‘1 in 100 Million’ Discovery: 7-Year-Old T. Rex Found in Montana

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The full 'baby' Tyrannasaurus Rex fossil unearthed in Montana. (Credit: KU News Service)

Paleontologists excavating in Montana’s famous Hell Creek Formation have uncovered the score of a lifetime—one of the most preserved and complete juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found.

Although digging up remains of a T. rex in the area is not an uncommon feat, what makes this find unique is the quality of the fossil, and the age of the dinosaur in question. According to Kyle Atkins-Weltman, an assistant fossil preparator at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, there have been fewer than five “decently complete juvenile T. rexes” discovered in the formation, which has produced a massive cache of dinosaur fossils since it was first excavated by famed paleontologist Barnum Brown in the late 1890s.

Just how rare was it? As Atkins-Weltman told Live Science, “This is a 1-in-100-million specimen.”

The young dinosaur, which is believed to have been 6 to 8 years old when it died, was originally discovered by Kris Super, an assistant student preparator from the Natural History Museum in June of 2016, but his team didn’t have time to unearth the entire skeleton, so they couldn’t say for certain what kind of dinosaur they’d found. The following summer, they returned and realized just how extraordinary their discovery had been.

There are still many questions that remain to be answered about this discovery. Is it really a young T. rex, which lived during the last 2 million years of the Cretaceous period, from about 67 million to 65 million years ago. Or could it be another example of the controversial—and potentially bogus—Nannotyranus (a small genus of the tyrannosaurid family first catalogued in 1946)? With a specimen this complete, perhaps the answers will soon be revealed.


Rare Eggs From a 15-Foot-Tall, Chicken-like Dinosaur are Unveiled at NC Museum

Friday, March 30, 2018

Eggs from a 15-foot-tall, chicken-like dinosaur are unveiled at museum | Triangle Today

They look like oversized yams, potatoes on a campfire or even small footballs.

But the pair of oval-shaped fossils unveiled Thursday at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences date back 97 million years, eggs from a feathered dinosaur that stood tall as a rooftop.

"Picture a 15-foot-tall chicken," said Lindsay Zanno, the museum's head paleontologist.

Before a crowd of school-age fans, Zanno showed off her team's 2016 discovery: the only clutch of oviraptorosaur eggs ever found in North America. Recovered from a rugged patch of Utah desert, the eggs offer a rare chance at understanding the reproductive life of reptiles dating to the Cretaceous period.

More than an egg, a dinosaur nest helps explain prehistoric behavior: whether eggs were buried, for example, or exposed to open air, Zanno said.

"There could be dinosaur bones in there," she said, "or something we're not expecting."

Oviraptorosaurs sported feathers, beaks and parrot-shaped heads and walked on two legs, so birdlike in their appearance that some scientists call them true birds. They typically weighed a few dozen kilograms — roughly 50 pounds — and grew a few meters long, though larger species could weigh more than a ton. The creature that laid the clutch of eggs now at Raleigh's museum represents a new species, one of several discovered in Utah that are yet unnamed.

The most complete specimens come from China, and records in North America are sparse by comparison. Zanno, whose wanderings as a paleontologist have led from Tanzania to Montana, described her 2016 Utah find as a discovery with world-class potential. Nesting sites rarely come complete with eggs, and this one is expected to produce fresh insight on the biology of birdlike dinosaurs.

Zanno's team had spent six years hiking over a portion of Utah that once stood at the edge of the Western Interior Seaway, a vast inland waterway that stretched from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. Though desert today, in Cretaceous times it would have supported a variety of reptiles.

Near the end of a day when temperatures flirted with 120 degrees, Terry Gates decided to inspect the knob of a hill that caught his eye. Gates, a lecturer at N.C. State University and postdoctoral scholar with the museum, found pieces of eggshell poking out that suggested whole, perfect eggs inside.

The problem soon arose of how to retrieve eggs sandwiched between two 1,000-foot mountains in the Utah wilderness. So the team returned with a helicopter in October, chiseled the "clutch" out of the hillside and carried them through the air encased in a plaster shell.

The original two that Gates spied had been freed from much of the surrounding rock, but as many as 10 likely remain inside the cluster. Over the next year, they will be visible in the museum's glass-walled laboratory, where visitors can see further study.

