Tuesday, December 30, 2014

13 of the biggest dinosaur discoveries in 2014

It’s been a big year for dinosaurs – quite literally when the new “biggest dinosaur ever” Dreadnoughtus was uncovered in South America.
We run through some of the top dino discoveries that have been challenging what we know about the scaly (and increasingly feathery) prehistoric beasts.

1. We found Europe’s biggest meat-eater

2. We also met the ‘chicken from hell’
3. Turns out that meat-eating dinosaurs could take some serious injuries
4. Introducing… ‘Pinocchio rex’
5. Diplodocus’s relatives survived the Jurassic Period
6. Pterosaurs nested in large colonies
7. Dinosaurs might have learned to fly before birds
8. The dinosaurs’ extinction was ‘colossal bad luck’

9. A load of desert pterosaurs were found in Brazil
10. Spinosaurus was in the water all the time
11. The largest-dinosaur record was broken (again) by Dreadnoughtus

12. We found out how ichthyosaurs wound up in the ocean
13. And we finally know what Deinocheirus looked like!

Read about all 13 here

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Frighteningly Realistic Dinosaur Hunter" Goes Live on Steam

The Hunter: Primal, the recently announced dinosaur-hunting game from Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios subsidiary Expansive Worlds, launched Monday on Steam Early Access.

You can get the game, which is billed as a "frighteningly realistic dinosaur hunting experience," today for $20. As with other Early Access titles, Primal is not a finished product, though Expansive Worlds maintains it's at a point where it can be enjoyed.

"We strongly believe that games should be developed together with the community," the developer said. "With all the core gameplay mechanics implemented, the game is now at a state where players can start to enjoy it, and we want the community to work with us to decide in what direction it should evolve."

Primal is associated with Expansive Worlds' free-to-playThe Hunter series by name only, as it is a standalone experience. Unlike The Hunter, Primal is available via a one-time purchase.

The game features a Jurassic landscape of 9.3 square miles, Expansive World says, including jungles, camps, and other locations you'd expect to see in a Jurassic Park movie.

At launch today, Primal includes three dinosaurs: the Utahraptor, the Triceratops, and the Tyrannosauras Rex. Throughout the course of the game's Early Access period--and beyond--Expansive Worlds will introduce more dinos, as well as new weapons, features, and tweaks.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Family Tree Illuminates 'Big Bang' in Bird Evolution After Dinosaur Extinction

A massive genetics project has produced the most comprehensive bird family tree ever, an embarrassment of scientific riches for studying everything from how birds evolved so quickly after dinosaurs disappeared to the ways in which birds and people learn.

The biggest takeaway from the eight studies published Thursday in the journal Science is the way genetic codes can be used to answer wide-ranging questions. Scientists are using birds' DNA, for instance, both for research on the brain and learning and to reconstruct what an ancient ancestor of birds and dinosaurs might have looked like.

Researchers mapped the complete set of DNA instructions, or genomes, of 45 bird species representing every group of living birds, as well as representatives of all three groups of crocodilians—the closest living bird relatives. To produce the new family tree, scientists combined this information with previously published sequences for zebra finches and domestic turkeys and chickens.

Most of our notions of how DNA evolves over time come from studying the genetic instruction books of mammals, says Ed Green, a genome scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Adding the genomes of birds and crocodilians—the American alligator, saltwater crocodile, and Indian gharial—now allows scientists to better understand how these groups are related, he says.

The new study finds the rate of change in birds' DNA took off 66 million years ago when most dinosaurs went extinct. The surviving dinosaurs then radiated into a constellation of species that led to about 95 percent of birds on the planet today, says Erich Jarvis, a neurobiologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. (See how "Birds Evolved From Dinosaurs Slowly—Then Took Off.")

Link to full article

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Secrets of Dinosaur Footprints Revealed in Bird X-Rays

A detailed X-ray video of a modern bird foot is revealing the secrets of dinosaur tracks set down more than 250 million years ago.
The ancient tracks, made by the chicken-size dinosaur Corvipes lacertoideus, contain strange features that are likely the marks made when the dino withdrew its foot from the sediment — a process that is impossible to document without X-rays that reveal what's below the sediments.
The new video "is the first time anyone has been able to see a footprint being formed," said study author Peter Falkingham, a research fellow at the University of London's Royal Veterinary College. [See X-ray Video of Footprint Formation]
Falkingham and his colleagues used X-rays to videotape a bird called a guineafowl (a relative of chickens and pheasants) as it walked through a soft bed of poppy seeds. The researchers could see the foot plunging into the seeds, just as a dinosaur foot might have sunk into soft sand or dirt.
Frozen motion
Dinosaur prints are the only direct record of dinosaur movement, Falkingham told Live Science. But they are very tricky to interpret. A fossil print might come from the original land surface where the dinosaur stepped, or it might be an impression left over from several rock layers down, after the surface layer eroded away.
Prints are static impressions, Falkingham said, but a moving dinosaur foot is dynamic. Unlike celebrities carefully pressing their handprints into the cement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a walking dino didn't create an anatomically correct impression in the ancient soil. The dinos sank down, swept their toes through the dirt and flexed their foot muscles as they moved. Without an understanding of this process, scientists can only glean so much from dinosaur tracks.
Falkingham and his colleagues wanted to peer below the surface, second by second, as a track was being made. They chose guineafowl as their subjects because the birds are close in size to the dinosaur print fossils that the researchers wanted to use as comparisons. And, as birds, guineafowl are descendents of the avian dinosaurs.
"They are small dinosaurs without a tail, and that makes them a fantastic correlate for looking at the footprints produced by dinosaurs and produced by birds," Falkingham said.
In an X-ray machine, the birds trotted over solid surfaces and through dry poppy seeds, an analogue for sand or other soft sediment. Next, the researchers used computer simulations to model the movement of every single little poppy seed as the bird strode through. 

