Posts about dinosaurs

Dinosaur Bird Wing and Feather in Amber

Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber

Two tiny wings entombed in amber reveal that plumage (the layering, patterning, coloring, and arrangement of feathers) seen in birds today already existed in at least some of their predecessors nearly a hundred million years ago.

Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible, along with the remains of rows of feathers similar in arrangement and microstructure to modern birds.

photo of dinosaur wing in amber with feathers visible

The nearly 100 million year old wing shows a structure that is very similar to modern birds.

The piece in this photo, and others samples, were bought at an amber market in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state in northern Myanmar. The region is politically unstable and most of the amber is sold to Chinese consumers for jewelry and decorative carvings.

Read the related posts for more on the wonderful discoveries saved in amber of hundreds of millions of years. We get to read about these amazing discoveries so often it is easy to lose appreciation for how amazing each one is. This photo shows a wind that was used by a dinosaur almost 100 million years ago.

Related: Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber 2008)Learning About Life over 200 Million Years Ago From Samples Trapped In Amber (2012)The evolution of birds from small predatory dinosaursDino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber (2008)Amber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution (2011)Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

Deinocheirus is a Totally Bizarre Dinosaur

A very strange dinosaur has been uncovered, studied and explained by scientists. The dinosaur is from Mongolia about 70 million years ago.

“Deinocheirus is a totally bizarre dinosaur,” explains Phil Currie, professor and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology at the University of Alberta. At 11 meters long and with an estimated weight of 6.4 tons, Deinocheirus was a behemoth to be sure—but hardly the giant tyrannosaur its massive arms may have suggested. Rather, the apparently disproportionately large forearms were more likely used for digging and gathering plants in freshwater habitats, or for fishing. Among its other unusual attributes are tall dorsal spines, truncated hoof-like claws on the feet to prevent sinking into muddy ground, and bulky hind legs that indicate it was a slow mover.

“Although the arms have been known since 1965 and have always aroused speculation because of their enormous size and sharp, recurving claws, we were completely unprepared for how strange this dinosaur looks,” says Currie. “It almost appears to be a chimera, with its ornithomimid-like arms, its tyrannosaurid-like legs, its Spinosaurus-like vertebral spines, its sauropod-like hips, and its hadrosaur-like duckbill and foot-hooves.”

Currie notes that Deinocheirus is a descendant of ostrich-like dinosaurs that were only slightly larger than humans, so its evolution into a giant, multi-tonne creature is almost certainly responsible for most of its unusual characteristics. “Its great size probably gave it some protection from the tyrannosaurid Tarbosaurus, which appears to have been relatively common in that part of Mongolia some 70 million years ago,” says Currie. To feed its great bulk, Deinocheirus was apparently an omnivore that ingested both plants and fish, as evident from fish remains found in its stomach contents.

“The study of this specimen has shown that even in dinosaurs like Deinocheirus, an animal that has been known for almost half a century, we can still learn surprising things about their anatomy,” says Currie. “Furthermore, it underlines the fact that even today, dinosaurs are still relatively poorly known. The fact that Deinocheirus is from the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia, one of the richest and most diverse dinosaur faunas known, hints that there are probably thousands of dinosaurs that we still do not know about from the majority of dinosaur localities in the world.”

Including poached dinosaur bones (stealing bones has long been a problem to the advancement of science) with the existing bones available to scientists allowed the new understanding of this amazing dinosaur. The now near-complete Deinocheirus specimen has been returned to its home for further study in the Mongolia Centre for Paleontology.

Full press release

Related: Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian DesertNigersaurus, the Mesozoic CowDinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and TissueLobopodians from China (“the walking cactus” – an animal)Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Project

Amber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution

Dinosaur feather evolution trapped in Canadian amber

a study of amber found near Grassy Lake in Alberta – dated from what is known as the Late Cretaceous period – has unearthed a full range of feather structures that demonstrate the progression. “We’re finding two ends of the evolutionary development that had been proposed for feathers trapped in the same amber deposit,” said Ryan McKellar of the University of Alberta, lead author of the report.

The team’s find confirms that the filaments progressed to tufts of filaments from a single origin, called barbs. In later development, some of these barbs can coalesce into a central branch called a rachis. As the structure develops further, further branches of filments form from the rachis.

“We’ve got feathers that look to be little filamentous hair-like feathers, we’ve got the same filaments bound together in clumps, and then we’ve got a series that are for all intents and purposes identical to modern feathers,” Mr McKellar told BBC News.

