nandi's blog

Moros intrepidus: New Deer-Sized Species of Tyrannosaur Discovered

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Moros intrepidus. Image credit: Jorge Gonzalez.

Paleontologists have unveiled a remarkable new species of tyrannosauroid dinosaur from the Cretaceous period: a small relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. The discovery is described in the journal Communications Biology.

Medium-sized, primitive tyrannosaurs have been found in North America dating from the Jurassic period (around 150 million years ago).

By the Cretaceous period (81 million years ago) North American tyrannosaurs had become the enormous, iconic apex predators we know and love.

The fossil record between these time periods has been a blank slate, preventing paleontologists from piecing together the story behind the ascent of tyrannosaurs in North America.

“When and how quickly tyrannosaurs went from wallflower to prom king has been vexing paleontologists for a long time,” said Dr. Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and head of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences.

“The only way to attack this problem was to get out there and find more data on these rare animals.”

The newly-discovered tyrannosaur, named Moros intrepidus, lived about 96 million years ago in the lush, deltaic environment of what is now Utah.

It is the oldest Cretaceous tyrannosaur species yet discovered in North America, narrowing a 70-million-year gap in the fossil record of tyrannosauroid dinosaurs on the continent.

“With a lethal combination of bone-crunching bite forces, stereoscopic vision, rapid growth rates, and colossal size, tyrant dinosaurs reigned uncontested for 15 million years leading up to the end-Cretaceous extinction — but it wasn’t always that way,” Dr. Zanno said.

“Early in their evolution, tyrannosaurs hunted in the shadows of archaic lineages such as allosaurs that were already established at the top of the food chain.”

With a 3.9-foot (1.2 m) length and 78-kg mass, Moros intrepidus ranks among the smallest Cretaceous tyrannosauroids.

Dr. Zanno and colleagues estimate that the individual was over seven years old when it died, and that it was nearly full-grown.

Moros intrepidus was lightweight and exceptionally fast,” Dr. Zanno said.

“These adaptations, together with advanced sensory capabilities, are the mark of a formidable predator.”

“It could easily have run down prey, while avoiding confrontation with the top predators of the day.”

The bones of the new tyrannosaur also revealed the origin of T. rex’s lineage on the North American continent.

When the scientists placed Moros intrepidus within the family tree of tyrannosaurs they discovered that its closest relatives were from Asia.

T. rex and its famous contemporaries such as Triceratops may be among our most beloved cultural icons, but we owe their existence to their intrepid ancestors who migrated here from Asia at least 30 million years prior,” Dr. Zanno said.

Moros intrepidus signals the establishment of the iconic Late Cretaceous ecosystems of North America.”


Lindsay E. Zanno et al. 2019. Diminutive fleet-footed tyrannosauroid narrows the 70-million-year gap in the North American fossil record. Communications Biology 2, article number: 64; doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0308-7


Dimetrodon Footprints Found on P.E.I. Bring Island to 'World Stage' of Paleontology

Friday, February 22, 2019

Skeleton of D. incisivum, Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe

'Prince Edward Island holds Canada’s only fossil record of life on land in the Permian period'

A series of footprints found in May in P.E.I. National Park near Cavendish have been confirmed as those of the sail-backed Bathygnathus borealis, more commonly known as Dimetrodon.

Laura MacNeil, who has a background in geology, discovered the footprints while searching for fossils in the area. 

"It was about the size of my hand and it almost looked like a human hand, but if the thumb were replaced with another digit," she said.

"I looked at it for about a half an hour trying to convince myself that this wasn't a fossil because when you're in science, you try to be skeptical because … you don't want to just jump to conclusions."

'The footprints are of creatures that were living'

MacNeil said she ran back to her car to call the the province who then called Parks Canada and Dr. John Calder, a geologist at Saint Mary's University, to confirm what the discovery was. 

"My jaw was open for quite a long time. I couldn't believe it, honestly," she said.

Calder said the footprints belonged to a dimetrodon, a reptile-like mammal that lived 100 million years before the dinosaurs.

"It's the first example from P.E.I. of this type of footprint," he said.

This isn't the first time a dimetrodon fossil has been found on P.E.I.

'The fossil record on P.E.I. is truly world class'

In 1845, the upper jaw bone of a dimetrodon was discovered by a farmer during a well excavation in French River, near the Island's North Shore.

Calder said the discovery of the footprint is especially significant. 

"The bones are of dead creatures, the footprints are of creatures that were living," he said.

