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Prehistoric Art By Simon Stalenhag

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prehistoric Art By Simon Stalenhag

Are you ready for some Dinosaur inspired art? You better be, because today we present to you prehistoric art by Simon Stålenhag!

Simon is a Swedish artist who has done a lot of images based on dystopian and sci-fi concepts. He seems to have a passion for art involving machines/robots. This time, however, he focused on the past instead of the future. His collection titled Paleoartis a series of images featuring Jurassic lifeforms including dinosaurs. They were produced to be presented at the Fossils and Evolution exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Stockholm.

Make sure to let us know what you think about these vivid pieces of art in the comments!

Source: Link

Stroll on the sand


Lonely Savannah


Cutting the waves


The pack moves


Faint Silhouette


Brief Oasis


Nocturnal Appetite


Underwater Hunt




Flying above the waves


Avoiding Detection


Free Fall


Wavy Breakfast


Game for three


Setting Sun


The bigger lizard


Deserted Destination



Prehistoric Elegance



Drowing in mud




Rock of rocks


A Jurassic Park Alternate Ending Has Been Revealed, And It’s Amazing

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is a nearly perfect movie. From the groundbreaking special effects that still hold up to this very day to the instantly lovable characters, the film version of Michael Crichton’s classic sci-fi horror novel is one of the best silver screen adaptations of all time. However, it now seems that Jurassic Park almost had an excellent helicopter rescue ending, and we’re now left wondering what could’ve been. Check out the newly released photos below to see for yourself.

From Phil Tippett’s Jurassic Park Early Sequence Storyboard Binder, here is a first-look at the rare storyboards for a thrilling helicopter rescue sequence set to be at the film’s finale. This is an early look of the first version (Version A) of the sequence, and was not scripted at this stage immediately after Crichton’s final draft. It later became adapted into Malia Scotch Marmo’s screenplay, but with numerous alterations.

If you don’t recall anything like a “Helicopter Rescue Sequence” during the events of the original Jurassic Park, that’s because the ending of the movie eventually received a massive overhaul to include the raptors chasing Alan Grant and John Hammond’s grandchildren through the Visitor’s Center of the park. Instead of the claustrophobic slasher style chase sequence that we saw, the original version of the script saw Alan Grant, Tim, and Lex in a mad dash to make it to a helicopter pad in a jeep — with the T-Rex in hot pursuit.

The sequence eventually sees them make it to the helicopter, only for Alan Grant to narrowly miss having a leg taken off by the behemoth dinosaur — who instead takes a big bite out of the chopper.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to this scene. On the one hand, the final version of the sequence is incredibly tense because of how tight and claustrophobic it feels. On the contrary, this original sequence could’ve been far more intense because of the sheer scale of the action. Both of them are great; it just comes down to a matter of preference.

Of course, while Jurassic Park‘s ending did eventually receive a massive overhaul, the jeep chase involving the Tyrannosaurus Rex still managed to find its way into the film. It happens when Muldoon and Ellie Sattler go to look for survivors from the first T-Rex attack, and that scene resulted in one of the best Jeff Goldblum moments of his entire career.

To this day I still can’t hear the phrase “must go faster” without thinking of Ian Malcolm, so I am eternally grateful that they still found a way to keep one of the T-Rex’s best action sequences in the film.

What do you think of this original ending for Jurassic Park? Is it better than the one we got, or do you like the ending with the raptors in the Visitor’s Center better?


Paleontologist Discover a 150 Million Years Old Plesiosaur in Antarctica

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Paleontologist Discover a 150 Million Years Old Plesiosaur in Antarctica

It is the first record of a plesiosaur from the Jurassic period in Antarctica. It is a carnivorous reptile of the sea that exceeded six meters in length. It was discovered in the Antarctic Peninsula, in a new paleontological site located 113 kilometers southwest of the Marambio Base in the Seymour Island.

The palaeontologist José Patricio O’Gorman, researcher at the Museo de la Plata (MLP) and CONICET, told to the Agencia CTyS-UNLaM that “this plesiosaur record is 80 million years older than what was known for Antarctica”.

“It was the first paleontological campaign that we conducted in this outcrop that is like a frozen sea of 150 million years in an excellent state of conservation”, said the lead author of the study that was accepted to be published in the scientific journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.

Dr. Soledad Gouiric Cavalli, MLP and CONICET specialist in the study of Jurassic fish, claimed that “when walking through the site you can find a great diversity of fish, ammonites, some bivalves, but we did not expect to find a plesiosaur of such age; It was surprising”.

“The finding is quite extraordinary because in the site there is not the kind of rocks in which you can find preserved materials in three dimensions, as is the case of the vertebrae of this marine reptile”, explained the researcher.

