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News Article | April 27, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

After being headless for almost a century, a dinosaur skeleton that had become a tourist attraction in Dinosaur Provincial Park was finally reconnected to its head. Researchers at the University of Alberta have matched the headless skeleton to a Corythosaurus skull from the university’s Paleontology Museum that had been collected in 1920 by George Sternberg. “In the early days of dinosaur hunting and exploration, explorers only took impressive and exciting specimens for their collections, such as skulls, tail spines and claws,” explained graduate student Katherine Bramble, adding the practice was commonly referred to as head hunting. “Now, it’s common for paleontologists to come across specimens in the field without their skulls.” The headless Corythosaurus skeleton has been a tourist attraction in Dinosaur Provincial Park since the 1990s. In the early 2010s, a group of scientists noticed newspaper clippings dating back to the 1920s in the debris around the site. Among them was Darren Tanke, technician at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and co-author on the paper, who began to wonder if this skeleton could be related to the skull at the University of Alberta. That was where Bramble and her supervisor Philip Currie came in, along with former post-doctoral fellow Angelica Torices. “Using anatomical measurements of the skull and the skeleton, we conducted a statistical analysis,” Bramble explained. “Based on these results, we believed there was potential that the skull and this specimen belonged together.” In 2012, the skull and skeleton of the Corythosaurus were reunited. Whole once more, the specimen resides at the University of Alberta. As natural erosion takes place and human activity digs up new specimens, more headless dinosaur skeletons continue to crop up. “It’s becoming more and more common,” said Bramble. “One institution will have one part of a skeleton. Years later, another will collect another part of a skeleton that could belong to the same animal.” The reasons are many, ranging from the historical practice of head hunting to a lack of resources for exploration to new parts of skeletons becoming exposed. This discovery highlights a growing field of study in paleontology, Bramble noted. “Researchers are now trying to develop new ways of determining whether or not disparate parts of skeletons come from the same animal,” she explained. “For this paper, we used anatomical measurements, but there are many other ways of matching, such as conducting a chemical analysis of the rock in which the specimens are found.” As scientists develop new methods for matching specimens, Bramble hopes more dinosaurs skeletons will be reunited as well. The entire story is explained in detail in the paper, “Reuniting the ‘head hunted’ Corythosaurus excavatus (Dinosauria: Hadrosauridae) holotype skull with its dentary and postcranium,” which was published in the April 2017 edition of Cretaceous Research.


