and they all said the same thing: Venericor planicosta. It lived in our region in the early and middle Eocene. That’s about 15 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Europe then was an archipelago with a subtropical climate.

In the Netherlands, until this discovery, this fossil species had really only been known from the south-west of the country.

International symposium on pterosaurs in England


This video says about itself:

Largest flying creature ever – Pterosaurs Documentary HQ

25 July 2014

Pterosaurs (/ˈtɛrɵsɔr/, from the Greek πτερόσαυρος, pterosauros, meaning “winged lizard”) were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (228 to 66 million years ago).

Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments known as pycnofibers, which covered their bodies and parts of their wings.

Pterosaurs spanned a wide range of adult sizes, from the very small Nemicolopterus to the largest known flying creatures of all time, including Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx

From the Flugsaurier 2015 Portsmouth site in England:

Second Circular

Flugsaurier 2015: The Fifth International Symposium on Pterosaurs

August 25th-30th 2015

School Of Earth And Environmental Sciences

Portsmouth, UK

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to present you with the second circular for the Fifth International Symposium on Pterosaurs. This includes information on conference structure, fees, abstract submission, accommodation, workshops and the conference dinner. Please visit our website at www.flugsaurier2015.com and remember further information will be provided in the third circular.

We look forward to seeing you all next year.

Flugsaurier 2015 committee.

Registration

Registration is now open and can be found at flugsaurier2015.com/register. The conference fee is £60, with a student concession of £30. All payments will be conducted through Paypal with the required information emailed to delegates following their registration. All students must provide their student numbers and a letter signed by their supervisor/lecturer confirming their student status. This letter should accompany the initial registration and can be emailed to registration@flugsaurier2015.com.

Presentation and abstract submission

We are now accepting submission of abstracts relating to any aspect of pterosaur research. Abstracts must be no more than 1000 words including references and may include 1 figure/A4 plate. Please ensure references are in the style of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. While we prefer that presentations are specifically on pterosaur research, we are willing to accept submission of more peripheral topics for posters e.g. the associated faunal assemblage of a pterosaur bearing unit. Abstract submission closes on March 1st to allow time for the review process. We are also arranging a special publication through the Geological Society of London which we encourage delegates to consider contributing to.

Workshops

We are happy to confirm two workshops for Flugsaurier this August. The first workshop, “Biomechanics and aerodynamics of pterosaurs” will be chaired by Colin Palmer and Mike Habib and focuses on the biomechanics of flight. The second workshop is “The taphonomy of Lagerstätten and the implications for pterosaurs”, chaired by Dave Martill and Steve Sweetman. Dave will be focusing on Konservat Lagerstätten, and Steve will focus on pterosaur-bearing Konzentrat Lagerstätten in the UK.

In addition to our workshops, we will have several pterosaur specimens on display which can be examined by the delegates, including the skull of Parapsicephalus purdoni, on loan from the British Geological Survey. There will also be opportunities to examine the holotypes of Cuspicephalus and Caulkicephalus. Other specimens on display will be announced in the third circular.

Conference dinner

The conference meal will be held in The Royal Maritime Club, adjacent to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. The dinner will cost £37 and will include 3 courses and a half bottle of wine. Any delegates interested in attending should sign-up for the meal when registering for the conference. If you have any specific dietary requirements, please include them in the comments field on the registration form.

Field trips

The fees for the conference field trips to the Isle of Wight and the Jurassic Coast (the second in conjunction with SVPCA 2015) are still to be determined. Delegates are welcome to register their interest for the field trips and will be informed of the price in the third circular.

Accommodation

Accommodation is available in the University of Portsmouth’s Rees Hall for Flugsaurier delegates. There are 50 single rooms available for £45 per night. Double rooms are £63 per night, but will only be available upon request. To register your interest in a room, please tick the appropriate box on the registration form. If you would like a double room, please mention it in the comments section.

Questions or comments should be directed to the organising committee at enquiries@flugsaurier2015.com.

Click here to view a PDF copy.

Biggest rodent ever, new research


This video says about itself:

22 April 2010

CC en Español

A short animated video about the largest rodent that ever lived, Josephoartigasia monesi, also known as the Giant Pacarana. A fossil skull discovered in Uruguay belonged to a rodent, which researchers estimate weighed up to 1 tonne (1000kg)! Andrés Rinderknecht and R. Ernesto Blanco named the new species “monesi” in honor of the famous paleontologist, Alvaro Mones.

The largest rodent alive today is the capybara, which can weigh over 60kg, much smaller than its extinct cousin.

The original article describing J. monesi can be read here.

The skull is housed in Montevideo, Uruguay in the Museum of Natural History and Anthropology.

Much thanks to Dr. Blanco and Dr. Rinderknecht for their amazing discovery! And thank you to Luisa for her Spanish translation…I owe you one!

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Biggest ever rodent was a huge guinea pig with strong, tusk-like teeth

Bite was about as strong as that of a tiger

Andrew Griffin

Wednesday 04 February 2015

The biggest rodent that ever lived, which looked like a huge guinea pig and used its big teeth like an elephant does its tusk, according to new research.

