Sauropods had soft foot pads to help support their massive weight

A 3D paleoreconstruction of a sauropod dinosaur has revealed that the hind feet had a soft tissue pad beneath the "heel," cushioning the foot to absorb the animals immense weight.

Enlarge / A 3D paleoreconstruction of a sauropod dinosaur has revealed that the hind feet had a soft tissue pad beneath the “heel,” cushioning the foot to absorb the animals immense weight. (credit: Andreas Jannel)

Ask people to think of a dinosaur, and they’ll likely name Tyrannosaurus Rex, the carnivorous antagonist prominently featured in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World film franchises. But an equally well-known dinosaur clade are the herbivorous sauropods, which include Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Argentinosaurus, and Brontosaurus. Australian paleontologists have digitally reconstructed these plant-munching giants to glean insight into how their feet managed to support their enormous weight, according to a new paper published in the journal Science Advances.

“We’ve finally confirmed a long-suspected idea and we provide, for the first time, biomechanical evidence that a soft tissue pad—particularly in their back feet—would have played a crucial role in reducing locomotor pressures and bone stresses,” said co-author Andreas Jannel, who worked on the project while completing doctoral studies at the University of Queensland. “It is mind-blowing to imagine that these giant creatures could have been able to support their own weight on land.”

Sauropods (clade name: Sauropoda, or “lizard feet”) had long-necked, long-tailed bodies that made them the lengthiest animals to have roamed the Earth. They had thick and powerful hind legs, club-like feet with five toes, and more slender forearms. It’s rare to find complete Sauropod fossils, and even those that are mostly complete still lack the heads, tail tips, and limbs. Scientists have nonetheless managed to learn a great deal about them, and digital reconstruction is proving to be a valuable new tool in advancing our knowledge even further.

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#biology, #biomechanics, #dinosaurs, #evolution, #paleontology, #sauropods, #science

These researchers watched dead fish rot for 70 days—for science

These researchers watched dead fish rot for 70 days—for science

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson/T. Clements et al.)

Sometimes science can be a messy endeavor—not to mention “disgusting and smelly.” That’s how British researchers described their experiments monitoring dead sea bass carcasses as they rotted over the course of 70 days. In the process, they gained some fascinating insights into how (and why) the soft tissues of internal organs can be selectively preserved in the fossil record, according to a new paper published in the journal Palaeontology.

Most fossils are bone, shells, teeth, and other forms of “hard” tissue, but occasionally rare fossils are discovered that preserve soft tissues like skin, muscles, organs, or even the occasional eyeball. This can tell scientists much about aspects of the biology, ecology, and evolution of such ancient organisms that skeletons alone can’t convey. For instance, earlier this year, researchers created a highly detailed 3D model of a 365-million-year-old ammonite fossil from the Jurassic period by combining advanced imaging techniques, revealing internal muscles that had never been previously observed.

“One of the best ways that soft tissue can turn into rock is when they are replaced by a mineral called calcium phosphate (sometimes called apatite),” said co-author Thomas Clements of the University of Birmingham. “Scientists have been studying calcium phosphate for decades trying to understand how this process happens—but one question we just don’t understand is why some internal organs seem more likely to be preserved than others.”

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#biochemistry, #biology, #fish, #fossilization, #fossils, #paleobiology, #paleontology, #science

Little Pterosaur Could Have ‘Pole-Vaulted’ into Flight from the Water

New fossil analysis offers the first physical evidence of this launch strategy

#advances, #biology, #dinosaurs, #paleontology

Splitting T. Rex Into 3 Species Becomes a Dinosaur Royal Rumble

A team of researchers published a rebuttal to an argument advanced by another group earlier in the year. The disagreement over the king of dinosaurs is far from over.

#dinosaurs, #evolutionary-biology-journal, #fossils, #paleontology, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Re-analysis of a fossil finds it’s from the earliest vertebrate branch

Yes, those are gills on this Cambrian animal.

Enlarge / Yes, those are gills on this Cambrian animal. (credit: Dinghua Yang)

Because we’re a member of the group, it’s easy to see vertebrates as the pinnacle of evolution, a group capable of producing bats, birds, and giant whales in addition to ourselves. But when they first evolved, vertebrates were anything but a sure thing. They branched off from a group that lived in the mud and didn’t need to tell its top from its bottom or its left from its right, and so ended up losing an organized nerve cord. Our closest non-vertebrate relatives re-established a nerve cord (on the wrong side of the body, naturally) but couldn’t be bothered with niceties like a skeleton.