News Article | December 24, 2015
Site: motherboard.vice.com

2015 was an exceptionally productive year for paleontology. Brontosaurus made a comeback. Paleontologists further decoded the coloration patterns of long extinct animals. Jurassic World brought dinosaurs back to the big screen. And most importantly, scientists around the world made thousands of new discoveries, both in the field and in the lab, which have further reconstructed our understanding of Earth’s murky ecological past. So without further ado, I present to you the 2015 Best in Show winners for extinct animals that were either discovered, named, or properly classified within the 12 months. From its Cambrian weirdos to its gigantic raptors, this will be a hard year to beat. Bring it, 2016. This diminutive creature lived in the apocalyptic aftermath of the asteroid impact that killed off half of all life on Earth, including the dinosaurs. Kimbetopsalis simmonsae roamed what is now New Mexico, casually surviving during a full-scale ecological collapse. So what was this little cutie’s secret? In a nutshell: it fed on exactly the kinds of flowering plants that thrived in the wake of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. “There weren't any mammals like [Kimbetopsalis] that lived with the dinosaurs—maybe a handful of species that were beaver-sized and few, if any, that exclusively ate plants,” co-author Steve Brusatte told me when the discovery was announced in October. “So it looks like mammals rapidly began to get bigger, evolve new diets, and colonize new environments very soon after the dinosaurs bit the dust,” he said. “That's a neat story because that is the story of how we got here. That explosive diversification of mammals led to primates, which led to us.” Runner-up: These gnarly 10,000-year-old cave lion cubs that were found frozen with their fur, skin, and tissue intact. This formidable predator roamed the grasslands of Argentina some 3.5 million years ago, and was classified as the new species Llallawavis scagliai—”the Magnificent Bird of Scaglia—in April. Its remains represent the most intact example from the group of so-called “terror birds” that dominated many South American ecosystems during the Pliocene epoch. Ninety percent of the animal was recovered, including crucial parts of its vocal anatomy that suggest the bird sung in low, deep pitches. Runner-up: Archaeornithura meemannae, the oldest common ancestor of all birds, found in China. Measuring almost seven feet in length, this filter-feeding arthropod was an absolute giant of the seas, some 480 million years ago. “They were the largest animals during the Cambrian and Ordovician [periods],” Yale paleontologist Peter Van Roy told me when this discovery was announced in March. “In fact, Aegirocassis benmoulae is one of the largest arthropods—[the kingdom that includes modern crustaceans, insects, and arachnids]—to have ever lived, reaching a length of at least 2.1 meters.” Sup human, ready to be eaten? Image: Matthew Martyniuk Thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise, Velociraptors have become the most well-known and feared of the hook-toed dromaeosaurid clan (“dromaeosaurid” being the scientific term for raptors). But as has been pointed out ad nauseum, Velociraptors were only about the size of turkeys, far smaller than the intimidating monsters we’ve become accustomed to on screen. That said, dromaeosaurids like Dakotaraptor, a new genus announced in November, genuinely were the size of the animals depicted in the films—bigger even. Based on its remains, Dakotaraptor appears to have been among the largest raptors that ever lived, measuring 17 feet from head to tail, and brandishing a massive 9.5-inch-long claw on each foot. “It really was the Ferrari of competitors,“ paleontologist Robert DePalma, who led the new research into the animal, told the BBC. “It could run very fast, it could jump incredibly well, it was agile and it had essentially grappling hooks on the front and rear limbs.” “These claws could grab on to anything and just slice them to bits,” he added. “It was utterly lethal.” Sounds like Dakotaraptor would make for a much more intimidating companion for Chris Pratt in any future Jurassic World movies, especially since the animal’s remains show plenty of evidence of some truly dope feathers. Velociraptors have had a great run, but it’s time to step aside for the real terrors of the late Cretaceous. Runner-up: Zhenyuanlong suni, an incredibly well-preserved raptor specimen discovered in China, featuring the largest wingspan of any dinosaur ever recovered. Concept drawing of Regaliceratops. Art by Julius T. Csotonyi. Courtesy of Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta Ceratopsids, the group of dinosaurs that includes Triceratops, are known for their ostentatious head frills and crests. But even amongst its peers, Regaliceratops peterhewsi, or “Hellboy” as it has been nicknamed, stands out with its striking crown of horns and large nasal shiv. The unique look is thought to have been used mostly as a display to attract mates, which is especially delightful considering that paleontologist Caleb Brown, who led the team that discovered the new species, proposed to his girlfriend in the acknowledgements of his paper (she said yes). When it comes to courtship, some things never change, regardless of whether you are looking to woo your honey with sweet gestures in academic papers, or with funky head spikes. Runner-up: Probrachylophosaurus bergei, aka “Super-Duck,” a five-tonne dinosaur that sheds the light on the evolution of forehead crests in hadrosaurs. Good God: What even is this thing? Collinsium ciliosum looks like something evolution would sneeze out during a fever dream. Measuring about four inches long from whatever the hell is its front to whatever rounds out its rear, this sea worm lived 518 million years ago during the Cambrian period. It had 12 feather-like legs for filtering food and another 18 clawed legs for clinging to its hosts, and was topped off with a bunch of armored spikes along its spine. Up until this year, the Hallucigenia worm was assumed to be the weirdest thing the Cambrian ever cooked up, but this “Hallucigenia on steroids,” as paleontologist Javier Ortega-Hernández described the new species, has undoubtedly upped the stakes. Homo nadeli nabs this illustrious title for its origin story alone. Locked away in the chambers of the labyrinthine Rising Star Cave system in South Africa, the remains had to be carefully removed by professional spelunkers. The expedition was a classic Indiana-Jones-style mix of adventure and academic reward, resulting in the recovery of thousands of fossil specimens from this bygone hominid community. It’s thought that Homo nadeli lived around two million years ago, though there is still a lot of controversy over the age and interpretation of the fossils, given that they are so new. Runner-up: An innovative “virtual fossil” of the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals. Best in Show: Isle of Skye Dinosaur Footprints Sauropod tracks on the Isle of Skye. Image: Steve Brusatte By far the most astonishing paleontological story of 2015, in my opinion, was the discovery of hundreds of dinosaur footprints on the coast of Scotland’s Isle of Skye. These tracks were left by large, long-necked sauropods 170 million years ago, and were described as a makeshift “dinosaur dance floor” by paleontologist Steve Brusatte, who was one of the researchers that discovered and categorized them. As Brusatte explained to me a few weeks ago, part of the magic of these footprints is their physical immediacy. “Tracks are really important because they record real animals interacting with their environment,” he said. “Bones and teeth are great—they can tell us a lot about ancient animals. But bones and teeth can be transported. They can be scooped up by rivers and deposited almost anywhere. Not tracks. Tracks are made in a particular place and can't be moved.” “So we know these sauropods were actually moving around in these lagoons,” he added. “The real animals were physically there. And many of them, and over multiple generations. That really blows my mind.”


