Jeff Goldblum Welcomes You To 'Jurassic World' In New 'Fallen Kingdom' Trailer

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Final Trailer [HD]

What makes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom different from the rest of the Jurassic Park movies? That’s the question that Universal/Comcast Corp. will have to answer in the next two months. Yes, Jurassic World earned a record-breaking $208 million Fri-Sun weekend and ended up with $652m domestic and $1.671 billion worldwide, but that was the first Jurassic Park movie in 14 years. Moreover, the film had a killer hook (“The park is open”) and Chris Pratt fresh off The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy leading the way. And, warts and all, Colin Trevorrow delivered a big, colorful, quirky piece of IMAX-friendly popcorn entertainment that offered just enough self-commentary to justify itself beyond IP exploitation.

But Fallen Kingdom is just another Jurassic Park movie. The premise, from what we’ve seen so far, is relatively straightforward, with Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt returning to the deserted island to rescue the dinosaurs before its volcanos explode. It’s a “save the animals” plot akin to The Lost World. But, as seen in this trailer, with its shots of close-quarters attacks and dinos menacing kids in their beds (that’s a primal as all hell piece of imagery), Universal is selling the idea that J.A. Bayona’s installment will be less swashbuckling adventure and more horror. Or, maybe a little of both, as what starts as Jurassic Park eventually turns into Carnosaur.

If it’s more “Egad, the horror!” than “Woohoo, the fun!” than that’s another reason it might not play as big or as leggy as Jurassic World. And, of course, the darker, grimmer and more graphically violent The Lost World took some slight knocks for its double-digit body count and periodic gruesome violence, as well as for being a less than “Oooh… ah!” experience. Like Batman Returns and The Last JediThe Lost World still made gonzo bucks ($228m domestic and $619m worldwide) but earned around 35% less than Jurassic Park worldwide. A similar scenario still gives Fallen Kingdom $416m domestic and around $1.1 billion worldwide, which would still be a boatload of cash for the over/under $180m sequel.

It will be very interesting to see how this one plays out. It’s entirely possible that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will both be a better movie than Jurassic World and different enough from the rest of the franchise to justify itself while still not becoming anywhere near of a pop culture event. It opens a week after The Incredibles 2 and just two weeks before Ant-Man and the Wasp so the competition will be heavier. But don’t be shocked if Avengers: Infinity War crushes it in North America while Fallen Kingdom still squeaks out an overseas victory, as Fate of the Furious barely cracked $225m domestic but earned over $1 billion worldwide last year.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, BD Wong, Ted Levine, James Cromwell and Jeff Goldblum, opens June 6 overseas and June 22 in North America. As always, we’ll see.


Dinosaur National Monument Announces Fee Increase

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dinosaur National Monument. Photo © Zrphoto/Dreamstime.

Visitors to Dinosaur National Monument this summer will pay $5 more for entry, as the National Park Service has announced increased entry fees at parks nationwide.

Dinosaur National Monument is increasing its fee structure as follows.

• Per vehicle fee will increase from $20 to $25.

• Per person fees will increase from $10 to $15.

• Per motorcycle fees will increase from $15 to $20.

• Annual passes to Dinosaur National Monument will increase from $40 to $45.

The new fee schedule will take effect June 1.

"We do want it to be an affordable place to come," said Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the monument. He added there are a few fee-free weekends and days for visitors who can't or don't want to pay basic entrance fees. The next of these fee-free days will be Saturday, in celebration of National Park Week.

Last year, the Department of Interior proposed increasing peak-season fees at 17 highly visited national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park. After receiving public comments, the agency instead opted to increase fees in all areas that charge an entrance fee, according to a news release from Dinosaur National Monument. Fees were last raised in Dinosaur by local park management in 2016.

At least 80 percent of revenue made from entrance fees will remain within Dinosaur. Johnson said there is more than $10 million in deferred maintenance at the monument.

"It's certainly a place that could use some more help," said Tom Kleinschnitz, director of the Moffat County Tourism Association. "I wish there was another way to get that accomplished."

