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Old March 19th, 2008 #1
Alex Linder
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Workers Uncovering Mummified Dinosaur
Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:40 AM EDT


The textured skin of a hadrosaur is visible as it emerges from it's sandstone tomb, at the North Dakota Heritage Center Museum in Bismarck, N.D., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008. The 65 million year old duckbilled dinosaur mummy was found in Southwest North Dakota in 2004. It is one of only four dinosaurs ever found with fossilized skin. (AP Photos/Will Kincaid)

BISMARCK — Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota's state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It's among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

"This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota.

"This is not the usual disjointed sentence or fragment of a word that the fossil records offer up as evidence of past life. This is a full chapter."

Animal tissue typically decomposes quickly after death. Researchers say Dakota must have been buried rapidly and in just the right environment for the texture of the skin to be preserved.

"The process of decay was overtaken by that of fossilization, preserving many of the soft-tissue structures," Manning said.

Tyler Lyson, a 25-year-old doctoral paleontology student at Yale University, discovered the dinosaur on his uncle's ranch in the Badlands in 1999. Weeks after he started to unearth the fossil in 2004, he knew he had found something special.

"Usually all we have is bones," Lyson said in a telephone interview. "In this special case, we're not just after the bones; we're after the whole carcass."

http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2008/0...ified-dinosaur
 
Old March 19th, 2008 #2
Justin Lee
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What an amazing discovery.

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Originally Posted by Alex Linder View Post
Tyler Lyson, a 25-year-old doctoral paleontology student at Yale University, discovered the dinosaur on his uncle's ranch in the Badlands in 1999.
This guy's got a nice future ahead of him. That's going to look really good on a resume.

I didn't even know that there were fosselized dinosaurs.

http://www.wired.com/science/discove.../2005/03/67014
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Old March 19th, 2008 #3
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The badlands are a ruggedly beautiful area - and wow what a story - look at that photo - really amazing indeed !
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Old March 24th, 2008 #4
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Oldest Cretaceous Period Dinosaur Discovered Represents New Genus Of Prehistoric Aquatic Predator

ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2008) — One of the oldest and most complete plesiosaur fossils recovered in North America, and the oldest yet discovered from the Cretaceous Period, represents a new genus of the prehistoric aquatic predator according to University of Calgary palaeontologists who have formally described the creature after its remains were uncovered in a Syncrude Canada Ltd. mine near Fort McMurray in 1994.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0320104100.htm
 
Old March 26th, 2008 #5
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Old Bones Unearth New Date For Giant Deer's Last Stand

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2004) — A new investigation into extinctions caused by climate change has revealed that the giant deer, previously thought to have been wiped out by a cold spell 10,500 years ago, instead survived well into the modern era.

Giant deer first appeared about 400,000 years and roamed much of the Eurasian continent alongside the woolly mammoth. The magnificent beasts – 2 metres in shoulder height with antlers spanning 3.5 metres - appear to have made their final stand in the Ural mountains on the boundary of Europe and Asia, possibly the last haven for a species which was being progressively wiped out by climate change and the spread of ice sheets, according to the study by UCL Professors Adrian Lister and Tony Stuart, published in the latest issue of Nature.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1007085651.htm
 
Old February 18th, 2009 #6
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Creatures In Both Arctic, Antarctic Puzzle Experts He said, however, that he knew of no finds of cold-loving species in the depths near the equator to back up the theory.


At least 235 types of cold-loving creatures thrive in both Arctic and Antarctic seas, puzzling scientists about how they got to both ends of the earth, a study showed on Sunday.
Until now, the warm tropics have been seen as a barrier keeping polar bears in the Arctic separate from penguins in the Antarctic. Only a few creatures have been known from both polar regions, such as long-migrating grey whales or Arctic terns.

"At least 235 species live in both polar seas despite an 11,000-km (6,835 miles) distance in between," according to the Census of Marine Life, a decade-long international project to map the world's oceans with results due in October 2010.

Species living at both poles include cold-water worms, crustaceans, sea cucumbers and snail-like pteropods. They make up two percent of the 7,500 Antarctic and 5,500 Arctic animals known to date, out of a global total estimated at up to 250,000.

"The Arctic and Antarctic are much more alike than we thought," Ron O'Dor, senior scientist of the census, told Reuters. Genetic studies were being carried out to confirm that the 235 species were identical.

The findings, along with a discovery that the frigid seas teem with life, raise questions about where common polar species "originated and how they wound up at both ends of the earth," the census said in a statement.

Among theories were that larvae of some species could be swept northwards from Antarctica by chill currents along the deep floor of the Atlantic Ocean -- away from warm surface waters in the tropics that would kill them.


GO NORTH

"Animals can be dispersed over such long distances at the deep sea floor," Julian Gutt of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, a senior member of the census, told Reuters. "The most likely direction is from the Antarctic."

He said, however, that he knew of no finds of cold-loving species in the depths near the equator to back up the theory.

Ice Ages may have helped species disperse.