"When you see a fossil footprint, it's a living fossil and it shows this animal actually walked here, this is how it stepped, this is where it walked."

Dimetrodons are huge, ancient reptiles related to modern mammals that had giant spiny "sails" on their backs.

They ate giant salamanders in the steamy, swampy forests of the early Permian period, around 290 million years ago. 

Rich prehistoric history

Although fossils are scattered in various places across the Island, these particular footprints are important as they indicate that P.E.I. holds some of Canada's richest evidence of terrestrial fossils of the Permian period.

Their fossils have previously been found in Germany and the United States.

"The fossil record on P.E.I. is truly world class and yet most people don't even know about it," said Calder. ​

MacNeil said the fossil will be studied by scientists and hopefully put on display at P.E.I's national park this summer. 


How Fossilized Poo Changed Our View on Dinosaurs

Friday, February 22, 2019

Source: Mike Beauregard // Flickr

Were you aware that some of the most beautiful (and informative) fossils out there are actually made of poop?

Yeah, it turns out that dino dung not only makes some gorgeous jewelry, it’s also full of information that scientists can use to learn about the environment and behaviors of some long-extinct creatures! Oh, and to make it even cooler, these pieces of fossilized poo have played a giant role in the history of women in science. Who knew such wonders could come in such strange forms? Just check out the inside of this one!

Unlike fossil finds of bone, fossilized poop, called coprolites, are able to give us insights into an animal’s diet, environment, and even hint at some of their unexpected behaviors! But even though dino dung would have been prevalent in its day, coprolites are far less common than their boney brethren.

For Paleontologists like Dr. Karen Chin, who studies ancient ecosystems, sometimes coprolites are the best evidence left behind. Hidden in these gems—really though they can be quite beautiful—lay clues to which species were available for the animals to eat and even the creatures that then made the poo their home!

Alright so let’s get into this! Here’s a great piece from the fantastic YouTube channel SciFri. If you haven’t yet subscribed to them jump over and give them a follow. They are a great source of all things science!

So there you go! Dinosaur poop can unlock a few mysteries and help us see into the ancient past with more clarity than ever.

But why does ancient dino dung matter to any of us today?

Let’s start with three words, women in science. Alright, friends, I won’t lie I really wasn’t sure where to go next with this article. I wanted to give you all more, in-depth media featuring coprolite factoids. Most of the videos featuring coprolites tend to focus on the “Oh cool, poop!” angle and less on the “Woah! Science!” angle. I was stumped, really really stumped.

But then, I found the podcast Tumble! If you haven’t heard of them yet, allow me to change your life.

Or, more accurately, the life of any kid you know. It’s a science podcast for kids and it’s PHENOMENAL! They cover all kinds of scientific topics from approachable angles that kids and adults can enjoy. And, they run about 15-20 minutes long so they stay at a pace that keeps kids (and distractable adults) engaged. Honestly, I’m subscribing as a curious adult without kids in her life.

So, back to why this all matters to us? They have two episodes on coprolites. The first features an interview with Dr. Chin, the paleontologist from the video we featured today. The second shines a light on the fascinating history of coprolites. As it turns out, dinosaur poop plays a critical role in the history of women in science! It even involves one of my personal science heroes, Mary Anning. Yes, if you or I or anybody else knows or is a woman of science, we can thank coprolites for playing a part in helping women break into the field!

No matter your age, there’s something there for you.

Oh, and here are the links to a couple of the great things they mentioned in the episode. Here is the link to Kidosaurus. And if you want to dig into the history of women in archaeology, geology and paleontology go check out TrowelBlazers!


Extraordinary Diversity on Land Is Not a Recent Phenomenon, Says New Study

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reconstructions of land vertebrate communities through the Phanerozoic. Image credit: University of Birmingham.

According to new research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, land animal diversity has been similar for at least the last 60 million years, since soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

“Our work provides an example of the combined power of the fossil record and modern statistical approaches to answer major questions about the origins of modern biodiversity,” said University of Birmingham’s Professor Richard Butler, senior author of the study.

“By understanding how biodiversity has changed in the past, we may be able to better understand the likely long-term impact of the current biodiversity crisis.”

Previously, many scientists have argued that diversity increased steadily through geological time, which would mean that biodiversity today is much greater than it was tens of millions of years ago.

But building an accurate picture of how land diversity was assembled is challenging because the fossil record generally becomes less complete further back in time.

