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Researchers Are Studying Dinosaur Fossils Discovered By A Palm Beach Paleontologist In North Dakota

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Eloise Ogden/MDN Triceratops, one of the largest and heaviest of the horned dinosaurs, once lived in what is now North Dakota. It is in the Geologic Time Gallery in the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum.

Dinosaur fossils uncovered five years ago in North Dakota by Palm Beach County Paleontologist Robert DePalma prove the magnitude of an asteroid that struck the Earth roughly 66 million years ago and wiped out more than three-quarters of all species.

According to scientists, the asteriod struck the Yucatan Peninsula, killed the dinosaurs that roamed the planet and caused the Earth's first ice age. 

“What this particular discovery shows us is the magnitude of those waves that came from the Gulf of Mexico penetrating all the way inside,” says Florida International University (FIU) professor and sedimentologist Florentin Maurrasse, who has been analyzing DePalma's samples. 

Maurrassee joined Sundial to talk about the details he has discovered about the asteroid.

Maurrasse: Just visualize a boulder 10 kilometers across or six miles across hitting the Earth. Visualize this hitting Dade County for instance. What would you see? It's incredible. You would have materials flying all over the world from that impact site and the rocks at that impact site will be molting up flying as a little splash of liquid rocks and then they fall back to the Earth.

The asteroid strike was in Yucatan, Mexico. You've been down there. What do you see when you're there? What do you find there that tells you what happened?

There is a break between the sediments. You see sets of rocks, or what we call sediments, that look very different from the one below and the one above. When you look very close then you see there are some kind of structures and all kinds of deposits that really don't belong there. 

Basically when you look at the layers over the millions of years there is that one layer that tells us this is where there was a stop of life. Everything ended here because there was something cataclysmic happened.


Why are you so fascinated by asteroid strikes and end of Earth, life-ending cataclysms?

When we look at the geologic record there are always species that come in and out. They become extinct but for a long time geologists and paleontologists could not answer the question why at that particular level we had this sudden extinction of not just the dinosaurs, but hundreds and thousands of species all over the world. So it was a big puzzle until of course the Alvarez's find some deposits in Italy and then they proposed the impact hypothesis, which slowly became really very well known and accepted. So it defies the fascination of all that it is so exceptional to find the evidence that could have really wiped out all species all of a sudden.

So this evidence that DePalma found is the definitive piece of evidence we need. Can we now say this as if this is what happened?

Oh yeah that's definitive evidence. What this particular discovery shows us is the magnitude of those waves that came from the Gulf of Mexico penetrating all the way inside, more than 1,500 kilometers from the impact site. So that was extraordinary.


Meet ‘Skinny,’ the 155 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Greeting Visitors at Heathrow Airport

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Courtesy of Aguttes.

The dinosaur skeleton has been installed at Heathrow airport's terminal 5 before it hits the auction block in June.

Don’t be alarmed by the 20-ton dinosaur skeleton looming overhead as you wait for your next flight at Heathrow. That’s “Skinny,” a cousin of the Diplodocus who scientists unearthed in Wyoming in 2012.

The 155 million-year-old specimen will be on view at the London airport’s Terminal 5 until the end of May before heading to the French auction house Aguttes in Paris this June, with an estimated price tag of £2 million ($2.6 million). But before that, some one million travelers will be able to gawk at the incredible creature that is rarely seen outside of a museum context.

The Heathrow skeleton is especially remarkable because you can see an imprint of the animal’s skin on parts of its bones. Studies suggest that the 43-foot-long dinosaur belongs to a previously unknown vegetarian species. It is mounted on stainless steel support structures that allows the skeleton’s position to be moved.


Increasingly, collectors are beginning to incorporate natural history into their art collections. The market for prehistoric creatures has been steadily growing in recent decades, ever since the record-breaking sale of a 40-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue sold at Sotheby’s in 1997 for a whopping $8.4 million.

“Their sheer size awes people, they are immense and that is part of their fascination for collectors,” says Eric Mickeler, a specialist in natural history and an advisor to Aguttes. “They are powerful symbols which act as memento mori and remind us of the outcome of all species over the ages.”