Link to full article

Monday, December 8, 2014

Scientists seek to solve mystery of Stegosaurus plates

Researchers hope to learn how much it weighed, how it moved and what it used its iconic back plates for.
A UK team has scanned each of its 360 bones into a computer and has digitally reconstructed the dinosaur.
The specimen, nicknamed "Sophie", has been acquired by the Natural History Museum in London.
Although Stegosauruses are one of the most well known dinosaurs, they are among those that scientists know the least about. There are only six partial skeletons of the creature, which lived around 150 million years ago.
It could grow to the size of a minibus and the gigantic plates which ran along its back were its most distinctive feature.
Stegosaurus: the outstanding questions
  • How did it use its back plates and tail spikes?
  • How effective were its muscles?
  • How did such a small skull manage to chew enough food for such a large body?
  • How much did it weigh?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Scientists disappointed Jurassic World dinosaurs don’t look like dinosaurs

The trailer for the latest big screen outing of the Jurassic Park franchise is causing delight and consternation in equal measure over the appearance of the extinct stars. Here, paleoartist John Conway tackles the ongoing arguments about keeping the dinosaurs up-to-date.

The 1970s and 1980s were a good time to be interested in dinosaurs. A scientific revolution was happening, and the sluggish dumb evolutionary dead-ends of old were being replaced with fast, social and intelligent beasts. At least, that was understood by dinosaur enthusiasts. The general public, on the other hand, was still mostly familiar with the old lumps in swamps.

That was until the original Jurassic Park blew them out of the water. Jurassic Park surprised most people with its radical new dinosaurs. In fact, one of the central plot points is just that: dinosaurs are not what we think they are. The filmmakers worked with scientists to get a lot of stuff about dinosaurs right, and the most memorable scenes in the film reflect that. Enormous sauropods move about on land with the grace of giant elephants, Gallimimus running in flocks at terrifying speeds, T. rex as a lithe narrow-hipped running hunter, these things were new to most people, and reflected the new scientific thinking on dinosaurs.

Oh sure, it got things wrong in places, and we dino-enthusiasts could rattle off a list of them, but Jurassic Park used science as the basis for its aesthetic power to surprise (and terrify) us. For this reason, it inspired a whole generation: meet a paleontologist of the right age, and there’s a decent chance that Jurassic Park is where they got their start. They were curious as to where this radical new vision of dinosaurs had come from.

Since 1993, there has been another revolution in our understanding of dinosaur appearance. The naked, scaly dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park ilk have been replaced by feather, spine, quill and things-we-don’t-even-have-names-for covered beasts that look every bit as strange as the original Jurassic Park dinosaurs did to their original audience. This information has been slow to get into the public perception, as books, many museums, and documentaries have been slow to embrace this new look.

Article link

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stolen Dinosaur Skull Can Go Back to Mongolia: U.S. Court

The remains of a 70-million-year-old dinosaur that was falsely labeled as a cheap replica and smuggled into New York earlier this year can be returned to its native Mongolia, the United States Attorney's Office said on Tuesday

A federal court judge in the Eastern District of New York ruled that the skull and vertebrae of the Alioramus dinosaur, a relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, must be forfeited by the French fossil dealers who exported the remains. 

"We are determined to expose and halt the flow of stolen cultural property entering our ports," Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
In January, U.S. Customs and Border protection officials seized the dinosaur fossils, sent to New York from France by Geofossiles Inc, which claimed that the skull was a French-made replica, the statement said. 

In a petition for the items' release, Geofossiles later conceded that the fossils were genuine, originating from Mongolia, and provided forged documents claiming that the remains could legally be exported, the statement said. The company also attached a contract to sell the skull for $250,000.
Under Mongolian law, significant fossil discoveries cannot be permanently exported or sold to non-Mongolians, even if privately owned. 

Geofossiles could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Now that the skull and vertebrae have been forfeited, the Mongolian government, which assisted with the forfeiture case along with the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs, can submit a petition for the return of the fossils. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Complete Tiny Dinosaur Skeleton Discovered In South Korea

A tiny dinosaur about the size of a house cat was recently discovered in South Korea.
The dinosaur's fossilized remains span about 11 inches, but scientists told Korea JoongAng Daily that it was likely about 20 inches long when it was alive.

