nandi's blog

The Jeff Goldblum Statue Has Been Immortalised On Google Maps

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Image: Google.

We thought it was extinct. But the 25ft half naked Jeff Goldblum lives. On Google Maps at least.

'Tyrannosaurus Pecs', as we dubbed it, was a triumphant stunt by Now TV used to promote the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park. The sexed-up mannequin appeared last July in Potters Field Park — a well-worn patch of grass that's been occupied by everything from a Stonehenge made of cars, to a Bluth's banana stand.

The internet went berserk, as fans flocked to get selfies with their hirsute-torsoed hero. But the behemoth is long gone (presumably melted down to make a 25ft Forrest Gump).

That is, unless you seek it on Google Maps. Here, Goldblum has become a permanent fixture: a London landmark, dwarfing Tower Bridge into a mere photobomb behind it. A multi-story deity swarmed by adoring disciples and newly-wed Asian couples, who sit at it its feet, basking in its slick gloriousness.

Image: Google

Goldblum sightings are an occasional phenomenon in the city. In September 2018, the star treated fans to an impromptu set of his jazz numbers on one of the pianos at St Pancras station. His shirt, alas, remained buttoned throughout.

Do let us know if you see Jeff Goldblum walking among us.


Scientists Just Cracked the Mystery of Dinosaur Feathers

Friday, January 4, 2019


Which came first: the dinosaur or the feather?

You may have heard that chickens evolved from dinosaurs, and that some dinosaurs had feathers (if not ... surprise!). But scientists may have made a new discovery: Feathers came before dinosaurs.

Here's the deal. A team of researchers recently examined two pterosaurs found in China. Pterosaurs were flying creatures that shared a common ancestor with dinosaurs. Some were as tall as giraffes.

Scientists had always assumed pterosaurs had no feathers. But to their shock, they found evidence for ... you guessed it ... feathers. This was the first time anyone had ever found feathers on something other than a bird or dinosaur.

“When I first saw these specimens and the branching I didn’t believe it,” said Maria McNamara, a biologist at the University College Cork in Ireland who analyzed the fossils.

So if pterosaurs had feathers, and dinosaurs had feathers, that means their common ancestor likely also had feathers. Which means there was a feathered creature walking around before dinosaurs even existed. That means feathers may be 70 million years older than we thought, older even than dinosaurs.

Not everyone's convinced, and scientists plan on finding more specimens to decide for sure what to think about dinosaurs and feathers. But if these interpretations are correct, it means dinosaurs and birds shared an ancient feathery ancestor.

“The feather has deeper origins, not of a bird but maybe from the ancestors of birds, dinosaurs and pterosaurs,” explained Baoyu Jiang, a researcher at Nanjing University in China.


Paleontologist Believes There is a Wealth of Fossils in Mexico

Friday, January 4, 2019

Work by paleoartist Luis V. Rey.

Some of what has been discovered can be seen at a Mexican dinosaurs exhibition in Nuevo León.

For paleontologists, Mexico is fertile ground that has yet to achieve its full potential.

But some of what has been achieved is on display at the Dinosaurs Made in Mexico exhibition at the Planetario Alfa museum in Monterrey, Nuevo Léon. It showcases some of the discoveries made over the years, especially in the northern reaches of the country.

Two people collaborated with the museum — paleontologist René Hernández Rivera and paleoartist Luis V. Rey — to bring the titans of old alive again, bridging the gap in time for the inhabitants of the same geographical region.

Hernández told the newspaper Milenio he is convinced that there exists a wealth of fossils in Mexico.

During his 40-year-career, Hernández has been involved in the main discoveries in his field, such as the 1988 expedition in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, that resulted in the assembly of the first Mexican dinosaur.

Since then, he has dedicated his career to spreading the word about the nine unique dinosaur species found in Mexico, and 20 others that, while discovered elsewhere, have close ties to the country.

Hernández believes there still is a lot of work to do in terms of research and public outreach, efforts that should be coupled with the fight against fossil poachers.

Luis V. Rey’s work is more interpretative than factual, because other than the fossilized bones artists like him have little more than some hints of scales, plumage, musculature and colors to imagine the true appearance of the dinosaurs.

Through collaboration with other specialists over the course of 20 years, he now offers a different picture of what dinosaurs might have looked like.

Thanks to scientific study “we observed that it was quite possible that the dinosaurs had a relationship with the birds, as has been accepted today,” said the artist and illustrator.