Aguttes seems to be taking the marketing for jurassic creatures a step further by installing the monumental skeletons in public spaces. Last year, it installed a dinosaur skeleton in the Eiffel Tower before holding its sale at the base of the French monument. That dinosaur, an unknown species, sold for €2 million ($2.3 million). 

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New Species of Extinct Pig-Footed Bandicoot Discovered

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Chaeropus yirratji. Image credit: Peter Schouten / Western Australian Museum.

An international team of researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom has discovered a new species of pig-footed bandicoot which has been extinct for more than half a century.

The pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus) was unique, and unlike any other mammal due to its ability to walk on two toes on its front legs, and one toe on its hind legs.

“The pig-footed bandicoot was one of the most unique, and possibly one of the weirdest animals on the planet. No other mammal walked on two toes on its front legs and one toe on its hind legs,” said lead author Dr. Kenny Travouillon, curator of mammalogy at the Western Australian Museum.

“The animal was believed to be amongst the smallest grazing mammals that have ever lived and its speed, for its size, was legendary.”

The pig-footed bandicoot evolved along with bilbies and other bandicoots more than 20 million years ago and was found throughout central and south Australia and in Victoria.

The species was named and scientifically described in 1838 by the Irish naturalist William Ogilby.

“Aboriginal people knew about these animals for around 65,000 years before the marsupials were first recorded by Europeans in 1838,” Dr. Travouillon and colleagues said.

“Unfortunately it took just over 150 years from its discovery by Europeans for it to go extinct. The last bandicoots are thought to have vanished by the 1950s.”

“The rapid extinction of the pig-footed bandicoot means that it was never properly studied in its environment, so little is known about these extraordinary animals or their ecology and behavior.”

“To better understand these bizarre creatures, we reassessed all 29 modern pig-footed bandicoot remains that survive (including bones, taxidermy animals and wet specimens), as well as fossil and subfossil bones held in museums and universities around the world.”

By using a combination of traditional morphology, morphometrics, paleontology and molecular phylogenetics, the scientists discovered there were in fact two different species. DNA from specimens collected by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1946 confirmed the existence of two species.

“Although very similar, the two species have some distinct differences,” Dr. Travouillon said.

“The newly-identified species, named Chaeropus yirratji, has fewer holes in its palate compared to Chaeropus ecaudatus and it has different shaped teeth, suggesting different diets.”

Chaeropus yirratji also has much longer feet, meaning it would have been able to take longer strides and therefore move faster.”

“While knowledge of this new species arrived too late to save it from extinction, hopefully the lesson learnt demonstrates the urgency and importance of supporting biodiversity research,” said Roberto Portela Miguez, senior curator in charge of mammals at the Natural History Museum in London.

The team also used fossil records and Aboriginal oral accounts recorded in the 1980s to trace the two species’ distribution.

Chaeropus yirratji was thought to have lived in sandy environments in central Australia and Chaeropus ecaudatus lived in the southern peripheral areas of the arid zone of Australia. Both species were thought to inhabit areas of Western Australia.

“This research increases our understanding of past biodiversity and enhances our knowledge of the diversity of mammals. It also helps build a more comprehensive picture of the true impact we had and are still having on the natural world,” Miguez said.

“Every species matters because each species plays a part in the ecosystems they naturally occur and the extinction of one species could lead to the collapse of these complex systems.”

The research is published in the journal Zootaxa.


Kenny J. Travouillon et al. 2019. Hidden in plain sight: reassessment of the pig-footed bandicoot, Chaeropus ecaudatus (Peramelemorphia, Chaeropodidae), with a description of a new species from central Australia, and use of the fossil record to trace its past distribution. Zootaxa 4566 (1); doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4566.1.1


New Digable Dinosaur Egg Toys Are Perfect For Your Little Paleontologist

Sunday, April 7, 2019

New Digable Dinosaur Egg Toys Are Perfect For Your Little Paleontologist

With so many dino toys on the market today, from inflatable T-Rexes to wing-flapping pterodactyls, I thought I'd seen it all. But the new digable dinosauar egg toys, from educational toymaker Lakeshore, really do break through the clutter (pun intended!). In order to play with the extinct creatures, you first have to excavate them from their clay eggs using some authentic-looking tools. I'm pretty sure that kids and adults alike will totally dig being a "paleontologist" (pun intended again!).

