Asteroid Warning: Space Rock Comparable to Dinosaur Killer is Heading Earth’s Way

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Asteroid warning: Space rock comparable to dinosaur killer is heading Earth’s way (Image: GETTY)

A MASSIVE asteroid comparable to the massive space rock which brought the dinosaurs’ reign on Earth to an end is hurtling towards Earth, and scientists have confirmed it is “potentially hazardous”.

The asteroid known as 1990 MU is currently completing another orbit of the Sun, and in 2027 it could come perilously close to Earth. Asteroid 1990 MU is between 4-9 kilometres in diameter and on June 6 2027, it is set to come within 0.03 AU - astronomical unit. One AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, so coming within just 0.03 AU is perilously close.

For reference, Mars – the planet which humans are hoping to reach – is around 0.5 AU.

The asteroid is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid, which according to NASA has the “potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.”

According to data from NASA, 2019 OK was large – an estimated 187 to 427 ft (57 to 130) wide – and hurtling fast along a path bringing it within only 45,000 miles (73,000km) of Earth when it flew by in recent weeks.

This was less than one-fifth of the distance to the Moon and what the Royal Institution of Australia’s Professor Alan Duffy described as “uncomfortably close.”

An asteroid strike 66 million years ago put an end to the dinosaurs (Image: GETTY)

That asteroid would have been big enough to wipe out a city, so 1990 MU could be truly devastating.

Asteroid 1990 MU is up to nine kilometres in diameter, which puts it in the same ball-park as the space rock which put an end to the dinosaurs.

That space rock is believed to have been between 10-15 kilometres wide and came crashing into what is now Mexico 66 million years ago marking the beginning of the end of the dinosaurs.

Research from the University of Glasgow has found up to three quarters of life on Earth was wiped out from the asteroid, with the dinosaurs dying out within a few centuries.

The space rock caused a cloud of dust to fill the air which blocked out the sun, leading to drastic and sudden climate change that ultimately created major food shortages across Earth, leading to the death of bigger animals, and allowing smaller creatures, such as mammals, to thrive in their absence.

Now, a comparable asteroid is heading Earth’s way.

The orbit of 1990 MU on July 7 2027 (Image: NASA)

While the asteroid will be close within the next decade, it will be even closer in 2058, when it comes within 0.02 AU - less than three million kilometres.

Scientists estimate that a life-ending asteroid, such as the one which put an end to the dinosaur’s reign, would collide with Earth every 100 million years or so.

But asteroids can strike at any moment and there is always a very slim chance a massive civilisation-ending space rock could hit sooner.

For that reason, many claim global authorities should have a plan in place – but it seems they do not.

NASA employee Robert Frost, who works as an instructor and flight controller for the space agency according to his bio on Q+A website Quora, said the best thing governments could do is tell the public to “hunker down”, as there would be little which can be done to prepare for the inevitable.

The hunt for asteroids (Image: ESA)

Mr Frost was writing in response to the question: “If it were discovered that an asteroid was going to wipe humanity out, say in 2 months, how would the governments of the world respond?”

He said: “That’s a tough one. Movies tell us they would keep it secret. There’s a lot of sense to that. Mass panic can be more dangerous than the actual event.

“But my experience working in government is that the government really isn’t good at keeping anything secret unless it begins within a secretive part of the culture, like the military.

“Something like this would likely be first discovered by someone that couldn’t spell ‘security clearance’. It would be evident to astronomers all over the world.

“Feeling helpless, the government would likely just tell us to ‘hunker down’ and duct tape our window seams.

“Then the Democrats would blame it on the Republicans for ignoring global warming and the Republicans would blame it on the Democrats for not praying in school.”


Isogomphodon aikenensis: SC Researchers Discover Prehistoric Shark Species Over 100 Miles From Sea, in Aiken

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The illustration that accompanied Müller and Henle's original description.

