Author Topic: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread  (Read 94142 times)

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Offline Halbred

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Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« on: February 19, 2009, 12:26:30 PM »
So exciting. Lots of stuff goes on in the world of paleontology. Just this week, in fact, two big stories cropped up:

The first paper details a new basal sauropodomorph from the Valley of the Moon in Argentina, famously known for Sereno's Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus. The new critter, Panphagia, looks barely different from little Eoraptor but tells paleontologists what features evolved first in sauropodomorph dinosaurs. Basically, this dinosaur is a sort of "Archaeopteryx" between basal saurischians and the big guys like Brachiosaurus. Here's a link to the open-access article:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004397

The second paper is about pterosaurs and how they breathed. You guys know pterosaurs as "flying dinosaurs," but of course, the only flying dinosaurs are birds. Pterosaurs are ornithodiran archosaurs closely related to dinosaurs, but not actually dinosaurs themselves. They were the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight. This paper investigates how they breathed, and come to some awesome conclusions. First, the pterosaur sternal plate and sternocostapophyses (sternal "ribs") acted as a sort of pump to facilitate respiration, and the prepubes contributed to this pump as well. Even more importantly, pterosaurs developed complex pneumatic diverticulae systems that not only invaded the bones but also subcutaneous tissue. This would have made pterosaurs extremely oxygen-efficient (they would have been oxygenating their blood all the time) but also lightweight. This, in turn, probably helped allow pterosaurs to grow to giant sizes in the Late Cretaceous. Here's the link:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004497

Questions? Comments?
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Offline vudu

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2009, 12:50:59 PM »
Why don't you like Friends?  You know Ross is a paleontologist, right?
Why must all things be so bright? Why can things not appear only in hues of brown! I am so serious about this! Dull colors are the future! The next generation! I will never accept a world with such bright colors! It is far too childish! I will rage against your cheery palette with my last breath!

Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2009, 01:02:07 PM »
Right. A paleontologist who never does field work or publishes.
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Offline vudu

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2009, 01:27:51 PM »
He sets up scenes of cave men at museums and then sleeps with hot girls in the middle of the exhibit!  What more do you want?
Why must all things be so bright? Why can things not appear only in hues of brown! I am so serious about this! Dull colors are the future! The next generation! I will never accept a world with such bright colors! It is far too childish! I will rage against your cheery palette with my last breath!

Offline Stogi

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2009, 03:00:36 PM »
Quote
Questions? Comments?

Ya I have a one. When can I buy one?
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2009, 03:16:17 PM »
Buy one what? The papers are open-access. You should be able to click "PDF" and it'll load up on Acrobat.
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Offline bustin98

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2009, 09:08:02 PM »
LOL at Stogi trying to be the class clown.

I watched the Nova show that went over the arguments of evolution or 'intelligent design'. We don't have to get into the specifics of the show (even though I know that GP would love to), but I found the episode very enlightening. It opened with a couple of paleontologists in Northern Canada who discovered a half fish, half salamandar creature. It was too late to help the trial in Penn, but it shows how much there is left to find. The creature was found exactly where it was expected to be found, too.

I also re-watched the show this week about the dino-bird with 'wings' on its feet. They were using the wind tunnel at MIT to discern how the creature used its hind feathers. Turns out that its a glider like flying squirels, climbing to the top of trees and jumping to the next tree. It used the leg warmers to catch the air behind it, then brought its legs forward to slow and make a landing.

I love this stuff. I wish this and space related topics was all Nova aired since I don't have the Science Channel.

Offline ShyGuy

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2009, 03:17:01 AM »
I don't get the fascination with dinosaurs. T-rex is cool, but really I'm glad they're dead.

Offline bustin98

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2009, 08:40:05 AM »
If dinosaurs were around as man was getting around, you can bet we would have killed them, at least the dangerous ones. Just like the saber toothed tiger.

I love how we have little information on  these creatures of the past. The joy is in discovering new things and understanding how all of the components of the past fit together.

Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2009, 10:01:02 AM »
Bustin speaks of Tiktaalik and Microraptor, both unbelievably fascinating animals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiktaalik
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microraptor
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2009, 12:24:39 PM »
More news:

What you all know as Diceratops hatcheri, which most consider a pathologic specimen of Triceratops horridus but is considered valid by Forster (1996) and a sister taxa to Torosaurus utahensis (Wu, et al. 2007), was renamed last year as Diceratus hatcheri (the original name was preoccupied by a bug). Well early this year, it was renamed again, as Nedoceratops hatcheri.

