Uintan paraortygid: Fossil of New Eocene-Period Bird Species Unearthed in Utah

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Reconstruction of Uintan paraortygid. Image credit: Thomas Stidham.

A new species of extinct quail-like bird has been identified from a fossil found in eastern Utah.

Dubbed Uintan paraortygid, the ancient bird lived some 44 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch.

It belongs to an extinct group called Paraortygidae, a relative of the living Galliformes – the group that includes the living chicken, turkey, guineafowl, and quail.

It fits in a nearly 15 million-year gap in the fossil record of the galliform lineage in North America.

Uintan paraortygid is similar in size to the smallest living Galliformes like quail and hill partridges,” said Dr. Thomas Stidham, a paleontologist in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues.

“It likely lived before the evolution of the large crop and gizzard that we see in living chickens and turkeys, and therefore the Utah species likely had a diet different from its living relatives.”

“The earliest fossils of this paraortygid group are from arid habitats, the seashore, and inland forests demonstrating that they had flexibility in their ecology and diet.”

Another interesting aspect of Uintan paraortygid is that it closely resembles the small size and unique shape of other early paraortygid fossils from sediments with a similar geological age from Namibia in southern Africa and Uzbekistan in Central Asia which were all separated from each other by oceans.

“The paraortygid fossils from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America show that the group was very widely dispersed early in their evolution and crossed oceans in order to be so widely spread,” the researchers said.

The shoulder bone of Uintan paraortygid. Image credit: Patricia Holroyd.

A distinct tiny bone from the shoulder girdle of Uintan paraortygid was collected from the Uinta Formation in the Uinta Basin of Utah.

“The new Uinta bird fills not only a time gap, but also helps us better understand the animal community at this time,” said Dr. Beth Townsend, a scientist at Midwestern University.

“The Uinta Basin is important for understanding ecosystems during times of global warm temperatures, when forests, primates, and early horses were spread across an area that is now desert.”

“The discovery of this new paraortygid shows us that small ground-dwelling birds were part of these ancient forests and may have competed with early mammals for resources.”

“Even tiny incomplete fossils can provide the data to link global scientific questions together,” Dr. Stidham added.

The findings were published in the journal Diversity.


Thomas A. Stidham et al. 2020. Evidence for Wide Dispersal in a Stem Galliform Clade from a New Small-sized Middle Eocene Pangalliform (Aves: Paraortygidae) from the Uinta Basin of Utah (USA). Diversity 12 (3): 90; doi: 10.3390/d12030090


Archean Earth Was Covered by Global Ocean, New Study Suggests

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

An artist’s impression of a water-world planet. Image credit:

The surface of Earth was likely covered by a global ocean 3.24 billion years ago (Archean Eon), according to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“Our findings could help scientists to better understand how and where single-cell organisms first emerged on Earth,” said Dr. Boswell Wing, a researcher in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“The history of life on Earth tracks available niches. If you’ve got a waterworld, a world covered by ocean, then dry niches are just not going to be available.”

In the study, Dr. Wing and colleagues examined 3.24-billion-year-old hydrothermally altered oceanic crust from the Panorama district in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia.

“There are no samples of really ancient ocean water lying around, but we do have rocks that interacted with that seawater and remembered that interaction,” said Dr. Benjamin Johnson, a scientist at Iowa State University.

“The process is like analyzing coffee grounds to gather information about the water that poured through it.”

To do that, the researchers analyzed data from more than 100 rock samples from across the dry terrain.

They were looking, in particular, for two different isotopes of oxygen trapped in stone: a slightly heavier atom called oxygen-18 and a lighter one called oxygen-16.

They discovered that the ratio of those two isotopes of oxygen may have been a bit off in seawater 3.24 billion years ago — with just a smidge more oxygen-18 atoms than you’d see today.

“Though these mass differences seem small, they are super sensitive,” Dr. Wing said.

Sensitive, it turns out, to the presence of continents.

“Today’s land masses are covered by clay-rich soils that disproportionately take up heavier oxygen isotopes from the water — like mineral vacuums for oxygen-18,” Dr. Wing said.

The study authors theorized that the most likely explanation for that excess oxygen-18 in the ancient oceans was that there simply weren’t any soil-rich continents around to suck the isotopes up. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t any spots of dry land around.

“There’s nothing in what we’ve done that says you can’t have teeny, micro-continents sticking out of the oceans,” Dr. Wing said.

“We just don’t think that there were global-scale formation of continental soils like we have today.”

Which leaves a big question: when did plate tectonics push up the chunks of rock that would eventually become the continents we know and love?

The scientists aren’t sure. But they’re planning to scour other, younger rock formations at sites from Arizona to South Africa to see if they can spot when land masses first roared onto the scene.

“Trying to fill that gap is really important,” Dr. Johnson said.


B.W. Johnson & B.A. Wing. 2020. Limited Archaean continental emergence reflected in an early Archaean 18O-enriched ocean. Nat. Geosci 13, 243-248; doi: 10.1038/s41561-020-0538-9


New Research Reveals Violent Birth of Continent Zealandia

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Based on various lines of geological and geophysical evidence, particularly those accumulated in the last two decades, Nick Mortimer et al argue that Zealandia is not a collection of partly submerged continental fragments but is a coherent 4.9 million km2 continent. NC – New Caledonia; WTP – West Torres Plateau; CT – Cato Trough; Cf – Chesterfield Islands; L – Lord Howe Island; N – Norfolk Island; K – Kermadec Islands; Ch – Chatham Islands; B – Bounty Islands; An – Antipodes Islands; Au – Auckland Islands; Ca – Campbell Island. Image credit: Nick Mortimer et al, doi: 10.1130/GSATG321A.1.