This outcropping of the Jurassic has a size of four kilometres long and two kilometres wide and it can only be reached after two hours of helicopter flight from the Marambio Base, so the researchers highlighted the logistics promoted by the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA).

campamento 750

There, during the 2016 summer Antarctic campaign, Dr. Gouiric Cavalli, Dr. José O’Gorman and the technicians Juan José Moly and Leonel Acosta Burllaile camped for 40 days. “It was very exciting to get there, to a place that nobody had stepped on in 23 years”, O’Gorman said.

“It is the furthest place where we have arrived with vertebrate palaeontology campaigns in Antarctica”, alleged Dr. Soledad Gouiric Cavalli. She added: “The Argentine campaigns are usually carried out in the vicinity of the Marambio Base (in the Marambio, James Ross and Vega Islands), but here we have expanded the range of action and we are interested in going to places even further away”.

Dr. Marcelo Reguero, researcher of the MLP and director of the paleontological campaigns of the Instituto Antártico Argentino (Argentine Antarctic Institute – IAA), said that “it was necessary to make a lot of logistics to get to this new paleontological site located in Cape Longing and the result was very successful, have rescued a great diversity of fish, plants and this plesiosaurus, and this summer we will go to the new campaign with even greater expectations”.

“In the 2016 campaign, a large number of fossils was obtained and for the expedition next summer we will go with instruments to obtain an even greater number of specimens”, anticipated the researcher of the MLP and the IAA.

Dr. Gouiric Cavalli, who will be part of the new campaign to be held in this frozen Jurassic sea from January 8 to mid-February, indicated that “there is a surprising amount of fish there and it is logical to think that the plesiosaurus that we discovered would feed on them, because it is a large marine reptile and we found medium-sized fish, some smalls, and some quite large too”.

About the excellent conservation of this fauna and marine flora of the Jurassic, the MLP and CONICET researcher explained that “they were preserved because the bottom of that sea had very little oxygen, so there were no organisms that could dismantle those specimens and the phenomenon of putrefaction did not take place either “.

The world 150 million years ago


Dr. Marcelo Reguero stated that “these rich and unique deposits in marine Jurassic vertebrates belong to the time when Antarctica was part of the Gondwana continent and was next to Australia, New Zealand, India, Madagascar, Africa and South America”.

150 million years ago the temperature of the seas was much higher and the world map was very different. According to Dr. José O’Gorman, this plesiosaurus, besides being the first of its kind in the Jurassic in Antarctica, serves as evidence in favour of the possibility of the dispersal of these reptiles by means of a passage that existed between Africa and Antarctica, which at that time had just separated.


This Paleontologist Brought Children’s Dinosaur Drawings to Life and it’s all Kinds of Cute

Sunday, December 24, 2017

This Paleontologist Brought Children’s Dinosaur Drawings to Life and it’s all Kinds of Cute

Children’s imaginations are limitless and sometimes we need adults to interpret them.

Dougal Dixon, a renowned Scottish palaeontologist and author whose works inspired Peter Jackson’s King Kong, was on hand to bring some of the roaring dinosaurs sketched by pupils to life.

Alongside their works of art, the children described what inspired their dinosaurs, with Dixon deciding if they would have been able to exist millions of years ago.

Here’s how it went down.

The Comotriceratops



What Molly, eight, said: “She’s a friendly, helpful herbivore that loves to help other species to get food so they don’t starve. She’s light-footed and graceful and always looks her best.”

What Dixon said: “Comoticeratops is one of the horned dinosaurs. A denizen of arid uplands, its blue colouration helps it to blend in with the mountain mists. It is a large animal, bigger than the mountain trees on which it feeds. However, it is very exposed, and vulnerable to vulture-like pterosaurs of the high crags.”

The verdict: Comotriceratops would have fitted in with the other horned dinosaurs.

2. The Two-O-Saurus



What Riley, seven, said: “Two-O-Saurus eats other little dinosaurs and is bad. He has fights with other big dinosaurs to guard his home – that’s why he has big claws and teeth. He has a very loud roar to scare off dinosaurs and his curly tail can hit them and scratch them.”

What Dixon said: “Two-O-Saurus has two heads! This has actually happened, not really on a dinosaur but on Hyphalosaurus – a water reptile that lived in China in early Cretaceous times, alongside the dinosaurs. We have one fossil of this. It did not live long, as the fossil is of a baby.”

The verdict: The Two-O-Saurus could have existed but faced a difficult time. As Dixon put it: “Two-O-Saurus, being a theropod, would probably have killed its prey all right, but then would have difficulty in deciding which head would eat it.”

3. The Fish-Ripper



Oliver, aged, eight: “Once in dinosaur times, the Fish Ripper ruled the sea. It ripped big and little fish out of the sea. It lived around Jurassic times and ate a lot of fish every day. It has rough scales and teaches the younger ones to fly and catch their fish.”