That casing hadn't been cut away until Saturday, making the children in the front row of the museum's unveiling some of the first eyes to glimpse the pair of eggs — Raleigh's prehistoric guests.


Jeff Goldblum Has Teased Secret Cameos For Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Friday, March 30, 2018

Beloved actor Jeff Goldblum has teased audiences regarding potential cameos for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, among other details.

Jurassic World was one of the biggest surprise hits in recent Hollywood history. The film was always going to do well but no one expected it to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time.

The pressure is certainly on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as a result, not only to live up to its predecessor but also to not spoil the party before the already announced third film arrives.

Jurassic Park alum Jeff Goldblum will be returning as Dr. Ian Malcolm for the sequel but has kept tight-lipped about certain plot details, including whether there will be any secret cameos.


When asked on What What Happens Live (via THR) about rumours of Laura Dern returning to the franchise, Malcom responded: “Maybe she will.”

And regarding if he will be back for the third instalment, Goldblum remained coy by teasing: “I can’t divulge anything, but maybe…maybe”, and then adding, “There’s gonna be another one that some people may or may not be in. That’s all I can say.”


Gigantic Ice Age Lions Used to Roam Africa, 200,000-Year-Old Fossil Reveals

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Scientists studying a giant fossilized lion skull think it could be evidence of a previously unknown population of lions.

As big as those of the largest cave lions, researchers think the partial skull belonged to an ancient lion far larger than any known to have lived in Africa.

An analysis of the skull was published in the Journal of Paleontology.

The 200,000-year-old fossil was found at a site in Natodomeri in northwest Kenya. The researchers think the gigantic lions may have lived during the late Middle to Late Pleistocene epoch.

The researchers compared the skull to those of modern lions from Africa. The average modern lion skull stretched about 10.5 inches, while the longest measured just over 12 inches.

At nearly 15 inches long, “the fossil [was]about 20 percent longer than even the largest lion skull I have had access to,” Lars Werdelin, a professor of paleobiology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and one of the study authors, told Newsweek.

The partial lion skull is pictured and labeled with a 100mm (4 inches) marker to scale. The skull measures about 15 inches in length. Fredrick K Manthi et al/Journal of Paleontology

He thinks the skull is very unlikely to simply be an outlier from known lion populations in Africa.

“It really is all about the remarkable size,” Wederlin said. “The skull is so much bigger than that of any living or fossil African lion that the probability that it could come from a population with a mean size and variability similar to those is very, very small.”

While he did not estimate exactly how tall this lion would have stood, the data, Werdelin said, could be generated.

One explanation for the big lions might come from their hefty diets. Megafauna—big animals weighing about 100 lb and larger—roamed far and wide in the Pleistocene era. An abundance of large creatures like the giant buffalo Syncerus antiquus might have sustained these mega lions, the authors wrote.


Finding the Missing Link in Land Vertebrates' Emergence From Sea

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Life restoration shows Youngolepis (top) swimming in the sea in the Devonian Period. Drawing by courtesy of Brian Choo

After half a century of studying prehistoric fish fossils, Chinese paleontologist Chang Meemann has a favorite: Youngolepis.

Living about 400 million years ago, Youngolepis was first thought to be very close to a type of rhipidistians, a possible link in the long evolution from fish to tetrapods, or in other words land vertebrates, including humans.

But after careful study of its small cranium in the 1980s, Chang concluded that Youngolepis had no internal nostrils, a key adaption to allow land vertebrates to breathe out of water.

The discovery overturned mainstream views at the time and led to a decade-long debate and re-consideration on phylogeny of lobe-finned fishes, whose descendants left the water and conquered the land.

Chang is still lauded for her academic contribution and her courage to challenge the dominant view more than 30 years later. The 82-year-old was named the 2018 L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards laureate "for her pioneering work on fossil records leading to insights on how aquatic vertebrates adapted to live on land".

The awards, jointly founded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the L'Oreal Foundation, began 20 years ago and are given each year to five outstanding women scientists for their accomplishments in scientific research and commitment.

"Of course, I am happy. It's a great encouragement. But I don't think I am well qualified," Chang told Xinhua before she went to Paris for Thursday's ceremony.


