Life Finds A Way: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Jurassic Park

Saturday, November 9, 2019

When it first hit theaters in 1993, it didn’t take long for Jurassic Park to become the highest grossing movie of all time. Steven Spielberg and his crew pioneered a bunch of new visual effects technologies to bring dinosaurs back to life. Audiences all over the world were thrilled to see prehistoric beasts tearing across the silver screen. Jurassic Park marketed itself as being 65 million years in the making. It actually only took a couple of years to put together, but there are still plenty of interesting stories from the production. Here are 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Jurassic Park.


The giant pile of Triceratops dung looks so convincing, and the actors react to it so believably, that you can practically smell it through the screen. But apparently, it didn’t smell at all on the set. The dung was created with a combination of clay, mud, and straw to give it the color and consistency it needed. The crew then drizzled honey and papayas on it in order to attract a swarm of flies. Having a bunch of flies buzzing around the dung undeniably makes it look a lot more realistic. It was also probably more pleasant for the actors to have odorless dung on the set.


In the early drafts of the script for Jurassic Park, the finale looked very different. One of the raptors was going to get pierced by a rib from the T. Rex skeleton, while the other would’ve been hit by the skeleton’s falling jaw. It even remained that way as the film went into shooting. A couple of crew members who felt that the final sequence was underwhelming came to Steven Spielberg with the suggestion to punch it up a little bit and they all got together to brainstorm ideas. After this brainstorming, they came up with the scene we see in the final film.


In the novel, Ian Malcolm isn’t a very heroic guy, and in the script for the film, he wasn’t supposed to be either. In the scene where the T. Rex attacks the characters, Malcolm was supposed to just run away like Gennaro (read: like a coward). It was Jeff Goldblum’s idea to make Malcolm more heroic and have him distract the T. Rex and allow Alan Grant to swoop in and rescue the kids. It didn’t detract from Malcolm being a roguish hotshot — sort of the Han Solo of the Jurassic Park universe — but it did cement his place as a screen legend.


Samuel L. Jackson got his big break in Jurassic Park, playing the role of Arnold. He’s set up in the first act as one of the park’s smartest scientists, and then he’s killed offscreen. This is suggested when Ellie finds his severed arm. Originally, his character was supposed to have a real death scene, and Jackson was excited to do it, because it would’ve been cool to be chased by raptors and torn to shreds. Jackson was ready to fly out to Hawaii and shoot his character’s death when a hurricane destroyed the set and the scene had to be scrapped.


The animatronic T. Rex used in Jurassic Park was so dangerous that the crew needed to have safety meetings to discuss how to use it properly and avoid any T. Rex-related injuries. The T. Rex weighed a whopping 12,000 lbs — some reports have it between 13,000 and 15,000 lbs — so if anyone got stuck under it or it fell on anyone, it would’ve been quite an ordeal.

The crew set up a system of flashing lights to let anyone who was nearby know that it was about to be turned on. The head of the T. Rex whooshing by felt like a bus driving past.


James Cameron has said that he wanted to turn Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park into a film, but when he called up to inquire about the rights, he was just a few hours too late, as Steven Spielberg had gotten in there first. Cameron would later say that Spielberg was the better choice for the job, as he would’ve made it more violent and adult-oriented — describing it as Aliens with dinosaurs” — and kids deserved a dinosaur movie they could actually see. Funnily enough, Spielberg’s visual effects in Jurassic Park were directly influenced by Cameron’s innovative visual effects in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.


Wayne Knight — best known for playing Newman in Seinfeld — wasn’t bothered that his Jurassic Park character Nedry died. In fact, he felt that he deserved to die. (This would become a recurring theme in the Jurassic Park franchise: only characters who deserve to be killed are killed.) But Knight did want his character to have a gorier death. In the movie, it happens offscreen after he’s terrorized by a little dinosaur that he tried to outsmart. In the book, it was a lot more graphic than that — Nedry even got decapitated. Knight was hoping that would be depicted in the movie.


It was recently reported that the trio of Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum will be getting back together for Jurassic World 3. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than those three actors taking the roles, but some A-list names were considered for the movie. Steven Spielberg looked at William Hurt and Harrison Ford for Alan Grant, and Robin Wright and Juliette Binoche for Ellie Sattler.