Professor Butler and colleagues examined how the diversity of land vertebrate species living in local ecosystems (also known as ecological communities) changed over the last 375 million years.

The researchers analyzed nearly 30,000 fossil sites that have produced fossils of tetrapods, land vertebrate animals, such as mammals, birds, reptiles (including dinosaurs) and amphibians.

They found that the average number of species within ecological communities of land vertebrates have not increased for tens of millions of years.

Their results suggest that interactions between species, including competition for food and space, will limit the overall number of species that can co-exist.

“Scientists often think that species diversity has been increasing unchecked over millions of years, and that diversity is much greater today than it was in the distant past,” said study lead author Dr. Roger Close, also from the University of Birmingham.

“Our research shows that numbers of species within terrestrial communities are limited over long timescales, which contradicts the results of many experiments in modern ecological communities — now we need to understand why.”

One reason why diversity within ecological communities does not increase unchecked on long timescales could be because resources used by species, such as food and space, are finite.

Competition for these resources may prevent new species invading ecosystems and lead to a balance between rates of speciation and extinction.

After the origins of major groups of animals, or large-scale ecological disruptions like mass extinctions, though, increases in diversity may happen abruptly — on geological, if not human timescales — and are again followed by long periods where no increases occur.

“Contrary to what you might expect, the largest increase in diversity within land vertebrate communities came after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period,” Dr. Close said.

“Within just a few million years, local diversity had increased to two or three times that of pre-extinction levels — driven primarily by the spectacular success of modern mammals.”


Roger A. Close et al. Diversity dynamics of Phanerozoic terrestrial tetrapods at the local-community scale. Nature Ecology & Evolution, published online February 18, 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41559-019-0811-8


Unnuakomys hutchisoni: Paleontologists Discover Northernmost Marsupial Known to Science

Friday, February 22, 2019

Small creatures like Unnuakomys hutchisoni scurried at the feet of duck-billed dinosaurs and other larger animals in Alaska’s polar forests 69 million years ago. Image credit: James Havens.

Paleontologists have uncovered a new species of marsupial that lived during the Cretaceous period above the Arctic Circle, the farthest north marsupials have ever been found.

The new marsupial, named Unnuakomys hutchisoni, is a member of Metatheria, a group within mammals that includes modern-day marsupials and their fossil relatives.

The opossum-like critter roamed the Earth approximately 69 million years ago. It rubbed elbows with dinosaurs on a land mass that was, at the time, located far above the Arctic Circle.

The ancient creature was about the size of a house mouse, probably munched on insects, and may have lived underground.

“Despite an estimated weight of less than an ounce, this itty-bitty animal was probably pretty hardy,” said Dr. Jaelyn Eberle, curator of fossil vertebrates at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

“It would have needed to survive 120 days of darkness in the winter and temperatures that averaged just 42 degrees Fahrenheit (about 6 degrees Celsius).”

“These guys must have been adapted to darkness because they spent a lot of time in it.”

Unnuakomys hutchisoni. Image credit: James Havens.

Over 60 specimens of Unnuakomys hutchisoni teeth and jaws were collected from the Cretaceous deposits of the Prince Creek Formation cropping out along the Colville River on the North Slope of Alaska.

“The discovery paints a more detailed picture of the flora and fauna that once thrived in what is now the North Slope of Alaska — a region that, in the age of dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex, was home to species not seen anywhere else on Earth,” Dr. Eberle said.

“This new marsupial is an exciting addition to the growing list of new species of dinosaurs and other animals that we are describing from northern Alaska as part of a bigger project to reveal ancient Arctic ecosystems,” said Dr. Patrick Druckenmiller, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The discovery is reported in a paper in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.


Jaelyn J. Eberle et al. Northernmost record of the Metatheria: a new Late Cretaceous pediomyid from the North Slope of Alaska. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, published online February 14, 2019; doi: 10.1080/14772019.2018.1560369


Inflatable T. Rex Flyboards in Front of Burj Al Arab

Monday, February 18, 2019

Credit: Fly-boarder Manea Al Marzooq

This is the most Dubai thing you’ll see all day…

The Burj Al Arab has served as a backdrop for some pretty spectacular things, from stunning New Year’s Eve fireworks shows to record-breaking drone images of Sheikh Mohammed, but it’s latest is arguably the most unusual – and so Dubai – of all.

Over the weekend professional Fly-boarder Manea Al Marzooq took to Instagram to post a video of himself driving a yacht dressed in an inflatable dinosaur costume.

