Dinosaurs – Species Encycolpedia

'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 & www.pinalcentral.com

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

Source: www.sci-news.com

Scientists Predict How Dinosaurs Like Tyrannosaurus Rex Pursued Their Prey

Friday, February 23, 2018

Tyrannosaurus rex as an example of dinosaur anatomy and locomotion.a, The basic skeletal components and joints of the hindlimb. Only the third toe is shown for clarity. b, Redundancy allows the limb to assume a range of potential hip heights. c, For each position of the hip with respect to the foot, a spectrum of internal configurations is possible.

The mechanics of a dinosaur’s massive body can be hard to understand because scientists cannot watch them in motion, but birds are helping to solve the mystery that cannot be unraveled with fossils alone.

Although the dinosaur era ended with a devastating asteroid impact about 66 million years ago, birds are descendants of the prehistoric beasts. A team of researchers studied 12 species of birds of varying sizes that live on the ground and run, including the birds’ motions and how much force their feet exert upon the ground when they move.

Birds show “a highly continuous locomotor repertoire compared to humans, where discrete ‘walking’ and ‘running’ gaits are not easily distinguished,” according to the study, published in the journal PLOS One.

In other words, their change from walking to running is more of a flow, while in humans a change between the two modes is more stark.

Researchers had previously documented that flow from walking to running before, and the new study backs up that model.

The scientists say their observations are a window into how bipedal dinosaurs — the ones that stood on their hind legs — may have walked and run.

The famous Tyrannosaurus rex is one example of a bipedal dinosaur, as is the Velociraptor. The quadrupedals, or the dinosaurs that walked on four legs, included popular ones like the Triceratops and the Stegosaurus.

“A perennial question of interest for paleontologists is how extinct animals appeared and behaved when they were alive,” the authors wrote in their paper. “One way of better understanding how extinct theropods moved is to examine locomotion in extant theropods, birds, because birds retain many (homologous) anatomical similarities to their ancestors.”

The scientists collected information by video recording the birds as they ran along racetracks, according to journal publisher Public Library of Science. Plates in the ground measured the force the birds exerted with their feet.

The team crunched its data on running birds and how their locomotion changed with their speed and size to create models that might predict how the dinosaurs moved.

Those models have the potential to change how scientists interpret dinosaur footprints.

“At equivalent relative speeds, a small theropod will be moving in a decidedly different fashion to a large theropod,” according to the study. “This in turn raises concerns about the accuracy with which palaeontologists can reliably interpret fossil theropod footprints, in terms of inferring the posture and ‘gait’ of the trackmaker.”

Source: www.ibtimes.com

"Black Beauty"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"Black Beauty" specimen

Black Beauty (specimen number RTMP 81.6.1) is a well preserved fossil of Tyrannosaurus rex. The nickname stems from the apparent shiny dark color of the fossil bones, which occurred during fossilisation by the presence of minerals in the surrounding rock. The specimen is housed in the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Black Beauty is the 14th most complete known skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex, featuring 85 original bones (28% complete). Casts are on display in museums around the world, like the display at Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2009, a paper by Jack Horner and colleagues illustrated the concept of parasitic infections in dinosaurs by analysing the lesions found on the cranial bones of Black Beauty. The specimen has been used to study comparative morphology between tyrannosaurids and Tyrannosaurus individuals, and some have suggested that Black Beauty should be classed as Dynamosaurus (=Tyrannosaurus). It has been claimed to be the smallest adult T. rex specimen known, even though a number of other adults have skeletal measurements that are similar to or smaller than those of Black Beauty.

Black Beauty was found in 1980 by Jeff Baker, while on a fishing trip with a friend in the region of the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. A large bone was found in the riverbank and shown to their teacher. Soon afterward, the Royal Tyrrell Museum was contacted, and excavation of the sandstone matrix surrounding the fossils began in 1982.

Replicas of Black Beauty have been shown in some exhibitions and museums, including both simple skull montages and complete skeletons. The Naturhistoriska riksmuseet in Stockholm has a mounted complete skeleton of Black Beauty as one of their primary exhibitions called 4 ½ miljarder år, featuring the history of earth and life. Black Beauty has also been displayed in Paleozoological Museum, and a replica of the skull is on display at the Museum of African Culture. It was also part of the traveling exhibit Dinosaur World Tour in the 1990s.

Source: Wikipedia.org, NatGeo.com

Landmark Dinosaur Discovery in Egypt Could be Tip For Other Desert Finds

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hesham Sallam, head of Mansoura university's Center for Vertebrate Paleontology, displays bones of a Cretaceous period dinosaur in Mansoura, Egypt. The new species of long-necked herbivore is around the size of a city bus and could be just the tip of the iceberg of other finds.  (AMR NABIL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“As in any ecosystem, if we went to the jungle we’ll find a lion and a giraffe. So we found the giraffe, where’s the lion?” said Hesham Sallam, the leader of the excavation team.

