nandi's blog

Meet the Paleontologist Who Discovered 80 New Species of Dinosaur

Monday, March 11, 2019

Paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Othniel Charles Marsh and his fossil hunters discovered about 500 new species of animals.

Long before digging around in the dirt for dinosaur bones was made popular by Jurassic Park, Othniel Charles Marsh, who died 120 years ago next week, was trekking around North America in the 1800s looking for animal fossils of all shapes in sizes.

Marsh, whose mother died when he was just three years old, grew up on a farm in New York with his dad until his wealthy uncle, George Peabody, gifted the boy with enough money to start a formal education. (Later, in his will, Peabody left Marsh a large sum of money).

Portrait of George Peabody (1795-1869), American financier and philanthropist, illustration from the magazine The Illustrated London News, volume LV, November 20, 1869. (Getty)

Peabody would become known as the father of philanthropy,  with moguls like Bill Gates and John D. Rockefeller later adopting the same beneficent philosophies. He would go on to open The Peabody Institute, The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and The Peabody Academy of Science.

It was only natural for Marsh to follow along the scientific lines that his uncle had such an interest in. He received schooling from Phillips Academy and then later at Yale where he would receive his master’s in 1863 and would later returned to teach, making him the first professor of paleontology in the United States.

Ideal Jurassic landscape in America, 1884. From fossil evidence, Othniel Marsh imagined a scene during the late Jurassic epoch 163 to 161 million years ago, with Stegosaurus, Compsognathus (left) and Pterodactyls inhabiting it. From Scientific American. (New York, 29 November 1884). (Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)

After he received a sizable inheritance from his uncle, Marsh set out with a group of fossil hunters to explore the United States on the hunt for animals that once roamed the same fields millions of years before man. The team completed four expeditions between 1870 and 1873.

Othniel Charles Marsh (top, center) and his team completed 4 expeditions across the American West on the hunt for animal fossils. (Wikicommons)

Marsh and his team found competition in another up-and-coming bone hunter- Edward Drinker Cope, who was said to have a fierce rivalry with the formally educated Marsh. Although Cope had no formal degrees, when the pair met, he had over 35 scientific papers published in comparison to Marsh’s two. However, the pair were said to have met and stayed together for several days on end and would continue to exchange writings, fossils and photographs of their adventures.

Edward Drinker Cope was a rival paleontologist who, with no formal education, published hundreds of scientific papers about paleontology. (Wikicommons)

Throughout his long, rich career Marsh discovered some 500 different new species of animals never known before. Among them were flying reptiles like the pterosaur, which Marsh was the first to find.

A cleaner dusts a cast of a Diplodocus skeleton at the Natural History Museum in London, 12th November 1936. The cast was made from the D. Carnegiei diplodocus at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, and was presented to the London museum in 1905. (Photo by William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The dinosaur bones that Marsh uncovered were what would make him famous – with positions as the President of the Nation Academy of Sciences and the head of the U.S. Geological Survey. Each new discovery solidified the paleontologist as the most famous in the world.

Gabriel Nicles 7, as seen thru the skull of the 68 million old Triceratop, found in Whyoming. The very first Triceratop was discovered by Marsh. Credit: The Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

View of a model of a stegosaurus, labelled ‘the Armored Dinosaur,’ on display at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 1917. (Photo by Library of Congress/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Marsh discovered so many fossils his finds made up the majority of the collection at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. The very first fossil skeleton of the Brontosaurus is the main attraction of the museum’s great hall.

The Peabody Museum of Yale University opened for exhibition brontosaurus, known as the “Thunder saurian,” a huge dinosaur nearly 70 feet long and 16 feet high, the skeleton of which weighs 6 1/2 tons. One of the largest reptiles the world has ever seen, its age is estimated by Yale scientists at 120,000,000 years. Its estimated weight when alive is between 37 and 40 tons. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

By the end of his life Marsh had discovered and named some of the most famous dinosaurs like the Triceratop, Diplodocus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus and the Brontosaurus.