What Dixon said: “Fish Ripper is a pterosaur, but one that has lost its powers of flight. We have that nowadays – there are plenty of birds that have lost their flying abilities and are perfectly well adapted to life on the ground, or in the water. In the Fish Ripper, the wing membranes are much reduced and form a flat fin-like structure along the neck and the body.”

The verdict: The Fish Ripper definitely could have ruled the sea… the shallow part anyway.

4. The Flynnosaurus



What Flynn, aged five, said: “The little dinosaurs live on Flynnosaurus and he keeps them safe from big bad dinosaurs. He has lots of colour to make him look friendly so other little birds and creatures will like him more. He can bash down trees with his big tail and will get bigger from eating more plants.”

What Dixon said: “The Flynnosaurus builds its own armour. It is a slow-moving plant-eater, related to the ankylosaurs – the armoured dinosaurs. However, unlike its heavy relatives it never developed the armoured plates. The soft skin of its back is very attractive to parasites – especially the tiny moth-like pterosaurs and little theropod-like lizards. These are in turn preyed upon by large beetles.”

The verdict: The ankylosaurus-inspired dinosaur’s big teeth may help him chomp through trees but the Flynnosaurus may not fare so well in a fight.

5. The Polyosurussunyus Bananashaurus



What Poppy, aged seven, said: “The dinosaur is called Polyosurussunyus Bananashaurus. She is a bit sad because she likes snow but it’s summer now. She has got a giraffe’s neck because I like giraffes. She is decorated with hearts and glittery shapes because she likes going to parties and likes decorations. She has so many legs because she likes to dance, dance, dance like me!”

What Dixon said: “It looks as though the Polyosurussunyus Bananashaurus is more of a crab/giraffe instead of a dinosaur! It lives on land and is disguised as a dinosaur to keep predators away. A long spine on one side of the shell looks like a head and neck, and a long spine on the other looks like a tail.”

The verdict: Dixon says that due to the location that the Polyosurussunyus lives in, finding a fossil would be near impossible.

The drawings were made as part of a promotional campaign put together by


Jurassic Park Franchise: 20 Things you Didn’t Know

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jurassic Park Franchise: 20 Things you Didn’t Know

There have been few films in history that have had the lasting power that Jurassic Park did. Couple that with successful subsequent sequels, and this franchise is one of the highest regarded and enjoyed in cinematic history. Of course, even now, nearly 25 years after the original film was released to audiences, there is still a lot that adoring fans do not know about the entire franchise as whole. Here you will be introduced to 20 facts you likely didn’t know about the franchise, which is sure to move you up the chain towards being one of the biggest film dinosaur buffs on the planet.

The Roar of T. rex Was Several Animal Sounds Combined And Modified

While there were obviously no recorded versions of the Tyrannosaurus Rex to reference for a roar, Spielberg and company needed to get creative about what would be an iconic sound for film history. In a condensed version of this process, sound engineers mixed the squeal of a baby elephant, the snarl of a tiger and the gurgling of an alligator. This is part of the process that engineers are forced to do with so many films, to create iconic sounds from the unlikeliest of places. A lot of time was spent with perfectly blending these sounds, slowing them down to dramatic levels or speeding them up as needed to create the infamous declaration of film’s most terrifying dinosaur. While it is believed that the actual roar of the T-Rex sounded nothing like Jurassic Park’s creation, it was still a great result that really fit the creature created for the movie.


Jeff Goldblum Was No Coward

If you recall in the first film, Ian Malcom jumps out of the Ford Explorer with a lit flare to distract the Tyrannosaurus Rex who was heading towards the children in the other car. While this scene might have been deemed foolishly heroic to fans of the franchise who could see that Grant had things well in hand to save the children, the actual script featured something else entirely. As the book would suggest, Ian Malcom was supposed to just run off in fear much like the weasel-ish lawyer Gennaro who cowers in fear in the stall of the nearby bathroom. Jeff Goldblum refused to allow this to be a defining characteristic of his character, and offered this modified version for Spielberg, which the director thoroughly enjoyed.


Jurassic Park III Featured Scrapped Ideas From The First Two Installments

If you have ever watched the third installment of the film, the obvious weakest choice in the entire franchise, you might have often thought about how it appears to be haphazardly thrown together. While it does feature the dinosaur chasing thrills and high stakes found in all of the other films, there is likely a very good reason for this. Several of the most noteworthy scenes featured in the film are actually scrapped ideas from both Jurassic Park and The Lost World. So while the movie still faired decently with true fans of the franchise, they could stop and appreciate just how impressive the first two installments might have been had they actually included some of the Jurassic Park III greatest clip collection. 