“Based on the findings so far, we assume that the dinosaur is something close to a microraptor or others in the raptor genera,” Lim Jong-deock, chief curator of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, told the news agency. “However, it’s uncertain at this stage exactly which type of dinosaur it was, and there is a chance that it is a new type that hasn’t been reported to academia as of yet.”

The tiny dino is a theropod, a family of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex. That means it had sharp teeth and claws--only a whole lot smaller. And if it is indeed a microraptor, it would also have had four wings.

The dinosaur lived during the Cretaceous period, which ended some 66 million years ago with the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction event.

The way this dinosaur has been fossilized is unique in that it was discovered with its vertebrae connected to its ribs,” the institute told the Korea Times.

The institute also said there may be another fossilized dinosaur in the rock next to this one. Whatever the dinosaur turns out to be, it's the first complete dinosaur skeleton found in South Korea, and among the smallest dinosaur fossils ever found in the country.

"It is difficult for a small dinosaur to become fossilized and such fossils are very rare across the world," an unnamed researcher from the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage told Korea.net. "We need to conduct further research into whether the fossil is related to the Minisauripus, whose footprints were discovered in the southern areas of Gyeongsangnam-do."

Read more here

Friday, November 28, 2014

Paleontologists Determine Dinosaurs Were Killed By Someone They Trusted

BERKELEY, CA—Citing compelling fossil evidence that the prehistoric species died suddenly and treacherously, paleontologists at the University of California, Berkeley announced Monday that dinosaurs were almost certainly killed by someone they trusted. “Our findings indicate that someone, we don’t know who, spent at least 150 million years gaining the confidence of dinosaurs before abruptly betraying them and taking their lives near the end of the Cretaceous Era,” said lead researcher Professor Janet Bower, adding that dinosaurs likely had an innately innocent and unsuspecting nature that this individual could exploit to get within easy striking distance. “The distribution and condition of dinosaur bones strongly suggests that these creatures died without a struggle and that they had been caught totally off-guard by an individual they naively considered a friend. Those that had time to regard their killer were no doubt absolutely shocked.” Bower went on to suggest that if the mightiest creatures to walk the face of the earth could be wiped out by letting someone get close to them, humanity could too.
Full article here

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Presents THE LAST AMERICAN DINOSAURS

Two enormous dinosaurs-Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex-reign over the National Museum of Natural History's new exhibition: "The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World." The 5,200-square-foot exhibition opens Nov. 25 on the second floor of the museum. It tells the story of non-avian dinosaurs' final years in western North America through an extraordinary diversity of animals and plants discovered in the fossil-rich layers of the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. The exhibition will remain on view until the completion of the museum's newly renovated dinosaur and fossil hall, scheduled for opening in 2019.

"This exhibition gives visitors a chance to explore the world in which dinosaurs lived between 66 and 68 million years ago, just before an enormous asteroid impact suddenly altered life on our planet forever," said Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate paleontology and lead curator of the exhibition. "Examining long-gone ecosystems helps scientists understand how the world is changing today and what the consequences of a mass extinction could be in the future."

Set in North America's western interior, "Last American Dinosaurs" reveals what life was like for dinosaurs and other animals thriving during the Late Cretaceous Period. It features "Hatcher," a giant, plant-eating Triceratops, and the museum's nearly 14-foot-tall cast of a T. rex known as "Stan," two of the most imposing dinosaurs in the museum's collections. The skulls of an adultEdmontosaurus and an infant and yearling Triceratops also highlight the show, along with other fossil displays, murals of ancient environments, a video presentation showing behind-the-scene collaborations between scientists and paleo-artists working on the exhibit and an arcade-style game, "How to Become a Fossil." The murals give visitors a window into the past and feature plants and animals from the lush, diverse Hell Creek ecosystem.

Full article here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reassembling dinosaur skeletons requires skill