Designed for ages 4 through 11, the Dig & Discover Dinosaur Eggs set includes 12 dino eggs, 12 wooden chisels, and 12 brushes. Here's how it all works: Using a chisel, you break open the textured brown eggs, and then you brush away the debris to reveal a unique dinosaur inside each one, ranging from the spiky stegosaurus to the long-necked plesiosaur. The dinosaurs are plastic and neon-colored, so they seem a little less authentic than the excavation process itself, but the kit does come with an educational Excavation Guide, which features some cool facts about each dino. The dino egg kits are available on Amazon for $23.

Unlike real dinosaur eggs, the ones included in this kit are pretty small, measuring in at just under three inches. But, while the dozen eggs thankfully don't take up much space, they do make a bit of a mess (although a little dust can be expected at any good archaeological site, right?). The chiseling leaves some debris behind, so it's advisable to do this activity either outside, or over a baking sheet or disposable tablecloth. Having said that, these eggs are an awesome hands-on activity for children, and one that feels educational and engaging at the same time.

Click the picture.

However, if you think the excavating will be easy, think again. Many of the reviews online emphasize the real effort involved. "My 5-year-old grandson loved the activity. Quite a challenge to break open the egg! The excitement once opened was contagious." wrote "Kary" on the Lakeshore website.

Another reviewer on the Lakeshore site had this to say: "Four and six- year-old girls had a great time chiseling the dinosaurs. Eggs are quite hard so the four-year-old needed some help getting started. Six year old did fine by herself... Took around 15 - 30 minutes per egg depending on the age patience of the child."

I have to say, I'm impressed that kids really have to work to get to the toy inside. It seems like a great activity not only for fine-motor skills, but also for teaching perseverance and patience. It demonstrates that in the real world, excavating fossils requires a lot of hard work and skill.

I also love that the Dig & Discover Dinosaur Eggs provide a fun, interactive science lesson. Who knows what interests and curiosities a STEM-focused activity like this could spark? Maybe it's creating the next generation of paleontologists that will go on to make the next great prehistoric discoveries. At the very least, your kid will have fun getting his or her hands dirty!


Dinosaur Skin Impression Goes on Show at Tring Museum

Monday, April 8, 2019

Evidence such as skin imprints are important because they give "better, more precise ideas about the actual biology" of the animals, the museum said

A dinosaur skin impression found 150 years ago has gone on display for what is believed to be the first time.

The fossilised haestasaurus imprint is among 15 dinosaur specimens at the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.

Many of them are being seen by the public for the first time since being unearthed in the mid-19th Century.

The museum said the skin impression had given people an idea what dinosaurs looked like on the outside.

Other items on display include an iguanodon leg and pantydraco bones.

Prof Paul Barrett, the museum's dinosaur researcher, said: "These finds would have been greeted with a huge amount of public excitement.

"The skin find only came about 20 to 25 years after it was decided that dinosaurs were these big extinct reptiles so [the finds] just fed the fervour about these huge animals, what they were and gave a real impression of what they would have been like.

A hip bone from a megalosaurus was worked on by the museum's founder Sir Richard Owen

"We think it's probably the first time they've been on display... we have to say probably as they may have been on display in the Victorian era, but we're fairly sure that most of these haven't - not within living memory anyway."

The museum said the skin impression was one of only three pieces of the haestasaurus ever found.

They were discovered in 1852 by Gideon Mantell, whose collection came to the museum when he died.

"It's an impression of the skin made in the rock that was surrounding the animal as it died," Prof Barrett said.

"It would have been the first time we really got any idea of what the outsides of these animals looked like rather than just having their bones."

Presentational grey line


  • Dinosaurs lived on Earth for about 245 million years
  • All non-avian dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago
  • There are roughly 700 known species of extinct dinosaurs

Source: American Museum of Natural History /

Peregocetus pacificus: Four-Legged ‘Whale’ Lived in Peru 43 Million Years Ago

Saturday, April 6, 2019

This illustration shows an artistic reconstruction of two individuals of Peregocetus pacificus, one standing along the rocky shore of nowadays Peru and the other preying upon sparid fish. Image credit: A. Gennari.