“Dinosaurs were not monsters,” he continued, “they were living creatures. Movies nowadays have taken advantage of scientific progress to turn them into the monstrous icons the public expects them to be, but that has got to change.”

Dinosaurs Made in Mexico includes large-scale posters of Rey’s art, as well as animatronic dinosaurs and an area where children can join an excavation site and dig for fossils.

The exhibition is located in the museum’s third floor and entrance is included in the 120-peso (just over US $6) ticket. The museum is open Tuesdays to Fridays between 2:30 and 7:00pm, and between 10:30am and 7:00pm on weekends.

Source: Milenio (sp) /

Top 10 Western Dinosaur Attractions You Need to See Before You Go Extinct

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of Channone Arif / (CC BY 2.0) cropped

These Jurassic sites will leave you digging for more.

For centuries, dinosaurs have captured the interest and imaginations of both young and old across the world. These terrible lizards that once roamed the Earth may be gone, but their legacy remains in the fossils and skeletons that are buried just beneath our feet. While there are thousands of locations where visitors can gaze at these fantastic discoveries and find out more about what the Earth was like in the time before humans, undoubtedly some of the most fascinating sites are located out West. 

From track sites where you can walk the same ground as these prehistoric beasts to real dinosaur dig sites that allow visitors to see it firsthand, these ten sites are our top picks for some of the best places in the western United States for dinosaur lovers.

Dinosaur Hall in the Natural History Museum

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles’ Natural History Museum recently completed a new dinosaur hall that dinosaur-lovers shouldn't miss. This exhibit has 20 complete skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures of the sea as well as more than 300 fossils. The Natural History Museum also holds the only three-piece Tyrannosaurus Rex growth charts in the world, along with three T. Rex skeletons of different ages. Families can ‘excavate’ dinosaur specimens in hands-on areas of the hall and catch footage of a real dinosaur hunting expedition!

St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site

St. George, UT

Photo courtesy of Amanda / (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) cropped

Located in Utah, this site has been called one of the "most significant dinosaur tracksites in Western North America." The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site features real, preserved dinosaur tracks and fossils of imprints from prehistoric fish and plants. What makes this location special is that the site features an unusual level of detail that can help scientists discover information about the behaviors of these ancient animals. Visitors can learn about the history of the area and the dinosaurs, see accurate dinosaur models and check out dinosaur remains found on the premise. There is a gift shop and museum on site, and visitors can leave their mark on dinosaur research by donating to help preserve this incredible site.

Siebel Dinosaur Complex

Bozeman, MT

Photo courtesy of Greg Goebel / (CC BY-SA 2.0) cropped

Home of the world's largest collection of T. Rex statues, the Siebel Dinosaur Complex at the Museum of the Rockies is a must-see for all dinosaur fans. In addition to a Triceratops growth series and dozens of one-of-a-kind fossils, this prestigious museum features 13 nearly-complete T. Rex skeletons, and the largest T. Rex skull ever found. It is also the home base of renowned paleontologist Jack Horner, who served as adviser for the Jurassic Park films.

Dinosaur National Monument

Jensen, UT

Photo courtesy of IrinaK cropped

Located both in Utah and Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument displays tracks of dinosaurs that once roamed in these places. The detail which allows paleontologists to study these animals’ behaviors still can be seen in the rocks covering the national park. Spend the night and camp with the family or come for the day and roam the same locations that the mighty lizards once trod. Be sure to check out the Exhibit Hall just North of Jensen, Utah, where you can touch real dinosaur fossils. Who knows—maybe you'll make a discovery of your own!

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

Las Cruces, NM

Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management / (CC BY 2.0) cropped

The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is another government-protected region that visitors can explore. This site features plenty of dinosaur tracks and fossils from the Paleozoic Era that give scientists clues to what life might have been like during this time. Visitors can hike through the area and maybe even discover some fossils on their own. Unlike other sites on our list, this site doesn't have any specific visitor center and is instead open for exploration and discovery. Be sure to check out the Jerry MacDonald Paleozoic Trackways Collection at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Much of the collection was found at this site and has since been moved for study and display.

Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

Woodland Park, CO

Photo courtesy of Karl Monaghan / (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) cropped

While dinosaur exhibits can be found at many history museums and other learning centers, Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center has its very own Paleo Lab! Here paleontologists work on the preparation, restoration, molding and casting assembly, and finishing touches in a laboratory. More importantly, visitors can watch the whole process through glass and see how it's really done. The Prehistoric Paradise Store on site also has souvenirs and gifts to take home after a day of playing and learning.

