Canadian Scientists Discover Yet Another New Horned Dinosaur

31 05 2010

It seems like there have been a lot of new horned dinosaurs discovered lately.  I’ve reported on several (see here and here).  Today comes a report, from Canada.com, of yet another new horned dinosaur.  Known as Medusaceratops lokii, it lived during the Cretaceous period, approximately 80 million years ago, along the eastern shores of Laramidia (the western part of North America), near what is today the Alberta-Montana border.

The discovery was made by two Canadian scientists, Anthony Russell (a biologist for the University of Calgary), and Michael Ryan (an adjunct professor at Carleton University, as well as the head of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History).  The new dinosaur is scheduled to be described in the book New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs:  The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium, edited by Michael J. Ryan, Brenda J. Chinnery-Allgeier, and David A. Eberth.  The book is being published by Indiana University Press, and is scheduled for release on June 17, 2010.

The new dinosaur was named for the Medusa of Greek myth, because of the snake-like horns that protrude from its massive bone crest.  It’s species name comes from Loki, the Norse god of mischief, because it was such a tricky dinosaur to identify.  According to Ryan, speaking in the Canada.com interview, it required years of study to finally identify the remains as that of a new species.  This was, in part, because the remains were part of a bone bed, a collection of disarticulated bones grouped together by the force of water or other natural activities.

 According to Ryan, his team at first thought they had found an Albertaceratops, a very similar and closely related genus of ceratopsian.  It did not help, according to Ryan, that he had earlier found one nearby.

Due to copyright concerns, I have not included an image of Medusaceratops lokii.  To see one, follow the link to the Canada.com article.

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First Horned Dinosaur from Mexico Discovered

28 05 2010
Photo Credit: Lukas Panzarin for the Utah Museum of Natural History

artist's rendering of the Mexican horned dinosaur Coahuilaceratops (Photo Credit: Lukas Panzarin for the Utah Museum of Natural History)

A team of scientists from the United States, Mexico, and Canada has discovered a new species of horned dinosaur in the Mexican state of Coahuila.  Named Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna, it weighed between four and five tons and is estimated to have had the longest horns of any ceratopsid dinosaur.

The new species lived approximately 72 million years ago.  At the time, the area had been a humid estuary, with lush vegetation, where salt water from the ocean mixed with fresh water from rivers.  It was part of Laramidia (the western part of North America), which formed a thin strip of land (200 to 300 miles wide) that stretched from Alaska to south of Mexico.

The specimens were excavated from the Cerro del Pueblo Formation (Campanian), the basal formation of the Difunta Group in the Parras Basin.  They are housed permanently in the collections of the Museum of the Desert in Saltillo, Mexico. Casts of the fossils are reposited in the collections of the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.

According to the University of Utah, whose scientists led the team, the find represents the first horned dinosaur from Mexico to be named and described the scientific literature.  It also represents the southernmost known occurrence of a ceratopopsid in North America.

The new species is scheduled to be announced officially in the book New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs, to be released next week by Indiana University Press.

To read the press release announcing the discovery, please follow this link:
http://www.sciencecodex.com/coahuilaceratops_magnacuerna_horned_dinosaur_discovered_in_mexico.

Late-Cretaceous-North-America (Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/)

A reconstruction of how North America looked in the Late Cretaceous period. Larmidia is the long strip of land along the left side of the image. Image credit: Ron Blakey, NAU Geology, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/





Everythng Dinosaur Cites Hungarian Discovery as Evidence of European Ceratopsians

27 05 2010

The Blog Everything Dinosaur has a very interesting post that cites evidence from Hungary of a European horned dinosaur, named Ajkaceratops kozmai.

It also gives a brief discussion of the origin and spread of the horned dinosaur family.  It’s well worth reading.

The post can be viewed at the following link:
http://blog.everythingdinosaur.co.uk/blog/_archives/2010/5/27/4538425.html





New Genus and Species of Pterosaur Discovered in Morocco

27 05 2010

An international team of paleontologists has discovered a new genus and species of pterosaur in the Kem Kem formation of southeastern Morocco.  Published May 26, in the online journal Public Library of Science One (PLoS One), it is named Alanqa saharica, and according to the authors is “the first clear evidence for the presence of azhdarchids in Gondwana at the start of the Late Cretaceous.”

The remains discovered at the site, along with other specimens now ascribed to the new species, represent animals with wingspans of approximately three to four meters.  However, a vertebra discovered that probably belongs to the same species indicates that a wingspan of six meters was possible.

The discovery adds to our knowledge of pterosaurs from Africa, which has been severely limited until recently, and even now is represented only by a number of fragmentary specimens.

The article can be read in its entirety at the following link: 
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0010875.





Nectocaris pteryx Reinterpreted as a Cephalopod

26 05 2010

The middle Cambrian species Nectocaris pteryx has long puzzled paleontologists.  Originally described as “a shrimp with a chordate tail,” two Canadian scientists have reexamined the organism and come to the conclusion that it is a cephalopod.

The findings are published as a letter in the May 27 issue of the journal Nature.

Based on new material from the Burgess Shale, Martin R. Smith and Jean Bernard Caron of the University of Toronto have grouped N. pteryx along with Nectocaris, Petalilium, and (probably) Vetustovermis to form the clade Nectocaridae.

Smith and Caron describe the new clade as “characterized by an open axial cavity with paired gills, wide lateral fins, a single pair of long, prehensile tentacles, a pair of non-faceted eyes on short stalks, and a large, flexible anterior funnel.”  It pushes back the presence of cephalopods in the fossil record by more than 30 million years.  It also indicates that “[t]he explosive diversification of mineralized cephalopods in the Ordovician may have an understated Cambrian ‘fuse’.”

In addition, Smith and Caron conclude that “primitive cephalopods lacked a mineralized shell, were hyperbenthic, and were presumably carnivorous.”

They also conclude that “[t]he presence of a funnel suggests that jet propulsion evolved in cephalopods before the acquisition of a shell.”

To read an abstract of the article or to purchase the entire article, please use the following link:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7297/full/nature09068.html.





Field Museum Celebrates Sue’s 10th Year on the Shores of Lake Michigan

26 05 2010
This image is provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, and is within the public domain.

Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex, celebrating her 10th year at the Field Museum, Chicago, IL, USA

Starting today (May 26), the Field Museum in Chicago is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its having on exhibit the largest and most complete known skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Named after Sue, Hendrickson, the paleontologist who discovered it, the skeleton caused a certain amount of controversy and legal wrangling, after it was discovered on private land in North Dakota and put up for auction.  Eventually, it was purchased by the Field Museum for a record $7.6 million at a Sotheby auction in 1997.

Paleontologists estimate that Sue was 28 years old at death, making it the oldest known T. rex.  In addition, it is approximately 80 percent complete, making it the most complete known T. rex as well.

 For more information about Sue and the Field’s celebration, see the museum’s website at http://www.fieldmuseum.org/sue/#index.





Back in the Saddle Again… I Hope

26 05 2010

Hi all.  Due to work-related issues, it’s been some time since my last post.  My intention is get back to posting regularly on this blog.  So, I hope to start having a reasonably consistent feed of paleo news for you guys, starting today.