Zealandia — Earth’s seventh continent — experienced dramatic elevation changes between about 50 million and 35 million years ago, according to a new analysis of samples collected during the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 371 in 2017; this topographic upheaval may have been due to a widespread reactivation of ancient faults linked to formation of the western Pacific’s infamous Ring of Fire.

Zealandia has 4.9 million km2 (1.9 million miles2) of landmass and once made up approximately 5% of the area of the supercontinent Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that included Antarctica and Australia. Roughly 94% of the area of Zealandia currently is submerged.

Since the 1970s the prevailing scientific wisdom has been that Zealandia’s unusually low profile is due to the thinning of its crust as it separated from Gondwana around 85 million years ago.

“After the tectonic fireworks, this model has Zealandia doing nothing but gently cooling and subsiding,” said Dr. Rupert Sutherland, a geophysicist at the Victoria University of Wellington.

But fossils in the drillcores collected by the IODP Expedition 371 indicate that during the early Cenozoic, portions of northern Zealandia rose 1-2 km (0.6-1.2 miles) while other sections subsided about the same amount before the entire continent sank another kilometer deep underwater.

The timing of these topographic transformations coincides with a global reorganization of tectonic plates evidenced by the bend in the Emperor-Hawaii seamount chain, the reorientation of numerous mid-ocean ridges, and the onset of subduction — and the related volcanism and seismicity — in a belt that still encircles much of the western Pacific.

“Although subduction drives Earth’s plate tectonic cycle, scientists don’t yet understand how it starts,” Dr. Sutherland said.

“One of the amazing things about our observations is that they reveal the early signs of the Ring of Fire were almost simultaneous throughout the western Pacific,” he added.

“Because this timing predates the global tectonic plate reorganization, scientists need to find an explanation for how subduction began across such a broad area in such a short time.”

Seafloor drilling revealed that Zealandia experienced dramatic elevation changes between about 50 million and 35 million years ago. Image credit: International Ocean Discovery Program / JOIDES Resolution Science Operator.

The study authors propose a new mechanism: a ‘subduction rupture event,’ which they argue is similar to a massive, super-slow earthquake.

They believe the event resurrected ancient subduction faults that had lain dormant for many millions of years.

“We don’t know where or why, but something happened that locally induced movement, and when the fault started to slip, like in an earthquake the motion rapidly spread sideways onto adjacent parts of the fault system and then around the western Pacific,” Dr. Sutherland said.

“But unlike an earthquake, the subduction rupture event may have taken more than a million years to unfold.”

“Ultimately, Zealandia’s sedimentary record should help us determine how and why this event happened and what the consequences were for animals, plants, and global climate.”

“The process has no modern analogue and because the subduction rupture event is linked to a time of rapid, global plate tectonic change, other instances of such change in the geologic record may imply that comparable events have occurred in the past,” Dr. Sutherland said.

“Geologists generally assume that understanding the present is the key to understanding the past. But at least in this instance, this may not hold.”

The findings are published in a paper in the journal Geology.


R. Sutherland et al. Continental-scale geographic change across Zealandia during Paleogene subduction initiation. Geology, published online February 6, 2020; doi: 10.1130/G47008.1


Paleontologists Are Skeptical About Baby Dinosaur Cells Supposedly Found in Fossil

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Artist’s reconstruction of the nesting ground of Hypacrosaurus stebingeri. A deceased Hypacrosaurus nestling can be seen with the back of its skull embedded in shallow waters. The mother is portrayed at right. Illustration: Michael Rothman

With our deepest regrets to the Jurassic Park franchise, DNA does not preserve well, and no genetic data has ever been recovered for dinosaurs. Recent news suggesting that scientists have found dinosaur DNA certainly sounds exciting, but it’s an extraordinary claim that warrants skepticism.

Fossils of baby duck-billed dinosaurs (Hypacrosaurus stebingeri) have yielded traces of proteins, chromosomes, and chemical markers of DNA, according to new research published in National Science Review.

To be clear—and contrary to a press release put out by the Science China Press—the scientists, led by Alida Bailleul from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, China, have not actually found dinosaur DNA, but rather materials that are chemically consistent with the presence of DNA. It’s kind of coded language, but it’s an important distinction, and, quite unfortunately, some media outlets have perhaps read too much into the press release.

At the same time, a literal interpretation of the new paper, co-authored by paleontologist Mary Schweitzer from North Carolina State University, is also being frowned upon, as the experts we spoke to said the newly presented evidence is insufficient, inaccurate, and unconvincing.

Uncovering traces or signatures of dino cellular material, chromosomes, amino acids, and DNA would be a monumental and unprecedented achievement. Protein and DNA do not preserve well. To date, the oldest full genome in the fossil record comes from a 700,000-year-old horse found in Yukon permafrost, and the oldest proteins from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells. Finding proteins and DNA from dinosaurs that lived tens of millions of years ago, therefore, would represent a monumental shift in our understanding of how well these microscopic structures can be preserved.