A new species of ancient whale ancestor has been identified from a fossilized skeleton found in Peru.

Named Peregocetus pacificus, the four-legged whale lived approximately 43 million years ago (middle Eocene Epoch).

Its skeleton was discovered in marine sediments at Playa Media Luna on the southern coast of Peru.

It was analyzed by Dr. Olivier Lambert of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and his colleagues from Italy, France and Peru.

“This is the first indisputable record of a quadrupedal whale skeleton for the whole Pacific Ocean, probably the oldest for the Americas, and the most complete outside India and Pakistan,” Dr. Lambert said.

Anatomical details of the skeleton allowed the paleontologists to infer that the animal was capable of maneuvering its large body (up to 4 m, or 13 feet, long, tail included), both on land and in the water.

For instance, features of the caudal vertebrae (in the tail) are reminiscent of those of beavers and otters, suggesting a significant contribution of the tail during swimming.

“The presence of small hooves at the tip of the whale’s fingers and toes and its hip and limbs morphology all suggest that this whale could walk on land,” Dr. Lambert and co-authors explained.

“On the other hand, anatomical features of the tail and feet, including long, likely webbed appendages, similar to an otter, indicate that it was a good swimmer too.”

The geological age of Peregocetus pacificus and its presence along the western coast of South America strongly support the hypothesis that early cetaceans reached the New World across the South Atlantic, from the western coast of Africa to South America.

“The whales would have been assisted in their travel by westward surface currents and by the fact that, at the time, the distance between the two continents was half what it is today,” the researchers said.

“Only after having reached South America, the amphibious whales migrated northward, finally reaching North America.”

The research was published online in the journal Current Biology.


Olivier Lambert et al. An Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru Reveals Early South Pacific Dispersal of Quadrupedal Cetaceans. Current Biology, published online April 4, 2019; doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.050


5 Things You Didn't Know About Paleoart

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tachiraptor admirabilis step by step by dopellgersec

"Shared passion for an obscure topic is what binds scientists and artists," celebrated paleoartist Ray Troll tells us in an email. "They're both curiosity-driven." He would know. Based in Alaska, Troll builds on scientific findings to create art that depicts prehistoric life.

Through paleoart, fossils are revived. A single drawing or sculpture can define how the public will visualize an extinct species. So paleoartists strive to keep their work as accurate as possible — a task that gets harder when the experts disagree. It's a tough job, to be sure, but it's also a dream job for loads of fossil fans and dinosaur enthusiasts. Here are five facts about paleoart and the artists who create it.

1. A "Dinosaur Renaissance" Changed the Game

Paleoart needn't always feature dinosaurs. All prehistoric organisms, from early palm trees to woolly mammoths, make worthy subjects. Nevertheless, the charismatic reptiles were at the center of a significant period in the history of this art form, the "dinosaur renaissance."

Prior to the 1960s, dinosaurs were largely written off as dimwitted, tail-dragging hulks. Most paleoart from the early 20th century reflects that view.

But in 1969, Yale paleontologist John Ostrom published a new paper on Deinonychus, an 11-foot (3.3-meter) predator akin to Velociraptor. Noting its long legs and sickle-shaped claws, Ostrom claimed Deinonychus was an athletic beast who ran down its prey and might've even hunted in packs. The scientist went on to popularize the now widely accepted idea that today's birds are descended from Mesozoic dinos.

Exciting hypotheses like these changed the discourse about how dinosaurs looked and behaved. In the 1970s and 1980s, a growing number of artists responded by illustrating the creatures in active, dynamic poses. What followed was a renewed public interest in both the study of dinosaurs and in paleoart itself.

2. A Technique Called "Shrink Wrapping" Has Met Some Pushback

Bare bones and skeletons may not tell you a whole lot about the overlying soft tissue. Hence, some paleoartists choose to reconstruct animals (reptiles in particular) as lanky beasts with ultra-low body fat, skinny tails, and heads that are largely devoid of cartilage or loose skin. The practice has been called "shrink wrapping."