Spielberg also considered Sean Connery for the role of John Hammond. If James Cameron had made the movie, he wanted to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as Alan Grant, Bill Paxton as Ian Malcolm, and Charlton Heston as John Hammond, which are interesting choices.


Last year, Steven Spielberg decided he had enough time while the visual effects were being applied to Ready Player One to shoot a smaller, less VFX-laden movie, The Post. In the early ‘90s, he did the exact same thing while the visual effects were being applied to Jurassic Park, and took the time to shoot Schindler’s List. He had to oversee the post-production of Jurassic Park from the set of Schindler’s List, although the emotional toll of shooting a movie about the horrors of the Holocaust left Spielberg feeling so depressed that he needed an hour before he could answer trivial questions about digital dinosaurs.


Despite the fact that Jurassic Park is two hours long and its whole premise revolves around dinosaurs, the cloned prehistoric creatures only actually appear during a combined total of 14 minutes of the movie. This is similar to how Jerry only ever actually said the line “Hello, Newman,” 15 times throughout 180 episodes of Seinfeld. Maybe the makers of the Jurassic World movies should take some cues from this and realize that less is more. There doesn’t need to be a dinosaur in every scene. If there isn’t, you can build up the tension and give the dinosaur scenes more impact.


10 Things From The Jurassic Park Franchise That Haven't Aged Well

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Jurassic Park franchise has been an unstoppable force since 1993, when Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park roared onto screens worldwide and made audiences believe the impossible could become a reality. Not only did the maverick filmmaker and his creative team pioneer some of the best visual effects in cinema, but they also created one of the most beloved action-adventure franchises of all time.

The original film was based on the Michael Crichton novel about a theme park of dinosaurs that eventually break loose and wreak havoc on visitors. It inspired a sequel novel as well as a series of films, each expanding the world-building of the last. As incredible as the franchise is, each film's writing both helped and hindered its progress. As a result, it hasn't aged as magnificently as you might think. Read on below for 10 reasons why.


Something that's immediately salient to modern viewers watching Jurassic Park and its sequel, The Lost World, is the outdated technology on display. When compared to the sleek tech featured in the Jurassic World films, it becomes ironic that the characters of the first two films in the franchise are talking on cellphones derisively called "bricks."

Comically large cellphones aside, there's also the computers and their interfaces, which look completely archaic by today's standards. It works on some levels though; the tension is only amplified by the slow loading displays as Lex desperately tries to hack into the park's systems and restore power, before a velociraptor bursts into the computer lab and eats everyone.


In 1993, the panoramic scene involving Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and Hammond watching herds of brachiosaurus and parasaurolophus was mind-blowing. CGI had never been used so seamlessly to blend into a natural environment, much less bring to life creatures that had been dead hundreds of thousands of years.

While the scene still holds up in terms of giving movie wizardry credit where credit is due, there's still the matter of the poor texturing on the brachiosaurus, which gets even more patchy as we close in on it attacking a tree for its daily lunch of leaves.


No one can deny that Jurassic Park was a groundbreaking film for visual effects. CGI was still very much in its infancy in 1991 when the film was in pre-production, the use of which would set the tone for blockbusters to come. That being said, while good for its era, some of the CGI just doesn't hold up today.

The "flock of Gallimimus" scene comes to mind, with the dinosaurs looking out of place in the environment around them. The coloration of their skin looks oddly bright and untouched by shadows, and they very much look super-imposed onto a backdrop.


Sometimes there's something innately comforting about the black and white, good versus evil aspect present in the '80s and '90s action-adventure films. The Lost World keeps the trope alive and well by pitting environmentalists (like Vince Vaughn's "Earth First character") versus the corporate baddies of InGen.

Of course in real life, people are so rarely broken down into those sorts of binary archetypes, and it was the fact they weren't in the original Jurassic Park that made the characters so complex. There's good and there's bad in The Lost World, and it means you can cheer extra loud when bad guys get eaten, but it doesn't make the film age any better.


While you might have thought a giant meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, it was, in fact, a teenager with mad gymnastic skills. And not just any teen, but Ian Malcolm's estranged daughter who's recently been cut from the gymnastics team.