“These organic materials... are understood to be among the least stable biomolecules over long periods of time and under the heat of deep burial during fossilization,” wrote Evan Saitta, a researcher from the Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, in an email to Gizmodo. “However, it is the extreme age of the samples that is striking. This 75-million-year-old fossil is, at least, one or two orders of magnitude older than the expected preservation limits of DNA and proteins,” said Saitta, who wasn’t involved with the new research.

For the new study, Bailleul, Schweitzer, and their colleagues studied fossils of duck-billed dinosaur nestlings found in northern Montana back in the 1980s. The fossilized bones were found buried within the Two Medicine Formation, which dates back to the Upper Cretaceous. Analysis of skull fragments yielded traces of well-preserved cells within calcified cartilage, according to the research, which were compared to similar features in modern emus.

Viewed through a microscope, a pair of presumed cartilage cells were seen linked together via an intercellular bridge in a manner consistent with cellular division. A dark blob reminiscent of a cell nucleus was also identified, along with elongated structures presumed to be “morphologically consistent” with chromosomes, according to the new paper.

“I couldn’t believe it, my heart almost stopped beating,” said Bailleul in the press release.

To see if the original molecules were also preserved, the researchers performed immunological and histochemical analyses of another fossil, also of a nestling Hypacrosaurus found at the same site. When exposed to antibodies of collagen II (the main component of cartilage), the fossilized cartilaginous matrix appeared to react, hinting at the presence of the dinosaur’s original cartilaginous proteins.

Another test was done, in which individual cartilage cells were isolated and exposed to two DNA stains: DAPI (4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) and PI (propidium iodide). DAPI and PI can bind to DNA fragments, and in this case, they performed this binding in a manner seen in modern cells, suggesting this dinosaur’s “nuclear material survived fossilization,” according to the paper.

“We presented multiple lines of evidence to suggest that remnants of original cells and tissues remain in regions of the skull of this baby dinosaur,” wrote Schweitzer in an email to Gizmodo. “One line of evidence is that when we stain these cell-like structures with certain stains, they light up in the same pattern as modern cells containing DNA. So, we can say that we have evidence for the presence of material that is chemically consistent with DNA inside these chondrocyte-like structures.”

“We do not say that it is dinosaur DNA, although that would be a reasonable interpretation.”

Chondrocyte cells are found in cartilage only, and they produce the cartilage matrix. Modern chondrocytes contain DNA, so their response to the DAPI and PI dyes is hardly a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is to document a similar response in dinosaur material, explained Schweitzer. That said, Schweitzer and her colleagues demonstrated something similar in 2013 for bone-forming cells (osteocytes), but this is the first such molecular response shown in fossilized cartilage.

“We do not say that it is dinosaur DNA, although that would be a reasonable interpretation,” Schweitzer said. “We can only determine that through sequence data,” which isn’t possible due the limitations of the source material.

Writing in the paper, the authors acknowledged the possibility that the samples were contaminated, but they said this wasn’t a “plausible explanation in this case” because “the possible preservation of original proteins and DNA in deep time has not been convincingly eliminated with data,” they wrote. In other words, the authors are confident that the dino’s original material is still locked inside the fossil.

The “identification of chemical markers of DNA in Hypacrosaurus suggest it may preserve much longer than originally proposed,” concluded the authors in the study.

This is not the first time that Schweitzer has claimed to have uncovered fossilized traces of soft tissue. In addition to the aforementioned 2013 study, Schweitzer has presented evidence of collagen in T. rex fossils and protein fragments in hadrosaurs, among other research papers.

When asked if he agreed with the interpretations presented in the new paper, Saitta said “no,” and that this paper “presents the most extreme claims to date from some of these authors.” In his email to Gizmodo, Saitta presented a long list of complaints, saying claims of more recent stable proteins (compared to DNA) have been challenged for a variety of reasons, including statistical shortcomings and lab contamination.

“Not only have other studies failed to provide corroborating evidence of these molecules, bone is known to actively attract microbial communities whose organic material can be mistaken as original,” said Saitta. “We found, for example, that fossil bone is full of microbial DNA that can be stained using PI. PI cannot permeate cell membranes and so cannot be used as evidence for nucleus-bound DNA,” he said, pointing to 2019 eLife paper in which he’s listed as first author.

In addition, Saitta said much doubt has been cast on histochemical and immunological staining as a technique to target specific molecules, saying these stains are notorious for producing false positives. He also worries that “many of these supposedly miraculously preserved organic materials” are “misidentified under microscopy,” saying we humans “have a tendency to see patterns in non-patterned data.”

Paleontologist Jakob Vinther from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol said a “parallel dimension” currently exists within the discipline in terms of how scientists are interpreting fossils and soft tissues.

“Schweitzer and a few others believe that proteins preserve readily, while archaeologists that are looking at material that are orders of magnitude younger cannot substantiate such claims of wholly intact proteins other than degraded fragments,” Vinther told Gizmodo. “Archaeologists use other methods, such as mass spectroscopy to investigate degraded proteins, which has led to some tremendous and amazing discoveries. However, every time people try and look at dinosaurs to sequence proteins, they find nothing but contamination. If [the authors] really have intact proteins, mass spectroscopy should easily enable us to confirm these radical claims.”

Schweitzer, who is accustomed to the criticism, said skeptics “can say what they want,” but they need to come up with other explanations that fit the data better.

