Egg Fossil Discovered that Links Dinosaurs to Modern Birds



Scientists Discover Fossil Egg That Links Dinosaurs To Modern Birds (via redOrbit)

It is the only dinosaur egg in the world to have an oval shape, similar to that of chicken eggs Before her death in December 2010, Nieves López Martínez, palaeontologist of the Complutense University of Madrid, was working on the research of dinosaur eggs with a very peculiar characteristic: an ovoid…

Disputed Tarbosaurus Dinosaur Fossil Auctioned for $1M in NYC

Tarbosaurus Fossil, Credit: Wikipedia

The Heritage Auction house recently sold a cousin of the tyrannosaurus for $1,052,500 despite a court order to not do so. The completely assembled Tarbosaurus fossil came with very little documentation, casting a shadow of speculation on where the remains were found. It seems this dinosaur fossil appeared out of thin air.

In 1955 paleontologist Evgeny Maleev found the first fossil of a Tarbosaurus in the Gobi Desert, and every specimen thereafter has also been found in Mongolia. There is little doubt where this skeleton came from, and Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia, questioned the legality of selling the dinosaur fossil two days before the auction. The Mongolians have strict regulations and heritage laws to prevent the poaching of fossils. All paleontology expeditions must receive formal permission and every find remains in the country, although the Mongolian Academy of Sciences makes loans to academic institutions.

Heritage Auctions is claiming the dinosaur fossil entered the United States legally and went on to sell the fossil, despite the outcry from paleontologists and the Mongolian government. Lawyer Robert Painter obtained a temporary restraining order for the sale of the Tarbosaurus from Judge Cortez. Painter actually rushed in to the auction with Cortez on the phone and Heritage Auctions President Greg Rohan asked Painter to leave and refused to speak with Cortez.

Pending the results of the legal dispute, there is still some hope that the fossil may be returned to Mongolia. The United States has returned smuggled fossils in the past, and in 2009 the US government returned to China the ancient bones of a saber-tooth cat and dinosaur eggs dating back 100 million years. Fossil poaching is a serious issue, and Heritage Auctions should have respected the wishes of the Mongolian Government.

References:

Smithsonian Magazine. “Tarbosaurs on Trial” by Brian Switek. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/dinosaur/2012/05/tarbosaurus-on-trial/

Ancient Sea Monster Discovered, Dubbed “Godzilla Fossil”

The smooth, round, and mysterious fossil up close. Credit: Photo by Lisa Ventre

Approximately 450 million years ago the area of Cincinnati was covered by shallow seas. In these seas lived some very large organisms, and despite their size no one has found a fossil of the Godzilla sea monster until recently. The Dry Dredgers, a dedicated corps of amateur paleontologists, made the puzzling discovery.

The fossil discovered is elipitical in shape with multiple lobes, reaching almost ten feet in length. The specimen was unveiled on April 24th 2012 in Dayton, Ohio at the 46th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. Ron Fine will be taking part in the presentation, he is the paleontologist who originally found the specimen, along with Carlton Brett and David Meyer who are Geologists from University of Cincinnati.

Fine says, “I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil. Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.” Ron Fine belongs to the Dry Dredgers paleontology club. They are based at the University of Cincinnati and celebrated their 70th anniversary this year in April.

Godzilla fossil was found in a layer of clay rich rock known as shale. This zone in Covington, Kentucky, is known to produce a lot of concretions and nodules. Fine went on to say, “While those nodules can take on some fascinating, sculpted forms, I could tell instantly that this was not one of them. There was an organic form to these shapes. They were streamlined.”

Fine could instantly tell that he had something more than a nodule because the surface texture. He said,”Nodules do not have surface texture, they’re smooth. This fossil had an unusual texture on the entire surface.”

For over 200 years the Cincinnati area has been an epicenter for paleontology. More rocks and fossils have been studied here than anywhere else, and this new discovery of a large, unknown sea monster has professionals looking for answers.

David Meyer of the University of Cincinnati said, “It’s definitely a new discovery, and we’re sure it’s biological. We just don’t know exactly what it is.” Meyer, Datillo, and Brett are working with Fine to answer this question. They are reconstructing a timeline working backwards from the fossil, from preservaton, to burial and death, to how it lived its life.

UC Paleontologist David Meyer, left and Carlton Brett, right, flank Ron Fine, who discovered the large fossil spread out on the table. (Credit: Photo by Lisa Ventre)

Fine has meticulously reassembled the entire fossil. The specimen is in hundreds of pieces, making this task extremely challenging. “I’ve been fossil collecting for 39 years and never had a need to excavate. But this fossil just kept going, and going, and going. I had to make 12 trips over the course of the summer to excavate more material before I finally found the end of it.”

