nandi's blog

Extinct Bird with Dinosaur-Like Claw May Soon Be Resurrected

Monday, March 12, 2018

Preserved Megalapteryx (moa) foot, Natural History Museum (CC by SA 2.0)

A clawed, flightless bird that went extinct in New Zealand in the late 13th century might be brought back to life, claim scientists at Harvard University.

Nearly three decades ago, archaeologists exploring a cave system on Mount Owen in New Zealand discovered a dinosaur-like claw with flesh and scaly skin. After testing it proved to the a 3,300-year-old mummified remains of an upland moa (Megalapteryx didinus). A DNA analysis published in the  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences established that there were at least “ten species of moa which appeared around 18.5 million years ago” but they were all wiped from existence in what scientists call “the most rapid, human-facilitated megafauna extinction documented to date.”

Sir Richard Owen standing next to a moa skeleton and holding the first bone fragment belonging to a moa ever found. (public domain)

Using DNA recovered from the toe, Harvard scientists have now mapped and compiled the first almost complete genome of a “little bush moa,” moving closer to the possibility that extinct genomes will soon become “de-extinct.” The whole idea of bringing “vanished species back to life by slipping the genome into the egg of a living species,” has been regarded by some reviewers as equal to the dark fictional works of Dr Frankenstein, while to others, it has been described in a lighter light as being ‘Jurassic Park’-like,” according to an article on

Left: Illustration of a Moa. Right: Preserved footprint of a Moa (public domain)

Let’s not enter the moral debate, for that is wholly subjective, and look closer at the processes and innovations of Stewart Brand, the co-founder of the nonprofit conservation group Revive and Restore. Aiming to “resurrect vanished species” Brand’s team’s work on the DNA of the little bush moa was recently published in a non-peer-reviewed paper and Brand told reporters “De-extinction probability increases with every improvement in ancient DNA analysis.” The DNA was reconstructed from the sample taken from the creature’s toe but scientists know that “a lot of genetic restructuring is required before the creature can be reborn.” And with the prospects of a creature which stands as high as a teenager, scientists predict they might have to use a "6-inch long, 1-pound emu egg to incubate the moa”.

Stewart Brand had already mapped the passenger pigeon genome and the woolly mammoth, and speaking of this latest project to reporters at, Morten Erik Allentoft of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, an expert on moa DNA said it is “a significant step forward.” As well as the woolly mammoth and passenger pigeon, among the “nearly complete” extinct genomes, scientists have almost completed two of our human cousins, Neanderthals and Denisovans, the dodo, the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk, which dyed out in the North Atlantic in the mid-19th century.

Scientists have almost completed the mapping of the Tasmanian Tiger genome, another extinct species that may soon be revived (public domain).

According to Harvard’s Alison Cloutier, the little bush moa team tried to match “900 million nucleotides, scattered across millions of DNA pieces, and tried to match them to specific locations on the genome of the emu, a close relative of all nine moa species.” Bird genomes, including the eight other extinct moa species, “have similar genes for particular traits tend to be on the same chromosome and arranged relative to other genes in a similar way,” according to the article.

Similarly, according to Harvard’s George Church, who leads The Mammoth Project, “elephant chromosomes were studied to better know how mammoth DNA might be organized.” Scientists believe that herpes infections killed off the mammoth and if it was made ‘de-extinct’, its immune system could be enhanced to resist this virus. You might be asking, like I did, wasn’t all this DNA and genome mapping sorted out “before” the 1996 birth of Dolly the Sheep at the Roslin institute in Scotland?

“Kind of” is the answer, the problem is, putting DNA into an egg is infinitely more difficult than fertilizing mammals. The cloning method applied to make Dolly the Sheep is fine for a mammalian eggs, “but that doesn’t work in birds — “at least so far,” Brand told reporters.

There is no doubt the final parts in the cloning puzzle will be solved, and given enough time, maybe not in our lifetime, a country or a private enterprise will inevitably work out how to clone us.