During Ice Ages, Antarctica's ice smothered surrounding seas and caused new northbound currents that could have carried species such as sea spiders or crustaceans known as isopods. Genetic studies have traced many types of octopus to an Antarctic ancestor.

Among other findings, researchers said smaller marine species of copepods, a sort of crustacean, were replacing larger ones in some Arctic waters, perhaps because of shifts linked to global warming.

"A change in these few species might impact the whole food system," Rolf Gradinger of the University of Alaska said. The larger copepods were key food for creatures such as whales and seabirds.

Among bizarre creatures, one of the Antarctic ice fish known as Chionodraco hamatus can withstand temperatures that would freeze the blood of other fish.

The census is seeking to lay down a benchmark for judging long-term shifts in the oceans. The U.N. General Assembly has asked for regular assessments of the oceans to gauge the impact of pollution, over-fishing and climate change.
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Old December 3rd, 2013 #7
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Default Evolution, Civil War History Entwine in Plant Fossil With a Tragic Past



A fossil leaf fragment collected decades ago on a Virginia canal bank has been identified as one of North America's oldest flowering plants, a 115- to 125-million-year-old species new to science. The fossil find, an ancient relative of today's bleeding hearts, poses a new puzzle in the study of plant evolution: did Earth's dominant group of flowering plants evolve along with its distinctive pollen? Or did the pollen come later?

The find also unearths a forgotten chapter in Civil War history reminiscent of the film "Twelve Years a Slave," but with a twist. In 1864 Union Army troops forced a group of freed slaves into involuntary labor, digging a canal along the James River at Dutch Gap, Virginia. The captive men's shovels exposed the oldest flowering plant fossil beds in North America, where the new plant species was ultimately found.

University of Maryland doctoral student Nathan Jud, a paleobotanist -- an expert in plant fossils and their environments -- identified the species and its significance. Jud named it Potomacapnos apeleutheron - Potomacapnos for the Potomac River region where it was found, and apeleutheron, the Greek word for freedmen. A paper describing the new species was published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Botany.

Jud is studying the change that began 140 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous period, when plant communities of ferns gave way to a world dominated by flowering plants. In December 2011 he was at the Smithsonian Institution, where he is a pre-doctoral fellow, looking through clay-encrusted fossil ferns from Dutch Gap. Jud spotted one tiny leaf tip that seemed different.

A technician scraped away clay to reveal compound leaves, which placed the specimen in the flowering plant group known as eudicots. Today most flowering plants are eudicots, but they were rare in the Early Cretaceous. Potomacapnos apeleutheron is the first North American eudicot ever found among geologic deposits 115 to 125 million years old.

Jud consulted paleobotanist Leo J. Hickey, who collected the leaf fossil at Dutch Gap in 1974. Hickey, a former director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, agreed the plant is an early eudicot.

One feature all eudicots share is the shape of their pollen grains, which have three pores through which the plant's sperm cells are released. But there is no three-pored pollen in the clay where the fossil was found. That's puzzling, Jud says, since pollen has a hard shell that preserves it in the fossil record. Scientists use pollen as a marker of geologic time and environmental conditions, so a change in the evolutionary sequence of eudicots and their pollen could have important implications for many types of analyses.

"Either the plant was very rare, and we just missed its pollen," Jud says, "or it's possible that eudicot leaves evolved before (three-pored) pollen did."

Hickey was excited that the Dutch Gap find might shed light on a crucial stage in flowering plant evolution. He became a co-author of Jud's research paper, but he died of cancer in February 2013, before the paper could be published.

It was Hickey who told Jud the history of the Dutch Gap site, where Union generals trying to capture Richmond in 1864 thought the canal would be a strategic shortcut. Hickey knew the black laborers who dug the canal were forced to work against their will, though most modern histories don't say so.

Jud turned to Steven Miller, co-editor of the University of Maryland's Freedmen and Southern Society Project, where researchers analyze 2 million documents about former slaves' passage from bondage to freedom. Miller unearthed a protest letter from 45 impressed freedmen to the command of Union Gen. Benjamin Butler.

The men wrote that they were taken to Dutch Gap "at the point of the bayonet" and forced to dig for weeks without pay. When more laborers were needed "guards were then sent … to take up every man that could be found indiscriminately young and old sick and well. the soldiers broke into the colored people's houses taken sick men out of bed … " A Union lieutenant endorsed the letter, writing that the men "were brought away by force" and were suffering greatly.

The Union Army's impressment of freed slaves into involuntary servitude "happened pretty regularly," Miller says. Black soldiers served in the Union ranks, black laborers did much of the Army's heavy work, and "for big projects like the Dutch Gap canal they would dragoon people from wherever they could get them -- voluntarily if they could, and if they could not, by forced impressment."