Dinosaur Ridge

Morrison, CO

Photo courtesy of James St. John / (CC BY 2.0) cropped

It's one thing to look at dinosaur fossils, but it's another thing entirely to be able to walk through the same paths. At Dinosaur Ridge, visitors can trace the steps on the Dinosaur Trail or the Triceratops Trail and see a simulated dig site to touch and experience real dinosaur bones and fossils for themselves. The Trek Through Time exhibit is extremely popular, and there are more than 37 trackways and 300 prints to see. This huge site is run by Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, a nonprofit organization and features a gift shop where you can pick up some fun souvenirs and support the organization trying to preserve this awesome site.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Austin, NV

Photo courtesy of Ryan Jerz / (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) cropped

Home to one of the largest collections of ichthyosaur fossils, the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is the reason that Nevada has named the ichthyosaur as the state fossil, and visitors can check out the Fossil House on site to learn more about these amazing creatures. This site is where some of the largest ichthyosaur skeletons have been found, and it was named a National Natural Landmark in 1973. Visitors can take a Fossil Shelter Tour or get some fresh air at one of the many campsites.

Judith River Dinosaur Institute

Billings, MT

Photo courtesy of Ng Yin Chern cropped

The Judith River Dinosaur Institute is a little different than the other attractions on our list in that visitors can apply to take classes or even join dig sites to excavate dinosaur fossils. Available for children 12 and over as well as adults, this institute offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work alongside real paleontologists and learn about dinosaurs and the science behind excavating these skeletons and fossils. Part of the Little Snowy Mountains Dinosaur Project, this hands-on experience is for the truly dedicated dinosaur enthusiasts.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center

Thermopolis, WY

Photo courtesy of Wyoming_Jackrabbit / (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) cropped

Visitors can see more than 30 mounted and complete dinosaur skeletons at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center as well as realistic dioramas. Located only a short distance from Yellowstone National Park and the Star Plunge at Hot Springs State Park, this site houses not only an educational museum filled with fossils, but also an active dig site where visitors  of all ages can see real paleontologists at work and try their hand at "Dig for a Day."

Have you ever seen any of these amazing dinosaur attractions? Did your favorite make our list? Tell us in the comments, and like and share with your dinosaur-loving friends!


Klobiodon rochei: New Jurassic-Era Pterosaur Discovered in England

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The holotype of rhamphorhynchid pterosaur Klobiodon rochei gen. et. sp. nov. (NHMUK PV OR 47991) from Stonesfield Slate Member, Taynton Limestone Formation (Bathonian, Middle Jurassic), Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, UK; right mandible in right lateral view.

Paleontologists from the University of Portsmouth have discovered the fossilized remains of a new species of ancient flying reptile.

The newfound species, named Klobiodon rochei, belongs to an ancient order of flying creatures known as pterosaurs.

The winged reptile lived approximately 167 million years ago (Middle Jurassic Period) and had a wingspan of 6.5 feet (2 m).

Its fossilized remains came from the Taynton Limestone Formation of Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England.

“Only the lower jaw of Klobiodon rochei is known, but it has a unique dental configuration that allows it to be distinguished from other pterosaurs,” said University of Portsmouth paleontologists Michael O’Sullivan and David Martill.

Klobiodon rochei had huge, fang-like teeth — up to 1 inch (2.6 cm) long at a time when few pterosaurs had any teeth.

“It was likely a gull or tern-like creature — a coastal flier that caught fish and squid using its enormous teeth, swallowing them whole,” the researchers said.

“Its large fangs would have meshed together to form a toothy cage, from which little could escape once Klobiodon rochei had gotten a hold of it.”

Klobiodon rochei and other Stonesfield pterosaurs lived alongside one of the most famous and important dinosaurs in the world, the predatory Megalosaurus, the first dinosaur ever scientifically described.

But as global sea levels were higher, and the world was much warmer, their Jurassic Britain was a series of large tropical islands.

The discovery was announced in a paper that appeared in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.