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A team of geologists at the University of Rochester has discovered a new species of bird in the Canadian Arctic. At approximately 90 million years old, the bird fossils are among the oldest avian records found in the northernmost latitude, and offer further evidence of an intense warming event during the late Cretaceous period. "The bird would have been a cross between a large seagull and a diving bird like a cormorant, but likely had teeth," says John Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University and leader of the expedition. Tarduno and his team, which included both undergraduate and graduate students, named the bird Tingmiatornis arctica; "Tingmiat" means "those that fly" in the Inuktitut language spoken in the central and eastern Canadian Arctic (Nunavut territory). Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, add to previous fossil records Tarduno uncovered from the same geological time period and location in previous expeditions. Taken together, these fossils paint a clearer picture of an ecosystem that would have existed in the Canadian Arctic during the Cretaceous period's Turonian age, which lasted from approximately 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago. "These fossils allow us to flesh out the community and add to our understanding of the community's composition and how it differed from other places in the world," says Donald Brinkman, vertebrate paleontologist and director of preservation and research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. Building historic climate records further helps scientists determine the effects of climate on various communities, ecosystems, and the distribution of species and could help predict the effects of future climatic events. "Before our fossil, people were suggesting that it was warm, but you still would have had seasonal ice," Tarduno says. "We're suggesting that's not even the case, and that it's one of these hyper-warm intervals because the bird's food sources and the whole part of the ecosystem could not have survived in ice." From the fossil and sediment records, Tarduno and his team were able to conjecture that the bird's environment in the Canadian Arctic during the Turonian age would have been characterized by volcanic activity, a calm freshwater bay, temperatures comparable to those in northern Florida today, and creatures such as turtles, large freshwater fish, and champsosaurs--now-extinct, crocodile-like reptiles. "The fossils tell us what that world could look like, a world without ice at the arctic," says Richard Bono, a PhD candidate in earth and environmental sciences at the University and a member of Tarduno's expedition. "It would have looked very different than today where you have tundra and fewer animals." The Tingmiatornis arctica fossils were found above basalt lava fields, created from a series of volcanic eruptions. Scientists believe volcanoes pumped carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect and a period of extraordinary polar heat. This created an ecosystem allowing large birds, including Tingmiatornis arctica, to thrive. Tarduno's team unearthed three bird bones: part of the ulna and portions of the humerus, which, in birds, are located in the wings. From the bone features, as well as its thickness and proportions, the team's paleontologist, Julia Clarke of the University of Texas, was able to determine the evolutionary relationships of the new birds as well as characteristics that indicate whether it likely was able to fly or dive. "These birds are comparatively close cousins of all living birds and they comprise some of the oldest records of fossil birds from North America," Clarke says. "Details of the upper arm bones tell us about how features of the flightstroke seen in living species came to be." Previous fossil discoveries indicate the presence of carnivorous fish such as the 0.3-0.6 meter-long bowfin. Birds feeding on these fish would need to be larger-sized and have teeth, offering additional clues to Tingmiatornis arctica's characteristics. Physiological factors, such as a rapid growth and maturation rate, might explain how this line of bird was able to survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event that occurred approximately 66 million years ago and eliminated approximately three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth. These physiological characteristics are still conjecture, Tarduno emphasizes, but he says the bird's environment gives clear indications as to why the bird fossils were found in this location. "It's there because everything is right," Tarduno says. "The food supply was there, there was a freshwater environment, and the climate became so warm that all of the background ecological factors were established to make it a great place." This work was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