After visiting the site, where cobblestones top heavy clay, Jud decided to commemorate the freedmen's "horrific" suffering in the fossil's name. "The reason you can dig fossils there is because of what they went through," he says. "I thought that instead of naming it after another scientist, I should name it after the people who made this discovery possible."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1202112146.htm
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Old December 9th, 2013 #8
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Default Marine Fossils Discovered In Upper Part Of The Permian Linxi Formation, China



Science China Press

In a recent study, large numbers of bryozoan and other typical marine fossils were discovered for the first time in the thick limestone layers and lenses of the upper part of the Linxi Formation of the Guandi section, Linxi County, eastern Inner Mongolia. These marine fossils provide the first evidence for the Xingmeng area being in a marine or mainly marine environment at the end of the later part of the late Permian.

This paper, entitled “Discovery of marine fossils in the upper part of the Permian Linxi Formation in Lopingian, Xingmeng area, China” is published in Chinese Science Bulletin, 2013 (33), with ZHANG Yongsheng (of the Institute of Mineral Resources, CAGS) and TIAN Shugang (of the Institute of Geology, CAGS) as the corresponding authors.

There has been a long history of debate over two major geological issues in the Xingmeng area. The first concerns the final amalgamation of the North China Plate, the Siberian Plate and several intermediate massifs in the area, and the other is about the folding and lifting of the Xingmeng Trough. Disagreements have arisen because of uncertainties about the tectonic-paleogeographical environment of the upper Permian deposits of the Linxi Formation. The Linxi Formation (upper Permian) is generally considered to be either (a) an exclusively continental deposit or (b) separated into earlier marine-terrigenous facies (the Lower to Middle Linxi Formation) and later continental deposits (the Upper Linxi Formation).

This study describes the discovery of large numbers of bryozoan and other typical marine fossils in the thick limestone layers and lenses of the upper part of the Linxi Formation in the Guandi section of Linxi County in eastern Inner Mongolia (Figure 1). At the same time, abundant bryozoan fossils were found in sedimentary tuff slices collected from the upper part of the Taohuayingzi Formation in the Taohuayingzi section in Ar Horqin Banner, and many crinoid stems were found in the dark shale of the Yangjiagou Formation in the Yangjiagou section, Jiutai County, Jilin Province.

From an ecological viewpoint, most modern bryozoans are marine, and they can survive in tropical, temperate, and polar oceans. Only a very small group (the Phylactolaemata) lives in fresh water, but these do not have a mineralized skeleton and thus do not preserve as fossils. Bryozoan adaptability is very strong. They are found distributed from coastal tidal flats to the deep sea at depths of 5500 m.

Sponges are generally considered to be the most primitive and the lowest marine multicellular animal. Sponge body walls are supported by needle-shaped elements, called spicules. Sponge spicules can be preserved as fossils in ancient strata. Crinoids are a type of echinoderm, first found in Carboniferous strata. Although they are animals, they live in the sea and resemble plants, hence the name sea lily. Thus the bryozoan remains, sponge spicules and crinoids fossils in the upper Permian strata of this region are typical marine fossils.

This study provides new constraints on the final closure of the Xingmeng marine basin. It will promote changes in the way that petroleum research is undertaken in the region, especially regarding the potential for new oil and gas, and shale gas (or oil) prospects, in addition to other mineral exploration in the Upper Permian rocks in the Xingmeng region of NE China.

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science...-china-120713/
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Old December 18th, 2013 #9
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Default 5,000-year-old cat fossils discovered in China help explain domestication

Though the modern human–cat relationship is well documented on YouTube, researchers are still puzzling over how our initial domestication of cats developed. But now a new discovery in China is helping to shed some light on it: in a paper published today, researchers describe finding multiple cats' fossilized bones dating back 5,300 years ago — one of the earliest signs of cat domestication to date. The cats are believed to have lived alongside farmers, often attacking rodents that got into their food supply, eating food that humans discarded, and potentially even being fed by humans.

""Cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals.""

"Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored," Fiona Marshall, a co-author of the study from Washington University in St. Louis, says in a statement. "Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits."

The research, led from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is being published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researcher write that it was in Quanhucun, a village in the Shaanxi Province of China, that they found eight cat bones coming from at least two separate cats — likely more. At least one of the cats lived to a very old age, suggesting that it may have been looked after by humans. Other cats focused more on rodents, as bones, burrows, and architectural signs indicated that they were a problem for the village's farmers.

The finding fits into an important — and still unclear — place in the history of cats' domestication. Researchers previously found a human and a wildcat buried beside one another at a gravesite in Cyprus that dates around 10,000 years back, but there's a large gap between that and the next major finding on cats' domestication, art from around 4,000 years ago in Egypt. At 5,300 years old, this new finding helps to fill that gap and explain how domestication developed. Before now, domesticated cats weren't even thought to have come to China until closer to 2,000 years ago.

