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Furry, spiky mammal scampered among dinosaurs

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MESOZOIC MAMMAL Spinolestes xenarthrosus lived 125 million years ago, weighed about as much as a possum and probably looked like small mammals do today.

When scales were all the rage, one early mammal sported fur and spines.

Unearthed in central Spain, a skeleton of the newly discovered small mammal, christened Spinolestes xenarthrosus, dates to 125 million years ago, paleontologist Thomas Martin of the University of Bonn in Germany and colleagues report in the Oct. 15 Nature. At the time, dinosaurs dominated the landscape.

All in all, S. xenarthrosus resembled a pretty ordinary mammal. Spikes like a hedgehog’s lined its back and provided protection from predators. The hand bones of the 24-centimeter-long mammal appear optimized for digging for insects.

This particular early Cretaceous fur ball met its end in a prehistoric swamp that preserved some skin, hair, spines and even organs — parts of an ear, lungs and liver. These samples represent the earliest well-preserved mammal hair and soft tissue, having outlasted the next in line by about 60 million years. The ancient specimen suggests that features like underbelly fur and spines appeared early in mammal evolution.

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FOSSIL FUZZ In addition to a full skeleton, an S. xenarthrosus specimen contains patches of skin, hairs and spines, lending insight into how these structures developed in mammals.

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Scientists Unearth New Species of Triceratops,Horned Dinosaur Fossil Adds Hooks to Evolutionary

New Species of Triceratops

A team of Canadian scientists announced that bones found in 2010 are from a new dinosaur they named Wendiceratops. DANIELLE DUFAULT/ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Scientists have discovered one of the oldest horned dinosaurs, a one-ton behemoth that had spikes above its eyes, on its nose and covering almost its entire neck.

The new dinosaur, named Wendiceratops pinhornensis, is described from over 200 bones representing the remains of four specimens from the group of large-bodied dinosaurs known as the Ceratopsidea. It lived about 79 million years ago, making it 13 million years older than its famous cousin Triceratops and one of the few specimens of this group from the late Campanian period, stretching from 90 million to 77 million years ago, found in North America.

It was found at a site in southern Alberta five years ago by Wendy Sloboda, a famous fossil hunter who has made hundreds of discoveries over the past three decades.

“She came across the site in 2010 and it actually had parts of the skull weathering out on the surface,” said Royal Ontario Museum’s David Evans, who co-authored a study on the find in PLOS One with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Michael Ryan. Sloboda was part of the research team.

“When she brought them to us, we were very excited because the parts she brought back were part of the frill which has that characteristic ornamentation,” he said of the back of a dinosaur’s head. “Right away, we knew we likely had a new species of dinosaur. The first season we starting digging in 2011, we found more of the frill. At that point, we were certain. So, the race was on to collect as much as we could.”

New Species of Triceratops

The skeleton is a 3-D printed model of a Wendiceratops based on the adult bones found at a Canadian site in 2010. BRIAN BOYLE

Evans said Wendiceratops, which means “Wendy’s horned-face” (it was named for Sloboda) could be the first of this dinosaur group to have a horn – or more accurately horns.

“The wide frill of Wendiceratops is ringed by numerous curled horns, the nose had a large, upright horn, and it’s likely there were horns over the eyes too,” he said. “The number of gnarly frill projections and horns makes it one of the most striking horned dinosaurs ever found.”

It featured a series of forward-curling hook-like horns that adorned the margin of the wide, shield-like frill that projects from the back of the Wendiceratops’ skull. The nasal bone, although represented by fragmentary specimens, likely supported a “prominent upright nose horn.”

“There is a huge diversity in horned dinosaurs. They are mostly differentiated from each other by the shapes, sizes and direction of the horns on their face and on their neck shield,” Evans said. “This particular one is really extravagant for any horned dinosaur. It has this array of large, forward-facing horns that surround the entire of margin of the neck shield. It would have looked like a halo of drooping horns all the way around the back of the skull.”

The nose horns, which scientists once thought were mostly for defense, are believed to have been used to attract mates and establish the dinosaurs rank in its herd – much like modern animals like antelope or water buffaloes use their horns.

It was probably even made from the same material as some modern animal horns, keratin.

The fact these fossils show horned dinosaurs go much further back than previously believed, Evans said, “helps us understand the early evolution of skull ornamentation in an iconic group of dinosaurs characterized by their horned faces.”

“We don’t actually have a good idea exactly what the nose horn looked like in terms of its overall shape,” he said, adding they had three partial specimens but no complete nose horn.