Anthony Maltese is curator at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colo., and author of the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog ( http://rmdrc.blogspot.com), where he writes about excavating, molding, casting and mounting fossilized dinosaur skeletons.
Q. What are some scientific advancements in recovering and assembling fossil skeletons?
A. In many ways some techniques haven’t changed since the 1870s. We’re still using our eyeballs to find the fossils eroding out of the ground, excavating with hand tools and using plaster and burlap jackets to get them back to the lab. On the other hand, we’ve used CT and laser-scanning technology to digitize fossils and send information across the world. Dinosaurs are almost never found 100 percent complete, but it’s rarely appropriate to display them with missing bits. Say we have a dinosaur missing its right leg, but we have a perfect left leg from the specimen. Three-dimensional scanners and printers help us make mirror image parts, and even scaled-up (or) scaled-down ones so that we can more accurately (and easily) restore skeletons. It sure beats sculpting from scratch.
Q. Is the rate at which new fossils are being found slowing?
A. I think fossils are being discovered at a higher rate than several decades ago. Many museums have active field and lab programs, and many rock formations that were poorly studied in the past are getting scientific attention with spectacular results. We see this with the weird dinosaurs we are now digging up in the Judith River Formation of Montana, with many fossils belonging to entirely new species. Even without digging up new things, better understanding of the science enables us to discover new things about specimens that have resided in museum collections for a century.
Q. What do you wish people understood about dinosaur fossils?
A. For the most part, I’m just happy that dinosaurs make people curious and that they can approach paleontologists to answer their questions. If there was one thing that would make our job a bit easier it would be that while there are a lot of round rocks in this world, nearly none of them are dinosaur eggs. It’s probably the most common question we get – and the one where the visitor most frequently won’t believe our diagnosis. That being said, if you think you have found a fossil, it never hurts to send some clear photographs (with some sort of scale, a coin will even work) to your local natural history museum. Many great discoveries have been made this way.
Q. We can’t talk fossils without asking about dinosaur cloning. Will it ever be possible?
A. I don’t have a crystal ball, however I don’t see it happening in the near future. On the other hand, some more recently extinct species could possibly be resurrected given time and technology. What I wouldn’t give to see a Carolina parakeet, passenger pigeon or Tasmanian tiger! Even talking about the possibility of it happening is exciting to me.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/11/23/4336058/skills-involved-in-reassembling.html?sp=/99/102/#storylink=cpy

Volunteer to put dinos together in Wyoming

Full Q&A here

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pixar rewrites 'Good Dinosaur' story

Pixar's orphan movie "The Good Dinosaur" has a new parent — and a new story.First-time feature director Peter Sohn, an artist at the studio in Emeryville, Calif., since 2000, unofficially took over the film a few months after Pixar executives removed its first director, Bob Peterson, amid creative concerns in the summer of 2013.

Over the last year, Sohn has been quietly streamlining the story, a buddy comedy about a teenage dinosaur and a human boy, in preparation for a November 2015 release.
"The heart of the story remains the same," Sohn said, in an interview last week. "It's always been about this young dinosaur growing up. But the world itself has changed a lot. Nature has become a character."

Director changes are relatively common in animation in general, where multi-year production schedules can test a person's creative and managerial stamina, and at Pixar in particular, where "The Good Dinosaur" was the fourth of the studio's last eight films to see a swap.

But the midstream move caused a cascade of headaches for Pixar and for its parent company, Walt Disney Co., which pushed "The Good Dinosaur's" release date back 18 months from May of 2014.
The timing change left Pixar without a 2014 film, bumped Andrew Stanton's anticipated "Finding Nemo" sequel, "Finding Dory," to 2016 and caused the company to lay off 50 employees.

"For Pixar it was a dramatic event," said Jim Morris, the studio's general manager and executive vice president of production. "It was tough on the company. Most studios would have said, 'The movie's fine. It's not bad.' And it wasn't bad; it just wasn't great. We wanted to have a great movie."

At the time, Pixar's leadership, including studio president Ed Catmull, felt Peterson was creatively stuck on the film and was proving too slow to make important story decisions. Sohn had been serving as Peterson's co-director, a position akin to that of a deputy at Pixar.

As in Peterson's version, the film still posits that an asteroid never hit the Earth and the dinosaurs never went extinct; a teenage Apatosaurus named Arlo takes a wild, young human boy named Spot as a pet.

Sohn has jettisoned some of Peterson's signature ideas, such as modeling the dinosaurs on Amish farmers, and added new elements, including treating nature as the film's antagonist.

"When Bob was taken off, I was supporting the film as best I could," Sohn said. "It felt like, this child, this film still needs to be raised. It was just about how to take care of the thing at that time. ... Trying to keep the original vision of this film intact and trying to plus it as well."

In taking over the film, Sohn, 37, becomes part of a new generation of directors succeeding Stanton, Pete Docter and "Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich, all of whom are in their late 40s.
Born in the Bronx to Korean immigrants, Sohn got a summer job working on Brad Bird's 1999 animated cult classic "Iron Giant" while studying animation at the California Institute of the Arts.

See the full article here

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Paleontologist Jack Horner is hard at work trying to turn a chicken into a dinosaur

In 2009, the world’s most famous paleontologist made a bold claim. In “How to Build a Dinosaur,” Jack Horner proposed re-creating a small dinosaur by reactivating ancient DNA found in its descendants, chickens. His 2011 TED talk on the subject went viral. And then for the past four years, the public heard nothing.

While the Internet moved on to other viral videos and ideas, Horner and his team have been working on the “chickenosaurus” and moving ahead the science of evolutionary development. The project has already resulted in some of the first research into the embryonic development of tails.

The idea that birds are descended from dinosaurs is no longer questioned within the mainstream scientific community. Paleontologists have long studied the changes in bone structure of dinosaurs and birds over time. Meanwhile, molecular biologists have studied the composition of modern bird genes. By merging these scientists’ work, Horner, who is curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., hopes to answer questions about evolution.