But how they got there is still far from clear. "We do not yet know whether these cats came to China from the Near East, whether they interbred with Chinese wild-cat species, or even whether cats from China played a previously unsuspected role in domestication,” Marshall says. Most domestic cats today are believed to be descendants of the Near Eastern Wildcat, but there's no DNA evidence yet to confirm that the cats present in Quanhucun were related. The paper suggests that a complex trade network could have brought them there though, and another two groups of researchers in China and France are now looking into how exactly these cats fit into the puzzle of domestication.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/16/5...5300-years-ago
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Old December 18th, 2013 #10
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Default New species of horse discovered from 4.4-million-year-old fossils



Researchers fossil hunting in northern Ethiopia have discovered a new species of extinct horse that lived in the region around 4.4 million years ago. This find not only fills in gaps in the evolution of the horse, but also provides another piece to the puzzle of our own distant ancestors that lived in the area at the time.

The new species, named Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli, was discovered from fossil bones unearthed in the Afar Region of Ethiopia in 2001 and 2002. Roughly the size of a small zebra, E. woldegabrieli was found to have the three-toed hooves that were common to horse species at the time, however the leg and jawbone fossils showed a definite pattern of development in horse evolution. They had longer legs than those species that existed before 5 million years ago, which would have allowed them to cover more ground when looking for food and when fleeing predators. The teeth in the jawbone also revealed differences from those older species, since they were taller, and the teeth crowns were more worn-down from a diet of grazing on grasses.

"Grasses are like sandpaper," said Scott Simpson, a member of the research team from Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine, according to ScienceDaily. "They wear the teeth down and leave a characteristic signature of pits and scratches on the teeth so we can reliably reconstruct their ancient diets."

Compared to E. woldegabrieli, members of horse species that have been discovered from around 3.5 million years ago are taller and have longer noses, both showing how the horse continued to adapt to life in flat grasslands.

Another important aspect of this discovery is that these fossils were found near the famous Middle Awash archaeological site, which has the longest, continuous fossil record of human evolution in the world. Dating these fossils at around 4.4 million years ago puts E. woldegabrieli as being around at the same time as an ancient ancestor of ours, called Ardipithecus ramidus.

The evidence from the E. woldegabrieli fossils puts a better date on the age of the other fossils in the area, and shows what the local environment was like at the time. This can give scientists a better idea of what kind of conditions our forbears lived in, which can reveal more about our own evolution.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/geekq...212008025.html
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Old February 19th, 2014 #11
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Default Atopodentatus unicus: Bizarre New Fossil Reptile Discovered in China

Paleontologists led by Dr Xiao-Chun Wu from Canadian Museum of Nature say they have discovered a new genus and species of reptile that lived in what is now China during the middle Triassic, between 247 and 242 million years ago.



Dr Xiao-Chun Wu and his colleagues named the new prehistoric creature Atopodentatus unicus and suggest it belonged to a group of reptiles called the sauropterygians.

“Generic name is derived from the Latin atopo for the peculiar dentition and dentatus for teeth; the specific name is derived from the Latin unicus for its unique morphology,” the scientists said in a paper published in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Atopodentatus unicus measured about 3 m long and had a long body, short neck and special adaptations for a fully aquatic or semi-aquatic lifestyle.

Its nearly complete skeleton and a left lateral side of the skull were collected from the middle Triassic of Guanling Formation near Daaozi village, Yunnan, China.

The most distinguishing characteristic of Atopodentatus unicus is its bizarre mouth.



On each side of the mouth, the reptile had about 35 small needle-like teeth in the front of the upper jaw, about 140 small needle-like teeth in the rest of the upper jaw (at least 100 in the horizontal portion and around 35 in the vertical portion), and more than 190 teeth in the lower jaw (about 100 in the horizontal portion and 90 in the shovel-headed anterior end). The teeth were covered by a layer of enamel.

According to Dr Wu’s team, Atopodentatus unicus may have been adapted to a way of bottom-filter feeding in water.

“It is obvious that such delicate teeth are not strong enough to catch prey, but were probably used as a barrier to filter microorganisms or benthic invertebrates such as sea worms,” they said.

“These were collected by the specialized jaws, which may have functioned as a shovel or pushdozer and a grasper or scratcher.”

http://www.sci-news.com/paleontology...ina-01768.html
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Old February 20th, 2014 #12
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Default Discovery of Ancient Kenyan Primate Proconsul Fossils Redefines Ape-Human Lineage



Anthropologists have discovered definitive evidence of that the early ape Proconsul inhabited Rusinga Island in Kenya.

The research provides a new insight into understanding and interpreting the connection between habitat preferences and the early diversification of the ape-human lineage.

An international team of scientists, including colleagues from the University of Rhode Island, found fossils of a single individual Proconsul, which lived between 18 to 20 million years ago.

Evidence of the extinct genus of primates was discovered among geological deposits that harboured tree stump casts, fossil leaves and calcified roots. Studies have revealed Proconsul had a body position close to that of modern primates, with additional climbing abilities.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications, which revealed that the ancient ape and its primate relative Dendropithecus, inhabited a "widespread, dense, multi-storied closed canopy" forest.

In the 1980s, creatures including a fossil ape was preserved in a hollowed out, fossilized tree trunk. However, the team's discovery of an additional tree trunk and fossil primates preserved in the same ancient soil revealed there was a connection between the primate and its habitat at the site.

