nandi's blog

New Study Traces Evolution of Ankylosaur’s Distinctive Tail

Friday, May 1, 2015

Gobisaurus, an ankylosaur with a stiff tail but no knob of bone at the end, compared with Ziapelta, an ankylosaur with a fully developed tail club. Image credit: Sydney Mohr.

Ankylosaurs are a large group of herbivorous armored dinosaurs that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The typical ankylosaur had a wide armored body and a flexible tail. But one group – ankylosaurids – also had a distinctive tail club composed of stiff, interlocking vertebrae (the handle) and large, bulbous osteoderms (the knob) – a special kind of bone formed in the skin that’s unique to armored dinosaurs. According to a new study published in the Journal of Anatomy, the handle arrived first on the scene, and the knob followed.

In this study, Prof Philip Currie from the University of Alberta, Canada, and Dr Victoria Arbour of North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences compared Jurassic ankylosaurs to those from the early and late Cretaceous, tracing the tail’s evolution from flexible to fearsome.

The paleontologists looked at a number of early ankylosaurids including: Liaoningosaurus which lived 122 million years ago; Gobisaurus, which lived 90 million years ago; and Pinacosaurus, which lived 75 million years ago and is the earliest specimen with a complete tail club, to determine which of three possible evolutionary paths was most likely.

“There are three ways the tail could have evolved,” said Dr Arbour, who is the lead author on the study.

“The knob could have evolved first, in which case you’d see ankylosaurids with osteoderms enveloping the end of the tail, but with the tail remaining flexible,” she added.

“The handle could have evolved first, meaning you would see early ankylosaurids with overlapping or fused tail vertebrae.”

“Or the knob and handle could have evolved in tandem, in which case you’d see ankylosaurids with both structures, but there could have been other differences like shorter handles or smaller knobs.”

Timeline of ankylosaur tail evolution. Image credit: Victoria Arbour.

By comparing the tails of the specimens, the scientists saw that by the early Cretaceousankylosaurs had begun to develop stiff tails with fused vertebrae. The knob appeared in the late Cretaceous.

“While it’s possible that some of the species could still have developed the handle and knob in tandem, it seems most likely that the tail stiffened prior to the growth of the osteoderm knob, in order to maximize the tail’s effectiveness as a weapon,” Dr Arbour said.


Victoria Arbour & Philip Currie. Ankylosaurid dinosaur tail clubs evolved through stepwise acquisition of key features. Journal of Anatomy, published online August 21, 2015; doi: 10.1111/joa.12363


New Species Among Rare Treasure Trove of Fossils Found in California

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This portion of a whale skull was found at the Calaveras Dam construction site in California

Shell fossils were the first evidence that the construction workers needed to call in a paleontologist.

Finding fossils can be a fact of life for construction crews excavating in California. That's what happened when crews broke ground to begin the new Bay Area Calaveras Dam in 2013. They just didn't expect to find so many.

The existing 93-year-old Calaveras Dam stands only about a thousand feet from the Calaveras Fault, a proximity that prompted earthquake safety concerns.

The dam impounds the Calaveras Reservoir, which holds 40% of the area's water supply capacity. It's the largest Bay Area reservoir, said Betsy Lauppe Rhodes, regional communications manager for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System.

With 2.7 million Bay Area customers relying on its water, the stability of the dam is critical. After careful study, a decision was made to rebuild the dam completely next to its existing location, Rhodes said in an email.

The dam's excavation required moving 10 million cubic yards of rock and soil. During initial project planning, shell fossils were noticed at the site, she said.

"Because of this, the project team included a paleontologist who would monitor excavations and document and preserve anything we found," Rhodes said.

"What we were not expecting was this many fossils, of this variety. That was a complete surprise."

The construction workers were trained about what to look out for and instructed to cease work and alert the site paleontologist if they saw anything out of the ordinary. The paleontologist would then mark the fossil's location using GPS and remove it in a block of rock and dirt, sometimes with a plaster jacket around it to protect it during transportation.

