Blogs

Spicomellus afer: Fossil of Earliest Known Ankylosaur Unearthed in Morocco

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Life reconstruction of the armored dinosaur Borealopelta markmitchelli, which lived in what is now Alberta, Canada, some 110 million years ago, eating ferns. Image credit: Julius Csotonyi / Royal Tyrrell Museum.

The newly-discovered dinosaur species, Spicomellus afer, is the earliest-known ankylosaur and the first ankylosaur to be named from Africa.

Spicomellus afer lived in what is now Morocco during the Middle Jurassic period, some 168 million years ago.

The new species belongs to Ankylosauria, a diverse group of armored herbivorous dinosaurs.

Ankylosaurs diverged from their sister-taxon, Stegosauria, in the Early or Middle Jurassic, but their fossil record at this time is extremely sparse.

Spicomellus afer is not only the first found in Africa, but also the earliest example of the group ever discovered.

“Ankylosaurs had armored spikes that are usually embedded in their skin and not fused to bone,” said Dr. Susannah Maidment, a researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum and honorary senior lecturer in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

“In this specimen we see a series of spikes attached to the rib, which must have protruded above the skin covered by a layer of something like keratin.”

“It is completely unprecedented and unlike anything else in the animal kingdom.”

The specimen of Spicomellus afer consists of a rib with spiked dermal armor fused to its dorsal surface. Image credit: Maidment et al., doi: 10.1038/s41559-021-01553-6

The new specimen is a slightly curved dorsal rib fragment with four elongate, conical spines.

It was found at a site in the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco — the same site where paleontologists previously discovered Adratiklit boulahfa, the oldest stegosaur ever found.

“Morocco seems to hold some real gems in terms of dinosaur discoveries,” Dr. Maidment said.

“In just this one site we have described both the oldest stegosaur and the oldest ankylosaur ever found.”

The specimen fills a gap in the fossil record of Ankylosauria, suggesting that shortly after their evolution, ankylosaurs had attained a global distribution, and indicates an important but as yet undiscovered armored dinosaur fossil record in the Jurassic of the supercontinent Gondwana.

The discovery also calls into question a previous theory that ankylosaurs outcompeted stegosaurs and led to their extinction.

“Stegosaurs appear to have gone extinct in the Early Cretaceous, at the same time that ankylosaurs increased in diversity, leading to suggestions that ankylosaurs outcompeted stegosaurs,” the paleontologists said.

“However, both clades co-occurred in Jurassic ecosystems. This indicates long-term ecological overlap between stegosaurs and ankylosaurs for over 20 million years, suggesting that the decline of stegosaurs may have been for reasons other than competition with ankylosaurs.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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S.C.R. Maidment et al. Bizarre dermal armour suggests the first African ankylosaur. Nat Ecol Evol, published online September 23, 2021; doi: 10.1038/s41559-021-01553-6

Source: www.sci-news.com/

Dinosaurs Are Colossal Beings That Shaped Our Childhood.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

James Kirkland picked up his first dinosaur toy when he was 5 years old in 1959. He remembers it like it was yesterday.

Little did he know then that his love of dinosaurs would lead to a career as a paleontologist. Since the day his father brought home a special gift for him -- a toy dinosaur set -- after a business trip, Kirkland has spent nearly 50 years traveling the world unearthing fossils.

"Every time I find something new, it's just as exciting as the first time," said Kirkland, state paleontologist of Utah with the Utah Geological Survey.

Many children develop a love of dinosaurs at an early age, but most of the time, they don't become world-renowned paleontologists. Instead, it wanes, said Dr. Arthur Lavin, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on the Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health.

James Kirkland loved dinosaurs from an early age.

Creating the 'self' through dinosaurs

Kids ages 3 to 4 go through a period of hyperfixation, which Lavin called "imagination-based play," where they become deeply interested in subjects like fairies, monsters, or in some cases, dinosaurs.

When babies are born, they aren't aware they exist for the first three months, he said. For the first year, there's no clearly defined sense of "self," Lavin noted.

At around 18 months old to 3 years old, children begin developing their sense of self but are still confused about the world around them, he said.

"It's why we call them the terrible twos because they know things aren't the way they want them, but they're not sure how they want them," or how to get them the way they want, Lavin said.

At age 3, they begin to master this sense that they're in the world, and they want to try out ideas, he said.

Children then embark on this journey of creating this thing called "self," and one of the ways they do that is to make up stuff in the world they've created, Lavin explained.

Dinosaurs fit into an imaginary play

Dinosaurs fit into their make-believe world because there aren't any alive today, so they're sort of like unicorns and fairies, he said.

"If you're going to have a make-believe world, which fits into this very powerful sense of developing a sense of self, dinosaurs really fit the bill," Lavin said.

Some children with a keen interest in the extinct animals can recite complicated dinosaur names and facts from memory, which was a pastime for Kirkland.