Revenues from the fee increase will help the park pay for improvements to restrooms in the Green River and Split Mountain campgrounds on the Utah side of the park. Several comfort stations in that area are in poor condition, according to Dan Johnson, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Dinosaur National Monument.

"We do what we can to try to maintain them and keep them up, try to make them presentable as best we can, but they were built in the time before the Americans with Disability Act requirements, so they're not accessible to people in a wheelchair," Johnson said.

He added that one comfort station has been modified to make it more accessible, but it is still not up to the standard.

"When those are done, we'll have modern, clean, easy-to-maintain, sustainable restrooms that will be accessible to all of our visitors," he said.

Money from the fee increase will also help repair trails and improve exhibits and interpretive materials. Some funding from the fee increase will help pay for updates to the Canyon Visitors Center's outdoor exhibits.

"The exhibits that are here in the Canyon Visitors Center were put in in the 1960s, so they are, again, quite dated," Johnson said. "You look at what people are expecting in a modern visitor's center, and as far as how people learn these days, it's very different from that time period."

Johnson said the park also hopes to expand its outdoor exhibits and information booths, so people have more access to information when the Canyon Visitors Center is closed.

"It's unfortunate the fees are raised right in front of our tourist season," Kleinschnitz said. "It would be nice to have a bit more notice for people."

Johnson compared the cost of entry to cost of other family activities, such as amusement park admissions or lift tickets at a ski resort. Dinosaur's $25 per-vehicle fee could get an entire family into the park for a week.

"It still remains a really good value for people," Johnson said.


First an Alga, Then a Squid, Enigmatic Fossil is Actually a Fish

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A photo of the Platylithophycus cretaceus specimen. The scale bar is 5 centimeters. Credit: © Mike Eklund

A fossil slab discovered in Kansas 70 years ago and twice misidentified -- first as a green alga and then as a cephalopod -- has been reinterpreted as the preserved remains of a large cartilaginous fish, the group that includes sharks and rays. Researchers now describe the fishy characteristics of the animal, which lived between 70-85 million years ago.


"There are many examples of temporarily misplaced taxa in paleontological history, including ferns that were once thought to be sponges and lungfish teeth thought to be fungi," said the lead author, Allison Bronson, a comparative biology Ph.D.-degree student in the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School. "In this case, the misidentification didn't happen because of a lack of technology at the time -- scientists familiar with cartilage structure could easily see this was a chondrichthyan fish. The researchers used reasonable arguments for their interpretations, but didn't look outside of their own fields."

The enigmatic specimen, Platylithophycus cretaceum, is roughly 1.5-feet long by 10-inches wide and from the Niobrara Formation in Kansas. The Niobrara Formation is one of the most diverse fish-fossil sites in North America, preserving late Cretaceous animals that lived in and around the Western Interior Seaway, a broad expanse of water that split North America into two land masses.

In 1948, two paleobotanists from the Colorado School of Mines and Princeton University compared the texture of the fossil slab with that of green algae. They described two parts of a plant: surfaces covered with hexagonal plates, which they called "fronds," and supposedly calcium carbonate-covered thread-like filaments. In 1968, two researchers from Fort Hays Kansas State College studying cephalopods from the Niobrara Formation compared the specimen with a cuttlefish, based primarily on its textural similarities to a cuttlebone -- the unique internal shell of cuttlefish. The reclassification made Platylithophycus the oldest sepiid squid then on record.

In both of these earlier studies, the hard tissue was assumed to be composed of calcium carbonate, but no tests were performed. For the new study, Bronson and co-author John Maisey, a curator in the Museum's Division of Paleontology, applied a small amount of dilute organic acid to the specimen -- a method that has been widely used in paleontology since the time of the initial description of Platylithophycus. If there is a reaction, the fossilized material is likely made from calcium carbonate. But if there is no reaction, which was the case when Bronson and Maisey performed the test, it is likely made from calcium phosphate, as are the fossilized skeletons of cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays.