Michael O’Sullivan & David M. Martill. 2018. Pterosauria of the Great Oolite Group (Bathonian, Middle Jurassic) of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, England. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 63 (4): 617-644; doi: 10.4202/app.00490.2018


Dinosaurs, Craters, Animals and a Hike: 10 Family-Friendly Activities in Utah for 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

George A. Goodrich, leaning on a shovel, standing next to the original dinosaur

When traveling across the state of Utah, there are a variety of activities for families to enjoy in a variety of seasons. Whether you are looking to surround yourselves in nature, learn something new as a family in the coming year or simply bond through a rush of adrenaline, here are 10 of the many family-friendly activities in the state.

Kanarraville — Kanarraville Falls

Just a few miles south of Cedar City, you can find a great family hike. The trail to the falls leads in and out of Kanarra Creek and is a nice way to keep everyone cool in the hot desert climate. The highlight to this fun and enjoyable hike is being able to climb up a one-of-a-kind ladder next to the waterfall. Spending a little extra time at the top and enjoying a few natural waterslides is sure to be a hit.

If you go: Kanarraville is about 13 miles south of Cedar City; $9 permit per person is required for this hike; hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., visit for permits and safety information.

Draper — Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

This year-round activity offers a vast amount of animals and sea life that includes a 300,000-gallon shark exhibit and a 40-foot underwater tunnel. While the aquarium offers a broad range of activities and wildlife experiences, the most popular option is the Penguin Encounter. There is no better way for the family to gain a greater appreciation for these unique creatures than by getting a close-up view and even having the opportunity to feed them at various times throughout the day.

If you go: Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, 12033 Lone Peak Parkway, Draper; $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for students, military and seniors, $14.95 for children ages 3-12, free for children ages 2 and younger; Penguin Encounter 1 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, $24.95 per person, $19.95 per member (801-355-3474 or

Lehi — Thanksgiving Point

Whether you are looking to explore a vast tulip garden, experience an interactive kid-friendly museum or simply learn about prehistoric animals — Thanksgiving Point has a variety of activities. To top it off, the complex offers great events and fun festivities year-round for every holiday and season.

If you go: Thanksgiving Point, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi; admissions for different venues range from $10-$20 for adults and $10-$15 for children 3-12 and seniors; see or call 801-768-2300 for information.

St. George — Thunder Junction All Abilities Park

When the weather is hot and you are ready to cool off, head over to Thunder Junction for a great splashing time. Not only can you keep cool during the peak heat of summer days, you can experience a simulated erupting volcano and ride a fun steam train around the perimeter of the park. The handicapped-accessible playground is something that not only makes the park unique, but helps make this an ideal place all can enjoy.

If you go: Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, 1851 S. Dixie Drive, St George; 9 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week; general admission is free. The train operates Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (hours are subject to change based on season, maintenance and weather); train rides are $1 per person; see

Park City — Mountain Village Adventure Park


For those who seek a little more thrill and rush, the Mountain Village Adventure Park in Park City offers an alpine slide, a coaster and zip line. Take a chairlift up the mountain for impressive views of the valley below and descend in the exciting way of your choice. Both the slide and coaster have levers to control your speed, making it ideal for riding with little ones and for those who feel more comfortable in slower speeds. Many of these activities open during the summer and the last ones close Sept. 30.

If you go: Mountain Village Adventure Park, 1345 Lowell Ave., Park City; prices vary by activity; see for information.

Moab — Off-roading


While there are many family-friendly options throughout and around Moab, taking a little off-roading experience through Hells Revenge is one that is less known and oh-so-thrilling. Several companies offer guides and vehicle rentals for this and other trails. From the ascent up a thin boulder, squeezing through narrow paths and climbing up steep rocks — at times it felt more like a fun coaster than a car ride.

If you go: See "Hell's Revenge Trail" on or "Hells Revenge 4×4 Trail"

Vernal — Dinosaur National Monument


If you are looking to take a step back in time, head over to the Dinosaur Quarry located at Dinosaur National Monument outside of Vernal. The Exhibit Hall contains a wall with 1,500 fossil bones in addition to a hands-on experience exhibit where you can actually touch bones that are 149 million years old. Enjoy the many hikes around the area and imagine what a sight it must have been to have these incredible creatures roaming the area during the Jurassic period.

If you go: Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Visitors Center, 11625 E. 1500 South, Jensen, Uintah County; peak season/summer hours late May to mid-September, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., offseason/winter hours mid-September to late May, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day; (435-781-7700 or

Midway — Homestead Crater


Another one-of-a-kind family-friendly activity in Utah is the Homestead Crater in Midway. Float away in a natural crater hot spring that can only be accessed through a tunnel. Relaxing with the whole family in this unique setting will certainly make for a memorable experience.

