More than 70 million years ago, a creature roaming Earth’s ancient wetlands may have looked like a duck and hunted like a duck—but it was really a dinosaur related to Velociraptor.
Described based on a nearly complete skeleton still embedded in rock, Halszkaraptor escuilliei is an unusually amphibious theropod that lived in what is now Mongolia during the late Cretaceous. At the time, the area broadly resembled today’s Egyptian Nile, with nourishing lakes and rivers that coursed through an arid, sandy landscape.
Like modern aquatic predators, this dinosaur’s face seems to have had an exquisite sense of touch, useful for finding prey in murky waters. Its small teeth would have helped it nab tiny fish, and its limber backbone and flipper-like forelimbs suggest that it cut through the water with ease.
Asteroids keep falling on my head… but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red…I’m never gonna stop them by complainin’…
We will eventually have our latest MonSFFA project, the stop-motion animation: Theories of Dinosaur Extinction available on line, but while we wait for Cathy & Keith to get their act together, here are solutions for preventing human extinction.
A pheasant-size dinosaur found in China is causing a stir among scientists trying to understand the origins of flight.
The newly named species, Serikornis sungei, adds to the ranks of dinosaurs that effectively had four wings, thanks to heavily feathered hindlimbs and forelimbs. But in a twist for paleontologists, the evidence suggests that Serikornis couldn’t fly.
“The feathering of Serikornis shows for the first time a complete absence of barbules—that is, the microstructures that allow feathers to resist air pressure during wing beats,” says study leader Ulysse Lefèvre, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.
About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.
Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.
Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.
“It’s a beautiful specimen,” says Victoria Arbour, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Ontario Museum who is studying another well-preserved armored dinosaur called Zuul crurivastator. “It’s great to have specimens like this one and Zuul that give us an idea of what these dinosaurs looked like when they were alive.”
In addition to announcing its name, the first scientific description of the nodosaur, published today in the journal Current Biology, is revealing even more of its secrets.
“We knew six years ago that this was going to be special,” says Don Henderson, the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s curator of dinosaurs. “I don’t think we realized how special it was.”
Matthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates along its back.
“We had absolutely no idea how the ornithischian body plan started to develop because they look so different to all the other dinosaurs. They have so many unusual features,” the Cambridge scientist said.
“In the 130 years since the ornithischian group was first recognised, we have never had any concept of how the first ones could have looked until now.”
The Frankenstein dinosaur, more properly called Chilesaurus, puzzled experts when it was first discovered two years ago.
It had the legs of an animal like a Brontosaurus, the hips of a Stegosaurus, and the arms and body of an animal like Tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists simply did not know where it fitted in the dino family tree.
In the currently accepted family tree, the ornithischian group was always thought to be completely unrelated to all of the other dinosaurs.
And it is in re-configuring the dinosaur family tree that Mr Baron transforms the Frankenstein dinosaur from an enigma into a missing link.
“Now that we think ornithischians and meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus are related, Chilesaurus slots exactly in between the two groups. It is a perfect half-and-half mix. So, suddenly in the new tree it makes a whole lot of sense.”
MonSFFA is celebrating the premiere of our stop motion film project. Bring or wear your dinosaurs to our August meeting. Tee-shirts, fossils, books, art, everything dino is welcome and will earn you a ticket in the Christmas party draw.
14:10 h Forever and a Day: Living eternally, or at least for a much longer time than we do now is an old human dream. But would fulfilling it really be an unmitigated blessing? Presented by Sylvain St-Pierre
16:00 The Future of Warfare: We talk about peace on earth, but it seems we don’t really expect it to happen. Indeed, from reading or watching SF, one expects warfare to go way beyond Earth. How will we fight in space ? Ships, armour, weapons? Planetary defence systems? Presented by Mark Burakoff