Newly Discovered: Animal Fossils

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#32
Anome_ said:
Not really "Newly discovered". It's not a new species, just the most complete skeleton of a Diprotodon.
And while other bones from diprotodon have been previously discovered in many other parts of Australia, this is the first complete skeleton, and its discovery will allow scientists to more accurately see what the animal actually looked like.
I think it fits here. Now they really know what it looked like (its skeleton anyway).
 

oldrover

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#33
Stromatolite colony found in Giant's Causeway

In a small grey puddle tucked into a corner of the world famous Giant's Causeway, scientists have made an extraordinary find.

A colony of stromatolites - tiny structures made by primitive blue-green algae.

Stromatolites are the oldest known fossils in the world.

The tiny algae or bacteria that build them are also thought to be the most ancient life form that is still around today, after more than three billion years.

What makes the discovery in Northern Ireland so remarkable is that until now these structures have been found mainly in warm and often hyper saline waters which discourage predators.

The stromatolites in the Giant's Causeway are in a tiny brackish pool, exposed to the violence of waves and easy prey to the animals that are already living amongst them.

Stromatolites are formed by blue-green algae that excrete carbonate to form a dome-like structure. Over thousands of years these build up into a hard rock that continues to grow.

Stromatolite fossils have been dated as far back as three and a half billion years.

The colony at the Giant's Causeway on Northern Ireland's wind-swept north coast was found by accident.
Full article at;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-15299220


I realise not everyone will be as excited by this as I am, but I've seriously considered visiting Shark Bay to see what I thought was the world's only living examples. Wonderful.
 

rynner2

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#34
oldrover said:
Stromatolite colony found in Giant's Causeway

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-15299220

I realise not everyone will be as excited by this as I am, but I've seriously considered visiting Shark Bay to see what I thought was the world's only living examples. Wonderful.
I was excited! I posted the same article on Friday, here:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewt ... 42#1148242
(Meet the (very, very, very) ancient ancestors)
as stromatolites had been mentioned there before.
 
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#35
Not sure where to put this. If mods find a more sppropriate thread then please move it.

Ice Age coyotes were supersized, fossil study reveals
http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-02-ice ... ossil.html
February 27th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

This skeleton is a composite from the University of California Museum of Paleontology. Credit: Photo by F. Robin O'Keefe.

Coyotes today are pint-sized compared to their Ice Age counterparts, finds a new fossil study. Between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago — a mere blink of an eye in geologic terms — coyotes shrunk to their present size. The sudden shrinkage was most likely a response to dwindling food supply and changing interactions with competitors, rather than warming climate, researchers say.

In a paper appearing this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers studied museum collections of coyote skeletons dating from 38,000 years ago to the present day. It turns out that between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago, at the end of a period called the Pleistocene, coyotes in North America suddenly got smaller.

"Pleistocene coyotes probably weighed between 15-25 kilograms, and overlapped in size with wolves. But today the upper limit of a coyote is only around 10-18 kilograms," said co-author Julie Meachen of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

"Within just over a thousand years, they evolved into the smaller coyotes that we have today," she added.

What caused coyotes to shrink? Several factors could explain the shift. One possibility is warming climate, the researchers say. Between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, global average annual temperatures quickly rose by an average of six degrees. "Things got a long warmer, real fast," Meachen said.

Large animals are predicted to fare worse than small animals when temperatures warm up. To find out if climate played a role in coyotes' sudden shrinkage, Meachen and co-author Joshua Samuels of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon measured the relationship between body size and temperature for dozens of Ice Age coyotes, and for coyotes living today, using thigh bone circumference to estimate body size for each individual.

This is a modern coyote and a Pleistocene coyote skull. Credit: Original artwork by Doyle V. Trankina

But when they plotted body size against coldest average annual temperature for each animal's location, they found no relationship, suggesting that climate change was unlikely to be the main factor.
If the climate hypothesis is true, then we should see similar changes in other Ice Age carnivores too, Meachen added. The researchers also studied body size over time in the coyote's larger relative, the wolf, but they found that wolf body sizes didn't budge. "We're skeptical that climate change at the end of the Pleistocene was the direct cause of the size shift in coyotes," Meachen said.

Another possibility is that humans played a role. In this view, coyotes may have shrunk over time because early human hunters —believed to have arrived in North America around 13,000 years ago — selectively wiped out the bigger coyotes, or the animals coyotes depended on for food, leaving only the small to survive. Stone tool butchery marks on Ice Age animal bones would provide a clue that human hunters had something to do with it, but the fossil record has turned up too few examples to test the idea. "Human hunting as the culprit is really hard to dispute or confirm because there's so little data," Meachen said.

A third, far more likely explanation, is dwindling food supply and changing interactions with competitors, the researchers say. Just 1000 years before the sudden shrinkage in coyotes, dozens of other species were wiped out in a wave of extinctions that killed off many large mammals in North America. Until then, coyotes lived alongside a great diversity of large prey, including horses, sloths, camels, llamas and bison. "There were not only a greater diversity of prey species, but the species were also more abundant. It was a great food source," Meachen said.

While coyotes survived the extinctions, there were fewer large prey left for them to eat. Smaller individuals that required less food to survive, or could switch to smaller prey, would have had an advantage.

Before the die-off, coyotes also faced stiff competition for food from other large carnivores, including a bigger version of wolves living today called the dire wolf. After bigger carnivores such as dire wolves went extinct, coyotes would have no longer needed their large size to compete with these animals for food.

The findings are important because they show that extinction doesn't just affect the animals that disappear, the researchers say — it has long-term effects on the species that remain as well.

"In a time of increasing loss of biodiversity, understanding the degree to which species interactions drive evolutionary change is important," says Saran Twombly, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Environmental Biology, which supported the research.

"Species interactions are delicate balancing acts. When species go extinct, we see the signature of the effects on the species that remain," Meachen said.

More information: Meachen, J. and J. Samuels (2012). "Evolution in coyotes (Canis latrans) in response to the megafaunal extinctions." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. http://www.pnas.or … s.1113788109

Provided by National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
 
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#36
A new species of whale albeit extinct. Maybe its still swimming around in the depths though.

Ancient whale species sheds new light on its modern relatives
http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-anc ... tives.html
March 22nd, 2012 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

This is an artist's conception of Bohaskaia monodontoides, foreground. Behind and above are a modern-day beluga whale and narwhal. Credit: Carl Buell

Beluga whales and narwhals live solely in the cold waters of the Arctic and sub-arctic. Smithsonian scientists, however, found that this may not have always been the case. They recently described a new species of toothed whale and close relative to today's belugas and narwhals that lived some 3-4 million years ago during the Pliocene in warm water regions.