Josephoartigasia monesi, which lived about three million years ago, is the biggest fossil rodent ever found.

Computer modelling has been used to determine how powerful its bite was, and how it used its huge teeth. The research was led by Philip Cox, of the University of York’s Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences.

He found that the bite forces were similar to that of a tiger — about 1400 Newtons. The teeth would have been able to withstand three times that force.

“We concluded that Josephoartigasia must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators,” said Cox. “This is very similar to how a modern day elephant uses its tusks.”

To conduct the research, Cox made a CT scan of the fossil and used it to reconstruct its skull. Researchers then used finite element analysis on the model, a technique that can be used to predict how an object would undergo stress and strain.

International cave bear symposium in the Netherlands, September 2015


This video is called Cave Lion vs Cave Bear – Ice Age Giants – Episode 2 Preview – BBC Two.

From the Pleistocene Mammals site:

The 21st edition of the International Cave Bear Symposium (ICBS) will take place in the Netherlands in 2015. It is a fitting host as this is a unique country in paleontological terms. While the sediments that are found near the surface are of a relatively young age (Holocene), our fossil record is also particularly rich in Pleistocene material – mostly the effect of being bordered by the North Sea. In Pleistocene glacial times, the North Sea was dry land and densely populated by mammoths, bison, woolly rhinoceros and horses, closely followed by carnivores such as the cave lion, cave hyena, wolves and brown bear – evidence of which is still commonly discovered.

The symposium will be 10-13 September 2015 at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. The provisional programme is here.

Ordovician echinoderm fossil from Utah, USA


This video is called Life Science – Echinoderms.

From Fossil Roulette:

30 January 2015

Name: Haimacystis rozhnovi
Location: Utah, USA, Wah Wah Limestone
Age: 466-488 million years ago, Ordovician Period

The early history of major groups of animals is often messy and mysterious. The suite of features that make those groups distinctive today show up piecemeal in different combinations in early species, like Haimacystis.

A long, thin column of discs and a flattened pod with a few wispy arms make up the body of this individual of Haimacystis. The animal is part of the same group that includes living sea stars, sea cucumbers, and intricately crowned sea lilies. The group also includes little-known, extinct animals like rhombiferans and corkscrew-armed gogiids.

Sea stars, sea lilies and other living animals in that group all have skeletons of calcified plates. All have five-part bodies that are usually symmetric.

Individuals of Haimacystis share some features with living members of their group, but their other features blur the neat distinctions that make five-part animals so different from other groups. They have calcified plates but they also have nineteen arms instead of five or ten. At best, they have two-part symmetry.

Haimacystis wasn’t a forerunner of its living relations or a species “on the way” to a more recognizable animals like starfish. Multiple species of sea lilies, one species of animals distantly related to sea stars, and at least six species of other early, irregular, extinct animals lived alongside Haimacystis. Haimacystis is its own subplot in the story of five-part animals.

Specimen Number: 1810TX5

References:

Sumrall, Colin D., James Sprinkle, and Thomas E. Guensburg. “Comparison of flattened blastozoan echinoderms: Insights from the early Ordovician eocrinoid Haimacystis rozhnovi.” Journal of Paleontology 75(2001):985-992.

Where are similar fossils found?

Bonus: The fossil’s name has an interesting backstory. “Haimacystis is a compound of the Greek haima, flowing blood, and cystis, sac, referring to the blood dripping from superficial leg wounds suffered by one of the co-authors when the biggest slab of specimens described herein toppled over and almost crushed him.” – Sumrall et al. 2001, p. 992

Very long-necked dinosaur discovered in China


This 2014 video is called Finding Dinosaur Documentary.

By Jacqueline Howard:

New Dinosaur Species Discovered In China Takes Long Necks To A Whole New Level

01/29/2015 2:59 pm EST

A new dinosaur species discovered in China is being called “extreme”–and for good reason. The dino’s neck is so long that it makes up more than half of the creature’s huge 49-foot-long body.

The dinosaur–dubbed Qijianglong guokr, or “dragon of Qijiang“–is believed to have roamed Asia about 160 million years ago in the Late Jurassic Period. It was identified by skull and vertebrae fossils unearthed in 2006 by construction workers near Quiang City in the southern part of the country.

“If you imagine a big animal that is half neck, you can see that evolution can do quite extraordinary things,” Tetsuto Miyashita, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in Canada and a member of the team of scientists who identified the dinosaur, said in a written statement. “Qijianglong shows that long-necked dinosaurs diversified in unique ways in Asia during Jurassic times—something very special was going on in that continent.”

Qijianglong is believed to belong to mamenchisauridae, a family of dinosaurs known for extremely long necks. But unlike most mamenchisaurids, Qijianglong had vertebrae that were hollow and so tightly linked that the dinosaur’s neck is believed to have been stiff like a construction crane.

A paper describing the newly identified dinosaur was published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on Jan. 26, 2015.