“As far as I know, DAPI and PI do not bind to any other molecule except DNA,” Schweitzer told Gizmodo. “What else is DNA-like enough to bind these two markers and be localized inside a cell-like structure if it isn’t DNA? Still without sequence data, we can only say it is consistent with DNA. The fact that antibodies raised against collagen II bind this cartilage tissue, but do not bind adjacent bone is also pretty hard to explain unless it is cartilage, especially when all our controls are considered.”

The debate rages on, as does the search for more evidence. Sadly (or perhaps encouragingly), we’ll probably never be able to reconstruct a whole dinosaur genome and potentially bring an extinct dinosaur back to life, despite what science fiction tells us.

“If the Jurassic World movies had more closely adhered to the science, perhaps they would not be so awful to watch,” Saitta told Gizmodo. “Similarly, as scientists, we cannot get to a point in the future where our research papers are motivated by Hollywood.”


Dinosaur DNA and Proteins Found in Fossils, Paleontologists Claim

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Reconstruction of the nesting ground of Hypacrosaurus stebingeri from the Two Medicine Formation of Montana. Image credit: Michael Rothman / Science China Press.

In the 1980s, paleontologists found a dinosaur nesting ground with dozens of nestlings in northern Montana and identified them as Hypacrosaurus stebingeri, a species of herbivorous duck-billed dinosaur that lived some 75 million years ago (Cretaceous period). Now, a team of researchers from the United States, Canada, and China has investigated molecular preservation of calcified cartilage in one of the Hypacrosaurus stebingeri nestlings at the extracellular, cellular and intracellular levels. They’ve found chemical markers of DNA, preserved fragments of proteins and chromosomes in the dinosaur chondrocytes (cartilage cells). The findings further support the idea that these original molecules can persist for tens of millions of years.

“The skull bones of baby dinosaurs are not fused when they hatch, but instead, some of them have cartilaginous plates that fuse later as bone forms in the spaces between them,” said Dr. Alida Bailleul, a paleontologist in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology and the Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Seeing exquisitely preserved microscopic structures that resembled the specific cell types found only in cartilage, and which would have been present in the living organism in these tissues, led us to hypothesize that cellular preservation may have extended to the molecular level.”

Dr. Bailleul and colleagues performed immunological and histochemical analyses of tissues from the skull of the Hypacrosaurus stebingeri hatchling and compared the results to those from an emu skull at a similar stage of development.

“Bird skulls ossify, or harden, in the same pattern as this hadrosaur’s skull would have, and primitive birds (ratites) like emus are the closest relatives we have alive today to non-avian dinosaurs,” said Professor Mary Schweitzer, a researcher at North Carolina State University, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the University of Lund.

The cartilaginous tissues and chondrocytes from the dinosaur skull reacted with antibodies to collagen II, but the surrounding bone did not react with collagen II antibodies.

This is significant because collagen II is found only in cartilage, while collagen I dominates in bone.

Comparing the results to the emu confirmed the findings.

Isolated chondrocytes of Hypacrosaurus stebingeri and their positive response to two DNA assays: (A, B, E) isolated chondrocytes of Hypacrosaurus stebingeri and emu photographed under transmitted light (green arrows); Hypacrosaurus stebingeri chondrocytes were successfully isolated as individual cells (A) and cell doublets (B); Hypacrosaurus stebingeri (C) and emu chondrocytes (F) showing positive response to propidium iodide, a DNA intercalating dye, to a small and circular region that locates intracellularly (white arrows); Hypacrosaurus stebingeri (D) and emu chondrocytes (G) also show a similar binding when exposed to 4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride, another DNA-specific stain (black arrows) although in both cases, emu cell staining is significantly greater than in the dinosaur cells. Image credit: Bailleul et al, doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwz206.

“These tests show how specific the antibodies are to each type of protein, and support the presence of collagen II in these tissues,” Professor Schweitzer said.

“Additionally, bacteria cannot produce collagen, which rules out contamination as the source of the molecules.”

The scientists also tested the microstructures for the presence of chemical markers consistent with DNA using two complementary histochemical stains that bind to DNA fragments within cells: 4′,6′-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride and propidium iodide.

These chemical markers reacted with isolated cartilaginous cells, supporting the idea that some fragmentary DNA may remain within the cells.

“We used two different kinds of intercalating stains, one of which will only attach to DNA fragments in dead cells, and the other which binds to any DNA,” Professor Schweitzer said.

“The stains show point reactivity, meaning they are binding to specific molecules within the microstructure and not smeared across the entire ‘cell’ as would be expected if they arose from bacterial contamination.”

“Although bone cells have previously been isolated from dinosaur bone, this is the first time that cartilage-producing cells have been isolated from a fossil,” Dr. Bailleul said.

“It’s an exciting find that adds to the growing body of evidence that these tissues, cells and nuclear material can persist for millions — even tens of millions — of years.”

The findings were published in the journal National Science Review.


Alida M. Bailleul et al. Evidence of proteins, chromosomes and chemical markers of DNA in exceptionally preserved dinosaur cartilage. National Science Review, published online January 12, 2020; doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwz206



Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hypacrosaurus by Swordlord3d

Hypacrosaurus was a genus of duckbill dinosaur similar in appearance to Corythosaurus. Like Corythosaurus, it had a tall, hollow rounded crest, although not as large and straight. It is known from the remains of two species that spanned 75 to 67 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada, and Montana, United States, and is the latest hollow-crested duckbill known from good remains in North America. It was an obscure genus until the discovery in the 1990s of nestseggs, and hatchlings belonging to H. stebingeri.