Jurassic Park 4 Was Going To Get Crazy

While Jurassic World ended up being a smashing success, you do not even want to know what was about to head down the production line for the franchise. For a brief time, several years before pre-production would begin for Jurassic World there was a confirmed idea going around from Universal executives to reboot the franchise using hybrid dinosaurs. Yes, half dinosaur and half human creations. While this might sound like a Syfy movie gone horribly wrong, it was only a short time away from being filmed. Fortunately, the writers decided that gun toting dinosaurs was just too much and went back to the drawing board and came up with the very inventive and impressive Jurassic World script and storyline instead.


Raptor Height Discrepancies

Spielberg had spent a great deal of time with major paleontoligists of the 1990s to get a feel for what his movie monsters would have actually looked like and how they would have acted. Much to the dismay of Spielberg, raptors were not quite as tall as he had hoped to make them for the film, which gave them a towering quality against the actors. By a stroke of luck however, a ten foot tall raptor was discovered in a dig site while the film was in its early stages, allowing him to create the raptors ten feet tall as he had initially hoped to. It is difficult to say whether Spielberg would have continued on with his wishes of the taller raptor anyway without this discovery, but given his insistence on being as accurate as possible, it seems very unlikely. 


The Lost World Is Largely Based On Michael Crichton’s First Jurassic Park Book

Unless you were a reader of the original two creations from author Michael Crichton, you might not have noticed that the first film really doesn’t follow the book all that well. While Crichton would play a role in helping to devise the screenplay, a large part of the major storyline changes involved characters that would need to be around for a successful sequel to be in the works. With this in mind, the great story that was contained within the first book can be found in pieces throughout The Lost World: Jurassic Park. One of the parallels that could easily be drawn from the book to the second film is the spread of the raptors throughout the island and the role of the Compsognathus (Compys) throughout the movie. 


Spinosaurus of JP III Holds A Record  

Before Jurassic Park III would ever even hit the theaters, it had already broken a record during its time in production. In order to make a dinosaur that would dwarf the Tyrannosaurus Rex, engineers had to construct a truly massive animatronic. Since this was largely what made the motions and lifelike mannerisms of the T-Rex so seamless in the first film, construction was underway to create the animatronic needed for the Spinosaurus featured as one of the primary threats throughout the movie. In all, the creation ended up weighing close to 12 tons, and took the record as the largest animatronic that had ever been built. It even featured a hydraulic controlling system, which allowed it to be controlled in the water (like the end sequence in the river with Alan Grant and Mr. Kirby). 


Stop Motion Might Have Been The Medium  

For as remarkable as the film looked in theaters across the world, Jurassic Park very nearly had an entirely different medium for the dinosaurs to be featured in the film. Having employed one of the leading creators of stop motion films for his crew on the movie, Spielberg was committed to the idea of using stop-motion dinosaurs. It wasn’t until someone could adequately show the possibilities of CGI that the decision was made to forgo stop motion. The expert wasn’t out of a job though, as the new CGI team needed his expertise in animal movement to help build models for the creations that they were making on computers. These full sized 3D breathing creations would be the first of its kind ever featured in a film. 


Subtle References To Spielberg Movies In Every Jurassic Park Installment  

You would not be surprised to learn that Steven Spielberg might make a nod to some of his other creations through the films that he has directed for the franchise. As egocentric as this might seem, it is actually just a fun way to see how many of the audience is paying attention. What is surprising, are the snippets paying homage to Spielberg in films for the franchise that he didn’t direct. What were all of the references, you ask? In the very first film, Dennis Nedry has a movie playing on his computer. This film is Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. In the second installment, there is a poster for his movie Hook hanging in the video store the bus crashes into. In JPIII, a Jurassic Park pinball machine can be seen in the back of the bar when Alan and Billy meet with the Kirby couple. Lastly, Jurassic World features a feeding routine using a great white shark, where the monstrous dinosaur emerges from the water and swallows it whole. Very clearly a Jaws reference.

Lex Was Cast Based On Her Scream

For those that might not know her name, Lex was played by Ariana Richards. While there were a wide variety of young girls that sought the coveted role of John Hammond’s granddaughter, Richards was the one that casting staff believed to be the ideal fit for the image they were creating. What made her a more viable choice than some of the other young blonde girls that had auditioned? Richards’ very ear-splitting scream you can hear a few times in the film. 


Jim Carrey Was Nearly Ian Malcom 

While you might not have realized this, there was a lot of Hollywood contention for some of the roles that were cast in this film. One of the jobs that saw a lot of shuffling from the A-list crowd in Hollywood was the role of Ian Malcom. While this was ultimately given to Jeff Goldblum as fans of the series already know, you might not have been aware that a close second in the running for the role was none other than Jim Carrey. Ultimately, studio executives thought that Carrey’s presence in a number of over the top comedy films coming out around that time might make the character seem disingenuous and not personify the “rock star scientist” that John Hammond describes in the movie. 