If you go: Homestead Resort, 700 N. Homestead Drive, Midway; open Monday through Thursday 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., $13 for a 40-minute session; Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., $16 for a 40-minute session; reservations required, 435-657-3840 or see the Homestead Resort website

Salt Lake City — Utah's Hogle Zoo


Turn your outing into a great learning opportunity by visiting Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. With more than 800 animals, there are plenty of things to see and do. Experience what it's like to be a zookeeper by joining the Wildlife Connections program. Depending on the encounter you choose, you can feed a rhino, help train an orangutan or enjoy a giraffe VIP experience.

If you go: Utah's Hogle Zoo, 2600 Sunnyside Ave. (840 South), Salt Lake City; through Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Nov. 1-Feb. 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; winter season prices, through April 30, $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors, $12.95 for children ages 3-12, free for children under age 3 (801-584-1700 or

Layton — Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve


Take a stroll through a wooden path along preserved wetlands. Spot wildlife along the way and enjoy another one of Utah's best spots for the whole family. The beautifully crafted wooden trail leads to an impressive observatory tower and effortlessly loops back around for a perfect leisure walk. This path is also wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, making it a great place for all to enjoy and to unwind from everyday life.

If you go: Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, 41 South 3200 West, Layton; free; visitors center hours April to September, 7 a.m.-8 p.m., October–March, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (801-531-0999 and


The Giant Crocodile Dinosaur that Would Have Eclipsed the T. Rex

Monday, December 31, 2018

Razanandrongobe sakalavae life reconstruction by James Kuether

Sorry, T. rex fan bois, you always seem to get the rough end of the stick, don’t you?

At one point your hero was thought to be the king of the dinosaurs. A savage, gigantic ferocious hunter, then it turned out he was probably more akin to a vulture. A giant turkey scavenging its prey (that must have stung). And now this crocodile like thing comes along and might makes your boy topple even further down the cool-o-meter!

Plus you know, your favourite dinosaur can’t clap at jokes and stuff. “Take my strong hand T. rex”.


Fresh discoveries in Madagascar

Discoveries have been made in Madagascar where they have found the remains of this crocodile-like species. It has helped scientists fill in gaps in the lineage of the modern crocodile…so it’s kind of a big deal.

I talk like this is a recent discovery but actually, researchers have had bones from this beast for some 10 years.

At first, they thought it was a hunter from the Jurassic period. It was named Razanandrongobe sakalavae, meaning “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.” Catchy eh?

New species, wrong time

The scientists knew they had a new species on their hand but couldn’t figure out where it fell in terms of evolution.

It had a lot in common with two distinct groups: crocodylomorphs (which sounds like an awesome cartoon!), this is the group the modern crocodile belongs too…you got that, right? And Theropods which is the group the T. rex belongs to.

Fast forward to the current day and scientists have gone back through these old fossils and made some new discoveries. Alongside the older bones, they have several fragments believed to be from the skull of similar creatures.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

Old crusty bones

The fossils actually date back to the Cretaceous period. (Yeah not all dinosaurs are Jurassic dinosaurs…shock horror!) And were found over several continents. However, scientists think that the lineage of this species goes back way further, ironically back to the Jurassic period.  Which was roughly 174 to 163 million years ago. The problem was until recently there was no fossil evidence to support this.

As a consequence of this Cristiano Dal Sasso, from the Natural History Museum of Milan, Italy, have now placed this creature in the Nortosuchia family tree.

Easy big fella

Although scientists aren’t quite sure of the exact size of the creature due to not having quite enough fossils to figure out they do believe that it would have been a big animal. Initial estimates have it pegged between 34 and 39 feet long!

What that basically means is that this big crocodile was massive and would have been above dinosaurs like the T. rex in the food chain. Sorry T. rex fans, it’s not easy being you!

The gigantic predatory dinosaur would have wondered the supercontinent of Gondwana including Madagascar before it separated from the mainland.

Studies have shown that its teeth were large and hard. The suggestion is that this bad boy would have been able to destroy fragments such as bone with its powerful jaws.

Razanandrongobe snout

Changing the game

Study co-author Simone Maganuco has suggested that due to the places where fossilised remains have been found that the dinosaur probably had an endemic lineage. The recent fossil discoveries also go some way to suggesting that Razanandrongobe sakalavae originated in southern Gondwana.