Hypacrosaurus by cisiopurple

Hypacrosaurus is most easily distinguished from other hollow-crested duckbills (lambeosaurines) by its tall neural spines and the form of its crest. The neural spines, which project from the top of the vertebrae, are 5 to 7 times the height of the body of their respective vertebrae in the back, which would have given it a tall back in profile. The skull's hollow crest is like that of Corythosaurus, but is more pointed along its top, not as tall, wider side to side, and has a small bony point at the rear. Unlike other lambeosaurines, the passages for the airways do not form an S-curve in the crest (at least not in H. altispinus). The animal is estimated to have been around 9.1 meters (30 feet) long, and to have weighed up to 4.0 tonnes (4.4 tons). As with most duckbills, its skeleton is otherwise not particularly remarkable, although some pelvic details are distinctive. Like other duckbills, it was a bipedal/quadrupedal herbivore. The two known species, H. altispinus and H. stebingeri, are not differentiated in the typical method, of unique characteristics, as H. stebingeri was described as transitional between the earlier Lambeosaurus and later Hypacrosaurus. Photographs of an adult H. stebingeri skull show an animal that looks very similar to H. altispinus.

The type remains of Hypacrosaurus remains were collected in 1910 by Barnum Brown for the American Museum of Natural History. The remains, a partial postcranial skeleton consisting of several vertebrae and a partial pelvis (AMNH 5204), came from along the Red Deer River near Tolman FerryAlberta, Canada, from rocks of what is now known as the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (early MaastrichtianUpper Cretaceous). Brown described these remains, in combination with other postcranial bones, in 1913 as a new genus that he considered to be like Saurolophus. No skull was known at this time, but two skulls were soon discovered and described.

H. altispinus fossil at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

Hypacrosaurus was a lambeosaurine hadrosaurid, and has been recognized as such since the description of its skull. Within the Lambeosaurinae, it is closest to Lambeosaurus and Corythosaurus, with Jack Horner and Phil Currie (1994) suggesting that H. stebingeri is transitional between Lambeosaurus and H. altispinus, and Michael K. Brett-Surman (1989) suggesting that Hypacrosaurus and Corythosaurus are the same genus. These genera, particularly Corythosaurus and Hypacrosaurus, are regarded as the "helmeted" or "hooded" branch of the lambeosaurines, and the clade they form is sometimes informally designated Lambeosaurini. Although Suzuki et al.'s 2004 redescription of Nipponosaurus found a close relationship between Nipponosaurus and Hypacrosaurus stebingeri, indicating that Hypacrosaurus may be paraphyletic, this was rejected in a later, more comprehensive reanalysis of lambeosaurines, which found the two species of Hypacrosaurus to form a clade without Nipponosaurus, with Corythosaurus and Olorotitan being the closest relatives.

Size comparison between the two species and a human

As a hadrosauridHypacrosaurus would have been a bipedal/quadrupedal herbivore, eating a variety of plants. Its skull permitted a grinding motion analogous to chewing, and its teeth were continually replacing and packed into dental batteries that contained hundreds of teeth, only a relative handful of which were in use at any time. Plant material would have been cropped by its broad beak, and held in the jaws by a cheek-like organ. Its feeding range would have extended from the ground to about 4 m (13 ft) above.

Crest functions

The hollow crest of Hypacrosaurus most likely had social functions, such as a visual signal allowing individuals to identify sex or species, and providing a resonating chamber for making noises. The crest and its associated nasal passages have also figured in the debate about dinosaur endothermy, specifically in discussions about nasal turbinates.

H. altispinus skull, AMNH

Turbinates are thin bones or cartilages that come in two types, with two functions. Nasal olfactory turbinates are found in all living tetrapods and function in smell. Respiratory turbinates function to prevent water loss through evaporation and are found only in birds and mammals, modern endotherms (warm-blooded animals) who could lose a great deal of water while breathing because they breathe more often than comparably sized ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) to support their higher metabolism. Ruben and others in 1996 concluded that respiratory turbinates were probably not present in NanotyrannusOrnithomimus or Hypacrosaurus based on CT scanning, thus there was no evidence that those animals were warm-blooded.

Hypacrosaurus sp. skeleton exhibited in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

The discovery of tooth marks in the fibula of a Hypacrosaurus specimen inflicted by a bite from the teeth of a tyrannosaurid indicated that this, and other hadrosaurids were either preyed upon or scavenged by large theropod dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous period.

Examining the oxygen-isotope ratio from the bones from different parts of an extinct animal's body should indicate which thermoregulation mode an animal used during its lifetime. An endothermic (warm-blooded) animal should maintain a very similar body temperature throughout its entire body (which is called homeothermy) and therefore there should be little variation in the oxygen-isotope ratio when measured in different bones. Alternatively, the oxygen-isotope ratio differs considerably when measured throughout the body of an organism with an ectothermic (cold-blooded) physiology. Oxygen-isotope ratios calculated for Hypacrosaurus suggesting that the ratios varied little, indicating that Hypacrosaurus was a homeotherm, and likely was endothermic. This is in contrast to the Ruben et al. (1996) finding that Hypacrosaurus was not warm-blooded, which was based on the absence of nasal turbinates (see Crest functions subsection, above).


