Posted tagged ‘paleontology’

Steamed Dinosaur Eggs

June 30, 2010

Photo Credit: Gerald Grillet-Tinner/Lucas Fiorelli

A paper in Nature Communications stated certain dinosaurs created nesting habitats near geothermal vents in order to lay their eggs. Much like migratory birds, some neosauropods had specific nesting grounds. A study conducted in northern Argentina revealed that 80 clutches of dinosaur nests were located within 3 meters of geothermal conduits. This discovery assists scientists in exploring the selection and environment of dinosaur nests.

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Color of Some Dinosaur Feathers May Be Revealed

January 28, 2010

Sinosauropteryx fossil. Image credit: Sam Ose/Olai Skjaervoy/Wikipedia

A team of scientists from Great Britain and China have proposed that the color of some dinosaurs may be be revealed through the analysis of fossilized melanosomes.  The primitive melanosomes, found in fossilized dinosaur feathers, contain melanin which provide pigmentation for modern animals.  The scientists used high-powered scanning electron microscopy to examine the fossils.  One dinosaur in the study, Sinosauropteryx, is believed to have had reddish-orange feathers running along its back and a striped tail.

Feathered Dinosaurs Were Likely Venomous

December 24, 2009

Paleontologists in China and the University of Kansas in an article published this week  analyzed the skulls of Sinornithosaurus, a bird-like raptor that was about the size of a turkey.  Their analysis revealed that the long, grooved, fang-like upper teeth of this dinosaur were connected by narrow ducts to pockets in its upper jaw.  These pockets could have housed venom glands.  The structure discovered in Sinornithosaurus is very similar to modern rear-fanged snakes that do not inject venom, but rather channel poison along grooves in their teeth.  Researchers now are interested in re-examining other raptors to see if they too have these features.  For more information on this discovery check out the video from the University of Kansas. 

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.

Transitional Dinosaur Species Found in South Africa

December 1, 2009

 

Artist's illustration of sauropods.

South African paleontologists recently announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur, Aardonyx celestae. The fossil record suggests that giant four-legged giant herbivorous sauropods evolved from bipedal predecessors known as sauropodomorphs. Aardonyx celestae is a transitional species that bridges the gap between sauropodomorphs and sauropods.  With features like a long slender neck, a barrel-shaped body, narrow jaws and a bipedal stance, Aardonyx celestae blends the features of sauropodomorphs and sauropods.

 

New Study on Mammoth Extinction

November 24, 2009

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

A new study by University of Wisconsin – Madison researchers sheds new light on why large North American mammals, like the Mammoth, became extinct.  Published in Science, this study focuses on fossil pollen, charcoal and fungus spores found in fossil dung.  The study illustrates that the decline of these large mammals started about 14,800 years ago.  This decline was essentially complete a thousand years later.  This study seems to rule out a mass extinction caused by a meteor strike about 12,900 years ago since the decline was well underway by then.  Other previously theories suggested that Clovis hunters created the extinction via over-hunting, but, again, the die off predates the arrival of Clovis hunters in North America.  Finally, this study contradicts the theory that significant changes in climate caused the extinction because it suggests that the extinction of these major species actually helped create the change in climate.  By losing these major plant-eaters, trees were able to become widespread.

Remains of 5 Ancient Crocs Found in the Sahara

November 20, 2009
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This week paleontologists Paul Sereno and Hans Larsson revealed the discovery of the remains of five ancient African crocodyliforms, early ancestors of crocodiles.  Three of the crocodyliforms are new discoveries while the other two were previously identified.  The three new discoveries are:

The remaining two discoveries are:

These discoveries are exciting because they offer insight into a world of crocodyliforms that was previously unknown.