According to researchers, Razanandrongobe sakalavae is a species that is dissimilar from any presently known member of Notosuchia. It is important because it fills in a gap in the group’s evolution. It is also prominent because it shows that animals in this lineage were at one point far larger than initially thought.


Big Dinosaur from Italy Got Burial at Sea

Monday, December 31, 2018

A simplified evolutionary tree of predatory dinosaurs showing the time period in which Saltriovenator existed.

Scientists are studying fossils of a large meat-eating dinosaur they describe as interesting, both in life and in death.

The dinosaur is said to have lived and hunted 198 million years ago in what is now northern Italy.

The fossils were discovered in 1996 close to the village of Saltrio, near Milan, in Italy’s northern Lombardy area. They were found in an area where miners cut rock to use for building. This led to a long, difficult process of removing the creature’s remains from the surrounding rock.

The scientists reported that the dinosaur, called Saltriovenator zanellai, weighed at least one ton and was 7.5 meters long. They said this means that during the period when it lived, Saltriovenator was the largest-known meat-eating dinosaur that had ever existed.

Its death also was noteworthy.

After dying, Saltriovenator somehow floated into the sea and sank to the bottom. There the remains provided meals to numerous sea creatures before fossilizing, the researchers said.

The bones show marks likely left by attacking sharks and fish. They also show signs of feeding by smaller creatures, such as sea urchins. And there are small holes in the bone apparently left by even smaller marine worms.

Paleontologist Cristiano Dal Sasso (L) and co-authors Simone Maganuco and Andrea Cau (R) examine the bones of the Jurassic dinosaur Saltriovenator, at the Natural History Museum of Milan.

“This is absolutely unique,” said Cristiano Dal Sasso of Milan’s Natural History Museum.

In scientific writings, he said, there are reports of some dinosaur bones being attacked on land by other animals and, more rarely, insects. “At least three kinds of marine animals left those traces on the bones of Saltriovenator,” he added.

Dal Sasso led the researchers. Their findings were published in the scientific journal PeerJ.

Saltriovenator is the second dinosaur of its kind ever found in Italy. It combined the qualities of early meat-eating dinosaurs with those of more developed ones.

The name Saltriovenator means “hunter from Saltrio.” The creature walked on two legs. Each hand had four fingers, three of which possessed claws. Its head was about 80 centimeters long, while its mouth had sharp teeth.

The creature was about 24 years old at the time of death, and still not fully grown. It lived in a coastal environment and likely hunted plant-eating dinosaurs and possibly smaller meat-eating dinosaurs, the researchers said.

Dinosaurs are said to have first appeared on Earth about 230 million years ago during what is known as the Triassic Period. Scientists say the earliest meat-eating dinosaurs were less noticeable than larger non-dinosaur predators that died off by the end of the period.

With the competition gone, meat-eating dinosaurs increased in size during Earth’s Jurassic Period.


Treasure Trove of Prehistoric Fossils Unearthed

Friday, December 28, 2018

A treasure trove of over a dozen fossils of animals, which lived 2 to 9 million years ago, has been found in southwestern Turkey, according to researchers.

A treasure trove of over a dozen fossils of animals, which lived 2 to 9 million years ago, has been found in southwestern Turkey, according to researchers. 

Turkey’s Anatolia, lying at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, is the final resting place of many fossils of humans and animals that lived through the millennia, Ahmet İhsan Aytek, an anthropologist at Mehmet Akif Ersoy University in the southwestern Burdur province, told the state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Aytek leads a 14-person team including paleontologists and geologists that started exploring the area in the province of Denizli last year. 

“This year we had a very productive season. We found fossil remains belonging to 14 different animals in Denizli,” Aytek said, adding that the findings are important for shedding light on the history of the region. 

He said the fossils can be broken down to two different eras, first of which is the Miocene Epoch (between 5 and 23 million years ago). 

The findings included two different giraffes, more massive than today’s but lacking the modern long neck, two different rhinos similar to today’s specimens, two different early horses, two different hyenas, one of them larger than the current species, and an elephant fossil morphologically similar to modern-day hippos. 

The three other fossils belonged to horned animals, two similar to modern antelopes, and a third as yet unclassified, Aytek said. 