Research in Rusinga Island has been ongoing for over 80 years, during which thousands of mammal fossils have been discovered.

Holly Dunsworth, an assistant professor of anthropology at URI, said the discovery underscores the importance of forested environments in the evolution of early apes.

She told Science Daily: "To have the vegetation of a habitat preserved right along with the fossil primates themselves isn't a regular occurrence in primate paeleontology. It is especially rare to have so many exquisite plant fossils preserved at ancient ape sites."

Dunsworth added: "It is probably the best evidence linking ape to habitat that we could ask for. Combined with analyses of the roots, trunks and even beautifully preserved fossil leaves, it is possible to say that the forest was a closed canopy one, meaning the arboreal animals, like Proconsul, could easily move from tree-to-tree without coming to the ground."

"This environmental evidence jibes with our behavioural interpretations of Proconsul anatomy - as being adapted for a life of climbing in the trees - and with present-day monkey and ape ecology."

The research, which will continue at the site, could lead to further discoveries about early ape evolution.

Dunsworth added: "We don't know exactly what we're going to find, but without a doubt, if we keep searching, we're going to find knowledge about early ape evolution, which was, of course, a significant chapter in our own history."

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/discovery-a...ineage-1437054
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Old February 20th, 2014 #13
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Default New fossil site discovered in Kootenay National Park



Researchers have uncovered a massive fossil deposit in Kootenay National Park and are calling it the world's most important animal fossil discovery in decades.

The Burgess Shale fossil site was discovered in the summer of 2012 by a team of scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum, Pomona College, the University of Toronto, the University of Saskatchewan, and Uppsala University.

A research paper published on Tuesday, February 11, describes Kootenay National Park’s new ‘Marble Canyon’ fossil beds for the first time. Published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications, the authors suggest that the area and its extraordinary fossils will greatly further our understanding of the sudden explosion of animal life during the Cambrian Period. The site is the second fossil bed of its kind in western Canada, and researchers believe it is equal in importance to the original Burgess Shale site just 42 kilometres away in Yoho National Park.

“This new discovery is an epic sequel to a research story that began at the turn of the previous century, and there is no doubt in my mind that this new material will significantly increase our understanding of early animal evolution,” stated Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, associate professor at the University of Toronto, and the study’s lead author. “The rate at which we are finding animals – many of which are new – is astonishing, and there is a high possibility that we’ll eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world.”

He added, “We are very excited to go back to the field this summer, during the Royal Ontario Museum’s Centennial year, with one of our main goals being to increase the number of new species discovered.”

During a short 15 day field session back in 2012, Caron and his fellow researchers collected thousands of specimens representing 50 animal species, several of which were new to science. Many of the species which were previously known from the Yoho site are actually better preserved in Kootenay National Park, retaining very fine, never before seen anatomical details that will help to understand the shape of the animal 'family tree'.

The new site is protected by Parks Canada and the exact location will remain confidential for the time being to protect its integrity.

“The Burgess Shale is a tremendously rich resource important to our understanding of the development of life on this planet,” said Melanie Kwong,

Parks Canada’s superintendent responsible for the Burgess Shale. “Parks Canada is immensely proud to provide access to the fossils for cutting edge research such as this, for our award-winning guided hikes, and to protect forever these fossils in a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

This new finding is the latest in a recent string of Burgess Shale discoveries, including confirmation that Pikaia, found only in Yoho National Park, is the most primitive known vertebrate and therefore the ancestor of all descendant vertebrates, including humans.

http://www.thefreepress.ca/news/246190271.html
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Old February 22nd, 2014 #14
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Default Mammoth, 'very strange-looking' dinosaur skull found in Canada

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/20/world/...ull-discovery/


Researchers have discovered a massive, mostly intact skull of a Pachyrhinosaurus, a dinosaur seen in the 20th Century Fox film "Walking with Dinosaurs" (left).

(CNN) -- This Pachyrhinosaurus can go to the head of its class.

It's not often, after all, that you can see and touch a skull that's about the size of a Smart Car, about 70 million years old and looks like a mutant blend of a triceratops and giant parrot.

University of Calgary paleontologist Darla Zelenitsky first made the mammoth find in Alberta's Badlands, then revealed it to the world Thursday.

"It almost looks like some sort of mythical beast," Zelenitsky said. "Because it is so big and (mature), it makes for a very strange-looking individual."

This isn't the first Pachyrhinosaurus discovery -- that came in the mid-20th century -- and there have been other notable such finds since then in Canada's Alberta province and Alaska.

But what makes this one unique is how well preserved the skull is (75% to 80% complete, which is remarkable for a dinosaur), the fact it's from an older Pachyrhinosaurus (therefore more can be learned from it than a younger version), and, of course, its immense size.

Not that Zelenitsky's team knew all that when they spotted a bumpy rock in mid-October while exploring exposed southern Alberta's Drumheller -- a town that calls itself the Dinosaur Capital of the World for a reason, given the outcrops that make it a paleontologists' dream.