How exactly vertebrates came out of this hasn’t been clear, and the probable lack of a skeleton in our immediate ancestors has helped ensure that we don’t have a lot of fossils to help clarify matters.

But in Thursday’s issue of Science, researchers have re-evaluated some enigmatic fossils that date back to the Cambrian period and settled several arguments about exactly what features the yunnanozoans had. The answers include cartilaginous structures that supported gills and a possible ancestor to what became our lower jaw. In the process, they show that yunnanozoans are likely the earliest branch of the vertebrate tree.

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#biology, #evolution, #paleontology, #science, #vertebrates

Physics meets paleontology: The hotly debated mechanics of pterosaur flight

Physics meets paleontology: The hotly debated mechanics of pterosaur flight

Enlarge (credit: Julius Csotonyi)

A group of researchers has recently made an astounding discovery.

Using an innovative imaging technique, an international team of scientists has uncovered remarkable details of a pterosaur’s soft tissue. Despite an age of approximately 145–163 million years, the wing membrane and the webbing between both feet managed to survive fossilization.

Armed with new data, the team used modeling to determine that this little pterosaur had the capacity to launch itself from the water. Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

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#biology, #biomechanics, #features, #fossils, #paleontology, #physics, #pterosaurs, #science

Feathers May Have Helped Dinosaurs Survive Their First Apocalypse

Geologic evidence for a freezing arctic suggests dinosaurs could have weathered an epoch-ending volcanic winter

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #dinosaurs, #evolution, #paleontology

Dinosaur Diets May Help Explain Dramatic Diversity

Some species were constrained by their food sources, while others ranged widely

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #biology, #paleontology

Who’s Got Two Pseudothumbs and Loves Bamboo? This Panda Bear.

Fossils found in southwestern China give a hint to the development of the panda’s sixth digit — a rudimentary, thumblike bone extension.

#bamboo, #china, #fingers, #fossils, #paleontology, #pandas, #research, #scientific-reports-journal, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Gut check: Fossil finds give us a history of life—and what it ate

Gut check: Fossil finds give us a history of life—and what it ate

Enlarge (credit: Cheung Chung-Tat)

It’s frustrating and gross, but we’ve all done it. We’ve all stepped in poop.

Most of us would like to forget the experience. But 33 million years ago, now-extinct life forms stepped in it, and fossilization has ensured that those events will not be forgotten.

For archeologists, what was once repellent is now an absolute marvel, as it offers insight into extinct animals and their environments that we may not otherwise obtain. Similarly, other byproducts of life we might find disgusting—regurgitated remnants of meals, internal organs and their contents—are important clues into creatures we only know about from the fossil record.

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#crocodilians, #evolution, #features, #paleontology, #pterosaurs, #science

Sex Life of One of Earth’s Earliest Animals Exposed

The first known male appendage from trilobites has been found in a 508-million-year-old fossil

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #paleontology

Giraffes May Be Long-Necked for Fights, Not Just Food

Evolutionary theories said giraffes developed their height to get to better eats, but ancestors may have gained the advantage through head-butting battles.

#evolution-biology, #fossils, #giraffes, #head-body-part, #neck, #paleontology, #research, #science-journal, #skull-body-part, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Megalodon Extinction May Have Been Driven by Hungry Great White Sharks

The largest shark that ever lived may have vanished in part because the comparatively smaller great white had a taste for the same prey.

#endangered-and-extinct-species, #fossils, #isotopes, #nature-communications-journal, #paleontology, #research, #sharks, #teeth-and-dentistry, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science, #zinc

Which is worse for the soil—combines or dinosaurs?

Image of a sauropod in a lush environment.

Enlarge / Having this guy stomp through might mean that things would struggle to grow there afterwards. (credit: Roger Harris)

Words I did not expect to read in a scientific paper this week: “The similarity in mass and contact area between modern farm vehicles and sauropods raises the question: What was the mechanical impact of these prehistoric animals on land productivity?” The paper, from Thomas Keller and Dani Or, raises what may be a significant worry: Farm vehicles have grown over the past few decades, to the point where they may be compacting the subsurface soil where roots of crops extend. This poses a risk to agricultural productivity.