The most obvious clue that Platylithophycus was a cartilaginous fish are the hexagonal plates on the surface of the specimen. After taking a closer look with a scanning electron microscope, Bronson and Maisey reinterpreted that feature as tessellated calcified cartilage, found on both extinct and living sharks and rays. The new study suggests that the "filaments" earlier described are actually part of the gill arches, made up of tessellated cartilage. Gill arches are cartilaginous curved bars along the pharynx, or throat, that support the gills of fish. The "fronds" are reinterpreted as gill rakers, finger-like projections that extend from the gill arches and help with feeding.

"We think this was a rather large cartilaginous fish, possibly related to living filter-feeding rays such as Manta and Mobula," Maisey said. "This potentially expands the range of diversity in the Niobrara fauna."

But because this fossil only preserves the animal's gills and no additional identifying features like teeth, it cannot be given a new name or reunited with an existing species. So until then, this fish will still carry the name of a plant.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Museum of Natural HistoryNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Allison W. Bronson, John G. Maisey. Resolving the identity of Platylithophycus, an enigmatic fossil from the Niobrara Chalk (Upper Cretaceous, Coniacian–Campanian)Journal of Paleontology, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2018.14


Mass Extinction Event Triggered Dinosaur Expansion 232 Million Years Ago

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A life-scene from 232 million years ago, during the Carnian Pluvial Episode after which dinosaurs took over: a large rauisuchian lurks in the background, while two species of dinosaurs stand in the foreground, and some rhynchosaurs sit on the logs to the left; based on data from the Ischigualasto Formation in Argentina. Image credit: Davide Bonadonna.

Paleontologists believe that all non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out when a giant asteroid or comet collided with Earth some 65 million years ago, resulting in huge clouds of dust that blocked the Sun’s rays from reaching Earth’s surface. But the origins of dinosaurs have been less understood. In a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers argue that dinosaurs diversified explosively in the mid-Carnian, at a time of major climate and floral change and the extinction of key plant-eaters, which the dinosaurs opportunistically replaced.


In the new study, evidence is provided to match the two events: the mid-Carnian extinction (known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode, or CPE) and the initial diversification of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs had originated much earlier, at the beginning of the Triassic period, some 245 million years ago, but they remained very rare until the shock events of CPE 13 million years later.

The study shows just when dinosaurs took over by using detailed evidence from rock sequences in the Dolomites, in north Italy — here the dinosaurs are detected from their footprints.

First there were no dinosaur tracks, and then there were many. This marks the moment of their explosion, and the rock successions in the Dolomites are well dated.

Comparison with rock successions in Argentina and Brazil, here the first extensive skeletons of dinosaurs occur, show the explosion happened at the same time there as well.

“We were excited to see that the footprints and skeletons told the same story,” said study lead author Dr. Massimo Bernardi, from the MUSE-Museo delle Scienze in Trento, Italy, and the University of Bristol, UK.

“We had been studying the footprints in the Dolomites for some time, and it’s amazing how clear cut the change from ‘no dinosaurs’ to ‘all dinosaurs’ was.”

The point of explosion of dinosaurs matches the end of the CPE event, a time when climates shuttled from dry to humid and back to dry again.

It was long suspected that CPE had caused upheavals among life on land and in the sea, but the details were not clear.

Then, in 2015, dating of rock sections and measurement of oxygen and carbon values showed just what had happened.

There were massive eruptions in western Canada, represented today by the great Wrangellia basalts — these drove bursts of global warming, acid rain, and killing on land and in the oceans.

“We had detected evidence for the climate change in the Dolomites. There were four pulses of warming and climate perturbation, all within a million years or so. This must have led to repeated extinctions,” said co-author Dr. Piero Gianolla, from the University of Ferrara, Italy.

“The discovery of the existence of a link between the first diversification of dinosaurs and a global mass extinction is important,” said co-author Professor Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol.

“The extinction didn’t just clear the way for the age of the dinosaurs, but also for the origins of many modern groups, including lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and mammals — key land animals today.”


Massimo Bernardi et al. 2018. Dinosaur diversification linked with the Carnian Pluvial Episode. Nature Communications 9, article number: 1499; doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03996-1


25th Anniversary: Official ‘Jurassic Park’ LEGO Set

Monday, April 16, 2018

Since the Jurassic Park franchise was reinvigorated with the legacy-quel Jurassic World in 2015, the merchandise for the action adventure film series featuring hungry dinosaurs has been ramped up to its full potential. There are plenty of action figures, t-shirts, stuffed dinosaurs, video games and much more to cash in on the Jurassic Park name. However, not much attention has been paid to bringing the original Jurassic Park to life in merchandise form again, but LEGO is about to change that.