The paleontologist for this site was probably busier than expected: It proved to be home to a treasure trove of fossils revealing what life was like in the area 15 million to 20 million years ago, and the most complete collection of fossils found in the Bay Area for more than 50 years. A combination of plant and animal fossils gives scientists a very clear picture of what conditions in an area were once like.

To ensure that the collection remained as intact as possible, the team reached out to regional institutions to see who could take on such a vast collection. Rhodes said that fossils found during construction on public or government land must by law be preserved and cared for by an official repository.

The University of California Museum of Paleontology, at the University of California, Berkeley campus, stepped up to the challenge. The school spent $500,000 to reopen a fossil prep lab. "UCMP has been a great partner in that endeavor," Rhodes said.

"They have assembled a tremendous team and lab to prepare and categorize the fossils and make them available for future generations."

Among the finds were numerous fossilized palm trees and pine cones, hundreds of invertebrates including snails and crabs, shark teeth and whale skulls. There was also evidence of a previously unknown species of fossilized baleen whale. As the researchers continue their work, they expect to find more new species.

They have upwards of 20 whale skulls, each about 3 feet long. This is highly unusual for a "salvage" project, in which scientists try to excavate fossils from an active construction site that may be damaged.

"Thus far we have made significant progress on five complete skulls, and quite a few individual bones," Cristina Robins, senior museum scientist at the museum and head of the the project, wrote in an email.

"There are individual teeth from Desmostylus [a hippo-like creature] and seal. We have evidence for 4 different baleen whale species, and at least 2 toothed whale [dolphin or orca-like] species. Our largest whale is actually the most complete -- we have a 5-foot skull and 17 vertebra, plus some ribs," she wrote.

Robins said she was surprised by the quality, as well as the quantity, of the fossils.

Although the small invertebrates may seem less exciting, they help complete a time capsule of what life was like millions of years ago in what is now the Bay Area, especially the paleo-environment and climate, according to Robins.

"These are the first fossils ever collected from this particular part of the East Bay, and it has turned out to be one of the richest sites for marine mammals in northern California," she said.

"It is the first time that we have so many individuals of the same species of fossil whales from the same site. It is rare to find vertebrate, invertebrate and plant fossils that have been scientifically collected from the same rock units, so it will allow us to reconstruct the past environments with a level of detail that is very unusual for any site, and especially for ones on a construction site. Additionally, the plant fossils are terrestrial -- palm trees and pine trees -- preserved with the marine fossils. This shows us that the coastline was not far away."

Water covered much of the area millions of years ago. Where people live and work now, whales roamed over modern Berkeley and Oakland, and giant megalodon sharks were chasing prey in San Jose.

Desmostylus would have waded along a coastline that was decorated with palm and pine trees, while giant seals were splashing in the water.

Cleaning, preparing and studying this number of fossils takes time. The project will end in July 2019, so the researchers are documenting what they can find. They will do all they can until then, and that's when whatever is left will be open and available for others to study.

"We are really just beginning to understand the scientific significance of the finds," Robins said.

"This collection adds significantly to our knowledge of the paleontology of California from the Miocene -- about 15-20 million years ago. The quantity and quality of the fossils is extremely impressive, and that comes down to both luck and the skill and care of the mitigation paleontologists and the construction workers who often found the fossils."


Mandasuchus tanyauchen: Ancient Reptile Who Lived Around 245 Million Years Ago And Grew Up to 3m In Length

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Mandasuchus by Maurice Wilson, Nov. 2010

An international team of paleontologists from the Natural History Museum, London, the University of Birmingham and Virginia Tech has formally given an ancient carnivorous reptile a name, over several decades since its fossils were found in Tanzania. The formal species description of Mandasuchus tanyauchen is published in a special memoir of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


A cousin of modern-day crocodiles, Mandasuchus tanyauchen was an archosaur — the lineage of reptiles that include dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.