Jurassic World 3: 10 Storylines "Dominion" Can Have

Sunday, March 1, 2020

With a franchise like Jurassic Park, there have to be good storylines that'll give the plot going. Here are some that we want to see in the next movie.

When it comes to blockbuster films, it’s always better to have the speculations go on a little while before the release date arrives. Since there's a wide amount of possibilities that can be seen in the final product, it makes sense to come up with several scenarios.

In the case of Jurassic World: Dominion, we’ve had almost thirty years’ worth of storylines to derive from. The previous two films have set up the final film in the series well, and with characters from the original trilogy returning, we just might see these 10 storylines become canonical. These scenarios are such that most of them can overlap one another and the film would still make sense.

10 - Stopping The Government From Killing Dinosaurs

The Lost World had tackled the problems of the protagonists with freeing the captured dinosaurs, while Dominion can focus upon the heroes’ efforts to avoid the dinosaurs from getting killed. After all, the dinosaurs are a Class-A threat now, which makes sense why the governments would want to exterminate them.

Keeping in line with Ian Malcolm’s motto of preserving life, though, the protagonists can be seen thwarting plans to finish the dinosaurs off and try to avoid the situation from escalating onto a global purge.

9 - The Attempt To Round All Dinosaurs Up

How would the heroes go about trying to save the dinosaurs? That would be by getting to them before the exterminators do. This way, Dominion can be a fast-paced film that is set around the race to capture these dinosaurs. 

Another option could be to have the heroes working in lieu with the authorities and being tasked to be the ones to round all the dinosaurs at large up. To make things interesting, there can be a deadline set for the protagonists before the dinosaurs begin to be hunted.

8 - The Future Where Dinosaurs Are The Dominant Species

Chances of this happening are quite slim, although this happens to be one of the prevailing theories going around for the film. However, there could always be a twist in the making that reveals that dinosaurs ended being the dominant species.

Alan Grant had surmised as much in Jurassic Park III, where he claimed dinosaurs would never give humans a chance to thrive if they co-existed, a theory that could be seen playing out in canon as the humans attempt to survive in this apocalyptic scenario.

7 - The Search For Blue

Blue happens to be one dinosaur that just doesn’t seem to go away, having featured in both previous Jurassic World movies in a major way. This could mean that she’s a vital piece of the puzzle, something that would have Owen attempt to locate her once more.

The reason can range from extracting Blue’s DNA to using her to gather the rest of the dinosaurs, along with furthering her relationship with Owen. However, under this scenario, the main framing of the story would be the search for Blue rather than the raptor appearing much herself.

6 - Owen And Claire's Role As Parents

You might remember Maisie, the cloned girl who was taken in by Owen and Claire at the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. With her character also set to return and seemingly being one of the focal parts of Dominion, we should be in to see the dynamic between Maisie and her de facto adoptive parents.

Not only would this make for an interesting scenario, but we’ll also see the progression of the love story between Owen and Claire, which has been rather unevenly portrayed thus far. Dominion can have the couple struggling to accept Maisie’s truth as a clone, as she’s connected this way to the dinosaurs.

5 - Two Opposing Sides Over The Dinosaur Issue

Similar to what we saw in Captain America: Civil War, there can be two opposing sides to the issue of handling the dinosaurs. One can be those who want to preserve these creatures, while others would be in favor of exterminating them.

The difference in these philosophies can be the basis of the conflict in Dominion, which can be a way we see the likes of Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm return as these characters can be shown either on the same side or on opposing teams.

4 - The Second Extinction Of Dinosaurs

The series can be compared to survival games, as most of what we’ve seen have had to do with either human attempting to survive. However, the last installment can turn things around by having the dinosaurs be completely eradicated.

This can have the return to the status quo of humans ruling the world, with John Hammond’s legacy finally ending as the genetically-made dinosaurs go extinct much like the original dinosaurs once had. To illustrate this point, Dominion can show the humans launching nuclear attacks on the dinosaurs, paralleling the first extinction event of a giant explosion killing off these creatures. 

3 - Setting Up Another Island For The Remaining Dinosaurs

The series could have well ended with Jurassic Park III, where it had been established that the dinosaurs were to be left on their own. Now that the original islands have been destroyed, though, Dominion can showcase the humans’ work at building a new one.

This can tie in with the storyline of rounding the dinosaurs up, with the intention being to carry them over to the new island and preserving them for certain. Under this angle, the movie can have a full conclusion, while leaving room for future movies.

2 - Integration Of Dinosaurs Into Daily Life

No, we’re not saying we could see a Flintstones type of scenario where dinosaurs are used for household chores, but it is possible to see a select group of these creatures becoming part of daily life as a means to protect them.

The few dinosaurs that do remain can be shown “evolving” by becoming part of other animal groups, thereby doing away with the need to hunt the dinosaurs at all. It would also give rise to a scenario where the paleontologists end up becoming the caretakers of these dinosaurs.

1 - Stopping Henry Wu From Creating More Hybrids

The overall antagonist of the Jurassic World series has to be Henry Wu, who went from being just one of the scientists to outright having malicious intentions for the dinosaurs. With the character set to return for Dominion, he can be placed at the center of the conflicts.