A new Jurassic Park LEGO set will be available for purchase next week, and it allows fans to recreate several iconic scenes fro Steven Spielberg’s original movie. More specifically, it brings to life the third act chase sequence with a pack of velociraptors chasing down Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and John Hammond’s grandchildren Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello).

Jurassic Park LEGO Set


As you can see, the 360-piece LEGO set, dubbed the Velociraptor Chase, allows collectors to build embryo storage, the computer room and the kitchen, three key areas where scenes from Jurassic Park unfold. While I would prefer a LEGO set that has a more complete recreation of the visitor center (like this set that LEGO Ideas turned down), this is still a pretty cool little set.

Along with building the settings inside the Jurassic Park visitor center, it’s the minfigures that make this $40 set worth the price. As you can see, it comes with Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, Lex and Tim. And while his minifigure may not be included in this set, you’ll notice that one of the computer screens features a tiny LEGO illustration of Wayne Knight as Dennis Nedry. It’s not his head on a cartoon Elvis body as it appears in the movie, but we’ll let it slide. Plus, if you look in the embryo room, you might see a tiny LEGO version of the fake Barbasol shaving cream that he used to smuggle dino DNA outside of the laboratory.

But where are John Hammond, Ian Malcolm and Samuel L. Jackson LEGO minifigures? And why aren’t we getting LEGO versions of the Jurassic Park Jeep or Ford Explorer? Well, there’s a chance those sets might still be on the way.

This new LEGO set will have to do for the time being. If you want it, you’ll have to hit up Walmart, who has the exclusive on this set. It will be available on shelves starting today, April 16, so keep an eye out.

All the Dinosaurs Found in Wales, Mapped

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Image: Dave Catchpole/Archangel12/Flickr

A guide to all the dinosaurs that have ever been discovered in Wales.

Despite having died out 65 million years ago, dinosaurs have fascinated people ever since the first bones were discovered.

From Velociraptors chasing children round a kitchen in Jurassic Park to Dippy on show at the Natural History Museum, these prehistoric beasts are fascinating.


And several dinosaur remains have been discovered in Wales.

But you'll notice that all the dinosaur finds have come in a relatively small area of south Wales, roughly between Porthcawl and Penarth.

Why are all the fossils in Wales found in roughly the same area?

Dr Caroline Buttler, head of paleontology at National Museum of Wales, explains it is down to the age of the rocks.

She said: "The reason the finds are all in that area is due to the age of the rocks. They are mainly the Triassic and Jurassic period which is why we find dinosaurs. In west Wales the rocks are much older, before dinosaurs."

But it's actually incredibly rare to find dinosaurs even in this area.

"The rock around here was marine rock. That is why the find by the Hanigan brothers (see below) was so exceptional. The dinosaur died and was washed into the sea where it became fossilised.

"What we do get is a lot of ichthyosaurs. They lived at the time of dinosaurs. They had a body the shape of dolphins, sharp teeth and were canivourous. We have lots of skulls and whole specimins."

But you don't have to go far along the southern coast of Wales before your chances of finding dinosaurs is reduced to zero.

"Once you get to Ogmore the rock is already too old for dinosaurs." said Dr Buttler.

It is important to bear in mind that this is not every fossil. Not all fossils discovered are dinosaurs. And these discoveries are almost never full skeletons. They often get reclassified decades later once more data becomes available.

So what were they?

If you're a fan of the T. rex you are going to be a little bit disappointed. The Tyrannosaurus rex, or "king of the tyrant lizards", has not been discovered in Wales.

But there have been some pretty astonishing finds.

Dracoraptor hanigani

An artist's impression of what Dracoraptor hanigani would have looked like

This distant relative of the T. rex was discovered on Lavernock beach by fossil-hunting brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan, from Llantwit Major.