Later in the clip, Al Marzooq is then seen flyboarding against the backdrop of the Burj Al Arab – still dressed in the inflatable dinosaur costume.

Making it look easy, the professional Fly-boarder summersaults and flips his way through the video, which he shared with his 44,000 Instagram followers.

You can watch the full clip here:

It’s not the first impressive water sports video the professional has posted. In previous pictures, Al Marzooq can be seen flyboarding whilst carrying a UAE flag, with the Burj Khalifa in the background.

Need we remind you, these are professionals, and it’s highly advised that you don’t try this at home.

Now, we’re off to work on our ‘Gram game…


Why Do Kids Love Dinosaurs? Their Obsession Isn't Going Extinct Any Time Soon

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There was a period of time when my son was little that I had so many predators in the house, I should have feared for my life if they weren't all plastic. Hours of Dinosaur Train and Dino Dan were the norm of my life. Every time my son got in the car, he'd announce "Next stop! The Cretaceous time period," and make the noises of a passenger train. At preschool, it was essentially all dinos all the time. Every single child was obsessed with the giant reptiles of old. But why do kids love dinosaurs to a point well beyond fascination?

It turns out that there is a real, psychological reason why children are so fanatical in their love of dinosaurs. Kelli Chen, a pediatric psychiatric occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins, told The Cut that the confidence boosting skills acquired by knowing so much about one thing is a big deal for kids. Dinosaurs aren't just fascinating — the information about their lives and histories is accessible to young children in various formats. You can read books, listen to podcasts, watch myriad children's programming, and go see their bones at the museum. Not to mention that the merchandise in the children's dinosaur industry is so detailed and wonderful.

This is nowhere near a new phenomenon, it's only that the programming has become so much more sophisticated. Millennials were raised with the cute dinosaurs of The Land Before Time and Ice Age, not to mention the weird, but wildly addictive television show Dinosaurs. (Which we can all still quote — "Not the mama!") But current kids' shows have actual facts and an educational aspect that our films and television shows did not. They're also decidedly less depressing than The Land Before Timeso ostensibly there's also less emotional damage inflicted in their viewing.

Chen told The Cut that “asking questions, finding answers, and gaining expertise is the learning process in general,” and that is a big factor in why it's all just so fascinating, and why children develop what's known as an "intense interest" in dinosaurs. We are creating the optimal environment for this interest to grow by encouraging this level of self-directed learning by teaching our children how to find more information, and how to learn more. Chen said it should be encouraged.

I contacted an expert in children's learning, children's librarian (and blogger) Nancy Schimmel, and she tells Romper that children are also drawn to the logic of dinosaurs. Yes they're huge and terrifying, but there's nothing otherworldly about them, so they're more easily understood. Plus, the fact that they're extinct makes them a more abstract idea that can titillate their imaginations without scaring them.

For a long time, I thought that my child's absolute obsession over dinosaurs had to do with my son being autistic. It was just one more thing to add to his list of obsessions, right up there with car wheels and watching the weather. Until I had my daughter. She was also obsessed with all things extinct, and could tell me all about how alligators and birds are really just dinosaurs and how the tardigrade is "basically a dinosaur water panda."

Brian Switek has a much simpler response for the question of kids loving dinosaurs. He wrote in The Guardian that dinosaurs are impressive and scary, and they've been dead for so long, they no longer pose any threat. "We first meet Tyrannosaurus and Diplodocus as children, their bones inspiring dreams, nightmares, and some of our earliest connections to science," he wrote. Those dreams grow and become curiosities in tiny minds that explode when given more information. It's the enrapturing connections that children make in their minds between what was, what is, and what could be, and to me, that's the biggest joy of being a parent — watching my children become enriched and excited. Even if you have the Dinosaur Train theme song stuck in your head for three years straight.


Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia: Long-Necked Dinosaur With a Heart-Shaped Tail Discovered in Tanzania

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia. Image credit: Mark Witton / E. Gorscak & P.M. O’Connor, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211412.

Paleontologists in Tanzania have found fossil fragments from a new species of giant dinosaur that walked the Earth approximately 100 million years ago (Cretaceous period).

The new dinosaur, named Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, is a member of Titanosauria, a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs that includes species ranging from the largest known terrestrial vertebrates to ‘dwarfs’ no bigger than elephants.

“Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the infamous mass extinction capping the Age of Dinosaurs, their early evolutionary history remains obscure, and Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia helps tell those beginnings, especially for their African-side of the story,” said team leader Dr. Eric Gorscak, a researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History and the Midwestern University.