“If we look at the life cycle of these fossils, we see that they lived 9 to 7 million years ago,” he added. 

In 2002, geologist and excavator Cihat Alçiçek found the first early human Homo Erectus fossil in Turkey, which dates back some 1.2 million years, paving the way for today’s findings, he noted. 

Aytek said the second era was the Pleistocene — 2.6 million years ago, when the last of the five documented ice ages occurred — and they found a horse and fox fossils dating from that time. 

“The fox fossil especially has great importance as one of the oldest found in Anatolia. When we look at the time period of these fossils, we see that they were animals living around 2 million years ago,” he said. 

“With these findings, I hope that we can get new insights into the history of human settlements in Anatolia.” 

Life traces of dinosaurs 

Aytek said the studies related to fossils were being prepared for publication under the leadership of Serdar Mayda, a paleontologist at Ege University Museum of Natural History. 

“We will continue to work in more detail in 2019. We have extended our time. We made an application to the Culture and Tourism Ministry for the period of 2019. We plan to visit all sediments in the last 65 million years. The history we call 65 million years is the time when dinosaurs were erased from history. Therefore, we will investigate the traces of dinosaurs in Denizli in surface survey in 2019. We will look for the traces of dinosaurs on a periodic basis,” he said.


Plant Fossil from Early Jurassic Pushes Back Origin of Flowers

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

This is a Nanjinganthus dendrostyla fossil, showing its ovary (bottom center), sepals and petals (on the sides) and a tree-shaped top. Image credit: Fu et al, doi: 10.7554/eLife.38827.

An international team of paleontologists has identified and described a new genus and species of extinct flowering plant (angiosperm), based on over 200 specimens from the South Xiangshan Formation, China. Named Nanjinganthus dendrostyla, the newly-identified plant species dates back to more than 174 million years ago (Early Jurassic Period), making it the oldest known record of an angiosperm by almost 50 million years.

From oranges to apples, angiosperms produce most of the fruits and vegetables that we can see on display in a supermarket. While we may take little notice of the poppy fields and plum blossoms around us, how flowers came to be has been an intensely debated mystery.

The current understanding, which is mainly based on previously available fossils, is that flowers appeared about 125 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.

But not everybody agrees that this is the case. Genetic analyses, for example, suggest that flowering plants are much more ancient. Another intriguing element is that flowers seemed to have arisen during the Cretaceous ‘out of nowhere.’

“Researchers were not certain where and how flowers came into existence because it seems that many flowers just popped up in the Cretaceous from nowhere,” said study first author Dr. Qiang Fu, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, China.

“Studying fossil flowers, especially those from earlier geologic periods, is the only reliable way to get an answer to these questions.”

Dr. Fu and co-authors studied 264 specimens of 198 individual flowers preserved on 34 rock slabs from the South Xiangshan Formation, an outcrop of rocks in the Nanjing region of China renowned for bearing fossils from the Early Jurassic Period.

Reconstruction of Nanjinganthus dendrostyla: (1) branches of dendroid style; (2) dendroid style; (3) sepal; (4) ovarian roof; (5) scale; (6) seed; (7) cup-form receptacle/ovary; (8) bract; (9) petal; (10) unknown organ (staminode?). Image credit: Fu et al, doi: 10.7554/eLife.38827.

The abundance of fossil samples used in the study allowed the team to dissect some of them and study them with sophisticated microscopy, providing high-resolution pictures of the flowers from different angles and magnifications.

The scientists then used this detailed information about the shape and structure of the different fossil flowers to reconstruct the features of Nanjinganthus dendrostyla.

The key feature of an angiosperm is ‘angio-ovuly’ — the presence of fully enclosed ovules, which are precursors of seeds before pollination.

Nanjinganthus dendrostyla was found to have a cup-form receptacle and ovarian roof that together enclose the ovules/seeds.

This was a crucial discovery, because the presence of this feature confirmed the flower’s status as an angiosperm.

“The origin of angiosperms has long been an academic ‘headache’ for many botanists,” said study senior author Professor Xin Wang, from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, China.

“Our discovery has moved the botany field forward and will allow a better understanding of angiosperms, which in turn will enhance our ability to efficiently use and look after our planet’s plant-based resources.”

The discovery is reported in the journal eLife.


Qiang Fu et al. 2018. An unexpected noncarpellate epigynous flower from the Jurassic of China. eLife 7: e38827; doI: 10.7554/eLife.38827