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15 Gifts For The Dino-Obsessed Kid

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Today’s tech-savvy children live in a world that would be unrecognizable to the ’80s kid. But despite having their nose in an iPad versus a book and watching Ryan’s Toy Review on continuous loop, there are still a few timeless toys and interests that 21st century kids love, just as their parents and grandparents did. And one such obsession is dinosaurs (thanks, in part, to regular Jurassic Park re-boots).

If you’ve got a dino-loving kid in your life, here are a few sure-fire hits to make happy your kids this year.

No surprise here! There’s bound to be a Ryan’s World item on pretty much any “hot toy” list, even one about dinosaurs. Your kid probably knows and loves Ryan’s Toy Review. So if they love dinosaurs too, this toy that lets them mold a dinosaur out of reusable molecule spheres is a win-win.

Just as timeless as dinosaurs is the old classic play-doh. So why not combine the two with this T-Rex Play-Doh kit that includes a jaw-chomping dinosaur?

You can never go wrong with LEGOs. This Mighty Dinosaur set is a 3-in-1, which means kids can make three different creatures from the pieces in one box. Any dino-lover would be thrilled to put these green guys together on Christmas morning.

Some gifts like this Dinosaur Stuffums bean bag chair and animal storage bag are a gift for the child and parents—because they encourage kids to pick up their shit. This would be an adorable addition to any dinosaur-obsessed kid’s bedroom, and also a place to keep their 831 stuffed T-Rexes and Velociraptors. #winning.

Kids who love dinosaurs like to roar and pretend to be dinosaurs. This costume would be a hit—not just for Halloween, but any day of the year—because dressing up and pretend play is always fun.

These rubber rain boots would make splashing in puddles 100x better. And, for warming up cold feet once they come inside, how about some adorable dinosaur slippers?

Fingerlings are one of this year’s hottest toys. And kids who love dinosaurs don’t want to miss out! Well now they won’t have to, with this tiny T-Rex who can perch atop their finger all day long.

No 2018 gift list for kids is complete without at least one “unboxing” toy. Blind packs are on that trend, and this one will reveal an unknown mini-action dinosaur for your kid on Christmas morning.

Kids love new pjs, especially soft, warm fleece ones like this. So for a dinosaur-obsessed kid, you can’t go wrong with a gift like this one. Maybe they’ll even cooperate more at bedtime!

Another popular item on Santa lists this year is a FurReal friend. So how about a FurReal dinosaur like this Munchkin Rex baby that makes over 35 sounds and motions?

Books make great Christmas gifts, and this National Geographic Big Book of Dinosaurs is chock-full of fun dino facts. And, for a silly fictional choice, check out the best seller How Do Dinosaurs Count to 10?

This remote-control walking T-Rex whose head shakes and eyes light up is a must-have. It also roars and makes stomping sounds. Need we say more?

Floor puzzles make the best puzzles, and Melissa & Doug puzzles are top dog. This vibrant 24-piece dinosaur puzzle measures 2 x 3 feet and is made with solid pieces that little kids can play with over and over.

Being an archaeologist and uncovering their very own fossil finds is something most dino-loving kids dream about. So let them do just that with this awesome science kit from Wonderology.

Have a kid who loves dinosaurs AND robots? This programmable roboraptor can be controlled with a handheld controller or Android / iOS device, has infrared vision, and three distinct “moods”: hunter, cautious, and playful. This is the big one, parents! A good gift to save for the very end.

Dinosaur-loving kids are fun to shop for because you can still find T-Rexes and velociraptors everywhere—from pajamas to puzzles to LEGOs. Hopefully this list helps you choose the perfect gift for the child who may love dinosaurs more than they love you.


T. Rex Bite is No Match for Finch Bird, Study Says

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Geospiza fortis

Research have found that the bite force of finch is about 320 times more powerful than T. rex.

Tyrannosaurus rex may have been known as a ferocious predator with extremely powerful bite but its biting ability becomes much less impressive when viewed in relation to its overall weight and size.

Researchers from University of Reading and University of Lincoln have showen that T. rex did not evolve any extraordinary bite to kill its prey. The prehistoric creature’s bite had a force of 57,000 Newtons that was completely average for its around 8-ton weight and the bone-crushing bite evolved gradually over tens of millions of years.

In fact, relative to their body size, a Galapagos ground finch outperforms T. rex. The tiny bird exerts 70N of force, despite weighing just 33 grams. It is about 320 times more powerful than the bite force of the T. rex.

Researchers say that Galapagos ground finch had, pound-for-pound, the most powerful bite force of of all the animals in the study and it evolved relatively quickly, in less than one million years.

"The image of T. rex with its fierce jaws has helped it become the most iconic of dinosaurs, but our research shows its bite was relatively unremarkable. Bite force was not what gave T. rex its evolutionary advantage, as was previously presumed,” said lead author Dr. Manabu Sakamoto, a biological scientist at the University of Reading.

"Large predators like T. rex could generate enough bite force to kill its prey and crush bone just by being large, not because they had a disproportionately powerful bite. This counters the idea that an exceptionally strong need for a powerful bite drove these ancient beasts to evolve bone-crushing bite forces."