News Article | December 20, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

A team of geologists at the University of Rochester has discovered a new species of bird in the Canadian Arctic. At approximately 90 million years old, the bird fossils are among the oldest avian records found in the northernmost latitude, and offer further evidence of an intense warming event during the late Cretaceous period. "The bird would have been a cross between a large seagull and a diving bird like a cormorant, but likely had teeth," says John Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University and leader of the expedition. Tarduno and his team, which included both undergraduate and graduate students, named the bird Tingmiatornis arctica; "Tingmiat" means "those that fly" in the Inuktitut language spoken in the central and eastern Canadian Arctic (Nunavut territory). Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, add to previous fossil records Tarduno uncovered from the same geological time period and location in previous expeditions. Taken together, these fossils paint a clearer picture of an ecosystem that would have existed in the Canadian Arctic during the Cretaceous period's Turonian age, which lasted from approximately 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago. "These fossils allow us to flesh out the community and add to our understanding of the community's composition and how it differed from other places in the world," says Donald Brinkman, vertebrate paleontologist and director of preservation and research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. Building historic climate records further helps scientists determine the effects of climate on various communities, ecosystems, and the distribution of species and could help predict the effects of future climatic events. "Before our fossil, people were suggesting that it was warm, but you still would have had seasonal ice," Tarduno says. "We're suggesting that's not even the case, and that it's one of these hyper-warm intervals because the bird's food sources and the whole part of the ecosystem could not have survived in ice." From the fossil and sediment records, Tarduno and his team were able to conjecture that the bird's environment in the Canadian Arctic during the Turonian age would have been characterized by volcanic activity, a calm freshwater bay, temperatures comparable to those in northern Florida today, and creatures such as turtles, large freshwater fish, and champsosaurs--now-extinct, crocodile-like reptiles. "The fossils tell us what that world could look like, a world without ice at the arctic," says Richard Bono, a PhD candidate in earth and environmental sciences at the University and a member of Tarduno's expedition. "It would have looked very different than today where you have tundra and fewer animals." The Tingmiatornis arctica fossils were found above basalt lava fields, created from a series of volcanic eruptions. Scientists believe volcanoes pumped carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect and a period of extraordinary polar heat. This created an ecosystem allowing large birds, including Tingmiatornis arctica, to thrive. Tarduno's team unearthed three bird bones: part of the ulna and portions of the humerus, which, in birds, are located in the wings. From the bone features, as well as its thickness and proportions, the team's paleontologist, Julia Clarke of the University of Texas, was able to determine the evolutionary relationships of the new birds as well as characteristics that indicate whether it likely was able to fly or dive. "These birds are comparatively close cousins of all living birds and they comprise some of the oldest records of fossil birds from North America," Clarke says. "Details of the upper arm bones tell us about how features of the flightstroke seen in living species came to be." Previous fossil discoveries indicate the presence of carnivorous fish such as the 0.3-0.6 meter-long bowfin. Birds feeding on these fish would need to be larger-sized and have teeth, offering additional clues to Tingmiatornis arctica's characteristics. Physiological factors, such as a rapid growth and maturation rate, might explain how this line of bird was able to survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event that occurred approximately 66 million years ago and eliminated approximately three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth. These physiological characteristics are still conjecture, Tarduno emphasizes, but he says the bird's environment gives clear indications as to why the bird fossils were found in this location. "It's there because everything is right," Tarduno says. "The food supply was there, there was a freshwater environment, and the climate became so warm that all of the background ecological factors were established to make it a great place."