More than 30 million years ago, scientists believe that 20 to 30 feet of salt water covered Aiken and much of the surrounding area.

In that sea swam sharks, rays and other creatures, and their fossilized remains can be found here today.

Jim Knight, an Aiken resident, teamed up with Dave Cicimurri to study to those prehistoric animals.

Knight is a former curator of natural history at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, and Cicimurri is the museum’s current curator of natural history.

One of the sharks they identified wasn’t previously known to science, and they named it in honor of Aiken and Aiken County.

It is called Isogomphodon aikenensis and is considered a new species of daggernose shark.

“Aikenensis, literally translated, means lived in Aiken,” Knight said.

Shark discovery: A new species of daggernose shark was found in South Carolina (Image: GETTY/D.CICIMURRI/J.KNIGHT)

Information about Knight and Cicimurri’s discovery is included in a scientific paper they wrote that was published earlier this year in PaleoBios, a journal produced by the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

The title of the paper is “Late Eocene (Priabonian) Elasmobranchs from the Dry Branch Formation (Barnwell Group) of Aiken County, South Carolina, USA.”

An elasmobranch is a cartilaginous fish from a group made up of sharks, rays and skates.

“Anytime you can increase the knowledge of paleobiodiversity, it is exciting,” Knight said. “Something like this is what taxonomists and morphologists look for.”

Based on the fossilized teeth they examined, Knight and Cicimurri believe Isogomphodon aikenensis was similar to the modern day daggernose shark, which lives in the shallow tropical waters off of northeastern South America.

The modern daggernose has an elongated, flattened and pointed snout. Its pectoral fins are large and shaped like paddles, and its eyes are small.

Isogomphodon aikenensis adults probably were about “5 feet or so” long, which is about the size of a modern daggernose, Cicimurri said.

The Isogomphodon aikenensis teeth studied by Knight and Cicimurri were thin and small.

They generally measured less than 5 millimeters in height, but some were as big as 7 millimeters, or a little over a quarter of an inch tall.

Isogomphodon aikenensis “didn’t grab and tear off big chunks of meat like a great white shark does,” Cicimurri said. “It probably ate little fish and grabbed them with its small needle-like teeth. Then it gulped them down. It didn’t chew its food.”

So far, remains exactly like those of Isogomphodon aikenensis haven’t been found anywhere else in the world.

“It’s possible that people will come across them if they look in other areas of South Carolina or other places in the Southeast,” Cicimurri said. “From what I’ve seen of sharks and rays in that time period, they were pretty widely distributed, at least in the Southeast. So a lot of things we find here you can also find down in Georgia or over in Alabama and Mississippi. I wouldn’t be surprised if they popped up somewhere else.”

The Isogomphodon aikenensis teeth are among the several thousand fossils from the Aiken area that Knight and Cicimurri have scrutinized.

Shark discovery: The researchers found thousands of shark fossils and teeth (Image: D.CICIMURRI/J.KNIGHT)

Knight, his family and Cicimurri collected most of them.

“Many years ago, when I was still working at the Savannah River Ecology Lab, we were doing alligator surveys by helicopter,” Knight said. “We couldn’t refuel at the Savannah River Plant (now known as the Savannah River Site), so we had to fly clear up to the Aiken airport to refuel. Every time we did that, we would follow Highway 1 north, and we flew over this little badlands area in an old kaolin pit on the west side of the road, about a mile or two south of the airport.”

When Knight and his family went out there and looked around, they found fossils.

“Then I got word about a site in South Aiken, when I was working at the State Museum,” Knight said.

He checked it out and picked up fossils like the ones discovered north of Aiken.

The Isogomphodon aikenensis teeth studied by Knight and Cicimurri while writing their paper were from Aiken’s Southside, but the same type of teeth also were found at the other site.

Cicimurri and another colleague who has studied the fossils also identified a new species of ray and named it Pseudaetobatus undulatus.