The ancient reptile lived around 245 million years ago (Triassic period) and grew up to 10 feet (3 m) in length.

The fossilized remains of Mandasuchus tanyauchen were first discovered in the 1930s as part of a major paleontological expedition to East Africa, which included work on a geological formation in Tanzania called the Manda Beds.

The fossils in these beds date from the Middle Triassic epoch. This was a time when the archosaurs began their rise to dominance.

English paleontologist Alan Charig proposed the name Mandasuchus for this species in the 1950s, when he studied the Tanzanian fossils as part of his PhD thesis. Charig continued his career in paleontology, but never completed his work on this reptile.

In recent years, new expeditions to Tanzania have found additional fossils, which have remained in Tanzania.

Combined with the older discoveries, these are shedding light on exciting topics such as early dinosaur evolution.

“Studies like these highlight the important role that museums play as storehouses of information of the natural world,” said senior author Professor Paul Barrett, a paleontologist in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London.

“Although it took decades to complete this work, the specimens remained safe and accessible in our collections and now form the basis of this amazing new species.”


Richard J. Butler et al. 2018. Mandasuchus tanyauchen, gen. et sp. nov., a pseudosuchian archosaur from the Manda Beds (Middle Triassic) of Tanzania; pp. 96–121 in C. A. Sidor and S. J. Nesbitt (eds.), Vertebrate and Climatic Evolution in the Triassic Rift Basins of Tanzania and Zambia. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 17. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 37 (6); doi: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1343728


Welcome to Pleistocene Park: The Mammoth Plan to Recreate an Ice Age Ecosystem in Siberia

Saturday, April 21, 2018

An artist's impression of an Ice Age ecosystem – similar to the one that Pleistocene Park is trying to recreate(Credit: Mauricio Antón/CC BY 2.5)

A real-world Jurassic Park is never going to happen, but shooting for a more recent prehistoric era might be more achievable. The Pleistocene Park project is aiming to rebuild a lost Ice Age ecosystem in Siberia, and its directors, the father-and-son team of Sergey and Nikita Zimov, say it could help slow the effects of climate change. Now, the initiative is running a crowdfunding campaign to help transport a new herd of animals to the park.


The project's roots can be traced back to 1988, when Sergey Zimov first began grazing Yakutian horses – a large, stout breed that's particularly well adapted to the bitter cold. In 1996, Pleistocene Park kicked off in earnest, with the long-term goal of increasing the density of animals living in Siberia to return the land to a state it hasn't seen in 10,000 years.

"The park was unavoidable for me really," Nikita Zimov, director of Pleistocene Park, tells New Atlas. "My dad started the first rewilding experiments when I was five, and Pleistocene Park officially started when I was 13. I lived here by the park for most of my life, except for high school and university from 14 to 20. My dad proposed for me to come back to the Station after university. I agreed. First years I was mostly doing what my dad told me, but I slowly took over most work on the Research Station and the Pleistocene Park. In the last few years I am fully in charge of those both."

The mammoth steppe

Today, Siberia has relatively low biodiversity, but that wasn't always the case. During the last Ice Age, the region was covered with a biome known as the "mammoth steppe," a grassy landscape densely populated by – as the name suggests – woolly mammoths, as well as species of bison, horse, reindeer, and musk ox. These creatures lived in symbiosis with the fast-growing grasses, and the ecosystem was so successful that it managed to spread over much of Europe, Russia, northern Asia and Canada.

"Before that most plants on the planet preferred to protect themselves from eating," Zimov explains. "Most resources they spent on poisons, spikes, height etc. Grasses took a different strategy – they put all efforts into fast growth, without spending anything on protection from eating or fighting the enemy. They went to symbiosis with animals. They feed animals, and those animals destroyed the enemies of grass – mosses, shrubs, trees. Those ecosystems appeared to be so successful that 15 to 20 thousand years ago, most of the planet was occupied by those ecosystems."