News Article | December 21, 2016
Site: www.gizmag.com

The fossilized remains of Tingmiatornis arctica date from the Turonian age of the Cretaceous period about 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago(Credit: University of Rochester illustration / Michael Osadciw) Scientists from the University of Rochester have unearthed a new bird species from fossils in the Canadian Arctic dating back about 90 million years, making them the oldest records of avian species found so far north. The discovery also provides additional evidence that an intense warming event occurred during the late Cretaceous period in which the bird would have lived. Dubbed Tingmiatornis arctica ("Tingmiat" means "those that fly" in the Inuktitut language spoken in the area where the discovery was made), the fossilized remains date from the Turonian age of the Cretaceous period about 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago, and are said to provide scientists with a fairly good picture of what the bird would have looked like in the flesh. "The bird would have been a cross between a large seagull and a diving bird like a cormorant, but likely had teeth," says John Tarduno, professor at the University of Rochester. The fossil and sedimentary records uncovered at the site also give a better idea of the ecosystem in the Canadian Arctic of the time, which was characterized by volcanic activity. The site was also home to a freshwater bay and had a range of temperatures similar to those experienced in subtropical zones, such as those found today in northern Florida. Other creatures also abounded in the area and included such things as turtles, schools of large freshwater fish, and extinct, crocodile-like reptiles known as champsosaurs. "Before our fossil, people were suggesting that it was warm, but you still would have had seasonal ice," says Tarduno. "We are suggesting that is not even the case, and that it is one of these hyper-warm intervals because the bird's food sources and the whole part of the ecosystem could not have survived in ice." Found in an area directly above fields of basalt lava that had been formed by a series of ancient volcanic eruptions, the fossils were originally laid down in a period of high concentrations of carbon dioxide being spewed out by the volcanoes. The researchers believe that this produced a greenhouse effect at the time and resulted in a period of exceptionally high temperatures in the polar region, providing a perfect environment for large birds like Tingmiatornis arctica. A total of three bird bones were unearthed by the researchers. Included in these were a part of the ulna and pieces of the humerus (which, in birds, are both in the wings). Scientists were able to determine from the bone features, proportions, and girth a good deal about the creature, including evolutionary relationships and whether it was capable of flying or diving. "These fossils allow us to flesh out the community and add to our understanding of the community's composition and how it differed from other places in the world," says Donald Brinkman from the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Canada.


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

A team of geologists at the University of Rochester has discovered a new species of bird in the Canadian Arctic. At approximately 90 million years old, the bird fossils are among the oldest avian records found in the northernmost latitude, and offer further evidence of an intense warming event during the late Cretaceous period. “The bird would have been a cross between a large seagull and a diving bird like a cormorant, but likely had teeth,” says John Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University and leader of the expedition. Tarduno and his team, which included both undergraduate and graduate students, named the bird Tingmiatornis arctica; “Tingmiat” means “those that fly” in the Inuktitut language spoken in the central and eastern Canadian Arctic (Nunavut territory). Their findings, published in Scientific Reports, add to previous fossil records Tarduno uncovered from the same geological time period and location in previous expeditions. Taken together, these fossils paint a clearer picture of an ecosystem that would have existed in the Canadian Arctic during the Cretaceous period’s Turonian age, which lasted from approximately 93.9 to 89.8 million years ago. “These fossils allow us to flesh out the community and add to our understanding of the community’s composition and how it differed from other places in the world,” says Donald Brinkman, vertebrate paleontologist and director of preservation and research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. Building historic climate records further helps scientists determine the effects of climate on various communities, ecosystems, and the distribution of species and could help predict the effects of future climatic events. “Before our fossil, people were suggesting that it was warm, but you still would have had seasonal ice,” Tarduno says. “We’re suggesting that’s not even the case, and that it’s one of these hyper-warm intervals because the bird’s food sources and the whole part of the ecosystem could not have survived in ice.” From the fossil and sediment records, Tarduno and his team were able to conjecture that the bird’s environment in the Canadian Arctic during the Turonian age would have been characterized by volcanic activity, a calm freshwater bay, temperatures comparable to those in northern Florida today, and creatures such as turtles, large freshwater fish, and champsosaurs—now-extinct, crocodile-like reptiles. “The fossils tell us what that world could look like, a world without ice at the arctic,” says Richard Bono, a PhD candidate in earth and environmental sciences at the University and a member of Tarduno’s expedition. “It would have looked very different than today where you have tundra and fewer animals.” The Tingmiatornis arctica fossils were found above basalt lava fields, created from a series of volcanic eruptions. Scientists believe volcanoes pumped carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a greenhouse effect and a period of extraordinary polar heat. This created an ecosystem allowing large birds, including Tingmiatornis arctica, to thrive. Tarduno’s team unearthed three bird bones: part of the ulna and portions of the humerus, which, in birds, are located in the wings. From the bone features, as well as its thickness and proportions, the team’s paleontologist, Julia Clarke of the University of Texas, was able to determine the evolutionary relationships of the new birds as well as characteristics that indicate whether it likely was able to fly or dive. hese birds are comparatively close cousins of all living birds and they comprise some of the oldest records of fossil birds from North America,” Clarke says. “Details of the upper arm bones tell us about how features of the flightstroke seen in living species came to be.” Previous fossil discoveries indicate the presence of carnivorous fish such as the 0.3-0.6 meter-long bowfin. Birds feeding on these fish would need to be larger-sized and have teeth, offering additional clues to Tingmiatornis arctica’s characteristics. Physiological factors, such as a rapid growth and maturation rate, might explain how this line of bird was able to survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event that occurred approximately 66 million years ago and eliminated approximately three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth. These physiological characteristics are still conjecture, Tarduno emphasizes, but he says the bird’s environment gives clear indications as to why the bird fossils were found in this location. “It’s there because everything is right,” Tarduno says. “The food supply was there, there was a freshwater environment, and the climate became so warm that all of the background ecological factors were established to make it a great place.” This work was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