Why and when its modern-day relatives evolved to live only in northern latitudes remains a mystery. The team's research was recently described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

This new species, Bohaskaia monodontoides, is known only from a nearly complete skull found in 1969 in a mine near Hampton, Va.

Since its discovery, the skull has been housed in the paleontology collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. It was loosely identified as belonging to a beluga whale but it had never been closely studied.

Smithsonian scientists (left to right) Jorge Velez-Juarbe holds the skull of beluga whale; Dave Bohaska holds the skull of Bohaskaia monodontoides; and Nicholas Pyenson with the skull and tusk of a narwhal. They are standing in the marine mammal collections area of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Jorge Velez-Juarbe

In 2010, Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Smithsonian predoctoral fellow from Howard University, and Nicholas Pyenson, research geologist of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History began a close anatomical comparison of the fossil skull with the skeletons of belugas and narwhals in the Smithsonian's collection.

Their study confirmed that the fossil skull was that of a new toothed whale species?one that shared features of the snout and face with belugas and narwhals. The fossil skull contained enough unique features however, to merit its placement as a new genus and species.

"Fossils referred to as belugas have been known from fragmentary bits, but skulls are so revealing because they contain so many informative features," Pyenson says. "We realized this skull was not something assignable to a beluga, and when we sat down, comparing the fossil side by side with the actual skulls of belugas and narwhals, we found it was a very different animal."

As Bohaskaia monodontoides was found in the temperate climate of Virginia, and a second extinct beluga-related toothed whale, Denebola branchycephala is known from a fossil found in Baja California, Velez-Juarbe and Pyenson surmise that the cold-climate adaptations of narwhals and beluga, which today live and breed only in the Arctic and sub-arctic, must have evolved only recently.

This is the fossil skull of a Bohaskaia monodontoides. Credit: Jorge Velez-Juarbe

"The fact is that living belugas and narwhals are found only in the Arctic and subarctic, yet the early fossil record of the monodontids extends well into temperate and tropical regions," Pyenson says. "For evidence of how and when the Arctic adaptations of belugas and narwhals arose we will have to look more recently in time."

The change may be "related to oceanographic changes during or after the Pliocene affecting the marine food chain," Velez-Juarbe says, "then competition or dietary preferences drove monodontids further north."

Provided by Smithsonian
 
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#37
Another new but extinct species.

An Extinct Species of Scops Owl Has Been Discovered in Madeira
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 134533.htm

Illustration of the common European scops owl and the extinct Otus mauli species from Madeira. (Credit: Pau Oliver)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012) — An international team of scientists, including some from Majorca and the Canary Islands, have described a new type of fossil scops owl, the first extinct bird on the archipelago of Madeira (Portugal). Otus mauli, which was also the first nocturnal bird of prey described in the area, lived on land and became extinct as a result of humans arriving on the island.

Twenty years ago, the German researcher Harald Pieper discovered fossil remains of a small nocturnal bird of prey in Madeira, which, until now, had not been studied in depth. The international team of palaeontologists has shown that the remains belong to a previously unknown extinct species of scops owl, which they have called Otus mauli.

"It has long legs and wings slightly shorter than the continental European scops owl from which it derives" Josep Antoni Alcover, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), a mixed centre of the university of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), said.

The result of the analysis of the proportions of the remains found, which has been published in the journal Zootaxa, reveals that Otus mauli could be a land inhabiting species that ate invertebrates and "occasionally lizards or birds."

"It is likely that their extinction is linked to the arrival of humans and the fauna they brought with them," Alcover explains. He also points out that their disappearance formed part of a pattern of extinction of the island's species, which occurred in virtually all the islands of the world.

According to researchers, amongst the causes of extinction of this scops owl, the destruction of its habitat is highlighted, as Madeira had a lot of serious fires during the seven years that followed the Portuguese arrival. Furthermore, humans brought new birds with diseases that were unfamiliar to the native species, as well as rats and mice that could prey on eggs of animals that had nests close to the ground.

Exclusive to Madeira?

The same or a similar species has been investigated in Porto Santo, another island of the archipelago of Madeira. "This is extremely interesting" the researcher says, "but difficult to assess because the materials found are limited and fragmented."

"If the scops owls of Madeira and Porto Santo were different species, it would mean that the Otus' flying ability is much more limited than continental scops owls. The distance between the two islands would be enough to isolate them" Alcover points out.

The homogeneity of the scops owls' measurements on the two islands, as well as the differences compared to European scops owls suggests that they were genetically isolated from the European populations. The distance between the continent and the island was enough to explain the difference in the species.

On this island they expect to discover new species of birds in the near future "which will report a world that disappeared just a few hundred years ago." "The same thing will happen in the Azores islands where there is already evidence that a scops owl different to the ones in Madeira and Europe that is also extinct" the scientist says.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Plataforma SINC, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Rando J.C.; Pieper H.; Alcover J.A.; Olson S.L. A new species of extinct fossil Scops owl (Aves: Strigiformes: Strigidae: Otus) from the Archipelago of Madeira (North Atlantic Ocean). Zootaxa, 2012
 
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#38
The largest known true crocodile identified
http://phys.org/news/2012-05-largest-tr ... odile.html
May 5th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

Crocodile. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

A crocodile large enough to swallow humans once lived in East Africa, according to a University of Iowa researcher.

"It’s the largest known true crocodile,” says Christopher Brochu, associate professor of geoscience. “It may have exceeded 27 feet in length. By comparison, the largest recorded Nile crocodile was less than 21 feet, and most are much smaller.”

Brochu’s paper on the discovery of a new crocodile species was just published in the May 3 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The new species lived between 2 and 4 million years ago in Kenya. It resembled its living cousin, the Nile crocodile, but was more massive.

He recognized the new species from fossils that he examined three years ago at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi. Some were found at sites known for important human fossil discoveries. “It lived alongside our ancestors, and it probably ate them,” Brochu says. He explains that although the fossils contain no evidence of human/reptile encounters, crocodiles generally eat whatever they can swallow, and humans of that time period would have stood no more than four feet tall.

"We don’t actually have fossil human remains with croc bites, but the crocs were bigger than today’s crocodiles, and we were smaller, so there probably wasn’t much biting involved,” Brochu says.

He adds that there likely would have been ample opportunity for humans to encounter crocs. That’s because early man, along with other animals, would have had to seek water at rivers and lakes where crocodiles lie in wait.
Regarding the name he gave to the new species, Brochu said there was never a doubt.