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Field crew systematically excavating the

“But what we can say is that it looks transitional between its ancestors that lacked a horn and later horned dinosaurs that had very prominent, very tall conical horns over their nose,” he said. “This skull ornamentation devolved very rapidly in the diversification of horned dinosaurs which suggests that mating signals were key in the early radiation of the group.”

Andrew Farke, a paleontologist with Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology who last year discovered Aquilops, the oldest horned dinosaur in North America that lived as far back as 145 million years ago, said the latest discovery offers fresh insight into the dinosaur horn.

Horned dinosaurs were commonplace during the Cretaceous period but died out when the Earth was struck by what scientists believe was an asteroid. They then emerged again with the Ceratopsidea group that included Wendiceratops.

“Wendiceratops is the oldest known horned dinosaur to have a big nose horn, so it’s nice to help us figure out when and how that classic skull feature evolved,” he said in an email interview. “Most interestingly, it adds to a body of evidence that shows big nose horns evolved at least twice in horned dinosaurs. Again and again, distantly related species of these dinosaurs converged on similar anatomy.”

The other revelation was the sheer number of fossils found at this bone bed. There are signs that scores of Wendiceratops died here, possibly from a flood or some other natural catastrophe. Today, it’s a remote stretch of badlands but, in the day of Wendiceratops, it would have been a low-lying coastal plain that looked more like Louisiana.

“There is no sign of deposits running out so there could be dozens of individuals in the bone bed,” Evans said. “It actually reinforces that Wendiceratops was a social animal. We have evidence these animals died together so it’s likely therefore they were living together as part of a herd when they were struck by a catastrophe such as a flood.”

 

New Dinosaur Species Which is close relative with triceratops (1)

New Dinosaur Species Which is close relative with triceratops, the regaliceratops, discovered in Canada

New Dinosaur Species Which is close relative with triceratops (1)

An artist’s reconstruction of the new horned dinosaur Regaliceratops peterhewsi. Illustration: Julius T. Csotonyi/Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta.

When fossil experts first clapped eyes on the skull, it was clearly from a strange, horned dinosaur. When they noticed how stunted the bony horns were, its nickname, Hellboy, was assured.

The near-complete skull of the 70 million-year-old beast was spotted by chance 10 years ago, protruding from a cliff that runs along the Oldman river south of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

Painstakingly excavated, cleaned up and measured since then, the fossilised remains have now been identified as a relative of the three-horned triceratops, and the first example of a horned dinosaur to be found in that region of North America.

New Dinosaur Species Which is close relative with triceratops (2)

The near-complete regaliceratops skull, first spotted protruding from a cliff in Alberta, Canada. Photograph: Sue Sabrowski/Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta

Like triceratops, the new species was a herbivore. But it sported a more impressive shield, or frill, at the back of its skull, decorated with large triangular and pentagonal plates. The extraordinary features led researchers to name the new species Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a reference to the impressive crown-like frill, and to Peter Hews, a Calgary-based geologist who first spotted part of the skull jutting from the rockface in 2005.

Researchers came up with the Hellboy nickname long before they had liberated the full skull from the cliff face. The main reason was that the rock the fossil was embedded in was incredibly hard, making excavation a hellish, and years-long, task. That job was made even tougher because the Oldman river is a protected fish-breeding ground, meaning the scientists had to erect a dam at the site to prevent debris from the excavation falling into the river.

“It was a coincidence, but when we noticed that the skull had these short horns over the eyes, that really solidified the nickname,” Caleb Brown at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta told the Guardian. In the Hellboy comics and movies, the eponmymous demon grinds his horns to stumps with an electric sander to help him fit in with mere mortals.

But the horns of the dinosaur tell a more interesting story. Triceratops belonged to a group of horned dinosaurs called chasmosaurines. These had a small horn over the nose and two larger horns over the eyes. And while regaliceratops is definitely a chasmosaurine, it has a long nose horn and puny horns over its eyes. These features, opposite to those characteristic of triceratops, are seen in a different group of horned dinosaurs, called centrosaurines, which were extinct by the time regaliceratops came along.

The bizarre mix of features is an example of convergent evolution, where one species evolves bodily characteristics that arose separately in other species through the course of prehistory. Brown and his colleague, Donald Henderson, describe the creature’s remains in Current Biology.

“This is a really interesting new dinosaur,” said Steve Brusatte, a vertebrate paleontologist at Edinburgh University. “It’s a close relative of triceratops, but it’s horns and skull frill are very different. They look a lot more like other types of horned dinosaurs that lived earlier in time, which went extinct before triceratops thrived.