Turtle, crocodilian and bony fish fossils also have been collected from the two sites in the Aiken area.

In all, Knight and Cicimurri identified 17 species of sharks and seven species of rays in the paper they wrote that appeared in PaleoBios.


The Dubai Mall's Giant Dinosaur Skeleton to be Auctioned Off

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Dubai Mall's dinosaur skeleton is seeking a new owner. Wam.

Emirates Auction have announced that it will hold the Middle East's first auction of its kind to find the Diplodocus longus a new home.

If you've a penchant for collecting things of the really old, and really large variety (and you have rather a lot of money), this auction is for you.

The huge, 155-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton that dominates an atrium in The Dubai Mall is going under the hammer.

Emirates Auction have announced that it will hold the Middle East's first auction of its kind to find the Diplodocus longus a new home, seeking lovers of rare collectibles as potential new owners.

The online auction will begin with a starting value of Dh14.6 million, and will end on August 25.

Affectionately known as the 'DubaiDino', the 24-metre long, 7.6-metre high Diplodocus longus dinosaur is from the late Jurassic period.

It was installed in the Souk Dome in The Dubai Mall in 2014, and at the time, was the first of its kind in the world. The dinosaur, which was estimated to be age 25 when it died, weighs the same as five elephants.

The DubaiDino moniker was coined as part of a competition to name the skeleton, and was won by Johara Al Bayedh, a bank manager and Saudi national.

The remains of DubaiDino were discovered in 2008 at the Dana Quarry in Wyoming, US and it was flown to Dubai.

About 90 per cent of this fossil’s bones are original and were found intact at the excavation site. This made it an unusual find since the last Diplodocus longus discovered had only 30 per cent of the original bones.

"The auction will be an ideal opportunity for those looking for excellence to supplement their collections with a historic masterpiece rarely found around the world," Wam said.


New Insight Into the Evolution of Sight From 54 Million Year-Old Fossil

Friday, August 16, 2019

Eyes surprise: fossil eyes from a 54 million-year-old cranefly. Credit: Lindgren et al./Nature

Fossilized flies that lived 54 million years ago have revealed a surprising twist to the tale of how insects’ eyes evolved. These craneflies, unveiled in Nature today, show that insect eyes trap light the same way as human eyes, using the pigment melanin – yet another example of evolution finding similar solutions to similar problems.

Evolutionary biologists have always been fascinated by eyes. Charles Darwin, anticipating the skeptics, devoted a long explanation of how random mutation followed by natural selection could readily fashion such “organs of extreme perfection”. It is not surprising that these useful adaptations have evolved repeatedly across the animal kingdom – octopuses and squids, for instance, have independently acquired eyes uncannily similar to ours.

Vision is so vital that most animals today have photoreceptors of some kind. Notable exceptions include creatures that live in total darkness, such as in caves or the deep ocean.

Yet the fossil record of eyes is very poor. The rock record generally preserves hard parts such as bones and shells. Eyes and other soft tissues, such as nerves, veins, and intestines, are preserved only under exceptional circumstances.


Exceptionally preserved insect fossils

Because eyes are icons of evolution yet rarely fossilized, the discovery of perfectly preserved eyes from 54 million-year-old insects is noteworthy. In their new study, researchers led by Johan Lindgren of Lund University in Sweden collected and analyzed eyes from 23 craneflies – long-legged relatives of pesky houseflies.

The fossils were exquisitely preserved in sediments containing high levels of fine-grained volcanic ash. They were unearthed in what is now chilly Denmark, but back then was a tropical paradise with abundant insect life.

The fossilized eyes were surprisingly similar to our own eyes in one important way. The back of our eyeball, called the choroid, is dark and opaque; this protects against ultraviolet radiation and also stops stray light bouncing around and interfering with vision. In human eyes, this anti-reflective layer contains high levels of the pigment melanin, the same molecule involved in skin pigmentation (hence terms such as “melanoma”).