The paper then compares that compaction risk to the one posed by the largest animals to ever roam our land: sauropods.

The big crunch

We think of the ground as being solid, but gaps and channels within soil are critical to plant life, since they allow air and water to reach roots. Soil compaction, in its extreme form, gets rid of all these spaces, making the ground much less hospitable for plants. And compaction is hard to reverse; it can take decades of plant and animal activity to break up the compacted soil again and re-establish a healthy ecosystem.

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#agriculture, #biology, #dinosaurs, #paleontology, #sauropods, #science, #soil

Dinosaurs Started Out Hot, Then Some of Them Turned Cold

Scientists directly measured the metabolic rate of extinct animals, which revealed that some giant dinosaurs became coldblooded.

#anatomy-and-physiology, #biology-and-biochemistry, #dinosaurs, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fossils, #nature-journal, #paleontology, #pterosaurs, #research, #temperature, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Mysterious ancient giant eggs Down Under laid by Aussie “demon ducks of doom”

Detail from an illustration of <em>Genyornis</em> (aka the "Demon Duck of Doom") not looking so tough as it is chased from its nest by a Megalania lizard in prehistoric Australia.

Enlarge / Detail from an illustration of Genyornis (aka the “Demon Duck of Doom”) not looking so tough as it is chased from its nest by a Megalania lizard in prehistoric Australia. (credit: Peter Trusler)

Over 65,000 years ago, large flightless birds dubbed “Demon Ducks of Doom” roamed prehistoric Australia. The creatures stood over six and a half feet (two meters) tall, weighed over 440 pounds (200 kgs), and sported massive beaks. They also produced giant cantaloupe-sized eggs that may have served as a food source for early human inhabitants, eventually contributing to the extinction of the demon ducks, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Technically known as Genyornis newtoni or mihirung paringmal (“thunder bird”), the species was first described in 1896 based on the discovery of a fossilized left femur excavated from a site at Lake Callabonna in South Australia. Further excavation yielded many more fragments of avian fossils and eventually mostly complete specimens, including the cranium. Similar specimens have since been found at other sites in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. The species went extinct within a few thousand years after humans arrived in the region.

There are two competing hypotheses for why Genyronis became extinct: climate change or the impact of the arrival of humans. For instance, there is some fossilized evidence that the Genyornis population at the Lake Callabonna site perished because the lake dried up due to climate change, depriving the birds of their water source. However, a 1999 study of more than 700 eggshell fragments concluded that the species’ decline and extinction occurred too rapidly to be attributed to climate change, suggesting that human activity was to blame. Specifically, early humans in the region may have gathered and consumed Genyornis eggs faster than the creatures could lay them and reproduce.

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#ancient-dna, #evolutionary-biology, #megafaunal-extinction, #paleontology, #paleoproteomics, #proteomics, #science, #taxonomy

The (fossil) eyes have it: Evidence that an ancient owl hunted in daylight

The (fossil) eyes have it: Evidence that an ancient owl hunted in daylight

Enlarge (credit: IVPP)

An extraordinarily well-preserved fossil owl was described in PNAS this past March. Owls are not new to the fossil record; evidence of their existence has been found in scattered limbs and fragments from the Pleistocene to the Paleocene (approximately 11,700 years to 65 million years ago). What makes this fossil unique is not only the rare preservation of its near-complete articulated skeleton but that it provides the first evidence of diurnal behavior millions of years earlier than previously thought. 

In other words, this ancient owl didn’t stalk its prey under the cloak of darkness. Instead, the bird was active under the rays of the Miocene sun.

Seeing the light

Its eye socket was key to making this determination. Dr. Zhiheng Li is lead author on the paper and a vertebrate paleontologist who focuses on fossil birds at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in China. He explained in an email that the large bones around the eyes of birds (but not mammals) known as the scleral ossicles offer information about the size of the pupil they surround. In this case, the pupils of this fossil owl were small. And if the pupil is small, he wrote, it “means they can obtain good vision with a smaller eye opening.”

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#birds, #evolution, #fossils, #owls, #paleontology, #science

How Mammals Conquered the World after the Asteroid Apocalypse

They scurried in the shadows of dinosaurs for millions of years until a killer space rock created a new world of evolutionary opportunity

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #features, #paleontology

Dinosaur Skeleton Sells for $12.4 Million at Christie’s

The remains of a Deinonychus antirrhopus, the beast that inspired the velociraptor in “Jurassic Park,” are believed to be the first of their kind sold at a public auction.