Turns out the name "Nedoceratops" was published before "Diceratus," and since names are given based on priority, "Nedoceratops" wins out. I don't much like that name (it means "insufficient lizard") but meh.
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Offline Kairon

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2009, 04:20:48 PM »
Oh my god... it's just got TWO horns?!?!?!

... You know, I gotta get back into dinosaurs. When I was a kid I had all sorts of books and toys on 'em, and I loved whenever the public view of dinosaurs was expanded by a new species getting showcased instead of the same 'ol standards (like how Disney's dinosaur had Carnotaurus instead of T-Rex). Sure, entertainment distorts things, but at least my Dino Rider toys made me aware of Deinonychus (along with Struthiomimus and Monoclonius) before Jurassic Park got everyone "raptor" centric.

Man... you're so lucky working in a museum Halbred...
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Offline Stogi

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2009, 04:31:32 PM »
LOL at Stogi trying to be the class clown.

I was being semi-serious.

http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/science/dino.html

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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2009, 05:45:00 PM »
I thought I'd seen it all. A few years ago, Brachytrachelopan, a short-necked sauropod that seemed to converge on stegosaurs, was discovered. Well, today, a new stegosaur was published that seems to converge on sauropods!

Miragaia longicollum is a mid-sized stegosaur that has a whopping 17 cervicals, more than most sauropod dinosaurs!

Here's a link to the paper. Get it now before it's shuffled into the website's archives, when you'll have to start paying for it.

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/02/21/rspb.2008.1909.full.pdf+html
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Offline Kairon

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2009, 09:26:04 PM »
What use would a stegosaur have for a long neck?
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2009, 11:35:22 AM »
The authors suggest two things:

1) Niche partitioning in response to competition from contemporary stegosaurs, Dacentrurus and Stegosaurus. A longer neck would let it munch on vegetation at a slightly higher level than its cousin, although the authors also note that the difference would not be significant.

2) More likely, the long neck may be the result of sexual selection, like modern giraffes and some sauropod dinosaurs. Males could have bashed necks together, or the plates along the neck might have been a different color, who knows.

There's an interesting test to show if an organ has a sexual selection bent to it. There are like six steps, but only two can be tested on a single specimen:

1) The structure would not produce any immediate benefits. That's true--the niche partitioning isn't overwhelming. Besides, there are probaby less costly ways to get to slightly-higher vegetation: longer legs, larger overall body, etc.

2) The structure makes the animal vulnerable. That's also true. Stegosaurs are not particularly fast or agile animals, and a long neck would be a nice big target for the local theropods. If anything, a long neck on a stegosaur is a bad thing.

The other tests can't be run on just one fossil. Still, those are some interesting results.
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Offline Kairon

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2009, 05:21:56 PM »
Wow. So what's probably at work here is a couple of randy stegosaurs huh?
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2009, 02:39:34 PM »
Kairon, Nedoceratops had two horns, sure, but so did Zuniceratops. Three is, of course, the usual compliment for chasmosaurine ceratopsids like Torosaurus and Triceratops. Pentaceratops has two postorbital horns and the nasal horn, but its epijugals flared outward and looked like two extra horns, thus its name. An undescribed centrosaurine from Utah has...ready for it...eight horns! Two small nasal horns, two portorbital horns, large epijugals, and two long, curved horns on the frill, kind of like Styracosaurus.

Ceratopsids are beyond awesome, brother.

Anyway, MORE NEWS!

Paleontologists have long known that theropod dinosaurs were unable to supinate their wrists. That is, the traditional view of theropods holding their hands palm-down is erroneous. The radius and ulna of theropods could not cross over like it does in primates. Instead, theropod hands were held in palm-inward. However, later theropods could pivot their wrists up and down against the arm like a bird's hand (permitting wing-folding). But how far back did wrist pivoting go?

Very far, it turns out. A new trackway in Utah shows a crouching theropod with hand imprints, and the hand imprints are from the "pinky side" of the hand. Put your hands in front of you, palms facing together. Now, rest your wrists on your desk like that. That's how theropods habitually held their wrists. Now there's physical proof in addition to skeletal evidence!