A year before his death, Marsh received the Cuvier Prize from the French Academy of Science. Marsh died of pneumonia on March 18, 1899. He donated his home to Yale University and it has been maintained as a National Historic Landmark.

Source: www.realclearlife.com

Step Towards Jurassic Park? Scientists ‘Wake Up’ Cells of Ancient Mammoth

Thursday, March 14, 2019

© Kindai University / Nature

A team of Japanese and Russian scientists has resurrected the cells of a female baby woolly mammoth named Yuka in a major step towards possibly one day bringing the animal back from extinction.

Yuka’s mummified remains were discovered in 2010 buried in the Siberian permafrost on the Laptev Sea where she died over 28,000 years ago. DNA was extracted from cells within the mammoth’s muscles and bone marrow, and several dozen of the least damaged nuclei were implanted into mice eggs, five of which showed “signs of biological activity.”

The cells were more damaged than initially hoped but the experiment showed significant promise.

Just don’t expect any Jurassic Parks anytime soon, as none of the implanted cells produced cell division, which would be a key process needed for any hope of cloning the giant creatures. Much like Yuka when she died, the efforts to resurrect an actual extinct animal are only in their infancy. 

“This suggests that, despite the years that have passed, cell activity can still happen and parts of it can be recreated,” said Kei Miyamoto, one of the study’s authors, as quoted by the New York Post“We need new technology, we want to try various approaches.”

“[It’s] a significant step towards bringing mammoths back from the dead,” Miyamoto concluded.

The research team at Kindai University in Japan published their findings in the Journal Nature. Thankfully, they are not the only ones attempting to bring these hairy giants back to life.

George Church, a Harvard and MIT geneticist and co-founder of CRISPR, is heading up the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival team whose stated aim is to bring the mammoth back to life to help humanity with conservation efforts across the globe.

Source: www.rt.com

Chrome's Offline Dinosaur is Now an Actual Toy You Can Buy, and it is Outstanding

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Chrome Dino

"There is no internet connection." Are there any more terrifying words in the English language? Okay, yes, lots of them. Still, losing internet access is no laughing matter in this hyper-connected age. What are you supposed to do without the internet? Read a book. Psh, not likely. Chrome's dinosaur error page has been with us for a long time, helping to calm nerves during those periods of disconnection. Starting next week, you can have the Chrome dino on your desk all the time with these Dead Zebra figurines.

The set includes the T-rex and four cacti—everything you need to recreate the ERR_INTERNET_DISCONNECTED screen on your desk. The dino is about three inches tall, and the cacti are between two and three inches. They're all ABS plastic and acrylic with permanently attached base plates for stability (unlike your internet connection, am I right?).

The box also has that familiar and ultimately useless checklist of things to try when the internet is down. On the opposite side, it has the game over screen from the dino endless runner you can play while waiting for the internet to come back. By the way, you can play that by going to chrome://dino. Dead Zebra will begin sales of the set March 11th at 11AM EDT. It'll retail for $24, and most of the AP team is planning to buy it.

Source: Dead Zebra

Why Do They Continue to Make Jurassic Park Movies?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Lost World - Jurassic Park (1997)

When it first came out, the original Jurassic Park movie was absolutely brilliant. It had it all. Action, adventure, not too much of the mushy stuff, and of course, dinosaurs aplenty!

Of course, we were going to get at least one sequel – after all, we never discovered what became of the island off the coast of Costa Rica once the team of scientists fled following the first disaster at Jurassic Park. However, as the franchise wore on through the 1990s, the quality waned.

Looks like we will get Jurassic Park – The Fast and the Furious

Jurassic-Park-3D

First, we headed to “site B” – a secret location that Dr. Hammond was using to keep other dinosaurs for the original park. Chaos theorist Ian Malcolm is summoned to document the ancient creatures living as close to a natural life as possible. However, a second team knows about the location and wants to start a new theme park, this time in the far more perilous location of San Francisco.