#auctions, #christies, #deinonychus-antirrhopus, #dinosaurs, #hector, #jurassic-park-movie, #paleontology, #skeletons

Started Out as a Fish. How Did It End Up Like This?

A meme about the transitional fossil Tiktaalik argues that although we did emerge from the sea, we aren’t doing just fine.

#canada, #evolution-biology, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fossils, #nunavut-canada, #paleontology, #shubin-neil-h, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

The ‘Ultimate Bird’ Once Prowled the Seas of a Young Japan

Researchers described Annakacygna, a family of flightless ancient swans that were filter-feeders.

#birds, #fossils, #gunma-museum-of-national-history, #japan, #paleontology, #research, #swans, #the-bulletin-of-gunma-museum-of-natural-history, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Scientists solve mystery of why these rare spider fossils were preserved

Fossilized spider from the Aix-en-Provence formation in France seen in hand sample overlain with fluorescent microscopy image of the same fossil. UV illumination causes the fossil to glow brightly, revealing more details about its preservation.

Enlarge / Fossilized spider from the Aix-en-Provence formation in France seen in hand sample overlain with fluorescent microscopy image of the same fossil. UV illumination causes the fossil to glow brightly, revealing more details about its preservation. (credit: Olcott et al., 2022)

Scientists have long puzzled over the exceptional preservation of certain fossils of Cenozoic-era biota, including plants, fish, amphibians, spiders, and other insects. The secret: The presence of mats comprised of single-celled microalgae (diatoms) created an anaerobic environment for fossilization and chemically reacted with the spiders’ organic polymers to turn them into thin carbon-rich films. The process is similar to a common industrial treatment to preserve rubber, according to a recent paper published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Most fossils are basically mineralized body parts: shells, bones, and teeth. But softer tissues are far more likely to decay than fossilize, including chitinous exoskeletons, skin, and feathers. Soft-tissue organisms tend to be under-represented among fossils, except for unusual deposits (called Fossil-Lagerstätten) that boast rich arrays of such fossils in remarkable preservation.

“Most life doesn’t become a fossil,” said Alison Olcott, a geologist at the University of Kansas. “It’s hard to become a fossil. You have to die under very specific circumstances, and one of the easiest ways to become a fossil is to have hard parts like bones, horns, and teeth. So, our record of soft-body life and terrestrial life, like spiders, is spotty—but we have these periods of exceptional preservation when all circumstances were harmonious for preservation to happen.”

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#aix-en-provence-formation, #chemistry, #diatom, #fluorescent-microscopy, #fossils, #paleontology, #scanning-electron-imaging, #science

Pterosaurs May Have Had Brightly Colored Feathers, Exquisite Fossil Reveals

An amazingly well-preserved fossil suggests the common ancestor of dinosaurs and pterosaurs also had some type of feather or feather precursor

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #evolution, #paleontology

Titanosaur nesting spot found in Brazil

Titanosaur nesting spot found in Brazil

Enlarge (credit: Júlia d’Oliveira)

They were the largest land creatures the Earth has ever known. But what survived millions of years of fossilization in one specific area of the Ponte Alta region of Brazil was not their massive bones, rather, it was their rare and relatively tiny eggs. And many of them! The first titanosaur nesting site in the country was recently announced in a paper published in Scientific Reports.

Sauropods, a group of long-necked herbivores, were a diverse type of dinosaur that lived from the Jurassic era through the Cretaceous, a period spanning from 201 million years to 66 million years ago. Titanosaurs were a clade of sauropod—a group with a common ancestor—that was the last of this lineage to exist on this planet in the Late Cretaceous. While their name justifiably implies an enormous size, not all of them were huge.

South America is well-known for its titanosaur fossils, particularly in Argentina, home to some of the world’s most spectacular titanosaur nesting sites and embryonic remains. Titanosaur eggshells and egg fragments are known in Uruguay, Peru, and Brazil, but a fossilized egg here and there doesn’t provide evidence of a nesting site. Several egg clutches, numerous eggs and egg fragments in more than one layer of sediment, does.

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#biology, #evolution, #fossils, #paleontology, #science, #titanosaurs

Shards of Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs May Have Been Found in Fossil Site

In a North Dakota deposit far from the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, remains of the rock from space were preserved within amber, a paleontologist says.