“What it’s indicating is that there was massive convergence between the horns and frills of those horned dinosaurs that were thriving during the final few million years before the asteroid hit and killed off the dinosaurs. Because this new dinosaur is one of the latest surviving horned dinosaurs, living at a similar time as triceratops, it is also telling us that horned dinosaurs remained quite diverse right until the end. To me, this is a strong hint that these dinosaurs were at or near the top of their game when that asteroid fell out of the sky,” he said.

Illustrations of Stegosaurus with wide plates and tall plates are seen in a handout image from Evan Saitta, a student at Britain's University of Bristol.  REUTERS/Evan Saitta/Handout via Reuters

How do you tell a boy dinosaur from a girl dinosaur?

Illustrations of Stegosaurus with wide plates and tall plates are seen in a handout image from Evan Saitta, a student at Britain's University of Bristol.  REUTERS/Evan Saitta/Handout via Reuters

Illustrations of Stegosaurus with wide plates and tall plates are seen in a handout image from Evan Saitta, a student at Britain’s University of Bristol. REUTERS/Evan Saitta/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) – For extinct creatures like dinosaurs known only from fossils, it is notoriously difficult to differentiate the males from the females of a species because sex distinctions are rarely obvious from the skeletons.

But in the case of the well-known Jurassic dinosaur Stegosaurus, a study published on Wednesday may provide a handy how-to guide on telling the boys from the girls based on the shape of the big bony plates protruding from its back.

Stegosaurus, which roamed the western United States about 150 million years ago, was a large, four-legged plant-eater with two rows of plates along its back, as well as two pairs of spikes at the end of its tail to clobber predators.

The largest Stegosaurus species reached about 30 feet (9 meters). The species in this study, Stegosaurus mjosi, measured roughly 21 feet (6.5 meters).

A Montana Stegosaurus “graveyard” contained fossils of several individuals, with plates coming in two distinct varieties: some wide, others tall. The wide ones reached sizes 45 percent larger in surface area than the taller ones, which were nearly 3 feet (90 cm) high.

“Males typically invest more into their ornamentation than do females, so the larger wide plates were likely from males,” said Evan Saitta, a 23-year-old paleontology graduate student at Britain’s University of Bristol whose study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

“The broad, thin structure of the plates and their positioning on the back of the animal suggests that they were used in sexual display, analogous to the tail of a peacock. The broad, wide plates likely made a continuous display surface along the animal’s back to attract mates, like a billboard.”

To test whether the plate differences were instead because some individuals were young and others old, CT scans and microscopic analyses were performed that showed the bone tissue had ceased growing, meaning both varieties came from full-grown adults.

Anatomical and other differences between the sexes of a single species, like a male lion’s mane or a male deer’s antlers, are called sexual dimorphism.

Sexual dimorphism examples have been proposed in other dinosaurs, but many scientists find those inconclusive. Saitta said the Stegosaurus plates may be “the most convincing evidence for sexual dimorphism in dinosaurs to date.”

University of Bristol paleontologist Michael Benton added, “It suggests that many dinosaurs used sexual display, as birds and mammals do today, usually the males displaying or mock fighting to attract attention of females.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Scientist’s Discover New Species Of Dinosaur

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Despite the dinosaur’s extinction millions of years ago by what is thought to be believed by doom by a wayward comet, scientists have recently discovered an entirely new species that may have roamed the world 100 million years ago.
The species has been nicknamed the Sibirosaurus, a creature though to be related to the giant Titanosaurs, which are believed to have grown 40 meters tall and weigh 100 tonnes.
Titanosaurs were some of the biggest dinosaurs ever discovered up to date, and were the equivalent of NINE African elephants, or NINE double decker buses, at the astonishing 100 tonnes.
Titanosaurs have very long necks, whip-like tails, tiny heads, and thick stump-like legs. They were strict herbivores and were armored with small bony plates along their backs, which helped protect them from oncoming predators as they grazed. Titanosaurs are a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs that includes the Saltasaurus, Diplodocus, and Brachiosaurus, and now the newly discovered Sibirosaurus.scientists_3249178b
It is believed some of the species used their long tails to crack whip like to deter predators, or make sonic booms. They are named after the mythical Titans of Ancient Greece, giant Demi-gods of incredible strength that rivaled the Gods.
The find by experts from the Tomsk State University was made in Russia, in Western Siberia, near the village of Shestakovo in the Kemerovo region in the Southwest, whose fossils were encased in rocks on the bank of the neighboring Kiya River. The university extracted fragments from fossils from the sandstone there. The area is known to be a dinosaur necropolis.
Based on preliminary examinations, the Sibirosaurus is thought to have been a very large herbivore, and rivaled the Titanosaurs, at 20 meters tall.
Experts say it took years of research just to uncover that it was its own separate species.
Dr. Stephan Ivantsov, a scientist from the university working in the Laboratory for Mesozoic and Cenozoic Continental Ecosystems said, “When we discovered this finding, it was only clear that the remains belonged to a very large herbivorous dinosaur from the sauropods group. It was the first scientifically described dinosaur from this group in Russia.”
The dinosaur is thought have lived in the Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago. The newly discovered giant is named Sibirosaurus, after Sibir, the Russian word for Siberia. Experts believe a foot that was found at the same location in 1995 may also belong to the newly discovered species.
For anyone interested in traveling to see them, the bones, including a shoulder blade, and a cervical vertebrae, will be exhibited permanently in Paleontological Museum at Tomsk State University.