Horner’s premise can be viewed from the launchpad of the late Michael Crichton’s novel and film “Jurassic Park,” a story that involved obtaining dinosaur DNA from undigested blood in mosquitoes preserved in amber. The idea of finding dinosaur DNA this way was taken seriously by many people, and the possibility was explored by scientists.

Jack Horner knows the “Jurassic Park” theory very well, having served not only as the inspiration for one of the main characters but also as a technical adviser for the film. But 24 years after the novel was published, we have yet to find any DNA in mosquitoes from the time of the dinosaurs.

DNA degrades under even ideal storage conditions. Cool, sterile conditions can extend its useful life to as long as perhaps a few million years, and dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. No matter how perfect a mosquito we find in a blob of amber, we cannot make a dinosaur out of that mosquito’s last blood meal.

There is only one way that DNA has been proved to survive millions of years relatively intact: by replicating itself during that time. This is exactly what happened as birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fossil From Dinosaur Era Reveals Big Mammal With Super Senses

Dinosaurs that roamed Madagascar more than 66 million years ago had a most unusual fuzzy mammal living in their shadows—one so large, and with such strange features, that scientists say they could have never predicted its existence.
That is, until 2010, when a team of scientists looking for fish fossils accidentally collected its nearly complete skull from a site along Madagascar's west coast.

Since then, researchers have learned that the groundhog-like critter had supersensory capabilities, with a large portion of its brain devoted to smell, and that it weighed about 20 pounds (9 kilograms)—much more than most mammals alive during the age of the dinosaurs.

"Not only does it have bizarre features, it's bizarre in being so humongous," says vertebrate paleontologist David Krause of Stony Brook University, in New York, who reports the find Wednesday in the journal Nature. Krause compares the critter's appearance to nutria, which are semiaquatic rodents, or an overgrown groundhog. "It's Punxsutawney Phil on steroids," he jokes.

What's more, the lucky find is helping paleontologists fill in the mammalian evolutionary tree, especially during the age of the dinosaurs.
Link to full article

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Illustrated History of Dinosaur Parks

The world's first dinosaur park, Crystal Palace Dinosaurs in London, did not have a Tyrannosaurus rex. A glaring omission, you might think, but an understandable one: the park opened in 1854, over 50 years before the T. rex species was named.

Dinosaur parks, whether Victorian fields of stone sculptures or Jurassic Park-influenced, animatronically enhanced attractions, reflect not only the technology of their time, but the paleontological knowledge. As more fossils are discovered, and more revisions to classification and rendering made, these parks become time capsules populated by creatures that are often, in retrospect, kinda goofy looking.

In 1842, English paleontologist Richard Owen analyzed the fossils of three Mesozoic-era reptile genera—Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus—and found enough similarities to establish a new taxonomic group. He named this group dinosauria, from the Greek deinos ("terrible") and sauros ("lizard").

It was Owen who spearheaded the development of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, a collection of life-sized models that would constitute the first publicly accessible prehistoric theme park. To realize this vision, Owen teamed up with sculptor and natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins, who was fresh from overseeing London's Great Exhibition of 1851.

Waterhouse-Hawkins spent three years sculpting over 30 dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures under Owen's guidance. After the animals were completed, Waterhouse-Hawkins celebrated with a banquet on the last day of 1853, held, in the words of Edward MacDermott's 1854 guide to Crystal Palace, "within the carcass of one of his antediluvian monsters." Twenty-one guests were seated to dinner inside a mold that had been used to cast one of the park's iguanodons. (MacDermott noted that "When the more substantial viands were disposed of, Professor Owen proposed that the company should drink in silence [to] 'The memory of Mantell, the discover of the iguanodon,' the monster in whose bowels they had just dined.")

Though public enthusiasm for the park was high—"terrible lizards" being an exciting and mysterious new thing for Victorians—Crystal Palace struggled financially. Sculpting each model was an expensive undertaking, and funding ran out before Waterhouse-Hawkins could create his full planned roster of stone animals. As palentological discoveries in the late 19th century caused revisions in the rendering of dinosaurs—influenced by the evolutionary theories evinced in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species, published in 1859—Crystal Palace's creatures became less and less accurate. By the dawn of the 20th century, the park had become run-down and risible.

Full article and more pix here

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

‘Zaraapelta’ looked like a colourful hedgehog

An old dinosaur has been given a new name.
A new species of ankylosaur (ANK’-EYE’-lo-saur) was discovered in Mongolia in 2000 by a team led by University of Alberta researchers.
A zoological journal published a paper this week by the same group naming the creature Zaraapelta (zar-ah-PELL’-tah) nomadis.
Zaraapelta is a combination of Mongolian and Greek works meaning “hedgehog” and “shield.”
Like other ankylosaurs, Zaraapelta was an armoured plant-eater with a gigantic club for a tail.
But it was more spectacular than most, with distinctive horns and an elaborate pattern of bumps and grooves behind its eyes.
Its skull is part of a collection at the Mongolian Paleontologist Center.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ancient Stone-Cutting Techniques Preserve Dinosaur Tracks