#asteroids, #dinosaurs, #fossils, #meteors-and-meteorites, #north-dakota, #paleontology, #pterosaurs, #research, #yucatan-peninsula-mexico

Big triceratops was healing a hole in its head

Full skeleton of a triceratops.

Enlarge / Meet Big John. (credit: Zoic Limited Liability Company)

It’s difficult to tell which feature of the triceratops is more striking: the two large horns that jut from its forehead or the large frill that extends out from the back of its skull. In the minds of many paleontologists, the two features appear to be related. Scars found in the bones supporting the frill also seem to suggest that the animals engaged in combat with their horns, much like modern animals such as moose—fights that regularly resulted in injuries.

But it’s difficult to rule out alternative explanations for some of the holes found in the fossil remains of frills. Some of the holes could have been a result of decay with age or damage after death. Now, an analysis of a triceratops skeleton known as “Big John” eliminates a couple of possibilities by showing that a hole punched through one of the bones of the frill seems to have started healing before the animal died.

Hole in one

The large frill at the back of a triceratops’ head is made from large, bony plates that are fused with the bones that do the things we normally associate with skulls, like protecting the brain. They were present in early species in this lineage that lacked pronounced horns and so are thought to have originally evolved for display purposes.

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#biology, #dinosaurs, #evolution, #paleontology, #science, #triceratops

‘Big John,’ a High-Profile Triceratops, Locked Horns With Its Own Kind, Study Suggests

A team of Italian scientists describe what they believe is a gaping scar from one of these ancient battles on the neck frill of the Triceratops.

#animal-behavior, #collectors-and-collections, #dinosaurs, #fossils, #museums, #paleontology, #research, #scientific-reports-journal, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Fossil Holds Clues to How Some Owls Evolved Into Daytime Hunters

The bird, which sought prey in a part of China 6 million years ago, had eyes shaped in a way that suggest it was not nocturnal like most owls living today.

#animal-behavior, #china, #eyes-and-eyesight, #fossils, #gansu-province-china, #owls, #paleontology, #proceedings-of-the-national-academy-of-sciences, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Trilobite Fossils Suggest Cannibalism Is Older Than Once Thought

The “king” of the trilobites was snacking on whatever it could eat some 514 million years ago in the Cambrian era, even shelled creatures of its own species.

#australia, #cannibalism, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fossils, #paleontology, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Mystery Solved: Stan, the T. Rex, Went to Abu Dhabi

A Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as “Stan” that drew a record price at auction in 2020 — $31.8 million — will be part of a new natural history museum in the United Arab Emirates.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #auctions, #christies, #dinosaurs, #fossils, #museums, #paleontology, #saadiyat-island-united-arab-emirates

Newly Discovered Saber-Tooth Predator Shows How Hypercarnivores Evolved

A well-preserved fossil introduces a new species that lived in what is now California around 42 million years ago

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #evolution, #paleontology

Newly Discovered Saber-Toothed Predator Shows How Hypercarnivores Evolved

A well-preserved fossil introduces a new species that lived in what is now California around 42 million years ago

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #evolution, #paleontology

A Treasure Trove of Dinosaur Bones in Italy Rewrites the Local Prehistoric Record

New fossils are changing a decades-old story about the species that roamed the Mediterranean 80 million years ago.

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#biology, #paleontology

Ice Age Animals Come to Life via Augmented Reality

Researchers want their models to inspire more accurate reconstructions of extinct animals such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #arts, #biology, #paleontology, #social-sciences, #technology

New Augmented Reality Models Bring Ice Age Animals to Virtual Life

Researchers want their models to inspire more accurate reconstructions of extinct animals such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #arts, #biology, #paleontology, #social-sciences, #technology

This extinct ten-armed fossil may be earliest known ancestor of vampire squid

An artistic reconstruction of the newly described 328-million-year-old vampyropod, <em>Syllipsimopodi bideni</em>.

Enlarge / An artistic reconstruction of the newly described 328-million-year-old vampyropod, Syllipsimopodi bideni. (credit: K. Whalen/Christopher Whalen)

Paleontologists believe they have discovered a new genus and species of extinct cephalopod with ten functional arms, similar to a vampire squid. The 328-million-year-old fossil is the earliest known example of a vampyropod (ancient soft-bodied cephalopods) to date, pushing back the earliest evidence by 82 million years, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Other paleontologists aren’t so sure, believing the specimen might represent a different known species of ancient cephalopods and calling for a full chemical analysis to confirm the species one way or the other.