The crocodile Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni is named after John Thorbjarnarson, famed crocodile expert and Brochu’s colleague who died of malaria while in the field several years ago.

“He was a giant in the field, so it only made sense to name a giant after him,” Brochu says. “I certainly miss him, and I needed to honor him in some way. I couldn’t not do it.”

Among the skills needed for one to discover a new species of crocodile is, apparently, a keen eye.

Not that the fossilized crocodile head is small—it took four men to lift it. But other experts had seen the fossil without realizing it was a new species. Brochu points out that the Nairobi collection is “beautiful” and contains many fossils that have been incompletely studied. “So many discoveries could yet be made,” he says.

In fact, this isn’t the first time Brochu has made a discovery involving fossils from eastern Africa. In 2010, he published a paper on his finding a man-eating horned crocodile from Tanzania named Crocodylus anthropophagus—a crocodile related to his most recent discovery.

Brochu says Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni is not directly related to the present-day Nile crocodile. This suggests that the Nile crocodile is a fairly young species and not an ancient “living fossil,” as many people believe. “We really don’t know where the Nile crocodile came from,” Brochu says, “but it only appears after some of these prehistoric giants died out.”

Provided by University of Iowa
 
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#39
ramonmercado said:
Giant prehistoric marsupial found in Northern Australia
July 5th, 2011 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-gia ... ralia.html

Diprotodon optatum - giant marsupial from Pleistocene of Australia. Image: Dmitry Bogdanov/Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- In what paleontologists are describing as a major find, researchers have dug up the remains of a creature that lived some 50,000 to two million years ago. The diprotodon as it's known, has been described as somewhat akin to a giant wombat, and is a marsupial, meaning it carried it’s young in a pouch the way kangaroos do.
'Giant wombat' grave found in Queensland, Australia
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18533038

Diprotodon inhabited forests and open woodland

Scientists have unearthed the biggest find yet of pre-historic "giant wombat" skeletons, revealing clues to the reasons for the species' extinction.

The find, in Queensland, Australia, of about 50 diprotodons - the largest marsupial that ever lived - has been called a "palaeontologists' goldmine".

The plant-eating giants, the size of a rhinoceros, had backward-facing pouches big enough to carry an adult human.

The fossils are believed to be between 100,000 and 200,000 years old.

Lead scientist Scott Hocknull, from the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, said: "When we did the initial survey I was just completely blown away by the concentrations of these fragments.

"It's a palaeontologists' goldmine where we can really see what these megafauna were doing, how they actually behaved, what their ecology was.

"With so many fossils it gives us a unique opportunity to see these animals in their environment, basically, so we can reconstruct it."

Ancient crocodile
The "mega-wombats" appeared to have been trapped in boggy conditions while taking refuge from dry conditions, Mr Hocknull added.

The pigeon-toed animals were widespread across Australia about 50,000 years ago, when the fist indigenous people are believed to have lived, but they first appeared about 1.6 million years ago.

It is unclear how or why they became extinct, but it could have been due to hunting by humans or, more likely, a changing climate.

The remote desert site contains one huge specimen, nicknamed Kenny, which is one of the best preserved and biggest examples ever discovered. Its jawbone alone is 70cm (28in) long.

The site is also home to an array of other prehistoric species, including the teeth of a 6m (20ft) lizard called megalania and the teeth and bony back-plates of an enormous pre-historic crocodile.

Mr Hocknull said: "We're almost certain that most of these carcasses of diprotodon have been torn apart by both the crocodiles and the lizards, because we've found shed teeth within their skeletons from both animals."

A relative of the modern-day wombat, the diprotodon inhabited forests, open woodland and scrub.

It was just one of several "megafauna" to roam pre-historic Australia.
 
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#40
Pauline Avibella 425m-year-old fossil 'a new species'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20692019

Computer generated reconstruction of 425m-year-old fossil named Pauline Avibella

Fossils discovered of 425m-year-old tiny shrimp-like creatures are of a species new to science, say experts.

Found in Herefordshire, the invertebrates were preserved by volcanic ash when the UK had a subtropical climate.

The fossils show the animals' shells and soft tissues, such as eyes and limbs, the Leicester experts say.

Prof David Siveter said the species, named Pauline Avibella in honour of his late wife, was a rare discovery.

'Beautiful bird'
Continue reading the main story
Our ancient planet
At 425 million years old, these ostracods originate from the earth's Silurian period
It was when coral reefs first appeared and melting glacial formations meant a rise sea levels
There was also a rapid spread of jawless fish, and the first known freshwater fish also emerged
Source: BBC Nature

Explore our planet's 4.6 billion year history
Why Ancient Greeks thought dinosaurs were giant humans
"The find is important because it is one of only a handful preserving the fossilised soft-tissues of ostracods [type of crustacean]," he said.

"[The fossils] allow unparalleled insight into the ancient biology, community structure and evolution of animals."

Avibella was chosen because it means beautiful bird, reflecting the fact the shell of these creatures looks like a wing to those that have studied it.

The 1cm-long fossils, found in rocks in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border, were reconstructed using a technique that involves grinding each specimen down, and photographing each stage.
 
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#41
New insights into anatomy of ancient tentacled creature
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21029364
By Michelle Warwicker
BBC Nature

Scientists have shed light on a peculiar tentacled marine creature that lived 520 million years ago.

Experts thought that Cotyledion tylodes may have belonged to the jellyfish-like cnidarian group.

But new anatomical evidence from the animal's fossilised remains suggests the species was an early member of the group of small marine organisms called entoprocts.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Results of the study, by an international research team, suggest that entoprocts appeared earlier than previously thought.

Continue reading the main story
Wonders of the Cambrian period

Marvel at creatures of evolution's 'big bang'

When was Wales underwater?

See how trilobites used life's first complex eyes

Entoprocts are small organisms that feed by straining food particles from water.

Scientists analysed hundreds of Cotyledion tylodes fossils preserved in the Chengjiang fossil site in Yunnan province, China, dating from the Cambrian geological period (545 to 495 million years ago).

To date, the only uncontested fossil entoproct comes from the Jurassic (205 to 142 million years ago).

However this reinterpretation of Cotyledion tylodes as an entoproct places the fossil record of this group in the earlier Cambrian period.

Some anatomical characteristics of Cotyledion tylodes are comparable to those of modern entoprocts, especially the presence of a U-shaped gut with a mouth and anus surrounded by a crown of tentacles.

"This is... the first time to confirm that [Cotyledion tylodes] had a U-shaped gut accommodated in the calyx cavity," said Zhifei Zhang, from Northwest University, Xi'an city, Shaanxi Province, China, who worked on the study.