Using their supercomputers, researchers analyzed the largest ever collection of bite force data from 434 species both extinct and surviving, including reptiles, birds and mammals. They have long suspected that animals with more powerful bites were forced to evolve rapidly. But analysis revealed that most of these animals developed proportionally to evolutionary changes to their body size over time. Accelerated evolution of bite force was observed in some animals, especially finches. In some cases, researchers even saw dramatic reductions in bite forces during evolution. For instance, the bite force of early humans decreased rapidly despite their body size increased over time.

“Our research provides new insight into the latest theories about the speed and drivers of evolution. It also allows us to create some fascinating hypothetical match-ups,” said co-author of the study Dr. Chris Venditti. “The proclaimed ‘King of the Dinosaurs’ would be no match for a finch in a fight, if they were the same size.”


Huge Archaic Whale Was Top Predator in Eocene Oceans

Friday, January 11, 2019

An artist’s impression of Basilosaurus isis. Image credit: Pavel Riha / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The stomach contents preserved in an adult specimen of the archaic whaleBasilosaurus isis from the site of the Wadi Al Hitan in Egypt suggest it was an apex (top) predator that fed on smaller whales (juvenile Dorudon atrox) and large fishes (Pycnodus mokattamensis), according to new research, published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Apex predators live at the top of an ecological pyramid, preying on animals in the pyramid below and normally immune from predation themselves.

They are often, but not always, the largest animals of their kind.

The living killer whale (Orcinus orca), about 20 to 26 feet (6-8 m) in length, is an apex predator in modern world oceans.

They feed on a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate animals including squids, sharks, bony fishes, turtles, seabirds, and other marine mammals.

Basilosaurus isis, an archaic whale that lived about 38-34 million years ago (late Eocene Epoch), had a broad marine distribution at a time when few modern whales existed.

Skeletons of Basilosaurus isis and Dorudon atrox from Wadi Al Hitan, Egypt; both are adult, fully grown, and illustrated at the same scale. Scale bar – 1 m. Image credit: Voss et al, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209021.

In a new study, Dr. Manja Voss of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin in Germany and co-authors examined the 50-foot (15 m) long specimen of Basilosaurus isis from the Wadi Al Hitan (‘Valley of Whales’) site in Cairo, Egypt.

This site was once a shallow sea during the Eocene and is remarkable for its wealth of marine fossils.

While excavating the specimen, the paleontologists also found the remains of sharks, large bony fish, and, most numerously, bones from Dorudon atrox, a smaller species of ancient whale.

The skeleton of Basilosaurus isis was distinct from other skeletons in the cluster, containing pointed the specimen’s incisors and sharp cheek teeth as well as bones.

Most of the fish, and the remains of Dorudon atrox showed signs of breakage and bite marks, were fragmented, and tended to be clustered within the body cavity of the Basilosaurus isis specimen.

“One hypothesis to explain the clustering of these remains was that Dorudon atrox had scavenged the Basilosaurus isis carcass and fish,” the researchers said.

“However, the Dorudon atrox specimens were juveniles, capable only of drinking mother’s milk.”

Bite marks on prey skulls also indicated predation rather than scavenging, since predators commonly target the head.

Basilosaurus isis was a top predator which ate its prey live, rather than by scavenging,” they said.

“The remains of fish and juvenile Dorudon atrox in the cluster are remnants of previous Basilosaurus isis meals, while the teeth of sharks indicate postmortem scavenging.”

“The Wadi Al Hitan site was a whale calving site for prey whale Dorudon atrox, making it a hunting site for top predator Basilosaurus isis during the late Eocene.”


M. Voss et al. 2019. Stomach contents of the archaeocete Basilosaurus isis: Apex predator in oceans of the late Eocene. PLoS ONE 14 (1): e0209021; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209021


Indian Science Congress Speakers Say Newton Was Wrong, Ancient Demon-King Had Planes

Friday, January 11, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (center) attends the opening of the 106th Indian Science Congress at Lovely Professional University on last week in Jalandhar, India. Pardeep Pandit/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

At this year's annual meeting of the Indian Science Congress (from Jan. 3 to 7), senior research scientist Kannan Jegathala Krishnan dismissed Albert Einstein's theory of relativity as "a big blunder" and said Isaac Newton didn't really understand how gravity works.

Nageswara Rao, a vice chancellor at Andhra University in South India, said that Ravana, a demon god with 10 heads, had 24 kinds of aircraft of varying sizes and capacities — and that India was making test-tube babies thousands of years ago.

Dinosaurs were created by the Hindu god Brahma, said Ashu Khosla, a scientist with expertise in paleontology at Panjab University in the North Indian city of Chandigarh.

Not exactly the kind of remarks you would expect at an event whose mission is to advance and further the cause of science, to stimulate discussion on scientific theories and to create an awareness of science-related issues, especially among children — and that is funded by the Indian government's Ministry of Science and Technology.

Krishnan, Rao and Khosla were addressing a group of 5,000 children assembled from all over the country at the event's Children's Science Congress. Their lectures were posted on YouTube and reported widely by the press. The congress organizers were red-faced, and the scientific community in India was outraged.