As Dinosaurs Died, New Species Of Fish Filled The Ocean

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Section of fish evolution tree

As dinosaurs and huge ocean predators disappeared 66 million years ago in a mass extinction event, lineages that comprise the bulk of marine fish species diversity began evolving and filled the seas, a new, multi-institution analysis shows.

The findings by researchers from Yale, the University of California-Los Angeles, Louisiana State University, and the University of Michigan were published March 12 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

About 18,000 species of spiny-rayed fishes exist today, a diverse group that includes basses, tunas, deep sea anglerfishes, pufferfishes, and seahorses, and that comprises more than 25% of all living vertebrate species.

The research team analyzed more than 1,000 genes in living fish species and the spiny-rayed fish fossil record in order to estimate the timing of the evolutionary origin of the lineages that account for most of the species diversity of modern marine fishes. They found the evolutionary origin of these species’ lineages occurred at what scientists called Cretaceous and Paleogene boundary 66 million years ago.

“These lineages diversified just as dinosaurs were going extinct and placental mammals on land were emerging,” said Thomas Near, professor ecology and evolutionary biology, the Bingham Oceanographic Curator at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, head of Saybrook College, and senior author of the study.

The work was primarily supported by the National Science Foundation.


Ash From Dinosaur-Era Volcanoes Linked With Shale Oil, Gas

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Nutrient-rich ash from an enormous flare-up of volcanic eruptions toward the end of the dinosaurs' reign kicked off a chain of events that led to the formation of shale gas and oil fields from Texas to Montana.

That's the conclusion of a new study by Rice University geologists that appears this week in Nature Publishing's online journal Scientific Reports.

"One of the things about these shale deposits is they occur in certain periods in Earth's history, and one of those is the Cretaceous time, which is around the time of the dinosaurs," said study lead author Cin-Ty Lee, professor and chair of Rice's Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. "This was about 90 million to 100 million years ago, which is about the same time as a massive flare-up of arc volcanoes along what is today the Pacific rim of the Western United States."

Advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing over the past 20 years led to a U.S. energy boom in "unconventionals," a category that includes the shale gas and "tight" oil found in shale fields like the Cretaceous Eagle Ford and Mowry and older ones like the Barnett and Bakken.

An enormous volcanic flare-up at the end of the dinosaurs’ reign kicked off a chain of events that led to the formation of the U.S. shale oil and gas fields from Texas to Montana. Rice University geologists said older shale gas fields, like the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and Ohio, may have formed from similar volcanic flare-ups hundreds of millions of years earlier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

"These types of natural gas and oil are in tiny, tiny pores that range from a few millionths of a meter in diameter to a few thousandths of a meter," Lee said. "The deposits are in narrow bands that can only be accessed with horizontal drilling, and the oil and gas are locked in these little pockets and are only available with techniques like hydraulic fracturing."

Lee said that there have always been hints of a connection between ancient volcanic eruptions and unconventional shale hydrocarbons. During field trips out to West Texas, he and Rice students noticed hundreds of ash layers in exposed rock that dated to the Cretaceous period when much of western North America lay beneath a shallow ocean.

One of these trips happened in 2014 while Lee and Rice colleagues also were studying how a flare-up of Cretaceous-era arc volcanoes along the U.S. Pacific rim had impacted Earth's climate through enhanced volcanic production of carbon dioxide.

"We had seen ash layers before, but at this site we could see there were a lot of them, and that got us thinking," Lee said. Lee, graduate student Hehe Jiang and Rice undergraduates Elli Ronay, Jackson Stiles and Matthew Neal decided to investigate the ash beds in collaboration with Daniel Minisini, a colleague at Shell Oil who had been doing extensive work on quantifying the exact number of ash beds.

"It's almost continuous," Lee said. "There's an ash layer at least every 10,000 years."

