Newly Discovered: Animal Fossils




"A Very Puzzling Dinosaur Skull Mystery

William Donawick was taking a horseback ride in far southern Montana near his daughter's Wyoming ranch when he spotted a curious piece of bone. Since Donawick was a retired professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, he quickly realized this was no ordinary bone fragment.

As it turned out, he had made a rather stunning Jurassic-age discovery: an entirely new kind of dinosaur with a long neck, whip-like tail, and a mysterious extra hole in its skull--something never before seen in a North American dinosaur, reports The Associated Press.

The dinosaur, a sauropod that ate plants, has been given the official scientific name Suuwassea emilieae. Pronounced SOO-oo-WAH-see-uh eh-MEE-LEE-aye, the name was given for a Crow Indian word meaning "ancient thunder" and for the late Philadelphia socialite Emilie deHellebrath, who funded the digs in Montana that unearthed more than 50 bones. These included a 43-inch shoulder blade, a 53-inch rib, and the puzzling two-holed skull that has scientists stumped, reports AP.

Unlike other sauropods, this 150-million-year-old creature is actually small by comparison at just 50 feet long. But what makes this dinosaur particularly intriguing to scientists is that hole in its head. "It has a number of distinguishing features, but the most striking is this second hole in its skull, a feature we have never seen before in a North American dinosaur," Peter Dodson, senior author of the research study and a professor of anatomy at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, explained to AP.

Such a hole has only been seen before in two dinosaurs from Africa and one from South America. Its closest cousin, the Diplodocus, had a single hole in the top of its skull for the nasal cavity. Why does Suuwassea emilieae have two holes? What was the purpose of the second one? Sometimes even the best and brightest scientists are stumped.

The research findings were published in the paleontology journal Acta Paleontologica Polonica."

Wait a minute...long neck...whip like tail...hole in the skull...are these the remains of Godzilla?

mooks:eek!!!!: out
Another unusual dino find:

Dinosaur fossil baffles Canadian scientists

Canadian Press

CALGARY — The discovery of a mysterious fossil on a South American cliff offers the tantalizing possibility of a whole other species of meat-eating dinosaurs, says one of the world's foremost experts.

"We thought it was related to the tyrannosaurus just because there were a lot of features in the vertebrae as we were taking it out," said paleontologist Philip Currie, who was involved in the dig, from the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta.

"But when we compared it to the specimens in Alberta -- we compared it to the giganotosaurus the carnotaurus and their relatives -- it doesn't add up."

There are two main types of meat-eating dinosaurs in South America. Both were two-legged carnivores that lived about 80 million years ago.

But characteristics from the latest fossil don't quite match up, although at eight metres in length and weighing about a tonne, it would have appeared quite similar, said Currie.

"When you look at a shark verses a dolphin, they look quite similar in terms of body form, but of course they're not related at all," Currie said. "One's a fish and one's a mammal."

The fossil includes much of the skull and about 30 teeth, part of the vertebral column, hip and leg bones. One of the most interesting aspects is the brain case which is being studied at the Tyrrell.

"This is the part that envelops the brain and you first of all can see how big the brain was and you can actually see the various components of the brain preserved as impressions in the bones," he said.

It was Currie and Rodolfo Coria, director of the Carmen Funes Museum in Neuquen, Argentina, who removed the fossil in 2001 from the northern Patagonia region of Argentina.

The data from the discovery is being fed into a computer to see if it matches any other dinosaur finds, said Coria.

"We are dealing with two possible hypotheses. One is it's a new kind of dinosaur, a large size of meat-eating dinosaur that was not recorded before," Coria said. "Or it's a very specialized version of the other two ones that we already know.

"Whatever it is, this is very exciting because we are learning a lot of things we didn't know about dinosaur evolution in Patagonia from this guy."

The similarities between the Argentinian fossil and that of fossils of Albertosaurus, a type of tyrannosaur found in southern Alberta's Badlands, raise questions of how dinosaurs living in isolation from each other developed remarkably similar characteristics.

"What we're thinking now is these animals developed independently but they were responding to the environment the same way," said Currie. "It's possible that because they both were quite large, they had a similar response and ended up looking quite similar without actually being related."

There were also similarities to the climate and landscape in northern Patagonia and the Alberta of 80 million years ago, Coria pointed out.

"The weather was very arid. It wasn't a jungle or a place with a lot of wet and heat. It was very similar to Alberta . . . with a lot of streams and rivers and room enough for all these gigantic forms of dinosaurs."

New Species of Ancient Amphibians Found in Africa
Wed Apr 13, 2005 01:07 PM ET
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By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - Fossils of two new species of 250 million year-old crocodile-like amphibians have been discovered in the African desert in Niger, scientists said on Wednesday.

Their skulls show they are unlike any other animals that existed during the Permian period 290-248 million years ago.

"They belong to a group that scientists had thought had gone extinct a long time earlier," said Dr. Christian Sidor, a palaeontologist at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States.

"Our study highlights the interaction between climate and evolution of life on land," he told Reuters.

About 250 million years ago, much of the Earth's land mass was fused into one huge continent called Pangaea. Scientists had thought that the same type of animals could have existed and gone anywhere on the massive continent, but the newly found fossils were completely different.

Sidor and his team, who reported their findings in the science journal Nature, suspect the two new species were isolated in Niger, at the center of Pangaea, by its climate.

Between the early and later Permian period, the Earth went through a long warming spell. Huge glaciers existed early on but by the end of the period the center of Pangaea had developed into a large desert-like area, which is where the fossils of the creatures were found.

"We think our animals were basically isolated from the rest of what was going on in Pangaea by this large desert climate. So climate is really the driving force between what we see in Niger and basically the rest of the world," Sidor said.