Insects, too, have dark anti-reflective layers in their eyes, but this was long thought to consist entirely of a different molecule, ommochrome. Given that insect eyes arose independently from our own and have an entirely different structure, it seems reasonable that their molecular machinery would also be different.

Eyes like our own?

However, detailed chemical analysis of the fossil cranefly eyes revealed that they contained human-like melanin. When the researchers had another look at the eyes of living craneflies, they were surprised to confirm the presence of melanin (as well as lots of ommochrome). It took fossils to alert us that the eyes of humans and insects both use the same shielding pigments (melanin) – yet another example of convergent evolution.

Intriguingly, the outer layers of the fossilized eyes were full of calcite, the mineral that makes up most of limestone. Not only that, but crystals in the calcite were aligned to transmit light efficiently into the eye. Yet this apparent fine engineering (a mineralized outer eye layer optimized to transmit light) was almost certainly caused by the fossilization process, as the eyes of living craneflies are not mineralized.

While the fossil record can reveal, it can also mislead, if not interpreted carefully. Trilobites, the hard-shelled crab-like creatures that are among the most abundant and diverse animal fossils, are frequently found with mineralized, light-transmitting outer eye layers. These have usually been assumed to faithfully reflect their life condition: predation in ancient oceans was so intense that trilobites even armored their eyeballs.

The 400-million-year old trilobite Hollardops mesocristata is widely thought to have had mineralized eyes. Credit: Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

Lindgren and colleagues warn against this interpretation: perhaps the trilobite’s “protective goggles” only appeared after fossilization, just as in the craneflies. However, this interpretation will likely be debated. Trilobite eyes seem to have been unusually rigid and resilient in real life, as they are preserved in three dimensions much more often than eyes of other animals. They also have certain optical properties that make more sense when the rigid outer layer is accepted as real.

A disagreement between a few paleontologists might seem a bit arcane, but these debates can have real-world relevance. Most famously, the concept of nuclear winter was directly inspired by discussion of how the dinosaurs went extinct, when a meteorite impact enveloped the world in a cloud of dust, deep-freezing the entire biosphere.

Granted, the debate over how insect and trilobite eyes functioned is unlikely to influence world peace, but it might still have useful applications. For example, the way trilobite lenses (apparently) provide constant acuity while being totally rigid has inspired bioengineers to fashion high-performance optical devices with uses spanning microscopy to laser physics.


STOP Believing These Eight Myths about Dinosaurs

Friday, August 16, 2019

Check out these myths about dinosaurs you probably still believe!

There is so much to learn about the extraordinary creatures who once upon a time were the kings of the world. Even after 200 years since the first dinosaur was found and dug up, we don’t know nearly enough about those scary and enigmatic creatures. Therefore, there are so many misinformation on dinosaurs.

Here are some of the myths about dinosaurs that we shouldn’t believe in.

Myth Number 1 – Dinosaurs are Extinct

Alright, you won’t find a dinosaur like in the photo above walking down Broadway Avenue, but dinosaurs are not completely extinct. Despite the devastating meteorite that hit the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, dinosaurs are not entirely wiped from the face of the planet Earth. Believe it or not, every bird is a dinosaur. Crazy, right?

Myth Number 2 – Cold-Blooded Dinosaurs

The usual depiction of dinosaurs is that they are large, cold-blooded monsters. However, the truth is more complicated than that. From bone examinations, we found out that their metabolisms were so fast, and a dinosaur could not rely on the sun for body heat. The question is how they produced heat? It’s a mystery since there are a lot of different ways to keep body heat.

Myth Number 3 – Dinosaurs Were Scaly

Some dinosaurs were scaly but some were not. Based on the impression of their skin, we can say that not all dinosaurs were scaly. Some even had feathers. Those were times when the distinction between birds and dinosaurs was not clear. So, in conclusion, Jurassic Park is not telling us the whole truth about the amazing world of dinosaurs.

