nandi's blog

How Did Dinosaur Parents Know When Their Kids Had a Fever?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

From the time that dinosaur fossils were first discovered, these creatures have fascinated scientists and laypeople alike. In the academic world, their remains provide important clues into the prehistoric world; in popular culture, dinosaurs have inspired blockbuster hits, such as Jurassic Park and King Kong.

Now, a research team headed by Professor Hagit Affek at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Earth Sciences has unlocked a mystery that has stymied researchers for decades: How did dinosaurs regulate their body temperatures? Were they warm-blooded or cold-blooded?

Affek's study, published in Science Advances, relies on a novel method to measure historical temperatures. Called clumped isotope geochemistry, this method analyzes chemical bonds among heavy isotopes in calcium carbonate minerals—the main ingredient in egg shells. This allows scientists to calculate both the temperature at which the minerals formed and the body temperature of the mother that laid the egg.

Affek and her team applied this method to fossilized eggs from three distinct dinosaur species along the evolutionary path from reptile to bird and found that their body temperature ranged from 35-40 degrees Celsius. However, this bit of information still did not answer the question as to whether dinosaurs were endothermic or exothermic, meaning, did they generate their own body heat or get warm from the sun and their environment?

"The global climate during the dinosaur era was significantly warmer than it is today. For this reason, measuring only the body temperatures of dinosaurs who lived near the equator wouldn't tell us whether they were endo- or exothermic because their body temperature may simply have been a cold-blooded response to the hot climates they lived in," shared Affek.

Hadrosaur eggshells. Credit: Darla Zelenitsky

To address this issue, her team focused on dinosaurs that lived in high latitudes like Alberta, Canada—far enough north to ensure that their warm body temperatures were the result of an internal, metabolic warming process rather than merely reflecting the climate around them.

To verify their hypothesis, Affek and her team needed to determine the environmental temperature in Alberta back when dinosaurs lived. They accomplished this by applying their isotope method to mollusk shells that lived in Alberta alongside the dinosaurs. Since mollusks are cold-blooded creatures, they reflect the ambient climate of the time. The mollusks' body temperature measured 26°C and showed that the dinosaurs living in Alberta were endothermic; otherwise, they could not have maintained a body temperature of 35-40°C.

As dinosaurs evolved, they moved from lizard-like (cold-blooded) characteristics to avian (warm-blooded) ones. "We believe that this transformation happened very early on in dinosaurs' evolution since the Mayasaura eggs—a lizard-like dinosaur species that we tested—were already able to self-regulate their body temperature, just like their warm-blooded, bird-like cousins, the Torrdons," explained Affek.

The fact that both of these species, located at opposite ends of the dinosaur evolutionary tree, had body temperatures higher than those of their environment means that both had the ability to warm themselves.

Either way, Mother of Dragons, if your baby is showing a fever of 41 degrees, it's time to call the doctor.

More information: R.R. Dawson el al., "Eggshell geochemistry reveals ancestral metabolic thermal regulation in Dinosauria," Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax9361 ,

Journal information: Science Advances

Provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Source:

Jurassic Park: 10 Things That Made The Original Great (That The Sequels Have Missed)

Friday, February 14, 2020

The original Jurassic Park is loved by many but the sequels always seem to be missing "something" that made the first film so great.

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park wasted no time becoming the highest-grossing film of all time in 1993. It’s a triumph of science fiction, suspenseful filmmaking, and storytelling in general that captivated audiences around the world with the perfect mix of spectacle and substance. It has since been followed by two sequels, a reboot, and a sequel to the reboot, with a sequel to the sequel to the reboot on the way.

But none of the follow-ups have come close to recapturing the magic of the original. There are many reasons for this, so here are 10 Things That Made The Original Jurassic Park Great (That The Sequels Have Missed).