"We found what looks to be a little pocket, or endemic fauna, right in the center of Pangaea."

Scientists had thought the group had become extinct 40 million years earlier, so finding two new specimens was a complete surprise.

The species, dubbed Nigerpeton and Saharastega, measured about 7-8 feet and 5-6 feet long respectively and were aquatic to some degree.

The animals are amphibians so Sidor and his team suspect there must have been some water in the area. They hope to go back to Niger to test the climate hypothesis.

During that time, Africa was not dissected by large oceans or mountain ranges so the researchers struggled to understand why the animals were found nowhere else.

"Climate is the only thing we can think of that would explain it," said Sidor.

Scientists Find T.rex Relative in Georgia
The Associated Press

Paleontologists have identified a new dinosaur species, an early relative of Tyrannosaurus rex that probably roamed what is now the Southeastern United States about 77 million years ago.

The scientists made the identification from hundreds of fossilized fragments collected mostly in Montgomery County, Ala., and southwestern Georgia.

They named the new dinosaur Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, which means "the Appalachian lizard from Montgomery County." The 25-foot-long creature roamed the earth 10 million years before T. rex and was smaller and more primitive, with a narrower snout.

David R. Schwimmer of Columbus State University; Thomas Carr of Carthage College of Kenosha, Wis.; and Thomas Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science were credited with the discovery when the dinosaur's name was recognized by the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"We've been finding teeth and odd bones from this animal for 20 years, and it's nice to finally have a name for it," Schwimmer said.

The researchers said Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis was buried in mud at the bottom of a shallow sea about 77.8 million years ago, after currents carried it away from shore.

Online version here.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's excellent headline for a similar story is "Bubba saurus roamed the South." :lol:
Published online: 10 November 2005;
| doi:10.1038/news051107-11

Short-snouted snapper surprises fossil hunters
This unusual looking crocodile would have had a hard time catching fish.
Tom Simonite

Crocodiles are easily recognized by their long, toothsome snouts. But fossil hunters in Patagonia have found one that has a short, blunt nose and relatively few teeth. Experts say that its odd shape probably means it had a different diet to the fishy one favoured by other crocs, past and present.

A surprisingly short skull and two stumpy lower jaws were uncovered in Patagonia by Zulma Gasparini, a palaeontologist at Argentina's Museo de La Plata, and her colleagues. Features of the skull revealed that the new fossils were of Dakosaurus andiniensis, a marine crocodile known from only a few fragments found in Argentina. They show that D. andiniensis, which menaced the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean some 160 million years ago, had a bullet-shaped head that has surprised experts.

"Other vertebrate palaeontologists have been asking us whether this really is a crocodile," says Diego Pol, at Ohio State University, one of the two co-authors of the paper published online by Science1.

Other vertebrate paleontologists have been asking us 'is this really a crocodile?'

Diego Pol
Ohio State UniversityDiego Pol

Catch me if you can

Although some extinct terrestrial crocodiles were known to have short heads, until now all known marine crocodiles had long snouts. The skull also has a small number of large, serrated teeth, rather than the usual quota of many small, pointed ones.


Palaeontologists think that, like modern crocodiles, extinct marine forms swept their long, shallow jaws sideways to grab their slippery prey of fish or squid. D. andiniensis's stumpy head was probably not hydrodynamic enough to pull this off successfully.

"The big question is: what did they eat?," says Eric Buffetaut, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. He says D. andiniensis's large serrated teeth are better suited to cutting chunks off bigger prey than to grabbing whole fish. "It suggests they may have fed on other marine reptiles or large fish," he says, "but the only way to be sure is to find a fossil complete with stomach contents." ... 07-11.html

Gasparini Z., et al. Science online ahead of print, doi: 10.1126/science.1120803 (2005).

Edir to amend title.
Man-sized scorpion lived in Scotland

A scientist poring over 330-million-year-old tracks in a layer of sandstone in Scotland believes they were made by an extraordinary water scorpion that was as big as a man.

Above: A regular scorpion...

The huge six-legged creature was about 1.6 metres (64 inches) long and a metre (40 inches) wide, according to the study, published on Thursday in Nature, the weekly British science journal.

The trackway, measuring six metres (20 feet) long, was found on the overhang of a bed of sandstone that, 330 million years ago, was probably close to the sea and had the consistency of soft plaster.

The traces comprise crescent-shaped prints left by the creature's limbs and a sinuous curve believed to have been gouged out by its tail.

"The slow stilted progression, together with the dragging of the posterior, indicates that the animal was not buoyant and that it was probably moving out of the water," says Martin Whyte, a geography professor at Britain's University of Sheffield.

The find is unique, not just because of the gigantic size of the arthropod, but for the evidence it offers that this invertebrate species could survive out of water.

Until now, the only advanced creatures believed to have ventured onto land from the sea at that era were early tetrapods -- vertebrates with four limbs.

Edit to amend subject title.
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Five-Foot Giant Water Scorpion Once Roamed U.K. Shores

November 30, 2005
If you think scorpions are scary, try this on for size: a six-legged water scorpion the size of a human. Newly discovered tracks reveal that about 330 million years ago, just such a creature lumbered along the riverbanks in present-day Scotland.

The fossilized track is the largest of its kind ever found and shows these now extinct creatures could walk on land, according to Martin Whyte, a geologist at the University of Sheffield in England.

"There's been lot of debate about this particular [species of] water scorpion—whether it could only live in water or if it could come out. … What the track shows is they could come out at least for short intervals," he said.

The geologist describes the find in tomorrow's issue of the science journal Nature.

Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, agreed that the tracks looks like they were made on solid ground.

