Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

December 13, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found the first solid evidence that prehistoric ticks consumed dinosaur blood. The discovery of a 99-million year old piece of amber in Myanmar offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Cretaceous animals, large and small. Trapped within the fossilized sap, the tick is seen grasping onto a feather presumed to be from a feathered dinosaur. Though Mezozoic-era blood-sucking insects encased in amber have become part of the public’s imagination thanks to the  Jurassic Park films, the fossil record previously lacked clear evidence that dinosaur blood was on the menu. “Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife,” study lead researcher Enrique Peñalver told EurekaAlert , “but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.” Although the tick in life did indeed drink dinosaur blood, it is not possible to extract DNA from an amber-enclosed insect, a la Jurassic Park , because of the short life of complex DNA molecules. Nonetheless, the fossil adds considerably to our understanding of ecology in the age of the dinosaurs. “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, researcher at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil “So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on,” continued Pérez-de la Fuente, “the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird , as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.” In addition to the dino-centric discovery, researchers also identified a new species of tick, dubbed Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick,”encased in a separate piece of amber. Via ScienceAlert Images via University of Oxford

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Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues

November 29, 2017 by  
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Dinosaurs no longer roam the planet – unless you count birds . Recent discoveries have revealed many dinosaurs once had feathers , and birds are actually dinosaurs that have evolved over time. But we don’t really know how feathers evolved. A recent study led by University of Southern California (USC) researchers involving alligator and chicken genes may offer new insight. Feathers and scales are comprised of keratin, and both are part of skin growth, so scientists have surmised they might have a shared evolutionary history. But the nature of that history is still a mystery. A dinosaur unearthed in 2014 in Siberia appeared to possess feather-like filaments, some growing out of scales – leading researchers to think feather-like structures might have evolved from modified scales. So the USC-led team took genes they think might be important in the development of feathers and had them expressed in chicken and alligator embryos while feathers and scales, respectively, developed. They also identified new genes that regulate the development genes and altered the amount of their activity, according to The Guardian . Related: New details of feathered dinosaur could elucidate the origins of flight The researchers produced new types of modified scales, revealing relatively simple changes to some genes can cause alligator early scale development to produce things like the ancestral feathers of non-avian dinosaurs. The Guardian said it’s not a large step from the feather-like structures to something similar to a true early feather. Add the idea that early proto-feathers that gave advantages to their owners would have developed more under natural selection , and it’s not a massive leap to suggest feathers could have formed rather easily. Modifying genes in chickens led to an array of feather forms, including ones seen in dinosaurs, narrowing the gap between feather and scale from a creature with feathers. We still have a long way to go in our understanding, but this recent work could offer some clues. More gene tweaks could potentially reveal the pathway from scale to feather. The journal Molecular Biology and Evolution published the research this month; scientists from institutions in Taiwan, China, and Louisiana contributed to the work. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and PublicDomainPictures.net

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Brand new "mega-carnivore" dinosaur discovered in Africa

October 26, 2017 by  
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Paleontologists have discovered fossil remains of what may have been the largest predator to ever hunt on the African savanna. The fossilized footprints were found in Lesotho, and they belong to a previously unknown “mega-carnivore” dating back to the early Jurassic Period, 200 million years ago. Although its size and demeanor was likely on par with well-known species such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Allosaurus, the carbon dating of the fossil remains suggests this new dinosaur may have existed far earlier than its “mega-carnivore” comrades. At 22-inches-long and 20-inches-wide, the three-toed footprints are the largest of their kind ever found in Africa . The fossilized theropod (suborder of large, carnivorous dinosaur ) footprints were discovered by an international team of scientists from the University of Manchester, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. The new species, which has been named  Kayentapus ambrokholohali , would have been 10-feet-tall at the hip and 30-feet-long, almost twice the size of the average early Jurassic theropod. “The latest discovery is very exciting and sheds new light on the kind of carnivore that roamed what is now southern Africa ,” said Fabien Knoll, co-author of the study recently published in the journal PLOS ONE . “That’s because it is the first evidence of an extremely large meat-eating animal roaming a landscape otherwise dominated by a variety of herbivorous, omnivorous and much smaller carnivorous dinosaurs. It really would have been top of the food chain.” Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil The fossilized footprints are surrounded by current-ripple marks and cracks, which indicate that the animal likely died near a watering hole or river bank , where prey is often located. Although later predators such as T Rex were larger than Kayentapus ambrokholohali, the new theropod’s early existence is notable. “This discovery marks the first occurrence of very large carnivorous dinosaurs in the Early Jurassic of Gondwana – the prehistoric continent which would later break up and become Africa and other landmasses,” said Lara Sciscio, co-author of the study. “This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare. There is only one other known site similar in age and sized tracks, which is in Poland.” Via New Atlas Images via University of Manchester