The pair made the “discovery of a lifetime” when they found the fossilised skull and bones on the beach in the Vale of Glamorgan after storms in spring 2014.

Nick and Rob pictured with their fascinating discovery at the National Museum in Cardiff

Scientists have recreated the creature's bone structure

The creature, which dates back 201 million years, was named Dracoraptor hanigani after them.

Dracoraptor is Latin for “dragon robber” in fitting with the national symbol of Wales.

Although a meat-eater, the newly-discovered dragon was nothing like as terrifying as its later cousin.

It stood on two legs, and was a small, agile animal probably no more than about 2.2ft tall and 6.5ft long with a long tail that may have been used for balance.

Brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan excavating the fossilised remains

The fossilised remains were described as 'the discovery of a lifetime'

Since most of its bones were not yet fully formed, experts believe the specimen discovered here may have been a youngster.

Scientists have recovered about 40% of the dinosaur’s skeleton, found embedded in rock at the base of a collapsed coastal cliff at Lavernock Point in March 2014.

At the start of the Jurassic Period, when D. hanigani was alive, the climate of south Wales was much warmer than it is today and dinosaurs were just starting to diversify.


Pantydraco (Image: Nobu Tamura)

This particular dinosaur is actually named after a Welsh quarry.

Standing about the same size as an adult human it had a dragon shaped head and strong jaw. When fully grown it would have been an amazing three metres long.

This dinosaur was probably omnivorous and would have been an impressive hunter, grasping at its prey with its long front arms.

It was discovered in Pant-y-ffynnon quarry near Cowbridge which is where it gets the "pant" part of its name. Draco means a dragon or mythical creature in latin.


The jaw of the new species Clevosaurus cambrica, here shown as a 3D CT scan model, was adapted for chopping up small prey (Image: University of Bristol)

This one is not technically a dinosaur but would have lived alongside pantydraco. This fossil was identified by an undergraduate student from Bristol University.

The research was completed by Emily Keeble, an undergraduate in Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, as part of her final-year project for her palaeontology degree.

The fossils she studied were collected in the 1950s in Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry, and they belong to a new species of the "Gloucester lizard" Clevosaurus (named in 1939 after Clevum, the Latin name for Gloucester).

In the Late Triassic, the hills of south Wales and the south west of England formed an archipelago that was inhabited by small dinosaurs and relatives of the Tuatara, a reptilian living fossil from New Zealand.

'The teeth were likely adapted to dice pieces of flesh'

The limestone quarries of the region have many caves or fissures containing sediments filled with the bones of abundant small reptile species that give us a unique insight into the animals that scuttled at the feet of the dinosaurs. The fissures are of worldwide importance in for such well-preserved small reptiles.

Emily said: “The new species, Clevosaurus cambrica lived side-by-side with a small dinosaur, Pantydraco, and an early crocodile-like animal, Terrestrisuchus. We compared it with other examples of Clevosaurus from locations around Bristol and South Gloucestershire, but our new beast is quite different in the arrangement of its teeth.”

Professor Mike Benton, Emily’s co-supervisor, added: “We were lucky to find quite a lot of the skeleton and Emily was able to scan the blocks and make 3D reconstructions of the skull, neck, shoulder and arm region.”

Another co-supervisor, Dr David Whiteside, said: “The teeth of Clevosaurus cambric were likely adapted to dice pieces of flesh, so we interpret this little critter as a predator, feeding on insects and other small animals.”

Where is the best place in Wales to find fossils dinosaurs?

Lavernock Point, near Cardiff

Fossil vertebrae of extinct marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs have been found here.

Particularly worthy of investigation are the "bone beds" near Lavernock Point, where you might find fish and reptile teeth, scales and bones, and coprolites (fossilised dung). You can also see dinosaur footprints on this section of coast.

The National Museum of Wales has an Evolution of Wales gallery with a reconstruction of south Wales as it was 200 million years ago, with dinosaur skeletons and footprints.

Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan

Best spot for Jurassic fossils in Wales, offering corals, giant shells (brachiopods and gastropods) and bones.

Walk east to find well-preserved fossils in the boulders and slabs that have been washed toward the sea.