The organizers of the conference were taken aback. "This is the 106th edition of the Science Congress," said the group's general secretary Premendu P. Mathur in an interview with NPR. "Since 1914, we've had so many meaningful conversations with children on science. We've hosted Nobel laureates from around the world, and yet the controversy overshadows the good when some people misuse our platform for personal and political gain."

About 15,000 scientists from India and around the world attend the conference every year, said Ashok Saxena, a zoologist and a former president of the congress, in an interview with NPR. They are a part of the 50,000-strong Indian Science Congress.

Invitations were sent to 250 scientists and researchers to speak at the various sessions of the annual event.

Among the famous attendees this year were three Nobel laureates: Hungarian-born Israeli biochemist Avram Hershko, who won the prize for chemistry in 2004; British-born physicist Duncan M. Haldane, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2016; and German-born American Nobel laureate for medicine in 2013, Thomas Christian Südhof,

Addressing the comments made during the children's event, Saxena said, "We never dreamed that some of them would spout such irrational ideas. They were invited to speak based on their science credentials."

But this isn't the first time the Indian Science Congress has been mired in controversy. In 2016, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan famously called the event "a circus" because of the way religious ideologies held sway over science and said he wouldn't attend another session.

Many scientists believe that politics is the problem.

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, in 2014 meant that the ideals of the organization that it is closely linked with — a right-wing group called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — are now mainstream. The RSS believes in propagating Hindutva as a nationalist movement. The term refers to the effort to establish a Hindu way of life and glorifying Hindu beliefs.

Indian scientists have expressed their displeasure over the controversial comments.

"It makes me uncomfortable when pseudoscience statements are made from a platform like the Indian Science Congress," said Kushagra Agrawal, a research scholar in the department of chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. The idea of such events is to show the world India's scientific prowess, he said, "but it makes me wonder what impression those Nobel laureates and other foreign scientist dignitaries will take from our country."

The principal scientific adviser to the prime minister, K. VijayRaghavan, wrote in a blog post that the "scientifically completely untenable" claims could cause harm if they were to find their way into public policy: "When lay people, including politicians, make random and untenable statements linking religion, culture, the past etc to science, the problem is to be addressed by collegial communication. When scientists make such links, they should be addressed more squarely."

He calls the pseudoscientists "gorillas" in the room and blames them for hijacking real scientific conversations.

But at this time, many scientists say, there is no evidence that this kind of pseudoscience has seeped into public policy just yet. Agrawal says he believes Indian bureaucracy has a staff of competent scientists who can advise and guide policymaking in the right direction.

And Modi's comments at the congress have been well-received by the scientific community. The prime minister, who has tweeted that 2018 was a "great year" for science in India, expanded on this theme in his speech on Jan 4. He cited Scopus, an international database of research papers, as indicating that the country was among the Top 5 in terms of publishing scientific research. He urged Indians to focus on innovations and startups, especially in finding ways to increase agriculture produce through technology.

The key achievements of Indian science this past year, he said, were expressed in such innovations as the production of aviation grade biofuel, a real-time landslide warning system that can help during flooding emergencies, a portable reading machine for the visually impaired and inexpensive devices for the quick diagnosis of cervical cancer, tuberculosis and dengue, diseases that affect millions in India.

But Modi has not addressed the growing controversy over the many comments at this year's congress linking science and religion.

For next year's event, organizers intend to vet speeches, especially those meant for children, said Mathur, the congress general secretary. "We've never censored scientists before. We expected them to motivate young minds and speak responsibly, but now, each session will have to be closely monitored. We won't allow others to use our platform for their selfish reasons anymore," he said.


Terrible Lizards: Dinosaur Statues of Questionable Accuracy

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Someone has painted the local dinosaur statue like Spiderman. ~2m tall.

The term dinosaur comes from the ancient Greek root words deinos, or “terrible,” and sauros, or “lizard.” As our understanding of these prehistoric creatures has become more refined over time, attempts to create life-size models of them have, more or less, increased in accuracy and lifelike quality. Of course, many of the thousands of dinosaur statues in the world have been made with an eye more toward entertainment than accuracy. For your viewing enjoyment, a collection of photographs from the past century of large-scale mock dinosaurs, constructed to varying degrees of accuracy and based on what was known at the time.