"That tell us that about this time our ancestors, the first vertebrates with four limbs instead of fins, were confronting very large arthropods on land," he said. "That's the neat thing it brings up."

Slow Crawl

The footprints were made by a species of Hibbertopterus, a family of water scorpions that are among the largest arthropods—a group that includes insects and crustaceans—ever known.

Whyte estimates the individual who made the track was 5.2 feet (1.6 meters) long and 3.2 feet (1 meter) wide.

The track itself is 20 feet (6 meters) long and about 3 feet (1 meter) wide.

"It's huge, absolutely giant," Hedges said. "To consider an arthropod made the thing, that's really impressive. A lot of people don't realize the arthropods of that time period, including dragonflies, millipedes, and centipedes, were much larger than today."

Whyte's analysis of the tracks suggests that the ancient water scorpion took its sweet time as it lumbered along the shoreline.

He said the creature walked in-phase, with each pair of limbs moving forward at the same time rather than alternating, like a human gait. Also, the scorpion's stride averaged 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) long, short enough that they overlapped.

The track also features a central groove left by the water scorpion's dragging tail, leaving indications of jerky movements.

"The whole thing adds up to fairly look as though the body [was] heavy and the animal was moving quite slowly," Whyte said. "For that reason I think it was out of the water. Had it been in [the water], water would've buoyed up the tail."

Simon Braddy, an earth scientist at the University of Bristol in England, specializes in ancient water scorpion tracks. He said the evidence is "unclear" that these newly discovered tracks were made on land.

"Sometimes you find mud cracks on a surface that are a sure sign, but these are lacking in this case," he said in an e-mail interview.

Hedges, the Pennsylvania State University biologist, disagrees, saying the analysis "makes sense."

"I don't know for absolute certain, but it made a track, so it was walking on a mucky surface. Maybe it was right at the water's edge, which is where the first tetrapods would have occurred as well," he said.

Tetrapods are four-limbed creatures with backbones, a group that includes humans. The earliest ones looked like giant salamanders, measuring about four feet (1.2 meters) long, Hedges said.

Landward Ho

According to Hedges, by about 360 million years ago the transition of lobe-finned fish—prehistoric fish with fleshy fins—to four-limbed tetrapods was nearly complete.

The newly discovered trackway, which is dated to 330 million years ago, therefore suggests that some of the earliest tetrapods would have confronted these giant water scorpions as they scurried about the shore.

"All kinds of things are brought out by discoveries like these," Hedges said. "For example, what kind of interactions would have occurred between these giant water scorpions and the early tetrapods?"

According to Whyte, even though water scorpions shared the same environment with tetrapods, the six-legged giants likely left our ancestors alone.

"They didn't have large pincers or aggressive weaponry that would have made them a danger to the early tetrapods," he said. "If anything the tetrapods were more a danger to them than the reverse."
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Anyone got stories of relict scorpions in Highland Lochs? Did they come out at night and eat the sheep and crofters?
The Big Grey Scorpion of Ben MacDui?
How is it possible that this animal was the ONLY thing to tread on that sand and no waves, no animals, no nothing fell ontop of it. The chances of perfect tracks being created and preserved for millions of years with no interfearence is soooooo so so slim.
Quite; this sort of fossil is unusual, but does occur occasionally. Dinosaur footprints are more common, but still rare. The tracks might have been made in a muddy pool or puddle, as the mud shows no sign of polygonal cracking, but the creature was not supported by bouyancy (so the water was not deep enough for it to float).

Giant scorpions of this kind (eurypterids) are fascinating creatures; some people say that certain species might even have had stings. Their gait seems to be primitive, moving two legs at a time, very different to the spohisticated movement of arachnids today. Probably predators, preying perhaps on the small lizard-like amphibians of the time.
How is it possible that this animal was the ONLY thing to tread on that sand and no waves, no animals, no nothing fell ontop of it. The chances of perfect tracks being created and preserved for millions of years with no interfearence is soooooo so so slim.

Rare yes but slim no. In relation to the first part of your post it probably wasn't the only animal to tread on this patch of sand but it probably was the only animal of this size to do so. This water scorpion was the size of a human, its only natural that it would leave tracks.
As for the second part of your post delicate tracks or marks such as these are laid down all the time. Many types of sedimantary rocks have ripple marks in them from the time the rock was first laid down. These ripple marks are exactly the same as the small ripples of sand seen on a beach during tides. They don't look very sturdy then but there marks turn up all the time.
As for these particular tracks, there may not have been time for them to be destroyed by other animals, the scorpion itself lived in an aqeous environment so its entirely possible that the tracks were filled in relatively quickly after they were laid down, this way they were perserved almost immediatly. There are examples of track of all types of prehistoric creatures all over the world, including dinosaur tracks, human footprints, and even millipede tracks in Scotland, (not sure exactly where but i seen them in the fantastic Earth Story seris of programmes regularly shown on the satellite channels.
Perhaps the Loch Ness moster isn't a vertebrate at all...

Fascinating story.
Extinct Species of "Mosaic" Mammal Found in China
James Owen
for National Geographic News

January 11, 2006
Scientists in China (map) have discovered a fossilized small, furry animal that walked like a platypus but looked like a shrew. The unusual find provides important new clues to the evolution of early mammals, the researchers say.

Found in the province of Liaoning in northeast China, the well-preserved fossil shows a previously unknown species of insect-eating mammal that lived alongside dinosaurs some 125 million years ago.

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Dinosaur Found in Mammal's Belly
Geographic Magazine: "China's Extraordinary Fossile Site"
Dino-Era Wading-Bird Fossil Found in China
Fossils Reveal Two New Species of Flying Reptiles

Measuring four inches (12 centimeters) long and weighing 15 to 20 grams (0.5 to 0.7 ounce), the shrewlike creature had a thick coat of fur.