A little digging led to more digging and, after about three days, the realization that they'd found a gigantic dinosaur skull. It took several more months (and the removal of 5 tons of rock) to unearth it in three pieces and show it off to the world. Still, a lot of work needs to be done to peel away remaining surrounding rock and examine the skull in more detail, not to mention see it in full.

"It was really exciting because, when we started, there really wasn't much there," Zelenitsky, an associate professor in the University of Calgary's geoscience department, said. "Then, the skull was not really ending it was so big."

Even with more to peel back, Zelenitsky already calls this skull one of the biggest, if not the biggest, of any Pachyrhinosaurus ever discovered. Given its distinct nature, she and fellow paleontologists will be trying to determine if it is part of its own species or just a big version of an existing one. (There are three known species of Pachyrhinosaurus as is.)

Even if it's part of previously discovered Pachyrhinosaurus species, there's no doubt this skull is quite a sight.

The herbivore's beak at the front of its snout was likely used to crop vegetation. Behind that are rows of teeth that finished off whatever greens made it into the mouth.

Then there's what Zelenitsky describes as a "huge, almost platter-shape structure" and the dinosaur's frill. Instead of pointed horns like a triceratops, Pachyrhinosaurs have masses of bones atop their heads likely used in head-butting rituals to compete for mates or perhaps for combat.

The entire skull is about 2 to 2.5 meters (6.5 to 8 feet) long; the entire animal is only 6 meters, meaning this Pachyrhinosaur (as well as its kin) was very top heavy.

"These animals had huge skulls relative to their bodies," said Zelenitsky.
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Old February 25th, 2014 #15
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Default First Dinosaur Fossil Ever Discovered in Malaysia Belongs to Fish-eating Spinosaurids

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/ar...aur-pahang.htm



A team of Malaysian and Japanese paleontologists unveiled the first ever dinosaur fossil unearthed in Malaysia.

A team of international researchers discovered the dinosaur fossil teeth from the rural interiors of Pahang in Malaysia. This fossil belongs to spinosaurids, which were fish-eating carnivorous dinosaurs. This fossilized tooth sample is dubbed UM10575.

The team included researchers from the University of Malaya and Waseda University and Kumamoto University, Japan.

"We have started our collaboration and carried out field expeditions to search for potential dinosaur deposits in Malaysia since Sep. 2012. Recently, we have successfully confirmed the presence of dinosaur remains (fossilized teeth) in Pahang," lead researcher, Dr. Masatoshi Sone, said in a news statement.

Prof. Ren Hirayama from Waseda University, specialist in reptile paleontology, was the one to successfully identify the fossilized remains as a tooth of the spinosaurid. Measuring 23mm in length and 10 mm in width, the fossil UM10575 was discovered embedded in a sedimentary rock strata belonging to the later Mesozoic age (145-75 million years ago). The researchers targeted the interior of Peninsular Malaysia as sediments from the Jurassic-Cretaceous period are known to be widely distributed in this region.

The fish-eating dinosaur spinosaurid had crocodile like skull and conical teeth; they even had carinae with serrations. The surface of the tooth has well-marked coarse edges and fine sculptures that are typical to spinosaurid teeth.

Till date spinosaurid fossils have been unearthed in Australia, Europe, South America and Asia. The team hopes to get its hands on other large deposits of dinosaur fossils that still exist in Malaysia.

The team emphasized on the need to take immediate measures to protect and conserve the present fossil site and make it accessible only to qualified researchers. They called for protection of the site as it is an open site and there are concerns that the site may be damaged by lawless excavations by private fossil collectors.

They hope that this crucial discovery may add to further progress in paleontology study within the country and also help set up a Malaysian museum.
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Old March 10th, 2014 #16
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Default Ice Age fossils discovered in L.A. subway construction

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/n...ubway/6133457/


10:07 a.m. EST March 7, 2014

An exploratory dig for Los Angeles' subway extension project has uncovered Ice Age fossils.



The discoveries so far have included geoducks (large clams), sand dollars and digger pine tree cones and seeds, and a rock that "appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old," according to the Metro Rail's blog.

The expansion of L.A.'s purple line is near the La Brea Tar Pits, where many fossils have been found.

The exploratory shaft for the subway route is now 65 feet deep, according to Metro.

An exploratory dig for Los Angeles' subway extension project has uncovered Ice Age fossils.

The discoveries so far have included geoducks (large clams), sand dollars and digger pine tree cones and seeds, and a rock that "appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old," according to the Metro Rail's blog.

The expansion of L.A.'s purple line is near the La Brea Tar Pits, where many fossils have been found.

The exploratory shaft for the subway route is now 65 feet deep, according to Metro.

"We expect that we're going to find large deposits of late Ice Age vertebrate remains," said Aisling Farrell, collections manager at Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, in an interview with KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Metro is working with the museum to identify and preserve the fossils, according to Metro.

