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Old March 19th, 2008 #1
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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
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What an amazing discovery.

Quote:
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 October 17th, 2010 #7
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New Strong-Handed Dinosaur May Shatter Assumptions

Were gentle, plant-eating giants also scavengers and opportunists?

Fossils of an intriguing new species with a powerful hand may reveal an edgier side of some supposedly peaceful, plant-munching dinosaurs, a new study says.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/n...erica-science/
 
Old March 7th, 2013 #8
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Fossil of Oldest-Known Ancestors of Modern Dog Found

A fossil tooth discovered by a team of international paleontologists in the Altai Mountains of Siberia yields new evidence about modern-day domestic dogs.

DNA analysis of the fossil confirms that modern dogs existed some 33,000 years ago. Prior to this, dogs were believed to have been domesticated 100,000 years ago; however, the oldest fossil of modern dog dates back to 36,000 years ago and was found in Goyet Cave in Belgium.

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/ar...-dog-found.htm
 
Old March 7th, 2013 #9
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Palaeontologists discover giant camel species that lived in the High Arctic


The remains of an extinct species of giant camel have been discovered on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic region of Canada.

The creature was identified thanks to analysis of 30 fossilised fragments of leg bone, each around 3.5 million years old, placing them firmly in the mid-Pliocene. Additional evidence from the surrounding area allowed the research team to conclude that this was likely a High Arctic camel -- a previously unknown species which lived in the forests of the Arctic during a global warm period.

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/...t-arctic-camel
 
Old May 30th, 2013 #10
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Quote:
"The process of decay was overtaken by that of fossilization, preserving many of the soft-tissue structures," Manning said.
I've seen that, and it's fascinating - but when they speak of "preserving" the soft tissue, don't they just mean that the impression has been preserved? I know that fossilized bones are no longer real bones, but mineral impressions.

But a few years ago there was another find even more spectacular: they said they'd found actual SOFT DINOSAUR FLESH....
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Old August 2nd, 2013 #11
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Feathered dinosaurs had 'flight-ready' brains


Archaeopteryx is no longer regarded as the only missing link for the transition from dinosaur to bird


Several ancient dinosaurs evolved the brainpower needed for flight long before they could take to the skies, scientists say.

Non-avian dinosaurs were found to have "bird brains", larger than that of Archaeopteryx, a 150 million-year-old bird-like dinosaur.

Once regarded as a unique transition between dinosaurs and birds, scientists say Archaeopteryx has now lost its pivotal place.

The study is published in Nature.

BBC News - Feathered dinosaurs had 'flight-ready' brains
 
Old September 9th, 2013 #12
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Rare Skull Fossil of Miocene Ape Lufengpithecus Found

An international team of scientists has announced the discovery of a 6.1-million-year-old relatively complete and largely undistorted juvenile cranium of the fossil ape Lufengpithecus lufengensis at the Miocene site Shuitangba in Yunnan Province, China.



The cranium of juvenile Lufengpithecus lufengensis found at the site of Shuitangba


Juvenile crania of apes and hominins are extremely rare in the fossil record, especially those of infants and young juveniles. The Lufengpithecus fossil is only the second relatively complete cranium of a young juvenile in the entire Miocene record of fossil apes throughout the Old World, and both were discovered from the late Miocene of Yunnan Province.

The cranium is also noteworthy for its age. It dates to near the end of the Miocene, a time when apes had become extinct in most of Eurasia.

“The fossils recovered from Shuitangba constitute one of the most important collections of late Miocene fossils brought to light in recent decades because they represent a snapshot from a critical transitional period in earth history,” said Prof Nina Jablonski from Pennsylvania State University, a second author of the paper published in the Chinese Science Bulletin.

“The ape featured in the current paper typifies animals from the lush tropical forests that blanketed much of the world’s subtropical and tropical latitudes during the Miocene epoch, while the monkey and some of the smaller mammals exemplify animals from the more seasonal environments of recent times.”

“In living ape species, cranial anatomy in individuals at the same stage of development as the new fossil cranium already show a close resemblance to those of adults. Therefore, the new cranium, despite being from a juvenile, gives researchers the best look at the cranial anatomy of Lufengpithecus lufengensis. Partly because of where and when Lufengpithecus lived, it is considered by most to be in the lineage of the extant orangutan, now confined to Southeast Asia but known from the late Pleistocene of southern China as well,” said study senior author Dr Jay Kelley from Arizona State University.



The Lufengpithecus cranium in frontal view, left, lateral view

However, the Lufengpithecus cranium shows little resemblance to those of living orangutans, and in particular, shows none of what are considered to be key diagnostic features of orangutan crania. Lufengpithecus therefore appears to represent a late surviving lineage of Eurasian apes, but with no certain affinities yet clear.