The eruption of Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano as seen from the International Space Station May 18, 2013. The volcano’s ash cloud rose to 20,000 feet and extended over hundreds of miles of the northern Pacific Ocean. Credit: NASA/ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center

Lee said the team determined that ash had come from hundreds of eruptions that spanned some 10 million years. The layers had been transported several hundred miles east of their volcanic source in California. The ash was deposited on the seafloor after being blown through plumes that rose miles into the atmosphere and drifted over the ocean. Lee and students analyzed samples of the ash beds in the geochemical facilities at Rice.

"Their chemical composition didn't look anything like it would have when they left the volcano," he said. "Most of the original phosphorus, iron and silica were missing."

That brought to mind the oceanic "dead zones" that often form today near the mouths of rivers. Overfertilization of farms pumps large volumes of phosphorus down these rivers. When that hits the ocean, phytoplankton gobble up the nutrients and multiply so quickly they draw all the available oxygen from the water, leaving a "dead" region void of fish and other organisms.

Lee suspected the Cretaceous ash plumes might have caused a similar effect. To nail down whether the ash could have supplied enough nutrients, Lee and his team used trace elements like zirconium and titanium to match ash layers to their volcanic sources. By comparing rock samples from those sources with the depleted ash, the team was able to calculate how much phosphorus, iron and silica were missing.

"Normally, you don't get any deposition of organic matter at the bottom of the water column because other living things will eat it before it sinks to the bottom," Lee said. "We found the amount of phosphorus entering the ocean from this volcanic ash was about 10 times more than all the phosphorus entering all the world's oceans today. That would have been enough to feed an oxygen-depleted dead zone where carbon could be exported all the way down to the sediment."

The combination of the ashfall and oceanic dead zone concentrated enough carbon to form hydrocarbons.

Oxygen-depleted “dead zones” often form in the northern Gulf of Mexico due to nutrient-rich runoff from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, which are seen here as tan and greenish-brown plumes visible from the International Space Station in 2012. Nutrient-rich volcanic ash may have fed similar dead zones that produced shale oil and gas fields from Texas to Montana. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Aqua MODIS

"To generate a hydrocarbon deposit of economic value, you have to concentrate it," Lee said. "In this case, it got concentrated because the ashes drove that biological productivity, and that's where the organic carbon got funneled in."

Lee said shale gas and tight oil deposits are not found in the ash layers but appear to be associated with them. Because the layers are so thin, they don't show up on seismic scans that energy companies use to look for unconventionals. The discovery that hundreds of closely spaced ash layers could be a tell-tale sign of unconventionals might allow industry geologists to look for bulk properties of ash layers that would show up on scans, Lee said.

"There also are implications for the nature of marine environments," he said. "Today, phosphorus is also a limiting nutrient for the oceans, but the input of the phosphorus and iron into the ocean from these volcanoes has major paleoenvironmental and ecological consequences."

While the published study looked specifically at the Cretaceous and North America, Lee said arc volcano flare-ups at other times and locations on Earth may also be responsible for other hydrocarbon-rich shale deposits.

"I suspect they could," he said. "The Vaca Muerta field in Argentina is the same age and was behind the same arc as what we were studying. The rock record gets more incomplete as you go further back in time, but in terms of other U.S. shales, the Marcellus in Pennsylvania was laid down more than 400 million years ago in the Ordovician, and it's also associated with ashes."

More information: Cin-Ty A. Lee et al. Volcanic ash as a driver of enhanced organic carbon burial in the Cretaceous, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22576-3

Journal reference: Scientific Reports

Provided by: Rice University


25 Things You Probably Missed In 'Jurassic Park'

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Whole Bunch of People On FB thought Steven Spielberg Killed A Real Dinosaur

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park changed the film landscape, with its ground-breaking computer generated dinosaurs, blend of horror and adventure, plus its perfect John Williams score.