The purple line extension will allow passengers to ride from downtown L.A. to the westside in 25 minutes. Currently, it take up to 1 1/2 hours by car, reports KABC.
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Old April 18th, 2014 #17
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Ancient shark discovery may rewrite our evolutionary history
By Rich McCormick on April 17, 2014 05:15 am Email

Sharks are often seen as "living fossils," examples of evolutionary excellence that have not altered their design significantly since they came into existence. Evolutionary biologists have theorized specifically that the creatures' respiratory systems, fed by efficient gills, were present in the species since they first diverged on Earth more than 400 million years ago. But researchers have recently discovered a fossil record that appears to refute that theory.

A study of the 325-million-year-old "shark-like" creature, published in scientific journal Nature, suggests that ancient sharks might have developed their gills after bony fish did. The authors of the study say the fossil, which represents the earliest identified cartilaginous fish with a preserved respiratory system, has a gill structure more like a modern bony fish than a shark.

THE FOSSIL HAS GILLS THAT MAKE IT LOOK MORE LIKE A BONY FISH THAN A SHARK

The scientists say the findings "invert the classic hypothesis, in which modern sharks retain the ancestral condition," suggesting that sharks evolved their gills after bony fish, honing them over millennia. The structure supporting these early gills is believed to have been essential in the evolution of jaws, a mutation that paved the way for the evolution of many land-based vertebrates, including humans. The scientists say the findings "profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history."

http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/17/56...ionary-history
 
Old August 19th, 2014 #18
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No hallucination! Weird fossil worm Hallucigenia descendant found and it's ALIVE



Hallucigenia, a bizarre animal that lived 500 million years ago, has a descendent still alive today.


Hallucigenia, a bizarre worm that lived around 500 million years ago, was one of the strangest creatures to ever live. These strange creatures lived during the Cambrian Period of geological, a time when multicellular lifeforms first came into existence. A vast increase in biodiversity at this time produced some bizarre creatures, but Hallucigenia was truly unique. The species did not seem to belong to any known family or tree of animals, leaving biologists without a way of easily classifying the creature.

Cambridge University researchers now believe they have discovered the only living descendant of the unusual creatures, a type of animal still alive on the Earth today.

Velvet worms, which make their homes in the underbrush of rainforest in tropical areas, were found to be the only known relatives of the ancient bizarre species. Despite their name, they are not true worms, as they achieve mobility through the use of a set of short legs. Claws at the ends of these legs grow in layers in both velvet worms, as well as Hallucigenia. The modern species has a texture much like fur, formed by numerous mucous glands.

Hallucigenia grew to just between one-fifth and one-and-a-quarter inches long. Their backs were covered in spines, connected to seven or eight pairs of legs. Most biologists believe the spines were a form of defense for the animals, although that theory has not yet been proven. Members of the species also possessed ill-defined heads and tails.

The tiny animals likely scavenged for whatever they could find, as they crawled around the ocean floor.

Hallucigenia fossils have been discovered in large numbers in Canada and China, as well as scattered finds from around the world. While this latest evidence suggests the ancient creatures are related to modern velvet worms, other paleobiologists believe the species was an ancestor of modern arthropods, including crustaceans and arachnids.

"Only the forward tentacles could easily reach to the 'head', meaning that a mouth on the head would have to be fed by passing food along the line of tentacles. Morris suggested that a hollow tube within each of the tentacles might be a mouth. This raised questions such as how it would walk on the stiff legs, but it was accepted as the best available interpretation," Princeton researchers wrote on their Web site.

Famed naturalist Stephen Jay Gould once stated his belief that Hallucigenia was not related to any living animal. That idea has now been challenged by the new findings.

Simon Conway Morris, a paleontologist who did the first in-depth studies of the fossils, coined the name of the species in 1979, in tribute to the creature's bizarre form.

Study of Hallucigenia, and how they are related to velvet worms, was profiled in the journal Nature.

No hallucination! Weird fossil worm Hallucigenia descendant found and it's ALIVE : SCIENCE : Tech Times
 
Old September 26th, 2014 #19
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Enigmatic fossils could be oldest known animals



This unusual, multicellular fossil looks very different from anything alive today.


Early life Scientists have discovered some of the oldest multicellular organisms - and possibly the world's first animals - in 600 million year old Ediacaran fossils from China.

A detailed examination of the unusual, small, spheroidal fossilised organisms concludes that they could be the ancient precursors to animals, or a type of multicellular algae.

Reported in the journal Nature, the research is offering scientists fresh insights into the early evolution of complex multicellular organisms.

"Our work shows evidence that this organism developed multiple kinds of cells 600 million years ago," says one of the study's authors, Professor Shuhai Xiao from Virginia Tech.

"This is an important discovery for cell differentiation, and a critical step towards multicellular life."

The fossils provide evidence that multicellularity appeared nearly 60 million years before the Cambrian Explosion, when most major animal phyla suddenly appeared in the fossil record.

Multicellular organisms have common characteristics such as cell differentiation, where specialist cells develop to perform specific tasks. Other characteristics include cell-to-cell adhesion, communication between cells, and programmed cell death.

"One of the more important types of cellular differentiation is the separation of reproductive cells from non-reproductive cells, and we believe we have also found evidence for this," says Xiao.