"I think there are some really valid points to be made about 'shrink wrapping,'" Troll says. "Many paleoartists are reluctant to jump into more speculative reconstructions, preferring to play it safer." By keeping their animals lean and mean, paleoartists can highlight known skeletal anatomy without making conjectural guesses about an animal's soft tissues that might not have been preserved.

Back in the dinosaur renaissance, shrink wrapping was in fashion. That's no longer the case. Modern critics point out that living animals tend to look a lot different than you might expect if you had nothing to go on but their naked skeletons. "Things like trunks, ears and blubber don't usually fossilize," Troll says.

Matt Celeskey, a paleoartist and museum exhibit designer, recently offered us his thoughts on the issue. "Today's paleoartists are looking more closely at the extent of soft tissue in living animals," he says via email. Chunky limbs and necks (not to mention poofy dino feathers) have gone mainstream. "I think this 'fleshing out' of paleoart makes for heightened levels of believability in the reconstructions, and greater diversity in the way artists approach their subjects," Celeskey says.

(Clockwise from top left) "North Pacific Cretaceous Marine Life," "Nanuqsaurus (the 'Polar Bear Lizard)" and "Mega Bears and Mighty Mammoths" are all examples of paleoart illustrated by paleoartist Ray Troll. PHOTOS COURTESY RAY TROLL

3. Scientists and Paleoartists Work Hand-in-Hand to Present New Findings

Original illustrations are a staple of paleo-themed press releases. Bone or skeletal drawings may also adorn technical papers. To get these pieces made, artists must be recruited.

"As a general rule, scientists are responsible for pulling together the artwork used to illustrate or promote their research," Celeskey says. "So the best way to get these jobs is to make sure paleontologists know your work and know that you take [it] seriously."

"I've done a few 'life reconstructions' for scientific papers about newly discovered creatures/fossils," Troll says. "I landed the 'gigs' via friendships and personal relationships, getting to know scientists either through meeting them at a conference, visiting a museum or via my own curiosity."

Once the parties reach an agreement, relevant info will be shown to the artist. Looking at fossils with one's own eyes is helpful here, but sometimes paleo illustrators have to make do with photographs.

At all rates, when you're part of an effort like this, Celeskey says "it is generally understood that no one will go public before the official research is released."

4. Skeletal Drawings Demand Tons of Research

To scientists, the skeletal drawing is one of the most useful forms of paleoart. An animal's skeleton is usually depicted in an upright (i.e.: standing or running) position and juxtaposed against a black silhouette that represents the creature's body profile. Unfortunately, in the fossil record, complete skeletons tend to be rare. When parts are missing or broken, scientists — and artists — can only speculate about what those elements looked like in life.

"Every skeleton presents unique challenges," Celeskey says, "but I find the most difficult thing is filling in the parts you don't know — extrapolating the shapes of missing bones or correcting the shapes of bones that have been damaged or distorted [by time]. Filling in each missing piece involves a complex mix of research, inference, and educated guesses, and I always wonder if there are better choices than the ones I end up making."

5. London Is Home to a Fascinating Example of Victorian Paleoart

In 1853, sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was hired to build more than 30 full-sized concrete models of prehistoric animals for London's Crystal Palace Park. The man really did his homework, consulting experts, scrutinizing fossils and reviewing the scientific literature. In short, he was a dedicated paleoartist.

Restoration projects have helped these masterworks survive to the present day. The beasts attract thousands of visitors every year — even though they're no longer deemed "accurate." Hawkins' Megalosaurus, for example, stands menacingly on all fours, but scientists now think the meat-eating dinosaur was bipedal. Nevertheless, the Victorian-era giants capture the prevailing wisdom of their time, giving them immense cultural value. Prehistory matters, but so does our history.



Would Bringing Back Extinct Animals Turn Out as Badly as it Did in 'Jurassic Park'?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Indominus rex readies her attack in Jurassic World. - Universal Pictures

On a frigid January night, a Harvard genetics professor with a billowing white beard stood stage left in a theatre on Manhattan's Upper East Side, an icon of the environmentalist movement in a fleece vest beside him. Both men were staring down a toothy problem: How could they convince their counterparts on the stage, along with the 300 people who'd filed into Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse for a debate, that the world should bring back velociraptors or, at the very least, an extinct pigeon?