10 - Well-Rounded Characters

While viewers of the Jurassic World movies know Owen Grady as “Chris Pratt” and Claire Dearing as “the one who ran in high heels,” viewers of Jurassic Park know exactly who Alan Grant is, and exactly who Ellie Sattler is. Alan starts off the movie hating kids and ends up caring for two of them, while Ellie holds onto fiercely feminist values in the face of sexists like John Hammond in a male-dominated field.

The role of Ian Malcolm went on to define Jeff Goldblum’s on-screen persona. The original Jurassic Park movie took the time to develop its characters, which very few blockbusters bother to do these days.

9 - Strong Themes

Jurassic Park deals with some lofty ideas, like chaos theory and capitalism, through its dino-infested action. The message behind pretty much every Jurassic sequel can be summed up as: nature good, military bad. Jurassic Park is a complex cautionary tale about the dangers of playing God.

The characters and their viewpoints are drawn from those themes: for example, when Ian Malcolm tells John Hammond, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

8 - Favoring Practical Effects Over CGI

The team working on the original Jurassic Park pioneered early CGI technologies to create some of the VFX shots, and a lot of that CGI still holds up surprisingly well today. But if there was a special-effects shot that Spielberg could do practically, he did it practically.

CGI was just a last resort if a shot couldn’t be achieved using practical effects. CGI is the go-to in today’s Jurassic sequels, with basically no practical effects, but the practical stuff in Jurassic Park – designed by the great Stan Winston – is timeless.

7 - Careful Framing

Martin Scorsese famously said that filmmaking is all a matter of what is in the frame and what isn’t in the frame. In Jurassic Park, a lot is left to the viewer’s imagination. Steven Spielberg pioneered this technique as a money-saving tactic when he was making Jaws and it ended up making the movie an effective thrill-ride.

In Jurassic Park, he applies it deliberately in scenes like the dinosaur feeding where we see shrubbery shaking with sound effects of a live goat being ripped to shreds. The sequels don’t leave anything to our imagination, lazily showing the dinosaurs at every turn for some cheap spectacle.

6 - No Plot Holes

The Jurassic sequels are filled with plot holes, from characters making stupid decisions (e.g. using gymnastics to kill a raptor in The Lost World) to plot developments that just plain don’t make sense (e.g. are we seriously supposed to believe that there’s been an active volcano on this island the entire time and no one thought that was a concern until it erupted?).

In Jurassic Park, there aren’t any plot holes. Michael Crichton and David Koepp’s script is airtight: the characters’ motivations make sense, each plot point leads smoothly into the next, and there aren’t any gaps in the story’s logic.

5 - Suspenseful Filmmaking Techniques

If Alfred Hitchcock saw the T. rex attack or the raptors-in-the-kitchen sequence from Jurassic Park, he would’ve been proud. Steven Spielberg didn’t just put a dinosaur in each frame and expect that alone to make it interesting.

He played around with lighting, editing, camera angles, and tense music to actually build suspense throughout each set piece.

4 - Taking The Humans’ Perspective

There’s a shot in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom of a T. rex standing over Chris Pratt, roaring. The whole marketing campaign was built around this moment. But it has no impact, because it’s a wide shot, taken from 20 feet in the air. We’re not looking at the T. rex from Chris Pratt’s perspective; we’re looking at Chris Pratt from the T. rex’s perspective. And none of us are T. rexes – we’re all people, like Chris Pratt – so we have no emotional response to this.

In the first movie, however, Steven Spielberg always kept the camera at the humans’ perspective. If a dinosaur breaks through a car window, the camera is in the car. It’s much more effective than the bland coverage seen in today’s blockbusters.

3 - John Williams’ Score

A huge part of what made Jurassic Park such a breathtaking moviegoing experience was the sweeping score composed by John Williams.

Williams composed the score for The Lost World, but he avoided his themes from the first one and went for a completely different style that didn’t work at all, and every subsequent movie was scored by someone else. Williams’ score for the original Jurassic Park is one of the greatest ever composed.