But around 12,000 years ago, the mammoth steppe all but vanished from the planet, and two familiar culprits have been blamed for that – climate change and human activity. The hypothesis goes that as the planet grew warmer in a natural event, humans ventured farther north. On finding such a bounty of animals, our ancestors did what they did best and hunted them. The reduced animal populations could no longer maintain the ecosystem, and the mammoth steppe quickly unraveled.

Northern Serengeti

The central goal of Pleistocene Park is to bring that ancient ecosystem back to Siberia, creating what the Zimovs call a "Northern Serengeti." That means restoring the populations of those animals. Some, like reindeer, moose and Yakutian horses, still live in the region and can be easily rehomed in the park. Other species, like bison and muskoxen, have gone extinct locally and would need to be reintroduced from other parts of the world.

Currently, the park is home to over 90 animals, including Yakutian horses, reindeer, muskoxen, yaks, sheep, moose, bears and one lonely wisent. This may not be the exact collection of critters from the Ice Age, but it should fill most of the same ecological niches – yaks and sheep, for instance, were never native to the area but have similar grazing behaviors.

"For our arctic mammoth steppe, we know that on each square kilometer was one mammoth, five bison, eight horses and 15 reindeer," says Zimov. "In other steppe ecosystems animals were slightly different, but 'professions' stayed the same – there must have been elephant, cow, horse, goat/sheep/deer, wolf, big cat."

Back from the dead

But there's a huge, mammoth-shaped hole in this resettlement plan. Woolly mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years, and modern elephants are far from equipped to handle the intense Siberian winters. But with a little genetic help, their ecological role may one day be filled again.

As part of the Revive & Restore initiative, geneticist George Church is leading the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival project. This would be done by comparing the genomes of the mammoth and its closest living cousin, the Asian elephant, and editing the genes of the latter to be more like the former. The end result wouldn't be a true woolly mammoth, but if done right the new elephant hybrid could tolerate the cold and help plug up the mammoth's ecological vacuum.

Of course, that's the most ambitious piece of the puzzle, so don't expect to be able to see a real-life mammoth any time soon. Although Zimov has agreed to house any eventual revived mammoths at Pleistocene Park, for now they're focusing on the more achievable goals of rehoming animals that haven't been extinct for 4,000 years.

Defrosting permafrost

Pleistocene Park isn't just collecting these animals for fun – the team says that restoring the mammoth steppe ecosystem in Siberia can help slow the effects of climate change. Hundreds of gigatons of carbon is currently locked away in the Siberian permafrost, but with the planet steadily warming it's beginning to thaw out, releasing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.

According to the Pleistocene Park team, herds of animals can offset the problem in a number of ways. For one, their hard hooves will trample the snow, compacting it down and keeping the permafrost colder than loose snow would. The animals would also remove vegetation like shrubs, trees and moss, and with a little help from some natural fertilizer the fast-growing grasses would once again take over, which can sequester carbon in their roots.

Another benefit to more snow cover and less vegetation is what's known as the albedo effect – essentially, snowy steppes are brighter than forests so they reflect more sunlight, rather than absorb its heat. Admittedly, the modest size of Pleistocene Park – about 20 sq km (7.7 sq mi) – won't be enough to counter the entire Earth's emissions, but it should serve as a good proof of concept. To that end, the park has equipment in place to monitor the energy balance of the land, determining the ratio of energy emission to absorption.

Good bison

To achieve all of this, the team is currently seeking funding through Indiegogo to import a herd of bison, one of the key players in Zimov's vision for the park, from North America.

"Bison was the long-time dream of my dad, and for good reason," says Zimov. "Even though the ecosystem was called the mammoth steppe, bison was the dominant species there and it played the main role in the promotion of steppes. So we need this animal."