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Dinosaur Footprints Uncovered on Beach After Giant Tide

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A giant tide on France’s North Atlantic coast, March 21, 2015, enabled paleontologists to find hundreds of dinosaur footprints on a beach in the Western region of Vendee.

A giant tide on France’s North Atlantic coast on Saturday enabled paleontologists to find hundreds of dinosaur footprints on a beach in the Western region of Vendee.

The 200 million-year-old footprints measure about 17 inches wide and are only visible when the tide is low. They were discovered in 1963 by a local engineer and chemist Gilbert Bessonnat.

“This open-air museum of dinosaur footprints counts among the richest we have from the Jurassic era,” local authorities said on the city hall website.

France’s National Hydrographic Service was expecting more than 15.3 yards difference between low tide on Saturday afternoon and high tide in the evening.

The trail would have been left by animals measuring between 8-feet 2-inches and 9-feet 10-inches, amateur paleontologists told French TV while visiting the site. A dozen different species are known to have lived on a 26,000-foot tall mountain, now a cliff eroding into a beach.

 

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Dinosaur footprints uncovered on beach after giant tide

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(NEW YORK) — A giant tide on France’s North Atlantic coast on Saturday enabled paleontologists to find hundreds of dinosaur footprints on a beach in the Western region of Vendee.

The 200 million-year-old footprints measure about 17 inches wide and are only visible when the tide is low. They were discovered in 1963 by a local engineer and chemist Gilbert Bessonnat.

“This open-air museum of dinosaur footprints counts among the richest we have from the Jurassic era,” local authorities said on the city hall website.

France’s National Hydrographic Service was expecting more than 15.3 yards difference between low tide on Saturday afternoon and high tide in the evening.

The trail would have been left by animals measuring between 8-feet 2-inches and 9-feet 10-inches, amateur paleontologists told French TV while visiting the site. A dozen different species are known to have lived on a 26,000-foot tall mountain, now a cliff eroding into a beach.

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Birmingham scientists discover killer dinosaur newt the size of a car

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Artist impression of the newt, Metoposaurus algarvensis which has been discovered by scientists
A killer newt the size of a small car terrorised lakes and rivers during the rise of the dinosaurs, Birmingham scientists have discovered.

The ferocious amphibian, a distant relative of salamanders living today, took the place of crocodiles as one of the Earth’s top predators more than 200 million years ago.

Fossil remains of the species, Metoposaurus algarvensis, were found buried at the site of an ancient lake in southern Portugual which may have been home to several hundred of the creatures, said scientists.

Report author Dr Richard Butler, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Most modern amphibians are pretty tiny and harmless. But back in the Triassic these giant predators would have made lakes and rivers pretty scary places to be.”

Dr Steve Brusatte, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led a study of Metoposaurus published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, added: “This new amphibian looks like something out of a bad monster movie.

“It was as long as a small car and had hundreds of sharp teeth in its big flat head, which kind of looks like a toilet seat when the jaws snap shut. It was the type of fierce predator that the very first dinosaurs had to put up with if they strayed too close to the water, long before the glory days of T.rex and Brachiosaurus.”

The family of giant salamander-like amphibians to which Metoposaurus belonged included other species found in parts of modern-day Africa, Europe, India and North America.

All were wiped out during a mass extinction 201 million years ago, long before the death of the dinosaurs.

This event marked the end of the Triassic Period, when the super landmass of Pangaea, which included all the world’s present-day continents, began to break apart.

The extinction killed off many groups of vertebrates, including giant amphibians, and paved the way for dinosaurs to take over the Earth.