Unearthing the fossilized bones of dinosaurs without destroying them is already a pretty fiddly process, one that requires time, patience, and many, many delicate brushes. But when you're talking not about bones but the even more delicate tracks that dinosaurs left behind, the process gets that much trickier.
In response to reading about some ancient marble-cutting techniques, commenter and ichnologist Phaton explained that there were some remarkable similarities between the techniques of old stone-cutters and modern methods of dino-track salvage:
I had to figure out a way to remove a bunch of rock from a specimen with out damaging the fossil footprint. We were in the process of moving to a new building with a weight restriction on the floor and the block was going to probably be too heavy. The footprint, while large (tyranosaurid), was quite fragile so power tools were out of the question. In trying to figure something out I looked into a lot of ancient techniques. What I ended up using was a modification on a Chinese bow saw but instead of coiling bronze wire between the bow I coiled it around an iron shaft so that it was a one man operation... I don't remember why but I think I called it a Phoenician saw for some reason (a google search turns up nothing useful).

Anyways to make a long story shortish: the key to ancient rock cutting it time. As long as you have an abrasive harder then what you are cutting you are going to succeed eventually. Though I didn't actually succeed myself because before I could really start cutting we found really small turtle tracks associated with the theropod track and ended up needing to keep the whole block(it was one of those things where the theropod track was so imposing that you just didn't notice the smaller prints... but once you saw one...).

Article link here

Friday, October 24, 2014

Man who stole 190-million-year-old dinosaur footprint gets house arrest

"I'm just extremely sorry for a horrible decision that I made."

A Utah man was sentenced to a year probation, half of which must be served under house arrest, and fined $15,000 Monday after pleading guilty to stealing a fossilized dinosaur footprint believed to be 190 million years old.
The defendant, Jared Ehlers, 35, said he was "sorry" for unhinging the 150-pound sandstone slab in the Sand Flats Recreation Area of Southeastern Utah and dumping the three-toed print into the Colorado River. "I don't have a lot to say," Ehlers said during sentencing before US District Judge Dale Kimball. "I'm just extremely sorry for a horrible decision that I made."
While on the Hell's Revenge trail, Ehlers saw that the footprint was loose. He pried it up and took it to his nearby Moab home. Federal authorities said he dumped the print after being questioned about the print. He pleaded guilty in July to a felony count of theft of a paleontological resource.

Link to full article

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bizarre dinosaur reconstructed after 50 years of wild speculation

Deinocheirus mirificus, or ‘unusual horrible hand’, had long, clawed forearms, a sail on its back and a duck-like bill
Nearly 50 years after researchers uncovered the gigantic arms of a mysterious dinosaur in the Gobi desert, the true nature of the beast has finally been established.
Since its discovery in 1965, the only clues to the engimatic creature were its shoulders and forelimbs – the latter measuring an astounding 2.4 metres long – and a few ribs and vertebrae dug from the ground by a joint Polish-Mongolian expedition.
The fossils were extraordinary enough for scientists to declare the dinosaur a new genus and species. The name they decided upon was Deinocheirus mirificus, meaning “unusual horrible hand”.
In the absence of more complete remains, early reconstructions were at times wildly speculative. In 1970, one palaeontologist argued that Deinocheirus was a giant sloth-like climber that hung beneath the branches of enormous trees. A more accurate view put the dinosaur in a group of beaked omnivores called ornithomimosaurs, which resembled giant ostriches, at least superficially.
But writing in the journal Nature on Wednesday , a Korean-led team of experts has transformed scientists’ understanding of the animal. They report the discovery of two nearly complete 70 million-year-old Deinocheirus skeletons, pieced together from fossils unearthed in Mongolia, along with a skull and hand that had been poached and sold on to private collectors.
With the new remains, the researchers built the first accurate reconstruction of the dinosaur. The creature stood tall on its back legs, but sported long, clawed forearms. Neural spines formed an impressive sail on its back and its long, toothless snout flared out to both sides. The duck-like bill may have helped Deinocheirus forage for food at the bottom of streams, while blunt, flattened bones under its claws prevented it from sinking on wet ground.
One of the new specimens grew to 11 metres long and weighed more than six tonnes. Its broad hips and large feet suggest it was not agile. The animal likely fed on plants and small animals, though the remains of fish were found among its stomach contents.
Read more here

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two dinosaur toes lead to fossil find in Badlands