"Originally our plan was to find bison within Russia, but we quickly learned that there are no good options," he continues. "So we moved our focus on getting bison from abroad. After a few months of searching we found a herd owned by a Native American tribe near Fairbanks, Alaska."

The team has already purchased 12 one year-old animals from the tribe, had their health tested and had them cleared by the Russian government for entry. Now, the last remaining hurdle is actually getting them to the park.

"Originally I was even thinking about buying an old, very old ship and just navigate it to Cherskiy through the Bering Strait," says Zimov. "But we quickly understood that this idea is too crazy even for us. So we focused on the sane idea of chartering an airplane."

This idea turned out to be quite costly too, apparently bumping up against the US$130,000 mark. Some of that will come out of the team's pocket, as many of the expenses have over the years, but Zimov estimates that they'll need at least an extra $50,000.

To raise those funds, a campaign is currently in progress on Indiegogo. Pledging to Pleistocene Park will net backers the usual array of goodies, like notebooks, mugs and t-shirts, while those who throw higher donations to the project can be rewarded with animal figures carved from mammoth tusks found in the permafrost.

In future, Zimov plans to continue expanding the size of the park as well as the number and types of animals it houses. And who knows – maybe one day a modern mammoth will step back onto a modern mammoth steppe.


Dinosaurs Come to Life in France's "Jurassic World" Exhibit

Friday, April 20, 2018

An animatronic Indominous in Jurassic World: The Exhibition.

Enthusiasts of the age of reptiles marveled on Tuesday at dinosaur displays of real-life sizes at a Paris exhibition of the blockbuster hit "Jurassic World."

Opened to the public on Saturday, the exhibition featured moving giant replicas of dinosaurs, including stegosaurus, triceratops and the ferocious T. rex.

Attendees walked around a space transformed into a dimly lit jungle as monstrous roars echoed all around. They also experienced a fake laboratory where mock baby dinosaurs dozed in incubators.

Most spectators, of all ages, were amazed by the displays, saying they look realistic and are reminiscent of the dinosaur era.

Held at the La Cite du Cinema hall near Paris, the exhibition will last until September 2nd.


Meet Maryland’s Dinosaurs

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dinosaurs near Washington, D.C. (long-necked Astrodon johnstoni) left behind a trove of fossils overseen by Matthew Carrano. (Patrick O’Brien)

Go to just about any dinosaur exhibit and you are sure to see the fossilized remains of the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex. But what if you are more interested in the lesser-known Deinonychus, Tenontosaurus or Astrodon johnstoni, the official Maryland state dinosaur? Then, you will want to visit Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.

From now until December 31, Calvert Marine Museum invites you to imagine modern-day Maryland as a tropical swampland inhabited by prehistoric giants engaged in an epic struggle for survival. Creating the illusion are more than 150 fossilized dinosaur bones plus informative text panels and colorful murals. The fossils come courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and private collectors.

“We put this exhibit together because not too many people realize we live in an area with significant dinosaur remains,” said museum paleontologist Donald J. Morgan III. “The dinosaur deposits found in Maryland are an important scientific discovery.”

What you won’t find here are large, life-like models.

“I was kind of disappointed they didn’t have big replicas of dinosaurs,” said eight-year-old dino-enthusiast Thomas Nolan.

Too bad, but too big. Maryland’s 20-ton state dinosaur — named ­johnstoni for dentist Christopher ­Johnston, who studied its teeth and coined the term Astrodon — would have collapsed the museum’s mezzanine. These “star-toothed” plant-eaters of the Early Cretaceous Period were more than 50 feet long and 30 feet tall. Their remains have been found in Prince George’s and Baltimore counties.

“It was still interesting,” the young critic allowed.

“My favorite thing is the skull,” Nolan said, referencing the sculpted replica of an adult Giraffatitan, a close relative of the Astrodon johnstoni. Both dinosaurs were sauropods, a class of large, four-legged plant-eaters with long necks and tails.

“Some of the fossils are over 60 million years old,” he added. “That’s kind of cool when you think about it.”