The film left behind a rich world, where humans insist on living alongside giant monster reptiles that have been extinct for 65 million years.

At one point, Jurassic Park was the highest-grossing film of all time, making $357 million during its initial run. Add in the foreign box office and subsequent releases by Universal, and the film's lifetime gross is up to $1.03 billion.

Two sequels followed - Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III (2001). In 2015, Colin Treverrow's Jurassic World successfully revived the franchise. J.A. Bayona's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is coming out on June 22, 2018.

Although it has been over 25 years since Jurassic Park hit theaters, the film continues to reveal little hidden easter eggs, goofs and more. Here are 25 things you probably missed in Jurassic Park.

Watch This 49-Minute ‘Jurassic Park’ Documentary From 1995

25th Anniversary! ‘Jurassic Park’ 4-film Collection Getting 4K Release

1. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) have a sign in their trailer that reads "No animal released without paperwork completely filled out." This seems a little strange, considering they are paleontologists, and studying extinct animals, as Eighties Kids points out.

2. Grant would not have found a velociraptor skeleton in Montana. Dinosaurs of the velociraptor genus have been found in Asia.

3. However, the dinosaurs seen in the film are more like dinosaurs of the Deinonychus genus. These were found in North America. Author Michael Chricton chose the name Velociraptor over Deinonychus because it was more "dramatic."

4. Grant's seat belt gag is a case of foreshadowing. He gets two "female" seatbelt ends on the helicopter, so he can't connect them. Instead, he ties them together. In the park, the dinosaurs are all supposed to be female, but they still figure out a way to reproduce.

5. Dennis Nedy (Wayne Knight) can be seen watching Jaws on one of his three monitors. It's still unclear why John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) hired him in the first place.

6. Hammond's JP29 jeep is the same one Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) find in Jurassic World.

7. The Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park also appears at the end of Jurassic World. You can clearly see the scars from the Velociraptors on the beast.

8. Hammond was even more ambitious than Walt Disney when he planned Disneyland. Hammond dreamed of expanding Jurassic Park to Europe, as seen in one of the projected images behind Sattler.

9. The Making of Jurassic Park appears among the merchandise. It was a real book published at the time of the movie's release, written by Don Shay and Jody Duncan. Sadly, it is no longer in print, but you can get an inexpensive used copy online.

10. The famous scene where the T-rex eats the goat was actually filmed inside a studio. In one shot, you can spot one of the sprinklers providing the rain.

11. During the escape from the raptors, the light through the grill shows A, G, C and T, the bases of DNA.

12. When Steven Spielberg's name shows up in the credits at the end of the movie, composer John Williams included the famous five tones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

13. B.D. Wong, who plays Dr. Henry Wu, was the only actor from the first film to appear in Jurassic World (2015). Jeff Goldblum, who played Ian Malcolm, will be seen in Fallen Kingdom.

14. One of the other slides projected during the dining room scene shows Hammond believing that Jurassic Park will be more popular than sports and zoos in 1993 and 1995.

15. Part of Jurassic Park was filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the same island where scenes from LostPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Avatar were filmed.

16. Gary Rydstrom won two Oscars for his work on the film's sounds. He developed the sounds of the dinosaurs from various animals and they are all different. He told Vulture that some of the T. rex sounds came from his tiny Jack Russell terrier!

17. Jeff Goldblum is heard saying "Must go faster, must go faster" in Independence Day again. He did not say this again during the filming though. The Independence Day team looped in the dialogue from Jurassic Park.

18. Hammond's memory was kept alive in Jurassic World. Mr. Masrani (Irrfan Khan) built a statue at the new park.

19. Malcolm was also referenced in Jurassic World, since you can spot his book God Creates Dinosaurs in the film.

20. While it is true that many of the dinosaurs in the original film are not realistic at all compared to what scientists believe their real-world counterparts looked like, you could theorize that InGen created the dinosaurs in their own image. After all, in Jurassic World, we see them create their own dinosaur from scratch.

