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Old December 9th, 2013 #21
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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 #22
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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 #23
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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 December 28th, 2013 #24
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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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Old February 19th, 2014 #25
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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 #26
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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 #27
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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 #28
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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 #29
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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 February 26th, 2014 #30
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Default Chile's five-million-year-old whale graveyard explained by scientists

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...s-9153714.html



Scientists believe they can now explain the mystery of a graveyard of whales discovered beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile, in what was described as one of the most significant fossil discoveries in recent years.

A report published today in the Royal Society Journal B suggests the animals may have died in four mass strandings after ingesting toxic algae.

The animal carcasses would then have been washed into an estuary before becoming buried by sand over time, preserving the fossils.

Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert has been well-known for preserved whale fossils after the site was discovered during an expansion project of the Pan-American Highway in 2010. Bones could be seen sticking out of rock faces, leading many to nickname the spot Cerro Ballena, or 'whale hill', as a result.

American and Chilean paleontologists were finally given the opportunity to properly examine the fossil beds when a cutting was made to widen the Highway in 2011.

A team from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and Chilean scientists had just two weeks to undertake their investigations before the heavy plant returned to complete construction of the new road, according to the BBC.



The team recorded as much detail as possible and created 3D models of the skeletal remains in situ. They also removed some bones from the site to study further in the lab.

In addition to the skeletons of the more than 40 large baleen whales that dominated the site, the team documented the remains of an extinct walrus-like whale – dolphins which evolved a walrus-like face –and found skeletons of billfishes, seals and aquatic sloths.

"To me, it's amazing that in 240m of road-cut, we managed to sample all the superstars of the fossil marine-mammal world in South America in the Late Miocene. Just an incredibly dense accumulation of species," Nicholas Pyenson, a palaeontologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History told the BBC.

The team also noted how the skeletons were arranged. The skeletons, which were nearly all complete, were preserved in four separate levels, pointing to a repeated and similar underlying cause of death. But the different fossils levels suggested it was not one event but four separate episodes spread over a period of several thousand years.



From their research, the scientists concluded toxins generated by harmful algal blooms are likely to have poisoned the animals. If the algae were inhaled or large quantities of contaminated prey consumed, death would have been rapid.

"All the creatures we found - whether whales, seals or billfishes - fed high up in marine food webs and that would have made them very susceptible to harmful algal blooms," Dr Pyenson said.

The bodies would then have been funnelled into a restricted area by the coastline at Cerro Ballena in the late Miocene period (five to 11 million years ago). Once stranded on the tidal flat, the dead or dying animals would have been protected from marine scavengers.

However, the team could not say for certain that harmful algal blooms were responsible for the mass strandings, as there were no distinct algal cell fragments present in the sediments. They did find multiple grains encrusted in iron oxides that could suggest past algal activity.

Dr Pyenson added: "They're found in algal-like mats all around the site. We can't say whether those were the killer algae, but they do not falsify the argument for harmful algal blooms being the cause in the way that the sedimentology falsifies tsunami being a potential cause."
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Old March 10th, 2014 #31
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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 #32
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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 #33
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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 #34
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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 September 26th, 2014 #35
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New Species Of Armored Dinosaur Found In New Mexico



Image Caption: This is a life restoration of Ziapelta sanjuanensis, a new species of ankylosaurid dinosaurs that was discovered in New Mexico.

What do New Mexico and Alberta, Canada, have in common? Perhaps not much today, but millions of years ago they were both inhabited by closely related species of ankylosaurid dinosaurs, according to a study from the University of Alberta, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The findings, published in PLOS ONE, describe a newly discovered species of armored dinosaur found in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area of New Mexico.

Alberta was home to at least five different ankylosaurid dinosaur species between 76 and 66 million years ago. This group of dinosaurs includes the club-tailed giants like Ankylosaurus. In the southern parts of the continent, however, very few ankylosaurids are known. A team of scientists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the State Museum of Pennsylvania discovered the new species, Ziapelta sanjuanensis, in 2011. The Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness, where the fossils were found, is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) facility comprised of over 41,000 acres of badlands south of Farmington, NM. In Navajo, Bisti means “a large area of shale hills,” while De-Na-Zin takes its name from the word for “cranes.”

A group of researchers from the University of Alberta, including recent PhD graduate Victoria Arbour and current doctoral student Michael Burns, were invited to participate in the project because of their expertise in the diversity of ankylosaurs from Alberta.




Image Above: University of Alberta researchers Michael Burns and Victoria Arbour display a fossil from a newly discovered armored dinosaur called Ziapelta sanjuanensis.


“Bob Sullivan, who discovered the specimen, showed us pictures, and we were really excited by both its familiarity and its distinctiveness—we were pretty sure right away we were dealing with a new species that was closely related to the ankylosaurs we find in Alberta,” Arbour said.