An aging version of a dinosaur at Dinosaur Land in White Post, Virginia #  Kathleen McGrath / Shutterstock


Harold's Auto Center, a Sinclair gas station on Route 19 in Spring Hill, Florida, photographed in 1979. The dinosaur species is indeterminate. #  John Margolies / Library of Congress


A large model inspired by a Tyrannosaurus rex bares its teeth at the Karpin Abentura park in the Karrantza valley, Spain, on July 26, 2014. #  Vincent West / Reuters


Original caption, March 17, 1922: "The Iguanadons which lived during the Wealden formation would, if living today, soon be extinct, for despite its dynamic size it could not hold its own against modern firearms. However its enormous size and strength would furnish ample sport for the modern huntsman." #  Bettmann / Getty


A concrete dinosaur statue stands next to a building destroyed by strong winds brought about at the height of Typhoon Bopha at a playground in New Bataan, southern Philippines, on December 9, 2012. #  Erik De Castro / Reuters


A man takes a photo of a friend beside dinosaur statues at Luneta Park in Manila on May 29, 2010. #  Noel Celis / AFP / Getty


A 60-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus appears behind a restaurant in Cabazon, California, on May 19, 2000. A. The dinosaur is one of two constructed by the late Claude K. Bell as roadside attractions west of Palm Springs. #  David McNew / Newsmakers / Getty


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II appears to be watched as she visits a dinosaur exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum in York, England, on July 27, 2000. #  John Giles / AP


Original caption, July 27, 1931: "Step right up ladies and gentlemen, and take a peak at Dolores, the monster of the prehistoric ages who seems to be making a delicious meal of Thelma Corey. This 47-foot animal is all but alive, and appears at the new stage show at the Roxy Theatre, '50 Million Years Ago.' The animal virtually lives, breathes and snorts fire and carries people on his back." #  Bettmann / Getty


Visitors enter the mouth of a dinosaur model at Evolution Park in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta on January 1, 2003. #  Reuters


A walk-in Brontosaurus at a prehistoric museum in Cabazon, California, photographed in 1978 #  John Margolies / Library of Congress


A scene at Prachinburi Dinosaur Park in Thailand, photographed on January 6, 2018 #  Sangpeht Surat / Shutterstock


Original caption, February 1927: "A model of a prehistoric Icthyosaurus is dragged from its pond in the grounds of Crystal Palace, London, for its annual clean. The 'keeper' is being helped by some of the local police force." #  Fox Photos / Getty


The Bayville dinosaur, outside of Kim Carpeting and Linoleum in Bayville, New Jersey, photographed in 1984 #  John Margolies / Library of Congress


The "world's largest dinosaur" stands in Drumheller, Alberta. #  CC BY-SA Milorad Dimić


A boy rides a mechanical dinosaur at a park during Spring Festival in Beijing on January 30, 2009. #  Christina Hu / Reuters


Concrete Sinclair Oil dinosaurs sit on a hill above Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1945. #  Hans Wild / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty


Workmen carry parts of dinosaur models designed by Louis Paul Jonas for the New York World's Fair in 1963. #  Arthur Schatz / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty


A red-eyed dinosaur towers over the desert near the San Andreas Fault on July 1, 2006, in Cabazon, California. #  David McNew / Getty


Dinosaurs make an appearance during the closing ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 24, 2002. #  Brian Bahr / Getty


A dinosaur stands along Highway 40 in Utah, photographed in 1974 #  Steve Fitch / Library of Congress


An abandoned building with a dinosaur statue at an old park outside Ksar Ouled Debbab, Tunisia #  Slimstyl / Shutterstock


Original caption: "A General Electric motor and fan are installed inside a 25-foot-long model. This dinosaur is part of an exhibit for the Sinclair Refining Company at the Century of Progress Exposition in 1933." #  Schenectady Museum Association / Getty


A man takes a photograph of a fiberglass model of a dinosaur at the abandoned Plänterwald amusement park in Berlin on January 5, 2013. #  Reuters


A Brontosaurus awaits visitors at Dinosaur Park on Route 23 in Ossineke, Michigan, in 1988. #  John Margolies / Library of Congress


Reconstruction of Trilobite Ancestral Range in the Southern Hemisphere

Friday, January 11, 2019

Brazilian researchers used biogeographic analysis to study trilobites, arthropods that became extinct over 252 million years ago. The study was published in Scientific Reports . Credit: complete specimen of Devonian trilobite Metacryphaeus caffer, fossilized/ Dlloyd, Wikipedia

Brazilian researchers used biogeographic analysis to study Trilobites, arthropods that became extinct over 252 million years ago.

The first appearance of trilobites in the fossil record dates to 521 million years ago in the oceans of the Cambrian Period, when the continents were still inhospitable to most life forms. Few groups of animals adapted as successfully as trilobites, which were arthropods that lived on the seabed for 270 million years until the mass extinction at the end of the Permian approximately 252 million years ago.

The longer ago organisms lived, the more rare are their fossils and the harder it is to understand their way of life; paleontologists face a daunting task in endeavoring to establish evolutionary relationships in time and space.

Surmounting the difficulties inherent in the investigation of a group of animals that lived such a long time ago, Brazilian scientists affiliated with the Biology Department of São Paulo State University's Bauru School of Sciences (FC-UNESP) and the Paleontology Laboratory of the University of São Paulo's Ribeirão Preto School of Philosophy, Science and Letters (FFCLRP-USP) have succeeded for the first time in inferring paleobiogeographic patterns among trilobites.

Paleobiogeography is a branch of paleontology that focuses on the distribution of extinct plants and animals and their relations with ancient geographic features. The study was conducted by Fábio Augusto Carbonaro, a postdoctoral researcher at UNESP's Bauru Macroinvertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (LAPALMA) headed by Professor Renato Pirani Ghilardi. Other participants included Max Cardoso Langer, a professor at FFCLRP-USP, and Silvio Shigueo Nihei, a professor at the same university's Bioscience Institute (IB-USP).