Where else in the UK is a good place for to find dinosaur fossils?

Other good places to for fossil hunting in the UK include:

  • Jurassic Coast, Dorset to East Devon

  • The Fossil Coast, Yorkshire

  • Isle of Wight

  • Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex

  • Helmsdale, Sutherland

  • Isle of Sheppey, Kent

  • Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

  • Antrim coast, Northern Ireland

What dinosaur species are most commonly found in the UK?

The most common species of dinosaur found in the UK is the terrifying meat eater Megalosaurus.

An artists impression of Megalosaurus (Image: Mariana Ruiz)

A full list of the most common species are here:

Species Amount found
Megalosaurus bucklandii 9
Cetiosaurus oxoniensis 6
Iguanodon mantelli 6
Owenodon hoggii 6
Iguanodon bernissartensis 5
Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis 5
Polacanthus foxii 5
Barilium dawsoni 4
Duriatitan humerocristatus 4
Hypselospinus fittoni 4

Wales actually has a long history of paleontology

Dorothea Bate paleontologist and first woman to work at Natural History Museum London (Image: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London [2017]. All rights reserved.’)

Paleontologist Dorothea Bate was born in Carmarthen and was the first female to work at London's Natural History Museum.


Rare Fossils Could Face Trouble Outside New Bears Ears National Monument Boundaries

Monday, April 16, 2018

This is part of a phytosaur fossil unearthed by an excavation team in a now-unprotected area of Bears Ears National Monument. Credit: Courtesy of Rob Gay

The Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent jeopardizes future research and excavation in one of the densest fossil troves in the world, according to scientists who work in the region.

More than 200 million years ago, giant reptiles wandered in Bears Ears, leaving a vast cache of recently discovered Triassic-era, fossilized bones, says paleontologist Rob Gay. He and his team have been exploring the Chinle Formation in Bears Ears National Monument.

“Bears Ears dates from the dawn of the age of dinosaurs, and we found all sorts of amazing fossils — plant-eating crocodile teeth; footprints, which indicate that armored, herbivorous crocodiles walked the landscape; and then, most recently, we came across a huge deposit of fossilized bones from animals called phytosaurs. These are 15- to 20-foot-long crocodile mimics with blowholes,” Gay explains. “It seems to be a very rare animal, and all of a sudden, we've got the world's largest treasure trove of this animal."

The site is enormous — about 63 meters long, which makes it the largest Triassic bone bed in the state of Utah and possibly one of the densest in the country, if not the world, Gay adds. 

All federal land has some basic protection for vertebrate fossils. But additional protections are in place within national monuments, not just for vertebrate fossils, but also for invertebrate and plant fossils, Gay explains. “Without a monument, anyone can come and collect plant fossils and shells, legally. It’s not prohibited,” he says. “Whereas in a monument, that activity is restricted to permitted scientists.”

Bears Ears was also protected as part of the National Conservation Lands, which is a system of Bureau of Land Management areas mainly across the West encompassing national monuments, conservation areas and historic trails. Congress sets funding aside for scientific exploration of these lands. Now that the site is no longer in a protected area, it's not eligible for these funding sources.

As for the Trump administration’s plans for drilling, Gay doesn’t see much potential in the region for oil and gas. The area was extensively drilled in the 1920s and 1930s and came up with nothing, he says. There is coal within the boundaries of Bears Ears, but the seams are small and not likely to be commercially viable.  

The most likely material to mine within Bears Ears is uranium. The uranium boom of the 1950s and 1960s fueled the development of roads into the area and, ironically, Gay adds, also fueled the development of scientific understanding of the fossils in the region. Expanding uranium development in the area now would severely threaten fossil resources, and "while that is a possibility, the fact that existing mines in the area are not producing uranium tells me that the commercial value of the uranium in the ground is probably not too high.”

Gay says he will continue to seek funding for his work and will continue exploration in the region. Outside of that, “the next steps are to figure out what the heck we actually have. What did we pull out of the rock? The fossils are currently undergoing preparation at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site in St. George, Utah, where they are being removed from their rocky cradles. I'm really excited to see what all comes out of there.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.