Evans D.C.,Royal Ontario Museum | Eberth D.A.,Royal Tyrrell Museum | Ryan M.J.,Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences | Year: 2015

Three monodominant hadrosaurid bonebeds in the Horsethief Member of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (uppermost Campanian) in southern Alberta, Canada, are documented. Each bonebed is hosted by a decimetre-thick deposit of poorly sorted and graded organic-fragment-rich mudstone. These fossil deposits are interpreted as having been carried and deposited by debris flows or hyperconcentrated mass sediment flows initiated by overbank flooding from local channels. Each bonebed is dominated (>50% of identifiable elements) by the disarticulated to occasionally associated remains of hadrosaurine hadrosaurids, inferred to be Edmontosaurus regalis. The majority of hadrosaurid elements at two of the sites (Bleriot Ferry and Prehistoric Park) are from large, presumably adult-sized individuals, whereas the majority of elements from the Fox Coulee site are from subadults and juveniles. Fossil elements from all the sites exhibit similar taphonomic signatures suggestive of a high degree of biostratinomic modification including: (i) thorough disarticulation of carcasses, (ii) a large amount of breakage, (iii) modest amounts of size sorting, and (iv) minimum to modest occurrences of abrasion, and scratch and tooth marks. These signatures indicate that carcasses were exposed for significant amounts of time on the floodplain, where they rotted, were scavenged and trampled, and were exposed to moving water prior to final burial. The size of each bonebed together with the density of bones suggest that the biocoenoses comprised large groups of hadrosaurids, and bone size distributions suggest the possibility of age-segregated populations. The monodominant nature of the assemblages combined with homogenous taphonomic signatures within and between sites suggests that these bonebed assemblages are best interpreted as the result of mass kills rather than attrition, with recurring tropical storm-induced coastal-plain flooding postulated as a likely mechanism for what killed and eventually buried these dinosaurs. © 2015, National Research Council of Canada. All Rights Reserved.


News Article | April 15, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

A newly identified dinosaur species with an unusual set of arm muscles fit to lift feathers has helped scientists in Alberta solve a decades-long case of mistaken dinosaur identity. The bird-like dinosaur, which hunted for food in the bayous and swamps of southern Alberta, was first thought to be part of a different species of dinosaurs. Now named Apatoraptor pennatus, the dinosaur did not use its arm muscles for lifting heavy weights or brawling, but for moving its feathers, paleontologists from the University of Alberta said. Greg Funston, a Ph.D. candidate at the university, was working on a nearly complete fossilized dinosaur skeleton found in the Western Canadian province's badlands when he observed something strange. Mistakenly thought of as a member of the group of dinosaurs that resemble modern-day ostriches, the fossilized skeleton was classified as an ornithomimid and kept in the Royal Tyrrell Museum since its discovery in 1993. It was brought out again to celebrate the museum's 25th anniversary. That was when he realized that the skeleton was actually a new type of caenagnathid dinosaur, part of a family of bird-like maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs. Although the dinosaur was already called Epichirostenotes, Funston said the features did not quite match up. Some of the proportions and several shapes of the finger bones were off, as well as the features of the lower jaw. After putting the fossils under CT scan, Funston found the signs of unusual arm muscles, which had tiny scars similar to those left by feather-moving muscles of birds. What were the Feathers For? The Apatoraptor is about 2 meters (6.6 feet) long and 180 kilograms (396.8 lbs.) in weight, making the dinosaur a bit larger than the average human. "Because these animals are way too big to fly, they're probably using their feathers for display," said Funston, adding that the displays were possibly meant to attract potential mates. The name Apatoraptor means "deceptive thief" while pennatus means "feathered," Funston said. This is his first time naming a new dinosaur. "It's really exciting on a personal level," said Funston. "But what I am most excited about is what it means for this field of paleontology." The Apatoraptor fossil is the most articulated skeleton from anywhere in the world. This means that the dinosaur's bones are still in the same position when it died. It's also by far the most complete skeleton for caenagnathids in Alberta. The discovery of the well-preserved fossilized skeleton is very crucial as it will help future studies further understand the new dinosaur species. Funston said it will help fill in the gap for some of the missing puzzle pieces in the group of caenagnathids. "Because it is a relatively complete skeleton, it helps resolve the relationships of caenagnathids, which have always been problematic," said Funston. In fact, most caenagnathid fossils are only represented by single bones or isolated material. With this, scientists couldn't tell if they came from the same dinosaur. Apatoraptor helps scientists picture what these animals looked like, allowing them to confirm if the features they use to separate the caenagnathids are significant or not. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