Since he’s meant to be the big brain behind the creation of new species, the film can have the protagonists trying to find and stop Wu before he can distribute new DNA samples across the world.


10 The Good Dinosaur Easter Eggs Everyone Missed

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Good Dinosaur has been out for five years, but there are some easter eggs you probably missed.

The Good Dinosaur isn't one of the more popular Pixar movies. It received a relatively middling response from critics and audiences, and it grossed just $330 million at the worldwide box office. That said, we believe that the movie deserves some more recognition.

Like most Pixar films, The Good Dinosaur is filled with hilarious hidden references and Easter eggs to various other bits of pop culture. Some of these are more obvious than others, and some are just straight-up impossible to find without an internet guide. Luckily, that's where we come in!

RELATED: 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know about “The Good Dinosaur”

These are ten Easter eggs and references in The Good Dinosaur that everyone missed.

10 - The Jurassic Park Attack

Any movie involving dinosaurs is probably contractually obligated to include references to Jurassic ParkThe Good Dinosaur is no different. In the scene involving the cattle thieves, a T-Rex swoops in from off-camera and grabs the animals in its massive mouth.

This is a near shot-for-shot recreation from the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex saves the group from an attacking velociraptor. Just like the T-Rex in The Good Dinosaur, it swoops in from just off-camera and snags the attacking velociraptor in its massive mouth.

9 - Scar Stories

In one particular scene in The Good Dinosaur, Arlo's friends sit around a campfire and share old war stories about how they received their respective scars. This is a reference to the movie Jaws (another Spielberg masterpiece), as both Quint and Hooper drunkenly share stories about their past injuries and resulting scars.

We certainly don't expect the children to know this, so it was a cute little reference for the adults in attendance. It's also clear that the makers of The Good Dinosaur are huge fans of Steven Spielberg!

8 - The Pet Collector

The Pet Collector is a character in The Good Dinosaur. Also known as Forrest Woodbush, The Pet Collector is a styracosaurus who earned his name due to the abundance of animals living on his horns. Eagle-eyed viewers may have already seen Forrest Woodbush in another Pixar film - Inside Out!

Forrest can briefly be seen in one of Riley's happy memories - he's a statue that Riley approaches while in San Francisco. This continues Pixar's tradition of placing future characters in their movies.

7 - The Pizza Planet Truck

The Pizza Planet Truck is another of Pixar's biggest and most popular running jokes. Pixar seemingly squeezes the iconic Pizza Planet truck into every single one of their movies, and questions abounded as to how they would incorporate it into The Good Dinosaur.

Well, rest assured that they a way. The shape of the Pizza Planet truck can actually be spotted during the movie's opening shot of the asteroids. One asteroid in the top left corner of the frame bears a suspicious resemblance to the Pizza Planet truck. Those sneaky Pixar animators...

6 - The Pixar Ball

The Pixar Ball, as you can imagine, is yet another one of Pixar's biggest Easter eggs. Like the Pizza Planet truck, it too appears in every single Pixar film, including The Good Dinosaur. It can briefly be spotted in the scene where Arlo and Spot get hilariously intoxicated from eating the fermented fruit.

While they are gleefully trapezing through a field, the ball can briefly be seen floating past the characters in the background. It takes a keen eye to spot, and it moves by very quickly, but trust us, it's there. Come on; it's not like Pixar to forget the Pixar ball.

5 - A113

And finally, we come to A113, the third and final Pixar staple. Like the ball and Pizza Planet truck, the letter-number combination of A113 can be found in every Pixar movie. The combination refers to the classroom that many Pixar alumni shared while studying at the California Institute of the Arts. It can be spotted in The Good Dinosaur when the bird chases Arlo out from his feeding area.

The combination can be seen made out of various sticks that sit along a fence on the left side of the enclosure. It really is amazing to see just how creative Pixar can get with their signature Easter egg integrations.

4 - Heimlich

Early in the film, Arlo and his father are traveling through a forest. During this sequence, a distinctive caterpillar can be seen in the foreground of one of the shots. It's not a perfect match, but the caterpillar bears a close resemblance to Heimlich, the hilarious caterpillar from Pixar's A Bug's Life.

This wouldn't be the first time that Pixar slipped Heimlich into one of their movies, as he can also be seen in Toy Story 2 right before Buzz chops down the branch he is standing on. We guess Pixar just really loves them some Heimlich.

3 - 127 Hours

You wouldn't think that a children's film would include references to something as gruesome as 127 Hours. But then again, this is Pixar we're talking about. They will include references to anything. Ramsey tells a particularly grisly story about chewing through her own tail after getting it literally stuck between "a rock and a hard place."

This is a direct reference to Aron Ralston, who was forced to sever his own arm after getting it trapped between a massive boulder and a canyon wall. The title of his autobiography? Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

2 - "The Storm Provides."

The Good Dinosaur is not only taking inspiration from 127 Hours - it also includes a little The Big Lebowski in there for good measure. The movie's main antagonist is a character named Thunderclap, an animal who is obsessed with storms.

One of his catchphrases is "the storm provides," which bears a distinct similarity with The Dude's catchphrase "the Dude abides." Yeah, maybe this one is a bit of a stretch, but there's no denying that the similarities are there.

1 - "In The Morning, We Ride."