The fossil was excavated from Bear Gulch Limestone in Montana. The fossils found there tend to be exceptionally well-preserved—sometimes even showing vascularization—thanks to the impact of seasonal monsoons. That heavy rainfall rapidly deposited sediments and other biological matter into the bay, in turn feeding algal blooms. Those algal blooms resulted in temporary oxygen-deprived zones, while the sudden infusion of fresh water from the rain would have lowered saline levels, according to the authors.

The fossil was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in 1988, and there it sat, unnoticed for decades, until co-author Christopher Whalen, a postdoc in paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, was perusing the collection and spotted the arms. When he looked at the specimen more closely under the microscope, he noticed small suckers on those arms, making this an incredibly rare find, since suckers are typically not preserved.

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#cephalopods, #extinct-species, #fossils, #paleontology, #science, #vampire-squid, #vampyropods

Fossil of Vampire Squid’s Oldest Ancestor Is Named for Biden

Scientists describe a new species of vampyropod from a 328-million-year-old, 10-armed fossil found in Montana.

#american-museum-of-natural-history, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #fossils, #montana, #museums, #nature-communications-journal, #octopus, #paleontology, #research, #royal-ontario-museum, #squid, #your-feed-science

Does This Amazon Rock Art Depict Extinct Ice Age Mammals?

The animals painted in ocher in Colombia may include giant ground sloths and other creatures that vanished from the Americas. But some researchers say the art has a more recent origin.

#amazon-jungle, #animals, #archaeology-and-anthropology, #art, #colombia, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #ice-age, #paleontology, #philosophical-transactions-of-the-royal-society-b-journal, #research, #sloths-animals, #your-feed-science

Fossil Reveals Secrets of One of Nature’s Most Mysterious Reptiles

The specimen shows that modern tuataras found in New Zealand are little changed from ancestors that lived 190 million years.

#communications-biology-journal, #evolution-biology, #fossils, #paleontology, #reptiles, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

If Dilophosaurus ran the 100-meter against Usain Bolt, who would win?

University of Toledo physicist Scott Lee came up with the exercise to inspire undergrads in his introductory physics course.

Enlarge / University of Toledo physicist Scott Lee came up with the exercise to inspire undergrads in his introductory physics course. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

The early Jurassic dinosaurs known as Dilophosaurus proved to be scene stealers in the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, taking out a full-grown man who thought they were just cute, harmless critters—right until they disabled him by spitting venom into his eyes. But how would Dilophosaurus fare in a different kind of contest: racing the 100-meter dash against eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt? It wouldn’t be much of a fight—Bolt would easily beat the 900-pound beast by a good two seconds.

That’s the conclusion of physicist Scott Lee of the University of Toledo, based on a physics exercise he developed for his undergraduate students in introductory physics. Lee has loved dinosaurs ever since he was a kid, when he would hunt for fossils with his family, and he has brought that love into the classroom. “One big issue in physics education is to generate student enthusiasm for the course material,” he said. “These dinosaur problems really spark a lot of interest among the students.” He described his pedagogical process in a new paper published in The Physics Teacher.

Bolt made his mark on history in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, when he broke his own world record in the 100-meter final, blazing past the competition to win the gold with a time of 9.69 seconds. He was so far ahead of the pack—the silver medalist finished in 9.89 seconds—that Bolt visibly slowed down in celebration right at the finish. Had he kept running at full speed, Bolt would have finished in 9.52 seconds, his coach estimated. This conclusion was borne out by an analysis by physicists at the University of Oslo, whose calculations predicted a finish in about 9.55 seconds.

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#biomechanics, #dinosaurs, #paleontology, #physics, #physics-education, #science, #usain-bolt

They Want to Break T. Rex Into 3 Species. Paleontologists Aren’t Pleased.

The premise, put forth in a new paper, highlights an assortment of tensions in dinosaur paleontology, including how subjective the naming of species can be.

#biodiversity, #dinosaurs, #fossils, #paleontology, #research, #tyrannosaurus-rex, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

The Dinosaur Age May Have Ended in Springtime

A new study examining fossils of fish suggests animals were wiped out by a massive meteor at a time when they were just emerging from hibernation and having offspring.