Meat-eating biped unearthed on hillside died 75 million years ago

When Clive Coy saw two small fossilized dinosaur toes sticking out the side of a hill in the Badlands, he hoped the remains of an entire animal were waiting to be unearthed.
The fossil of the small, meat-eating biped that Coy and other University of Alberta paleontologists excavated last month appears to be a saurornitholestes, but Coy and lead paleontologist Philip Currie said they haven't studied it enough to provide any details yet.
Back at the U of A, Coy is meticulously cleaning away the ancient mud and sand that have encased the little raptor for 75 million years. He couldn't yet say if it was indeed a complete skeleton.
"Something I've always enjoyed when I'm doing the preparation work is knowing I'm the first human being to see this," said Coy, who is the senior technician in the university's Vertebrate Paleontology Department.
The only mammals in existence in the late Cretaceous era, when Coy's dinosaur was alive, were mouse and opossum-sized creatures, and they were already nothing but fossils when humanity's earliest ancestors emerged.
"This animal is a fossil and now our (mammalian) ancestors are fossils ... Down the evolutionary chain, there's me digging up this creature that died 75 million years ago," Coy said.
Paleontologists Coy, Currie and Eva Koppelhus led last June's expedition with 15 other members of the international Explorers Club.
"We found a lot of good material, (including) half a dozen other skeletons that we need to investigate," Coy said. "This one was promising enough that we made a special trip out two weeks ago to dig down to see what this was."

Read the full article here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The golden age of dinosaur discovery

According to John Pickrell, the editor of Australian Geographic, we live in a golden age of dinosaur discoveries. The most important of these may be that the dinosaurs didn’t die out when an asteroid hit earth 66 million years ago. In fact, they still live among us... as birds.
Imagine, if you will, a world filled with billions of dinosaurs. A world where they can be found in thousands of shapes, sizes, colours and classes in every habitable pocket of the planet. Imagine them from the desert dunes of the Sahara to the frozen rim of the Antarctic Circle, from the balmy islands of the South Pacific to the high peaks of the Himalayas.
You don’t have to imagine very hard. Dinosaurs didn’t die out when an asteroid hit the Earth 66 million years ago. In fact, wherever you live, you can probably step outside and look up into the trees and skies to find them: birds are dinosaurs and they are all around you.
We have learned more about dinosaurs in the two decades since Jurassic Park than we did in the thousands of years before it.

Everything I was told as a child was wrong.

Read more here

Friday, October 10, 2014

Venezuela’s First Carnivorous Dinosaur

At the end of the Triassic around 199 million years ago, the supercontinent Pangea was just about to break apart and nearly a quarter of all dinosaurs living at the time were wiped out in the planet’s fourth mass extinction event. The fossil record shortly after the Triassic-Jurassic event is pretty incomplete, especially in parts of modern-day South America. Until now, only one dinosaur has ever been found in the northern part of the contient. A new meat-eating dinosaur unearthed in the Venezuelan Andes could help fill in the gaps. It’s dubbed Tachiraptor admirabilis, and it’s described in Royal Society Open Science this week.

Isolated lower leg and pelvis bones from two individuals were unearthed from the earliest Jurassic sediments of the La Quinta Formation in the northernmost extension of the Andes, at the western border of Venezuela. Dating of the zircons in the rocks puts the fossil at 200.7 million years old.
From just these two bones -- specifically the ischium and tibia (pictured) -- a team led by Max Langer from the University of São Paulo was able to determine that it was bipedal, about two meters long, and carnivorous. Tachiraptor belong to the theropod (“beast-footed”) branch of dinosaurs, which led up to modern birds and includes T. rex, velociraptor, a wee pygmy tyrannosaur who stalked the arctic, and the shark-eating spinosaurus, the first ever swimming dinosaur. Unique features of its tibial articulations were different enough from known theropods to warrant a new species.  
Tachiraptor is named after Táchira, the Venezuelan state where the fossil was found, and “raptor” (Latin for “thief”), alluding to its predatory habits. The species name references Simon Bolivar's “Admirable Campaign,” where the town La Grita played a strategic role.
More here

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Headding for Halloween

Extra Heads
We're including the Extra Heads Kit free with every Tiny Human Deluxe Kit until October 31st. Just buy the Tiny Human Deluxe Kit and your order will receive the Extra Heads Kit at no extra cost. No coupon necessary.

Happy Halloween!


The oldest gay in the village: 5,000-year-old is 'outed' by the way he was buried

Five thousand years after he died, the first known gay caveman has emerged into the daylight.
According to archaeologists, the way he was buried suggests that he was of a different sexual persuasion.
The skeleton of the late Stone Age man, unearthed during excavations in the Czech Republic, is said to date back to between 2900 and 2500 BC.
During that period, men were traditionally buried lying on their right side with the head pointing towards the west; women on their left side with the head facing east.
In this case, the man was on his left side with his head facing west. Another clue is that men tended to be interred with weapons, hammers and flint knives as well as several portions of food and drink to accompany them to the other side.
Women would be buried with necklaces made from teeth, pets, and copper earrings, as well as domestic jugs and an egg-shaped pot placed near the feet.
The ‘gay caveman’ was buried with household jugs, and no weapons.
Read the article here

Check out these amazing knit skeletons by artist Caitlin McCormack

See all the skeletons at http://caitlintmccormack.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Apatosaurus: Your Dinosaurs Are Wrong #12

Brontosaurus has been a popular request over the last few months. After a modest correction relating to naming conventions, Steve obliges! Using a rather jiggly example, he covers what made these creatures extremely successful for their time.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dinosaur Arms to Bird Wings: It's All in the Wrist