The partial skeleton of Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia — including teeth, elements from all regions of the postcranial skeleton, portions of both limbs — was recovered from Cretaceous-age rocks of the Galula Formation in southwest Tanzania.

“The wealth of information from the skeleton indicates it was distantly related to other known African titanosaurs, except for some interesting similarities with another dinosaur, Malawisaurus, from just across the Tanzania-Malawi border,” Dr. Gorscak said.

Titanosaurs are best known from Cretaceous-age rocks in South America, but other efforts by Dr. Gorscak and colleagues include new species discovered in Tanzania, Egypt, and other parts of the African continent that reveal a more complex picture of dinosaurian evolution on the planet.

“The discovery of dinosaurs like Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia and others we have recently discovered is like doing a four-dimensional connect the dots,” said Ohio University’s Professor Patrick O’Connor.

“Each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous, allowing us to assemble a more holistic view of biotic change in the past.”

“This new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change,” said Dr. Judy Skog, a program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

“The discovery offers insights into paleogeography during the Cretaceous. It’s also timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine’s Day.”

The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal PLoS ONE.


E. Gorscak & P.M. O’Connor. 2019. A new African Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from the middle Cretaceous Galula Formation (Mtuka Member), Rukwa Rift Basin, Southwestern Tanzania. PLoS ONE 14 (2): e0211412; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211412


New Dinosaur-Dedicated Water Theme Park Opening in Istria

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)

A new dinosaur-focused water theme park is set to open in Istria, halfway between Pula and Rovinj near Bale.

The new Paleo Park, located near the famous paleontological sites in the Mon Perin campsite in Bale, is a combination of a theme water amusement park and an educational facility which will promote this archaeological site on the coastline of Bale. 

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)

The 16,200m2 water park features a dinosaur-shaped pool, relax pool, children’s pool, family pool, hydromassage pool, hot baths, jacuzzi, indoor restaurant, covered outdoor bar area, sunbathing area and a souvenir shop. There will also be various-sized replica dinosaur models around the park showcasing the fascinating history of dinosaurs. 

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)

“Dinosaur bones, including a back vertebra of Histriasaurus, the world’s oldest known member of the strange sauropod (long-necked plant-eating dinosaur) group Rebbachisauridae, were found in the Bay of Colona in Bale in 1992. Remains of meat-eating dinosaurs and a large sauropod related to the giant Brachiosaurus have been discovered as well,” the park states. 

This amazing discovery put Bale on the World List of Paleontological Sites at the World Congress of Paleontologists in Beijing in 1995.

As far as is known, Bale is the only site in the world to preserve the fossils of these extinct reptiles under the sea. Dinosaur fossils at Bale are about 130 million years old.

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)

Including species known from footprints found elsewhere in Istria, at least ten dinosaur species are believed to have lived in the area.  

The park will focus on educating the youngsters by establishing co-operation with kindergartens and primary and secondary schools, thus enabling them to find out more about this unique site by taking a walk though the theme park. 

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)

The will be able to accommodate around 4,000 people when it opens in this summer with over 20 people employed at the park. 

More details on the website here.

Paleo Park (Photo: Mon Perin)


Paleontologists Have Found Traces of Multicellular Organisms Age 2.1 Billion Years

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Until now, the oldest traces of motility (an organism's ability to move independently using metabolic energy) dated to about 600 million years ago. But now, newly analyzed fossils suggest that motility dates back to 2.1 billion years ago. (Scale bar: 1 centimeter, or 0.4 inches.) Credit: A. El Albani/IC2MP/CNRS - Université de Poitiers

Organisms lived on the bottom of the sea 2.1 billion years ago.

Paleontologists from France and Canada discovered in Gabon traces of macroscopic organisms that lived at the bottom of shallow seas approximately 2.1 billion years ago. It is 600 million years before the time of life previous record.

It should be noted that skeptics argue that found by researchers of the samples were traces of colonies of bacteria or inorganic entities, for example, the nodules of sulphur.

The researchers conducted a series of analyses of the chemical composition of fossils, which confirmed that the organic traces of them still there, and traces of sulfur no. Moreover, scientists have discovered a series of fossils that can be interpreted as traces of crawling.

The discovery by researchers means that multicellular organisms appeared on Earth almost at the moment when its atmosphere began to contain appreciable amount of oxygen biogenic origin. However, it is likely that the detected multicellular soon became extinct and left no descendants.