The Real Life Alan Grant and Robert Burke

As is the case with a number of fictional creations that are adapted to be on the big screen, comparisons have to be drawn somewhere to give a character a baseline to adapt a personality and presence on the screen. For the first film, Sam Neill was encouraged to model his character after noted paleontologist Jack Horner. This was an easy parallel considering that both Spielberg and Crichton used him to divulge information about the behavior of dinosaurs. His rival, Robert Bakker was a model for a character to be featured in The Lost World as Robert Burke. Horner’s only request for a likeness of his friendly-feud rival? That his Burke would end up being eaten by T-Rex in the film. Spielberg happily obliged with the iconic breaching of the waterfall scene from the second installment. 


Many Directors Wanted To Oversee The First Film  

If you were to ask Steven Spielberg, he would tell you that of all the movies he was awarded to direct, none were as contested as Jurassic Park. Up to the time that production was nearly set to begin, the jury was still out on who the man behind the camera was going to be. While Tim Burton was being suggested, especially after his very recent successes with Batman and Edward Scissorhands, even iconic directors like James Cameron were apparently in the running as well. It would be the friendship budding between Spielberg and Crichton that would end up ensuring that he got the directing gig for the film.


The Dig Site In JP III Was Genuine  

While the first film also features Alan Grant being found on a dig site to be brought out to the island for the first time, this was all a fictional creation based on what traditional dig sites typically looked like. For the third installment of the film, where yet another dig site would be featured, this was an actual discovery that was being unearthed at the time. This lent a lot of stock to the credibility of the film, and made the science behind the franchise a little easier to believe and witness on the screen. Thanks to Jack Horner, though, film crews were allowed to delicately shoot the early scenes of Jurassic Park III on a genuine unearthed dinosaur discovery site. 


The T-Rex Would Sometimes Turn On By Itself

If you thought just the sheer size and look of the animatronic used to bring the T-Rex to life was terrifying, you should have seen how it behaved when it started to rain. Sometimes the water would cause shorts in the electrical system for the head, which brought the massive T-Rex head and neck to life with no one behind the controls. The unpredictability of this occurrence left many of the film’s crew constantly sketchy about being left alone with the animatronic, even if it was only a head and neck portion. Most people didn’t realize just how strong and tough this build actually was, lending to the understanding that if it shorted out and got you in its mouth, it could very easily do the same kind of damage that a real Tyrannosaurus Rex could have done to its prey. 


Spielberg Gave Out Raptors For Wrap Presents  

When the original film had wrapped up production ahead of schedule, Spielberg gave out gifts to all of the main characters of the production. These were full sized replications of the raptors featured in the film, to which many of the talent in the film still proudly display in their home. Each raptor was signed by Spielberg himself with a well-wishing comment to send them on their way. It is said that Ariana Richards and Jeff Goldblum both proudly display their raptors in a place of honor inside their homes, while actress Laura Dern has admittedly had to put her prized raptor into storage because it was scaring her young child.


Universal’s Jurassic Park Ride Cost More Than The Original Film Did

With a theme park in Orlando, Florida and in California as well, Universal needed to really up its wow factors when it came to franchises like Jurassic Park being turned into rides for park goers. Ultimately the brain trust behind the parks came to the decision that a river adventure would be a great homage to the series, and it could feature a large variety of the dinosaurs that were featured in the film. Surprisingly though, more money was spent in the production and construction of this ride for the theme park than the entire cost to produce the first film. Given that the ride has been generally left unchanged since it was first unveiled and continues to be one of the most popular at the parks, it seems like it was money well spent.


In Keeping With New Discoveries, Dinosaurs Were Modified As The Franchise Moved Forward 

From film to film you might notice slight differences between the dinosaurs. While these could have been chalked up before to the different directors and CGI teams, it has a lot more to do with the growing database of knowledge that the world of paleontology has to offer. A good example of this would be the inclusion of some feathers to the head and body of raptors featured in the third installment of the franchise, as there was leading scientific discoveries to support that they indeed had some feathers. Huh, turns out that Alan Grant might have been right after all about the raptors evolving into modern day birds.


Spielberg Has Made More From Jurassic Park Than Any Single Actor/Director Ever 

If you were to stop and think about the sheer success of the first film, not even taking into account the subsequent successes of its sequels, you would understand that a lot of money has been made bringing dinosaurs into the cinematic lives of fans. It is estimated that Spielberg himself made over 250,000,000 for his directing of the film, based on an arrangement of a percentage he would be guaranteed from profits, merchandise and gross sales. This is the single largest amount of money that any one crew member, not to mention actor, has ever made from the production of a film in cinematic history.