Cotyledion tylodes fossil from the Chengjiang site
The bizarre-looking creature also had a goblet-shaped body with an upper cup-like cavity and lower elongated stalk, with which it "attached to exoskeletons of other organisms", explained Mr Zhang.

Cotyledion tylodes was larger than extant entoprocts, measuring between 8mm and 56mm in height. Its body was covered in external, hardened structures called sclerites, which are not found on modern entoprocts.

Evolutionary big bang
The "Cambrian explosion" saw the relatively sudden appearance of abundant life forms in the sea.

Mr Zhang said that the team's reinterpretation of Cotyledion tylodes as belonging to the Entoprocta phylum adds further support to the idea that "nearly all the living phyla of animals suddenly appeared in the Cambrian".

However, few fossil representatives of Lophotrochozoa (the superphylum containing the entoprocts group of animals) have been found in Cambrian fossil records.

Join BBC Nature on Facebook and Twitter @BBCNature.
 
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#42
Previous Unknown Fossilized Fox Species Found
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 115350.htm

This is a Malapa fox fossil. (Credit: Wits University)

Jan. 23, 2013 — Researchers from Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and international scientists have announced the discovery of a 2-million-year-old fossil fox at Malapa, South Africa, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

In an article published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, the researchers describe the previously unknown species of fox named Vulpes Skinneri -- named in honour of the recently deceased world renowned South African mammalogist and ecologist, Prof. John Skinner of the University of Pretoria.

The site of Malapa has, since its discovery in 2008, yielded one of the most extraordinary fossil assemblages in the African record, including skeletons of a new species of human ancestor named Australopithecus sediba, first described in 2010.

The new fox fossils consist of a mandible and parts of the skeleton and can be distinguished from any living or extinct form of fox known to science based on proportions of its teeth and other aspects of its anatomy.

Dr. Brian Kuhn of Wits' Institute for Human Evolution (IHE) and the School of GeoSciences, an author on the paper and head of the Malapa carnivore studies explains: "It's exciting to see a new fossil fox. The ancestry of foxes is perhaps the most poorly known among African carnivores and to see a potential ancestral form of living foxes is wonderful."

Prof. Lee Berger, also of the IHE and School of GeoSciences, author on the paper and Director of the Malapa project notes: "Malapa continues to reveal this extraordinary record of past life and as important as the human ancestors are from the site, the site's contribution to our understanding of the evolution of modern African mammals through wonderful specimens like this fox is of equal import. Who knows what we will find next?."

The entire team has expressed their privilege in naming the new species after "John Skinner, one of the great names in the study of African mammals and particularly carnivores. We (the authors) think that John would be pleased, and it is fitting that this rare little find would carry his name forever."

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of the Witwatersrand.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Adam Hartstone-Rose, Brian F. Kuhn, Shahed Nalla, Lars Werdelin, Lee R. Berger. A new species of fox from the Australopithecus sediba type locality, Malapa, South Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1080/0035919X.2012.748698
 
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#43
New Whale Species Unearthed in California Highway Dig
by Carolyn Gramling on 17 February 2013, 5:37 PM | 9 Comments
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2 ... tml?ref=hp

Long in the tooth. A newly described, as-yet-unnamed, species of early baleen whale (genus Morawanocetus) is one of several new species that suggests toothed baleen whales didn’t go extinct as long ago as thought.
Credit: Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, USA
BOSTON—Chalk yet another fossil find up to roadcut science. Thanks to a highway-widening project in California’s Laguna Canyon, scientists have identified several new species of early toothed baleen whales. Paleontologist Meredith Rivin of the John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center in Fullerton, California, presented the finds here today at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes ScienceNOW).

“In California, you need a paleontologist and an archaeologist on-site” during such projects, Rivin says. That was fortuitous: The Laguna Canyon outcrop, excavated between 2000 and 2005, turned out to be a treasure trove containing hundreds of marine mammals that lived 17 million to 19 million years ago. It included 30 cetacean skulls as well as an abundance of other ocean dwellers such as sharks, says Rivin, who studies the fossil record of toothed baleen whales. Among those finds, she says, were four newly identified species of toothed baleen whale—a type of whale that scientists thought had gone extinct 5 million years earlier.

Whales, the general term for the order Cetacea, comprise two suborders: Odontoceti, or toothed whales, which includes echolocators like dolphins, porpoises, and killer whales; and Mysticeti, or baleen whales, the filter-feeding giants of the deep such as blue whales and humpback whales.The two suborders share a common ancestor.

Mysticeti comes from the Greek for mustache, a reference to the baleen that hangs down from their jaw. But the earliest baleen whales actually had teeth (although they’re still called mysticetes). Those toothy remnants still appear in modern fin whale fetuses, which start to develop teeth in the womb that are later reabsorbed before the enamel actually forms.

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The four new toothed baleen whale species were also four huge surprises, Rivin says. The new fossils date to 17 to 19 million years ago, or the early-mid Miocene epoch, making them the youngest known toothed whales. Three of the fossils belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which is familiar to paleontologists studying whale fossils from Japan, but hadn’t been seen before in California. These three, along with the fourth new species, which is of a different genus, represent the last known occurrence of aetiocetes, a family of mysticetes that coexisted with early baleen whales. Thus, they aren’t ancestral to any of the living whales, but they could represent transitional steps on the way tothe toothless mysticetes.

The fourth new species—dubbed “Willy”—has its own surprises, Rivin says. Although modern baleen whales are giants, that’s a fairly recent development (in the last 10 million years). But Willy was considerably bigger than the three Morawanocetus fossils. Its teeth were also surprisingly worn—and based on the pattern of wear as well as the other fossils found in the Laguna Canyon deposit, Rivin says, that may be because Willy’s favorite diet may have been sharks. Modern offshore killer whales, who also enjoy a meal of sharks, tend to have similar patterns of wear in their teeth due to the sharks’ rough skin.

The new fossils are a potentially exciting find, says paleobiologist Nick Pyenson of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Although it’s not yet clear what Rivin’s team has got and what the fossils will reveal about early baleen whale evolution, he says, “I’ll be excited to see what they come up with.” Pyenson himself is no stranger to roadcut science and the rush to preserve fossils on the brink of destruction: In 2011, he managed, within a week, to collect three-dimensional images of numerous whale fossils found by workers widening a highway running through Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Meanwhile, Rivin says her paper describing the fossils is still in preparation, and she hopes to have more data on the three Morawanocetus, at least, published by the end of the year. As for the fourth fossil, she says, it might take a bit longer: There’s still some more work to do to fully free Willy from the rock.