A skeleton has been unearthed in Egypt’s Western Desert, whose ancient sands have long helped preserve remains, but unlike most finds this one isn’t a mummy — it’s a dinosaur.

Researchers from Mansoura University in the country’s Nile Delta discovered the new species of long-necked herbivore, which is around the size of a city bus, and it could be just the tip of the sand dune for other desert dinosaur discoveries.

“As in any ecosystem, if we went to the jungle we’ll find a lion and a giraffe. So we found the giraffe, where’s the lion?” said Hesham Sallam, leader of the excavation team and head of the university’s Center for Vertebrate Paleontology.

Sallam, along with four Egyptian and five American researchers, authored an article in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” published Jan. 29 announcing the discovery.

Researchers don?t know how Mansourasaurus lived and died, except for the fact that it was a plant eater.  (AMR NABIL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Experts say the find is a landmark one that could shed light on a particularly obscure period of history for the African continent, roughly the 30 million years before dinosaurs went extinct, between 70 and 80 million years ago.

Named “Mansourasaurus shahinae” after the team’s university and for one of the paleontology department’s founders, the find is the only dinosaur from that period to have been discovered in Africa, and it may even be an undiscovered genus.

In the article the authors say the team’s findings “counter hypotheses that dinosaur faunas of the African mainland were completely isolated” during the late Mesozoic period. That is, previous theories were that Africa’s dinosaurs during that time existed as if on an island and developed independently from their northern cousins.

But Mansourasaurus’ fossilized skeletal remains suggest an anatomy not very different from those discovered in Europe from the same period, an indication that a land connection between Africa and its northern neighbour may have existed.

The news was welcomed by other paleontologists, who now see the desert to the west of the Nile as fertile ground for new information about the Earth’s former residents.

Kristi Curry Rogers, an associate professor of geology and biology at Macalester College who specializes in large long-necked dinosaurs like the Mansourasaurus, said Tuesday that the find’s strong pronounced chin and other unique anatomical quirks will help piece together the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in Africa once more fossils have been found to compare it with.

“This highlights how much there is left out there to discover,” she wrote by email. “And I’m excited that people like Dr. Sallam and colleagues are on the ground searching for fossils.”

While Egypt has a long history of archeology, paleontology has not enjoyed the same popularity — or had the same success.

In 1911, the German paleontologist Ernst Stromer led an exhibition to the oasis of Bahriya, also in Egypt’s Western Desert. There, he discovered four species of dinosaurs, including a predatory type known as the Spinosaurus, all from the Cretaceous period. But all of his findings were later lost in Allied bombing of the Munich Museum during World War II.

There?s no indication whether the Mansourasaurus lived alone or in a herd.  (AMR NABIL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Sallam said researchers don’t know how Mansourasaurus lived and died, except for the fact that it was a plant eater. There’s no indication whether it lived alone or in a herd.

The bones bear a resemblance to another dinosaur discovery in Egypt, that of the Paralititan Stromeri, excavated by an American team from the University of Pennsylvania, whose findings were published in 2001. Both were long-necked herbivores grazers, but the Paralititan Stromeri was much larger. It was among the largest known dinosaurs, weighing in at 75 tons and over 30 metres long.

The Mansourasaurus’ smaller size is more typical of the Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs’ time was running out, geologically speaking, according to Sallam. With a long neck and tail, his torso would’ve been similar to that of an African elephant and measuring tip-to-tale over 10 metres and weighing several tons.

The Western Desert would have more closely resembled a coastal jungle during the dinosaur’s lifetime, with half of what is the country today under water.

Finding the dinosaur remains in the vast desert was the product of back-breaking work. The team scoured the area of the find more than 750 kilometres southwest of the capital for five years before they found the partial skeleton of the Mansourasaurus in 2013.

Sallam said he and a group of doctoral and master’s degree students were heading to give a lecture at a local university when they stumbled on a desert road with the appropriate geological outcroppings that they hadn’t noticed before. The next morning, the team returned to survey it, covering an area of several kilometres. It wasn’t long after they started that one of the students called him on the phone, saying that he should come see the number of bones she’d found.

Sallam said he knew from the first small piece of fossil he was shown that it was a big deal.

“When I first saw it I told them, if this comes out as I expect, your names will go down in history,” he told his students.

There is now some hope the discovery could bring more funding for the paleontology field in Egypt and financing for ongoing studies, Sallam said.