“Jurassic World” Sequel Teases Full Trailer

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Two months out from the film’s release, Universal Pictures has posted a 30-second teaser for the upcoming full-length trailer for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” being released online on Wednesday.

Stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for this outing in which Owen and Clare return to Isla Nublar to try and rescue the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption, including his trained raptor Blue. The film also stars James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones and Rafe Spall, while BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum reprise their roles.

J.A. Bayona helms the film which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow. The trailer will follow on from a teaser released late last year, and an extended trailer released during this year’s Superbowl broadcast.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” opens in cinemas on June 22nd.


What Are These 520-Million-Year-Old Blobs? Experts Can't Agree.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A new study says these blobs definitely aren't brains. Credit: Liu J. et al./Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Here's a brainteaser: Do the 520-million-year-old fossils of an ancient, bug-like creature actually show a silhouette of its brains? Or are these blobby shapes in its head merely fossilized bacteria?

According to a new study, the fossilized structures in the Cambrian-period creature's head aren't brainy remains, but rather fossilized bacterial mats, called biofilms.

However, not everyone is on board with this interpretation. The researchers who originally discovered the brains are standing by their results, and other paleontologists Live Science interviewed agree with them.

The creature in question, Fuxianhuia protensa, is an early arthropod, a group that includes modern-day insects, spiders and crabs. The roughly 3-inch-long (7.6 centimeters) segmented critter lived in what is now southern China during the Cambrian, a period that lasted from about 542 million to 488 million years ago.

A 520-million-year-old Fuxianhuia protensa fossil and its counterpart (upper corner). Notice how the fossilized brain is symmetrical. Credit: Xiaoya Ma; Nicholas Strausfeld

F. protensa fossils are fairly common, and researchers pored over more than 1,000 of them before finding 10 with outlines of brains, said Nicholas Strausfeld, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Arizona. Strausfeld first reported on the brain-like features with colleagues in a 2012 study published in the journal Nature, a 2014 study in the journal Nature Communications and a 2015 study in the journal Current Biology.

But researchers in China and Germany had their doubts. They decided to check if they, too, could find fossilized F. protensa brains. After examining about 800 fossilized specimens, the researchers noticed that 10 percent had blobby structures in the head region.

But these blobs weren't uniform in shape, and this made them "question whether the 'brains' in the original studies were really being interpreted correctly," said the new study's lead researcher, Jianni Liu, a professor at the Early Life Institute in the Department of Geology at Northwest University, in Xi'an, China.

Liu and her colleagues presented an alternate hypothesis in a study published online yesterday (April 11) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Liu's team suspected that, instead of brains, these odd cranial structures were fossilized bacteria. That's because, after arthropods die, the bacteria in their gut creates biofilms, "which can rupture out of the gut wall and form structures which might superficially resemble brains, nerves or other internal organs," she said.

It may be ancient but it had a heart: 'Fuxianhuia protensa', a primitive precursor to crustaceans, is the earliest creature we know that had a cardiovascular system.

Liu and her colleagues also read studies detailing how modern arthropods decay after death. These studies showed that "the brain and nervous system actually decays very quickly," meaning it often doesn't have a chance to fossilize, Liu told Live Science. (Strausfeld disputes this notion. He and his colleagues showed that neural tissue can be preserved if the arthropod is quickly buried in a slurry of mud and seawater and then subjected to sustained pressure, comparable to conditions of entombment, he said.)

Liu and her team, however, did acknowledge that it is possible to discover fossilized brains in Cambrian-period arthropods. For instance, another 520-million-year-old early arthropod, known as Chengjiangocaris, has "more pristine tissue preservation … that have convincingly been interpreted as ventral nerve cords," the researchers wrote in the study.

Differing opinions

Other paleontologists told Live Science they weren't swayed by the new results. For one thing, Liu's team did not examine the fossils described in the previous studies, said Peter Van Roy, a paleobiologist at Ghent University in Belgium who wasn't involved with any of the studies.

"They did not look at the actual specimen that supposedly shows the brain," Van Roy told Live Science. "That is quite a major shortcoming."