This is, without a doubt, one of the more obscure references that Pixar has included in their films. In The Good Dinosaur, Sam Elliott's character Butch says the line, "In the morning, we ride." It doesn't really sound like much until you account for Elliott's past filmography.

Elliott was also in Ghost Rider, that subpar Nicolas Cage superhero movie from 2007. In it, Cage plays a devilish bounty hunter who rides a motorcycle, and Sam Elliott's Caretaker says a line very close to the one that Butch says in The Good Dinosaur.


Lekaneleo roskellya: 'Extraordinary' Discovery: Fossil of New Type of Lion Found in Australia

Sunday, March 1, 2020

An artist's impression of marsupial lion now known as Lekaneleo roskellya. Photo /

A new type of lion that roamed the country tens of millions of years ago has been discovered in northwest Queensland, Australia.

A fossil found in the Riversleigh World Heritage area near the border with the Northern Territory was originally thought to be part of a different genus of marsupial lions, but recent discoveries about variations in its teeth have shown it was actually a separate genus.

A new paper published by University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology said the lion was about the size of a house cat and roamed ancient Australia during the Oligocene-Miocene (about 23 to 34 million years ago).

The woman who discovered the fossil in 1997, Anna Gillespie, also co-authored the latest study that re-examined the fossil.

She originally gave the marsupial lion its scientific name Priscileo roskellyae, a reference to former federal minister Ros Kelly, who provided "significant support" to projects in the Riversleigh Heritage Area.

But it will now be reclassified as Lekaneleo roskellyae, after the team noted differences in its teeth from other members of the Priscileo genus.

A different marsupial lion found in Riversleigh was named Microleo attenboroughi after naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Co-author Professor Michael Archer told ABC News the lion had teeth "capable of slicing straight through bones".

"They had an extraordinary, elongated, bolt-cutting type of premolar," he said.

"This was the most extraordinary adaptation or evolution that a carnivorous mammal has ever developed anywhere in the world."

He said the teeth were the reason the lion was now being recognised as a distinct genus.

"We've only just recognised [it's] highly different than any of the other previous ones we've seen — that's why it's been described now as a new genus of marsupial lion."

Long extinct, the new genus will go down alongside other relics of Australia's historical fauna.

Animals like the thylacine (commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger) and megafauna like the Diprotodon (the largest marsupial ever discovered) once called Australia home, along with other biologically diverse native animals.

Extinction fears are mounting for other Australian marsupials such as the platypus and koala, particularly since recent bushfires killed many koalas and decimated the habitat of those that remain.

Professor Archer said there were lessons to be learned from the latest discovery and the previous extinctions.

"It makes us understand that the total effect that has happened in Australia is a steady loss of the complexities that was normal in the forests in Australia."


Lizard Forefoot Found Preserved in Dominican Amber

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Light microscopic image of the piece of 15-20-million-year old Dominican amber; the specimen contains a fairy wasp and the left forelimb of an anole lizard; several flow structures can be recognized in the resin. Image credit: Barthel et al, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228843.

The left forelimb of an anole lizard (genus Anolis) has been found perfectly preserved in a piece of Miocene-Epoch amber from the Dominican Republic.

“Vertebrate inclusions in amber are very rare, the majority are insect fossils,” said Jonas Barthel, a doctoral student in the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Bonn.

Barthel and colleagues found the left forelimb of the Anolis lizard in a 2-cm piece of 15-20-million-year old Dominican amber.

“The claws and toes are very clearly visible in the honey-brown amber mass, almost as if the tree resin had only recently dripped onto them — yet the tiny foot is about 15 to 20 million years old,” they said.

The researchers examined the specimen by micro-Raman spectroscopy, electron microprobe, and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy.

The analyses revealed that the forefoot is broken in two places and that one of the fractures is surrounded by a slight swelling.

“We propose the following model for our observations,” the scientists said.

“While climbing the tree, the lizard got into contact with a flow of resin and could not escape its sticky trap.”

“After some time, it attracted the attention of a predator that ripped off the lizard, leaving solely the fore limb in the resin. Later on, the resin hardened and became deposited within the surrounding soil which represents the starting point of its diagenesis.”

“The presence of ‘Schlauben’ (a succession of flows), the splintered humerus, the edema, the peeled off parts of the skin, and lastly the numerous air bubbles strongly support this model.”

The Raman spectroscopy revealed that mineral hydroxyapatite in the bone had been transformed into fluoroapatite by the penetration of fluorine.

“This is surprising, because we assumed that the surrounding amber largely protects the fossil from environmental influences,” Barthel said.

“However, the small crack may have encouraged chemical transformation by allowing mineral-rich solutions to find their way in.”

The Raman spectroscopy also showed that collagen — the bone’s elastic component — had largely degraded. Despite the seemingly very good state of preservation, there was actually very little left of the original tissue structure.

“We have to expect that at least in amber from the Dominican Republic, macromolecules are no longer detectable,” said Professor Jes Rust, also from the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Bonn.

“It was not possible to detect more complex molecules such as proteins, but the final analyses are still pending.”

“The degradation processes in this amber deposit are therefore very advanced, and there is very little left of the original substance.”

The findings were published in the journal PLoS ONE.


H.J. Barthel et al. 2020. Fluoridation of a lizard bone embedded in Dominican amber suggests open-system behavior. PLoS ONE 15 (2): e0228843; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228843