Longrich N.R.,Yale University | Sankey J.,California State University, Stanislaus | Tanke D.,Royal Tyrrell Museum
Cretaceous Research | Year: 2010

Recent work in the Campanian Aguja Formation of Big Bend, Texas, has resulted in the recovery of two frontoparietal domes from a new genus of pachycephalosaur. Texacephale langstoni gen. et sp. nov. is diagnosed by a tall, arched nasal boss, flange-like processes articulating the dome with the peripheral elements, and a low pedicel separating the cerebral fossa from the skull roof. The skull dome is composed largely of the fused frontals and parietals, with limited participation of the peripheral elements, and the supratemporal fenestrae remain open. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Texacephale langstoni is a basal member of the Pachycephalosauria. The discovery of Texacephale supports previous suggestions that the dinosaur fauna of Texas was distinct from that of contemporary assemblages to the north. The phylogenetic analysis presented here indicates that the Asian pachycephalosaurs form a monophyletic group, deeply nested within the Pachycephalosauridae, and that the basal members of the group are all North American. This finding indicates that pachycephalosaurids originated in North America, rather than Asia, as previously believed. The high diversity of North American pachycephalosaurs and the late appearance of pachycephalosaurs in Asia are consistent with this hypothesis. The biology of Texacephale and other Pachycephalosauridae are also discussed. The morphology of the dome in Texacephale and other pachycephalosaurs supports the hypothesis that pachycephalosaurids engaged in intraspecific combat, while the occurrence of Texacephale and other pachycephalosaurs in nearshore deposits argues that the pachycephalosaurs were not restricted to inland habitats. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Eberle J.J.,University of Colorado at Boulder | Eberth D.A.,Royal Tyrrell Museum
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences | Year: 2015

We describe early Eocene (Wasatchian) occurrences of the isectolophid Homogalax, tapiroids Heptodon posticus, Heptodon cf. H. posticus, and Heptodon sp., as well as early middle Eocene (Bridgerian) fossils of the brontothere Palaeosyops from localities in the Margaret Formation of the Eureka Sound Group on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Their occurrence on Ellesmere Island considerably extends the geographic range of these taxa, previously known from mid-latitude localities in British Columbia (only Heptodon), the Western Interior of the United States, and Asia (Homogalax, Heptodon, and Palaeosyops). We also place the fossil localities near Bay Fiord on central Ellesmere Island into a refined lithostratigraphic framework based upon data from three measured stratigraphic sections. Our stratigraphic data confirm the presence of two, stratigraphically distinct fossil assemblages — a late Wasatchian-aged lower assemblage and a Bridgerian-aged upper assemblage that were previously hypothesized by others based on faunal differences—that are separated by a 478mthick stratigraphic gap that appears to lack fossil vertebrates. From a paleoenvironmental perspective, occurrence of the tapiroid Heptodon in the Eocene Arctic corroborates an hypothesis put forward by others that tapiroids are proxies for densely forested habitats, although they were adapted to a range of temperatures including near (or at) freezing temperatures of Eocene Arctic winters. Further, Arctic occurrences of tapiroids and brontotheres imply that these typical mid-latitude ungulate mammals were adapted to Arctic environments, thereby increasing the probability of Trans-Beringian dispersal during early and middle Eocene time. © 2015, NRC Research Press. All rights reserved.

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