BIGGEST DINOSAUR MYTHS AND MYSTERIES

We've found all dinosaur species? Wrong. Scientists have definitively identified around 900 dinosaur species -- although there are plenty more where paleontologists don't quite have enough bones or the fossils aren't preserved enough to truly call them a unique species. Many, many more species existed - one estimate suggests that there were between 50,000 and 500,000, but we might never find their fossil remains. So many species could exist because they were highly specialized, meaning different types of dinosaurs had different sources of food and could live in the same habitats without competing. For example, with unusually large eyes and hair-trigger hearing, Shuuvia deserti, a tiny desert-dwelling dinosaur evolved to hunt at night.

We can tell what sex a dinosaur is? Wrong. On display at the Field Museum in Chicago, SUE the Tyrannosaurus rex is the world's most complete T. rex fossil but we don't know if it's male or female. Despite many earlier claims, including that female T. rexes were bigger than males, such findings are now are thought inconclusive. SUE is named for Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990 during a commercial excavation trip north of Faith, South Dakota.

Dinosaurs were very different than humans? Yes and no. Dinosaurs suffered from some of the same diseases that afflict humans and animals today including cancer, gout and infections. T. rex was the ultimate dinosaur predator, but it fell victim to the tiniest of foes: parasites. The lower jaw of SUE the T. rex was pitted with smooth-edged holes -- a result of a parasitic infection called trichomonosis. It can also effect the lower jaw of modern birds like pigeons, doves and chickens.

Dinosaurs were all huge? Wrong. The first dinosaur discoveries, the earliest more than 150 years ago, focused on the sensational: The big bones and skulls we know from museum atriums. But dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes. In fact, some of the most exciting finds in recent years have been tiny. In 2016, a tail, belonging to a sparrow-sized creature could have danced in the palm of your hand was found preserved in a chunk of amber.

Dinosaurs were scaly and reptilian? Wrong. New evidence has dramatically shifted the way see and perceive dinosaurs. While some dinosaurs did have reptilian scaly skin, many did not and were a lot more bird-like. Fossils showing primitive feathers were first unearthed in China in the mid-1990s. Now, it's widely accepted that many dinosaurs had fur or feathers. Yutyrannus, pictured in this illustration, is the largest feathered dinosaur discovered to date.

Dinosaurs were all greyish green? Wrong. Fossilized dinosaur feathers can reveal intriguing details about dinosaur coloring -- something once thought impossible. In some fossils, tiny structures called melanosomes that once contained pigment are preserved. By comparing the melanosomes with those of living birds, scientists can tell the possible original colors of the feathers. In the case of Sinosauropteryx, pictured here dark areas of the fossil were a rusty brown or ginger color and the rest were thought to be white.

We've found all dinosaur species? Wrong. Scientists have definitively identified around 900 dinosaur species -- although there are plenty more where paleontologists don't quite have enough bones or the fossils aren't preserved enough to truly call them a unique species. Many, many more species existed - one estimate suggests that there were between 50,000 and 500,000, but we might never find their fossil remains. So many species could exist because they were highly specialized, meaning different types of dinosaurs had different sources of food and could live in the same habitats without competing. For example, with unusually large eyes and hair-trigger hearing, Shuuvia deserti, a tiny desert-dwelling dinosaur evolved to hunt at night.

We can tell what sex a dinosaur is? Wrong. On display at the Field Museum in Chicago, SUE the Tyrannosaurus rex is the world's most complete T. rex fossil but we don't know if it's male or female. Despite many earlier claims, including that female T. rexes were bigger than males, such findings are now are thought inconclusive. SUE is named for Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990 during a commercial excavation trip north of Faith, South Dakota.

Dinosaurs were very different than humans? Yes and no. Dinosaurs suffered from some of the same diseases that afflict humans and animals today including cancer, gout and infections. T. rex was the ultimate dinosaur predator, but it fell victim to the tiniest of foes: parasites. The lower jaw of SUE the T. rex was pitted with smooth-edged holes -- a result of a parasitic infection called trichomonosis. It can also effect the lower jaw of modern birds like pigeons, doves and chickens.

Dinosaurs were all huge? Wrong. The first dinosaur discoveries, the earliest more than 150 years ago, focused on the sensational: The big bones and skulls we know from museum atriums. But dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes. In fact, some of the most exciting finds in recent years have been tiny. In 2016, a tail, belonging to a sparrow-sized creature could have danced in the palm of your hand was found preserved in a chunk of amber.

Dinosaurs were scaly and reptilian? Wrong. New evidence has dramatically shifted the way see and perceive dinosaurs. While some dinosaurs did have reptilian scaly skin, many did not and were a lot more bird-like. Fossils showing primitive feathers were first unearthed in China in the mid-1990s. Now, it's widely accepted that many dinosaurs had fur or feathers. Yutyrannus, pictured in this illustration, is the largest feathered dinosaur discovered to date.