The next modern, prehistoric, not-quite-so-classic adventure – Jurassic Park III – sees the action return to the now sprawling dinosaur island from the second movie. Dr Grant is persuaded by a couple to give them a fly-over tour of Isla Sorna to find their son who is apparently lost in the sprawling forest below. The flight crash-lands on the island and the action that follows revolves around rescuing the boy from the million-year-old lizards.

Following the third movie, interest in dinosaurs was perceived to have waned sufficiently for there to be a much-needed break in the franchise. That said, the merchandising arm of Jurassic Park continued almost unabated. For the kids there would be lunch boxes, cuddly toys, action figures, and for adults, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and even video slots (play the free demo at NoDepositRewards) despite there being no new content from the series in years.

Almost a decade and a half later, however, the corpse of Jurassic Park would be wheeled out again. Jurassic World is actually a solid movie. It in no way captures the charm of the original title but it does get a lot right. The action takes place off the coast of Costa Rica once again. The plot is much more akin to the original movie, since it centres around a resort and what happens when the dinosaurs escape.

Finally, the newest movie in the franchise, for now at least, is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This one departs from the typical Jurassic Park narrative of “humans plus dinosaurs equals danger.” Instead, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing are forced to return to Isla Nublar since the dinosaurs that survived from the previous movie are in danger from a huge volcanic eruption that could cause them to go extinct – again.

What Made Jurassic Park So Good?

Jurassic-Park

The original Jurassic Park was such a success for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it had dinosaurs. Now, we all know that these ancient beasts have a powerful lure over both young and old – I for one had a bedroom adorned in dinosaur posters and pictures for much of my childhood.

However, we weren’t dealing with some low budget effort here. For Steven Spielberg’s now classic, only the most cutting edge in animatronics would suffice. This made Jurassic Park an absolute treat for the eyes and in all honesty, it still stands up well visually today.

This visual magnificence is built upon by the fact that the movie toes the line between pandering to the kids and their parents beautifully – a must for a family movie to be a success. If the adults roll their eyes at the mere mention of the title or the kids hide under their sheets in terror, it’s just not going to work. Fortunately, there is enough in the original Jurassic Park to keep all ages delighted – whether that’s the clowning around of young Timmy or the dry sarcastic wit of Ian Malcolm (masterfully played by Jeff Goldblum).

Throw into this winning mix a legendary theme tune, great performances from across the cast, an original plot and subtext that is believable yet unpredictable, and you have all the makings of a classic Hollywood blockbuster. Frankly, the original Jurassic Park is fantastic. So great in fact, that this entire article could easily be dedicated to the movie alone.

Why the Sequels Don’t Come Close

Jurassic-World

Jurassic Park set a high water mark that subsequent editions couldn’t come close to. None of the following plots manage to capture the drama of the original and no matter how many times our team of dino scientists visit one of the two damned islands, that much-needed freshness still hasn’t magically reappeared. In Jurassic Park III, the entire plot of movie two was dismissed as being largely trivial by the characters themselves. Even in the very latest movie out last year, the most interesting element of the whole plot was left undeveloped. However, there is hope that the human genetic experimentation angle will be developed in the forthcoming title – which is honestly not called Jurassic Park 15: Flogging a Dead T-Rex.

Along with plot issues, the sequels suffer from a variety of other downfalls that make them difficult to like, let alone love. Take the acting for example. It’s hard to think of a single character in the first movie that lets the side down. However, in the third instalment, we get to witness the truly cringe worthy relationship between Paul Kirby and wife Amanda. The lack of chemistry between the pair is really quite difficult to watch at times.

Then there are the characterizations themselves. Whereas Ellie Sattler was a straight up badass and the ultimate hero of the first movie, the female characters in later editions are frankly embarrassing. Both Amanda Kirby and Claire Dearing (of Jurassic World) are less characters and more caricatures. They play your typical “damsel in distress”, which in the second decade of the 21stcentury, feels dated at best and offensive at worst.

