Posted tagged ‘fossils’

Grand Opening of ‘SuperCroc’ This Weekend at Sternberg

March 10, 2010

“The Science of SuperCroc” exhibit, which has previously been seen only in Chicago, Cincinnati and the Netherlands, will open at Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History on Saturday, March 13.

The exhibit, which has as its centerpiece the 40-foot-long crocodile, will be here until Aug. 5. The exhibit also includes the actual fossil skull of the SuperCroc, a copy of the 6-foot-long skull for photo opportunities, an interactive skeleton of Suchomimus which was a dinosaur from the same period that mimicked crocodilian features, a fleshed out version of the SuperCroc skeleton and a fleshed out head plus an expedition tent and supplies to give a taste of what it was like to dig SuperCroc out of the Sahara.  Another half-dozen or so exhibits give the context of SuperCroc’s evolutionary family tree.

You can check out photos from the unpacking and set-up at the exhibit’s Facebook page.

New Study Changes View of Ice Age Megafauna

December 17, 2009
Mammoth skelton located in the Southeast Bavarian Natural History and Mammoth Museum. Image credit: Lou.gruber/Wikipedia

Mammoth skeleton in the Southeast Bavarian Natural History and Mammoth Museum. Image credit: Lou.gruber/Wikipedia

A new study that analyzed DNA samples recovered from Alaskan permafrost suggests that megafauna such as woolly mammoths and ancient horses did not die off around 13,000 years ago as is commonly thought.  Instead, these animals were living in central Alaska about 10,000 years ago.  The new evidence suggest that they also could have lived as recently as 7,600 years ago.  The new study, rather than analyzing fossilized remains of an animal, analyzed DNA in the form of skin cells and feces in the permafrost samples.  The researchers conducting the study turned to permafrost because of the difficulty of finding the fossilized remains of the last Ice Age megafauna.

Discovery of Oldest Hominid Skeleton Reported

October 2, 2009
Artist's illustration of the skelton of Ardipithecus ramidus.  Image Credit:  J.H. Matternes/Science/AAAS

Artist's illustration of the skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus. Image Credit: J.H. Matternes/Science/AAAS

Yesterday, the journal Science published a series of papers outlining the discovery of the oldest known hominid skeleton.  The skeleton is that of a small-brained, 110-pound female Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed Ardi.   She lived 4.4 million years ago in what is today Ethiopia.  She is over a million years older than the famous Lucy fossil, found in the same region 35 years ago.

The discovery of Ardi raises a number of interesting questions for scientists.  Traditional scientific views, influenced by Lucy, were that human began to walk upright once they left the forest for the savannah.  Ardi contradicts this view.  She  lived in a forested region and walked upright on the ground and on four legs while climbing trees.  Also, given Lucy’s skeleton, scientists hypothesized that the last common ancestor of humans and other great apes had resembled a chimpanzee.  Ardi lacks these chimp-like features.  For more information on this discovery, see National Geographic News.

New Dinosaur Discovered in Utah

July 29, 2009
Cast of a Therizinosaurus cheloniformis claw at the Australian Museum, Sydney.  Photo credit:  Matt Martyniuk

Cast of a Therizinosaurus cheloniformis claw at the Australian Museum, Sydney. Photo credit: Matt Martyniuk

Scientists recently announced the discovery of the fossil remains of a new therizinosaur in Utah in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Therizinosaurs are unusual with distinctive sickle-like claws.  This therizinosaur, named Nothronychus graffami, had in addition to its claws a big belly and leaf-shaped teeth which suggest it was a omnivore that ate plants.  Scientists speculate that the killer claws could have been used like the claws of a modern anteater or sloth.  Given that this new dinosaur was a theropod, it also provides insight into the evolution of other theropods like T. rex or Velociraptor.  For more information on this discovery, see MSNBC.

This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Duck-billed Dinosaurs’ Jaws Unique

July 24, 2009
Edmontosaurus skull, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Photo credit:  Ballista

Edmontosaurus skull, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: Ballista

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the duck-billed dinosaur Edmontosaurus had a unique jaw.  By studying the scratches found on the hadrosaur’s teeth, researchers found that its jaw movement included sideways and front to back motions in addition to traditional up and down jaw movement.  This made the chewing motion of the Edmontosaurus completely unique.  The study also suggests that the wear pattern on the teeth was similar to that found in the grazing animals of today.  While grasses were not common to this time period, the researcher suggest that hadrosaurs grazed on low-lying vegetation like horsetails.  For more information on this study, see MSNBC’s Cosmic Log.

This photo licensed under the  GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later.

Fossil Potentially Puts New Twist in Human Evolution

July 8, 2009

A life reconstruction of Ganlea megacanina, a Myanmar primate which lived 38 million years ago in a tropical floodplain similar to today's monkey-filled Amazon Basin of South America.  Image credit:  Mark A. Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A reconstruction of Ganlea megacanina, a Myanmar primate which lived 38 million years ago in a tropical floodplain similar to today's Amazon Basin. Image credit: Mark A. Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

According to research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences), a new fossil primate discovered in Myanmar may suggest that the common ancestor of humans, apes and monkeys evolved in Asia, not Africa.  According to researchers the new  fossil primate, Ganlea megacanina, has monkey-like jaws and teeth which would potentially place it close in the evolutionary chain to the common ancestor of all primates.  Moreover, this discovery takes the spotlight off of Ida, the fossil discovery announced earlier this year.  For more information on this discovery, see Discovery News.

Three New Dinosaurs Discovered in Australia

July 6, 2009

Artistic representations of the three dinosaur taxa. Australovenator wintonensis (top); Wintonotitan wattsi (middle); Diamantinasaurus matildae (bottom). Image credit: T. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History/PLOS One

Artistic representations of the three dinosaur taxa. Australovenator wintonensis (top); Wintonotitan wattsi (middle); Diamantinasaurus matildae (bottom). Image credit: T. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History/PLOS One

The fossilized remains of three new dinosaurs were discovered in Australia, as reported in the journal PLOS One.  Dinosaur remains are rare in Australia, but this find puts Australia back on the map.  The discovery includes two plant-eating giants and one velociraptor-like predator.  These fossils were found in Australia’s Winton Formation, an area that many paleontologists thought had untapped potential.

Australovenator wintonensis, while similar to Velociraptor, was bigger and should help illuminate the development of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs, the carcharodontosaurs.  The two plant-eating theropods, Witonotitan wattsi and Diamantinasaurus matildae, are different kinds of titanosaurs (the largest dinosaurs ever to have lived).  Witonotitan was a more giraffe-like species, while Diamantinasaurus was more hippo-like.