2 - It’s A Modern Retelling Of Frankenstein

The Jurassic sequels have been about everything from a T. rex wandering through the streets of San Diego to the reunion of a divorced couple to a little girl finding out she’s a clone and dooming the world due to some weird kinship she feels with the dinosaurs. The filmmakers have lost sight of what made Jurassic Park work as a quintessential science fiction story: it was a modernized retelling of Frankenstein.

This isn’t to say that every Jurassic movie should copy the plot from the first one, but they should be following the essential, groundbreaking philosophical debates that Mary Shelley opened with her gothic classic. (And no, that doesn’t mean turning them into haunted house movies, a la the second half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.)

1 - An Earned Finale

All throughout Jurassic Park, the characters are separately terrorized by a T. rex and a couple of velociraptors. In the climactic set-piece, the T. rex and the raptors take care of each other. The message is that, in the end, nature will work itself out. This thrilling finale feels earned, because of the way the story built up to it.

The Jurassic sequels have climaxes that either come out of nowhere, like the Godzilla-inspired ending of The Lost World, or rip off the originals to lesser effect, like Jurassic World’s similar battle that just throws every dinosaur at the screen to see what sticks.


Stunning New Dinosaur 50ps Launched by Royal Mint

Friday, February 14, 2020

The coins will range from £10 to up to £945 for limited-run, gold-proof editions (Image: Royal Mint)

The coins feature three different dinosaurs, including the Megalosaurus, the Iguanodon and the Hylaeosaurus - but you'll have to pay £10 to get your hands on one.

A range of commemorative 50p coins will be emblazoned with dinosaurs to mark Britain's contribution to discovering the prehistoric creatures - and they go on sale today.

The coins will feature three different dinosaurs, the fossils of which led British anatomist Sir Richard Owen to coin the term "Dinosauria" in a paper in 1842, the Royal Mint and Natural History Museum said.







The renowned Victorian scientist applied the name, meaning "fearfully great lizards", after realising the fossils of Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus shared common characteristics.

But they're unlikely to end up in your small change - as the coins are launching on the Royal Mint website only.

The Megalosaurus coin can be bought online from Thursday, while the other two coins are launching in March and April.

The prices start at £10 for the brilliant uncirculated coin, which will be available in an unlimited quantity (Image: The Royal Mint)

The Megalosaurus coin can be bought from Thursday, the Iguanodon from March 16 and the Hylaeosaurus from April 6 (Image: The Royal Mint)

Clare Matterson, executive director of engagement at the Natural History Museum said: "The story of the discovery of dinosaurs is fascinating and particularly relevant for the Natural History Museum since Sir Richard Owen, who coined the term dinosaur, was also our founder.

"The Dinosauria collection brings this story to life for modern day dinosaur enthusiasts everywhere."
The illustrations by paleoartist Robert Nicholls are scientifically accurate representations of the prehistoric beasts.

The Royal Mint is releasing 50,000 coloured versions of the coin at £20 each, which will feature augmented reality technology for the first time ever (Image: The Royal Mint)

The Megalosaurus coin can be bought from Thursday, the Iguanodon from March 16 and the Hylaeosaurus from April 6.

The Royal Mint is releasing 50,000 coloured versions of the coin at £20 each, which will feature augmented reality technology for the first time ever.

Or if you don't mind spending even more you can get a silver proof coin for £60, a silver proof coloured version for £65 and a gold coin for a whopping £945.

Rachel Hooper of Changechecker said: "We expect these coins to be very popular with collectors, especially considering this is the first time ever dinosaurs have featured on a UK coin.

"Looking back at the popularity of previous 50p series such as the 2012 Olympic 50ps and the Beatrix Potter coins from 2016, 2017 and 2018, we would expect demand for these new coins to be high as collectors look to add all three to their collection."

If the coins rise in value similar to the Beatrix Potter designs, they could be worth several hundred of pounds down the line.


99-Million-Year-Old Bee Found Encased in Burmese Amber

Friday, February 14, 2020

Discoscapa apicula; the bee is carrying four beetle triungulins. Image credit: George Poinar Jr. / College of Science, Oregon State University.