#dinosaurs, #earth, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fossils, #meteors-and-meteorites, #paleontology, #spring-season

Act of ‘Heresy’ Adds Horseshoe Crabs to Arachnid Family Tree

A team of researchers say that rather than occupying their own branch in the history of life on Earth, horseshoe crabs are in the same group as spiders and scorpions.

#evolution-biology, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fossils, #genetics-and-heredity, #molecular-biology-and-evolution-journal, #paleontology, #research, #spiders, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

Neanderthals and Humans Swapped Places in This French Cave

A new paper suggests Neanderthals and Homo sapiens alternately settled the same shelter more than 50,000 years ago.

#caves-and-caverns, #france, #neanderthal-man, #paleontology, #research, #science-advances-journal, #your-feed-science

Did the First Americans Arrive via Land Bridge? This Geneticist Says No.

In “Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas,” Jennifer Raff combines archaeology, genetics, linguistics and more to argue against a longstanding theory.

#archaeology-and-anthropology, #bones, #books-and-literature, #genealogy, #genetics-and-heredity, #indigenous-people, #origin-a-genetic-history-of-the-americas-book, #paleontology, #race-and-ethnicity, #raff-jennifer, #science-and-technology

This fossilized fish’s skull is filled with feces

View of the fossilized skull of an extinct species of stargazer fish, showing preserved fecal pellets in the brain.

Enlarge / View of the fossilized skull of an extinct species of stargazer fish, showing preserved fecal pellets in the brain. (credit: Calvert Marine Museum)

A fossilized cranium of an extinct species of stargazer fish was stuffed with tiny fecal pellets known as coprolites, according to a recent paper published in the journal Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia—the first known skull in the fossil record to be completely filled with fecal pellets. This is a joint study by paleontologists at the University of Pisa in Italy, and the Calvert Marine Museum in Maryland, who proposed that tiny scavenging worms ate their way into the dead fish’s skull and pooped out the pellets.

It was a 19th century British fossil hunter named Mary Anning (recently portrayed by Kate Winslet in the 2020 film Ammonite) who first noticed the presence of so-called “bezoar stones” in the abdomens of ichthyosaur skeletons around 1824. When she broke open the stones, she often found the fossilized remains of fish bones and scales. A geologist named William Buckland took note of Anning’s observations five years later, suggesting that the stones were actually fossilized feces. He dubbed them coprolites.

Coprolites aren’t quite the same as paleofeces, which retains a lot of organic components that can be reconstituted and analyzed for chemical properties. Coprolites are fossils, so most organic components have been replaced by mineral deposits like silicate and calcium carbonates. It can be challenging to distinguish the smallest coprolites from eggs, for example, or other kinds of inorganic pellets, but they typically boast spiral or annular markings, and, as Anning discovered, often contain undigested fragments of food.

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#fossils, #paleofeces, #paleontology, #science, #stargazer-fish

Dinosaur Prints in Utah Are Feared Damaged by Construction Equipment

Federal work on a new walkway at the site has been halted after paleontology groups raised the alarm about equipment “driven directly over the fossil dinosaur tracks.”

#bureau-of-land-management, #center-for-biological-diversity, #dinosaurs, #moab-utah, #paleontology, #society-of-vertebrate-paleontology

Dissolving in Toxic Oceans: How an Ancient Extinction Happened

Scientists say rocks on the English coast contain clues of the processes that drove the end-Triassic event that killed as much as a quarter of all life on Earth.

#carbon-dioxide, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fossils, #geology, #geology-journal, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #oceans-and-seas, #paleontology, #volcanoes, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

This Ancient Crab Had Unusually Huge Eyes

A study of fossils from Colombia suggests that a prehistoric shellfish hunted prey with remarkably sharp vision.

#colombia, #crabs, #eyes-and-eyesight, #fossils, #iscience-journal, #paleontology, #research, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science

A Naturalist Stumbled on an Ichthyosaur Skeleton, the Largest in U.K. History

The fossilized remains of the marine reptile, often referred to as a “sea dragon” and believed to be 180 million years old, were discovered at a nature reserve.

#conservation-of-resources, #dinosaurs, #england, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #fossils, #great-britain, #museums, #paleontology, #reptiles, #rutland-england, #skeletons, #university-of-leicester, #university-of-manchester, #wildlife-sanctuaries-and-nature-reserves