Writing in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature, paleontologists Gang Li and Zhe-Xi Luo say the animal reveals some unexpectedly primitive features, and that it strengthens Asia's claim as the site where the main mammal groups originated.

Named Akidolestes, the extinct animal had jaws, teeth, and forelimbs that identify it as a close relative of modern placental and marsupial mammals. Placental mammals give birth to fully developed young, while marsupials bear premature young that continue to develop outside the mother's body.

But the researchers noted a highly unusual back-half to its skeleton—similar to that of primitive, egg-laying mammals known as monotremes.

The only living descendants of monotremes are the strange duck-billed platypus of Australia and two species of spiny anteaters, or echidnas.

"This new fossil is a chimera of body structures of different kinds of mammals," said Zhe-Xi Luo, curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"Its front half resembles those of more derived marsupials and placentals, but its back half is unmistakably monotreme-like."

Different Mammals

Luo says the animal had a front posture and gait similar to that of a squirrel, with elbows tucked under its body, but its hind legs had the sprawling appearance of a lizard's.

"The walking and running movement in Akidolestes would be similar to the platypus," he said.

But, Luo added, unlike the water-dwelling platypus, Akidolestes was a land mammal that preyed on insects using its sharp teeth.

Such a mix of modern and primitive features hasn't been seen before in a mammal, the authors say.

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Dinosaur Found in Mammal's Belly
Geographic Magazine: "China's Extraordinary Fossile Site"
Dino-Era Wading-Bird Fossil Found in China
Fossils Reveal Two New Species of Flying Reptiles

They add that the fossil challenges conventional wisdom about how placental mammals split from earlier egg-layers.

The split may not have been as clear-cut as previously thought, they say. Some placental mammals have have readopted some of the physical characteristics of monotremes.

"It is quite unusual that this mammal reacquired some primitive hind-limb feature," Luo said.

Evolutionary Throwback

Thomas Martin, head of mammalogy at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, agrees that Akidolestes may represent some kind of evolutionary throwback.

The animal's curious combination of traits could be caused "by developmental genes that sporadically become active in widely separated mammalian [groups]," he said.

"Akidolestes impressively shows that the evolution of the mammalian skeleton followed a mosaic pattern," Martin added.

The fluffy animal also offers further clues to the origins of the large group of mammals that arose following the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

The researchers say Akidolestes and its immediate fossil relatives all belong to the same extinct family of mammals, whose older species all lived in Asia while the younger species were found in North America.

"Akidolestes strengthens the case for Asia being the place where the main mammal groups first originated," Martin said.

Scientists find 2nd red panda specimen Thu Sep 21, 9:03 PM ET

Scientists uncovered a second fossil of a red panda species first discovered at the Gray Fossil Site two years ago. Researchers from East Tennessee State University found a lower jawbone from a red panda of the Pristinailurus bristoli species last week.

"The nice thing about it is that it's confirmation," Dr. Steven Wallace, ETSU's lead paleontologist at the site, said Wednesday. "You hate to have a one-shot wonder."

The species was discovered in January 2004 when ETSU researchers found a panda tooth and other skeletal fragments. Only the second panda fossil found on the continent, the remains turned out to be a previously unknown species in the red panda family.

Scientists believe the jawbone is from a second specimen of the same species of red panda because the teeth are older than the first tooth found.

"The first tooth was virtually unerupted. It had no wear," Wallace said. "This was from a much older adult that had full wear on all its teeth."

Although the jawbone was found in two pieces, it is nearly complete.

"What it's missing are the little front premolars, which are really tiny and often fall out, but other than that, it's a really nice specimen," Wallace said.

The Gray Fossil Site near Johnson City was discovered during the widening of a highway in 2000 and is estimated at 4.5 million to 7 million years old.

The university is building a $10 million visitors center with a laboratory and instruction space on a portion of the site. It is slated to open in 2007.


Information from: Johnson City Press,

Red Panda
Ancient sea creature rediscovered after 25 years

Paleontologist Dr. Michael Caldwell was surprised to find the fossil of a new species of marine reptile beneath a ping-pong table.
University of Alberta scientists have named a new species of ancient marine reptile, fondly called the Ping Pong Ichthyosaur after the spot the prehistoric creature called home for the last 25 years.

Embryos found within the body of a pregnant fossil also mark the most recent record of a live birth and the physically smallest known ichthyosaur embryos.

"It was pretty amazing to realize this valuable discovery had sat under a ping-pong table for 25 years," said Dr. Michael Caldwell, paleontologist at the U of A. "But I suppose that after 100 millions of years in the dirt, it's all relative."

A few decades ago, graduate students and a technician from the Faculty of Science collected several ichthyosaur specimens - the marine animals resembled dolphins and fish - from the Loon River Formation at Hay River, NWT. Somehow the bones ended up in several boxes underneath a ping-pong table in the science undergraduate lab. When Caldwell arrived in 2000, he started renovations, found the boxes and immediately started inquiring about the fossils. Allan Lindoe, the technician of the original dig, was still in the faculty and explained the history.

Working with Erin Maxwell, an undergraduate student at the U of A at the time, Caldwell soon learned the bones were from the Lower Cretaceous period, or about 100 million years old. This finding was significant since it bridged a huge gap - the previous set of pregnant ichthyosaur specimens was dated 80 millions earlier. The Loon Lake collection was also the most northern record of ichthyosaur remains from Canada.

"What was really interesting was that, at this point in history, the ichthyosaur goes extinct," said Caldwell. "So anything from this time is going to be really important. When we opened it up, we found material in three-dimensions and very finely preserved. Then, it turned out that one was pregnant with two embryos. It was amazing."