The survival of this lineage is not entirely surprising since southern China was less affected by climatic deterioration during the later Miocene that resulted in the extinction of many ape species throughout the rest of Eurasia.

The team is hopeful that further excavations will produce the remains of adult individuals, which will allow them to better assess the relationships among members of this lineage as well as the relationships of this lineage to other fossil and extant apes.

Rare Skull Fossil of Miocene Ape Lufengpithecus Found | Paleontology | Sci-News.com
 
Old September 14th, 2013 #13
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Ancient Crocodiles Ran Like Dogs and Hunted like Killer Whales

Ancient relatives of crocodiles were equipped with a diverse set of characteristics that enabled them to compete and survive in a dinosaur-dominated world, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Some of the ancient crocodiles were able to amble across the land with the ease of a dog, while others stayed beneath the seas and hunted prey in a fashion similar to killer whales today.

The new research from scientists at University of Bristol, the Royal Veterinary College and Duke University reveals how the jaws of ancient crocodiles were evolved to suit creatures in vastly different environments as they lived along side the dinosaurs from 235 to 65 million years ago.

"The ancestors of today's crocodiles have a fascinating history that is relatively unknown compared to their dinosaur counterparts. They were very different creatures to the ones we are familiar with today, much more diverse and, as this research shows, their ability to adapt was quite remarkable," said research leader Tom Stubbs from the University of Bristol.

"Their evolution and anatomical variation during the Mesozoic Era was exceptional. They evolved lifestyles and feeding ecologies unlike anything seen today."

Curious to see how extinction events and adaptations to extreme Mesozoic environments impacted the feeding systems of ancient crocodiles, the researchers analyzed the shape and biomechanical function of the lower jaws in more than 100 of the creatures spanning a wide range of time in the Mesozoic era.

The fossil records revealed how ancient crocodiles responded to the devastating end-Triassic extinction event, responding by evolving to a changed habitat and food supplies.

"Our results show that the ability to exploit a variety of different food resources and habitats, by evolving many different jaw shapes, was crucial to recovering from the end-Triassic extinction and most likely contributed to the success of Mesozoic crocodiles living in the shadow of the dinosaurs," said Stephanie Pierce, from the Royal Veterinary College.

Ancient Crocodiles Ran Like Dogs and Hunted like Killer Whales : Animals : Nature World News




A sample of jaws from the Mesozoic crocodile fossil record. From top to bottom jaws are from: Kaprosuchus (Cretaceous) (image by Carol Abraczinskas), Simosuchus (Cretaceous), Mariliasuchus (Cretaceous) (courtesy of The American Museum of Natural History), Dakosaurus (Jurassic to Cretaceous) and Cricosaurus (Jurassic to Cretaceous) (courtesy of Jeremías Taborda).
 
Old September 18th, 2013 #14
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Dinosaur in a wind tunnel tests feathered flight




A life-sized model of a dinosaur has been suspended in a wind tunnel to help test how feathered dinosaurs might have taken to the air roughly 125 million years ago.

The results suggest that the small, four-winged creatures of the genus Microraptor would have been efficient gliders even without feathers. This supports the idea that plumage might not have evolved for flight but may instead have been a key aspect of sexual-selection displays.

The creatures lived during the early Cretaceous period and are a genus of dromaeosaurs – two-legged predatory dinosaurs that are related to birds. The first microraptor with preserved feathers was unearthed in China in 2003, showing long plumes on all four of its limbs. This set off a firestorm of debate about how the animal might have moved through the air, since this could offer clues to how bird ancestors first put their limbs to the task of gliding and flapping.

Model flyer

One of the fiercest points of contention was microraptors' leg positioning: were the legs splayed parallel to the forearms to form two pairs of wings, like a biplane? Or were they folded beneath its body, like the legs of modern raptors catching prey?

"For years scientists thought microraptors could fly but weren't sure how," says Gareth Dyke at the University of Southampton in the UK. For their tests, Dyke and his colleagues fashioned the first full-scale, anatomically accurate model of a microraptor from balsa wood, aluminium and mallard feathers. The model, dubbed Maurice, weighs in at about half a kilogram and has a 60-centimetre wingspan.

Maurice was suspended in a wind tunnel by piston-tipped poles, which allowed the team to alter the legs and tail mid-flight (see video, above).

The model was then exposed to gusts of up to 20 metres per second. Airflow analysis suggests that the dinosaur probably could have switched between its possible leg configurations mid-air, and that either one would have allowed it to glide in roughly the same way.