She's given the opportunity to show off her skill against a velociraptor, part of a species that's been shown to be the most cunning predators of the series. The scene where a raptor waits patiently while she goes through her routine on a pole, gaining enough momentum to kick it through a window is painful to watch and ruins the tension.


In the grand tradition of King Kong and Godzilla, The Lost World set out to leave the terrifying isolation of the island and bring the danger of dinosaurs to the mainland. A T-Rex descends on San Diego and rampages through the city streets, in both an homage and a mockery of the monster movies that came before it.

While parts of this sequence are undoubtedly epic, there are several that are full of such campy humor that pulls you out of the moment. What should be nothing short of horrifying becomes humorous when a T-Rex drinks from a swimming pool and a Japanese ex-pat screams at it like it's the second coming of Mothra.


As the final film in the Jurassic Park trilogy, Jurassic Park III tried a combination of things to satisfy fans; it rehashed elements from the other two films and souped-up its dinosaurs. It introduced new dinosaurs like the Spinosaurus, as well as gave viewers their first look at the sort of hybrid dinosaurs they'd see later in Jurassic World.

It's not so much that the dinosaurs look bad, it's the fact that after so many years since the original film, filmmakers had no interest in being accurate with the science behind them. The scientific community bemoaned the fact that filmmakers were still using research from the '80s to depict their dinosaurs, as well as continuing the myth that DNA doesn't have an expiration date.


The more one watches Jurassic Park with the intelligent and competent Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern) as its heroine, the more one bemoans the character Bryce Dallas Howard plays in Jurassic World. As the prim operations manager, she has a Romancing the Stone moment and heads into the park with roguish Chris Pratt's raptor tamer in her all-white business suit.

Unlike that adventure yarn, she doesn't hack off the heels of her shoes to bushwhack through the jungle. Instead, she keeps her heels on and improbably survives a series of dangerous events while maneuvering in them. She's still wearing them at the end of the film when she sprints to outrun a rampaging T-Rex.


Michael Crichton, author of sci-fi thrillers like The Andromeda StrainPrey, Westworld, and of course, Jurassic Park has long explored the belief that scientists are heartless individuals who, if left unchecked, would doom the world with their hubris and monstrous creations.

Both Jurassic Park and its reboot Jurassic World reflect this archetype, exploring the inherent dangers of genetic research to the extent of having souped-up dinosaurs on the loose because scientists lack any sort of basic restraint, common sense, or judgment. It feels not only uninspired but wildly out of touch.


Like some maniacal mad scientist out of Frankenstein, the one-dimensional character of Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) continues to pop up in the Jurassic World films to figuratively twirl his mustache and genetically engineer more dinosaur hybrids.

The character was much more interesting in Michael Crichton's book, where he had much more to do with the process of creating the theme park than was even hinted at in the Jurassic Park film. His inclusion in the later films in the franchise as a contrived villain removes all the moral ambiguity that existed when it was focused on the avuncular John Hammond and his pursuit of legacy at the expense of his grandchildren.


New Sphenisciform Fossil Further Resolves Bauplan of Extinct Giant Penguins

Saturday, November 9, 2019

CAPTION New Zealand is a key area for understanding the diversity of the extinct penguins and has even revealed the existence of 'giant' penguin species (larger than living penguins). A new study describing a remarkably complete giant penguin skeleton from the Oligocene, Kawhia Harbour in the North Island of New Zealand was presented by Simone Giovanardi, Massey University Albany, Auckland, New Zealand, at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.  CREDIT: Simone Giovanardi

A new sphenisciform fossil from the north island of New Zealand further resolves the bauplan of extinct giant penguins.

Penguins are descendants of seabirds that lost the ability to fly more than 60 million years ago in exchange for chasing the abundant food available in the ocean. New Zealand is a key area for understanding the diversity of the extinct penguins and has even revealed the existence of 'giant' penguin species (larger than living penguins). A new study describing a remarkably complete giant penguin skeleton from the Oligocene, Kawhia Harbour in the North Island of New Zealand was presented by Simone Giovanardi, Massey University Albany, Auckland, New Zealand, at this year's annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology held this year in Brisbane, Australia.