Ultimately, the movies following the original title try to get by on special effects and previous sentimental attachments to characters alone. This doesn’t really work when the writing and directing isn’t on par with the Jurassic Park.

A New Hope?

Jurassic-World-Super-Bowl

As mentioned, there is a new Jurassic Park movie on the way. It’s scheduled for release in 2021. Not a great deal is known about the latest in this now-oversized franchise. However, the writers and directors will clearly have their work cut out if they want to restore the magic of the first movie.

The entire series is really starting to feel tired by this point. The dinosaurs no longer have the visual impact they once did and the whole thing could probably use another, longer break. How the team behind Jurassic World III will overcome this is unclear – but please, no more tragically helpless female characters or derelict amusement parks!

Source: https://thatshelf.com

Scientists Put Ichthyosaurs in Virtual Water Tanks

Friday, March 8, 2019

3D models of the nine ichthyosaurs analyzed by the researchers, shown in their evolutionary context. Credit: Gutarra et al., 2019)

Using computer simulations and 3-D models, palaeontologists from the University of Bristol have uncovered more detail on how Mesozoic sea dragons swam.

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, sheds new light on their energy demands while swimming, showing that even the first ichthyosaurs had  shapes well adapted to minimise resistance and maximise volume, in a similar way to modern dolphins.

Ichthyosaurs are an extinct group of sea-going reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era, around 248-93.9 million years ago.

During their evolution, they changed shape substantially, from having narrow, lizard-like bodies to more streamlined fish-shaped bodies.

It was assumed that the change in body shape made them more efficient swimmers, especially by reducing the drag of the body, in other words, the resistance to movement.

If they could produce less resistance for a given body mass, they would have more power for swimming, or swimming would take less effort. Then they could swim longer distances or reach faster speeds.

Susana Gutarra, a Ph.D. student in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, said: "To test whether fish-shaped bodies helped ichthyosaurs reduce the energy demands of swimming, we made 3-D models of several different ichthyosaurs.

"We also created a model of a bottlenose dolphin, a living species which can be observed in the wild, so we could test if the method worked."

Dr. Colin Palmer, a hydrodynamics expert and a collaborator, added: "Susana used classic methods from ship design to test these ancient reptiles.

"The software builds a "virtual water tank" where we can control variables like the temperature, density and speed or water, and that allow us to measure all resulting forces.

Computational simulation of flow over the 3D models of two ichthyosaurs and a bottlenose dolphin. Velocity plot (left) and pressure coefficient (right) for a primitive ichthyosaur (Chaohusaurus), a derived fish-shaped ichthyosaur (Ophthalmosaurus) and a modern bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops). Credit: Susana Gutarra, University of Bristol

"The model ichthyosaurs were put into this "tank", and fluid flow conditions modelled, in the same way ship designers test different hull shapes to minimize drag and improve performance."

Professor Mike Benton, also from Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and a collaborator, said: "Much to our surprise, we found that the drastic changes to ichthyosaur body shape through millions of years did not really reduce drag very much.

"All of them had low-drag designs, and body shape must have changed from long and slender to dolphin-like for another reason. It seems that body size mattered as well."

Susana Gutarra added: "The first ichthyosaurs were quite small, about the size of an otter, and later ones reached sizes of 5-20 metres in length.

"When we measured flow over different body shapes at different sizes, we found that large bodies reduced the mass-specific energy demands of steady swimming."

Dr. Benjamin Moon, another collaborator from Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, said: "There was a shift in swimming style during ichthyosaur evolution. The most primitive ichthyosaurs swam by body undulations and later on they acquired broad tails for swimming by beating their tails (more efficient for fast and sustained swimming).