But he said he’s most proud of making science real for people who otherwise aren’t exposed to it as much.

“I mean, we’ve made the average Egyptian man, or the Arab man, talk about dinosaurs,” he said.


Source: www.thestar.com


Tulsa Researcher Unlocking Prehistoric Mystery of the Tyrannosaurus rex

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

People have been fascinated by dinosaurs since their first bones were found some 2,000 years ago.

OSU Paleontologist Dr. Holly Woodward Ballard shares that fascination every day in her lab at the OSU Center for Health Sciences. She’s measuring the growth of the Tyrannosaurus rex, because no one is sure how large the dinosaur could get.

It starts with a tile saw like you'd buy at Home Depot. Very thin slices of T. rex leg bone are polished so they can be examined under a microscope.

She studies their growth curves like you would age a tree.

Woodward Ballard said, "The tissue is a circular pattern, kind of one after the other. So that’s what we count to see how old this animal is when it died."

The T. rex gets a lot of attention because they may have been the most frightening creature to ever walk the planet. But Woodward Ballard will tell you they're even more interesting as you really get to know them.

She said, "It’s just a huge overgrown chicken basically. It’s just this giant bird with teeth is what it looks like to me."

It’s a bird that could rip off hundreds of pounds of meat with a single bite. While some scientists theorize that T. rex was a slow scavenger, she doesn't necessarily agree.

Woodward Ballard said, "The thing you have to remember is the stride length of that thing. It would only have to take a few steps and you could be running flat out and it could catch you."

She is very enthusiastic about her work in the lab and hunting for dinosaurs in the summer.

"It died, it was fossilized, it was buried and you're the first person to put a hand on it. It's like reaching back 67 to 66 million years ago. It’s just so exciting."

So far, she's studied 19 T. rex leg bones with more to come. She says the famous T. rex skeleton, Sue, at the Field Museum in Chicago is one of the largest ever discovered. At the age of 28, Sue had grown to almost 41 feet and 12,000 pounds.

But Woodward Ballard has never studied the bone of a T. rex that had stopped growing. It may be that the world was so dangerous in the Cretaceous period, that growing to maturity was a very difficult challenge.

Source: http://ktul.com


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Guinness world record holder for largest skull. Author: Kurt McKee

Titanoceratops (meaning "titanic horn face") is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur. It was a giant chasmosaurine ceratopsian that lived during the Late Cretaceous period (late Campanian, 74.7–73.5 Ma, although it could have lived as late as 72.82 Ma) in what is now New Mexico, and the earliest known member of Triceratopsini. It was named in 2011 by Nicholas R. Longrich for a specimen previously thought to belong to PentaceratopsTitanoceratops was named for its giant skull, and the type species was named T. ouranos, after the father of the Greek titans.

It is known solely from the holotype OMNH 10165, a partial skeleton including a mostly complete skull and jaws. The skeleton has a reconstructed skull measuring 2.65 metres (8.7 ft) long, which makes it an easy candidate for the longest skull of any land vertebrate. With an estimated weight of 6.55 tonnes (6.45 long tons) and length of 6.8 metres (22.3 ft), Titanoceratops can compare to the giant sizes of Torosaurus and Triceratops.

Size comparison of the derived chasmosaurine ceratopsian Titanoceratops and the human by Andrew A. Farke.

The holotype of Titanoceratops is thought to come from the upper Fruitland Formation or the lower Kirtland Formation based on field notes and the lithology of the matrix surrounding the fossils, but unfortunately the precise location of the quarry is no longer known. Because the location of the quarry is no longer known, the bold border between the formations can not be discriminated. The species was formally named by Nicholas R. Longrich in 2011 and the type species is Titanoceratops ouranos. Previously, its fossils were assigned to Pentaceratops, although its separation is not certain and the two binomials are treated as synonymous according to Wick & Lehman (2013). The holotype specimen consists of most of the fore and hindlimbs, some vertebrae, a fairly complete skull with only one small section of the frill, and partial lower jaws.

The skull measures 1.2 m (3.9 ft) from the tip of the snout to the quadrate and its restored frill extends its total length up to 2.65 m (8.7 ft) making it a candidate for the longest skull of any terrestrial vertebrate. Titanoceratops was as large as the later triceratopsins with an estimated weight of 6.55 tonnes (7.22 short tons) and a mounted skeleton measuring 6.8 metres (22.3 ft) long and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) tall at the back. Tom Holtz (2012) noted that it is extremely similar to its closely related contemporaries Eotriceratops and Ojoceratops, which may all be synonymous. The holotype skeleton of Titanoceratops consists of a partial skull with jaws, syncervical, cervical, dorsal, and sacral vertebrae, caudal certebrae, ribshumeri, a right radiusfemoratibiae, a right fibula, both ilia, both ischia, and ossified tendons. In total, the amount of material assigned to Titanoceratops means it is quite well known, along with genera like TriceratopsVagaceratopsPentaceratopsChasmosaurusCentrosaurusStyracosaurus, and Anchiceratops.