Now you know more about the Jurassic Park franchise than most of your friends do, and you can wow them with your intimate knowledge of the franchise. With the release of the new series of films for the new generations of fans, sometimes it is nice to come back to the original drawing board and learn some new things about an iconic period of cinema.


A 508-Million-Year-Old Sea Predator With a ‘Jackknife’ Head

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Habelia optata

Paleontologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto have entirely revisited a tiny yet exceptionally fierce ancient sea creature called Habelia optata that has confounded scientists since it was first discovered more than a century ago.

The research by lead author Cédric Aria, recent graduate of the PhD program in the department of ecology & evolutionary biology in the Faculty of Arts & Science at U of T, and co-author Jean-Bernard Caron, senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the ROM and an associate professor in the departments of ecology & evolutionary biology and Earth sciences at U of T, is published today in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Approximately 2 cm in length with a tail as long as the rest of its body, the long-extinct Habelia optata belongs to the group of invertebrate animals called arthropods, which also includes such familiar creatures as spiders, insects, lobsters and crabs. It lived during the middle Cambrian period approximately 508 million years ago and comes from the renowned Burgess Shale fossil deposit in British Columbia. Habelia optata was part of the “Cambrian explosion,” a period of rapid evolutionary change when most major animal groups first emerged in the fossil record.

Like all arthropods, Habelia optata features a segmented body with external skeleton and jointed limbs. What remained unclear for decades, however, was the main sub-group of arthropods to which Habelia belonged. Early studies had mentioned mandibulates—a hyperdiverse lineage whose members possess antennae and a pair of specialized appendages known as mandibles, usually used to grasp, squeeze and crush their food. But Habelia was later left as one of the typically unresolved arthropods of the Burgess Shale.

The new analysis by the U of T-ROM researchers suggests that Habelia optata was instead a close relative of the ancestor of all chelicerates, the other sub-group of arthropods living today, named for the presence of appendages called chelicerae in front of the mouth and used to cut food. This is mostly due to the overall anatomy of the head in Habelia, and the presence of two small chelicerae-like appendages revealed in these fossils.

Habelia now shows in great detail the body architecture from which chelicerates emerged, which allows us to solve some long-standing questions,” said Aria, who is now a post-doctoral researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, in China. “We can now explain why, for instance, horseshoe crabs have a reduced pair of limbs – the chilaria – at the back of their heads. Those are relics of fully-formed appendages, as chelicerates seem to originally have had heads with no less than seven pairs of limbs.”

 Fossil specimen of Habelia optata from the Royal Ontario Museum. This specimen spectacularly shows some of the very large jaws under the head shield. Note also the long dorsal spines on the thorax. Credit: Jean-Bernard Caron. Copyright: Royal Ontario Museum

Aria and Caron analyzed 41 specimens in total, the majority of which are new specimens acquired by ROM-led fieldwork parties to the Burgess Shale.

The research illustrates that the well-armoured body of Habelia optata, covered in a multitude of different spines, was divided into head, thorax and post-thorax, all bearing different types of appendages. The thorax displays five pairs of walking legs, while the post-thorax houses rounded appendages likely used in respiration.

“Scorpions and the now-extinct sea scorpions are also chelicerates with bodies divided into three distinct regions,” Aria explained. “We think that these regions broadly correspond to those of Habelia. But a major difference is that scorpions and sea scorpions, like all chelicerates, literally ‘walk on their heads,’ while Habelia still had walking appendages in its thorax.”

The researchers argue that this difference in anatomy allowed Habelia to evolve an especially complex head that makes this fossil species even more peculiar compared to known chelicerates. The head of Habelia contained a series of five appendages made of a large plate with teeth for mastication, a leg-like branch with stiff bristle-like spines for grasping, and an elongate, slender branch modified as a sensory or tactile appendage.

“This complex apparatus of appendages and jaws made Habelia an exceptionally fierce predator for its size,” said Aria. “It was likely both very mobile and efficient in tearing apart its preys.”

The surprising outcome of this study, despite the evolutionary relationship of Habelia with chelicerates, is that these unusual characteristics led instead the researchers to compare the head of Habelia with that of mandibulates from a functional perspective. Thus, the peculiar sensory branches may have been used in a similar fashion as mandibulates use antennae. Also, the overlapping plate-like appendages in the middle series of five are shown to open and close parallel to the underside of the head—much as they do in mandibulates, especially those that feed on animals with hardened carapaces.

Simplified phylogeny (tree of life) showing the relationship of Habelia with other groups of arthropods. A new study by paleontologists at the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum shows that it is an early relative of chelicerates -- a group including spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs and mites. Credit: Cedric Aria

Lastly, a seventh pair of appendages at the back of the head seems to have fulfilled a function similar to that of “maxillipeds”—appendages in mandibulates that assist with the other head limbs in the processing of food. This broad correspondence in function rather than in evolutionary origin is called “convergence.”