"What it shows is that the Canadian version of extinction of the ichthyosaur has more diversity that anyone thought. Even in their declining years there were a lot more species that we thought."

Over the course of ichthyosaur evolution, the limbs were modified as paddles while the pelvis and hind limbs were reduced in size. These changes over time make it improbable that these aquatic animals could have crawled out onto land to lay eggs. The finding of these pregnant ichthyosaur fossils makes it "very clear they gave live birth and didn't lay eggs," said Caldwell.

Ichthyosaurs, like most reptiles, continuously replaced their teeth throughout their lives. So while pregnant, most female ichthyosaurs were also completely toothless, giving up the calcium for their own teeth and bones to their developing embryo. "Considering an ichthyosaur could be carrying 12 embryos at one time, that is a lot of calcium needed," said Caldwell.

The Loon River Formation material is distinctive enough to warrant the erection of a new genus and species of ichthyosaur. Caldwell and Maxwell, who is now completing her PhD in palaeontology at McGill University, named it Maiaspondylus lindoei, after the technician who helped discover it.

The research is published in the current issue of the journal Palaeontology.

Source: University of Alberta
Renigirl said:
Scientists Find T.rex Relative in Georgia
The Associated Press

Paleontologists have identified a new dinosaur species, an early relative of Tyrannosaurus rex that probably roamed what is now the Southeastern United States about 77 million years ago.

The scientists made the identification from hundreds of fossilized fragments collected mostly in Montgomery County, Ala., and southwestern Georgia.

They named the new dinosaur Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, which means "the Appalachian lizard from Montgomery County." The 25-foot-long creature roamed the earth 10 million years before T. rex and was smaller and more primitive, with a narrower snout.

David R. Schwimmer of Columbus State University; Thomas Carr of Carthage College of Kenosha, Wis.; and Thomas Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science were credited with the discovery when the dinosaur's name was recognized by the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"We've been finding teeth and odd bones from this animal for 20 years, and it's nice to finally have a name for it," Schwimmer said.

The researchers said Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis was buried in mud at the bottom of a shallow sea about 77.8 million years ago, after currents carried it away from shore.

Online version here.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's excellent headline for a similar story is "Bubba saurus roamed the South." :lol:

Am I the only one who noticed the palaeontologist's name is David Schwimmer? As in the guy who played Ross, on Friends? A Palaeontologist? :D
My, what big teeth you had! Extinct species had large teeth on roof of mouth

Teeth are visible along the edge of this temnospondyl fossil, and also can be seen spaced out across the palate roof about one-third of the way up in the photograph. Credit: Christian Sidor
Click here to enlarge image

When the world's land was congealed in one supercontinent 240 million years ago, Antarctica wasn't the forbiddingly icy place it is now. But paleontologists have found a previously unknown amphibious predator species that probably still made it less than hospitable.

The species, named Kryostega collinsoni, is a temnospondyl, a prehistoric amphibian distantly related to modern salamanders and frogs. K. collinsoni resembled a modern crocodile, and probably was about 15 feet in length with a long and wide skull even flatter than a crocodile's.

In addition to large upper and lower teeth at the edge of the mouth, temnospondyls often had tiny teeth on the roof of the palate. However, fossil evidence shows the teeth on the roof of the mouth of the newly found species were probably as large as those at the edge of the mouth.

"Its teeth, compared to other amphibians, were just enormous. It leads us to believe this animal was a predator taking down large prey," said Christian Sidor, a University of Washington associate professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the UW.

Sidor is lead author of a paper describing the new species published in the September issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Co-authors are Ross Damiani of Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart in Germany and William Hammer of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The scientists worked from a fossilized piece of the snout of K. collinsoni, analyzing structures present in more complete skulls for other temnospondyl species that had similar size characteristics.

"The anatomy of the snout tells us what major group of amphibian this fossil belonged to," Sidor said.

Teeth at the edge of the mouth, as well as on the palate roof, were clearly visible, and the presence of structures similar to those that allow fish and amphibians to sense changes in water pressure led the researchers to conclude that the species was aquatic.

The fossilized piece of snout also contains a nostril, which aided the scientists in judging proportions of the head when comparing it to other fossils. They estimated the skull was about 2.75 feet long and perhaps 2 feet across at its widest point.

"Kryostega was the largest animal in Antarctica during the Triassic," Sidor said.

The term "Kryostega" translates to 'frozen' and 'roof,' which refer to the top of the skull. The scientists named the species for James Collinson, a professor emeritus of Earth sciences at Ohio State University who made important contributions to the study of Antarctic geology.

Hammer collected the fossil in 1986 from an Antarctic geological layer called the Fremouw Formation. He has studied a number of other Antarctic fossils, including dinosaurs, collected at about the same time, and so the temnospondyl fossil was not closely examined until the last couple of years.

At the time K. collinsoni was living, all the world's land was massed into a giant continent called Pangea. The area of Antarctica where the fossil was found was near what is now the Karoo Basin of South Africa, one of the richest fossil depositories on Earth.

Sidor noted that in the early Triassic period, from about 245 million to 251 million years ago, just before the period that produced the K. collinsoni fossil, it appears that Antarctica and South Africa were populated by largely the same species. While Antarctica was still colder than much of the world, it was substantially warmer than it is today, though it still spent significant periods in complete darkness.

By the middle of the Triassic period perhaps only half the species were the same, he said, and in the early Jurassic period, around 190 million years ago, unique early dinosaur species were appearing in Antarctica.

"It could be that these animals were adjusting to their local environment by then, and we are seeing the results of speciation occurring at high latitude," Sidor said. "Here we have really good evidence that Antarctic climate wasn't always the way it is today. During the Triassic, it was warmer than it is today – it was warmer globally, not just in Antarctica."