Squirrely dino

Overall, microraptors would have been most stable in a slow glide that is less aerodynamically efficient but would have resulted in minimal height loss and longer flight distances. That kind of movement would have been ideal for an animal that combined arboreal and ground-based foraging by scampering up trunks and gliding between trees, like a modern-day flying squirrel, says Dyke.

What's more, Maurice's flight capabilities did not change when his feathers were removed. "The most important thing for this dinosaur was maximising wing surface rather than the presence of feathers," says Dyke.

"That's a key thing, because for many years scientists thought feathers were unique to birds as a great adaption for generating flight. But it seems almost 100 per cent certain that feathers evolved for something else. We just have to figure out what for."

Dinosaur in a wind tunnel tests feathered flight - life - 18 September 2013 - New Scientist
 
Old September 20th, 2013 #15
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The Earliest Britons Hunted And Ate Elephants



Image Caption: Elephant tusks at Ebbsfleet. Credit: University of Southampton


After digging up the remains of a prehistoric elephant and some crude hunting tools in 2003, archaeologists at the University of Southampton now say they have proof that early humans worked together to bring these beasts down.

These early humans lived thousands of years before the Neanderthals, the ancient species which most closely resembled modern humans. Until this discovery it was not known how these early humans came to migrate their way north to land in modern day Kent, England. The University of Southampton archaeologists now believe these humans followed their food to this area. Similar fossil discoveries in the area are rare, and this particular dig gave the researchers a wave of new evidence about some of the area’s very earliest settlers.

Dr. Francis Wenban-Smith first discovered the site as the High Speed 1 link from Channel Tunnel to London was being built some ten years ago.

Upon investigating the site, the archaeologist found the remains of a Palaeoloxodon antiquus, or a straight-tusked elephant. The site also contained fossilized elephant remains and a number of flint tools which may have been used to kill the beast.

The archaeologists also found the remains of several other animals, including extinct species of rhinoceros and lions, beaver, rabbit, shrew and various snails. After dating these remains, the University of Southampton say they date back around 420,000 years ago to a time when the earth’s climate was warming up after a long ice age. This period is referred to as the Hoxnian interglacial and, according to archaeologists, the climate would have been much warmer than present day.

In the nearly ten years since the excavation, Dr. Wenban-Smith and team have been analyzing the site’s remains searching for evidence of our ancestors’ way of life. Scattered around the elephant fossils — which is twice the size of today’s modern elephants — were 80 undisturbed flint tools which the team say were used to both kill and butcher the animal.

“Although there is no direct evidence of how this particular animal met its end, the discovery of flint tools close to the carcass confirm butchery for its meat, probably by a group of at least four individuals,” said Dr. Wenban-Smith in a statement.

“Early hominins of this period would have depended on nutrition from large herbivores. The key evidence for elephant hunting is that, of the few prehistoric butchered elephant carcasses that have been found across Europe, they are almost all large males in their prime, a pattern that does not suggest natural death and scavenging.”

“Although it seems incredible that they could have killed such an animal, it must have been possible with wooden spears.”

It’s been previously understood these early humans were nearly driven to extinction during the colder climate of the so-called Anglican glacation, or Great Ice Age, which struck northern Europe some 450,000 years ago.

Those few who did survive, however, might have followed these large elephants into the warmer weather of the Hoxnian interglacial period. This site also suggests they followed the beasts as far north as early Britain by way of a very shallow English channel.

Last year archaeologists at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain issued a report claiming humans from the Middle Palaeolithic period, around 127,000 and 40,000 years ago, also ate the meat and marrow of elephants they had hunted and killed.

Ancient Britons Hunted Elephants - Science News - redOrbit
 
Old September 20th, 2013 #16
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It’s been previously understood these early humans were nearly driven to extinction during the colder climate of the so-called Anglican glacation . . .
 
Old November 5th, 2013 #17
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Giant platypus once roamed Australia

The fossil of the tooth suggests the animal was capable of eating not only insects and crayfish, but also certain fish and amphibians, and even small turtles.



An artist's illustration of the Obdurodon tharalkooschild platypus. The inset shows the creature's first lower molar. (Image: Peter Schouten)


About the size of a child, the largest-known platypus roamed what is now Australia as far back as 15 million years ago, according to newfound fossil remains of the giant monotreme.

A team of paleontologists from the University of New South Wales in Australia identified the new species, called Obdurodon tharalkooschild, based on a single molar they discovered in the Riversleigh fossil field in northwestern Queensland, Australia. From measurements of the molar, the scientists have estimated the animal grew to be about 1 meter long (3.3 feet), which is twice the size of a modern platypus, and larger than the previously largest-known platypus ancestor, Obdurdon dicksoni.