“From an evolutionary point of view, Habelia is close to the point of divergence between chelicerates and mandibulates,” Aria said. “But its similarities with mandibulates are secondary modifications of features that were in part already chelicerate in nature. This suggests that chelicerates originated from species with a high structural variability.”

The researchers conclude from the outstanding  structure, as well as from well-developed walking legs, that Habelia optata and its relatives were active predators of the Cambrian sea floors, hunting for small shelly sea creatures, such as small trilobites—arthropods with hard, mineralized exoskeletons that were already very diverse and abundant during Cambrian times.

“This builds onto the importance of carapaces and shells for evolutionary change during the Cambrian explosion, and expands our understanding of ecosystems at this time, showing another level of predator-prey relationship and its determining impact on the rise of arthropods as we know them today,” said Caron, who was Aria’s PhD supervisor when the bulk of this research was completed.

“The appearance and spread of animals with shells are considered to be one of the defining characteristics of the Cambrian explosion, and Habelia contributes to illustrate how important this ecological factor was for the early diversification of chelicerates and arthropods in general.”

The findings are described in the study “Mandibulate convergence in an armoured Cambrian stem chelicerate,” where Habelia optata is brought to life by visual artist and scientific illustrator Joanna Liang with animations depicting the spectacular body architecture and complex feeding mechanism of this fossil. Liang collaborated with Aria and Caron to produce the animations as part of her master of science thesis in biomedical communications at U of T under supervisor Dave Mazierski.

More information: Cédric Aria et al, Mandibulate convergence in an armored Cambrian stem chelicerate, BMC Evolutionary Biology (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s12862-017-1088-7

Journal reference: BMC Evolutionary Biology

Provided by: University of Toronto


Study: Simple Life Forms are Common Throughout Universe

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Study: Simple Life Forms are Common Throughout Universe

A detailed analysis of 3.465-billion-year-old microbial microfossils provides evidence to support an increasingly widespread understanding that life in the Universe is common.

Professor J. William Schopf from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues analyzed 11 specimens of 5 species of prokaryotic cellular microfossils from the Apex Basalt Formation, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.

Two of the five species the researchers studied were primitive photosynthesizers, one was an Archaeal methane producer, and two others were methane consumers.

“The evidence that a diverse group of organisms had already evolved extremely early in the Earth’s history strengthens the case for life existing elsewhere in the Universe because it would be extremely unlikely that life formed quickly on Earth but did not arise anywhere else,” they said.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the most detailed ever conducted on microorganisms preserved in such ancient fossils.

A 3.465-billion-year-old fossil microorganism from Western Australia. Image credit: J. William Schopf / Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, University of California, Los Angeles.

“By 3.465 billion years ago, life was already diverse on Earth; that’s clear — primitive photosynthesizers, methane producers, methane users,” Professor Schopf said.

“These are the first data that show the very diverse organisms at that time in Earth’s history, and our previous research has shown that there were sulfur users 3.4 billion years ago as well.”

“This tells us life had to have begun substantially earlier and it confirms that it was not difficult for primitive life to form and to evolve into more advanced microorganisms.”

“Scientists still do not know how much earlier life might have begun. But, if the conditions are right, it looks like life in the Universe should be widespread.”

A methane-consuming fossil microorganism from Western Australia. Image credit: J. William Schopf / Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, University of California, Los Angeles.

Professor Schopf and co-authors analyzed the Apex specimens with cutting-edge technology called secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS), which reveals the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 isotopes — information scientists can use to determine how the microorganisms lived.

They used a secondary ion mass spectrometer — one of just a few in the world — to separate the carbon from each fossil into its constituent isotopes and determine their ratios.

“The differences in carbon isotope ratios correlate with their shapes. Their carbon-12 to carbon-13 ratios are characteristic of biology and metabolic function,” said co-author Professor John Valley, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“The fossils were formed at a time when there was very little oxygen in the atmosphere,” Professor Schopf added.

“I think that advanced photosynthesis had not yet evolved, and that oxygen first appeared on Earth approximately half a billion years later before its concentration in our atmosphere increased rapidly starting about 2 billion years ago.”

“Oxygen would have been poisonous to these microorganisms, and would have killed them,” the scientist said.

Primitive photosynthesizers are fairly rare on Earth today because they exist only in places where there is light but no oxygen — normally there is abundant oxygen anywhere there is light.

And the existence of the rocks the team analyzed is also rather remarkable.

“The average lifetime of a rock exposed on the surface of the Earth is about 200 million years,” Professor Schopf noted.

“When I began my career, there was no fossil evidence of life dating back farther than 500 million years ago. The rocks we studied are about as far back as rocks go.”

“While the study strongly suggests the presence of primitive life forms throughout the Universe, the presence of more advanced life is very possible but less certain,” he said.