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Brand new "mega-carnivore" dinosaur discovered in Africa

99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

December 9, 2016 by  
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When a small, sparrow-sized dinosaur died about 99 million years ago, part of its tail was immaculately preserved in amber. Researchers who recently discovered the tail from a Hukawng Valley amber mine in Myanmar say it’s a notable find not only because it is the first dinosaur tail ever identified, but also because it is covered in feathers. Co-first author Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences found the amber piece in a Myanmar market in 2015, according to NPR . The Dexu Institute of Palaeontology agreed to purchase the specimen, and Xing and colleagues got to work scrutinizing it. Related: First dinosaur brain tissue discovered in 130-million-year-old fossil The dinosaur was likely a carnivorous coelurosaurus, part of a group that includes the mighty Tyrannosaurus , although the discovered dinosaur probably wasn’t very mighty itself. Scientists can tell it was tiny from the tail bone, which is a mere two millimeters across. Part of the mystery of dinosaurs with feathers is that many probably didn’t use that plumage to fly. The structure of the little dinosaur’s feathers instead resembles ornamental feathers seen on some modern birds . Scientists can see the way the feathers’ barbs bend means they’re far more flexible than feathers used for flight, and could have been employed to send signals or regulate the dinosaur’s temperature. The top of the feathers could have been dark brown, the scientists think, with the underside having no color at all. That or carotenoids – pigments responsible for orange, red, and yellow hues – may have brightened the underside feathers in life but broke down swiftly when the dinosaur died. Thrilled with the discovery, the scientists hope they might be able to find even more specimens in the future. With a conflict between the Kachin Independence Army – who currently possess the Hukawng Valley – and the Myanmar government hopefully coming to a close, scientists may be able to get more access to the amber mines, according to Xing. He speculated they might even find a whole dinosaur one day. 14 scientists from international institutions participated in a new study published by the journal Current Biology . Via National Geographic and The Economist Images via Lida Xing, et al.

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99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

First dinosaur brain tissue discovered in 130-million-year-old fossil

October 31, 2016 by  
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In 2004, Jamie Hiscocks found a strange fossil in Sussex, England . This wasn’t your typical fossil – researchers from the University of Oxford , University of Cambridge , and other international institutions now say the fossil is the first example of dinosaur brain tissue ever found. This extremely rare find comes from a dinosaur likely related to the herbivorous Iguanodon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T5_NlRs-5o Hiscocks discovered the fossil, which is around 130 million years old, in a brown pebble unearthed from a beach rock pool. According to the University of Cambridge, the dinosaur’s meninges, cortical tissues, and capillaries were ” preserved as mineral ‘ghosts’ .” Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging and computed tomography (CT) scanning helped the researchers to see the tissues. The specimen unfortunately doesn’t provide many clues into the size of the dinosaur’s brain, but its tissues do resemble those of modern-day birds and crocodiles. Related: Antarctic fossil hunters hit a 71-million-year-old jackpot According to the researchers, conditions must have been just right for the fossil to be preserved as it was, but they hope for similar discoveries in the future. Paper co-author David Norman of the University of Cambridge said in a statement, “What we think happened is that this particular dinosaur died in or near a body of water, and its head ended up partially buried in the sediment at the bottom. Since the water had little oxygen and was very acidic, the soft issues of the brain were likely preserved and cast before the rest of its body was buried in the sediment.” The Geological Society of London released a special publication detailing the find. + Geological Society of London Via The Guardian and University of Cambridge Images via Jamie Hiscocks and screenshot