Modern adult platypuses don't have teeth to compare the fossil to. But ancient platypuses, like O. dicksoni, did have teeth, and like many features of the platypus that set it apart from other mammals — such as its long bill, webbed feet and the fact that it lays eggs — platypus teeth are quite distinctive from all other mammal teeth, and are fairly easy to identify in the fossil record, study co-author Rebecca Pian, a graduate student at Columbia University, told LiveScience. [Images: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts]

"The overall shape of it, including the arrangement of the bumps on the top of the tooth, the way that those are arranged in a distinct shape, and the arrangement, shape and size of the roots are all distinctive," Pian said. "At least to somebody who knows what they are looking at."




The researchers believe this molar came from the extinct platypus' lower jaw. (Photo: Rebecca Pian)


The structure of the tooth suggests the animal was capable of eating not only the small insects and crayfish on which modern platypuses dine, but also small vertebrates such as certain fish and amphibians, and even small turtles, the team reports.

Based on the sedimentary rocks and other fossil assemblages surrounding the area where the tooth was found, the team has estimated that the animal lived between 5 million and 15 million years ago, though they still need to conduct further analyses to determine a more precise age.

Prior to this discovery, scientists had thought platypuses evolved fairly linearly, with only one species ever existing at any given time. But O. tharalkooschild appears to have coexisted with the slightly smaller O. dicksoni, suggesting the animal's evolutionary history is more complex than previously thought.

"It means that there is lot that we still don't know," Pian said. "It's just highlighting how much we don't know about this very unique group of mammals, and how much there is still out there to learn about this group — where they came from, how they evolved, that kind of thing."

For now, the team has concluded their analyses of the tooth and will have to wait until they find more remains of the animal to conduct any follow-up work. Pian is optimistic that they will find something in the coming years, given the overall abundance of well-preserved fossils at the Riversleigh site.

The findings will be detailed next on Nov. 12 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Giant platypus once roamed Australia | MNN - Mother Nature Network
 
Old November 6th, 2013 #18
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Tyrannosaurus rex truly was the king of the tyrant dinosaurs. No other member of the carnivorous family was as large or looked quite so menacing. But where did this apex of Cretaceous rapacity come from? For decades, the origins of our cherished Tyrannosaurus seemed to lay in the north – a culmination of an evolutionary trend within tyrannosaurs towards predators with deep, wide, bone-crushing skulls. But a newly-named, roughly 80 million year old tyrannosaur from southern Utah complicates this transitional tale and hints at a new origin for one of the most fearsome carnivores ever to have walked the Earth.



Skeletal reconstructions of Lythronax, the yellow bones at top showing known elements. Art by Scott Hartman, courtesy Mark Loewen.


Named Lythronax argestes in a PLoS One study by Natural History Museum of Utah paleontologist Mark Loewen and colleagues, the 23 foot long tyrannosaur lived about 12 million years before Tyrannosaurus and trod a part of southern Utah that laid near the coast of a long-lost subcontinent called Laramidia. The pieces of skull and postcrania were discovered within the vast wilderness of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Yet, despite the distance in space and time, the skull of Lythronax holds a remarkable resemblance to Tyrannosaurus.

Rather than having a narrow, streamlined skull typical of later tyrannosaurid dinosaurs found further to the north – such as Gorgosaurus and DaspletosaurusLythronax shared with Tyrannosaurus a skull that widened towards the back, giving these carnivores extra room for powerful jaw muscles and having the added benefit of situating their eyes to the side far enough to allow for binocular vision. Lythronax was one of the few predatory dinosaurs that could have stared you down.

But it would be a mistake to call Lythronax an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus. As study co-author and NHMU paleontology curator Randall Irmis commented at a press conference about the dinosaur this morning, Lythronax was more of a “great uncle” to Tyrannosaurus than an ancestor. Loewen put it another way – the ancestor of Tyrannosaurus is also the ancestor of Lythronax, meaning that these two predators represent close lineages that split from an even earlier common ancestor.

This is why Lythrnoax is so strange. The 80 million year old dinosaur was among the first of the famous tyrannosaurid group, yet it looks very much like one of the very last of the tyrannosaurids. This suggests that are even more tyrannosaurs waiting to be found.



An evolutionary tree showing the relationship of Lythronax to other tyrannosaurs. Courtesy Mark Loewen.