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#44
Remains of fossilized 'giant pelican' found in Peru
March 15th, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

The fossilized remains of a giant pelican-like bird dating back some 35 million years have been uncovered in Peru's Ica desert, paleontologists said Friday.

Klaus Honninger, who heads the team that made the find, said the bird resembled a giant pelican that stood more than two meters (6.6 feet) tall dating from the Oligocene epoch.

The Oligocene, part of the Paleogene Period, spanned from 40 million years to 23 million years before present day, and was marked by the extinction of numerous species, a general cooling and increased aridity.

"The fossil clearly retains remnants of skin. It is an extraordinary discovery because no similar specimen has been discovered anywhere else in the world before," Honninger said.

The discovery was made in the coastal desert of the Ica region on March 6. The site is popular among paleontologists for its abundance of whale, shark and penguin fossils.

(c) 2013 AFP

"Remains of fossilized 'giant pelican' found in Peru." March 15th, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-03-fossilized ... -peru.html
 

oldrover

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#45
Fascinating thought, especially if like me you've got a bit of a 'thing' for pelicans.
 

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#48
ramonmercado said:
Remains of fossilized 'giant pelican' found in Peru
March 15th, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

The fossilized remains of a giant pelican-like bird dating back some 35 million years have been uncovered in Peru's Ica desert, paleontologists said Friday.

Klaus Honninger, who heads the team that made the find, said the bird resembled a giant pelican that stood more than two meters (6.6 feet) tall dating from the Oligocene epoch.

The Oligocene, part of the Paleogene Period, spanned from 40 million years to 23 million years before present day, and was marked by the extinction of numerous species, a general cooling and increased aridity.

"The fossil clearly retains remnants of skin. It is an extraordinary discovery because no similar specimen has been discovered anywhere else in the world before," Honninger said.

The discovery was made in the coastal desert of the Ica region on March 6. The site is popular among paleontologists for its abundance of whale, shark and penguin fossils.

(c) 2013 AFP

"Remains of fossilized 'giant pelican' found in Peru." March 15th, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-03-fossilized ... -peru.html
No idea how long it had been dead?
 

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#50
I guess I misunderstood the article, taking it to mean the animal was thought to have been dead for 35 million years but some fresher remains were recently found which challenged the previously established records. Shoulda' read closer, haha.
 
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#52
New proto-mammal fossil sheds light on evolution of earliest mammals (w/ Video)
August 7th, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

New proto-mammal fossil sheds light on evolution of earliest mammals
Megaconus was a nocturnal animal, foraging mostly in the night. It lived on the shores of a shallow freshwater lake in what is now the Inner Mongolia Region of China. Credit: April Isch, Zhe-Xi Luo, University of Chicago

Megaconus was a nocturnal animal, foraging mostly in the night. It lived on the shores of a shallow freshwater lake in what is now the Inner Mongolia Region of China. Credit: April Isch, Zhe-Xi Luo, University of Chicago

A newly discovered fossil reveals the evolutionary adaptations of a 165-million-year-old proto-mammal, providing evidence that traits such as hair and fur originated well before the rise of the first true mammals. The biological features of this ancient mammalian relative, named Megaconus mammaliaformis, are described by scientists from the University of Chicago in the Aug 8 issue of Nature.

"We finally have a glimpse of what may be the ancestral condition of all mammals, by looking at what is preserved in Megaconus. It allows us to piece together poorly understood details of the critical transition of modern mammals from pre-mammalian ancestors," said Zhe-Xi Luo, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago.

Discovered in Inner Mongolia, China, Megaconus is one of the best-preserved fossils of the mammaliaform groups, which are long-extinct relatives to modern mammals. Dated to be around 165 million years old, Megaconus co-existed with feathered dinosaurs in the Jurassic era, nearly 100 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed Earth.

Preserved in the fossil is a clear halo of guard hairs and underfur residue, making Megaconus only the second known pre-mammalian fossil with fur. It was found with sparse hairs around its abdomen, leading the team to hypothesize that it had a naked abdomen. On its heel, Megaconus possessed a long keratinous spur, which was possibly poisonous. Similar to spurs found on modern egg-laying mammals, such as male platypuses, the spur is evidence that this fossil was most likely a male member of its species.

New proto-mammal fossil sheds light on evolution of earliest mammals
Megaconus mammaliaformis is preserved as a slab (left) and a counter-slab (right) of shale deposited in a shallow lake. The preserved part of the skeleton, from head to rump, is about 21 cm (8 inches). By the length of long bones, Megaconus is estimated to weigh about 250 grams (almost 9 ounces). The fossil assemblage from the Daohugou Site include several other mammals, such as semi-aquatic swimmer Castorocauda, gliding mammal Volaticotherium, feathered dinosaurs, amphibians, abundant arthropods and plants. Megaconus is the first skeletal fossil of a mammaliaform group otherwise only known by their teeth, but show a long history extending back to Late Triassic, and a wide distribution in the Jurassic. Credit: April Isch, Zhe-Xi Luo, University of Chicago

"Megaconus confirms that many modern mammalian biological functions related to skin and integument had already evolved before the rise of modern mammals," said Luo, who was also part of the team that first discovered evidence of hair in pre-mammalian species in 2006 (Science, 331: 1123-1127, DOI:10.1126/science.1123026).

New proto-mammal fossil sheds light on evolution of earliest mammals
Guard hairs and underfur surrounding the tail are clear in the Megaconus fossil. Credit: April Isch, Zhe-Xi Luo, University of Chicago

A terrestrial animal about the size of a large ground squirrel, Megaconus was likely an omnivore, possessing clearly mammalian dental features and jaw hinge. Its molars had elaborate rows of cusps for chewing on plants, and some of its anterior teeth possessed large cusps that allowed it to eat insects and worms, perhaps even other small vertebrates. It had teeth with high crowns and fused roots similar to more modern, but unrelated, mammalian species such as rodents. Its high-crowned teeth also appeared to be slow growing like modern placental mammals.

The skeleton of Megaconus, especially its hind-leg bones and finger claws, likely gave it a gait similar to modern armadillos, a previously unknown type of locomotion in mammaliaforms.

A 3D model of teeth

Luo and his team identified clearly non-mammalian characteristics as well. Its primitive middle ear, still attached to the jaw, was reptile-like. Its anklebones and vertebral column are also similar to the anatomy of previously known mammal-like reptiles.

"We cannot say that Megaconus is our direct ancestor, but it certainly looks like a great-great-grand uncle 165 million years removed. These features are evidence of what our mammalian ancestor looked like during the Triassic-Jurassic transition," Luo said.