These giant penguins differed from their living descendants in the length of their front limbs and elongated beaks, perhaps suggesting differences in ecological roles when compared with living penguins. The preserved hindlimbs of the new North Island fossil are also significantly longer than all previously described specimens.

Giovanardi adds, "The Kawhia giant penguin is mostly complete and largely articulated in life position, which helps a great deal with reconstructing the relatively long and slender body." This specimen suggests a mixture of characteristics of an older body plan found in other Eocene-Oligocene giant penguins and the one found in the more derived giant penguin, Kairuku.

To date, most of the giant penguins found in New Zealand have been discovered in the South Island. This fossil was found in an Oligocene silty mudstone from the North Island of New Zealand and currently represents the most complete pre-Pleistocene vertebrate reported from this region. Giovanardi concludes by stating, "The North Island of New Zealand has its own paleontological tale to tell."



About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology. Journal Web site: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology:


Daniella Pineda & Justice Smith Set to Return For Jurassic World 3

Friday, November 8, 2019

While the talk of the town is the return of the franchise’s original three stars, the roster for Jurassic World 3 will see the return of two more familiar and lovable faces in the forms of Daniella Pineda’s Zia Rodriguez and Justice Smith’s Franklin Webb, according to Collider.

DeWanda Wise recently joined Mamoudou Athie (Sorry for You Loss), who will also star in a lead role. Returning cast members include Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, as well as original Jurassic Park stars Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum.

Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow return to executive produce Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s Jurassic World 3, with Trevorrow once again directing the next chapter in one of the biggest franchises in the history of cinema. Producers Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley once again partner with Spielberg and Trevorrow in leading the filmmakers for this installment.

Joining the Jurassic team for the first time is Emily Carmichael (Pacific Rim UprisingThe Black Hole), who will craft the Jurassic World 3 screenplay with Trevorrow. They will work off a story by Derek Connolly and Trevorrow, who together co-wrote Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom was an opening to the realm of blockbuster hits for Smith, who followed up the dinosaur thriller with the lead role in the big-screen adaptation of Detective Pikachu, which received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike and was a smash box office success. Pineda would go on to star in the Netflix thriller series What/If alongside Renée Zellweger, which received mixed reviews from critics.

Jurassic World 3 will debut in theaters on June 11, 2021.


NASA Scientist Shows Dinosaurs Roamed Earth on The Other Side of The Milky Way

Saturday, November 9, 2019

When dinosaurs ruled the Earth, the planet was on a completely different side of the galaxy.

A new animation by NASA scientist Jessie Christiansen shows just how long the dinosaurs' reign lasted, and how short the era of humans has been in comparison, by tracing our solar system's movement through the Milky Way.

Our Sun orbits the galaxy's centre, completing its rotation every 250 million years or so. So Christiansen's animation shows that last time our Solar System was at its current point in the galaxy, the Triassic Period was in full swing and dinosaurs were just beginning to emerge.

Many of the most iconic dinosaurs roamed Earth when the planet was in a very different part of the Milky Way.

Christiansen got the idea to illustrate this history when she was leading a stargazing party at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Attendees were astonished when she mentioned that our Solar System had been across the galaxy when dinosaurs roamed.

"That was the first time I realised that those time scales – archaeological, fossil record time scales and astronomical time scales – actually kind of match along together," Christiansen told Business Insider. "Then I had this idea that I could map out dinosaur evolution through the galaxy's rotation."

The resulting video puts both timelines in perspective:

Christiansen said it took her about four hours to make the film using timed animations in PowerPoint. She also noted a couple minor corrections to the text in her video: plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs, and we complete a galactic orbit every 250 million years (not 200 million years).

'A spiral through space'

Galactic movement is more complicated than the video shows, though. The other stars and planetary systems in the galaxy are also moving, at different speeds and in different orbits. The inner portions spin faster than the outer regions.

What's more, the galaxy itself is moving through space, slowly approaching the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

"The animation kind of makes it seem like we've come back to the same spot, but in reality the whole galaxy has moved a very long way," Christiansen said.

"It's more like we're doing a spiral through space. As the whole galaxy's moving and we're rotating around the centre, it kind of creates this spiral."

So in the Solar System's rotation around the galactic centre, we're not returning to a fixed point. The neighbourhood is different from the last time we were here.