Myth Number 4 – Dinosaurs Were Brown or Green

Believe it or not, we know the colors of some dinosaurs and they were not all green or brown as depicted in Hollywood movies. Some dinosaurs were red, white, black and other colors. Also, they didn’t necessarily have one color. Some dinosaurs even had raccoon-like tales.

Myth Number 5 – Not All Dinosaurs Were Around at the Same Time

Think about the two most famous dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus. One was a giant meat-eater and the other one was a plant-eater with a lot of dangerous defensive spikes. However, they never crossed each other’s paths.

Myth Number 6 – Dinosaurs Were a Failure of Evolution

When someone is not up to speed with today’s modern world, what do we call them? A dinosaur. Even worse, if someone is slow or bad at what they do, we might call them a dinosaur. This is not fair. Dinosaurs ruled the world for approximately 186 million years. We, humans, are “ruling” the world for only the past 300,000 years. We have 185.7 million years ahead of us before we can make fun of dinosaurs or before we consider them to be an evolutionary failure.

Myth Number 7 – All Dinosaurs Were Giants

The skeletons and fossils of giant dinosaurs were the first ones that caught our attention. Now, that we know what we are looking for, we are finding dinosaurs of all sizes and shapes. Some dinosaurs were as huge as a passenger airplane, but some were as small as a pigeon.

Myth Number 8 – Mammals Evolved After Dinosaurs Died Out

It’s our understanding that mammals evolved from a reptile which we call the cynodont and it looked like a scaly rat and lived 200 million years ago, which is way before dinosaurs. Mammals diversified into two lines of evolution: marsupial and placental line, which happened approximately 165 million years ago. Mammals lived in the world of dinosaurs but once the non-bird dinosaurs were wiped out from the Earth, mammals started to diversify, grow to a bigger size and spread around the world. It’s hard to say if we would be here if dinosaurs had stayed around.


Dinosaur Virus Proof as 98 Million Year-Old Infection Found in Cockroaches

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A group of experts – including a Brit – unearthed the virus from creatures preserved in amber.

Scientists may have uncovered proof of viruses in dinosaurs after a 98 million year-old infection was found in cockroaches preserved in amber.

The team of palaeontologists, led by Dr Peter Vrsansky of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and made up of experts from Slovakia, China, Germany and Singapore, found evidence of the virus in now-extinct predatory cockroaches preserved in Cretaceous Myanmar amber.

The British scientist who was part of the team is Edmund Jarzembowski.

The team discovered perfectly-preserved now-extinct predatory cockroaches preserved in Cretaceous Myanmar amber.

One cockroach from the newly-found species, named Stavba babkaeva, displays an undeveloped hindwing and symmetrically deformed curled forewings. 

These are symptoms of Deformed Wing Virus infection caused by pathogenic DWV-Iflavirus.

The virus still exists today and is known to affect honey bees. 

Although the specimens found dated back 98 million years, the virus may be much older. 

The oldest ever recorded viral infection was discovered on a Mesozoic dinosaur bone. 

Vrsansky told Central European News: "That one piece of evidence is not convincing on its own. Definitely, this is a prove of viruses in times of dinosaurs, their time was a time with parasites and viruses."

Based on his discovery, Vrsansky told CEN that viruses may actually be beneficial to us, "otherwise they will be extinct a long time ago".

He said: "It seems they represent another key player in the evolution causing robustness of its bearers in geological time. 

"All organisms bear them, so it seems they help the system of modern organism genomes to be more stable against mistakes and errors." 

He added: "Most of the researchers expected that viruses are old, but here comes the prove with a specific virus ((+)ssRNA Iflavirus) known to cause these symptoms. Thus dino times forests were not only diverse, but also structured in a modern way, although without true flowering trees." 

Vrsansky adds that it is impossible to ascertain when exactly viruses originated, as we only have amber containing arthropods dating back to the Triassic Period. 