In a paper published online in the journal Palaeodiversity, Oregon State University’s Professor George Poinar Jr. described a new family, genus and species of pollen-collecting bee found in a piece of 99-million-year-old amber (mid-Cretaceous period) excavated from a mine in Myanmar.

Bees are an important component in the evolutionary history and diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms).

The great majority of bees depend on pollen, nectar, oils, waxes, scents and resins from flowering plants for adult and larval nutrition, sexual attractants and nest construction.

Bees evolved from apoid wasps, which are carnivores. Not much is known, however, about the changes wasps underwent as they made that dietary transition.

The newly-described primitive bee is so unique that Professor Poinar decided to establish a new genus and family (Discoscapidae) for it.

Named Discoscapa apicula, the ancient insect is a small, black, mostly hairless, pollen-collecting bee.

It shares traits with modern bees — including plumose hairs, a rounded pronotal lobe, and a pair of spurs on the hind tibia — and also those of apoid wasps, such as very low-placed antennal sockets and certain wing-vein features.

“Something unique about the new family that’s not found on any extant or extinct lineage of apoid wasps or bees is a bifurcated scape,” Professor Poinar said.

“The fossil record of bees is pretty vast, but most are from the last 65 million years and look a lot like modern bees.”

“Fossils like the one in this study can tell us about the changes certain wasp lineages underwent as they became palynivores — pollen eaters.”

Pollen catching hairs with surrounding pollen grains on the hind leg femur of Discoscapa apicula in Burmese amber. The insert shows branches on hairs. Scale bars – 213 µm and 50 µm (insert). Image credit: Poinar Jr, doi: 10.18476/pale.v13.a1.

The single female specimen of Discoscapa apicula is positioned at the edge of a small piece of amber.

The specimen, which was obtained from a mine first excavated in 2001, in the Hukawng Valley, southwest of Maingkhwan in Kachin State in Myanmar, contains beetle parasites.

Pollen grains on its legs show that the bee had recently visited one or more flowers.

“Additional evidence that the fossil bee had visited flowers are the 21 beetle triungulins — larvae — in the same piece of amber that were hitching a ride back to the bee’s nest to dine on bee larvae and their provisions, food left by the female,” Professor Poinar said.

“It is certainly possible that the large number of triungulins caused the bee to accidentally fly into the resin.”


George Poinar Jr. 2020. Discoscapidae fam. nov. (Hymenoptera: Apoidea), a new family of stem lineage bees with associated beetle triungulins in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Palaeodiversity 12 (1): 1-9; doi: 10.18476/pale.v13.a1


Neoepiblema acreensis: Giant Extinct Ancient Rodent Had a Tiny Brain

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Virtual brain endocast inside of the translucent skull of Neoepiblema acreensis (UFAC 4515) from the Upper Miocene of Brazil (a) and extant caviomorphs: (b) Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (OUVV 10698); (c) Dinomys branickii (MCN-D 074); (d) Lagostomus maximus (CAPPA/UFSM-AC); (e) Coendou spinosus (MCN 355) (f) Chinchilla lanigera (OUVC 9529); (g) an artistic reconstruction of N. acreensis (by Márcio L. Castro). Credit: Biology Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0914

A team of researchers with Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Universidade Federal do Acre and the Paleontological Institute and Museum has discovered the ancient remains of a giant, extinct, tiny-brained rodent that once lived in South America. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, the group describes the skeletal remains they found and how the rodent likely appeared when alive.

While working in the State of Acre in what is now Brazil, the researchers uncovered an almost complete skull and a fragment of another skull from a previously unknown creature. That creature turned out to be the largest rodent ever known to have lived in South America. The researchers named the find Neoepiblema acreensis.

The nearly complete skull was in very good condition—it was so well preserved that the researchers were able to make out impressions made by the olfactory bulbs, which are parts of the brain involved in processing odors. They were also able to see where the frontal and temporal lobes had been. By looking at the size of the skull, the researchers were able to calculate the likely overall size of the rodent. They estimate the creature was approximately 1.5 meters in length and weighed approximately 80 kilograms—making it approximately the size of a full-grown human being. It also had very large incisors.