21. Velociraptor is actually Latin for "swift seizer," not "Bird of Prey." Deinonychus is Greek for "terrible" and "claw."

22. The T. rex lived 68 to 66 million years ago, while the Velociraptor lived much earlier, between 75 and 71 million years ago. So, there is no way they would have interacted together.

23. Gary Rydstrom also explained to Vulture that the Dilophosaurus sound came from a swan. "Swans make a cute hooting sound, so the cute version of the Dilophosaurus sounds like a swan, for the most part," he told Vulture. "Part of the fun of doing these kind of jobs is that I had no idea what a swan sounded like before!"

24. Harrison Ford was offered the role of Alan Grant, but turned Spielberg down. He had just worked with Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, after all. Spielberg let the information slip during a Raiders of the Lost Ark screening in 2011.

25. Another cool sound fact: Rydstrom told Vulture that the sounds of the baby Raptor actually came from baby animals, but things change once Grant realizes the baby is a Raptor.

"That's exactly right; as soon as he asks, 'What kind of dinosaur is this?' you start hearing these raspier baby owl sounds," Rydstrom said. "I already knew what the adult raptor would sound like, that it would have this screechy, raspy sound, so I tried to find a baby animal that has that rasp in it."

Watch This 49-Minute ‘Jurassic Park’ Documentary From 1995

25th Anniversary! ‘Jurassic Park’ 4-film Collection Getting 4K Release


'Sonora Lizard' could become Arizona's State Dinosaur

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sonorasaurus is a genus of brachiosaurid dinosaur from around 93 million to 112 million years ago. It was a herbivorous sauropod whose fossils have been found in southern Arizona in the United States. Its name, which means “Sonora lizard,” comes from the Sonoran Desert where its fossils were first found. It is estimated to have been about 49 feet long and 27 feet tall, about one-third of the size of Brachiosaurus.  Wikipedia

A 27-foot-tall dinosaur that lived about 100 million years ago could soon have something in common with the cactus wren, the palo verde and even the Colt single-action revolver: becoming part of “official” Arizona.

Members of the House Government Committee on Thursday gave their unanimous endorsement to the pleas of 11-year-old Jax Weldon to designate the Sonorasaurus as the “official state dinosaur.” That sends SB 1517, which already has been approved by the Senate, to the full House.

Weldon, a self-proclaimed amateur paleontologist, told lawmakers he was inspired after California lawmakers voted last year to select the Augustynolophus as its official state dinosaur. His research, he said, led him to the Sonorasaurus.

The “why” behind that choice is a bit more complex.

There’s the sheer size of the enormous creatures, getting as tall as 27 feet and up to 49 feet long. That size allowed the vegetarian to graze in the treetops that other animals of its time could not reach.

It also lived in what is now Arizona, though at the time the climate and topography were vastly different than they are now.

And then there’s the fact that the huge creature was featured in “Jurassic Park.”

“I would not choose any other dinosaurs because they either are not relevant enough or not very well understood,” Weldon said. And he said he did not want to choose a dinosaur that might already be the official selection of some other state.

Weldon told lawmakers his interest in dinosaurs dates to when he was just 2.

“I think there was this little tiny globe that my parents had bought,” he said. “When you pressed it in a certain area it would say the name of a dinosaur and then it would like roar or something.”

If the bill becomes law, it would add Sonorasaurus to an ever-growing list of official state items.

Some are quite familiar, like the bloom of the giant saguaro as the state flower, the two-tailed swallowtail as the state butterfly or even the bola tie as official state neckwear.

Some of the choices have been more controversial, like the 2011 vote to declare the Colt single-action Army revolver to be the official state firearm.

Albert Hale, then a state representative from Window Rock, objected to providing official state recognition to “an instrument of destruction.” And Hale, a Navajo, said his people were all too often on the wrong end of that weapon.