Born in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, in 1936, Chang wanted to become a doctor early on, due to the influence of her father, who taught human physiology at a medical college. "There were many diligent and well-educated doctors at my father's workplace," Chang recalls.

Her father often took her and her little brother to net shrimps, catch worms and observe ants. "We could express opinions freely to our father or even argue with him. He was always amiable."

But at 17, Chang changed her mind and chose to study geology at college.

"Everyone had a zeal to serve the country," she recalls.

About 200 other women students enrolled the same year and most went on remote geological surveys after graduation. Chang was selected to do scientific research and went to Moscow to study paleontology.

At the suggestion of Wu Hsienwen, a leading Chinese ichthyologist who was then visiting the Soviet Union, she focused on fish fossils. She often wandered along the rivers in Moscow to collect fossils from Holecene sediments and compare them with modern fish.

In 1960, she returned to China and entered the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP). She spent three months each year accompanying geological prospecting teams to collect fossils in the field, a practice she maintained till the age of 80.

Walking 20 kilometers a day was routine, and every member of the team would eat like a wolf. Chang set a personal record of eating 500 grams of rice in a meal.

"Once I set a goal, I never give up," she says.


Colobops noviportensis: Paleontologists Put the Bite on an Ancient Reptile From New England

Sunday, March 25, 2018

An artist’s rendering of Colobops noviportensis, a new species of reptile from prehistoric Connecticut. (Michael Hanson)

Scientists have identified a new species of reptile from prehistoric Connecticut and, boy, does it have a mouth on it.

Named Colobops noviportensis, the creature lived 200 million years ago and had exceptionally large jaw muscles -- setting it apart from other reptiles at the time. Even compared to the wide diversity of reptile species today, Colobops noviportensis had quite the bite.

"Colobops would have been a diminutive but plucky little beast, part of a little-known menagerie of small animals that lived among the first dinosaurs," said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, assistant professor and assistant curator in geology and geophysics at Yale, and senior author of a new paper about the discovery in the journal Nature Communications.

"Its tiny frame hid some big secrets," Bhullar said. "Despite its lizard-like aspect, it is in fact an early branch-off of the lineage leading to dinosaurs and birds. Also, its little jaws could bite harder than anything else its size. Perhaps that big bite allowed it to feed on tough, armored prey impervious to weaker mouths."

The lead author of the paper is Adam Pritchard, a former member of Bhullar's lab who is now at the Smithsonian Institution.

Reconstructed skull of Colobops noviportensis. Three-dimensional volume rendering of the skull of Colobops noviportensis (YPM VPPU 18835) produced in VG Studio Max 3.0 in a dorsal, b ventral, c left lateral, and d anterior views. Gray portions indicate portions of the skull of uncertain homology. Scale bar equal to 1 cm. Abbreviations: cp, coronoid process; fo, fontanelle; pf, parietal foramen; sc, sagittal crest

Additional Yale authors of the paper are Jacques Gauthier, professor of geology and geophysics and curator of vertebrate paleontology and vertebrate zoology at the Peabody Museum; and Michael Hanson, a graduate student in geology and geophysics.

"This project was a great example of the process of science," Pritchard said. "The skull was initially discovered in the mid-1960s. In the 1990s, the skull was subject to initial study in which it was identified as a cousin of a modern lizard-like reptile called a tuatara. Our study ups the ante again, using advanced CT scanning and 3D modeling to reveal all kinds of new features of the skull. The features are very distinctive, allowing us to establish a new species."

The specimen is a quarter-sized skull discovered in Meriden, Conn., during roadwork in 1965. It has been part of the collections of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History for decades. The specimen's new species name derives from Novus Portus, a Latinized version of New Haven -- a reference to the New Haven Arkose geological formation.

The Yale team took a new look at the specimen. The researchers did a 3D reconstruction of the skull and discovered that it showed specialization in the jaw that was unprecedented in any other known small tetrapod, juvenile or adult.

"Comparisons with modern reptile dissections showed that it had incredibly well-developed jaw muscles for its size, suggesting an exceptional bite, even compared to the diversity of modern reptiles," Pritchard said. "It's a great illustration of the critical importance of fossils big and small for understanding the diversity of organisms."