The researchers analyzed the morphological differences and similarities of the 11 species of trilobites described so far in the genus Metacryphaeus; these trilobites lived during the Devonian between 416 million and 359 million years ago (mya) in the cold waters of the sea that covered what is now Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, the Malvinas (Falklands) and South Africa.

The Devonian Period is subdivided into seven stages. Metacryphaeus lived during the Lochkovian (419.2-410.8 mya) and Pragian (410.8- 407.6 mya) stages, which are the earliest Devonian stages.

The results of the research were published in Scientific Reports and are part of the project "Paleobiogeography and migratory routes of paleoinvertebrates of the Devonian in Brazil", which is supported by São Paulo Research Foundation -FAPESP and Brazil's National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). Ghilardi is the project's principal investigator.

"When they became extinct in the Permian, 252 million years ago, the trilobites left no descendants. Their closest living relatives are shrimps, and, more remotely, spiders, scorpions, sea spiders and mites," Ghilardi said.

Trilobite fossils are found abundantly all over the world, he explained - so abundantly that they are sometimes referred to as the cockroaches of the sea. The comparison is not unwarranted because anatomically, the trilobites resemble cockroaches. The difference is that they were not insects and had three longitudinal body segments or lobes (hence the name).

In the northern hemisphere, the trilobite fossil record is very rich. Paleontologists have so far described ten orders comprising over 17,000 species. The smallest were 1.5 millimeters long, while the largest were approximately 70 cm long and 40 cm wide. Perfectly preserved trilobites can be found in some regions, such as Morocco. These can be beautiful when used to create cameos or intaglio jewelry. Trilobite fossils from Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, in contrast, are often poorly preserved, consisting merely of the impressions left in benthic mud by their exoskeletons.

"Although their state of preservation is far from ideal, there are thousands of trilobite fossils in the sediments that form the Paraná basin in the South region of Brazil, and the Parnaíba basin along the North-Northeast divide," said Ghilardi, who also chairs the Brazilian Paleontology Society.

According to Ghilardi, their poor state of preservation could be due to the geological conditions and climate prevailing in these regions during the Paleozoic Era, when the portions of dry land that would one day form South America were at the South Pole and entirely covered by ice for prolonged periods.

During the Devonian, South America and Africa were connected as part of the supercontinent Gondwana. South Africa was joined with Uruguay and Argentina in the River Plate region, and Brazil's southern states were continuous with Namibia and Angola.

Parsimonious analysis

The research began with an analysis of 48 characteristics (size, shape and structure of organs and anatomical parts) found in some 50 fossil specimens of the 11 species of Metacryphaeus.

"In principle, these characteristics serve to establish their phylogeny - the evolutionary history of all species in the universe, analyzed in terms of lines of descent and relationships among broader groups," Ghilardi said.

Known as a parsimonious analysis, this method is widely used to establish relationships among organisms in a given ecosystem, and in recent years, it has also begun to be used in the study of fossils.

According to Ghilardi, parsimony, in general, is the principle that the simplest explanation of the data is the preferred explanation. In the analysis of phylogeny, it means that the hypothesis regarding relationships that requires the smallest number of characteristic changes between the species analyzed (in this case, trilobites of the genus Metacryphaeus) is the one that is most likely to be correct.

The biogeographic contribution to the study was made by Professor Nihei, who works at IB-USP as a taxonomist and insect systematist. The field of systematics is concerned with evolutionary changes between ancestries, while taxonomy focuses on classifying and naming organisms.

"Biogeographic analysis typically involves living groups the ages of which are estimated by molecular phylogeny, or the so-called molecular clock, which estimates when two species probably diverged on the basis of the number of molecular differences in their DNA. In this study of trilobites, we used age in a similar manner, but it was obtained from the fossil record," Nihei said.

"The main point of the study was to use fossils in a method that normally involves molecular biogeography. Very few studies of this type have previously involved fossils. I believe our study paves the way for a new approach based on biogeographic methods requiring a chronogram [a molecularly dated cladogram] because this chronogram can also be obtained from fossil taxa such as those studied by paleontologists, rather than molecular cladograms for living animals."

As a vertebrate paleontologist who specializes in dinosaurs, Langer acknowledged that he knows little about trilobites but a great deal about the modern computational techniques used in parsimonious analysis, on which his participation in the study was based. "I believe the key aspect of this study, and the reason it was accepted for publication in as important a journal as Scientific Reports, is that it's the first ever use of parsimony to understand the phylogeny of a trilobite genus in the southern hemisphere," he said.

Gondwanan dispersal

The results of the paleobiogeographical analyses reinforce the pre-existing theory that Bolivia and Peru formed the ancestral home of Metacryphaeus.

"The models estimate a 100% probability that Bolivia and Peru formed the ancestral area of the Metacryphaeus clade and most of its internal clades," Ghilardi said. Confirmation of the theory shows that parsimonious models have the power to suggest the presence of clades at a specific moment in the past even when there are no known physical records of that presence.