One of the last niggling doubts about the link between dinosaurs and birds may be settled by a new study that shows how bird wrists evolved from those of their dinosaur predecessors.
The study, reported in the Journal PLOS Biology, shows how nine dinosaurian wrist bones were reduced over millions of years of evolution to just four wrist bones in modern day birds.
"This discovery clarifies how dinosaur arms became bird wings," said one of the study's authors, Dr Alexander Vargas of the University of Chile in Santiago.
"It shows that some bones fused, other bones disappeared, and one bone disappeared and then reappeared in evolution."
Skeletal similarities between theropod dinosaurs and birds provide some of the strongest evidence showing how birds developed from dinosaurs. But the evolution of straight dinosaur wrists into hyperflexible wrists allowing birds to fold their wings when not flying, has remained a point of contention between palaeontologists and some developmental biologists.
Among the structures in question is a half-moon shaped wrist bone called the semilunate which is found in dinosaurs and looks very similar to a wrist bone also found in birds.
The semilunate originated as two separate dinosaur bones which eventually fused into a single bone. However some developmental biologists claim it evolved as a single bone in birds, and so isn't the same bone as that found in dinosaurs.
To help settle the debate, Vargas and colleagues examined the wrist bones of dinosaur fossils in the collections from several museums, and compared them to new developmental data from seven different species of modern birds.
"We developed a new technique called whole-mount immunostaining, which allows us to observe skeleton development better than ever before, including the expression of proteins inside embryonic cartilage," said Vargas.
Read more here

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dinosaurs, Pterosaurs And Other Saurs -- Big Differences

What is a dinosaur? Here’s the definition from Dictionary.com:
Any chiefly terrestrial, herbivorous or carnivorous reptile of the extinct orders Saurischia and Ornithischia, from the Mesozoic Era, certain species of which are the largest known land animals.
That’s a decent description of a dinosaur, but it’s not the scientific definition.

Paleontologists don’t group species together according to when and where they lived, but based on shared characteristics, usually anatomical features seen in fossils. Dozens of features distinguish dinosaurs from other reptiles, such as bones of the lower arm being longer than the upper arm. When Paleontologists combine and compare such characteristics between various reptiles, they can create a tree of evolutionary history that reveals the relationships between different groups.

Several groups of prehistoric creatures are often mistaken for dinosaurs, even though evolutionary trees show that they’re distantly related. One group doesn’t even consist of reptiles. To help you tell extinct reptiles apart, here is a simple guide to the major features of dinosaurs and ‘other saurs’, arranged in order of when the animals appeared millions of years ago (MYA).

Link to guide

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Scientists name new dinosaur after a creature from 'Avatar'

One of the perks of discovering a new species of dinosaur is that you get to name it whatever you want, even if it's a movie reference. Last week, a group of paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences put that rule to the test when they decided to name their latest find the "Ikrandraci avatar" — literally, "the Ikran dragon from Avatar."
In the movie, Ikrans were the blue dragon-looking creatures that the Na'vi rode into battle, and apparently the scientists saw a resemblance. Their new find is a pterosaur with a pelican-like throat pouch and a wingspan of roughly eight feet, but the scientists say the name was inspired by an Ikran-like crest on the creature's lower jaw. The group believes the new pterosaur fed largely on fish from freshwater lakes, and the crest was useful for scooping them out of the water. Still, the artist's rendering looks more like a pelican than anything else, suggesting the group may have let their fandom get the best of them.

Go to article

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Darn, No Dinosaurs Buried In Central Park

While there are probably plenty of weird things buried in Central Park, officially and... discreetly, dinosaurs are not one of those things. This week, Ephemeral NY reported that "in 1868, Andrew Green, one of the city planners in charge of Central Park, invited [artist Benjamin Waterhouse] Hawkins to build dinosaur models in New York."
Read it here

Largest Dinosaur Cemetery Discovered in Mexico

A team of German and Mexican archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the largest dinosaur cemetery in the world in the Mexican state of Coahuila, Der Spiegel reports. Researchers from the University of Heidelberg, the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe and the Desert Museum in Saltillo, Mexico, have found fossils of 14 animals on a small piece of land 50 by 200 meters. They uncovered the skeletons and bones of 15 more animals a few kilometers away. “I know no other place where so many dinosaurs have been found on such a small area,” said Wolfgang Stinnesbeck from the University of Heidelberg.
The area, where the fossils have been unearthed, is inhospitable. But what now is a desert approximately 70 million years ago was a blossoming piece of land. “There was a huge delta here and several rivers were flowing into the Gulf of Mexico,” said paleontologist Eberhard Frey from the University of Heidelberg. “The ecosystem here was vibrant. Apart from dinosaur bones we have found four species of turtles, remains of a small crocodile and teeth of early mammals,” he added.
“Our findings are very promising, large-scale excavation here would be worthwhile,” Frey stressed. For instance, researchers have found Theropod footprints not far from the dig site. Some of the largest predators in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were among the Theropod dinosaurs.