Even without a giant plastic statue towering over them, visitors can get some idea as to how large these prehistoric creatures were. A touchable replica of a fossilized footprint encourages you to compare your own hands to the foot of a Nodosaurus. The footprint of that armored plant-eater from the Late Cretaceous Period was found at Goddard NASA in Greenbelt. A carpet marked with the gait of the two-legged, meat-eating Allosaurus challenges you to use a simple math equation to determine the height of the animal.

Programming and interactive features of the exhibit are a work in progress, Morgan said. He plans to add a scavenger hunt and a make-a-dinosaur activity aimed at elementary and middle school students, and a more complicated dinosaur-measuring activity for high school students and adults.

Calvert Marine Museum is a good fit for such an exhibit.

“We are known for our collection of fossils from Miocene deposits,” Morgan said. The museum’s spacious Paleontology Gallery houses its permanent collection, including a life-size replica of a ferocious-looking Megalodon, a prehistoric shark whose teeth are often found at nearby Calvert Cliffs.

In the small lab accessible from the Paleontology Gallery, knowledgeable staff and volunteers chat about dinosaurs with visitors and help them make connections between the ancient reptiles and animals living today.

Nolan, his sister Elizabeth and other young visitors were excited to hold Megalodon teeth as intern Sean Conner asked, “What’s your favorite dinosaur?”

Everyone has a different answer.


5 Obvious Lessons Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Characters Still Haven't Learned

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A reaction to the sequel's final trailer.

The final trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is here. And the more I watch it, the more I was distracted by one simple fact: these characters are incapable of learning from the past.

They have 25 years of calamity to guide them, and yet, they keep on making the same exact mistakes. If the titular “Fallen Kingdom” is humanity itself, and THESE are our brightest minds, then let that kingdom burn, baby. We had our time. (All snarkiness aside, we are still looking forward to seeing this movie.)

Here are 5 lessons that these dumb-dumbs haven’t learned after 25 years of dino-mayhem.

Stop Going Back to the Islands

Let’s start with an easy one. Count how many times, in this franchise alone, going to a dinosaur-infested island has worked out well in the end.. Every Jurassic Park movie after the original has had us slapping our forehead saying “why would you go back there!?” Yes, Jurassic World operated for years without incident, but the second that Indominus Rex broke out of its enclosure in the previous film, that should’ve been it, right? And yet here we are again - Claire and Owen go back to save some dinosaurs. How do we think THIS return trip is gonna go?

Small Cages and Big Dinosaurs

Characters in this franchise do not respect boundaries, whether they’re moral or painted on the ground. Remember the first scene of Jurassic Park, when that guy gets obliterated because he’s too close to the cage? Well, Claire and Owen sure don’t. The trailer opens with them tip-toeing around a tranquilized dinosaur, presumably to help it. But what exactly are Owen and Claire thinking here? They have like, four feet between them and a hurricane of teeth and prehistoric rage and they think leaving the door CRACKED OPEN is good enough? Why not just open it all the way? And wait a minute, why does Claire even need to be in here in the first place? Is it to hand whatever’s on her belt to Owen? If that’s the case, guess what Claire, THERE ARE WINDOWS ON THAT CAGE BIG ENOUGH TO PASS THAT THROUGH.

Make These Girls Less Clever

We know that the plot of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom revolves around weaponizing dinosaurs to sell to the highest bidder. They’re being bred to maximize their destructive power... but come on, do they really need to be able to open doors? We’re at the point where we can create hybrids of dinosaurs. We’re probably like two movies away from giving them telekinesis, but we can’t breed out the door-opening skill?

Stop Trusting Rich People

There’s a constant in the Jurassic Park series: rich people can’t be trusted. We’ve seen it time and again. And again.