J. William Schopf et al. SIMS analyses of the oldest known assemblage of microfossils document their taxon-correlated carbon isotope compositions. PNAS, published online December 18, 2017; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718063115


Vandals use Hammer to Smash 115-Million-year-old Dinosaur Footprint at Australian National Park

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Vandals use Hammer to Smash 115-Million-year-old Dinosaur Footprint at Australian National Park

Vandals used a hammer to smash a 115-million-year-old three-toed dinosaur footprint in a national park in Australia. Park rangers at the Bunurong Marine Park discovered the damage to the theropod footprint while taking a school group on a tour.

The one-foot wide print was found in 2006 and deliberately left in place to allow visitors to see it in its natural state in one of the world’s few ice-age dinosaur sites.

“It is so disappointing,” Parks Victoria ranger Brian Martin told ABC News.

“It’s a popular, significant site. The rock there is reasonably hard so it looks like it’s been hit with a hammer and pieces of the rock around the edge of the footprint have been broken away.”

The identity of the culprits and the possible motive remain unknown, but it appears the vandals were familiar with the footprint.

“For someone to damage it intentionally, you’d have to have a rough idea of where it is because seaweed grows on the rock platform and it looks like a normal rock until you look closely and see the outline of the footprint,” Mr Martin said.

The footprint before it was smashed CREDIT: AFP

Broken fragments of the print were found on the surrounding rock platform in which it is embedded.

Palaeontologists made a silicon rubber mould of the print after it was discovered. It is hoped that technicians will be able to restore the print.

The national park, east of Melbourne,  was once roamed by at least six different types of carnivorous dinosaurs.

Vandals took a hammer to the ancient dinosaur footprint in Australia, with officials slamming the “sad and callous” act CREDIT: AFP

Thousands of bones and teeth of small dinosaurs and ancient mammals, birds and fish have been discovered since the first items were found there in 1991.

Authorities have appealed to the public for any information about the vandals.


Jurassic World 2: Composer Michael Giacchino Teases Darker, Moody Plot for Fallen Kingdom

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jurassic World 2: Composer Michael Giacchino Teases Darker, Moody Plot for Fallen Kingdom

The Academy Award-winning composer has also shared his excitement on working with director JA Bayona.


Jurassic World 2, the upcoming Jurassic Park sequel titled Fallen Kingdom, surely has a darker and scarier plot. Creator Colin Trevorrow and director JA Bayona have already confirmed it.

But Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino has something else to add to the details. According to him, the movie has a “moody” plot and is filled with a lot of suspense.

While sharing his excitement on working with Bayona, Giacchino revealed he has seen a portion of the upcoming science fiction adventure film.

Here’s how the composer described the film’s plot:

But I have seen it and yes. I love JA Bayona he and I have known each other for many years, we have been friends and we have been hoping to work on something together so this, I think, is gonna be a really fun project to do with him. I love his storytelling sensibility and I’m excited to take the storytelling and the franchise somewhere new and different and perhaps that is darker and more moody and more suspenseful. But again, I gotta wait and see where it takes me, but looking forward to that one too.

Although many of the franchise fans could be excited to know about the score for Fallen Kingdom, Giacchino has admitted that he is yet to start working on it.

He was interacting with the representative of Collider when he shared the new details on Jurassic World 2.

Check out the official synopsis for Fallen Kingdom below:

It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles.

When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times.

Laura Dern Could Return In ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Laura Dern Could Return In ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’!

Dinosaurs eat man… woman inherits the earth.

A few weeks back, it was alleged that the great Sam Neill could be returning to Jurassic Park as Dr. Alan Grant in J. A. Bayona‘s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Now, Jurassic Park co-star Laura Dern is teasing a potential reunion in the J. A. Bayona-directed Jurassic World sequel.

“[It] could be fun,” she teased with all but a wink.

“I mean, I love Ellie Sattler.”

Could the entire Jurassic Park gang be getting back together in Jurassic World 2? We already know for sure that Jeff Goldblum is set to reprise his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm in the upcoming sequel, which is set for release on June 22, 2018. There are also rumors floating around that suggest Sam Neill could be making a return as Alan Grant. So, all we need is Laura Dern to come back as Ellie Sattler. Now, Laura Dern has hinted that a cameo could be in store for her character next summer.

Laura Dern was recently promoting her movie Downsizing, which hits theaters next week. She’s also currently in the biggest movie on the planet, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So things are going pretty well for her. When asked about possibly revisiting her most iconic role in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom next summer, she wouldn’t come anywhere near denying it. Her reaction was everything.

As much as I love Chris Pratt, I’d love to see Goldblum, Neill, and Dern as the central character in the film, even if it’s in the third film in the planned trilogy.

Life finds a way on June 22, 2018.