The theme from the 1993 blockbuster "Jurassic Park" was playing in the background, chiseling away at their argument before the debate even began. In the film, based on the 1990 Michael Crichton bestseller, dinosaurs are brought back from extinction to fill a theme park. "That film took sides. The experiment blows up. People get hurt," moderator John Donvan told the crowd during introductions. "But not before actor Jeff Goldblum declares, 'Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.' And then, a dinosaur eats Jeff Goldblum."

Actually, a dinosaur does not eat Goldblum's brainy and brawny mathematician character, but chaos certainly reigns in the movie and its myriad sequels because of de-extinction. Those images are what George Church, 64, of the billowing white beard, who helped launch the Human Genome Project, and Stewart Brand, 80, of the fleece vest, who is a founder and editor of the Whole Earth Catalogue, would need to overcome to win this evening's debate.

The official motion for the night, "Don't Bring Extinct Creatures Back to Life," was chosen by Intelligence Squared, a nonprofit that turns academic-level debates into popular live events and podcasts. The Jeff Goldblums of the evening, arguing for the motion — and against Church and Brand — were Lynn Rothschild, 61, an evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist with NASA, and Ross MacPhee, 70, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History across Central Park.

Brand started on the offensive. Controversy around de-extinction, he said, is "made up." He wasn't arguing they should resurrect carnivorous dinosaurs. Instead, he said, de-extinction could be achieved through hybrids, animals created from both living, endangered species and extinct ones, using CRISPR — an acronym for a relatively new tool that has been likened to "playing god" because it allows scientists to remove and replace genes. Eventually, CRISPR could be used to bolster agricultural production or to replenish wildlife that's slowly disappearing.

That is the goal of the Revive & Restore project, a California nonprofit co-founded by Brand that seeks to "enhance biodiversity through new techniques of genetic rescue for endangered and extinct species." The group is working to reintroduce the extinct passenger pigeon back into the wild by removing genes from modern band-tailed pigeons and replacing them with passenger-pigeon genes.

Restore & Revive would like to do something similar with woolly mammoths, editing the extinct creature's genes into those of modern Asian elephants. In that case, though, the goal is to help increase the population of endangered Asian elephants, which has been decimated by a herpes virus. "We're not just curing extinction," Brand told the audience. "The technology that de-extinction is leading the way in is now being used by us and by others to prevent extinction."

In 2018, Brand and Church travelled to northeast Siberia, where Russian scientists are attempting to re-create a grassland ecosystem known as the mammoth steppe, named after its predominant and extinct herbivore, the woolly mammoth. As the number of mammoths dwindled, dense foliage took root and erased grassland. To restore it, scientists have used bulldozers to knock down trees and shrubs, and brought in herbivores, including elk and moose, to graze and to keep the foliage at bay. Church said mammoth-and-Asian-elephant hybrids could once again inhabit Siberia. He also urged everyone to "loosen up" about the prospect of hybrids. "There's a lot of hybridization that occurs in mammals. ... I am partially Neanderthal," he said, referring to estimates by scientists that about 20 per cent of Neanderthal genes can be found in modern humans.

(Oddly enough, no one mentioned during the debate that Jack Horner, a Montana State University paleontologist and science adviser on the first "Jurassic Park" film, is also working on a hybrid called "chickenosaurus." "As far as I'm concerned, we should discover everything. There shouldn't be any limits on it," he told NBC News in 2018. "After we discover something, then you can put some limits on it.")

But a hybrid mammoth, roaming Russia once again, raises all sorts of questions, Rothschild and MacPhee said: Could a breeding population ever be established? Would this hybrid be released into a world with no natural predators? How would a mammoth know how to be a mammoth without other mammoths around? "You've got all the problems of not having a mom, and not having people — other organisms to learn from, and not having the right microbiome and so on," Rothschild said. "And so, each of these individuals, I believe, will be suffering for something that we could be solving a different way."