The researchers said the discovery means modern vertebrates originated in a world that was already populated by small and large-bodied physical extremes, in terms of how animals physically adapted to their environment.

The National Science Foundation and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History supported the research.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Yale University. Original written by Jim Shelton. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Adam C. Pritchard, Jacques A. Gauthier, Michael Hanson, Gabriel S. Bever & Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar. A tiny Triassic saurian from Connecticut and the early evolution of the diapsid feeding apparatusNature Communications, 2018 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03508-1


Fossils of Carnivorous Tratayenia Dinosaur Unearthed in Patagonia

Friday, March 30, 2018

The newly discovered predatory dinosaur, Tratayenia rosalesi, is shown in this handout illustration crossing a stream in what is now Patagonia, Argentina, roughly 85 million years ago. PHOTO: REUTERS

On a semiarid Patagonian landscape 85 million years ago, a formidable meat-eater called Tratayenia rosalesi reigned as the apex predator, part of an enigmatic dinosaur group that menaced South America and Australia for tens of millions of years.

Scientists on Wednesday (March 28) described Tratayenia, a two-legged beast up to about 9 metres long, based on fossils unearthed in Argentina's Neuquén province, adding another impressive dinosaur to the list of those that inhabited Patagonia during the Cretaceous Period.

It was a member of a group called megaraptorids that lived in the Southern Hemisphere from about 105 to 85 million years ago.

The group was recognised by palaeontologists only in the past few years, and all of its members - including Tratayenia - are known only from incomplete skeletons.

"Megaraptorids, although still mysterious, seem to have been a pretty badass bunch of predatory dinosaurs," said palaeontologist Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

"Using the remains of different species, including Tratayenia, we can make something like a 'police composite' of a megaraptorid skeleton," Dr Lamanna added. "Megaraptorids had long, low skulls that were crammed with lots of small but sharp and serrated teeth, bones that were riddled with air cavities, and powerful forelimbs that were tipped with absolutely ginormous, wickedly hooked claws on the innermost two fingers."

For Tratayenia, the researchers found about half of the back vertebrae, all its hip vertebrae, some ribs and a fair bit of the pelvis, but none of the skull, limbs or tail.

Study lead researcher Juan Porfiri (left) and students excavate vertebrae of the newly discovered dinosaur Tratayenia rosalesi at the Tratayén site in Neuquén Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Credit: Photo courtesy Juan Porfiri/Universidad Nacional del Comahue

Patagonia boasted some of the most impressive dinosaurs ever found, including the giant predator Giganotosaurus and the immense long-necked, four-legged plant-eaters Patagotitan, Argentinosaurus and Dreadnoughtus.

"Tratayenia was the largest-known predator about 85 million years ago in Patagonia and perhaps one of the last in its group," said palaeontologist Juan Porfiri of the National University of Comahue's Museum of Natural Sciences in Argentina.

It lived in an ecosystem that included smaller carnivorous dinosaurs including Viavenator, large herbivores such as Traukutitan, snakes similar to boas, crocs, turtles and birds, Dr Porfiri added.

The best known member of Tratayenia's group is Megaraptor, which lived slightly earlier in Patagonia and wielded 40cm-long claws.

"Megaraptorids certainly would have been terrifying to encounter in life: big, heavily armed and powerful, but also probably lighter on their feet than really giant meat-eaters such as Giganotosaurus or T. rex," Dr Lamanna said.

The research was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.


Paleontologists Discover New Dinosaur Species That Lived 252 Million Years Ago

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Life reconstruction of the new species Teleocrater rhadinus, a close relative of dinosaurs.  CREDIT: Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales

Among more than 2,000 ancient fossils found in an African excavation, paleontologists have discovered new species of some of the earliest dinosaurs. 

Paleontologists didn't know much about the early Triassic below the equator before conducting this research. Through a decade of research, nine different month-long digs in two countries, and partnerships across several institutions, paleontologists now better understand how life on earth existed as the first dinosaurs evolved. 

The scientists published a series of papers detailing discovered and studied fossils found across Tanzania and Zambia from 252 million years ago. During this time, the Triassic, both countries were part of one enormous landmass called Pangea, consisting of all the continents squished into one.