"Megaconus shows that many adaptations found in modern mammals were already tried by our distant, extinct relatives. In a sense, the three big branches of modern mammals are all accidental survivors among many other mammaliaform lineages that perished in extinction," Luo added.
The fossil, now in the collections in Paleontological Museum of Liaoning in China, was discovered and studied by an international team of paleontologists from Paleontological Museum of Liaoning, University of Bonn in Germany, and the University of Chicago.

More information: Paper: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12429

Provided by University of Chicago Medical Center

"New proto-mammal fossil sheds light on evolution of earliest mammals (w/ Video)." August 7th, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-08-proto-mamm ... mmals.html
 
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#53
Vid at link.

Exceptional fossil fish reveals new evolutionary mechanism for body elongation

October 7th, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

The 240-million-year-old fossil find from Switzerland also revealed that this primitive fish was not as flexible as today's eels, nor could it swim as fast or untiringly as a tuna. Credit: Picture: UZH

The 240-million-year-old fossil find from Switzerland also revealed that this primitive fish was not as flexible as today's eels, nor could it swim as fast or untiringly as a tuna. Credit: Picture: UZH

?he elongated body of some present-day fish evolved in different ways. Paleontologists from the University of Zurich have now discovered a new mode of body elongation based on a discovery in an exceptionally preserved fossilfish from Southern Ticino. In Saurichthys curionii, an early ray-finned fish, the vertebral arches of the axial skeleton doubled, resulting in the elongation of its body and giving it a needlefish-like appearance.

Snake and eel bodies are elongated, slender and flexible in all three dimensions. This striking body plan has evolved many times independently in the more than 500 million years of vertebrate animals history. Based on the current state of knowledge, the extreme elongation of the body axis occurred in one of two ways: either through the elongation of the individual vertebrae of the vertebral column, which thus became longer, or through the development of additional vertebrae and associated muscle segments.

Long body thanks to doubling of the vertebral arches
A team of paleontologists from the University of Zurich headed by Professor Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra now reveal that a third, previously unknown mechanism of axial skeleton elongation characterized the early evolution of fishes, as shown by an exceptionally preserved form. Unlike other known fish with elongate bodies, the vertebral column of Saurichthys curionii does not have one vertebral arch per myomeric segment, but two, which is unique. This resulted in an elongation of the body and gave it an overall elongate appearance. "This evolutionary pattern for body elongation is new," explains Erin Maxwell, a postdoc from Sánchez-Villagra's group.

"Previously, we only knew about an increase in the number of vertebrae and muscle segments or the elongation of the individual vertebrae."


This video shows how the number of skeletal elements in the vertebral column became doubled in Saurichthys without an increase in the number of vertebrae. Credit: UZH

The fossils studied come from the Monte San Giorgio find in Ticino, which was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003. The researchers owe their findings to the fortunate circumstance that not only skeletal parts but also the tendons and tendon attachments surrounding the muscles of the primitive predatory fish had survived intact. Due to the shape and arrangement of the preserved tendons, the scientists are also able to draw conclusions as to the flexibility and swimming ability of the fossilized fish genus. According to Maxwell, Saurichthys curionii was certainly not as flexible as today's eels and, unlike modern oceanic fishes such as tuna, was probably unable to swim for long distances at high speed. Based upon its appearance and lifestyle, the roughly half-meter-long fish is most comparable to the garfish or needlefish that exist today.

More information: Erin E. Maxwell, Heinz Furrer, Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra. Exceptional fossil preservation demonstrates a new mode of axial skeleton elongation in early ray-finned fishes. Nature Communications, October 7, 2013. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3570

Provided by University of Zurich

"Exceptional fossil fish reveals new evolutionary mechanism for body elongation." October 7th, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-10-exceptiona ... onary.html
 
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#54
'Platypus-zilla' fossil unearthed in Australia
By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC World Service
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24807557

The giant platypus would have measured more than 1m (3ft) in length

Part of a giant platypus fossil has been unearthed in Queensland, Australia.

Scientists have dubbed the beast "platypus-zilla" and believe it would have measured more than 1m long (3ft).

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers say the creature lived between five and 15 million years ago.

The discovery suggests the evolutionary back-story of today's platypus is more complicated than was thought.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

It probably would have looked like a platypus on steroids”

Prof Mike Archer
University of New South Wales
Prof Mike Archer, from the University of New South Wales, said: "Suddenly up pops 'playtpus-zilla' - this gigantic monstrosity that you would have been afraid to swim with.

"It indicates there are branches in the platypus family tree that we hadn't suspected before."

Bizarre looks
Today, all that survives of this platypus is a single fossilised tooth, which was unearthed in the Riversleigh fossil beds in northwest Queensland.

Based on its size, the researchers have estimated that the new species (Obdurodon tharalkooschild) would have been at least twice as large as today's platypus.

Bumps on its teeth and other fossil finds nearby suggest that the creature feasted on crustaceans, turtles, frogs and fish.

Although the area where the molar was found is a desert, millions of years ago it would have been covered in forest. The researchers think the beast would have spent its time in and around freshwater ponds.

Giant platypus tooth
The platypus is described from a single molar that was found in Queensland
Prof Archer said that with just one tooth, it was difficult to work out exactly what this species would have looked like.

However other fossils suggest that it could have shared the same bizarre appearance as today's platypuses, with their duck-like bills, large webbed feet and poisonous spurs. But this would have been on a much larger scale.

"I guess it probably would have looked like a platypus on steroids," said Prof Archer.

Fossil platypus finds are in short supply, with just a few fragments found throughout the southern hemisphere.

As a result, there are many gaps in our understanding of the creature's past.

Prof Archer said: "We have been naively led to suspect that maybe it was just one lineage of strange animals bumbling its way through time and space at least for the last 60 million years.

"The discovery of this new one was a bit of a shock to us. It was a wake-up call that the platypus's story, the more we know about it, is increasingly more complicated than we thought."

The researchers are now hoping to find more platypus fossils in the same area to try to shed more light these enigmatic Australian animals.

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#55
Oldest big cat fossil found in Tibet
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24913291
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News

Life reconstruction of Panthera blytheae based on skull CT data; illustrated by Mauricio Anton

Panthera blytheae was similar to modern snow leopards, palaeontologists say

The oldest big cat fossils ever found - from a previously unknown species "similar to a snow leopard" - have been unearthed in the Himalayas.

The skull fragments of the newly-named Panthera blytheae have been dated between 4.1 and 5.95 million years old.

Their discovery in Tibet supports the theory that big cats evolved in central Asia - not Africa - and spread outward.