Working together to study the Godzilla fossil, Meyer, Datillo, Brett and Fine have found a clue to its life from another fossil. The mysterious fossil has several segmented and small animals known as primaspid trilobites attached to its lower surface. These tiny trilobites have been found in the past on other fossilized animals, on their undersides most likely seeking shelter. The paleontologists hope to learn more about the new mystery fossil by better understanding this trilobite’s behavior.

According to sciencedaily.com, the Cincinnati team is reaching out to specialists all over the world, but no one has been able to find any evidence on anything similar being found. This unknown sea monster fossil defies all facts we know and leaves us many more questions than answers, according to Fine. “We hope to get a lot of people stopping by to offer suggestions,” Meyer said.

You can read the entire article here

References:

University of Cincinnati (2012, April 24). Mysterious ‘monster’ discovered by amateur paleontologist. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/04/120424121738.htm

Perfectly Preserved Woolly Mammoth Discovered in Russia

Buigies Nernard/Mammuthus/MCE and www.abcnews.go.com

Yuka, a four to five year old Woolly Mammoth discovered in the Yakutia region of Siberia, is considered the most well preserved ancient remains ever. Nearly everything is still intact on the little Woolly down to the foot pads, pink skin and orange colored fur. Yuka was found by tusk hunters in 2010 and is currently being studied by noted archeologists from across the globe. What makes Yuka so important (besides his perfect preservation) is the fact that he also appears to have been a victim of humans. Scientist agree that he was initially attacked and killed by large predator(s), however there are two slits along his back indicating a crude tool was used to open the Woolly up. All the internal organs were removed as well as the skull, pelvis, ribs and other bones.

According to ABC news correspondent Ned Potter, who quotes Prof. Daniel Fisher, an evolutionary biologist with the University of Michigan: “”This is not the way lions enter carcasses,” said Fisher. “If typical signs of lion entry are not present, that tells us that human beings must have somehow gained control of the carcass.””

ABC News article on Juvenile Woolly Mammoth

It is the probability that humans went in and somehow scared off the lions and proceeded to harvest the Woolly for their own consumption that makes this find so valuable. Yuka is physical proof that ancient man lived alongside the Mammoth and used the beast for food. Additionally, this is the first Mammoth discovered with orange colored fur; all previously found Mammuthus primigenius had dark brown hair.

Yuka was found buried alongside his bones, thus leading scientists to conclude the hunter(s) intended to return for the remainder of the carcass. This hunting behavior is also typical of modern day dwellers living in higher elevations. This allows for the initial feast and then their return to collect the rest of the kill while making sure no scavengers can run off with the unused portions.

Immediately, speculation rose about cloning Yuka by using his DNA. Although he is an excellent specimen, the possibility of creating a copy through his genetics is virtually impossible due to the fact that DNA will deteriorate with time and permafrost contributes to this as well. The idea of trying to bring to life any prehistoric animal or human seems unlikely and the potential side effects could be lethal for both the animal and current humans as well. However, many scientists view cloning the DNA of deceased animals as a furthering of zoological and paleontological studies. By studying living, breathing replicants of extinct species, it opens the door to undiscovered scientific research in such areas as evolution, genetics, and mutation.

The French-based group Mammuthus is working with Prof. Fisher and other scientists in efforts to find, research and save fossils as well as other artifacts from Earth’s prehistoric past. Through their work, they are discovering and cataloging these brief glimpses of time in order to provide a clearer lineage picture. By searching for and preserving ancient fossils and artifacts, scientists can disseminate our past and possibly the future as well.

References:

Potter, Ned. (2012). “Woolly Mammoth Apparently Butchered by Ancient Humans”. ABC News. www.abcnews.go.com. Retrieved May 5, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/woolly-mammoth-siberia-preserved-apparently-butchered-humans/story?id=16079905#.T6XnQ8WQmvY.

Fossil Discovery: Largest Known Feathered Dinosaur

An exciting new fossil discovery has been recently found. The largest known feathered dinosaur fossil was uncovered in China.  What’s more interesting is this fossil seems to be a close relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Here is an excerpt of the article from slate.com with details:

Feathered Dinosaur Fossil is Largest Ever Found

Paleontologists in China have discovered the fossil remains of the largest known feathered animal, alive or extinct. Feathers aren’t a new find in dinosaur hunting, but previously found feathered species were 40 times smaller than the 30-foot long adult found in the Liaoning Province in northeastern China.

Named Yutyrannus huali, a combination of Latin and Mandarin meaning “beautiful feathered tyrant,” the distant relative of T. Rex had feathers that resembled the fuzzy down of modern chicks. The findings also revealed that dinosaurs kept their feathers through adulthood, a fact that sweeps aside a notion that plumage was only for the young and shed as they grew.