During a Q&A, an audience member asked the four onstage if someone with great wealth could be moving forward with the technology, possibly for commercial purposes, while scientists were still debating whether they should. Brand said there was "exactly nothing" happening in the de-extinction world that had commercial purposes. MacPhee, in response, said he was pleased he wasn't "the most naive person on the panel tonight." He asked: "You don't think there's a future in having saber-toothed tigers that you can use for hunting purposes?"

Rothschild took the argument even further, wondering whether someone could attempt to de-extinct a Neanderthal for commerce or simply in the name of science. The idea, Rothschild said, was "morally repugnant." "We have enough trouble with humanity recognizing that we have roughly equal intellects across the races. And to purposefully re-create a species that we know is going to be inferior in some way is just asking for enormous trouble," she said in her closing argument.

"So back in the day when the Homo sapiens was interbreeding with Neanderthals, you would have discouraged that?" Brand joked. The audience laughed. But in the end, based on the votes tallied before and after the debate, more people came around to MacPhee and Rothschild's side than Church and Brand's. For once, the Jeff Goldblums won.

I circled back to Brand a month later in search of a serious answer to Rothschild's ethical concerns about bringing back Neanderthals. "I'd guess that Neanderthals would be accepted as humans today (at least in our open-minded and nurturing communities)," he replied in an email. But he was skeptical anyone would want to revive them because it would be a step back instead of forward for humanity.

I asked if he planned on seeing the next "Jurassic Park" film, which is due out in 2021. He was a maybe. He said he prefers science films that are less "dystopic," but added: "Engaging the public with any scientific details is good."


Dinosaur Fossils Kept Secret for Years Show the Day of Killer Asteroid

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

This handout photo obtained March 30, 2019 courtesy by the University of Kansas shows Robert DePalma(L)and field assistant Kylie Ruble(R) excavate fossil carcasses from the Tanis deposit (Credit: ROBERT DEPALMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Research that had been kept secret for years that captured a fossilized snapshot of the day nearly 66 million years ago when an asteroid hit Earth, wiping out nearly all life on the planet, including the dinosaurs, has finally been released, shocking the scientific community.

The researchers say they found evidence in North Dakota of the asteroid hit in Mexico, including fish with hot glass in their gills from flaming debris that showered back down on Earth. They also reported the discovery of charred trees, evidence of an inland tsunami and melted amber.

Additionally, University of Amsterdam professor Jan Smit said he and his colleagues found footsteps from dinosaurs moments before they met their untimely death.

Smit said the footprints — one from a plant-eating hadrosaur and the other of a meat eater, maybe a small Tyrannosaurus Rex — is "definite proof that the dinosaurs were alive and kicking at the time of impact ... They were running around, chasing each other" when they were swamped.

"This is the death blow preserved at one particular site. This is just spectacular," said Purdue University geophysicist and impact expert Jay Melosh, who wasn't part of the research but edited the paper released Friday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Melosh called it the field's "discovery of the century." Despite the incredible finds, other experts in the field have concerns about the work, including the lack of access to this specific Hell Creek Formation fossil site for outside scientists. Hell Creek — which spans Montana, both Dakotas and Wyoming — is a fossil treasure trove that includes numerous types of dinosaurs, mammals, reptiles and fish trapped in clay and stone from 65 to 70 million years ago.

Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History who also has studied the Hell Creek area for 38 years, said that the work on the fish, the glass and trees "demonstrates some of the details of what happened on THE DAY. That's all quite interesting and very valid stuff." Johnson said the restrictions are preventing confirmation by other researchers, while Smit says it due to protecting the site from poachers.

Johnson also raised concerns about claims made by the main author, Robert DePalma, a University of Kansas doctoral student, that appeared in a New Yorker magazine article published last week but not in the scientific paper.

“A tangled mass of freshwater fish, terrestrial vertebrates, trees, branches, logs, marine ammonites and other marine creatures was all packed into this layer by the inland-directed surge,” Robert DePalma said in a statement. “Timing of the incoming ejecta spherules matched the calculated arrival times of seismic waves from the impact, suggesting that the impact could very well have triggered the surge.”

The University of Kansas has not yet responded to a request for comment from Fox News.