The findings by US and Chinese palaeontologists are published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

This ties up a lot of questions we had on how big cats evolved and spread throughout the world”

Dr Jack Tseng
University of Southern California
Find out more about big cats on BBC Nature
They used both anatomical and DNA data to determine that the skulls belonged to an extinct big cat, whose territory appears to overlap many of the species we know today.

"This cat is a sister of living snow leopards - it has a broad forehead and a short face. But it's a little smaller - the size of clouded leopards," said lead author Dr Jack Tseng of the University of Southern California.

"This ties up a lot of questions we had on how these animals evolved and spread throughout the world.

"Biologists had hypothesised that big cats originated in Asia. But there was a division between the DNA data and the fossil record."

Surprising find
The so-called "big cats" - the Pantherinae subfamily - includes lions, jaguars, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, and clouded leopards.

DNA evidence suggests they diverged from their cousins the Felinae - which includes cougars, lynxes, and domestic cats - about 6.37 million years ago.

But the earliest fossils previously found were just 3.6 million years old - tooth fragments uncovered at Laetoli in Tanzania, the famous hominin site excavated by Mary Leakey in the 1970s.

Fossil skull of Panthera blytheae
It is rare for such an ancient carnivore fossil to be so well preserved
The new fossils were dug up on an expedition in 2010 in the remote Zanda Basin in southwestern Tibet, by a team including Dr Tseng and his wife Juan Liu - a fellow palaeontologist.

They found over 100 bones deposited by a river eroding out of a cliff, including the crushed - but largely complete - remains of a big cat skull.

"We were very surprised to find a cat fossil in that basin," Dr Tseng told BBC News.

"Usually we find antelopes and rhinos, but this site was special. We found multiple carnivores - badgers, weasels and foxes."

Among the bones were seven skull fragments, belonging to at least three individual cats, including one nearly complete skull.

The fragments were dated using magnetostratigraphy - which relies on historical reversals in the Earth's magnetic field recorded in layers of rock.

They ranged between 4.10 and 5.95 million years old, the complete skull being around 4.4 million years of age.

"This is a very significant finding - it fills a very wide gap in the fossil record," said Dr Manabu Sakamoto of the University of Bristol, an expert on Pantherinae evolution.

"The discovery presents strong support for the Asian origin hypothesis for the big cats.

"It gives us a great insight into what early big cats may have looked like and where they may have lived."

However, Prof William Murphy of Texas A&M University, another expert on the evolutionary relationship of big cats, questioned whether the new species was really a sister of the snow leopard.

"The authors' claim that this skull is similar to the snow leopard is very weakly supported based on morphological characters alone, and this morphology-based tree is inconsistent with the DNA-based tree of living cats," he told BBC News.

"It remains equally probable that this fossil is ancestral to the living big cats. More complete skeletons would be beneficial to confirm their findings."

Dr Tseng and his team plan to return to the fossil site in Tibet next summer to search for more specimens.
 
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#56
Skull fragments reveal new ancient crocodile species
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-26519396

Illustration of the Koumpiodontosuchus aprosdokiti

The newly discovered crocodile species was similar to those living today

Two fossilised skull fragments from a 2ft (60cm) crocodile found on the Isle of Wight point to the discovery of a new ancient species, a study has found.

The pieces - a snout and back part of the skull - were found by different private collectors three months apart.

Experts at the Dinosaur Isle museum near Sandown found the 126 million-year-old fragments "fitted together perfectly to make a complete skull".

The species has been named Koumpiodontosuchus aprosdokiti.

The name - meaning "unexpected button-toothed crocodile" - was given by University of Portsmouth palaeontologist Dr Steve Sweetman, who has published a paper on the discovery in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

Continue reading the main story
Cretaceous period

The Cretaceous period began 142 million years ago
With sea levels at their highest, much of what we now know as dry land - including southern England and the US Midwest - was under water
Theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor and Spinosaurus were the top predators
Ended with the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, famed for the death of the dinosaurs
Meet the Cretaceous period killer no bigger than a turkey
The first piece, the skull, was found on a beach near Sandown in March 2011 by Diane Trevarthen who was on a fossil-hunting holiday with her family.

She took it to the museum where staff thought it might belong to a large Cretaceous crocodile baby.

Three months later, Austin and Finley Nathan found the snout while fossil-hunting on their holiday.

When museum staff saw their find, they recalled seeing the other piece and asked Ms Trevarthen to bring it back.

Both collectors donated their specimens to the museum.

A figure from the journal paper showing pictures and diagrams of the skull
The bone structure at the back of the palate of the skull is different to other ancient species
Dr Sweetman said: "Both parts of this wonderful little skull are in good condition, which is most unusual when you consider that crashing waves usually batter and blunt the edges of fossils like this within days or even hours of them being washed onto the beach.

"Both parts must therefore have been found very soon after they were released from the mud and debris originally laid down on a dinosaur-trampled river floodplain around 126 million years ago.

"The sheer serendipity of this discovery is quite bizarre.

"Finding the two parts is in itself remarkable. That they should be found three months apart by different collectors and taken to the museum where the same members of staff were on duty and therefore able to recall the first specimen defies belief."

Dr Steve Sweetman on the beach where the fossils were found
Dr Steve Sweetman examined the fragments found on the beach near Sandown in 2011
When he first saw it Dr Sweetman thought the skull belonged to a Bernissartia fagesii crocodile, known from skeletons of a similar age discovered in Belgium and Spain.

"I was convinced it was a Bernissartia skull because of its small size - the fully grown animal was only a little over two feet long from nose to tail - but particularly because of its button-shaped teeth, which are unique among crocodyliforms.

"They were used to crush mollusc shells and other invertebrates with tough outer coatings."

But after the skull had been cleaned, Dr Sweetman could see it had significant differences in the arrangement of bones.

"The location of the hole in the mouth, where the airway from the nose opens, was surrounded by bones at the very back of the palate.

"This tells us that the discovery is not only a new species but also a new genus of ancient croc closely related to, but subtly different to, those alive today."
 
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#57
Paleontologists discover new fossil organism

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have discovered a fossil of a newly discovered organism from the "Ediacara Biota" -- a group of organisms that occurred in the Ediacaran period of geologic time.

Named Plexus ricei and resembling a curving tube, the organism resided on the Ediacaran seafloor. Plexus ricei individuals ranged in size from 5 to 80 centimeters long and 5 to 20 millimeters wide. Along with the rest of the Ediacara Biota, it evolved around 575 million years ago and disappeared from the fossil record around 540 million years ago, just around the time the Cambrian Explosion of evolutionary history was getting under way.

