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.


Dinosaur Footprints Uncovered on Beach After Giant Tide


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.



Dinosaur footprints uncovered on beach after giant tide


(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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Dinosaur hunter makes rare discovery in North Carolina


Andrew Heckert, a professor at Appalachian State University, is the lead author of a paper detailing the discovery of a species that went extinct some 230 million years ago. (Photo: Dale Neal, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times)


BOONE, N.C. — Andrew Heckert usually heads out west when he wants to go back in time, say about 230 million years ago.

But in recent years, the Appalachian State University professor could drive down the mountain to Raleigh to discover prehistoric fossils of a previously unknown species.

Eons before human politicians, Raleigh was a swamp and home to a creature known as the aetosaur. Think of a crocodile-like reptile with spiked armor.

But these weren’t the ferocious killers that crocodiles evolved into in Africa. Aetosaurs had blunt teeth and likely feasted on plants.

“Aetosaurs are an extinct group of reptiles from the Triassic period from the lineage that eventually evolved into crocodiles,” Heckert said. “They were not dinosaurs, but superficially look like some of the much larger armored dinosaurs that would evolve later.”


Andrew Heckert looks over a fossil of the snout of a phytosaur found in a clay-mining quarry near Wadesboro, N.C. (Photo: Dale Neal, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times)


Heckert is the lead author of a new article published in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology about the discovery of a new species of aetosaur. Heckert, along with colleagues at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, were able to identify an entirely new genus and species of these animals that died out millions of years ago.

The fossil’s name — Gorgetosuchus pekinensis — reflects the distinctive spikes around the neck and the rock formation in which the fossils were found.

The first half of the genus name “Gorgetosuchus” comes from gorget, which is the metal neck ring that knights once sported, while “suchus” is ancient Greek for crocodile. The species name “pekinenis” refers to the Upper Pekin Formation that runs through present-day central North Carolina where the fossils were uncovered.

The discovery was made near a mining operation where huge boulders had been shoved aside to get at the clay that could be used in brickmaking.

Experts were able to see a jumble of the spikes embedded in the Triassic rock. At first Heckert thought they had part of the creature’s tail. But as they studied the spikes closer and took 3-D printed molds, Heckert realized they were looking at the other end.

“We knew this specimen was spiny, and when we put the pieces together, we saw how some of the armor completely covered the neck,” Heckert said. “So this is the Pekin Formation neck collar crocodile.”

Aetosaur fossils have been found on continents around the world. And Raleigh wasn’t exactly on the map as we’re used to. North Carolina was actually mashed up against Morocco as part of the super-continent Pangea. After the land masses drifted apart, fossils of the aetosaur have been found around the world.

“North Carolina is typically not on anybody’s list for dinosaurs, even though we’ve been finding Triassic fossils here for the past 100 years,” Heckert said.


Andrew Heckert, a professor at Appalachian State University, looks over the leg bone of a hadrosaurus that he and his students found on a field trip to Arizona. (Photo: Dale Neal, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times)

Dinosaurs are likely to be found in sedimentary rock formations out west, but most every state has areas where they roamed, died and were preserved underground.

Except for Western North Carolina, where the Appalachian Mountains predate the age of dinosaurs.

“There probably weren’t any life forms with skeletons when the Appalachians were being formed, only jellyfish,” Heckert said.

Boone is home to at least three paleontologists in the geology department.

“Andy’s a great addition to the faculty,” said William Anderson, who heads the department. “He has a different way of looking for fossils, working in clay pits and sieving through sediment.”

Heckert also heads the small but impressive fossil and mineral museum that the geology department has on campus.

Heckert’s love of dinosaurs dates to his childhood in Ohio. His father and grandfather were avid rockhounds, and like most children, he was fascinated by the dinosaur fossils in the Field Museum in Chicago.

Heckert went to New Mexico University for graduate studies in paleontology. Instead of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the huge dinosaurs of the later Jurassic Age, Heckert decided to specialize on the earlier and smaller dinosaurs that evolved during the Triassic Age.