Life restoration of ceratopsid specimen OMNH 10165, classified as the species Titanoceratops ouranos. A ceratopsid genus from the Late Cretaceous Period Kirtland or Fruitland formation (Willow Wash Fauna, Kirtlandian age) of what is now New Mexico by LadyofHats

Originally assigned to PentaceratopsTitanoceratops was found by Longrich in its description to not be closely related to it, and instead found it to share characteristics with triceratopsins. The skeleton has many derived features that are shared between Triceratops and its closest relatives. However, even thought most recent studies find Titanoceratops to be valid and distinguished from Pentaceratops, one study in which Bravoceratops was described found the two genera and species to be synonymous, and therefore Titanoceratops ouranos the invalid name.

Previously, the origins of Triceratops were poorly known. Until the description of TitanoceratopsEotriceratops was the oldest known triceratopsin, and only dated to 68 million years old, from the uppermost region of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation. No Campanian triceratopsins were known before, so it appeared as if the group suddenly diversified in the Maastrichtian. Titanoceratops shows that large-bodied ceratopsians evolved earlier than thought. Based on the age of Titanoceratops, there must have been a five million year ghost lineage leading to Eotriceratops.

Source: Wikipedia.com, NatGeo.com

Local Fossil ID’d as Oldest Dinosaur From Utah

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Utah Geological Association’s journal Geology of the Intermountain West recently published an article by a team of three paleontologists that identified a pelvic fossil bone as the remains of the oldest dinosaur found in Utah. The small, meat-eating dinosaur is reconstructed in this image. [Image by Jeff Martz / Courtesy of John Foster]

A small fossil pelvis from the Moab area has been named the oldest identifiable dinosaur fossil bone ever found in Utah.

The collaborative efforts of three paleontologists – Xavier Jenkins with Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, John Foster with the Museum of Moab and Robert Gay with the Colorado Canyons Association – have resulted in an article published in the Utah Geological Association’s journal Geology of the Intermountain West that identifies this fossil from the Late Triassic Period (225–200 million years ago) as belonging to a small meat-eating dinosaur that roamed the area now known as Utah.

“The Triassic Period marks the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs,” said Julia McHugh, Curator of Paleontology for the Museums of Western Colorado, where the fossil is curated. “This fossil helps give us a starting point for their evolution and diversity in the Triassic of Utah. This specimen is the oldest known dinosaur bone from Utah, and the first found from the Triassic Period. It helps to fill in some of the gap to show us that for sure some of the oldest dinosaurs were present in ancient Utah.”

The dinosaur fossil – a part of the pelvis consisting of fused vertebrae, called the sacrum – is from a small, flesh-eating dinosaur, similar to the dinosaur Coelophysis that is known from New Mexico and Arizona. While it was assumed that Utah had these large turkey-sized dinosaurs running around, solid evidence of their existence was not available until this specimen was found.

“There are plenty of footprints that suggest these predatory dinosaurs were around during this important time, but footprints can be affected by lots of factors, and many non-dinosaurian reptiles of the time had very similar feet,” Gay said. “The few bones that have been found previously in Utah and called ‘dinosaurs’ were really scrappy, and we can't actually be sure that they really came from dinosaurs. The Triassic Period in Earth's history is critical because it spans the rise of dinosaurs from these small creatures to those that dominate pretty much every land ecosystem five million years later.”

The fossil was found in the Chinle Formation on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land north of Moab in 2005 by the Museum of Moab Director John Foster and a volunteer, when both were working with the Museum of Western Colorado. The collection of fossil vertebrates on BLM land requires a paleontological resources use permit, as was the case with this study.

“It was a blind-luck find in a way,” Foster said. “We knew the rock type to look at and we were specifically looking for reptiles in the Chinle, but most that are found in that unit are non-dinosaurs. I was looking for teeth and bones exposed and visible on loose blocks of rock, and my assistant, Ray Bley, decided to chisel open a similar rock but one that had no indication of bone on or in it. You could do that a thousand times and see only scrap, but Ray split a chunk off and said ‘What’s this?’ – I walked over and there they were, the fused vertebrae of a dinosaur.”