However, we found that some very early ichthyosaurs, like Utatsusaurus, might have been well suited for endurance swimming thanks to their large size, in spite of swimming by body undulations. Our results provide a very interesting insight into the ecology of ichthyosaurs."

Susana Gutarra concluded: "Swimming is a very complex phenomenon and there are some aspects of it that are particularly hard to test in fossil animals, like motion.

"In the future, we'll probably see simulations of ichthyosaurs moving through water.

"At the moment, simulating the ichthyosaurs in a static gliding position, enables us to focus our study on the morphology, minimizing our assumptions about their motion and also allow us to compare a relatively large sample of models."

More information: Effects of body plan evolution on the hydrodynamic drag and energy requirements of swimming in ichthyosaurs, Proceedings of the Royal Society Brspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2018.2786

Source: https://phys.org

American Museum of National History Brings the T-Rex to Life in VR

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Visitors encounter a massive animated projection of a t. rex and its offspring in a late cretaceous setting. the huge dinosaur will react to visitors, leaving them to wonder, ‘did that t. rex see me?’ image © AMNH /r. mickens

VR Technology can unlock many different use cases in the coming years. For the American Museum of Natural History, bringing dinosaurs back to life is an option worth exploring. Through the “T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator” exhibition, the museum will give visitors a chance to get up close and personal with this majestic creature.

Meeting a T-Rex in Virtual Reality

Although most people would love to see a dinosaur in the real world, chances of that ever happening are slim to none. That is, assuming no one tries to recreate Jurassic Park or Jurassic World in real life over the coming decades. Thankfully, it seems the American Museum of Natural History is offering a viable alternative. Their new exhibition will focus on the Tyrannosaurus rex, which can be met in VR.

This new exhibition will serve as an educational tool in the future. Viewers can learn more about this creature, both as an adult version or when they grow up. There is a lot most people do not know about the T. rex, other than how frightening it looks. At the same time, this was an apex predator, thus it is only normal the adult-sized version isn’t too cuddly. Its hatchling version, however, is a different matter altogether.

This VR exhibition will also provide viewers with the most realistic and scientifically accurate representation of the T. rex to date. There will be an option to interact with fossils and casts. Additionally, the museum will offer a multiplayer VR experience, which is made possible thanks to the help of the HTC Vive team. Up to three individuals will team up to build a T. rex fossil bone by bone in virtual reality.

It is not the first time virtual reality will serve as an educational tool either. Numerous options are being explored in this regard. Giving museum visitors an option to engage with the subject matter at hand is a big step in the right direction. When bringing history and knowledge to life, virtual reality can offer many opportunities to look into. An at-home version of this T. rex exhibition will launch on Viveport during the Summer of 2019.

Source: https://thevrsoldier.com

Dinosaurs Were Thriving Before Asteroid Strike That Wiped Them Out

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Reconstruction of a late Maastrichtian (~66 million years ago) palaeoenvironment in North America, where a floodplain is roamed by dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex, Edmontosaurus and Triceratops. Credit: Davide Bonadonna

Dinosaurs were unaffected by long-term climate changes and flourished before their sudden demise by asteroid strike.

Scientists largely agree that an asteroid impact, possibly coupled with intense volcanic activity, wiped out the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago.

However, there is debate about whether dinosaurs were flourishing before this, or whether they had been in decline due to long-term changes in climate over millions of years.

Previously, researchers used the fossil record and some mathematical predictions to suggest dinosaurs may have already been in decline, with the number and diversity of species falling before the asteroid impact.

Now, in a new analysis that models the changing environment and dinosaur species distribution in North America, researchers from Imperial College London, University College London and University of Bristol have shown that dinosaurs were likely not in decline before the meteorite.

Lead researcher Alessandro Chiarenza, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial, said: "Dinosaurs were likely not doomed to extinction until the end of the Cretaceous, when the asteroid hit, declaring the end of their reign and leaving the planet to animals like mammals, lizards and a minor group of surviving dinosaurs: birds.