Moreover, the brains in the previous studies were perfectly symmetrical, just like the brains of modern arthropods are today. "We can even resolve axon [nerve] bundles in the fossilized optic lobes, as well as evidence of fiber tracts across the brain," Strausfeld told Live Science.

In contrast, the blobs Liu and her colleagues found were asymmetrical and obviously not brains, Strausfeld said.

Jakob Vinther, a United Kingdom-based paleontologist who wasn't involved in the studies but has studied other fossilized Cambrian brains, said he was "highly skeptical" of the new study's conclusions.

"Fuxianhuia was the first Cambrian fossil to have been argued to preserve nervous system [material]," and other fossilized brains have been found since then, Vinther told Live Science. "Criticizing the initial study that made the foundations for the paradigm while not rejecting the subsequent studies is problematic, and hence, for that reason alone, the study fails to make a solid claim," Vinther said.

Moreover, just because fossilized brains are rare doesn't mean they don't exist, Vinther said. For instance, "most dinosaurs don't preserve feathers, but that doesn't mean that we think that they are artifacts [fabrications]."

Even so, the new study does bring up an important point, Van Roy said: It may push paleontologists even further than before to show that so-called fossilized brains are, in fact, neural remains, he said.

Original article on Live Science.

Fossil Study Sheds Light on Mesozoic Butterfly and Moth Wing Colors

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ecological restoration of moths in the Cretaceous Burmese amber forest. Image credit: Dinghua Yang.

New research by a team of scientists from the University of Exeter and elsewhere offers an illuminating insight into iridescent colors found on the earliest known lepidopterans, which lived on our planet 200 million years ago (Mesozoic era).

Remarkable scales of lepidopterans (moths and butterflies) exhibit complex structures, many of which produce structural colors that are the basis for diverse communication strategies.

Little is known, however, about the early evolution of lepidopteran scales and their photonic structures.

Dr. Tim Starkey, a researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Exeter, and colleagues examined fossilized remains of lepidopterans from the United Kingdom, Germany, Kazakhstan, and China, and tarachopterans (a stem group of Amphiesmenoptera) from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber.

Using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and using optical models, they found microscopic ridges and grooves in the insect’s wing scales, similar to those seen in today’s moths.

The models revealed these tiny features are photonic structures that would have produced metallic bronze to golden color appearances in the insect wings.

The structural colors of the fossils studied by the team resulted from light scattering by intricate microstructures, extending the evidence for these light-scattering structures in the insect fossil record by more than 130 million years.

Tarachoptera from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber: (A-D) K. brevicostata, female; (B and C) forewing scales; note the tubercles and setae on wing membrane; (D) scale reconstruction; (E-H) K. brevicostata, male; (E) images of forewing scales detached from the forewing; (F) interpretative sketch of cross section of scale; (G) an image of cross section of forewing scales; (H) an image of cross section of a forewing scale. Scale bars – 0.5 mm (A), 0.1 mm (B), 50 μm (C), 40 μm (E), 20 μm (G), and 2 μm (H). Image credit: B.W., Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“The structural colors exhibited by butterflies and moths have been a longstanding research interest in Exeter, and have helped us develop biologically-inspired optical technologies for the present day,” Dr. Starkey said.

“However, in this study we’ve looked millions of years back in time to early origins of such colors in nature, to understand how and when the evolution of colors in these insects took place.”

“Remarkably, these fossils are among the oldest known representatives of butterflies and moths,” said co-author Dr. Maria McNamara, from the University College Cork, Ireland.

“We didn’t expect to find wing scales preserved, let alone microscopic structures that produce color. This tells us that color was an important driving force in shaping the evolution of wings even in the earliest ancestors of butterflies and moths.”

“Uniquely in this study, we show that impression fossils, i.e. wing prints, are equally as capable as compression fossils at preserving the structure of scales in sufficient detail to elucidate the moths’ 180 million year old colors,” said co-author Dr. Luke McDonald, also from the University College Cork.

The findings appear in the journal Science Advances.


Qingqing Zhang et al. 2018. Fossil scales illuminate the early evolution of lepidopterans and structural colors. Science Advances 4 (4): e1700988; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1700988