“We’re catching some that look to be dinosaur feathers and another set that are pretty much dead ringers for modern birds.”

a picture is emerging that many dinosaurs were not the dull-coloured, reptilian-skinned creatures that they were once thought to be. “If you were to transport yourself back 80 million years to western North America and walk around the forest… so many of the animals would have been feathered,” said Dr Norell.

“We’re getting more and more evidence… that these animals were also brightly coloured, just like birds are today.”

Very cool. Science really is great.

Related: Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber (2008)Dinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and TissueMarine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in AmberGiant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in Mexico

Friday Fun: Dinosaur and Kids

Just a fun video for this Friday, showing a visit by a puppet dinosaur to a Australian school.

Related: Most Dinosaurs Remain UndiscoveredNigersaurusKids on Scientists: Before and AfterFriday Fun: Aerodynamics for SportsGreat 3D Printing PresentationTornado Ride, Wet-n-Wild Australia

Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber

photo of foraminifer in amber

Marine microorganisms have been found in amber dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period. The fossils were collected in Charente, in France. This completely unexpected discovery will deepen our understanding of these lost marine species as well as providing precious data about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous. This work was carried out by researchers at the Géosciences Rennes laboratory, together with researchers from the Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnement laboratory in Paris and the Centre de Géochimie de la Surface in Strasbourg.

Amber is a fossil resin with a reputation for preserving even the most minute details of insects and other terrestrial arthropods (spiders, scorpions, mites) that lived in resiniferous trees. The forest-based provenance of amber in theory makes it impossible for marine animals to be trapped in the resin. Nonetheless, researchers from the Géosciences Rennes laboratory have discovered various inclusions of marine plankton in amber from the Mid-Cretaceous (100 to 98 million years ago). These micro-organisms are found in just a few pieces of amber among the thousands that have been studied, but show a remarkable diversity: unicellular algae, mainly diatoms found in large numbers, traces of animal plankton, such as radiolaria and a foraminifer, spiny skeletons of sponges and of echinoderms.

Foraminifera (the photo shows one in Amber) are amoeboid protists with reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net.[1] They typically produce a test, or shell, which can have either one or multiple chambers, some becoming quite elaborate in structure.[2] These shells are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or agglutinated sediment particles. About 275,000 species are recognized, both living and fossil.[citation needed] They are usually less than 1 mm in size.”

Carried out together with researchers at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, the study of diatoms pushed back by 10 to 30 million years the known date for the appearance of certain marine forms of this type of algae. This new information, taken together with recent data on molecular phylogeny, marks a huge advance in our understanding of the complex evolutionary history of diatoms.

The presence of these marine organisms in the amber is an ecological paradox. How did these marine species become stuck and then trapped in the conifers’ resin? The most likely scenario is that the forest producing the amber was very close to the coast, potentially shrouded by plankton-bearing mist or flooded by sea water during storms.

The preservation of marine organisms in amber is an exceptional asset, allowing us to deepen our understanding of these lost species and to have a clear idea about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous.

press release

Related: Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber2,000 year old living coralBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

photo of Basilosaurus fossil

The skeleton is 18 meters (50 feet) long and was found in Wadi Hitan in the Western Sahara of Egypt. The first Basilosaurus fossil was found in 1905 but no full skeleton has been discovered until now.

The new skeleton of Basilosaurus will be shipped to Michigan for preparation and preservation, University of Michigan paleontologist Philip D. Gingerich said. It then will be replicated in a casting material suitable for reconstruction and exhibition of the complete skeleton. The original fossil bones and a complete cast will be returned to Egypt for exhibition in public museums in Cairo and in the Wadi Hitan visitors center. Gingerich also hopes that a complete cast can be mounted in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum.

The fossil whales of Wadi Hitan were first mapped in the 1980s and 1990s during expeditions led by Gingerich, a professor at the U-M Museum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences. The 1989 team discovered that Basilosaurus still retained tiny, useless legs, feet, and toes representing hind legs that were lost at a later stage of whale evolution. No skeleton was collected at the time because of the remote location of Wadi Hitan and because of the large size of the whale skeletons.

Wadi Hitan is a remote valley in which hundreds of fossil whale skeletons are being exposed by the wind. They lie trapped in a sandstone formation that represents an ancient sea bed. “Here the wind sculpts the sand into spectacular shapes, which give the valley an unusual beauty in addition to its richness in fossils,” Gingerich said.

Sea-living animals found in the Wadi Hitan desert include five species of whales, including the Dorudon atrox, presently exhibited in the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum. There are also three species of sea cows (Sirenia), two crocodiles, several turtles, and a sea snake, in addition to a large number of fossilized sharks and bony fishes.