Further study of the skulls showed them both to be approximately 10 million years old. They also found that the creatures were extinct relatives of the modern pacaranas and chinchilla and that they lived in the western part of Brazilian Amazonia. Back then, before the area was a rainforest, it was a swamp, and South America was still cut off from both North America and Antarctica. The researchers also note that due to its large size, it was likely not the target of very many predators, though it would have made a nice meal for the giant crocodiles that lived in the area during the same time period. They also surmise that it was probably not very smart—its brain was small compared to the rest of its body, weighing in at just 113 grams.

More information: José D. Ferreira et al. Small within the largest: brain size and anatomy of the extinct Neoepiblema acreensis , a giant rodent from the Neotropics, Biology Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0914

Journal information: Biology Letters 


Jurassic World 3 May Bring Back [SPOILERS] For A Cameo

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom didn’t exactly go down as well as its predecessor with fans of critics, but it still made a ton of money at the box office, enough for Universal to move forward with yet another sequel. After all, no movie that makes roughly $1.3 billion will ever be allowed to just sit on the shelf, with no follow-up being developed. Clearly, this series still has legs and sure enough, Jurassic World 3 is now gearing up to get in front of cameras.

Set to be with us in 2021, we don’t know a whole lot about it just yet, but Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are set to return for more dinosaur hi-jinx, and they’ll be joined by some of the original Jurassic Park cast, with Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum all on board. But the fun doesn’t end there, as sources close to We Got This Covered – the same ones who told us Bill Murray would return for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and that Transformers is being rebooted, both of which we now know to be true – say that the film may be bringing back another familiar face for a cameo.

The actor in question is Jake Johnson, who played Lowery in Jurassic World but opted not to return for the sequel, Fallen Kingdom. It’s unclear how he’ll factor into this next effort, but we’re told that it would just be a cameo and the studio hasn’t been able to lock him down just yet. Though they are trying to and hope to have him involved.

Obviously, it’d be great to see more of Lowery, even if it’s only via a cameo, and we’re certainly keeping our fingers crossed that he’ll return. But even if they ultimately fail to get him on board, it sounds like the studio is cooking up something pretty special with Jurassic World 3 and we can’t wait for it to roar into theaters on June 11th, 2021.


Rare Disease Found in Kids, Discovered in Dinosaur Fossil

Friday, February 14, 2020

Photograph of the larger hadrosaur vertebra in lateral view (left) and caudal view (right). The space that contained the overgrowth opens to the caudal surface of the vertebra. Credit: Assaf Ehrenreich, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University

The fossilized tail of a young dinosaur that lived on a prairie in southern Alberta, Canada, is home to the remains of a 60-million-year-old tumor.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by Dr. Hila May of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research, have identified this benign tumor as part of the pathology of LCH (Langerhans cell histiocytosis), a rare and sometimes painful disease that still afflicts humans, particularly children under the age of 10.

A study on the TAU discovery was published on February 10 in Scientific Reports. Prof. Bruce Rothschild of Indiana University, Prof. Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich and Mr. Darren Tanke of the Royal Museum of Paleontology also contributed to the research.

"Prof. Rothschild and Tanke spotted an unusual finding in the vertebrae of a tail of a young dinosaur of the grass-eating herbivore species, common in the world 66-80 million years ago," Dr. May explains. "There were large cavities in two of the vertebrae segments, which were unearthed at the Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta, Canada."

It was the specific shape of the cavities that attracted the attention of researchers.

"They were extremely similar to the cavities produced by tumors associated with the rare disease LCH that still exists today in humans," adds Dr. May. "Most of the LCH-related tumors, which can be very painful, suddenly appear in the bones of children aged 2-10 years. Thankfully, these tumors disappear without intervention in many cases."