The team's findings were published in May this year in the journal Palaeontographica. 


Study Details Dinosaur Brain Development From Baby to Adult

Friday, August 16, 2019

Scientists use 3D models of dinosaur skulls to better understand the relationship between braincase development and posture change. Photo by Claire Bullar/University of Bristol

By surveying dozens of skulls of a common Early Cretaceous dinosaur, scientists have gained new insights into dinosaur brain development.

Psittacosaurus was a genus of extinct dinosaur living in Asia between 126 and 101 million years ago. Over the decades, hundreds of specimens have been recovered. The genus was part of the group of dinosaurs known as Ceratopsia, the group to which the genus Triceratops belonged.

Psittacosaurus was a beaked plant-eater, and the dinsoaur birthed tiny, hamster-sized babies. As adults, Psittacosaurus dinosaurs reached lengths of 6.5 feet.

To better understand the effect of this maturation process on the dinosaur's brain, scientists used 3D models to animate the changing shape of the it's braincase.

The new survey revealed that, as the baby dinosaurs developed, their brains changed shape and location, shifting from the back of the small, rounded head, to the front. As the dinosaurs grew, their heads and brains stretched out and became more elongated, extending under the skull roof in the adults.

Analysis of the changing brain position also revealed a change in the developing dinosaur's locomotion. The evidence suggests Psittacosaurus babies spent their earliest years on all fours, but by the age of two or three, they assumed a bipedal posture.

"I was excited to see that the orientation of the semi-circular canals changes to show this posture switch," Claire Bullar, researcher at the University of Bristol, said in a news release. "The semi-circular canals are the structures inside our ears that help us keep balance, and the so-called horizontal semi-circular canal should be just that -- horizontal -- when the animal is standing in its normal posture."

The braincases of adolescent Psittacosaurus dinosaurs showed the maturing dinos were pointing their heads forward, not downward. In other words, by the time they were a few years old, they were standing up.

"This posture shift during growth from quadruped to biped is unusual for dinosaurs, or indeed any animal," said Michael Ryan, a scientist at Carleton University in Canada. "Among dinosaurs, it's more usual to go the other way, to start out as a bipedal baby, and then go down on all fours as you get really huge."

The findings -- published in the journal PeerJ -- suggest Psittacosaurus babies were fairly vulnerable. Being on all fours allowed the dinosaurs to keep out of site under brush. As the dinosaurs got older and bigger, bipedalism allowed them to run faster and escape large predators.


Something Big Is Coming in ‘LEGO Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit’!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

LEGO: Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit

Prepare to return to a lost world of dinos, danger and tons of laughs in LEGO: Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit, a new two-part animated special coming to Nickelodeon this month! Our pals at Nick gave us a sneak peek at the exciting new brickworld adventure, which launches with Part 1 on Saturday, August 17 at 11:30 a.m. (ET/PT) and wraps with Part 2 on Saturday, August 24 at 11:30 a.m. (ET/PT).

LEGO: Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit

In The Secret Exhibit, Simon Masrani has an idea for a new attraction that is guaranteed to keep Jurassic World at the forefront of theme park entertainment, but in order for it to succeed, he needs his right-hand can-do problem solver, Claire Dearing, and newcomer Owen Grady, to get a trio of dinosaurs across the park to the new, super-secret exhibit. Unfortunately, delivering the dinosaurs to the new attraction is not as easy as they thought!


Crossvallia waiparensis: Ancient Monster Penguin Unearthed in New Zealand

Friday, August 16, 2019

This illustration provided by the Canterbury Museum, shows the approximate height of a giant penguin, a "crossvallia waiparensis" next to a human being.

The fossilized bones of a large-sized penguin species that lived during the Paleocene Epoch (between 66 and 56 million years ago) have been discovered in New Zealand.