Members of the Portuguese Metoposaurus colony are thought to have died when the lake they inhabited dried up.

Only a four square metre fraction of the site has been excavated so far, and work is continuing in the hope of unearthing more fossils.

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Inside the Museum at Prairiefire, dinosaur research roars to life

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Erica Knetter and daughter Emma Knetter, 5, of Tonganoxie, Kan., studied an exhibit on Tyrannosaurus rex in motion Saturday at the opening of “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” at the Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park. The exhibit runs through July 12. SUSAN PFANNMULLER SPECIAL TO THE STAR Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article15766115.html#storylink=cpy

 

Jake Barbara had long bought into the “Jurassic Park” myth that a Tyrannosaurus rex could keep pace with a speeding vehicle.

That thinking was destroyed quickly Saturday when the 11-year-old and his family toured the “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” exhibit at the Museum at Prairiefire.

When dinosaurs ruled Earth, the T. rex stood about 12 feet tall, weighed 15,500 pounds and was about 40 feet long. That “Jurassic Park” scene where the dinosaur escapes an electric fence and tries to make an evening snack of the frightened occupants of a fleeing Jeep was moviemaking poetic license.

In reality, T. rex was a slowpoke, perhaps not able to run at all. Its top speed barely hit 10 mph.

“I was disappointed,” said Jake, who attends California Trail Middle School in Olathe. “But I still think they look cool.”

The exhibit at the Overland Park museum opened Saturday and runs through July 12. It features a full-size cast skeleton of a T. rex, a variety of fossil specimens and fossil casts, interactive and touchable features, mounted dinosaur skulls and a 60-foot-long model of an Apatosaurus skeleton. Three large high-definition video screens behind the Apatosaurus illustrate the fossil skeleton.

Jake had bugged his parents for months to take him to the museum.

The exhibit was created by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It examines how paleontologists have used enhanced technology to investigate and re-examine beliefs about dinosaurs.

For example, dinosaurs such as the T. rex may have had feathers and did not drag their tails while walking.

“We have enough facts to feed our brains and give us some real information,” said Uli Sailer Das, the museum’s executive director. “But there are so many unknowns about them that a lot is left to the imagination. The science keeps on progressing and they are making new discoveries.”

Taylor Jones of Kansas City was thrilled as she and her family walked through the exhibit. The fifth-grader earlier created her own mosasaur while using an interactive feature. The display allowed Taylor to create the creature and then have it appear moments later on video screens in the entrance of the museum.

“It looked pretty cool and I wanted to learn something about it,” she said. “I really haven’t learned anything about dinosaurs before, so this will really help me in school.”

The dinosaur exhibit also featured the Liaoning Forest, which was in eastern Asia. The 700-square-foot diorama depicts a variety of animals that lived in the forest 130 million years ago.

“We discover new species and we learn new information about dinosaurs all of the time,” Das said. “We now think that T. rex was covered in feathers and may have even had a feathered head crest.

“I bet that is new to a lot of people.”

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Feds to return 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossil to Mongolian government

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The feds filed court papers to return this 70-million-year-old fossil to the Mongolian government after a dealer allegedly attempted to smuggle them into America.

The feds are sending home a 70-million-year-old Mongolian dinosaur.

Its fossilized skull and vertebrae, that is.

Brooklyn prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the stolen remains, which the fossil dealer falsely described in shipping documents as a cheap replica of dinosaur bones from France.

Last January, the ancient bones were shipped through the United Parcel Service by Geofossils Inc. of France with its destination a storage facility in Long Island City, Queens, according to papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

But suspicious Customs and Border Protection officers put a hold on the shipment and sought further documentation.

The fossil dealer confessed that the skull and vertebrae were originally from Mongolia and also clarified that although the UPS invoice stated that the items were being sold for $3,400, a buyer had actually agreed to a purchase price of $250,000, according to the court papers.

U.S. officials contacted the Mongolian government, which tracked down the original copy of the certificate of origin cited by Geofossils Inc.

The paperwork described the shipment only as four traditional dwelling structures. The Geofossils certificate of origin provided to the feds had been altered to add references to a combination of dwellings and Tarbosaurus dinosaur fossils in the shipment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein alleges in the suit.

“Property of cultural and historic significance that has been stolen from other countries will not find safe harbor in our ports,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

“We are proud of our ongoing role in the repatriation of stolen and smuggled cultural property to its rightful owners.

“The fossils are the rightful property of Mongolia and cannot be sold to non-Mongolians or permanently exported out of the homeland,” Lynch said.