For decades, the massive asteroid crash that caused the Chicxulub crater in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has been considered the likely cause of the mass extinction often called the "KT boundary" for the division between two geologic time periods. A study suggests that the asteroid also caused a worldwide tsunami that reached more than 5,000 feet in the air.

Other researchers believe that volcanic activity played a role in the demise of the dinosaurs.

Johnson and Melosh said this helps prove the asteroid crash case. There were only a few dinosaur fossils from that time, but the footsteps are most convincing, Smit said.

There was more than dinosaurs, he said. The site includes ant nests, wasp nests, fragile preserved leaves and fish that were caught in the act of dying. He said that soon after fish die they get swollen bellies and these fossils didn't show swelling.

The researchers said the inland tsunami points to a massive earthquake generated by the asteroid crash, somewhere between a magnitude 10 and 11. That's more than 350 times stronger than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Purdue's Melosh said as he read the study, he kept saying "wow, wow, what a discovery."

The details coming out of this are "mind-blowing," he said.

The North Dakota fossils are the latest in a series of fascinating dinosaur discoveries. Paleontologists recently confirmed that the world's largest T. rex has been discovered in Canada. In China, an incredible 110-million-year-old bird fossil was found with an egg inside.

Separately, duck-billed dinosaurs were recently discovered in the Arctic, a find that raises new questions about biodiversity among dinosaurs during the late Cretaceous period.


Pacific Mastodon: New Species of Ancient Elephant Relative Identified

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Pacific mastodon (Mammut pacificus), holotype skull and tusks; a skull in: (A) dorsal, (B) ventral, (C) left lateral, (D) right lateral, (E) posterior, (F) distal end of left tusk (I1), lateral, and (G) right tusk (I1), lateral view; (A-E) images of a resin cast of the holotype skull on exhibit at the Western Science Center. Scale bar – 10 cm. Image credit: A.C. Dooley Jr et al, doi: 10.7717/peerj.6614.

A new species of mastodon that lived during the Pleistocene Epoch has been identified from fossil found in California and Idaho.

Mastodons are any species of extinct proboscideans in the genus Mammut. Often confused with mammoths, they are another, more distant, relative of living elephants.

These animals were widespread across North America and Central America during the Pliocene Epoch up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch around 11,000 years ago.

Over five species are currently recognized, including the well-known American mastodon (Mammut americanum) that had a widespread distribution across nearly every U.S. state, Canada, and Mexico.

The newly-identified species, named the Pacific mastodon (Mammut pacificus), was widespread in California west of the Sierra Nevada, and was present as far northeast as southern Idaho.

“For decades, the consensus on Pleistocene mastodons (which I shared) was that in North America there was only a single, widespread species, the American mastodon,” said Dr. Alton Dooley, executive director of the Western Science Center.

“Four years ago, I stumbled across the fact that California mastodons have different tooth proportions than other mastodons. A group of us started exploring that issue, trying to determine what was going on.”

Reconstruction of the American mastodon (Mammut americanum). Image credit: Sergio De la Rosa Martinez / CC BY-SA 3.0.

According to the team, the Pacific mastodon had a thicker femur and narrower teeth than the American mastodon. It had six sacral vertebrae, while the American mastodon usually had five, and had no mandibular tusks, while they still occurred in about 25% of American mastodon population.

“All known Pleistocene mastodon remains from California are consistent with our diagnosis of the Pacific mastodon, which indicates that the American mastodon was not present in California,” Dr. Dooley and colleagues said.

“Pacific mastodons were apparently absent from the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, including from heavily sampled localities such as Tule Springs in Nevada,” the added.

“These deserts, along with the high, steep, and at times glaciated Sierra Nevada and the possible patchiness of appropriate habitats in the Basin and Range and Rocky Mountains, may have served as effective geographic barriers to mastodon dispersal.”

detailed description of the Pacific mastodon appears in the journal PeerJ.


A.C. Dooley Jr et al. 2019. Mammut pacificus sp. nov., a newly recognized species of mastodon from the Pleistocene of western North America. PeerJ 7: e6614; doi: 10.7717/peerj.6614