“Does that mean we honor and celebrate the killing of my relatives?” he asked.

And controversy could be lurking in the wings even on this to designate the Sonorasaurus as the state dinosaur.

Two decades ago John Huppenthal, then a state senator, pushed a proposal by a 9-year-old boy to give that designation to the Dilophosaurus, a 20-foot-long dinosaur whose remains were discovered in 1940 near Tuba City.

That ran into opposition from volunteers from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson who argued that the bones were spirited away by paleontologists from the University of California-Berkeley. But they had their own suggestion, that being the Sonorasaurus whose remains were being excavated at the time by Arizona paleontologists near Sonoita with plans to put them on display at the Tucson museum.

An attempt at compromise to name both ultimately faltered. And, in the end, neither prehistoric creature gained the designation.

And, as it turns out, there could still be other pretenders even today to giving the state’s official blessing to the Sonorasaurus.

The Museum of Northern Arizona has a potential entry, the Therizinosaur, whose bones are on display at that facility. And while it was unearthed in southern Utah, there is a belief it probably roamed farther south across the Colorado Plateau.

Official state emblems:

Colors -- Blue and old gold, with blue the same as U.S. flag

Fossil -- Petrified wood (araucarioxylon arizonicum)

Bird -- Coues' cactus wren (heleodytes brunneicapillus coures)

Flower -- The white waxy flower of the saguaro (cereus giganteus)

Tree -- Palo verde (genera cercidium)

Neckwear -- Bola tie

Gemstone -- Turquoise

Mammal -- Ringtail (bassariscus astutus)

Reptile -- Ridge-nosed rattlesnake (crotalus willardi)

Fish -- Arizona trout (salmo apache)

Amphibian -- Arizona tree frog (hyla eximia)

Butterfly -- Two-tailed swallowtail (papilionidae papilio multicaudata)

Nickname -- The Grand Canyon state

Firearm -- Colt single action Army revolver

Metal -- Copper

State mineral -- Wulfenite

-- Source: Arizona Revised Statutes &

"Jurassic World" is Getting a 'POKÉMON GO'-Style Game With Dinosaurs

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jurassic World™ Alive - AR Mobile Game - Roaring its way to you this Spring 2018!

You remember Pokémon Go? The adults parading directly into traffic, right off cliffs, and straight into the brave new world of augmented reality? Well we live in that world now, and everyone wants to be the next AR sensation. For instance, this spring you'll be playing Jurrasic Park Alive on mobile, living among the dinos while remaining acutely cognizant of changes in elevation.

Those familiar with Niantic's Pokémon sensation will probably feel right at home with this new game from the developer Ludia.

“Players discover dinosaurs by locating them on a map and deploying an in-game drone to collect DNA samples,” Ludia explained to The Verge. It will also allow you to take pictures with your new prehistoric friends, level up dinosaurs, and battle against other players, which was a feature noticeably absent from Pokémon Go.

The game will be available on both Android and iOS this spring, a bit before Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hits theaters on June 22. If you just can't get enough dino action, there's also a theme park simulator coming out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC this summer called Jurassic World Evolution. You might recognize Ludia from its own Jurassic Park Builder.

But when the new game arrives this spring, just try to make sure it's not the reason humans go extinct.

h/t The Verge


20,000 Visit Portugal's Dinosaur Theme Park in First Month

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A new dinosaur theme park in Portugal has attracted 20,000 visitors since opening less than a month ago, its director announced on Wednesday.

"We're on around 20,000 visitors, which is very positive for a month in the low season," Luis Rocha told the Lusa Portuguese News Agency.

The park, known as Dino Parque Lourinha, opened to the public on Feb. 9 in Lourinha, a town 70 km north of Lisbon.

The region is a treasure trove for dinosaur paleontologists. In 1993, a fossilized nest of dinosaur eggs was discovered in the crags of a nearby beach. The cliffs were subsequently found to contain hundreds of fossilized dinosaur bones from the Upper Jurassic period.