Ziapelta sanjuanensis is different from other ankylosaurs because of the unusually tall spikes found on the cervical half ring. The half ring is a bony structure, much like a yoke, sitting over the neck. The animal’s skull is also different from others of its species.

“The horns on the back of the skull are thick and curve downwards, and the snout has a mixture of flat and bumpy scales—an unusual feature for an ankylosaurid,” notes Arbour. “There’s also a distinctive large triangular scale on the snout, where many other ankylosaurids have a hexagonal scale.”

Ziapelta roamed North America during the Late Cretaceous. During this time, known as the end of the age of dinosaurs, a vast inland sea divided North America and both Alberta and New Mexico had beachfront property. Fossils from ankylosaurs have been found in several of the rocky formations of southern Alberta, but so far, none in the lower part of an area called the Horseshoe Canyon Formation.

“The rocks in New Mexico fill in this gap in time, and that’s where Ziapelta occurs,” says Arbour. “Could Ziapelta have lived in Alberta, in the gap where we haven’t found any ankylosaur fossils yet? It’s possible, but in recent years there has also been increasing evidence that the dinosaurs from the southern part of North America—New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, for example—are distinct from their northern neighbors in Alberta.”

Arbour says that they will be on the lookout for Ziapelta in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation in the future.


Dinosaur Discovered In New Mexico Has Relatives In Alberta - Science News - redOrbit
 
Old October 9th, 2014 #36
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Feisty Little Dinosaur Discovered In Venezuela



They're calling him the "Thief of Tachira," but this feisty little dinosaur just discovered in Venezuela doesn't sound like the sort that would have stolen many hearts.

In fact, Tachiraptor admirabilis doesn't sound friendly at all.

"Tachiraptor probably preyed upon any smaller animal he could catch," Max Langer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil and co-author of a paper describing the dinosaur, told Discovery News.

An international team of researchers unearthed two leg bone fossils of the new species in the Andes Mountains near Venezuela's western border, LiveScience reported.

The fossils indicate the first carnivorous dinosaur discovered in the country was about 4.9 to 6.5 feet long from nose to tail. The creature lived about 201 million years ago, during the early Jurassic period, on the ancient supercontinent Pangaea.

"Pangaea was in the process of breaking up back then," Langer told Live Science. "There was a lot of volcanic activity around, and in the valley, [there was] a meandering river, along which were patches of forest where this dinosaur lived."

The researchers said Tachiraptor was likely an ancestor of bigger dinosaurs like T. rex that lived in the later Jurassic. Their discovery may shed new light on the evolution of dinosaurs following the End-Triassic mass extinction that occurred a million years before Tachiraptor lived.

The paper describing the discovery was published Oct. 8 in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Feisty Little Dinosaur Discovered In Venezuela
 
Old October 22nd, 2014 #37
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Bizarre dinosaur reconstructed after 50 years of wild speculation

Deinocheirus mirificus, or ‘unusual horrible hand’, had long, clawed forearms, a sail on its back and a duck-like bill



A reconstruction of the dinosaur Deinocheirus mirificus.


Nearly 50 years after researchers uncovered the gigantic arms of a mysterious dinosaur in the Gobi desert, the true nature of the beast has finally been established.

Since its discovery in 1965, the only clues to the engimatic creature were its shoulders and forelimbs – the latter measuring an astounding 2.4 metres long – and a few ribs and vertebrae dug from the ground by a joint Polish-Mongolian expedition.

The fossils were extraordinary enough for scientists to declare the dinosaur a new genus and species. The name they decided upon was Deinocheirus mirificus, meaning “unusual horrible hand”.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2...irus-mirificus
 
Old November 7th, 2014 #38
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Photos: Ancient Animal Footprints Found at Diamond Mine in Angola


Evidence of 118-million-year-old animal tracks suggests that the Catoca diamond mine in Angola was once a vastly different environment. It's likely that a shallow freshwater lake in the area served as the watering hole for a raccoon-size mammal — an extraordinary large mammal for that time — a crocodile and a dinosaur, according to the track marks.

http://www.livescience.com/48614-pho...al-tracks.html
 
Old November 9th, 2014 #39
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Default A miniature horse in foal found in a German excavation site and claimed to be the only one of its kind, so far:

http://www.badische-zeitung.de/panorama/klein-x8x

https://www.google.nl/search?q=Grube...l%3B1892%3B946

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... Das rund 47 Millionen Jahre alte Fundstück aus der Grube Messel sei einmalig...
 
Old December 24th, 2014 #40
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Rods and cones preserved in ancient fossilized fish eye

"Rods and cones are not usually preserved, because these soft tissues are more fragile," said Gengo Tanaka.



Rods and cones, the two main photoreceptor cells, are vital to human sight -- converting visible electromagnetic radiation into information our brains can use. And it turns out, the biological technology has been around for more than 300 million years.

http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2014...#ixzz3MqtevvSi
 
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