But no one’s told Claire that. For some reason, she trusts Mills here enough to recruit Owen for the dino-rescue operation. Now, do we think his intentions are pure… or will he sell the heck out of every one of those monsters Claire and Owen bring back? Here’s a good rule of thumb, Jurassic Park characters: if someone’s wardrobe looks like it cost more than $100, whatever they’re asking you to do is not going to go well.


It all boils down to this: "Life finds a way." It’s the most quotable line from Jurassic Park for a reason. It’s a concise mission statement for the entire franchise - we just cannot control nature. Ian Malcolm even does us the service of repeating it for us in the last trailer in case we forgot somehow. Life finds a way to wake up from tranquilizers at inopportune times. Life finds a way to break out of small cages. Life finds a way to open a window. Or a door.

Maybe life will find a way to let us ignore all the lessons the characters in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom should’ve learned by now… but I doubt it.


Colin Trevorrow Says Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Will be Similar to Original Movie

Friday, April 20, 2018

Director Colin Trevorrow

Colin Trevorrow says 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' will share similarities with Steven Spielberg's 1993 original.

The 41-year-old director has helped to write the latest installment in the money-spinning franchise, and he's given fans an insight into what they can expect from the upcoming movie.

He shared: "If I could contextualize each film, I would say 'Jurassic World' was an action adventure, 'Fallen Kingdom' is kind of a horror suspense film, and 'Jurassic World 3' will be a science thriller in the same way that 'Jurassic Park' was."

'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' will still feature the likes of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

But Colin revealed that some new, important characters are set to be introduced in the upcoming movie.

He told EW: "There's other characters who we'll meet in 'Fallen Kingdom' you'll realise are major characters."

Colin is set to helm the final installment in the trilogy, which is due out in 2021.

And he's admitted to feeling privileged at having been given the opportunity to shape the franchise.

He said: "Steven Spielberg asked me [to direct], and when he asks you, what can I tell you, man?

"In all honesty, over my past few years, I've grown to love and cherish the value of the gift that I've been given with this franchise."

Meanwhile, Colin previously hailed the decision to appoint J. A. Bayona as the director of 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom', saying it's important to add fresh ideas to the films.

He said: "It's important to this franchise that we welcome new creative voices to keep our storytelling fresh and alive."

This article originally ran on

Paleontologists Discovered Oldest Turtle Predecessor Species Dating From Cretaceous Era

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The enormous freshwater turtle, that existed around 60 million years ago, is depicted here having just snapped up a crocodylomorph from a patiently awaited lakeside ambush. The adult turtle would have been about the same size as a Smart car, and the shell could have been inverted and used as a kiddie pool. Fossil evidence suggest that the jaws were very powerful and most likely would have crushed mollusks and crocodiles with a single snap. Its large size would have made it virtually impervious to attack from the larger crocodillian species of the era. The turtle evolved in a period after the dinosaurs. This is only an artistic depiction since there is not much fossil remains at this time.

Paleontologists discovered oldest turtle predecessor species that belong to the time of Cretaceous period. Now it can be said that the today’ modern turtles are also having their ancestors from the period of dinosaurs epoch during Mesozoic times, like many reptiles as well as crocodiles.

The Peritresius ornatus was also such kind of the ancestors that had survived in North America, nearly 100 to 66 millions of years back to the date. According to the researchers, Peritresius ornatus was the exclusive species of its king, of which the sister species has been found during a thorough research published in the PLOS ONE, a scientific journal.

“This discovery not only answers several important questions about the distribution and diversity of sea turtles during this period but also provides further evidence that Alabama is one of the best places in the world to study some of the earliest ancestors of modern sea turtles, said Drew Gentry, the leading author of the study.”

New discovery is revealed by George Martin, who is now known as Peritresius martini after identifying the species by fossils obtained from marine sediments in Alabama. Peritresius ornatus has been described in the published study by Andrew Gentry from University of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, along with the research team.