Source: University of Washington
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PHOTO IN THE NEWS: Oldest Spider Web Found in Amber ... photo.html

Amateur paleontologist Jamie Hiscocks found the amber deposits, long hidden by sands and tides, and gave them to an Oxford University team.

Until the new find, the oldest known amber containing ancient animals dated to the Middle Cretaceous period, about 120 million years ago.

But Oxford's Martin Brasier and Laura Cotton have now pushed back the "amber window" to 140 million years ago, during the heyday of the dinosaurs.

The scientists used computer-imaging techniques to create detailed images of "supremely delicate" fossil structures, such as silk threads and forest fungi.

Early observations of the fossil show that the threads resemble silk spun by modern spiders.
'Proto-spiders' made silk, but not webs ... .1331.html
An arachnid with no talent for weaving may have excreted the first known spider silk 386 million years ago.

by Anna Barnett

The fossilised proto-spider, Permarachne novokshonovi.PNASThe earliest known spider silk was apparently made by ancient arachnids that were not really spiders and lacked the equipment to weave webs, scientists have found. These proto-spiders may have used sheets of silk to line burrows, wrap eggs or even to have sex.

The finding recasts a species that palaeontologists had formerly seen as the oldest spider, Attercopus fimbriunguis. The species was described on the basis of scraps of fossilized cuticle found inside 386-million-year old shale rocks from upstate New York. Among the scraps were what seemed to be a single spinneret, the dextrous appendage that spiders use to shape silk into webs and other structures1.

More Attercopus fragments were found in New York during the 1990s, but researchers studied the samples for years before new features began to emerge, says palaeontologist Paul Selden of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. "It's kind of like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle with only half the pieces and without the picture on the box," he says.

Selden eventually realized that the creature did not have a spinneret. The tiny hollow hairs that excrete spun silk, called spigots, are arranged in a double row on plates lining Attercopus's belly, and what had been identified as a spinneret was actually a plate folded over.

Without spinnerets, the creatures could not have precisely controlled the emerging silk. "It would have been much less manoeuvrable," says Selden. Possibly, he says, the silk dragged out from under them in sheets as they crawled along. Silk sheets could have been used to reinforce the walls of sandy burrows, or to make a breadcrumb trail to help the spiders find their way home after hunting.

Today, female spiders wrap eggs in silk, and aroused males deposit sperm onto a silk structure called a sperm web. Attercopus might have done the same, says Selden. He and his colleagues report their discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA2.

Spinning a tail
Another surprise is that this species, unlike any spider worthy of the name, has a tail. Attercopus measures about 5 millimetres long, and 1-millimetre tails, or flagella, had been found among the first set of fragments. These were assumed to belong to another species that died nearby. Now the researchers have found a flagellum attached to the animal's rear end, as seen in a group of modern arachnids called whip scorpions.

This image, about 0.25 mm across, shows a strand of what appears to be silk emerging from an Attercopus spigot. It could be the oldest known silken strand in the fossil record, at about 380 million years old.Selden et al / PNAS"What gelled," says Selden, "was that I looked at this again, and Permarachne had come along." Permarachne novokshonovi, reported in 2005, was a largely intact spider-like fossil with a striking tail.

Putting together Permarachne and Attercopus, "the idea of a tailed spider made more sense", says Selden. The researchers believe these organisms are from a previously unknown order of proto-spiders, named Uraraneida, which are part of a separate evolutionary branch from true spiders.

The creation of a new taxonomic order is rare, says arachnid expert Jeffrey Schultz at the University of Maryland in College Park. And because spiders are key predators in many ecosystems the report of these early relatives is very important, he adds. It could help scientists to learn more about spiders' ancestors: "The origin of spiders and the evolution of spider silk are probably major events in the history of life," he says.


Selden says that the findings change the definition of spiders, formerly identified as arachnids that produce silk from their abdomens. Since proto-spiders also fit this description, modern spiders should more correctly be described as those that use spinnerets and don't have a tail, he says.

The accumulated evidence supports that rethink, Selden says. "You keep wanting more material. You keep hanging on for that crucial piece. But we now think that we've got enough crucial pieces."

Shear, W. A. , Palmer, J. M. , Coddington, J. A. & Bonamo, P. M. Science 246, 479–481 (1989).
Selden, P. A. , Shear, W. A. & Sutton, M. D. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci USA 105, 20781–20785 (2008).
Origin Of Claws Seen In Fossil 390 Million Years Old ... 142145.htm

Photograph of Schinderhannes bartelsi. (Credit: Steinmann Institute/University of Bonn)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2009) — A missing link in the evolution of the front claw of living scorpions and horseshoe crabs was identified with the discovery of a 390 million-year-old fossil by researchers at Yale and the University of Bonn, Germany.

The specimen, named Schinderhannes bartelsi, was found fossilized in slate from a quarry near Bundenbach in Germany, a site that yields spectacularly durable pyrite-preserved fossils — findings collectively known as the Hunsrück Slate. The Hunsrück Slate has previously produced some of the most valuable clues to understanding the evolution of arthropods – including early shrimp-like forms, a scorpion and sea spiders as well as the ancient arthropods trilobites.

"With a head like the giant Cambrian aquatic predator Anomalocaris and a body like a modern arthropod, the specimen is the only known example of this unusual creature," said Derek Briggs, director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History and an author of the paper appearing in the journal Science.