While researchers pointed to the possibility of insulation in a cooling climate, the use of the feathers for appearances hasn’t been totally ruled out either. Whatever the feathered giant means, the latest findings prove one thing without a doubt: It’s an exciting time to be a paleontologist.
www.slate.com

There is some speculation going around that perhaps even the might T. Rex himself had feathers as mentioned in this article:

Was T. rex fuzzy?
The discovery of a giant meat-eating dinosaur with a soft, fluffy coat has some scientists rethinking what Tyrannosaurus rex looked like.

With a killer jaw and sharp claws, T. rex has always been shown as having scaly skin in movies and museums. But the discovery of one of its earlier relatives makes scientists think the king of the dinosaurs had a softer side.

The evidence comes from the discovery of a new tyrannosaur species in northeastern China that lived 60 million years before T. rex. Along with the bones, researchers found fluffy down, making it the largest feathered dinosaur ever found.

If a T. rex relative had feathers, why not T. rexhimself?

“People need to start changing their image of T. rex,” said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who was not part of the team that discovered the new species.

Much smaller dinosaurs with primitive feathers have been found in recent years, but this is the first direct sign of a huge, shaggy dinosaur. Scientists have long debated whether gigantic dinosaurs lost their feathers as they got bigger or whether they just didn’t have as many feathers.

The new tyrannosaur species, Yutyrannus huali, was described this month in the journal Nature. Its name is a blend of Latin and Mandarin and translates to “beautiful feathered tyrant.”
www.washingtonpost.com

It will be interesting to see how the results of this find pan out.  It just goes to show that there is certainly an infinite amount more to be learned about these ancient mystical creature we call “Dinosaurs”.

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Who Was The Last One Standing? Fossil News Sheds Light On Extinction

Triceratops - Last Survivor

Illustration of a Triceratops skeleton, believed to be one of the last surviving dinosaurs before the mass extinction. (Credit: Mark Hallett)

There are no puzzles in paleontology that are more tantalizing than the extinction of dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago. While the predominant theory — a super-sized meteor hit the Earth and released the power of a thousand thermonuclear weapons — has become more and more concrete, new discoveries and fossil news make the debate more complex each year. Last year, Yale University scientists unearthed the horn of a ceratopsian (probably a Triceratops) within Montana. The horn is interesting due to its location a mere five inches under the geologic layer that marks the transition from Cretaceous to Tertiary period — the epoch when all dinosaurs vanished from the world forever.

Prior to this discovery, there had been no dinosaur fossils that had been found within ten feet of the so-called “K-T boundary”. As such, some paleontologists speculate that dinosaurs could have gone extinct prior to the meteor impact, after, or through a longer process. The Yale unearthing, however, suggests otherwise: at least one dinosaur species had been going strong up until the last days (or at least, the last few thousand years) before the meteor hit Earth and changed life on the planet by facilitating the rise of mammals — including homo sapiens.

Some dinosaurs may have been better adapted to the dying days of the Cretaceous than others. Avian dinosaurs, such as the ultra-fast therapods and ‘raptor’ dinosaurs, who likely had feathers for heat conservation and display, could possibly have thrived in a situation where the non-avians could not. As ceratopsians were non-avians, however, this single horn is good evidence that the bird-like and non bird-like dinosaurs both were doing fine up until an asteroid the size of New York City hit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It seems likely now that the impact itself, rather than prior environmental causes, would have eradicated the dinosaur species.

Fossil News Finds Dinosaurs Who Stayed Close To Home

Discoveries in recent years have shown that dinosaurs proved to be far better parents than previously considered.  The excavation of Maiasaurus fossils by Jack Horner, for instance, showed that dinosaurs would tend for nests of infants rather than abandon them as some modern-day reptiles do.  Yet the newest Fossil News out of Mongolia suggests that the parent role might have been larger than paleontologists think.  A nest of Protoceratops has been unearthed in the Djadocta Formation, revealing no less than fifteen of these ceratopsians that likely were juveniles — older than newly-born infants but not yet mature adults.

With ten of these fifteen fossilized dinosaurs fully complete, there are many conclusions that paleontologists can begin to make.  The presence of so many developing dinosaurs suggests that these Protoceratops may have had a hand in raising their young for a much longer span of time than initially understood.  The size of the nest, furthermore, indicates that few of these dinosaurs may have expected to survive to adulthood to reproduce.  This is not surprising — Protoceratops lived in harsh desert conditions seventy million years ago, surrounded like predators like Velociraptor; fossilized skeletons of Protoceratops and Velociraptor have been found together, locked to the death.  The strategy of long-term parenting could have been a factor in ensuring the success of this nest.

In a separate but related study, UC David paleontologists have determined that the size of orbital bones in the skulls of these Protoceratops may have been large enough to support eyes that functioned in low light.  Perhaps this plant-eater grazed at day, while defending their nests from predatory attacks at night.  Better senses would ensure their young had an advantage of surviving to adulthood, amidst blinding sandstorms and midnight raids on nests.  These challenges made the sheep-sized dinosaur have to evolve in order to survive in a harsh Cretaceous world.