Earth, however, is not drastically different; it still supports complex life. That's partially thanks to the path of our sun's galactic orbit.

"Our solar system doesn't travel to the centre of the galaxy and then back again. We always stay about this distance away," Christiansen said.

In other words, even as our solar system travels through the Milky Way, it doesn't approach the inhospitable centre, where life probably wouldn't survive.

"There's a lot of stars, it's dynamically unstable, there's a lot of radiation," Christiansen said. "Our Solar System certainly doesn't pass through that."

That's a huge part of why dinosaurs, mammals, or any other form of life can exist on Earth.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.


5 Reasons to Check Out "Jurassic World Live Tour"

Friday, November 8, 2019

The T. rex is coming! (PHOTO: Jurassic World Live Tour Facebook)



Your trip to Isla Nublar takes a terrifying turn after the Indominus rex escapes and causes chaos in the park!


Before the dinosaurs bring down the house (one can only hope not literally, but anything's possible with a T. rex), we got a chance to peak behind the scenes and under the skin of these amazing reptiles and learn how they come alive from the people pulling their strings. And in the process, we learned five reasons why this will be a can't miss show.

1. It's not just the greatest hits

(PHOTO: Jurassic World Live Tour Facebook)

Seeing dinosaurs alone is quite the spectacle – but "Jurassic World Live Tour" goes behind just showing you these scaly wonders. You get a legitimate story, actually involved in the universe of the "Jurassic World" franchise – complete with Amblin and Universal working with and providing the actual creature designs, branding and creature effect from the hit films.

Taking place between the last two movies, "Jurassic World Live Tour" follows a crew of scientists – led by Dr. Kate Walker – heading to the recently decimated Jurassic World theme park (thanks a lot, Indominus rex) to save a new breed of dinosaur from a brutal fate.

"I like the fact that we're taking a movie franchise and taking another story with it," said dinoteer Enrique Escajeda. "The fact that we're adding to the canon, rather than just rehashing something or saying, 'Here are some highlights and we'll toss some stuff at you; see you later, have a good day.' It's actually adding and contributing something – and that doesn't happen a whole lot in the live event arena."

So consider this like "Jurassic World 1.5," not just a random glorified parade of your old prehistoric friends and foes.

2. Bringing dinosaurs to life

Sure, it doesn't require finding a miracle mosquito caught in some amber, groundbreaking crazy DNA science and the daringness to stare a T. rex in the face ... but it still requires a lot of work and a lot of talented people to bring the dinosaurs back to life for "Jurassic World Live Tour."

To start, the tour scoured several cities across the country, auditioning more than 1,000 people to find the right talented crew of creature puppeteers to provide as their dinosaurs' heart beats. It was a process that searched for people skills, athleticism, strength, endurance and more, requiring wannabe dinosaurs to show off their acting skills, martial arts skills – after all, there are a number of action scenes – and more through an obstacle course, workshopping with weights and playing with hand puppets. No, seriously – playing with puppets.

"In the casting forum, we have them emulate how to be a dinosaur – because if you can do emulate a dinosaur with a puppet, then you can probably be a dinosaur in the show," said Kori Kirschner, athletic trainer for "Jurassic World Live Tour." "We watch how they utilize their body, and there's a soundtrack, so they're roaring and sniffing and moving."

In the end, 27 people were selected for the show – but, of course, making the show is just the start of the work. The dinoteers learn how to inhabit a dinosaur, learning how to look like a prehistoric creature and display an animal's thought process, as well as even emotions and character traits, through small gestures and movements – all while also working alongside the dinosaur noises and roars that we all know, recognize and, in the case of the carnivores, fear.

"We have some guidelines to give you a little bit of an idea of what these animals might be like, but the way I always see my raptor as a horse mixed with a chicken, mixed with tiger," said dinoteer Austin Paz. "You're curious. You're a little bit jerky like a chicken would be. You have a long neck and body like a horse – but you're also definitely the top predator, the one in charge, so you scan and see your prey."

"We're constantly listening to the show track, and we have to bring the sounds to life with our animation," added dinoteer Skylar J. Keck. "I love the sounds. I love being able to animate and bring those different sounds and nuanced things to life.