So this find shows that the avian-wrist of modern birds actually goes all the way back to the Early Jurassic. The trackmaker was probably similar to (if not actually) Dilophosaurus or a similar coelophysoid theropod. Coelophysoids are the earliest undisputed theropod dinosaurs. More basal "theropods," like Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus have more ambiguous identities.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004591
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2009, 11:25:45 AM »
In today's issue of the online journal PNAS, Longrich & Currie describe Hesperonychus elizabethae, the smallest dinosaur ever found in North America. It's a tiny dromaeosaur related to Asian microraptorines (actually, Bambiraptor may also be a microraptorine, and it's from Montana). Known only from a partial pelvis and bits of the toes, Hesperonychus would have been about half the size of a housecat.

PNAS is not an open-access journal, but if anybody would like a copy of the paper, I can send it to you.
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Offline bustin98

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2009, 08:09:19 AM »
I saw this news on CNN but didn't read up on it. I don't want small dinosaurs, I want big terrible lizard dinosaurs!

Offline BeautifulShy

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2009, 01:39:24 PM »
I saw this news on CNN but didn't read up on it. I don't want small dinosaurs, I want big terrible lizard dinosaurs!

Redundant much
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2009, 04:46:12 PM »
But big ones are a dime a dozen. The chances against a small dinosaur skeleton (especially a hollow-boned theropod) fossilizing are a million to one, so their presence in Mesozoic ecosystems is virtually unknown.
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Offline bustin98

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2009, 07:55:29 AM »
I saw this news on CNN but didn't read up on it. I don't want small dinosaurs, I want big terrible lizard dinosaurs!

Redundant much

That was the idea.

Offline Halbred

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2009, 11:43:44 AM »
HOLY CRAP!

I never thought I'd live to see this. Hell, I didn't think it was possible, but...OH MY GOSH!

In today's issue of the journal Nature, Zheng et al. reported on a heterodontosaur (basal ornithischian)...with feathers. Now, feathered dinosaurs are a dime a dozen these days. Raptors, therizinosaurs, troodontids, basal tyrannosaurs, oviraptorosaurs, and compsognathids all had feathers. But they're all theropods (and saurischians).

Dinosauria is divided into two branches: the Saurischian (sauropods and theropods) and Ornithischia (everyone else). Heterodontosaurs are dog-sized bipedal ornithischians who have canine teeth and were probably omnivorous. Anyway, the fact that this new animal...Tianyulong, has feathers which are likely homologous to those of theropods means one thing:

ALL DINOSAURS HAD FEATHERS.

Look at it this way: Humans have hair, and chimps have hair. That means the common ancestor of chimps and humans had hair. Hair didn't pop up twice (convergently). The simpler answer is to say that hair was present in the common ancestor, and we both inherited it. So it is with dinosaurs and feathers!

Now, it's obvious that many dinosaurs did NOT have feathers. Skin impressions from sauropods, ceratopsians, and ornithopods all show that these animals had scaley skin, which means one of two things:

1) Feathers were ontologically important. That is, babies and juveniles had feathers (probably to keep warm), but those feathers were shed when a certain size was attained to prevent overheating.
2) Feathers were secondarily lost (like hair is in elephants and rhinos) in many dinosaur groups. Right now, both scenarios are equally plausible.

What's even more interesting is that we've known for ages that pterosaurs had their own kind of "fuzz" that covered their entire bodies. This "fuzz" is usually thought to be different from feathers, although it's constantly compared to baby chicken fuzz (which it probably resembled). If the fuzz of pterosaurs really is a kind of feather, that means ALL OF THE ORNITHODIRA, which includes a sizeable number of non-dinosaurian, non-pterosaurian groups, had feathers. WHOA.

So yeah. If you want to see the fossil, Google for a blog called "The Dragon's Tales." There's a really wonderful photo up there, and the feathers are clearly defined on the slab. This is really unbelievable stuff, and its implications cannot be understated.
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Offline Kairon

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Re: Halbred's Paleo-News Thread
« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2009, 02:40:36 PM »
Beyond how feathers were used, one wonders how they evolved in the first place.
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A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
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