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First dinosaur brain tissue discovered in 130-million-year-old fossil

Prefab Glass House lets you bring home the spirit of Philip Johnsons masterpiece

October 31, 2016 by  
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Alan Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the Glass House follows the design principles of Johnson’s original with its entirely glazed facade that blurs the line between indoors and outdoors. “I think doing it in a prefabricated version is a whole different approach,” said Ritchie. “But we can still maintain the spirit of the original Glass House.” Although this prefabricated version similarly immerses owners in nature, Ritchie had to consider new challenges including how the different modules would connect together and weatherproofing the structure for a variety of climates. Related: Ron Arad designs the modular Armadillo Tea Pavilion for indoor and outdoor use The home, which is not a direct replica, is available in different sizes from a one-bedroom 80.5-square-meter home to a four-bedroom 172.1-square-meter home. The structure would be constructed off-site in a factory and then shipped and installed on-site, thus minimizing construction waste . Interested buyers of this limited edition house can submit an inquiry on Revolution’s website. + Modular Glass House Images via Revolution Precrafted

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Dinosaur egg museum in China is built from bamboo and concrete

October 26, 2016 by  
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Located in Qinglong Mountain National Geological Park, the dragon egg museum and its form was determined by the placement of the dinosaur eggs laid around 70 million years ago. The 70-meter-long building also pays homage to its more recent past with a roof made from reclaimed tiles left by local villagers and preservation of the natural site, including the undulating terrain and the 800-year-old trees. The double facade of tiles and concrete helps keep the museum naturally cool . Related: Jean Nouvel Unveils Plans for Nature-Filled National Art Museum of China Visitors tour the dinosaur egg exhibitions through a series of raised walkways that snake through the areas where the fossilized eggs are located and dimly illuminated by small lights. Grills punctuate the roof to let in natural ventilation, while blocking natural light . The architect’s minimalist design creates a mysterious atmosphere that aims to immerse visitors in the prehistoric world. The Qinglong Mountain National Geological Park also built a second building, the visitor reception center (not pictured), to accompany the museum that will offer magnificent panoramic views across the Geopark. + Huazhong University of Science and Technology Via Dezeen

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Five grass-covered shelters coming soon to a clifftop the dinosaurs roamed

February 25, 2016 by  
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Nicholas Cage pledges to return Mongolia’s stolen dinosaur skull

December 23, 2015 by  
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When actor Nicolas Cage bought a 70 million year old Tyrannosaurus bataar skull at auction for $276,000 in 2007, he had no way of knowing that it had actually been smuggled illegally into the United States. Cage purchased the fossil anonymously from the I.M. Chait gallery in Beverly Hills, but in July, 2014 he learned the skull was the subject of a homeland security investigation when law enforcement contacted his agent about the case. Read the rest of Nicholas Cage pledges to return Mongolia’s stolen dinosaur skull

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Ancient human-sized fish breathed with lungs

September 21, 2015 by  
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The ancient ancestors of the human-sized coelacanth (see-leh-kanth) breathed with lungs, according to a new study. The modern coelacanth, like most fish, uses gills to get oxygen from the water, but its dinosaur-age ancestors also had a well-developed lung, allowing them to survive in low-oxygen shallow waters. It’s probable that during the Mesozoic Era, part of the coelacanth family moved to deeper waters, eventually losing their lung and relying solely on their gills to breathe. Read the rest of Ancient human-sized fish breathed with lungs

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