The new findings are based on exquisitely preserved three dimensional multicellular fossils discovered in calcium phosphate rocks in the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation in central Guizhou Province of South China.

"Six hundred million years ago this region was probably a warm shallow sea," says Xiao.

"Phosphates precipitated out of water in the sediment and replicated the fossils before the organisms degraded."

The Ediacaran Period dates from the end of the global Marinoan glaciation some 635 million years ago, to the Cambrian explosion, 542 million years ago.

Weird and strange

Attempts to characterise fossils from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation have been difficult because they look very different from anything alive today.

The fossils analysed in this study are no exception, and may be a group of early animals that have no evolutionary link with today's living animals.

Similar fossils have been previously interpreted as bacteria, fungi, single-celled eukaryotes, green algae, and various types of early animal life (including transitional forms of modern animals, relatives of sponges, sea anemones, or bilaterally symmetrical animals).

The microfossils in this study are probably not bacteria and share similarities with more complex multicellular organisms, say the scientists.

This narrows the possibilities down to transitional forms related to modern animals or an ancient type of multicellular algae.

"We have not proved that these are animal embryos, although it remains one of two possibilities and certainly narrows down the options," says Xiao.

Xiao says further investigation is needed to determine where on the evolutionary tree of life these enigmatic fossils sit.

Questions answered

The discovery is very interesting, says Dr Jim Gehling of the South Australian Museum

"Without this sort of evidence we could never be sure that there were multi-cell creatures in the Ediacaran," says Gehling.

It had previously been speculated that large Ediacaran fossils were just giant single cell creatures with no true internal organs, muscles or nerves, he says.

"It's a very affirmative paper for those of us who believe that the roots to the animal tree of life lie within the Ediacaran period."

Enigmatic fossils could be oldest known animals › News in Science (ABC Science)
 
Old December 28th, 2013 #20
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Default Fossilised seal bone discovered off Beaumaris beach is about six million years old

It was its odd shape that made the fossilised piece of bone stand out on the sea floor. Seasoned amateur diver Ross Wilkie hadn't seen anything like it before. So he did what any collector would do. He plucked it from its watery world and took it home.

Little did he know that what he had just retrieved off Beaumaris Beach in Melbourne would cast a new light on what scientists knew about seals in the southern hemisphere.

The 12-centimetre-long piece of bone, a flipper bone belonging to a seal, dates back between 5 million and 6 million years .



Five to six million years old: The fossil. Photo: Wayne Taylor

''All I knew was that it was an unusual-shaped piece of fossil bone,'' Mr Wilkie said. ''I didn't know what animal it was from at all.''
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According to Museum Victoria palaeontologist Erich Fitzgerald the fossil is the first piece of evidence that this type of seal, an ancient relative of the contemporary Mediterranean monk seal, lived in Australian waters.

''It is the first fossil seal bone of its kind ever discovered in Australia and will shed light on the history of seals in the southern hemisphere,'' Dr Fitzgerald said. ''This discovery highlights the national significance of the Beaumaris fossil site as our most important window on marine life in southern Australia 6 million years ago.''

A member of the monachine group, the seal would have been about two metres long.

Beaumaris' reputation as a magnet for marine megafauna prompted Mr Wilkie to contact the Melbourne Museum. After emailing photos of his collection, which numbers in the thousands, he soon had a keen pair of palaeontologists on his doorstop.

Pretty much everything - bar his favourite 20-centimetre sperm whale tooth - was up for grabs. After careful examination the museum expressed interest in 15 pieces, which Mr Wilkie has donated to the collection.

Among the items is a near complete ear bone belonging to a baleen whale and the ear bone of a rare beaked whale: the first of its kind found at Beaumaris.

But the stand-out find was the fossilised seal flipper bone because little is known about seal evolution in Australia. The mammals' bones are under-represented in the fossil record, as their skeletons are fragile and prone to breaking.

Dr Fitzgerald said analysis of the fossilised flipper bone, or humerus, indicated it belonged to a type of seal not previously recorded in the area. This suggests there was a branch of the seal family tree that scientists weren't aware existed in the southern hemisphere.

''That is intriguing,'' he said. ''It's not like any of the living seals found in Victoria today.''

Dr Fitzgerald said research sparked by Mr Wilkie's Beaumaris fossils would be published in scientific journals from next year.

He praised Mr Wilkie's keen eye and generosity, emphasising how important citizen scientists were to researchers - particularly palaeontologists.

A keen spear fisherman, diver and collector since his early teens Mr Wilkie, 64, says he has a preference for collecting shark teeth over seal or whale bones. Over more than 40 years of diving he has accumulated several hundred shark teeth, ranging between 0.5 centimetres and 10 centimetres. He also has a whale vertebra weighing five to 10 kilograms. But if he spies something that looks unusual, he picks it up.

''I'm a collector by nature,'' he said. ''It's the thrill of the chase that's so interesting to me.''

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci...#ixzz2oiGEaySm
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