"Plexus was unlike any other fossil that we know from the Precambrian," said Mary L. Droser, a professor of paleontology, whose lab led the research. "It was bilaterally symmetrical at a time when bilaterians -- all animals other than corals and sponges -- were just appearing on this planet. It appears to have been very long and flat, much like a tapeworm or modern flatworm."

Study results appeared online last month in the Journal of Paleontology.
"Ediacaran fossils are extremely perplexing: they don't look like any animal that is alive today, and their interrelationships are very poorly understood," said Lucas V. Joel, a former graduate student at UC Riverside and the first author of the research paper. Joel worked in Droser's lab until June 2013.
He explained that during the Ediacaran there was no life on land. All life that we know about for the period was still in the oceans.

"Further, there was a complete lack of any bioturbation in the oceans at that time, meaning there were few marine organisms churning up marine sediments while looking for food," he said. "Then, starting in the Cambrian period, organisms began churning up and mixing the sediment."

According to the researchers, the lack of bioturbators during the Ediacaran allowed thick films of (probably) photosynthetic algal mats to accumulate on ocean floors -- a very rare environment in the oceans today. Such an environment paved the way for many mat-related lifestyles to evolve, which become virtually absent in the post-Ediacaran world.

"The lack of bioturbation also created a very unique fossil preservational regime," Joel said. "When an organism died and was buried, it formed a mold of its body in the overlying sediment. As the organism decayed, sediment from beneath moved in to form a cast of the mold the organism had made in the sediment above. What this means is that the fossils we see in the field are not the exact fossils of the original organism, but instead molds and casts of its body."

Paleontologists have reported that much of the Ediacara Biota was composed of tubular organisms. The question that Droser and Joel addressed was: Is Plexus ricei a tubular organism or is it an organism that wormed its way through the sand, leaving a trail behind it?

"In the Ediacaran we really need to know the difference between the fossils of actual tubular organisms and trace fossils because if the fossil we are looking at is a trace fossil, then that has huge implications for the earliest origins of bilaterian animals -- organisms with bilateral symmetry up and down their midlines and that can move independently of environment forces," Joel said. "Being able to tell the difference between a tubular organism and a trace fossil has implications for the earliest origins of bilaterian organism, which are the only kinds of creatures that could have constructed a tubular trace fossil. Plexus is not a trace fossil. What our research shows is that the structure we see looks very much like a trace fossil, but is in fact a new Ediacaran tubular organism, Plexus ricei."

Plexus ricei was so named for plexus, meaning braided in Latin, a reference to the organism's morphology, and ricei for Rice, the last name of the South Australian Museum's Dennis Rice, one of the field assistants who helped excavate numerous specimens of the fossil.

"At this time, we don't know for sure that Plexus ricei was a bilateral but it is likely that it was related to our ancestors," Droser said.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Riverside. The original article was written by Iqbal Pittalwala. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
Lucas V. Joel, Mary L. Droser, James G. Gehling. A New Enigmatic, Tubular Organism from the Ediacara Member, Rawnsley Quartzite, South Australia. Journal of Paleontology, 2014; 88 (2): 253 DOI: 10.1666/13-058

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 172917.htm
 
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#58
Fossilised crocodile tooth 'largest of its kind in UK'

The fossilised tooth of the Dakosaurus maximus was discovered off Chesil Beach in Dorset and is now housed at the Natural History Museum in London

The fossilised tooth of a prehistoric crocodile has been recorded as the largest of its kind found in the UK.

The 2in (5.5cm) tooth was dredged from the seabed near Chesil Beach, Dorset.

It belonged to an ancient relative of modern crocodiles, known as Dakosaurus maximus.

Researchers from the the University of Edinburgh and curators from the Natural History Museum identified it after it was bought at an online auction by a fossil collector about a year ago.

Artist's impression of a Dakosaurus maximus
The shape of its skull and teeth suggests it ate similar prey to killer whales
The tooth, which has a broken tip, is now in the fossil collection of the London-based museum.

'Exceptionally dangerous'
Dakosaurus maximus grew to about 4.5m (15ft) in length and swam in the shallow seas of Europe 152 million years ago, according to the team's research published in the scientific journal Historical Biology.

The shape of its skull and teeth suggest it ate similar prey to killer whales, using its broad, short jaws to swallow fish whole and to bite chunks from larger prey.

Dr Mark Young, from the university's school of biological sciences, said: "Given its size, Dakosaurus had very large teeth.

"However, it wasn't the top marine predator of its time, and would have swum alongside other larger marine reptiles, making the shallow seas of the Late Jurassic period exceptionally dangerous."
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-27606864
 
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The origins of scorpions are murky. The oldest of these arachnids (a group that also includes modern-day spiders, ticks, and mites) are known from fossils from Scottish rocks laid down between 433 million and 438 million years ago that show only their outlines. Now, well-preserved but slightly younger fossils from southwestern Ontario suggest that the animals originated in the seas—and may have been able to clamber onto shore well before the time scientists previously recognized. Those fossils—11 specimens in all—were entombed in sediments laid down on the shores of ancient lagoons between 430 million and 433 million years ago. And because all of them are of molted exoskeletons and not carcasses, the remains were too fragile to be washed to their final resting place from somewhere else, researchers suggest.

Thus, the remains were probably shed at the water’s edge and preserved there, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Anatomical traits of the new species back up that notion: The creature apparently didn’t have feeding structures enabling life on land. Yet the last segment of its legs was relatively short, allowing it to plant its “foot” flat, like modern-day scorpions, instead of walking on tiptoe like other water-dwelling scorpions of the era were presumed to do. The scorpion’s ability to fully support its own weight when out of water (and therefore escape solely aquatic predators) would have been a tremendous evolutionary benefit, the researchers note: As is the case with their modern-day kin, when the scorpions molted they would have been extremely vulnerable.

http://news.sciencemag.org/evolution/2015/01/first-scorpions-may-have-crawled-seas
 
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#60
Earth's first big predatory monster was a weird water bug as big as Tom Cruise, newly found fossils show.

Almost half a billion years ago, way before the dinosaurs roamed, Earth's dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 170 centimetres (5 feet 7 inches), with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study.

Scientists found signs of these new monsters of the prehistoric deep in Iowa, of all places.

Geologists at the Iowa Geological Survey found 150 pieces of fossils about 18 metres (60 feet) under the Upper Iowa River, part of which had to be temporarily dammed to allow them to collect the specimens. Then scientists at Yale University determined they were a new species from about 460 million years ago, when Iowa was under an ocean

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/g...en-earth-s-1st-big-predator-1.3211106?cmp=rss
 
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