Study authors explain that, “The heavily vascularized and sculptured dermal elements characteristic of P. ornatus are interpreted here as potentially indicative of a thermoregulatory capability and may have been one of the key factors contributing to the survival of Peritresius into the Maastrichtian, a period of cooling when other lineages of Campanian marine turtles went extinct.”


Mammoth Remains Found in Northern Wyoming

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dee the Mammoth, who was discovered near Glenrock, Wyoming, is displayed at the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College.

Skeletal remains found at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir this week appear to belong to an ancient mammoth.

Federal law enforcement agents and officials rushed to secure the site west of Cody on Tuesday afternoon as word spread quickly about the discovery. The spot is located on Bureau of Reclamation land and the Bureau of Land Management is assisting with security.

"We don't have a huge amount of mammoth finds in Wyoming; it's a very important discovery," said University of Wyoming paleobiology professor Mark Clementz, in the department of geology and geophysics.

A Cody area resident found the mammoth remains while hiking in the area, the Powell Tribune reported .

UW archaeology and anthropology professor Marcel Kornfeld said university scientists are in talks with the Bureau of Reclamation on how to save the exposed portion of the fossil.

"There is no doubt in my mind that it's a mammoth," Kornfeld said Wednesday. "It will be important to determine what is there and what is below the surface as soon as possible."

Kornfeld said photos of the discovery show the visible fossil to be in poor condition, eroding away after being exposed to the elements. Officials are attempting to figure out logistics quickly because the area will soon be submerged with snow melt.

Clementz said there are ways to speed up the process of excavating the mammoth, but it's up to the Bureau of Reclamation as to how they can proceed. Wyoming state archaeologist Greg Pierce has already been contacted by the bureau.

"It's eroding away pretty fast. A large number of volunteers and manpower could do it faster," Clementz said.

While genetic testing has yet to be performed, the exposed partially articulated vertebral column and dorsal spines as well as at least one tooth, are believed to be from a Columbian mammoth. But officials on the scene have not ruled out the possibility of more than one mammoth's remains being present at the site. The species went extinct at the end of the ice age.

Several loose fossils and shards cover a distance of at least 30 yards, but it's too early in the discovery to know the extent of the movement of the fossils or if more mammoth remains exist in the area.

The exposed portion of the vertebral column — possibly a section close to the prehistoric mammal's neck, according to Kornfeld — is only a few feet long. Detached fossils and fragments are spread across the immediate area, moved by water after being unearthed.

Law enforcement is investigating whether any remains have been taken from the site, said Mahonri Williams of the Bureau of Reclamation's Wyoming area office. Officials have been careful to control any foot traffic until all available evidence is collected or documented before the site is submerged.

Fearing the site may be disturbed by sightseers or souvenir collectors, officials asked the exact location not be disclosed.

If no tools or evidence of ancient human interaction with the mammoth are found, the remains would most likely be turned over to paleontologists for further study. If there is evidence that the mammoth was killed and butchered by humans, the importance of the find will grow: Only 15 to 16 mammoth kill sites exist in North America. But considering the location, making that determination could be difficult.

"You could dig for years before finding artifacts like stone tools," Kornfeld said.

The fossils on the surface will need to be salvaged prior to the water rising, said Todd Surovell, professor and department head of archaeology at UW. Surovell is currently excavating the La Prele mammoth site, near Douglas. Radio-carbon dating will be used to determine if the mammoth died within the timeline of early humans in North America.

"If it's older than 14,000 years, it's unlikely humans were involved in its death," Surovell said. Mammoths have been known to exist in North America for more than 1.8 million years, he said.

If there isn't a connection to human involvement, the specimen will be turned over to paleontologists. Each find is important, Surovell said. Paleontological finds give clues to diet, migration and other important info about the extinct species.

There are 10 mammoth discovery sites in Wyoming, Surovell said. While there are hundreds of mammoth discoveries in North America, only a handful of sites on the continent have been confirmed to be specimen harvested by humans.

"We have to treat it carefully," he said. "It's a rare resource."