Heckert conveys that enthusiasm to undergraduate students, leading field trips each spring for digs in Arizona.

“It’s the coolest thing when you’re out in the field, digging up these bones. You’re holding a piece of the past in your hands,” said Chelsea Vaughn, a senior from Durham.



No, a Dinosaur Skull Hasn’t Been Found on Mars: Why We See Familiar Looking Objects on the Red Planet


The dinosaur on Mars, the Face in Cydonia, the rat, the human skull, the Smiley face, the prehistoric vertebrae and the conglomerate rock. Something is amiss in this montage and shouldn’t be included. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL)

What is up with the fossils on Mars? Found – a dinosaur skull on Mars? Discovered – a rat, squirrel or gerbil on Mars? In background of images from Curiosity, vertebrae from some extinct Martian species? And the human skull, half buried in photos from Opportunity Rover. All the images are made of stone from the ancient past and this is also what is called Pareidolia. They are figments of our imaginations, and driven by our interest to be there – on Mars – and to know that we are not alone. Altogether, they make a multitude of web pages and threads across the internet.


Is she or isn’t she, a face on the red planet Mars? Discovered in the thousands of photos transmitted to Earth by the Viking orbiter in the 1970s, the arrival of Mars Global Surveyor included Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) which revealed details that put to rest the face of Cydonia. Actually, it is alive and well for many. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL- Viking/MGS, GIF – Judy Schmidt)

Rock-hounds and Martian paleontologists, if only amateur or retired, have found a bounty of fascinating rocks nestled among the rocks on Mars. There are impressive web sites dedicated to each’s eureka moment, dissemination among enthusiasts and presentation for discussion.

JohnKlein_MudChips_Bones-on-Mars (3)

At left, MSL’s Curiosity landed not far from a sight hard to leave – Yellow Knife including sight “John Klein”. Inset: this authors speculative thought – mud chips? At right, is Mars enthusiasts’ Bone on Mars. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL, Wikimedia)

NASA scientists have sent the most advanced robotic vehicles to the surface of Mars, to the most fascinating and diverse areas that are presently reachable with our technology and landing skills. The results have been astounding scientifially but also in terms of mysteries and fascination with the strange, alien formations. Some clearly not unlike our own and others that must be fossil remnants from a bygone era – so it seems.

Be sure to explore, through the hyperlinks, many NASA, NASA affiliates’ and third party websites – embedded throughout this article. Also, links to specific websites are listed at the end of the article.


The Dinosaur skull on Mars is actually dated from Martian Sol 297 (June 7, 2013). The imager used to return this was the MASTCAM and an historic array of landscapes, close-ups and selfies has been produced by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Other MSL Curiosity cameras are the NAVCAM, cameras for navigation, HAZCAM and MARDI camera. The array of images is historic and overwhelming raising more questions than answers including speculative and imaginative “discoveries.” (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL)

The centerpiece of recent interest is the dinosaur skull protruding from the Martian regolith, teeth still embedded, sparkling efferdent white. There are no sockets for these teeth. Dinosaur dentures gave this senior citizen a few extra good years. The jaw line of the skull has no joint or connection point with the skull. So our minds make up the deficits, fill in the blanks and we agree with others and convince ourselves that this is a fossilized skull. Who knows how this animal could have evolved differently.

But evolve it did – within our minds. Referencing online dictionaries [ref], “Pareidolia is the imagined perception of a pattern (or meaning) where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features.” I must admit that I do not seek out these “discoveries” on Mars but I enjoy looking at them and there are many scientists at JPL that have the same bent. Mars never fails to deliver and caters to everyone, but when skulls and fossils are seen, it is actually us catering to the everyday images and wishes we hold in our minds.