The comparison that Jenkins, Foster and Gay carried out showed that, given the ambiguity of the track evidence and the fragmentary nature or uncertain age of all other purported Triassic dinosaur specimens in Utah, the Moab specimen represents the oldest confirmed dinosaur fossil in the state.

“I think what this helps illustrate very well is that the rise of dinosaurs was rather gradual and that for some time after their first appearance, dinosaurs were in fact very rare,” Foster said. “Evidence of large reptiles is found all over the Moab area in the Chinle Formation, but it took until now to find one that is definitely a dinosaur. And this pattern of actual dinosaurs being rare is true in the Triassic in places like Arizona too.”

The paper in Geology of the Intermountain West is available at: utahgeology.org/openjournal/index.php/GIW/article/view/22.

Source: www.moabsunnews.com

Pittsburgh Paleontologist Says New Dino Discovery Disrupts A Major Biodiversity Theory

Friday, February 2, 2018

An artist's rendering of the Mansourasaurus shahinae, an African elephant-sized sauropod that lived about 80 million years ago. ANDREW MCAFEE / CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked, plant eating dinosaur that lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 80 million years ago, and its discovery is disrupting a major theory in the field of paleontology.

Uncovered recently by a team of Egyptian paleontologists in the Sahara Desert, researchers believe the dinosaur would have resembled a smaller, Elephant-sized version of its cousin, the brontosaurus. The group published their findings Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Matt Lamanna, paleontologist and principal dinosaur researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, helped study the skeleton after its discovery. He said fossils of more recent dinosaurs, like those that appeared 30 million years or less before going extinct, are rarely found in Africa -- but this one was remarkably well-preserved. 

"In fact, this is definitely the best dinosaur skeleton that's been found, probably within that entire time span in Africa," Lamanna said.

Parts of the Mansourasaurus shahinae's skull, ribs, shoulder and hind foot were found at the dig site.

Lamanna said it bears striking similarities to sauropods found in Europe, refuting a big theory in the field of paleontology that Africa was once an isolated continent. Mansourasaurus' discovery seems to prove that the creatures traveled between the two continents, and were not genetically isolated.

"To find a dinosaur from the end of the age of dinosaurs in Africa and have it be closely related to European dinosaurs was really exciting," Lamanna said. "It showed that this island continent hypothesis was at least not entirely correct, if not completely off base."

Lamanna said there's no current plan to move Mansourasaurus shahinae from Egypt at this time, though casts could be made to show parts of the specimen in other museums.

Source: http://wesa.fm

Mansourasaurus shahinae: Egyptian Dinosaur Discovery Fires up Paleontology World, Shows Ties to Europe

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The titanosaurian dinosaur Mansourasaurus shahinae is depicted in an artist's drawing. The dinosaur lived on the coast of what is now the western desert of Egypt approximately 80 million years ago. | REUTERS

A long-necked dinosaur unearthed in Egypt has yielded the first evidence of contact between African and European dinosaurs shortly before the creatures disappeared for good about 66 million years ago, scientists said Monday.

Given a dearth of dinosaur skeletons from Africa, paleontologists have battled to reconstruct a map of how the animals spread across the world after the “supercontinent” Pangaea broke up into different land masses some 200 million years ago.

Many believed Africa’s dinosaurs were completely isolated from cousins on other continents by the time their heyday was brought to an abrupt end, possibly by an asteroid strike.

The new specimen, an elephant-sized plant-eater given the name Mansourasaurus, sheds new light on Afro-European dinosaur ties, its discoverers said.

Looking at its physiology, the team concluded that Mansourasaurus was “more closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than it is to those found farther south in Africa or in South America,” according to a statement from Ohio University.

“This, in turn, shows that at least some dinosaurs could move between Africa and Europe near the end of these animals’ reign. Africa’s last dinosaurs weren’t completely isolated.”

Very few dinosaur fossils from the late Cretaceous period, about 100 to 66 million years ago, have been unearthed on the African continent.

Much of the land where fossils may be found is today covered in lush vegetation, unlike the exposed rock in which bones are frequently found in Patagonia, for example.

Discovered in the Sahara Desert, Mansourasaurus is the most complete dinosaur skeleton from the late Cretaceous ever found in Africa.

The remains include scattered bits of the creature’s vertebrae, skull, lower jaw, ribs, and leg bones.

Mansourasaurus is a titanosaur, a group that also included some of the biggest land animals ever to have lived, such as Argentinosaurus, Dreadnoughtus, and Patagotitan.

“When I first saw pics of the fossils, my jaw hit the floor,” said study co-author Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

“This was the Holy Grail — a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa — that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.”


Source: AFP-JIJI, www.japantimes.co.jp