Scientists have puzzled over the origins of the paired grasping appendages found on the heads of scorpions and horseshoe crabs. The researchers suggest that Schinderhannes gives a hint. Their appendages may be an equivalent to those found in the ancient predatory ancestor, Anomalocaris — even though creatures with those head structures were thought to have become extinct by the middle of the Cambrian Period, 100 million years before Schinderhannes lived.

The fossil's head section has large bulbous eyes, a circular mouth opening and a pair of segmented, opposable appendages with spines projecting inward along their length. The trunk section is made up of 12 segments, each with small appendages, and a long tail spine. Between the head and trunk, there is a pair of large triangular wing-like limbs — that likely propelled the creature like a swimming penguin, according to Briggs. Unlike its ancestors from the Cambrian period, which reached three feet in length, Schinderhannes is only about 4 inches long.

This finding caps almost 20 years of study by Briggs on the Hunsrück Slate. "Sadly, the quarry from which this fabulous material comes has closed for economic reasons, so the only additional specimens that are going to appear now are items that are already in collectors' hands and that may not have been fully prepared or realized for what they are," said Briggs.

Other authors of the paper are Gabriele Kühl and Jes Rust at the University of Bonn, Germany. Funding for the research was from the German Science Foundation and the Humboldt Foundation.

Citation: Science (February 6, 2009) ... 142145.htm
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Eurypterids are scary animals. I'm glad they're not around anymore. I believe horseshoe crabs are the closest living relative?
New fossils reveal a world full of crocodiles ... eal-a-worl

New fossils unearthed in what is now the Sahara desert reveal a once-swampy...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New fossils unearthed in what is now the Sahara desert reveal a once-swampy world

divided up among a half-dozen species of unusual and perhaps intelligent crocodiles, researchers reported on Thursday.

They have given some of the new species snappy names -- BoarCroc, RatCroc, DogCroc, DuckCroc and PancakeCroc -- but say their findings help build an understanding of how crocodilians were and remain such a successful life form.

They lived during the Cretaceous period 145 million to 65 million years ago, when the continents were closer together and the world warmer and wetter than it is now.

"We were surprised to find so many species from the same time in the same place," said paleontologist Hans Larsson of McGill University in Montreal who worked on the study.

"Each of the crocs apparently had different diets, different behaviors. It appears they had divided up the ecosystem, each species taking advantage of it in its own way."

Larsson and Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, funded by National Geographic, studied the jaws, teeth and what few bones they had of the crocodiles. They also did CT scans, which are computer-enhanced x-rays, to see inside the skulls.

Two of the species, DogCroc and DuckCroc, had brains that looked different from those of modern crocodiles.

"They may have had slightly more sophisticated brain function than living crocs because active hunting on land usually requires more brain power than merely waiting for prey to show up," Larsson said in a statement.

RatCroc, a new species formally named Araripesuchus rattoides, was found in Morocco and would have used its buck-toothed lower jaw to grub for food.

PancakeCroc, known scientifically as Laganosuchus thaumastos, was 20 feet long with a big, flat head.

DuckCroc represents new fossils found in Niger from a previously known species called Anatosuchus minor. It would have eaten grubs and frogs with its broad snout.

The more ferocious BoarCroc was also 20 feet long but ran upright and had a jaw built for ramming, with three pairs of knife-like teeth.

Some walked upright with their legs under the body like a land mammal instead of sprawled out to the sides, bellies touching the ground.

"Their amphibious talents in the past may be the key to understanding how they flourished in, and ultimately survived, the dinosaur era," Sereno wrote in a separate article for National Geographic.

(Editing by Sandra Maler) ... eal-a-worl
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'Gigantic scorpion' fossil found in Fife ... 632427.stm
Artist's impression of Hibbertopterus
The animal was about two metres long and one metre wide

A cast is being made of tracks left by a two-metre long ancient animal in north east Fife.

The tracks were made by a giant six-legged "sea scorpion" called Hibbertopterus as it crawled over damp sand about 330 million years ago.

It is the largest known walking trackway of a eurypterid or any invertebrate animal.

The tracks were discovered by Dr Martin Whyte from the University of Sheffield while he was out walking.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which is funding the project, described the find as unique and internationally important because the creature was gigantic.
The fossil in north east Fife
The groove was made by the tail of the animal as it dragged over the sand

It said the fossil would be moulded in silicone so that more people could see and research it.

Richard Batchelor from Geoheritage Fife, said: "The trackway is in a precarious situation, having been exposed for years to weathering.

"The rock in which it occurs is in danger of falling off altogether.

"Removing it and housing it in a museum would be prohibitively costly but moulding it in silicone rubber and making copies for educational and research purposes means that we can still see and research this huge creature's tracks in years to come."

The animal, which is related to modern-day scorpions and horseshoe crabs, was about two metres long and about one metre wide.

'Geological treasures'

The trackway, which is preserved in sandstone, consists of three rows of crescent shaped footprints on each side of a central groove.

The groove was made by the tail of the animal as it dragged over the sand.

This contrasts previous fossil evidence which suggested that the creatures lived in the water for most, if not all of the time.

SNH geologist Colin MacFadyen said: "Helping to conserve this important find is vital for our understanding of this period in evolution.

"Such finds as this highlight that all over Scotland there are no doubt other geological treasures awaiting discovery."
Nice kitty...

Ancient 'cat-like' crocodile had bite like a mammal

By Katia Moskvitch Science reporter, BBC News
Pakasuchus kapilimai, artist's drawing Long ago, crocodile-like creatures might have hunted dragonflies

Palaeontologists working in Tanzania have unearthed fossils of a tiny crocodile-like creature with teeth resembling those of mammals.

The animal, Pakasuchus kapilimai, lived between 144 and 65 million years ago - during the Cretaceous - in what is now sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists say the find shows that crocs were once more diverse than they are today.