In the case of Metacryphaeus, the oldest records in Bolivia and Peru date from the early Pragian stage (410.8-407.6 mya), but the genus is believed to have evolved in the region during the Lochkovian stage (419.2-410.8 mya).

Parsimony, therefore, suggests Metacryphaeus originated in Bolivia and Peru some time before 410.8 mya but not earlier than 419.2 mya. In any event, it is believed to be far older than any known fossils.

According to Ghilardi, the results can be interpreted as showing that the adaptive radiation of Metacryphaeus to other areas of western Gondwana occurred during episodes of marine transgression in the Lochkovian-Pragian, when the sea flooded parts of Gondwana.

"The dispersal of Metacryphaeus trilobites during the Lochkovian occurred from Bolivia and Peru to Brazil - to the Paraná basin, now in the South region, and the Parnaíba basin, on the North-Northeast divide - and on toward the Malvinas/Falklands, while the Pragian dispersal occurred toward South Africa," he said.

Fossil trilobites have been found continuously in the Paraná basin in recent decades. Trilobites collected in the late nineteenth century in the Parnaíba basin were held by Brazil's National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, which was destroyed by fire in September 2018.

"These fossils haven't yet been found under the rubble and it's likely that nothing is left of them. They were mere shell impressions left in the ancient seabed. Even in petrified form, they must have dissolved in the blaze," Ghilardi said.


About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. For more information:


Paleontologist Encourages Critical Thinking on Dinosaurs to Make Better Citizens

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Darrin Pagnac, Ph.D., holds a model of a Triceratops skull.

The latest work, of Darrin Pagnac, Ph.D., “Dinosaurs: A Catalyst for Critical Thought,” shows that passion for dinosaurs, when properly directed, can trigger interest in science and be used to develop critical thinking skills.

Since the mid-1800s dinosaurs have been a source of fascination and inspiration — from children’s coloring books to Hollywood blockbusters, these extinct animals hold a unique place in the American psyche. The immense popularity of dinosaurs also makes them an excellent conduit for teaching the critical thinking skills needed in basic science and engineering literacy.

Darrin Pagnac, Ph.D., is a South Dakota School of Mines & Technology associate professor of geology specializing in paleontology. His latest work, “Dinosaurs: A Catalyst for Critical Thought,” published by Cambridge University Press, shows that passion for dinosaurs, when properly directed, can trigger interest in science and be used to develop critical thinking skills.

Each spring Pagnac teaches a course called “Dinosaurs,” which attracts a wide range of students from various fields of study. “We have a number of students who get fired up emotionally about dinosaurs,” he says. In this class, Pagnac helps students confront preconceived notions that he calls “Jurassic Park Syndrome.” This is where student’s views of paleontology and sciences are shaped by misconceptions and inaccuracies in pop-culture. Pagnac helps students challenge their own beliefs about dinosaurs and in the process he helps them build critical thinking skills useful in consumption of media across the board.

Pagnac points out that the actual stories behind scientific discovery are often every bit as inspiring as the misconceptions reinforced by pop-culture and science-fiction. “We now know what color some dinosaurs were,” he says. “I never in my lifetime thought we could have discovered this,” says Pagnac. “The way we came about this knowledge, through the rigorous science of exploring and identifying microstructures in dinosaur feathers to discern color, is amazing. It’s better than anything Jurassic Park could present.”

Pagnac encourages other science and engineering teachers to employ critical thinking skills to deconstruct preconceived notions that are reinforced by pop-culture in their own fields.

He says critical thinking skills make students better citizens, writing, “A citizen possessing acute critical thinking skills is best equipped to appreciate the value of science to society, can recognize false or manipulative claims, and will attune their information assessment ability not just to an interest in dinosaurs but also to the important societal issues we all face.”


Google's Latest Doodle Featuring Dinosaurs Created by a Second Grader

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Google Doodle featuring dinosaurs was created by second grader Sarah Gomez-Lane, as part of a contest to create the company's logo. (Photo: Google)

A second grader dreamt up Google's latest playful take on its logo.

The design published Tuesday featuring a variety of dinosaurs forming the Google logo was part of the company's annual Doodle 4 Google contest, where students enter their own creations.

The winning logo for 2018 is by Sarah Gomez-Lane, a second-grade student from Falls Church, Va. She responded to this year's theme, "what inspires me," by creating the dino-friendly logo to share her hopes of becoming a paleontologist.

For the first time, the winner of the contest collaborated with Google designers to create an animated version of the logo. For example, the T-rex at the beginning will play a trumpet, while another dinosaur gobbles up an ice cream cone in one bite.

Gomez-Lane will receive $30,000 toward a college scholarship, Google said, and her school will get $50,000 to spend on technology.

Any student from kindergarten through 12th grade can enter the contest. Google is accepting submissions for the 2019 contest through March 18.


How Did Baryonyx Change What We Knew About Spinosaurs?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom Baryonyx by NikoRex

In 1983, fossil hunter William Walker uncovered a giant claw in a brick pit in Surrey. A team of palaeontologists from the Museum began to investigate the site and had soon dug up one of the most complete meat-eating dinosaurs ever found in the UK.