In the new evolutionary scenario suggested by Loewen and colleagues, Lythronax and two other recently-named southern forms – Teratophoneus and Bistahieversor – formed a group of relatively short-snouted, deep-skulled tyrannosaurids that closely resembled the later Tyrannosaurus.

Meanwhile, between 80 and 74 million years ago, a different lineage of narrow, shallow-skulled tyrannosaurids such as Gorgosaurus roamed the habitats in the northern stretches of the same continent. The fact that Lythronax represents the wide, deep-skulled form at 80 million years ago suggests that the two tyrannosaur lines split even earlier in time. Loewen and coauthors expect that the bones documenting this divergence are waiting to be found in rocks about 90 to 82 million years old.



A restoration of Lythronax by Lukas Panzarin, courtesy Mark Loewen.


Sea level changes and the rise of mountains might have spurred the split. Between 100 and 95 million years ago a warm, shallow sea spread over ancient North America, dividing the subcontinent of Laramidia to the west from Appalachia to the east. The great mountains of the west were also being pushed up during this time, creating further barriers on the landmass. All of this created virtual islands on the continent – pockets where dinosaurs evolved in different ways in their isolation. Lythrnoax hints that tyrannosaurids evolved as a result of all these environmental changes, undergoing an evolutionary radiation that eventually spread to Asia when sea levels later began to fall.

The task ahead of paleontologists is to find these dinosaurs and track their evolution and movements throughout Laramidia. There is much more to the story than anyone presently knows. And researchers could certainly use more of Lythronax. While enough elements of the dinosaur’s skull and postcrania were uncovered to identify Lythronax as new to science, most of the tyrannosaur’s skeleton has not been found yet.



A sculpted restoration of Lythronax by Gary Staab, image courtesy Mark Loewen.


It’s not surprising that Lythronax is an elusive dinosaur. Not only were tyrannosaurs usually rare in the habitats they haunted, but dinosaurs in the Wahweap Formation are much harder to find than the abundant skeletons in the younger, overlying Kaiparowits Formation. Nevertheless, as Bureau of Land Management paleontologist Alan Titus said at this morning’s press conference, fossil experts have only searched about ten percent of the fossil-bearing rocks of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Decades of trodding over badlands in search of dinosaurs lay ahead, and who knows what the next field season might yield?

Paleontologists will need all the bits and pieces they can find. A dinosaur skeleton is a time capsule that speaks to ancient life and the grandeur of transmutation. Lythronax is more than another fearsome tyrannosaur. The carnivore is another piece in an evolutionary epic that is just coming into focus.

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Old November 7th, 2013 #19
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Scientists Unearth Oldest Fossil of Mating Bugs



Scientists Unearth Oldest Fossil of Mating Bug from 165 Million Years Ago (Photo : Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D)

Scientists in China have unearthed the oldest fossil of copulating insects in the north-eastern region of the country. The fossil is believed to be 165 million years old.

It is very unusual to find fossils depicting any sort of mating action. Chinese scientists were highly lucky to find a fossil of copulating insects.

The extraordinary find reveals that the genital symmetry and mating position hasn't changed over the last 165 million years for froghoppers that hop from plant to plant like tiny frogs.

The never-before-seen well preserved fossil of the two froghoppers (Anthoscytina perpetua) clearly show belly to belly mating position. It shows how the male reproductive organ called the aedeagus is clearly inserted into the female's reproductive organ called the bursa copulatrix.

The abdomen of the fossilized male insect is twisted for better penetration. This position of mating is even seen in the modern day insects. The froghoppers mate either face to face or side by side on a leaf or tree trunk, reportsLiveScience.

Dong Ren at the Capital Normal University in China said in a statement, "We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic."

Scientists believe that the insects that were in the middle of copulating when they were struck by poisonous gas from volcanic eruption, reports the The Sydney Morning Herald. This gas killed all life and maybe the insects were later blown by the wind into a nearby lake and they sank to the bottom. Gradually the duo was covered by layers of sediments that preserved them for ages. The fossil is now treasured in the insect fossil collection in Beijing.

"This one is so rare," said Chungkun Shih, a visiting professor at the university and one of the authors of the paper. "I got involved in this research in 1999, and I have seen more than half a million fossils, but this was the only one in which the insects were clearly mating."

He added that generally such fossils of insects are trapped in amber and are extremely rare to find. Till date only 40 have been found around the world. But this is the oldest fossil that shows the insect's genitalia clearly and dates back to the mid Jurassic period.

This finding enhances the current knowledge of mating positions and genitalia orientation in the early stages of evolution.

The details have been documented in the journal PLOS ONE.

Scientists Unearth Oldest Fossil of Mating Bugs
 
Old December 3rd, 2013 #20
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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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