Dinosaurs were all greyish green? Wrong. Fossilized dinosaur feathers can reveal intriguing details about dinosaur coloring -- something once thought impossible. In some fossils, tiny structures called melanosomes that once contained pigment are preserved. By comparing the melanosomes with those of living birds, scientists can tell the possible original colors of the feathers. In the case of Sinosauropteryx, pictured here dark areas of the fossil were a rusty brown or ginger color and the rest were thought to be white.

"I'd be going down the street, and a neighbor who's having a barbeque would call me over and say, 'You got to ask Jamie about dinosaurs,'" he said.

Learning advanced words at 3 and 4 years old is part of the natural development process, said Eli Lebowitz, associate professor in the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.

While it might be a challenge for adults to remember the names of a dozen different dinosaur species, it's easier for young children because they're developing language skills and learning new words every day, he said.

The power of play

Playing as a young child is also extremely beneficial to a child's development and should be encouraged by adults in their life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children who participate in playing see improvements in a variety of areas, including language, social development and early math skills.

Adults also benefit when they play with their child, according to the AAP research.

When adults engage in activities with their children, they can see the world through the eyes of a child and therefore communicate with children more effectively. Parents may also feel less stress from their parent-child relationship, the research found.

If parents have a child who loves dinosaurs, Lebowitz recommended they embrace the interest. Visit a dinosaur museum, read books about dinosaurs or explore a nearby park for fossils.

"Harness the child's interest as a launchpad for a whole lot of different kinds of experiences and learning, even into additional topics," Lebowitz said.

When reality sets in

Most children lose interest in dinosaurs and their make-believe world around ages 5 or 6, Lavin said.

The fantasy attraction of dinosaurs fades away, and children turn their attention to design a reality they want using the skills they learned while creating a make-believe one, he said.

Expanding social circles can also contribute to a decline in interest, Lebowitz said.

At 3 and 4 years old, children care about themselves and their immediate family, but as they grow, they become interested in others and how to get along with them, he said.

"While their parent may be patiently willing to talk about dinosaurs ad nauseum, it's very likely that other people will be less so," Lebowitz said.

The magic of dinosaurs fades for many, but not all, Lavin said.

"Some kids like the taste of that make-believe world of dinosaurs, and they never give it up," he said.

That can lead to research on how dinosaurs get sick (just like us), reproduce (not quite like us) and fly (definitely not like us). As Kirkland became an adult, his love of dinosaurs only grew stronger.

He currently promotes dinosaur tourism in Utah, helps regulate fossil excavations and works with other countries on identifying dinosaur bones.

"Understanding the history of our planet is very worthwhile, but getting kids interested in science is priceless," Kirkland said.

If your children are excited about dinosaurs, here are some resources to support their interest.

Dinosaur resources:

American Museum of Natural History -- Dinosaurs

American Museum of Natural History -- Paleontology for Kids

American Museum of Natural History -- Educational activities

PBS Kids Dinosaur Train

Dinosaur arts and crafts

Natural History Museum -- Dinosaur activities for families

Paleontology Education Resources compiled by Ashley Hall, outreach program manager at Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

Where to see fossils:

Dinosaur Ridge in Colorado

Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah

Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Nebraska

Calvert Cliffs State Park in Maryland

Siebel Dinosaur Complex in Montana

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada

Ancient Odyssey -- join a paleontology dig at sites around the world

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/

The Best Dinosaur Toy For Toddlers

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

From craft projects to educational dinosaur egg kits, the options are endless when it comes to dinosaur toys for youngsters. (BestReviews)

What toddler doesn’t love pretending to be a dinosaur or hugging a giant plush Tyrannosaurus rex? Dinosaur toys are great immersive fun for toddlers and parents to enjoy together. Dinosaur toys come in a variety of styles, from figurines to robot dinosaurs to educational toys, each one allowing your child’s imagination to run wild.

If you're looking for a toy for a dino-obsessed toddler, the Discovery Kids' Remote Control RC T. Rex Dinosaur with its roaring sounds and mouth that opens and shuts might be ideal for you

What to know before you buy a dinosaur toy for toddlers

Educational vs. fun dinosaur toys

Some dinosaur toys are meant for learning, while others are designed purely for play. If you aren't sure which to go with, try something that is both educational and fun, like a dinosaur book that teaches facts but also plays noises, or a sorting and counting game where they learn basic math skills.

Keep batteries on hand if needed!

Make sure that the gift you choose comes with batteries if necessary, or purchase some on the side to ensure that they can play with the toy immediately. Being prepared with batteries will avoid potential meltdowns.

Dinosaur toy for toddlers features

Robotic dinosaur toys

Robot dinosaurs can move across the floor, roar on command and much more. Generally controlled via a remote or Bluetooth connection, these dinosaurs can be quite realistic, with emotions and color-changing LED eyes. Some can even snore, yawn, stomp around the floor or do full spins.

Stuffed dinosaur toys

Classic stuffed dinosaur plush toys are a great gift idea for toddlers. There are plenty of varied choices like cute cartoon-style dinosaurs all the way to more realistic-looking yet soft and plush dinosaurs. Spark your child's creative streak with a dinosaur plush that they can color and doodle on over and over.