The team reports its discovery in the journal Nature.

Paka means "cat" in Kiswahili, Tanzania's official language, and refers to the reptile's short, low skull with slicing, molar-like teeth.

Patrick O'Connor, associate professor of anatomy at the Ohio University College of osteopathic medicine, led an international team of researchers.

X-ray computed tomography gave a 3D view of the crocodilian's unusual bite

He said the new animal was a lot smaller than its modern relatives, adding that "its head would fit in the palm of your hand".

It also looked quite different from modern "crocodilians" - the group which includes alligators and crocodiles, he added.

"At first glance, this croc is trying very hard to be a mammal," said Professor O'Connor.

"If you only looked at the teeth, you wouldn't think this was a crocodile. You would wonder what kind of strange mammal or mammal-like reptile it is."
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

At first glance, this croc is trying very hard to be a mammal”

End Quote Patrick O'Connor Ohio University

The scientists used X-ray computed tomography to analyse the creature's skull and jaw.

The digital images revealed that this reptile possessed dental features that had previously only been thought to exist in mammals, such as teeth with shearing edges used to process food.

According to co-author Nancy Stevens, also at Ohio University, the ancient reptile "occupied a dramatically different feeding niche than do modern crocodilians".

Dr Stevens explained that the tiny crocodile was able to bite and swallow just like mammals.

Typically, crocodiles have simple, conical teeth that serve to catch and tear prey.

Dr O'Connor and his colleagues classified Pakasuchus within an extinct crocodile group, the notosuchians, which lived sometime during the Cretaceous period.

At this time, the Earth was very different from today - a single landmass called Pangaea was in the process of dividing into smaller continents, including Laurasia in the north and Gondwanaland in the south.

"The presence of morphologically bizarre and highly specialised notosuchian crocodyliforms (crocodilians) like Pakasuchus in the southern landmasses, along with an apparently low diversity of mammals in the same areas, has potentially profound ecological implications," said co-author Joseph Sertich of Stony Brook University, US.

"This entire group of crocodiles deviates radically from the 'typical' crocodile, most notably in their bizarre dentition, demonstrating a diversification not seen in the Northern Hemisphere during this time interval."

Besides having strange teeth, it also had an extremely flexible backbone.

Scientists think the animal lived mostly on land and not in the water, probably hunting insects and other small animals to survive.
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Vid at link.

Amber treasures
See some of the newly discovered species preserved for millions of years in tree resin
[Published 28th October 2010 10:21 PM GMT]

Dozens of new invertebrate species have emerged from deposits of 50-million-year-old amber in India, according to researchers reporting their findings in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The international team of scientists plucked more than 100 new species from the ancient tree resin found among shale sediments in the western state of Gujarat. Surprisingly, the finds display an evolutionary relatedness to species found in Asia, Europe, Australia and South America, suggesting species in ancient India mixed with animals in other continents.

This finding contradicts the prevailing notion that the subcontinent's millennia-long isolation resulted in unique faunal communities as the landmass broke off from Gondwana, one of the supercontinents that formed Pangaea, and floated northward on a collision course with Asia. "Much the way that marsupials define the biota of Australia, we expected to find the same thing only with insects in this amber from India," said lead author David Grimaldi, invertebrate zoologist at the American Museum of Natural History. "Actually, most of the things that we've studied so far are close relatives of things found in Australia, Northern Europe, Southeast Asia, and tropical South America. We were very struck by that."

Grimaldi added that a chain of islands that stretched from India to the Asian mainland during the subcontinent's northward journey could have facilitated gene flow, evidence of which his team uncovered in the Indian amber.

Though the amber, which was unearthed in vast pits dug to mine fossilized wood fuel called lignite, is not as brilliantly colored as ambers from the Baltic region or the Dominican Republic, the integrity of the specimens it harbors is unparalleled, according to first author Jes Rust, University of Bonn paleontologist. "It's somewhat like if you have a complete dinosaur," he said. "Not only a skeleton, but a complete one."

The researchers searched through 150 kilograms of amber in three months, and they say that much more amber and many more species remain to be studied. "We've just scratched the surface at this point," Grimaldi said. "There is a huge amount that can be done."
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'Balloon head' dolphin discovered

Artist's impression of Hoekman's blunt-snouted dolphin (R Bakker/Manimal Works) The fossil's concave shape suggests it fit below a dome-like forehead
Continue reading the main story
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* Dolphins attempt common language
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A new type of dolphin with a short, spoon-shaped nose and high, bulbous forehead has been identified from a fossil found in the North Sea.

The Platalearostrum hoekmani was named after Albert Hoekman, the Dutch fisherman who in 2008 trawled up a bone from the creature's skull.

Up to six metres in length, the dolphin lived two to three million years ago.

The so-called rostrum bone and a model of the dolphin are on display at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.

As museum researchers Klaas Post and Erwin Kompanje write in the museum's journal Deinsea, the North Sea has been a rich source of fossils in recent decades as bottom-trawling has become more prevalent.

The practice has yielded tens of thousands of pieces of the fossil record - many of which defy classification.

What is clear from the singular bone found by Mr Hoekman is that the animal from which it came fits neatly in the family of marine mammals known as Delphinids - the ocean-going dolphins that actually includes both killer and pilot whales.
Premaxilla of Hoekman's blunt-snouted dolphin (Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam) The fossil is one of thousands that must be fit into a fuller catalogue of marine mammals

More specific classification within this family is somewhat speculative.

The bone shows an unusually large tip region containing six teeth known as the premaxilla. This feature suggests the broad, blunt nature of the creature's snout.

Based on analyses of similar fossils and modern relatives within the family, the researchers are convinced they have found a new species whose closest living relative is the pilot whale.
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