Friday, July 24, 2015

More than double in 24 hours. Thanks!

Thanks for helping us make double our Kickstarter goal!

We've finished the Medusa prototype and have added the first stretch goal of $5,000. Your help has been wonderful. We still have 26 days to go in the campaign and several stretch goal ideas, so please keep sharing the project!

Shorter limbs than T-rex

Four-legged snake fossil stuns scientists—and ignites controversy

Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional. Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature’s overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren’t so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.

The team’s scientific interpretation may be the least controversial aspect of the discovery, which they report online today in Science. The specimen’s provenance seems to be murkier than the silty waters that once buried its carcass. Whereas the team’s analyses strongly suggest the fossil came from northeastern Brazil, details of when it was unearthed and how it eventually ended up in the German museum where it now resides remain a mystery. Those details matter to many researchers and especially to some from Brazil, because it’s been illegal to export fossils from that nation since 1942.

Aptly, the new species has been dubbed Tetrapodophis amplectus. The genus name, in Greek, means “four-footed serpent.” (Previously, fossils of creatures considered to be protosnakes have only sported one set of limbs, usually hindlimbs.) The species name amplectus, which comes from Latin, means “embracing” and refers to the creature’s flexibility and presumed ability to wrap tightly around its prey. The front part of the fossil—which appears to be complete and has all bones in their original, lifelike arrangement—lies in a tight coil, a demonstration of the animal’s extreme limberness, says Nicholas Longrich, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom and co-author of the new study. Besides the tiny limbs, the specimen sports a skull the size of a human fingernail, 160 spinal vertebrae, and 112 vertebrae in the tail.

The fossil had resided in a private collection for several decades before it gained the attention of team member David Martill of the University of Portsmouth. He stumbled across the specimen during a field trip with students to Museum Solnhofen in Germany. No notes about when or where it was collected are available, the researchers say. But certain characteristics of the limestone that entombed the fossil, as well as the distinct orange-brown color of the bones themselves, strongly suggest it came from a particular area of northeastern Brazil, Longrich says. The sediment that became those rocks accumulated in calm waters on the floor of a lake or a lagoon sometime between 113 million and 126 million years ago, he notes.

Regarding the legality of the fossil’s collection or export from its presumed home country, Martill says “Who knows how the fossil came from Brazil”? Furthermore, he notes, to assert that the fossil was collected illegally a person would need to ascertain when it was unearthed. But such questions are irrelevant to the fossil’s scientific significance, Martill maintains. “Personally I don’t care a damn how the fossil came from Brazil or when,” he says.

Many features of Tetrapodophis point to its snakiness. Among squamates, the group of reptiles that also includes lizards, only snakes have more than 150 spinal vertebrae, the researchers note. The creature’s teeth are pointy and slightly curved. Also, the fossil includes some scales that stretch across the full width of the belly, a trait known only in snakes. The dramatically reduced size of the creature’s limbs, as well as a cylindrical rather than a flattened tail, suggest that snakes evolved from terrestrial animals that burrowed, not from marine creatures as some researchers have proposed, Longrich says.

Read more here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Putting Flesh on Bone

More dinosaur bones yield traces of blood, soft tissue

Scientists studying dinosaur evolution are finding many more bones to pick.
Researchers from London have found hints of blood and fibrous tissue in a hodgepodge of 75-million-year-old dinosaur bones. These fossils had been poorly preserved. That now suggests residues of soft tissues may be more common in dino bones than scientists had thought. Details appeared June 9 in Nature Communications.

Scientists are excited at the idea that soft tissues might still exist in most dinosaur bones. It would give them the ability to study these long-extinct animals at the cellular level. And such studies could reveal when dinosaurs switched from being cold-blooded to warm-blooded creatures.

Matthew Collins is an expert in the study of ancient proteins at the University of York in England. (Proteins form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues. They also do the work inside of cells.) Until now, scientists had thought that traces of soft tissue from dinosaurs remained only in really well-preserved fossils. “It’s exciting to think that we may have more soft tissue in dinosaur bones kicking around,” says Collins, who was not involved in the new study.

Susannah Maidment is a paleontologist at Imperial College London in England. She was part of a team that has just found residues of soft tissue in slivers of eight dinosaur bones. These included a toe claw from a theropod. There also was a rib from a duckbilled dinosaur. All had been found about a century ago, mostly in Alberta, Canada. Since then, the bones had been stashed in drawers at the Natural History Museum in London.

The team used a scanning electron microscope to study the bones. This special microscope can highlight features that are just a few billionths of a meter across. The dinosaur bone images revealed what appeared to be red blood cells. A second type of powerful microscope probed the structure of some bone features. These images showed bands similar to patterns formed by collagen in animal bones today. Collagen is a fibrous protein. It is found not only in bones, but also in cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues.