Such findings are displayed in the park's visitor museum. In the surrounding woodland, 120 life-size models show what the dinosaurs would have looked like in the wild.

The park's blend of fun and education has proved popular with school parties. At least 30,000 pupils are booked to visit between now and the end of the school year in June.

The summer months are then expected to be the park's peak period. Organizers hope to have surpassed 200,000 visitors by the end of the year.


Archaeopteryx Was Active Flyer, Paleontologists Say

Thursday, March 15, 2018

An artist’s impression of what Archaeopteryx lithographica, one of the earliest known birds, would have looked like in flight. Image credit: Carl Buell / Nicholas Longrich.

Archaeopteryx is an iconic fossil species with feathered wings from the Late Jurassic of Germany. The question of whether this dino-bird was an elaborately feathered ground dweller, a glider, or an active flyer has fascinated paleontologists for many years. European Synchrotron Radiation Facility researcher Dennis Voeten and colleagues have now analyzed new data from three Archaeopteryx specimens and found that the wing bones of the ancient creature were shaped for incidental active flight, but not for the advanced style of flying mastered by modern-day birds.

Was Archaeopteryx capable of flying, and if so, how? Although it is common knowledge that modern-day birds descended from extinct dinosaurs, many questions on their early evolution and the development of avian flight remain unanswered.

Traditional research methods have thus far been unable to answer the question whether Archaeopteryx flew or not.

Using synchrotron microtomography to probe inside Archaeopteryx fossils, Dr. Voeten and co-authors shed new light on this earliest of birds.

Reconstructing extinct behavior poses substantial challenges for paleontologists, especially when it comes to enigmatic animals such as Archaeopteryx. This well-preserved fossil species shows a mosaic anatomy that illustrates the close family relations between extinct raptorial dinosaurs and the birds.

Most modern bird skeletons are highly specialized for powered flight, yet many of their characteristic adaptations in particularly the shoulder are absent in Archaeopteryx specimens.

Although its feathered wings resemble those of modern birds flying overhead every day, the primitive shoulder structure is incompatible with the modern avian wing beat cycle.

“The cross-sectional architecture of limb bones is strongly influenced by evolutionary adaptation towards optimal strength at minimal mass, and functional adaptation to the forces experienced during life,” said Professor Jorge Cubo, from the Sorbonne University, France.

“By statistically comparing the bones of living animals that engage in observable habits with those of cryptic fossils, it is possible to bring new information into an old discussion,” added Dr. Sophie Sanchez, from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Archaeopteryx skeletons are preserved in and on limestone slabs that reveal only part of their morphology. Since these fossils are among the most valuable in the world, invasive probing to reveal obscured or internal structures is therefore highly discouraged.

“Fortunately, today it is no longer necessary to damage precious fossils,” said Dr. Paul Tafforeau, of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

“The exceptional sensitivity of X-ray imaging techniques for investigating large specimens offers harmless microscopic insight into fossil bones and allows virtual 3D reconstructions of extraordinary quality.”

Scanning data unexpectedly revealed that Archaeopteryx’s wing bones, contrary to its shoulder girdle, shared important adaptations with those of modern flying birds.

“We focused on the middle part of the arm bones because we knew those sections contain clear flight-related signals in birds,” said Dr. Emmanuel de Margerie, from CNRS, France.

“We immediately noticed that the bone walls of Archaeopteryx were much thinner than those of earthbound dinosaurs but looked a lot like conventional bird bones,” Dr. Voeten said.

“Data analysis furthermore demonstrated that the bones of Archaeopteryx plot closest to those of birds like pheasants that occasionally use active flight to cross barriers or dodge predators, but not to those of gliding and soaring forms such as many birds of prey and some seabirds that are optimized for enduring flight.”

“We know that the region around Solnhofen in southeastern Germany was a tropical archipelago, and such an environment appears highly suitable for island hopping or escape flight,” said Dr. Martin Röper, from the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum and the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, Germany.