No one is left out of the imagery returned from the array of NASA’s Martian assets in orbit. Mars exhibits an incredible display of wind swept sand dunes (center photo). (Photo Credits: NASA, Paramount Pictures)

The “Rat on Mars” (main figure, top center) is actually quite anatomically complete and hunkered down, having taken its final gasps of air, eons ago, as some cataclysmic event tore the final vestiges of Earth-like atmosphere off the surface. It died where it once roamed and foraged for … nuts and berries? Surprisingly, no nuts have been found. Blueberries – yes – they are plentiful on Mars and could have been an excellent nutritional source for rats; high in iron and possibly like their Earthly counterpart, high in anti-oxidants.


The Blueberries of Mars are actually concretions of iron rich minerals from water – ground or standing pools – created over thousands of years during periodic epochs of wet climates on Mars. (Photo Credits: NASA/JPL/Cornell)

The blueberries were popularized by Dr. Steve Squyres, the project scientist of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. Discovered in Eagle crater and across Meridiani Planum, “Blueberries” are spherules of concretions of iron rich minerals from water. It is a prime chapter in the follow-the-water story of Mars. And not far from the definition of Pareidolia, Eagle Crater refers to the incredible set of landing bounces that sent “Oppy” inside its capsule, surrounded by airbags on a hole-in-one landing into that little crater.


When the global dust storm cleared, Mariner 9’s first landfall was the tip of Olympus Mons, 90,000 feet above its base. Two decades later, Mars Global Surveyors laser altimeter data was used to computer generate this image(NASA Solar System Exploration page). At left are sand dunes near the north pole photographed in 2008 (APOD) by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera. The sand dunes challenge scientists’ understanding of Mars’ geology and meterology while fueling speculation that such features are plants or trees on Mars. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL)

Next, is the face of Mars of the Cydonia region (Images of Cydonia, Mars, NSSDC). As seen in the morphed images, above, the lower resolution Viking orbiter images presented Mars-o-philes clear evidence of a lost civilization. Then, Washington handed NASA several years of scant funding for planetary science, and not until Mars Global Surveyor, was the Face of Cydonia photographed again. The Mars Orbiter Camera from the University of Arizona delivered high resolution images that dismissed the notion of a mountain-sized carving. Nonetheless, this region of Mars is truly fascinating geologically and does not disappoint those in search of past civilizations.


At left, drawings by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli coinciding with Mars’ close opposition with Earth in 1877. At right, the drawings of Percival Lowell who built the fine observatory in Flagstaff to support his interest in Mars and the search for a ninth planet. H.G. Wells published his book “War of the Worlds” in 1897. (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

And long before the face on Mars in Cydonia, there were the canals of Mars. Spotted by the Mars observer Schiaparelli, the astronomer described them as “channels” in his native language of Italian. The translation of the word turned to “Canals” in English which led the World to imagine that an advanced civilization existed on Mars. Imagine if you can for a moment, this world without Internet or TV or radio and even seldom a newspaper to read. When news arrived, people took it verbatim. Canals, civilizations – imagine how imaginations could run with this and all that actually came from it. It turns out that the canals or channels of Mars as seen with the naked eye were optical illusions and a form of Pareidolia.

So, as our imagery from Mars continues to return in ever greater detail and depth, scenes of pareidolia will fall to reason and we are left with understanding. It might seem sterile and clinical but its not. We can continue to enjoy these fascinating rocks – dinosaurs, rats, skulls, human figures – just as we enjoy a good episode of Saturday Night Live. And neither the science or the pareidolia should rob us of our ability to see the shear beauty of Mars, the fourth rock from the Sun.


Having supported Mars Phoenix software development including the final reviews of the EDL command sequence, I was keen to watch images arrive from the lander. The image was on an office wall entertaining the appearance of a not-so-tasty junk food item on Mars. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona, Illustration – T.Reyes)

In the article’s main image, what should not be included is the conglomerate rock on Mars. NASA/JPL scientists and geologists quickly recognized this as another remnant of Martian hydrologics – the flow of water and specifically, the bottom of a stream bed (NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface). Truly a remarkable discovery and so similar to conglomerate rocks on Earth.