But the creature they had found was in many ways very different to previously known theropods.

Spinosaurus was named by the palaeontologist Ernst Stromer in 1915 and was the world's first-named spinosaur, a dinosaur in the family Spinosauridae. Today it is widely known thanks in part to a starring role in Jurassic Park III.

For a long time, relatively little was known about the ancient creature. The initial Spinosaurus fossils were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, leaving palaeontologists with few fossil fragments to study.

But with the discovery of Baryonyx in 1983, palaeontologists were suddenly in possession of vital clues to how this family of giant reptiles might have lived.

How was Baryonyx discovered?

Baryonyx was first discovered by fossil collector William J Walker in January 1983 as he explored a clay pit near Ockley, Surrey.

Dr Susie Maidment, a dinosaur researcher at the Museum, says, 'He found a little bit of the claw sticking out of the rock. So he dug it out and brought it to the Museum.'

William J Walker was the first to find evidence of the spinosaur Baryonyx. He discovered a giant fossilised claw in a brick pit in Surrey.

The fossilised claw was enormous, its outer curved side measuring 31 centimetres. A team from the Museum travelled to Surrey to investigate further. Between May and June 1983, palaeontologists excavated a reasonably complete animal that they determined to be a new species of dinosaur.

They named the new dinosaur Baryonyx walkeri'Baryonyx' meaning 'heavy claw' and 'walkeri' in tribute to its finder.

The fossilised claw bone discovered in Surrey was approximately 31 centimetres along its outer curved edge. In life, the claw would have been covered in a layer of keratin, making it even larger.

Reconstruction of the holotype skeleton, Natural History Museum, London

In what way was Baryonyx unique?

From the initial investigation of the skeleton it was determined that although Baryonyx was clearly a meat-eating theropod, in a number of ways it didn't resemble any that had been discovered before, such as Tyrannosaurus or Megalosaurus.

'When they started working on Baryonyx they noticed that the nostrils were set very far back. Also, if you turn the snout over and look inside the mouth, you can see that it's got a sort of rosette shape. That is really characteristic of animals that eat fish,' explains Susie.

'It also had teeth that were quite crocodilian. They are quite rounded in cross section rather than flat like we see in lots of other meat-eating dinosaurs.'

A rosette-shaped snout, seen here in the Baryonyx collected in 1983, is a feature seen in modern crocodiles and some ancient marine-dwelling reptiles. It suggests that Baryonyx and other spinosaurs may have had a fish-based diet.

Although controversial, some research has suggested that Spinosaurus, which was a relation of Baryonyx, may have been a predominantly aquatic dinosaur. But scientists currently think that Baryonyx spent most of its time on land.

'The interpretation of this enormous claw on the hand is that they used it a bit like a bear. They think Baryonyx might have stood on the banks of rivers and hooked fish out using it,' says Susie.

'Baryonyx may have swum about a bit, especially with those set back nostrils, but I don't think it lived its life in the water - it mostly would have splashed about on the banks.'

But although it was adapted to hunt fish, it appears that the Surrey Baryonyx had a more varied last meal.

Susie explains, 'They found what they thought could be its stomach contents in its abdominal region. There were fish scales and also Iguanodon bones, so these dinosaurs probably weren't only eating fish but would have eaten whatever was going.'

Reconstruction of the holotype skull, Museon, The Hague

What was the UK like when Baryonyx lived?

Baryonyx was found in the Wealden Group, in rocks which are around 125 million years old. This dinosaur's adaptations to life on the water's edge were likely well suited to its waterlogged habitat in southeast England.

Baryonyx's nostrils were set quite far back on its snout, compared to other meat-eating dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus. This was one of the first features palaeontologists noticed when they began working on the dinosaur.

When this dinosaur lived, the south of England down to the northern coast of France was mostly a large expanse of swampy lagoons and meandering rivers.

'There were other dinosaurs in the area at the time, like Iguanodon, Mantellisaurus and ankylosaurs like Polacanthus. There were also some big sauropods around and crocodiles,' explains Susie. 

'Grasses hadn't evolved yet, so plants would have been things like horsetails, club mosses and ferns. Baryonyx was living in an environment that would have been quite swampy.'

Mantellisaurus was one of the dinosaurs that lived in the same area as Baryonyx. You can see this skeleton of Mantellisaurus in Hintze Hall at the Museum.

What is related to Baryonyx?

The Baryonyx skeleton found in Surrey in 1983 is the most complete example of its species.

Susie says, 'It's known from pretty much a complete skull, including its snout and its brain case, and from lots of the postcrania as well. But when they found it they really didn't know much about these types of dinosaurs at all.'

Some of the fossils of the Baryonyx skeleton collected near Ockley in Surrey in 1983 from the Museum collection.

Baryonyx is a spinosaur. The first spinosaur to be found was Spinosaurus, which was discovered in Egypt in 1912 and named in 1915. Spinosaurus is believed to have been one of the largest meat-eaters ever to have lived. But this important type specimen was destroyed by bombing in Munich in 1944.