"The results of our study suggest that dinosaurs as a whole were adaptable animals, capable of coping with the environmental changes and climatic fluctuations that happened during the last few million years of the Late Cretaceous. Climate change over prolonged time scales did not cause a long-term decline of dinosaurs through the last stages of this period."

The study, published today in Nature Communications, shows how the changing conditions for fossilisation means previous analyses have underestimated the number of species at the end of the Cretaceous.

The team focused their study on North America, where many Late Cretaceous dinosaurs are preserved, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. During this period, the continent was split in two by a large inland sea.

A global map showing the distribution of surface temperature over the Earth in the Late Cretaceous, .76 million years ago. Warmer colours represent higher temperatures, while colder colours indicate lower ones. Credit: Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza/ BRIDGE University of Bristol/ GETECH

In the western half there was a steady supply of sediment from the newly forming Rocky Mountains, which created perfect conditions for fossilising dinosaurs once they died. The eastern half of the continent was instead characterised by conditions far less suitable for fossilisation.

This means that far more dinosaur fossils are found in the western half, and it is this fossil record that is often used to suggest dinosaurs were in decline for the few million years before the asteroid strike.

Co-author Dr. Philip Mannion, from University College London, commented: "Most of what we know about Late Cretaceous North American dinosaurs comes from an area smaller than one-third of the present-day continent, and yet we know that dinosaurs roamed all across North America, from Alaska to New Jersey and down to Mexico."

Instead of using this known record exclusively, the team employed 'ecological niche modelling'. This approach models which environmental conditions, such as temperature and rainfall, each species needs to survive.

The team then mapped where these conditions would occur both across the continent and over time. This allowed them to create a picture of where groups of dinosaur species could survive as conditions changed, rather than just where their fossils had been found.

The team found habitats that could support a range of dinosaur groups were actually more widespread at the end of the Cretaceous, but that these were in areas less likely to preserve fossils.

Furthermore, these potentially dinosaur-rich areas were smaller wherever they occurred, again reducing the likelihood of finding a fossil from each of these areas.

'Ecological niche modelling does not support climatically-driven dinosaur diversity decline before the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction' by Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, Philip D. Mannion, Daniel J. Lunt, Alex Farnsworth, Lewis A. Jones, Sarah-Jane Kelland & Peter A. Allison is published in Nature Communications.

More information: Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08997-2 

Journal reference: Nature Communications

Provided by: Imperial College London

Source: https://phys.org

Paleontologists Uncover Hundreds of Fossils Near Beverly Hills

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Metro officials and paleontologists presented their findings today at the La Brea Tarpits.

Metro’s purple line expansion leads to Ice Age fossil discoveries. The fossils found include remains of giant ground sloths, mammoths and bisons.

The expansion of Los Angeles' Metro purple line has unearthed over 500 fossils, including some from the Ice Age. Paleontologists and Metro officials showed off their newly acquired artifacts today at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Metro's construction, which plans to add seven stops and nine miles of rail to the purple line from Koreatown to West LA, has given paleontologists a better look at what life may have been like some 10,000 years ago.

"We had an idea that we would find some fossils," said Kasey Shuda, the senior manager of construction relations for the purple line expansion. "That's why we made sure there were paleontologists in our environmental report."

The paleontological field director for Cogstone Resource Management, Ashley Leger, said the discovery teaches us about the history of the area.

"It's interesting to get a glance outside of the tar pits and see what the rest of Los Angeles and Southern California was like," Leger said. "We learn so much about the Ice Age just from the fossils being found."

The discovered fossils will all go on display at the Los Angeles National History Museum. The fossils discovered include giant ground sloths, mammoths and bison. The most rare discovery was the "Hayden" fossil, a nearly complete skull of a juvenile Columbian Mammoth, which was found at the Wilshire/La Brea stop in section one.

In order to ensure that fossils are not carelessly damaged during excavation, a team of monitors  are on the ground and underground, when construction is taking place.