Full press release, April 2005. Photo via: Whale Found in Egypt Desert

Related: Stromerius nidensis, new archaeocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the upper Eocene Qasr el-Sagha Formation, Fayum, EgyptGiant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in MexicoOver 100 Dinosaur Eggs DiscoveredNigersaurus

Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber

Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber

Seven dino-era feathers found perfectly preserved in amber in western France highlight a crucial stage in feather evolution, scientists report. The hundred-million-year-old plumage has features of both feather-like fibers found with some two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods and of modern bird feathers, the researchers said.

The find provides a clear example “of the passage between primitive filamentous down and a modern feather,” said team member Didier Néraudeau of the University of Rennes in France. The study team isn’t sure yet whether the feathers belonged to a dino or a bird. But fossil teeth from two dino families thought to have been feathered were excavated from rocks just above the layer that contained the amber, Perrichot said. “It is entirely plausible that the feathers come from a dinosaur rather than from a bird,” he said.

Very cool. Related: NigersaurusDinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and Tissue

As I was Saying… More Dinosaur Discoveries

video removed

As I was Saying… Tiny flying reptile with 10 inch wingspan found:

Palaeontologists have found a tiny flying reptile that, with a wingspan of less than 10 inches, is the smallest relative of the largest flying creature ever. Pterosaurs, the first creatures with backbones to take to the air, ruled the skies during the days of the dinosaurs and died out with them some 65 million years ago.

They came in a huge range of sizes: there were gull-sized creatures, such as Anurognathus, giants such as Anhanguera (“Old Devil”) and Tupuxuara with wing spans of about four metres, and massive flyers like Quetzalcoatlus, with wingspans of more than 10 metres. Now a miniature version is described by Xiaolin Wang

The remains were found in the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation (120 million years ago), western Liaoning, China, and suggest it probably weighed between 30 and 50 grams. “This small pterosaur looked like a sparrow or swallow in size,” adds Dr Wang.” The creature is the smallest toothless pterosaur and the smallest to live during the Cretaceous period.”

Giant Duck-Billed Dinosaur Discovered in Mexico

“‘We only know about 29 percent of all dinosaurs out there to be found,’ said study co-author Peter Dodson, a paleobiologist and anatomy professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.” I found this quote to be surprising when I first wrote about it in 2006: Most Dinosaurs Remain Undiscovered. Yet we keep getting new discoveries announced (New Triceratops AncestorNigersaurus the Mesozoic Cow!) showing, while I was surprised, the scientists knew what they were talking about.

Giant Duck-Billed Dino Discovered in Mexico

The discovery of the 72-million-year-old fossil adds to the rich gallery of dinosaurs that scientists now know lived in western North America during the latter part of the dinosaur era. The new species was dubbed Velafrons coahuilensis in honor of the state of Coahuila in north-central Mexico where the fossil was found.

Reaching lengths up to 35 feet (10.5 meters) long, the newfound dino was a plant-eater belonging to a group of duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, that roamed the region together with carnivores like tyrannosaurs and velociraptors.

Related: Dakosaurus andiniensis100 Dinosaur Eggs


photo of the Nigersaurus Jaw Bones

Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur

Nigersaurus taqueti shows extreme adaptations for a dinosaurian herbivore including a skull of extremely light construction, tooth batteries located at the distal end of the jaws, tooth replacement as fast as one per month, an expanded muzzle that faces directly toward the ground, and hollow presacral vertebral centra with more air sac space than bone by volume. A cranial endocast provides the first reasonably complete view of a sauropod brain including its small olfactory bulbs and cerebrum. Skeletal and dental evidence suggests that Nigersaurus was a ground-level herbivore that gathered and sliced relatively soft vegetation, the culmination of a low-browsing feeding strategy first established among diplodocoids during the Jurassic.

This discovery has received a good deal of coverage. Among other things it is great to see this paper is available to everyone who wants to view it because it is published by open access PLoS One. The Nigersaurus was discovered in what is now the Sahara Desert in Niger. When the Nigersaurus was roaming the area, 110 million years ago, the climate was a Mesozoic forest. The dinosaur had a few hundred teeth that were replaced almost monthly (a record). The bones of the head and neck were so minimal and light that the Read more about the Nigersaurus. As the author stated: “One of the stunning things about this animal is how fragile the skull is… Some of the bones are so thin you can shine a light through them.”

Related: Extreme Dinosaur: Nigersaurus, the Mesozoic Cow!Dinosaur from Sahara ate like a ‘Mesozoic cow’Nigersaurus: just when you thought you’d seen everything…Dino’s look is hard to swallowBizarre Dinosaur Grazed Like a Cow, Study SaysT-rex TreasureMost Dinosaurs Remain Undiscovered