Educational dinosaur toys

There are tons of books about dinosaurs, from stories to guides to interactive books with sound. Consider a coloring book where your child can color the different types of dinosaurs, or a chomping dinosaur that practices colors, foods, shapes and counting. A dinosaur egg kit where your child can excavate the dinosaurs will provide your little archeologist with their first discoveries.

Dinosaur-themed arts and crafts projects

Toddlers love crafts and getting messy, so a dinosaur painting kit with different types of dinosaurs and water-based paint would be a great gift. The water-based paint ensures that it'll wash out so that you and your toddler can paint and repaint the dinosaurs over and over again. Alternatively, try a STEM-focused toy like a take-apart dinosaur set where your child can build and rebuild three types of dinosaurs with a low-speed, battery-operated drill.

Dinosaur nightlights

projection night light that displays vividly-colored dinosaurs against a dark room will excite and amaze toddlers. Not only will it partially illuminate the room so they feel safe, but the gentle movement will lull them to sleep.

Big dinosaur toys

Big toys like a pop-up dinosaur tent will provide hours of fun in and outside the home.  Alternatively, a dinosaur rocking horse is a great toddler toy that will keep them entertained and involved physically. A dinosaur-themed tricycle that emits dinosaur sounds is another fantastic toy that encourages physical activity.

Dinosaur toy for toddlers cost 

You should be able to find a dinosaur toy like a plush toy, a nightlight, puzzle or craft kit for anywhere from $10-$25 dollars. Electronic dinosaurs and learning toys will typically start in the $30 range. The more technologically-advanced or feature-packed the toy is, the higher the price.

Dinosaur toy for toddlers FAQ

How do I explain dinosaurs to my kids?

A. Children are naturally curious, so they will likely be interested in knowing about the different kinds of dinosaurs, where they came from and why they no longer roam the planet. While it's a complex topic, you can give them a thorough overview with an educational book on dinosaurs. Share with them the names of the different species and the interesting differences between them. Roar and pretend to be a T. rex to surprise and delight them. There are plenty of facts that can be broken down into bite-sized, toddler-digestible pieces that you can share with them. You might even learn something new yourself!

Which dinosaur toys are best for the outdoors?

A. The best toys for the outdoors are generally sturdy plastic toys, not plush or fabric toys that could be easily soiled or torn. Generally, battery-operated toys do not mix with water, so you'll need to be sure if you play with the toys outside that you bring them inside before it rains or snows.

Which dinosaur toy for toddlers should I get?

Best of the best dinosaur toy for toddlers 

Discovery Kids Remote Control RC T. Rex Dinosaur: available at Amazon

Our take: The incredibly easy-to-use remote on this dino robot has two simple buttons for walking or roaring.

What we like: Use the remote to hear the T. rex roar or make it chase a hapless victim. Hidden wheels allow the dinosaur to lumber across the floor, creating a very life-like experience.

What we dislike: The tail piece is initially detached, so you have to snap it together before you can use it.

Best bang for your buck dinosaur toy for toddlers 

Melissa & Doug Dinosaurs Chunky Puzzle: available at Kohl's

Our take: A bright wooden puzzle that helps develop hand-eye coordination.

What we like: Measuring 12 inches by 11 inches by 1 inch, this interactive puzzle features wooden construction and vivid colors. Puzzles help foster early brain development, and this budget-friendly version comes with seven dinosaurs to learn and match.

What we dislike: Image is only on one side of the puzzle piece.

Honorable mention dinosaur toy for toddlers 

Prextex Realistic Looking Dinosaur with Interactive Dinosaur Sound Book: available at Amazon

Our take: This interactive book comes complete with a pack of 12 dinosaur figures.

What we like: This interactive and sturdy dinosaur-sound book comes with 12 different sounds that can be played while you learn facts and stories about dinosaurs. Set also includes 12 dinosaur figurines that measure 7 inches from head to tail.

What we dislike: Some reviewers experienced a chemical smell, so you may need to air out the dinosaurs before using.

Source: www.sun-sentinel.com/

New Jurassic Pterosaur Unearthed in Chile

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Life reconstruction of a rhamphorhynchine pterosaur from the Cerro Campamento Formation, Chile. Image credit: Universidad de Chile.

Paleontologists have unearthed and described the fragmentary fossilized remains of a non-pterodactyloid pterosaur in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

The newly-described pterosaur inhabited the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana some 160 million years ago (Oxfordian age of the Late Jurassic period).

It was a large-sized flying reptile with an elongated tail, pointed forward-facing teeth, and a long snout.

It belongs to a group of pterosaurs called Rhamphorhynchinae, which also includes Jurassic pterosaurs from Europe, Asia, and North America.

“These pterosaurs had wing spans, tip to tip, of up to 1.8-2 m (5.9-6.6 feet),” said first author Dr. Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz from the Universidad de Chile and colleagues.