"Anytime there is active excavation, some of our staff is there on hand watching the sediment move," field director Ashley Leger said. "When anything is found they can immediately retrieve it."

When a fossil is found the excavation team is able to dynamically divert work to another section of the subway, so that production isn't completely halted.

The excavation of section one is nearly completed and work on section two is expected to begin soon. The entire expansion project is expected to be completed in 2026.

Source: www.uscannenbergmedia.com

Megalodon’s Teeth Evolved Over 12 Millions Years, Researchers Find

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Teeth are the only reliably identifiable fossils from Carcharocles megalodon. They’re also damn huge. Image credits Kristen Grace / Florida Museum of Natural History.

These “ultimate cutting tools” were a long time in the making.

The teeth of Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon), the largest shark ever to prowl the oceans, look like daggers. They’re up to 7 inches (18 cm) long and shaped like blades. But it took them millions of years to evolve into their final shape, new research reveals. The findings created more questions than they answered, as we still don’t know why the process took so long or why it started in the first place.

Big fish, bigger bite

“This transition was a very long, drawn-out process, eventually resulting in the perfect cutting tool — a broad, flat tooth with uniform serrations,” said study lead author Victor Perez, a doctoral student in geology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“It’s not yet clear why this process took millions of years and why this feature [serration] was lost.”

Megalodon has to be one of the most awe-inspiring and mysterious animals out there. It was the largest shark ever seen on Earth, but the only trace they’ve left is their teeth. Which is quite fitting for a shark.

But these teeth, according to Perez’s team, evolved over 12 million years. The researchers analyzed the evolutionary path of megalodon teeth and those of its immediate ancestor, Carcharocles chubutensis. Their study revealed a surprisingly slow and gradual process, in which they shifted from large teeth flanked by cusplets to regular, cusplet-less teeth.

The team performed a “census of teeth,” analyzing 359 fossils along with the precise location of their retrieval at the Calvert Cliffs on the western shore of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay — an area that used to be an ocean in C. chubutensis and megalodon’s day.

Megalodon’s earliest ancestor, Otodus obliquus, boasted three-pronged teeth (i.e. teeth with cusplets) that acted more like forks, the team writes. This suggests that O. obliquus dined on fast-moving (but not too large) fish, and it needed teeth to pin them in place. This species effectively forms the baseline from which later megatooth shark species derived.

The fossil record at Calvert Cliffs spans from about 20 to 7.6 million years ago, so they overlap with both C. chubutensis and megalodon. Perez’s team found a consistent decrease in the number of teeth with lateral cusplets over this timespan. About 87% of teeth from 20 to 17 million years ago had cusplets, falling to about 33% roughly 14.5 million years ago. By 7.6 million years, no fossil teeth had cusplets.

But here’s where the results start getting muddy. While the team notes that adult C. chubutensis had cusplets, and adult megalodon did not, they also caution that this feature is not a reliable identifier of which species a tooth belonged to — juvenile megalodon could have cusplets, making it virtually impossible to discern whether a tooth with cusplets came from C. chubutensis or a young megalodon. Furthermore, some teeth analyzed for the study had tiny bumps or pronounced serrations where cusplets would be. A set of teeth from a single shark even had cusplets on some, no cusplets on others, and replacement teeth with reduced cusplets.

Carcharocles Megalodon by RAPHTOR

While definitely interesting from a paleontological and biological point of view, such specimens make it virtually impossible for the team to draw clean lines between different species. They can’t pinpoint when megalodon first appeared or when C. chubutensis went extinct.

“As paleontologists, we can’t look at DNA to tell us what is a distinct species. We have to make distinctions based off of physical characteristics,” says Perez. “We feel it’s impossible to make a clean distinction between these two species of sharks. In this study, we just focused on the evolution of this single trait over time.”