Named Crossvallia waiparensis, the ancient penguin was about 5.2 feet (1.6 m) tall — taller than today’s 4-foot (1.2 m) Emperor penguin — and had a mass of between 70 and 80 kg.

Its leg bones and two ends of the humerus were unearthed by amateur paleontologist Leigh Love at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in 2018.

Dr. Gerald Mayr from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum and colleagues analyzed the bones and concluded they belonged to a previously unknown penguin species.

They concluded that the bird’s closest known relative is a fellow Paleocene species Crossvallia unienwillia, which was identified from a fossilized partial skeleton found in the Cross Valley in Antarctica in 2000.

“Finding closely related birds in New Zealand and Antarctica shows our close connection to the icy continent,” said Dr. Dr Paul Scofield, a paleontologist at Canterbury Museum.

“When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today — Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates.”

Dr. Paul Scofield, senior curator natural history at Canterbury Museum, holds the fossil, a tibiotarsus, top, next to a similar bone of an Emperor Penguin in Christchurch, New Zealand.AP

The leg bones of both Crossvallia penguins suggest their feet played a greater role in swimming than those of modern penguins, or that they hadn’t yet adapted to standing upright like modern penguins.

Crossvallia waiparensis is the fifth ancient penguin species described from fossils uncovered at the Waipara Greensand site.

“The Waipara Greensand is arguably the world’s most significant site for penguin fossils from the Paleocene epoch,” Dr. Mayr said.

“The fossils discovered there have made our understanding of penguin evolution a whole lot clearer.”

“There’s more to come, too — more fossils which we think represent new species are still awaiting description.”

“The discovery of a second giant penguin from the Paleocene epoch is further evidence that early penguins were huge,” said Dr. Vanesa De Pietri, also from Canterbury Museum.

“It further reinforces our theory that penguins attained a giant size very early in their evolution.”

The team’s paper was published in the Alcheringa: an Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.


Gerald Mayr et al. Leg bones of a new penguin species from the Waipara Greensand add to the diversity of very large-sized Sphenisciformes in the Paleocene of New Zealand. Alcheringa: an Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, published online August 12, 2019; doi: 10.1080/03115518.2019.1641619


Clevosaurus hadropondon: Tiny Tusked Dinosaur Discovered in Brazil

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Randall L. Nydam, Ph.D., Midwestern University

Researchers have recently discovered a gecko sized reptile species from the Triassic period, named clevosaurus hadropondon.

The Clevosaurus hadropondon is a newly discovered reptile species from the Triassic Period that was found in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Researchers have found the remains of a jaw and other skull belonging to the new species. The remains were found in Triassic rock dating back to around 237M years ago.

The clevosaurus hadropondon is the oldest discovered fossil to of it’s kind from Gondwana, the continent which now makes up Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India and South America.

This gecko sized Triassic reptile possessed small blade like teeth with “a large, blunt, tusk-like tooth in the first tooth position of the both premaxilla (upper jaw) and of dentary (lower jaw). This feature is typically observed only in later sphenodontian lineages” according to Annie Schmaltz Hsiou,  Associate Professor at the University of São Paulo. Annie Schmaltz Hsiou is also the head of the study which analysed the remains. By sphenodontian she means a lizards like reptile also known as a Rhynchocephalia.

Co-author of the study Randall Nydam is Professor at Midwestern University (US). Nydam is a vertebrate paleontologist studying the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes. “Clevosaurus hadroprodon is an important discovery because it combines a relatively primitive sphenodontian-type tooth row with the presence of massive tusk-like teeth that were possibly not for feeding, but rather used for mate competition or defense. If correct, this means that non-feeding dental specialisations predated changes in the sphenodontian dentition related to feeding strategies. This is a very exciting discovery.”

Nydam is currently working on the early evolution and distribution of snakes based on specimens from both the north and southern hemispheres including the oldest known snake fossils.

The new discovery will help with the understanding of small reptilian evolution.