"That's really fun – but also you get to act as a dinosaur. You get to bring this dinosaur to life, and that in itself is just the coolest."

3. No lightweight lizards

In case it wasn't enough of a challenge to get into the character of a prehistoric lizard that hasn't walked the planet in millions upon millions of years, the dinoteers also have the weight of playing a dinosaur on their shoulders – literally. Ask any member of the "Jurassic World Live Tour" team what the biggest challenge is with the show, and you'll get the same answer: handling the prehistoric puppet's pounds, which range between 130-145 pounds.

"They are heavy," Escajeda said. "You have to be this muscular thing that moves really fast – but at the end of the day, you're still a human with over 100 pounds on you, trying to move like you're really strong and fast. There was a lot of conditioning – laps, getting used to being strapped into the feet, because your hip flexors are now using and lifting the legs of the dinosaur, and to do that and try to run was a lot. In the beginning, we thought it was going to be impossible."

"In some of the cities, we've had some people workshop with our weight vests, which are 60 pounds – which is just half of the weight of our lightest dinosaur," Kirschner said. "So not only do they have to emulate the dinosaur, they have to have the strength and endurance to manipulate the dinosaur across a ten-minute period."

In fact, the dinoteers first learn how to puppet without the puppet, instead using a plain dino rig to get used to figuring out the controls and seeing how your reptile's actions and reactions actually look like before closing yourself off inside pounds of scaly plastic.

"It helps take the stress away, so you're not worried about the weight and holding yourself up and instead getting you focused on the puppeteering and articulation," Paz explained. "Then you take that and translate it as you start building the puppet. We start with this, then we go into the dinoteer puppet without any of the foam or skin, then we add the foam and the skin, slowly taking away the visual and adding the weight."

As it turns out, being a dinosaur is a lot of work. No wonder they all called it a day and went extinct all those millions of years ago!

4. A full dish of dinos

"Jurassic World Live Tour" will feature a cast list of dinosaurs marching through Fiserv Forum on par with the actual Jurassic Period. In total, 21 reptiles spread across seven species will rampage through the new arena, stomp through this special story and greet the humans both on the stage and in the crowd. (Well, hopefully just the herbivores will; the carnivores can keep their distance.) That number includes familiar faces, like the stegosaurus, triceratops and everyone's favorite nightmares: the creepy and crafty raptors – with maybe even a Blue sighting? – and the carnivorous king of the dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus rex. But there will also be a new ferocious face ...

5. Meet a new meat eater

(PHOTO: Jurassic World Live Tour Facebook)

Presenting the newest character in the "Jurassic World" saga: Jeanie the troodon, a species unseen in the series thus far, with an intelligence level also unseen in a dinosaur in any of the past movies. You see, the troodon – a real dinosaur species, not a made-up Hollywood creation – had a large brain for its size, implying that it was smarter than most of its brethren.

"She's able to really sense and emulate emotion more so than the velociraptor," said Keck, who helps play Jeanie the troodon during the show.

And, of course, the troodon is a meat eater. Great; why can't the herbivores ever be the smart ones?

"I get to be the troodon that's in there attacking people, so I feel like I'm really living out my childhood dream, roaring and biting people and throwing them," Escajeda joked. "I'm like, 'Yes, this is exactly what I imagined dinosaurs like and what it would be like to be one.'"


Miocene-Period Great Ape Unearthed in Germany: Danuvius guggenmosi

Friday, November 8, 2019

Danuvius guggenmosi, a great ape that lived some 12 million years ago (Miocene period) in what is now Germany. Image credit: Velizar Simeonovski.

A previously unknown species of great ape that was well adapted to both walking upright as well as using all four limbs while climbing has been identified from fossils found in southern Germany.

Named Danuvius guggenmosi, the ancient great ape lived during the Miocene Epoch, 11.62 million years ago.

The primate was about 3.3 feet (1 m) in height. Females weighed about 18 kg, less than any great ape alive today, males had a mass of about 31 kg, also at the low extreme of modern great ape body size.

The fossilized remains from at least four individuals of Danuvius guggenmosi (a male, two females and a juvenile) were unearthed in the Hammerschmiede clay pit in the Allgäu region of Bavaria between 2015 and 2018.