“Our specimen is quite large, comparable to Rhamphorhynchus, which is the largest member of this family.”

The specimen was collected in 2009 from the fossil-bearing Cerro Campamento Formation near the locality of Cerritos Bayos in northern Chile.

“The specimen represents to date the oldest record of a pterosaur found in Chile, and the first confidently referrable to the Rhamphorhynchinae clade so far known in Gondwana,” the paleontologists said.

“It also represents the first pterosaur of the Oxfordian age known from this supercontinent.”

“However, the absence of more complete and diagnostic material precludes a generic and specific referral for the moment.”

The discovery is reported in a paper published online in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz et al. 2021. First record of a Late Jurassic rhamphorhynchine pterosaur from Gondwana. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 66; doi: 10.4202/app.00805.202

Source: www.sci-news.com/

The Mysterious Sex Lives of Dinosaurs

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs mating - like most dinosaur species, the creatures mated like dogs

Dinosaurs must have had sex to reproduce but how they did it -- with their neck frills, armored plates and tails tipped with spikes -- isn't exactly clear.

No fossil has revealed two dinosaurs caught in the act -- the only known vertebrates to be unequivocally preserved mating are a pair of 47 million-year-old turtles that were attached by their genitals as they got buried alive.

It's also not possible to easily determine whether a dinosaur is male or female from fossilized bones.

Fossils that preserve elements of dinosaur behavior are very rare. However, with close analysis and insights from what we know about living animals, particularly birds, paleontologists are beginning to piece together the sex lives of dinosaurs.

The oldest known vertebrates to be fossilized while mating are a pair of 47 million-year-old turtles, which were attached by their genitals as they got buried alive.

Sex differences

Many species of animals show a difference in appearance between the sexes -- what's called sexual dimorphism. Think of a lion's mane, a peacock's feathers or a stag's antlers. Such features are surprisingly difficult to determine in extinct species.

Despite many earlier claims, including that female T. rexes were bigger than males, such findings are now thought inconclusive. Differences in anatomy could point to a young and old individual or two separate species, or just variations that have nothing to do with sex.

"We really don't know, 100%. I could not confidently hold my hands up and say you know what, this T. rex is male, this T. rex is female. It's unfortunate because as a paleontologist it's a fascinating and fun area to explore," said paleontologist Dean Lomax, a visiting scientist at The University of Manchester's department of Earth and environmental sciences.

One exception to this is Confuciusornis, a 125 million-year-old dinosaur that has many features in common with modern bird species and shows a remarkable difference in plumage between male and female specimens.

Some fossils show body-length ribbonlike tail feathers -- a feature that had been interpreted as being used for sexual display. Scientists were able to find indisputable proof that females did not have this ornamental plumage.

Researchers identified evidence of the medullary bone -- calcium-rich tissue present during a short period of time in a reproductively active female bird used to make eggshells -- in the ancient birds that did not sport the long plumage.

Work in the past decade on the cells that contain color pigments in the exquisitely preserved fossils of feathered dinosaurs have revealed that some dinosaurs were brightly colored -- perhaps surprisingly so, given how popular culture historically portrayed them as grayish green. Lomax believes it's possible that in the future we'll find a fossil that shows clear evidence of sexual dimorphism.

"In the future, probably from China, I imagine you'll find two distinct dinosaurs found with color, their anatomies will match, but they'll be very different in their coloration," said Lomax, who is also the author of "Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Extraordinary Fossils."

'Prehistoric foreplay'

Thanks largely to the discovery of once-controversial feathered fossils from China in the 1990s, we now know that birds are the only living relative of dinosaurs -- specifically, therapods, part of the same family as T. rex and Velociraptor.

"You go back 20 or 30 years, and you still have scientists saying birds aren't dinosaurs, but now we have so much more evidence that they are. So you can look at the behavior of birds and work out how some of these dinosaurs behaved," Lomax said.

Case in point is a type of scratching that male ground-nesting birds do to signal they are strong and good nest builders. It's part of behavior called lekking, when males, typically in groups, competitively dance and perform other courtship rituals to attract the attention of females.

Dinosaurs engaged in similar mating behavior, according to fossilized "scrapes" left behind in 100 million-year-old rocks in the prehistoric Dakota Sandstone of western Colorado. One site revealed more than 60 distinct scrapes in a single area of up to 164 feet (50 meters) long and 49 feet (15 meters) wide.

"The scrape evidence has significant implications," Martin Lockley, professor emeritus of geology at the University of Colorado Denver, said when the study was released in 2016.

"This is physical evidence of prehistoric foreplay that is very similar to birds today. Modern birds using scrape ceremony courtship usually do so near their final nesting sites. So the fossil scrape evidence offers a tantalizing clue that dinosaurs in 'heat' may have gathered here millions of years ago to breed and then nest nearby."

Pelecanimimus dinosaurs mating - these bird-like creatures lived 120 million years ago during the Cretaceous period

Flirty frills

The large bony frill that skirts the skull of Protoceratops dinosaurs, part of the same family as Triceratops, is also thought to be used as a signal to prospective mates, a recent study of 30 complete skulls suggested.