However, the discovery of Baryonyx almost 50 years later gave new insights into spinosaursToday, many reconstructions of Spinosaurus are partly based on what has been learnt from its cousin Baryonyx.

Scale chart of 4 different members of the Spinosauridae family: Spinosaurus, Suchomimus, Baryonyx, and Irritator.

So far, Baryonyx fossil discoveries have been made in the UK and Spain, although related spinosaurs have been found around the world. Spinosaurus specimens have been discovered in Morocco and Egypt, Suchomimus in Niger and Irritator in Brazil.

Spinosaurus is considered to be the world's first spinosaur, however spinosaurids had been found prior to this. Two teeth discovered in England in 1820 were originally thought to be crocodilian, but they were reassigned to the spinosaur Suchosaurus in 1998.

Susie says, 'We haven't really got any other dinosaurs that have a large amount of their diet made up of fish. We don't really see that similar long snout and set back nostrils in other theropods - that's just one of the things that makes dinosaurs like Bayronyx and Spinosaurus exciting and different.'


Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Triggered Mile-High Tsunami That Spread Through Earth's Oceans

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Credit: Shutterstock

When the dinosaur-killing asteroid collided with Earth more than 65 million years ago, it did not go gently into that good night. Rather, it blasted a nearly mile-high tsunami through the Gulf of Mexico that caused chaos throughout the world's oceans, new research finds.

The 9-mile-across (14 kilometers) space rock, known as the Chicxulub asteroid, caused so much destruction, it's no wonder the asteroid ended the dinosaur age, leading to the so-called Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction.

"The Chicxulub asteroid resulted in a huge global tsunami, the likes of which have not been seen in modern history," said lead researcher Molly Range, who did the research while getting her master's degree in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan.

Range and her colleagues presented the research, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting on Dec. 14 in Washington, D.C. And the research, first reported by EOS, is novel. "As far as we know, we are the first to globally model the tsunami from impact to the end of wave propagation," Range told Live Science.

The idea for the project got started when Range's two advisors — Ted Moore and Brian Arbic, both in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan — realized there was a glaring gap in the Chicxulub research field. Mainly, no one had published a global simulation of the tsunami the asteroid created.

"It wasn’t until starting this project that I realized the actual scale of this tsunami, and it’s been a fun research story to share," Range said.

Getting to work

The researchers knew that the asteroid hit shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico. But to correctly model its huge impact, they needed a model that could compute "the large scale deformation of the [Earth’s] crust that formed the crater, as well as the chaotic waves from the initial blast of water away from the impact site, and waves from ejecta falling back into the water," Range said. So, the group turned to Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor who studies impact cratering at Brown University in Rhode Island.

Johnson ran a model detailing what happened in the 10 minutes following the impact, when the crater was nearly a mile deep (1.5 kilometers) and the blast was so powerful, there wasn't any water in the crater yet. "At this point, some water was moving back toward the crater," Range said. According to the model, "this water will then rush into the crater and then back out, forming the 'collapse wave.'"

In a second model, the team studied how the tsunami propagated through oceans around the world. They did this by taking the results from the first model (particularly the crater shape) and the impact's waves with respect to resting sea level and water speeds, Range said. They then used data sets on the ancient terrain of the ocean, and used that to determine how the tsunami would have played out.

The results show the effects of the tsunami were felt all around the world.

"We found that this tsunami moved throughout the entire ocean, in every ocean basin," Range said. In the Gulf of Mexico, water moved as fast as 89 mph (143 km/h), she found. Within the first 24 hours, the effects of the tsunami's impact spread out of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic, as well as through the Central American seaway (which doesn't exist anymore, but used to connect the Gulf to the Pacific).

After the initial nearly mile-high (1.5 km) wave, other huge waves rocked the world's oceans. In the South Pacific and North Atlantic, waves reached a whopping maximum height of 46 feet (14 m). In the North Pacific, they reached 13 feet (4 m). Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico saw waves as high as 65 feet (20 meters) in some spots and 328 feet (100 m) in others.

To put that in perspective, the largest modern wave ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere was a "measly" 78 feet (23.8 m) tall, which struck near New Zealand in May 2018, Live Science previously reported.

Hard evidence

There's evidence that supports the models, Range said. According to the second model, fast-moving water from the impact likely caused erosion and sediment disruption in South Pacific, North Atlantic and Mediterranean ocean basins.

In a separate study (which also has yet to be published), Moore examined sediment records across the ocean. His findings agree with the tsunami model, Range said.

It can be hard to imagine such a cataclysmic tsunami, so the researchers compared it to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed at least 225,000 people. The two tsunamis were as different as night and day, they found. "Over the first 7 hours of both tsunamis, the [Chicxulub] impact tsunami was 2,500 to 29,000 times greater in energy than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami," Range said.

Of course, the giant tsunami wasn't the only event that did in the non-avian dinosaurs. The asteroid also triggered shock waves and sent a vast amount of hot rock and dust into the atmosphere, which rubbed together with so much friction that they started forest fires and cooked animals alive. These particles also hovered in the atmosphere and blocked the sun's rays for years, killing plants and the animals that ate them.