The most complete skeleton belonged to a male and had body proportions similar to modern-day bonobos.

Thanks to completely preserved limb bones, vertebra, finger and toe bones, Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen and colleagues were able to reconstruct the way Danuvius guggenmosi moved about in its environment.

“For the first time, we were able to investigate several functionally important joints, including the elbow, hip, knee and ankle, in a single fossil skeleton of this age,” Professor Böhme said.

“It was astonishing for us to realize how similar certain bones are to humans, as opposed to great apes.”

The bones from the skeleton of a male Danuvius guggenmosi. Image credit: Christoph Jäckle.

The team’s findings indicate that Danuvius guggenmosi could walk on two legs and could also climb like an ape.

The spine, with its S-shaped curve, held the body upright when standing on two legs. The animal’s build, posture, and the ways in which it moved are unique among primates.

Danuvius guggenmosi combines the hindlimb-dominated bipedality of humans with the forelimb-dominated climbing typical of living apes,” said Professor David Begun, a researcher at the University of Toronto.

“These results suggest that human bipedality evolved in arboreal context over 12 million years ago.”

“In contrast to later hominins, Danuvius guggenmosi had a powerful, opposable big toe, which enabled it to grasp large and small branches securely,” said Professor Nikolai Spassov, from the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

“The ribcage was broad and flat, and the lower back was elongated; this helped to position the center of gravity over extended hips, knees and flat feet, as in bipeds.”

The results are supported by a recent study of the hip-bone from the 10 million-year-old ape Rudapithecus hungaricus found in Hungary.

“That fossil also indicates that the European ancestors of African apes and humans differed from living gorillas and chimpanzees,” Professor Begun said.

The study was published in the journal Nature.


M. Böhme et al. A new Miocene ape and locomotion in the ancestor of great apes and humans. Nature, published online November 6, 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1731-0


Check Out Jurassic World and Other Classic Steelbooks

Thursday, November 7, 2019

In the world of movie collection, steelbooks are an exceptional buy. You get a great movie and limited edition art on a metal casing. Perfect for any movie enthusiast, these cases are instant classics and a clever way to tell someone you care about their passions.

Best Buy is known for its expansive selection of limited edition steelbooks. Today's highlight is the Jurassic World 5-Movie Collection. The 1993 worldwide phenomenon Jurassic Park earned audiences' attention as Steven Spielberg directed a dinosaur thriller with a heart. What would happen if we remade dinosaur DNA and rebirthed an entire era of extinct terrors for our amusement? Well, it goes about as well as you could expect. And it's absolutely mesmerizing to watch, even 26 years later! Jurassic Park spawned 4 sequels over the years, included two recent films with Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt. Each of the five movies comes packed with behind-the-scenes extras and goodies for all to enjoy.

This steelbook also has a great front-and-back artwork that pays homage to the overrun parks of the franchise.

And that's just the start of the steelbook content that Best Buy has to offer for us today!

Next up is the classic Jumanji and its sequel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (technically the third in the franchise, after Zathura: a Space Adventure). With an outstanding cast featuring the Rock, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black, this modern take on the classic Jumanji felt fresh and fun. This steelbook of the original Jumanji with the 2017 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle comes as both 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray. And for fans of the fast-paced racer series, Fast and the Furious, comes the original 2001 hit. Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker star in this crime drama with a penchant for fast cars and crazy stunts. With a unique comic-book cover, this steelbook has a life of its own. Also on sale is the war tale of Dunkirk, directed by The Dark Knight's Christopher Nolan. This historical thriller showcases World War II's battle for Dunkirk, France. With an eye for detail and character-driven stories, Christopher Noal fails to disappoint. Today's Daily Deals ends off with the recent family-friendly comedy, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. The crew of Hotel Transylvania is off on vacation with their ragtag group of vampires, ghouls, and goblins!

As always, these prices are not guaranteed to last past midnight tonight EST. So instead of checking in to a sketchy dinosaur park with lofty goals, check out these Best Buy steelbooks! Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for more deals on merch tailored for you.

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Exceptional Fossils May Need a Breath of Air to Form

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fossilization process. Author: Xabier Murelaga - Elhuyar Fundazioa

Some of the world's most exquisite fossil beds were formed millions of years ago during time periods when the Earth's oceans were largely without oxygen.