The dinosaur tail vertebrae were sent for on-site advanced micro-CT scanning to the Shmunis Family Anthropology Institute at TAU's Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, which is located at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

"The micro-CT produces very high-resolution imaging, up to a few microns," Dr. May says. "We scanned the dinosaur vertebrae and created a computerized 3-D reconstruction of the tumor and the blood vessels that fed it. The micro and macro analyses confirmed that it was, in fact, LCH. This is the first time this disease has been identified in a dinosaur."

According to Dr. May, the surprising findings indicate that the disease is not unique to humans, and that it has survived for more than 60 million years.

"These kinds of studies, which are now possible thanks to innovative technology, make an important and interesting contribution to evolutionary medicine, a relatively new field of research that investigates the development and behavior of diseases over time," notes Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of TAU's Department of Anatomy and Anthropology and Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research. "We are trying to understand why certain diseases survive evolution with an eye to deciphering what causes them in order to develop new and effective ways of treating them."

More information: Bruce M. Rothschild et al, Suggested Case of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis in a Cretaceous dinosaur, Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-59192-z

Provided by Tel Aviv University








Meet Thanatotheristes degrootorum: T. Rex's Older Cousin "The Reaper of Death"

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Thanatotheristes degrootorum. Image credit: Julius Scotonyi, Royal Tyrrell Museum.

A new species of tyrannosaurine dinosaur that lived about 79.5 million years ago (Cretaceous period) has been identified from fossils found in Alberta, Canada.

“We are thrilled to announce the first new species of tyrannosaur to be discovered in Canada in 50 years,” said Dr. François Therrien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

“The last tyrannosaur described from Canada was Daspletosaurus in 1970.”

The newly-identified species was approximately 8 m long (26.2 feet) and likely preyed on large plant-eating dinosaurs, such as the horned Xenoceratops and the dome-headed Colepiochephale.

Dubbed Thanatotheristes degrootorum, the ancient creature is the oldest tyrannosaur known from Canada and northern North America.

Researchers said Thanatotheristes degrootorum was around eight metres long and hunted around 80 million years ago

“This is the oldest occurrence of a large tyrannosaur in Canada, found in an older window of time than where previous tyrannosaurs have been found,” said Dr. Darla Zelenitsky, a dinosaur researcher at the University of Calgary.

“With this new species, we now know that tyrannosaurs were present in Alberta prior to 77 million years ago, the age of the next-oldest tyrannosaur,” Dr. Therrien added.

“We can tell from the skull how Thanatotheristes degrootorum is related to the other, better-known tyrannosaurs from Alberta.”

The jaw bones of Thanatotheristes degrootorum. Image credit: Jared Voris.

A partial skull and the upper and lower jaw bones of the new tyrannosaur were found by farmers and paleontology enthusiasts John and Sandra De Groot in 2010 near the town of Hays.

“The jawbone was an absolutely stunning find. We knew it was special because you could clearly see the fossilized teeth,” John De Groot said.

“John always said that one day he would find a dinosaur skull. Finding the jaw was exciting. Hearing that it is a new species, and seeing it given our family name, was beyond belief,” added Sandra De Groot.

The paleontologists found features of Thanatotheristes degrootorum’s skull that had not been seen before in other tyrannosaurs.

The fossil has several physical features, including ridges along the upper jaw, which clearly distinguishes it as being from a new species.

The diagnostic evidence showed that Thanatotheristes degrootorum is a close relative of two other well-known tyrannosaur species, Daspletosaurus torosus and Daspletosaurus horneri. All three species form a newly named group of dinosaurs called Daspletosaurini.

“This group had longer, deeper snouts and more teeth in the upper jaws than tyrannosaurs found in the southern U.S., which had shorter, bulldog-like faces,” said Jared Voris, a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary.

“This discovery is significant because it fills in a gap in our understanding of tyrannosaur evolution,” Dr. Therrien said.

Thanatotheristes degrootorum provides scientists with insights into the tyrannosaur family tree, and shows that tyrannosaurs from the Cretaceous of Alberta were more diverse than previously known.”

The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal Cretaceous Research.