So what can the study, then, tell us? Well, it does help to flesh out our understanding of how later megatooth species (such as megalodon) lived, how they hunted, and a bit or two about how they handled disease.

Megalodon fossils have flat teeth, often with serrated edges. Based on their shape, they likely performed a different job than that of its earliest ancestor: that of killing (or at least, mortally wounding) large, fleshy animals like whales or dolphins. Megalodon likely hunted in a single-strike manner: it charged at its prey and chomped down hard. Whatever didn’t die on the spot was left immobilized or too crippled to run away, and bleeding heavily.

“It would just become scavenging after that,” says Perez. “A shark wouldn’t want to grab and hold onto a whale because it’s going to thrash about and possibly injure the shark in the process.”

Lateral cusplets may have been used to grasp prey, according to Perez, which could explain why they disappeared as these sharks shifted to a new hunting style. It’s also possible that the cusplets kept food out from between the sharks’ teeth — so they helped prevent gum diseases. But, frankly speaking, the team simply doesn’t have enough information to know why these structures evolved out of the shark’s teeth.

“It’s still a mystery,” Perez says. “We’re wondering if something was tweaked in the genetic pathway of tooth development.”

One point I found particularly interesting was how important ‘beachcombers’ were for this study. The team says that vast majority of teeth they analyzed were discovered by amateur fossil collectors and donated to museum collections.

“This study is almost entirely built on the contributions of amateur, avocational paleontologists,” Perez notes. “They are a valuable part of research.”

The paper “The transition between Carcharocles chubutensis and Carcharocles megalodon (Otodontidae, Chondrichthyes): lateral cusplet loss through time” has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Source: www.zmescience.com

Protoceratops in Red Rock Finish on 2nd Coin in Prehistoric Beasts Series

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Protoceratops in Red Rock Finish on 2nd Coin in Prehistoric Beasts Series

Prehistoric Beasts – Protoceratops andrewsi

Mongolia. 2,000 Togrog. 2019. Silver .999. 3 oz. Red-rock finish. 65 mm. ProofMintage999 pcs. B. H. Mayer’s Kunstprägeanstalt, Munich.

Description

The obverse depicts the emblem of the Central Bank of Mongolia, below in Cyrillic lettering 2,000 Togrog, in the exergue in Latin lettering MONGOLIA 3 oz .999 SILVER.

The reverse presents the fossilized skeleton of a Protoceratops; below in italics Protoceratops andrewsi, in print Late Cretaceous, Mongolia.

Story

In 2018, CIT Coin Invest AG initiated the “Prehistoric Beasts” series with a Velociraptor mongoliensis. In 2019, this success story continues with the Protoceratops andrewsi. The two prehistoric species share a close connection.

A fossil was found in the Mongolian Gobi Desert in 1971 that shows a Velociraptor fighting a Protoceratops. This is remarkable because the find was the first evidence of the Velociraptor with its razor-sharp claws really having been the dangerous predator it is presented as in Jurassic Park. For the purpose of boosting the arc of suspense, the dimensions of the turkey-sized Velociraptor were drastically exaggerated, however. The fact that it nevertheless dared to attack the herbivore Protoceratops despite its considerably heavier weight of 400 kilograms, is proven by the fossil known as “Fighting Dinosaurs” amongst paleontologists: while the Velociraptor has rammed its claws into the Protoceratops’ head and attempts to crack open the lower abdomen of its opponent with its beak, the Protoceratops holds his opponent’s arm in his beak respectively. Supposedly, both animals were mortally wounded in this fight. The desert sand then covered them and preserved their remains.

Just like the previous one, the second issue of the “Prehistoric Beasts” series is also struck in the “Red Rock Finish”. A special technique allows for the surface to resemble sandy rocks. Smartminting technology makes the high relief skeleton stand out against its background.

If you want to see a reconstruction of the fight, don’t miss this Chinese YouTube video – it shows the animals in the correct proportions!

Source: https://coinweek.com

Pages