It's not a feature found in living animals today, and paleontologists have long debated what the function was of the diverse array of frills and horns in ceratopsians. Perhaps, scientists thought, it was to regulate body heat or defense.

Three-dimensional analysis showed that the frill formed an independent region of the skull that grew much more rapidly than any other region of the head -- a pattern that is often seen with sexual selection -- the idea that certain traits are favored by the opposite sex and so over time become more elaborate.

In the case of Protoceratops, however, the researchers concluded that both males and females would have sported the distinctive frill and that it wouldn't have varied dramatically between the sexes.

On display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Sue the T. Rex is the world's most complete T. Rex fossil, but scientists don't know if it's male or female. Sue is named for Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dino in 1990 during a commercial excavation trip north of Faith, South Dakota.

Dino sex

So what would dinosaur mating have actually looked like?

While most mammals have separate holes for bodily functions, many other animals -- including birds and reptiles -- have just one and it's known as the cloaca.

A big clue to understanding dinosaur sex was revealed earlier this year when paleontologists at the University of Bristol and the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced in the journal Current Biology that they had found a dinosaur cloaca belonging to a Psittacosaurus, a Labrador-size dinosaur.

Most birds mate by "cloacal kissing" -- by pressing together their openings. Some paleontologists think dinosaurs may have mated like this.

Jakob Vinther, a paleontologist and senior lecturer at the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, however, believes that male Psittacosaurus would have had a penis -- the fossilized opening is more similar to a crocodile's, which do, and some birds, like ostriches and ducks, that also have penises.

"From what we can see, this cloaca would not have been suitable for cloacal kissing," Vinther said. "It looks like it would have been penetrative sex."

But this was the first time a dinosaur cloaca had been studied, and much of the mechanics of dinosaur sex defies the imagination, particularly for creatures like the Stegosaurus, with its armored plates and pointed tail.

"If the female doesn't like the male, and it's swinging its spiked tail around, that's a problem. You look at the potential angles. It could be that they moved together tail to tail for a cloacal kiss -- a quick bang and that's it," Lomax said.

"Potentially it could have mounted at the back but (I) think that's more unlikely because of the friction of the spikes. Another possibility is that the female Stegosaurus could have lied down and the male mounted from the side.

"But it's hard to know. We really don't know the sex lives of these animals."

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/

11-Million-Year-Old Fossil of Large-Sized Otter Found in Germany

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The dispersal of Vishnuonyx otters from the Indian subcontinent to Africa and Europe about 13 million years ago; HAM 4 is the position of the Hammerschmiede site. Image credit: Nikos Kargopoulos.

A new species of the extinct genus Vishnuonyx has been identified from the 11.4-million-year-old lower jaw found at the Upper Miocene site of Hammerschmiede in the Allgäu region of Germany.

Vishnuonyx is an extinct genus of mid-sized otters (10-15 kg) that lived between 14 and 12.5 million years ago in the major rivers of Southern Asia.

Commonly known as the Vishnu otters, they were first discovered in sediments in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The new species differs from the already known members of the genus in size — intermediate between the African Vishnuonyx angololensis and the Asiatic Vishnuonyx chinjiensis — and morphology.

Named the Neptune’s Vishnu otter (Vishnuonyx neptuni), it represents the first occurrence of the genus in Europe and its most northern and western record.

“Recent finds showed that Vishnu otters reached East Africa about 12 million years ago,” said Dr. Nikolaos Kargopoulos, a paleontologist in the Department of Geosciences at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, and his colleagues.

“The discovery is the first evidence that they also occurred in Europe — possibly spreading from India throughout the entire Old World.”

“Its enormous dispersal of more than 6,000 km across three continents was made possible by the geographic situation 12 million years ago.”

“The newly formed mountain ranges from the Alps in the west to the Iranian Elbrus Mountains in the east separated a large ocean basin from the Tethys Ocean, the forerunner of the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.”

“This created the Paratethys, a vast Eurasian body of water that extended from Germany to beyond today’s Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.”

“About 12 million years ago, it had only a narrow connection to the Indian Ocean, the so-called Araks Strait in the area of modern-day Armenia.”

“We assume that Vishnuonyx neptuni followed this connection to the west and reached southern Germany, the Ancient Guenz, and the Hammerschmiede via the emerging delta of the Ancient Danube to the west of what is now the city of Vienna.”

The researchers used computer-tomographic methods to visualize the finest details in Vishnuonyx neptuni’s teeth.

“We suggest that Vishnuonyx neptuni was feeding mainly on fish and less on bivalves or plant material, resembling the living giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis.”