Jared T. Voris et al. A new tyrannosaurine (Theropoda:Tyrannosauridae) from the Campanian Foremost Formation of Alberta, Canada, provides insight into the evolution and biogeography of tyrannosaurids. Cretaceous Research, published online January 23, 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104388


Researchers Discover Unusually Large Bird Wing in Dinosaur-Era Amber

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

[Photo by Xing Lida]

An international team of researchers announced that they have discovered an amber containing parts of an "unusually large" ancient bird wing dating back around 99 million years.

The bird wing found in Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, an area rich in amber fossil discoveries, is expected to help enrich the understanding of the size of ancient birds, according to Xing Lida, a paleontologist from the China University of Geosciences.

The amber, 5.3 cm long and weighing 79.4 grams, contains a fragmentary right wing with length measures less than a centimeter. It is thought to belong to enantiornithines, a group of extinct birds commonly found in the Cretaceous Period, Xing said.

Some feathers have also been preserved, with the longest at 37 mm. "It likely belonged to an individual that was about 10 cm long from its snout to vent," said Xing. "It could be a large enantiornithine or a new species of enantiornithines."

The results of the research were published in Cretaceous Research.


Finding the Elephant’s Long-Lost Relatives in Kutch: Deinotherium indicum

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Large mammal: An artist’s impression of Deinotherium showing flatter skulls than elephants.   | Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons

This find is the region’s first occurrence of the mammal and expands the species’ distribution range.

It was a pleasant January winter morning last year and Ningthoujam Premjit Singh along with his team was out on their excavation work at Kutch. When he stumbled upon a premolar tooth of about 6 cm width and 7 cm length, little did he know that what he held belonged to an extinct ancient elephant called Deinotherium indicum.

First occurrence
Interestingly, this turned out to be the region’s first occurrence of the mammal which weighed between eight and 10 tons in weight. Dr. Singh adds that this new find also expands the distribution range of this species, hitherto only known from two or three localities (Tapar of Gujarat, Haritalyangar in Himachal Pradesh, and Piram Island off the coast of Gujarat). It also increases our understanding of the variations in dental morphology of the South Asian Deinotheres species. Dr. Singh is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Geology at Panjab University and the first author of the paper recently published in the Journal of Paleontology.

Using a technique called biostratigraphy, it was noted that D. indicum lived roughly between 11 and 7 seven million years ago in India. In biostratigraphy, the presence of certain species from a known time period can be used to estimate the age of a deposit containing the same species in a different locality. “Remains of D. indicum have been found in well-dated Siwalik deposits from Haritalyangar of Himachal Pradesh. Based on the similarity in species, we inferred a similar date for the Kutch’s D. indicum,” Advait M. Jukar from the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution explains in an email to The Hindu. He is the co-first author and corresponding author of the paper.

He adds that definite dates can only be procured when paleomagnetic and radiometric studies are performed on the rocks that these fossils came from.

When asked how morphologically different this species is from today's elephants, he explained that though they had similar large bodies with column-like limbs, their heads were very different. “They had flatter skulls, and a set of downwards pointing, curved tusks only on the lower jaw. Analyses of their skulls have shown that they probably also had a short, slightly bulbous trunk. If you looked inside their mouths, all of their teeth would have erupted and were used in chewing at the same time. Modern elephants have only one tooth in use on each side of their jaw,” explains Dr. Jukar.

Distant relative
This species was a fairly distant relative of today’s elephants, both evolutionarily and in time. The deinotheriidae, the family that includes D. indicum, was first found in the fossil record approximately 28 million years old in Africa, but the family that includes modern elephants doesn’t appear until about eight million years ago.

The team plans to continue their studies in the Tapar beds of Kutch as it may be hiding many more fossils. “The plan now is to keep describing different species until we have a solid understanding of the diversity of vertebrates from western India. We hope to create a dataset of species occurrences through time in western India and compare the trends in diversity seen there with those seen in the well-studied fossil record from the Siwaliks,” adds Dr. Jukar.