The skull of a gorgonopsian, a distant mammal relative and top predator during its pre-dinosaur era about 255 million years ago. This fossil was collected in 2009 in Zambia. This is not a dinosaur. CHRISTIAN SIDOR/UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

On Wednesday, a team of researchers published 13 new studies, as part of a project now totaling 37 papers. Detailed in this research were more than 2,000 new fossils, information about the ancient environment, and fossils of Teleocrater, an early dinosaur relative that was discovered in 2017, according to Discover magazine.

Researchers also found a lizard-like reptile called procolophonid, as well as some very early dinosaurs, according to a press release. By comparing the finds to others made in the southern hemisphere, including Antarctica, researchers were able to draw a more complete understanding of the Triassic world. They published their findings in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"These papers highlight what a regional perspective we now have—we have the same fossils from Tanzania, Antarctica, Namibia and more," Christian Sidor, a University of Washington biology professor and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture said in a statement. "We're getting a much better Southern Hemisphere perspective of what's going on in the Triassic."

Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, the time to which the fossils are dated back, was an important time in earth’s history. After the End-Permian mass extinction event, much of life on earth had gone extinct, and the few, unremarkable animals that remained were starting to diversify. It was from these early-Triassic animals that mammals and dinosaurs would eventually evolve.


Jurassic Dinosaur Footprints Found on Scotland’s Isle of Skye

Thursday, April 5, 2018

© Mark Stevenson / UIG / Getty Images


An international team of paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh, Staffin Museum and Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered a new dinosaur tracksite at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point) on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The tracks were made by massive dinosaurs some 170 million years ago (Middle Jurassic period), in a muddy, shallow lagoon.

The site preserves an abundance of small sauropod and several isolated and broken medium-to-large theropod footprints.

The trackmakers of sauropod prints are estimated to have stood 5-8.2 feet (1.5-2.5 m) at the hip – fairly large, but not as colossal as famous species like BrontosaurusDiplodocus and Brachiosaurus.

In addition to the sauropod tracks, several theropod tracks are present at the site. These tracks reflect medium-sized individuals — with estimated hip heights ranging from 2.9 to 7 feet (0.87-2.13 m) — that spent some time in the same lagoonal environment as the small sauropods.

“The more we look on the Isle of Skye, the more dinosaur footprints we find,” said team member Dr. Steve Brusatte, from the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

“This new site records two different types of dinosaurs — long-necked cousins of Brontosaurus and sharp-toothed cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex — hanging around a shallow lagoon, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance.”

Photograph and line drawing of a sauropod footprint, one of the most striking at Brothers’ Point on the Isle of Skye; it preserves evidence of a possible fleshy heel pad in addition to four distinct toes. Image credit: dePolo et al, doi: 10.1144/sjg2017-016.

The find is globally important as it is rare evidence of the Middle Jurassic, from which few fossil sites have been found around the world.

“This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye,” said team member Paige dePolo, also from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences.

“It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known.”

“This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic.”

The researchers measured, photographed and analyzed about 50 footprints at the site.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape.

In spite of this, the team identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

The team’s results were published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.


Paige E. dePolo et al. A sauropod-dominated tracksite from Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point), Isle of Skye, Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology, published online April 2, 2018; doi: 10.1144/sjg2017-016


Dinosaur Theme Park T. Rex Bursts Into Flames

Saturday, March 24, 2018

T. rex bursts into flames at US theme park


CANON CITY, Colo. (AP) - Everyone knows dinosaurs are extinct. But this is a case of one that was extinguished.

It was a 24-foot high electronic Tyrannosaurus rex featured at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Colorado.

Thursday morning, the T. rex began smoldering before catching fire.

Both the dinosaur and spectators were fully involved; park visitors stood and watched as flames spread through the dinosaur.

At times the T. rex appeared to be breathing flames.

Park co-owner Zach Reynolds says he thinks an electrical malfunction caused the blaze.

Reynolds says the T. rex is a total loss, but notes it "made for some spectacular imagery" before it burned out.

A replacement is expected to be in place by the summer.

Here's the video:

Source: The Associated Press.