The discovery of Vishnuonyx neptuni is reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

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Nikolaos Kargopoulos et al. New Early Late Miocene species of Vishnuonyx (Carnivora, Lutrinae) from the hominid locality of Hammerschmiede, Bavaria, Germany. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, published online September 16, 2021; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1948858

Source: www.sci-news.com/

Footprints of Newborn Straight-Tusked Elephants Found in Spain

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ichnological evidence and reconstruction of Palaeoloxodon antiquus social interactions deduced from the Matalascañas Trampled Surface, Spain: (a-c) two adult (presumably female) ‘A1 & A2’ and one juvenile trackway ‘c’ showing convergence (the toe impressions indicate opposite orientation of movement); note overstepping of pes over manus in the main adult trackways that is not seen in the smaller tracks, in this case because the small juvenile may have stopped just after the larger animal slowly passed by (interpretation in c); (d) example of a young mother-newborn Loxodonta africana interaction; (e) reconstitution of mother-newborn interaction in the Matalascañas Trampled Surface. Image credit: J. Galán / Neto de Carvalho et al., doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-96754-1.

Paleontologists have discovered tracks and trackways of newborns, calves and juveniles attributed to straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) at the Upper Pleistocene site in Huelva, Spain.

The straight-tusked elephant is a species of giant elephant that lived between 1.5 million and 100,000 years ago.

This animal with very wide heads and extremely long tusks is among the most powerful proboscideans (elephants and their extinct relatives) that has ever lived.

Based on well-preserved skeletons, estimates of maximum shoulder height vary from 3 to 4.2 m (10-14 feet) and body mass from 4.5-5.5 to 13 tons for females and males, respectively.

“In the Iberian Peninsula, straight-tusked elephants prevailed in Mediterranean evergreen woodland which was widespread during the interglacial periods,” said University of Lisbon’s Dr. Carlos Neto de Carvalho and colleageus.

“This is especially true in southern Spain, where they replaced steppe mammoths (Mammuthus trogontherii) during Middle Pleistocene.”

In the research, the paleontologists examined 34 sets of footprints at a site called the Matalascañas Trampled Surface in Huelva, Spain.

Based on the rounded-elliptical shape of the prints and other criteria, they attributed the tracks to straight-tusked elephants.

To determine the age of individual animals, the researchers calculated shoulder height and body mass based on footprint length.

They identified footprints of 14 calves, which they estimate as having been between newborns and two years of age. Their body mass was estimated to have been between 70 and 200 kg.

The scientists also categorized tracks from eight juveniles (two to seven years old) and six adolescents (eight to 15 years old).

Additionally, they identified adult tracks possibly made by three adult females (over 15 years) based on the tracks’ close proximity to those of young calf footprints.

Only two tracks were identified as having been made by males, with much larger footprints (over 50 cm, or 1.6 feet, in length) and estimated body masses of over 7 tons.

“The high frequency of young elephants may indicate that the area, which once had an interdune pond, was a reproductive site for elephant herds, with the surrounding vegetation providing a food source for young elephants unable to travel long distances to other food sources,” the authors said.

The team’s paper was publisherd in the journal Scientific Reports.

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C. Neto de Carvalho et al. 2021. First tracks of newborn straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). Sci Rep 11, 17311; doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-96754-1

Source: www.sci-news.com/

New Bird Species from Cretaceous Period Had Long Pintail

Saturday, September 18, 2021

An illustration showing what Yuanchuavis kompsosoura might have looked like in life. Image credit: Haozhen Zhang.

Paleontologists in China have identified a new species of pengornithid enantiornithine bird with a pair of elaborate tail feathers.

Enantiornithes are the most successful group of Mesozoic birds, arguably representing the first global avian radiation.

They are known exclusively from the Cretaceous period, predominantly from fossils discovered in Asia, and commonly resolved as the sister to Ornithuromorpha, the group within which all living birds are nested.

The new species is a member of the family Pengornithidae, one of the earliest diverging enantiornithine groups.

Named Yuanchuavis kompsosoura, it lived approximately 120 million years ago in what is now northeastern China and belonged to the famous Jehol Biota.

It was a small bird, about the size of a bluejay, but its tail was more than 150% the length of its body.

Yuanchuavis kompsosoura had a fan of short feathers at the base and then two extremely long plumes,” said Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist at the Field Museum.

“The long feathers were dominated by the central spine, called the rachis, and then plumed at the end.”

“The combination of a short tail fan with two long feathers is called a pintail, we see it in some modern birds like sunbirds and quetzals.”

“We’ve never seen this combination of different kinds of tail feathers before in a fossil bird.”

Fossil of Yuanchuavis kompsosoura, with illustration indicating the fossil’s tail feathers. Scale bar – 2 cm. Image credit: Min et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.08.044.

Yuanchuavis kompsosoura is the first documented occurrence of a pintail in Enantiornithes.

“Notably, the morphology preserved in Yuanchuavis kompsosoura essentially represents a combination of the two tail morphologies previously recognized in other enantiornithines which are most closely related to Yuanchuavis kompsosoura,” said Dr. Wang Min, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Its tail fan is aerodynamically functional, whereas the elongated central paired plumes are used for display, which together reflect the interplay between natural selection and sexual selection.”