Archaeopteryx shared the Jurassic skies with primitive pterosaurs that would ultimately evolve into the gigantic pterosaurs of the Cretaceous. We found similar differences in wing bone geometry between primitive and advanced pterosaurs as those between actively flying and soaring birds,” said Dr. Vincent Beyrand, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.


Dennis F.A.E. Voeten et al. 2018. Wing bone geometry reveals active flight in ArchaeopteryxNature Communications 9, article number: 923; doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03296-8


Jurassic World: The Exhibition Continues World Tour With New Paris Venue

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Paris exhibition, owned by JP Exhibition, will be Cityneon's fourth launch following its successful run in Melbourne, Philadelphia and Chicago. Encore Productions will be the presenting partner in Paris.

Jurassic World is making its way across the globe as Cityneon details the opening of France's own Jurassic World – The Exhibition in La Cité du Cinéma from April 14th to September 2nd.

The Paris exhibition, owned by JP Exhibition, will be the company’s fourth launch following its successful run in Melbourne, Philadelphia and Chicago. Encore Productions will be the presenting partner in Paris.

Encore was formed in 1987 and has since been a major player in the live entertainment busiess in France, presenting rock and pop artists, family and Irish shows and musicals in Europe.

Since 2008, Encore has developed the edutainment genre in France through different exhibitions such as Our Body The Universe Within, Days of the Dinosar and Tutankhamon/ Hit Tomb and Hit Treasures.

In 2015, Encore presented Violetta Live, the live version of the famous South American telenovela in France and Switzerland and the LEGO exhibition The Art of the Brick in Paris and Zurich. In 2016, Encore presented harry Potter: The Exhibition in both Brussels and Madrid.


They Found Fossils 50 Thousand Years Old in Corrientes

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Researchers of the Conicet and the National University of the Northeast found in the Toropí reserve of the province of Corrientes paleontological remains of between 30,000 and 50,000 thousand years old, which correspond to three extinct species, one of which would be a carnivore.

“It is the third exhumation of carnivore remains in almost 40 years of study on this reserve, something that excites us much as well as the state of conservation, which is very good,” said paleontologist Alfredo Zurita, in charge of the team. of researchers who came up with the fossils.

These are pieces corresponding to three species, such as parts of the jaws of a mastodon and a giant sloth, as well as a tooth and parts of the jaw and skull of a feline boy.

The finding was made Saturday in the Toropí Stream reserve of the Corrientes town of Bella Vista and was in charge of researchers from the Center for Applied Ecology of the Litoral (Cecoal) of Conicet, as well as the National University of the Northeast.

As indicated by Zurita, the remains date from between 30,000 and 50,000 years, a period corresponding to the Late Pleistocene.

“The great variety of species found and the extraordinary frequency with which findings are produced in Toropí size it as one of the most important paleontological reserves at the continental level,” the specialist said.

“Hundreds of pieces have been found, mostly mammals and the range goes from small rodents between 200 and 300 grams in life, to huge mastodons that could reach six tons,” he said.

While the researchers stress the importance of having obtained the remains of a carnivore just for the third time in about 40 years of study.

“It is striking, especially because in any ecosystem it is uncommon to find carnivores,” the researcher said.

On the way of extinction of these species, in the scientific team of Corrientes assume that by the geological characteristics of the findings the main agent would have been water.

It is that Toropí was a plain of flood, that with the floods the course of water covered the rest of the dead animals, favoring that they are covered with sediments that at present are a guide to know with the greater certainty possible the registry of each piece, mainly its antiquity.

This work, which they estimate would take a year, will now be reflected in a doctoral thesis and a postdoctoral thesis developed by two researchers who on Friday and Saturday were part of the search team in Bella Vista, located 150 kilometers from the capital of Corrientes. on the banks of the Paraná River.