That association has led paleontologists to believe that the world's best-preserved fossil collections come from choked oceans. But research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that while low oxygen environments set the stage, it takes a breath of air to catalyze the fossilization process.

"The traditional thinking about these exceptionally preserved fossil sites is wrong," said lead author Drew Muscente. "It is not the absence of oxygen that allows them to be preserved and fossilized. It is the presence of oxygen under the right circumstances."

The research was published in the journal PALAIOS on November 5, 2019.

Muscente conducted the research during a postdoctoral research fellowship at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. He is currently an assistant professor at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The research co-authors are Jackson School Assistant Professor Rowan Martindale, Jackson School undergraduate students Brooke Bogan and Abby Creighton and University of Missouri Associate Professor James Schiffbauer.

The best-preserved fossil deposits are called "Konservat-lagerstätten." They are rare and scientifically valuable because they preserve soft tissues along with hard ones -- which in turn, preserves a greater variety of life from ancient ecosystems.

"When you look at lagerstätten, what's so interesting about them is everybody is there," said Bogan. "You get a more complete picture of the animal and the environment, and those living in it."

The research examined the fossilization history of an exceptional fossil site located at Ya Ha Tinda Ranch in Canada's Banff National Park. The site, which Martindale described in a 2017 paper, is known for its cache of delicate marine specimens from the Early Jurassic -- such as lobsters and vampire squids with their ink sacks still intact -- preserved in slabs of black shale.

During the time of fossilization, about 183 million years ago, high global temperatures sapped oxygen from the oceans. To determine if the fossils did indeed form in an oxygen-deprived environment, the team analyzed minerals in the fossils. Since different minerals form under different chemical conditions, the research could determine if oxygen was present or not.

"The cool thing about this work is that we can now understand the modes of formation of these different minerals as this organism fossilizes," Martindale said. "A particular pathway can tell you about the oxygen conditions."

The analysis involved using a scanning electron microscope to detect the mineral makeup.

"You pick points of interest that you think might tell you something about the composition," said Creighton, who analyzed a number of specimens. "From there you can correlate to the specific minerals."

The workup revealed that the vast majority of the fossils are made of apatite -- a phosphate-based mineral that needs oxygen to form. However, the research also found that the climatic conditions of a low-oxygen environment helped set the stage for fossilization once oxygen became available.

That's because periods of low ocean oxygen are linked to high global temperatures that raise sea levels and erode rock, which is a rich source of phosphate to help form fossils. If the low oxygen environment persisted, this sediment would simply release its phosphate into the ocean. But with oxygen around, the phosphate stays in the sediment where it could start the fossilization process.

Muscente said that the apatite fossils of Ya Ha Tinda point to this mechanism.

The research team does not know the source of the oxygen. But Muscente wasn't surprised to find evidence for it because the organisms that were fossilized would have needed to breathe oxygen when they were alive.

The researchers plan to continue their work by analyzing specimens from exceptional fossil sites in Germany and the United Kingdom that were preserved around the same time as the Ya Ha Tinda specimens and compare their fossilization histories.

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Materials provided by University of Texas at AustinNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Paleontologists Find Two New Snake Species in Greece

Friday, November 8, 2019

Fossil herpetofauna Maramena. Photo: Paleontoliga Elektronica

Fossilised remains of two new species of snakes found for the first time were discovered near the city of Serres in northern Greece.

Greek researcher George Georgalis from the University of Toronto named the 5.5- to 6-million-year-old snakes: Periergophis micros and Paraxenophis spanios.

“These two new snakes have new names because they belong to a totally new species and are completely different from any other species,” Dr Georgalis told the Athens Macedonia News Agency. “The strange thing is that such vertebral anatomy has not been observed anywhere else and there is nothing, either in modern or in extinct serpent species, that even comes close to the morphology of these new species.”

He explained that the serpents “are so unique that we find it difficult to include them in any known family and we immediately understand that they belong to a new species.”

The Greek paleontologist has published a scientific paper in Paleontoliga Elektronica on the discovery, in collaboration with other scientists from German, Swiss and Czech Republic Universities.