In other words, Yuanchuavis kompsosoura would have been able to fly well, but its long tail feathers that might have helped it find mates didn’t make flying any easier — its fancy tail was literally a drag.

This balance between natural and sexual selection has interested scientists since the time of Darwin: if evolution produces organisms that are better able to meet the pressures of the world around them, then why would an animal develop traits that make it worse at flying or more noticeable to its predators?

“Scientists call a trait like a big fancy tail an ‘honest signal,’ because it is detrimental, so if an animal with it is able to survive with that handicap, that’s a sign that it’s really fit,” Dr. O’Connor said.

“A female bird would look at a male with goofily burdensome tail feathers and think, ‘Dang, if he’s able to survive even with such a ridiculous tail, he must have really good genes’.”

“It is well known that sexual selection plays a central role in speciation and recognition in modern birds, attesting to the enormous extravagant feathers, ornaments, vocals, and dances,” Dr. Wang said.

“However, it is notoriously difficult to tell if a given fossilized structure is shaped by sexual selection, considering the imperfect nature of the fossil record.”

“Therefore, the well-preserved tail feathers in this new fossil bird provide great new information about how sexual selection has shaped the avian tail from their earliest stage.”

“The complexity we see in Yuanchuavis kompsosoura’s feathers is related to one of the reasons we hypothesize why living birds are so incredibly diverse, because they can separate themselves into different species just by differences in plumage and differences in song,” Dr. O’Connor said.

“It’s amazing that Yuanchuavis kompsosoura lets us hypothesize that that kind of plumage complexity may already have been present in the Early Cretaceous.”

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

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Min Wang et al. An Early Cretaceous enantiornithine bird with a pintail. Current Biology, published online August 16, 2021; doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.08.044

Source: www.sci-news.com/

Jurassic Park Horror Game Rumoured To Be Under Development

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Several leaks claim that the Jurassic Park Horror FPS Game is in the works. According to some leaks and rumours, the game will be developed by the same team that also made the game, Alien Isolation. This information was first disclosed on 4chan which may as well not be very reliable but could be true.

The leaks describe the Jurassic Park game to be one of the semi open-world first-person games. As for the story, leakers claim that the main character will be a gun for hire trying to survive on the island. Both the Velociraptor and the ‘t rex look-alike are supposed to be the main enemies in the game.

The game is also going to be a mature game with a lot of gore elements filled. While this may not be great for older gen consoles, but the post says that this game is only going to come to next-gen consoles that include PS5 and Xbox Series S and X. If you have played Alien Isolation, then you may know how well the stealth elements are mixed with the game, so we can expect something similar here too.

As said before, the game is being made by the same team that made Alien Isolation, so we should expect it to have a lot of jumpscares and the enemy AI could also be on a whole another level. As we haven’t really seen a lot of horror FPS games aside from Resident Evil 8 in the recent times, it would be interesting to see how the team manages to make it a good horror game while still making it look like a Jurassic Park game.

The game is expected to be called LOST WORLD: Jurassic Park. Also, while this sounds really cool, you may want to keep your expectations low at the moment, as it seems highly unlikely that this Jurassic Park game will be coming anytime soon. As there’s no information about the game being under development.

Source: www.techquila.co.in/

Kairuku waewaeroa: New Giant Penguin Species Unearthed in New Zealand

Friday, September 17, 2021

Life reconstruction of giant penguins. Image credit: Simone Giovanardi.

Kairuku waewaeroa roamed Earth during the Oligocene Epoch, between 27 and 35 million years ago.

“The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described from Otago but has much longer legs,” said Dr. Daniel Thomas, a senior lecturer in zoology in the School of Natural and Computational Sciences at Massey University.

“These longer legs would have made the penguin much taller than other Kairuku while it was walking on land, perhaps around 1.4 m (4.6 feet) tall, and may have influenced how fast it could swim or how deep it could dive.”

The holotype skeleton of Kairuku waewaeroa was discovered in 2006 by a group of school children on a Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS) fossil hunting field trip in Kawhia Harbour.

The specimen, which came from the Oligocene deposits of the Glen Massey Formation, is one of the most complete skeletons of a giant penguin yet uncovered.

Kairuku waewaeroa is emblematic for so many reasons,” Dr. Thomas said.

“The fossil penguin reminds us that we share Zealandia with incredible animal lineages that reach deep into time, and this sharing gives us an important guardianship role.”

“The way the fossil penguin was discovered, by children out discovering nature, reminds us of the importance of encouraging future generations to become kaitiaki guardians.”

“It is something the children involved will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Mike Safey, President of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club.

“It was a rare privilege for the kids in our club to have the opportunity to discover and rescue this enormous fossil penguin.”

“We always encourage young people to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. There’s plenty of cool stuff out there just waiting to be discovered.”

The discovery is described in a paper published today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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Simone Giovanardi et al. A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online September 16, 2021; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1953047

Source: www.sci-news.com/

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