More on this story here

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Embryos Hatched After 200 Million Years

Dinosaur Eggs Ready To Hatch Secrets 200 Million Years Later

In the late winter of 1976, the world famous fossil collector James Kitching was doing a survey near South Africa’s border with Lesotho.

To his surprise he found a tiny clutch of six fossilized eggs along the side of the road at a place known as Rooidraai.
It took five years for skilled palentologists to remove enough rock matrix from the eggs so that they could be preliminarily identified as the first dinosaur embryos from South Africa and the oldest dinosaur embryos in the world.

Research on dinosaurs has truly blossomed in the 40 years since Kitching’s extraordinary find and a great deal more is now known about the baby dinosaurs in the eggs. But the exceptional secrets they hold are only now being fully uncovered because of developments in technology. This month the eggs were flown to Grenoble, a city at the foot of the French Alps, where they are being examined under a powerful CT scan at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.
The secrets of the embryonic dinosaurs whose parents roamed South Africa 200 million years ago are in the process of being hatched.

These high-resolution, 3D x-ray imaging methods are burgeoning in palaeontology. With advances in modern imaging methods we are now able to digitally remove rock matrix while making 3D models of the bones inside.

CT scans come to the rescue

The solution to all of these problems lies in CT scanning the specimen. The x-ray resolution needed to study the embryos is so high (six microns, or .006 mm) that only a few facilities in the world are capable of performing the study.

In late 2014, a team of us put together a winning proposal to scan the eggs at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble. At the facility, a huge ring of electrons (almost a kilometre in circumference) traveling at .99% of the speed of light continuously generates beams of high-energy X-rays. These beams can be harnessed with great precision to peer through rocks and image the fossils inside.
Full story here

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Woolly Camel?

Miners in north-western Canada have discovered ice age camel bones whose DNA is forcing scientists to redraw the family tree of the now-extinct species.

Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Yukon’s department of tourism and culture, said three fossils recovered from a gold mine in the Klondike in 2008 are the first western camel bones found in the territory or Alaska in decades.

Scientists had believed western camels that once lived in North America were related to llamas and alpacas common to South America, but they now have genetic proof that the animals are more closely tied to the camels inhabiting Asia and Arabia.

“For us, the gold is the fossils because it’s this incredible resource for understanding extinct and ancient animals of the ice age,” Zazula said.

Zazula said scientists can now begin to understand why the camels went extinct 13,000 years ago, at the end of the ice age.

Link to article

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Meet Hellboy

Behold the latest dinosaur discovery: Hellboy!

The latest new dinosaur – a beast with a corona of bone atop its enormous face – has an august scientific title based on Greek and Latin roots. But researchers call it something else: Hellboy.

The animal earned its impolite nickname thanks to the "devilishly hard" labor of extracting its skull from a bed of ultra-hard rock just above a river, says Darren Tanke of Canada's Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, who worked on the excavation and coined the dinosaur's moniker.

Stubs resembling devil's horns above the dinosaur's eyes also helped inspire the nickname, which the animal shares with a two-horned comic-book superhero.

No run-of-the-mill devil, the Hellboy dinosaur was more of a demon king. Besides its satanic horns, it boasted a crown-like ring of bony plates across its forehead, inspiring the first part of its scientific name, Regaliceratops, which means "royal horned-face."

Hellboy came to light thanks to amateur fossil hunter Peter Hews, who in 2005 saw a patch of dark stone on a riverbank in Alberta. Someone else would've passed it by. Hews, a consultant geologist, thought it might be bone and sent Tanke a photo. It was a good call. The second part of Hellboy's scientific name is peterhewsi, after the man who spotted it.

"I've done the easy part. I just found it," Hews says modestly.

Whether finding it was easy or not, the next part was a lot harder. Researchers needed an electric jackhammer to chisel the fossil out its resting place and a helicopter to lift the 1,300-pound stone block to a truck.

Full Article

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This aught to ruffle a few feathers


Most dinosaurs had scales, not feathers, fossil analysis concludes 

Researchers have called time on a growing suspicion that many dinosaurs were not the dry, scaly animals of popular conception, but fluffy, feathered beasts instead.

Remains unearthed in recent years have revealed feathers or proto-feathers on a range of dinosaurs, leading some paleontologists to wonder if all of the animals evolved from a feathered ancestor and sported some kind of plumage themselves.

But while many meat-eating theropods, such as velociraptors and relatives of tyrannosaurs, were clearly clad in feathers, a fresh analysis of prehistoric remains suggests that most dinosaurs were scaly beasts after all.

Nicolás Campione, a dinosaur researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, worked with scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to survey some of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils from museums around the world.

The scientists collected information on around 75 species that are known from the fossil remains of their soft tissues to have had either scales or feathers. From these, they created a dinosaur family tree and used a statistical model to work out the odds of species having feathers at different points in dinosaur history.

“What we found from this analysis is that the first dinosaur was probably not feathered,” said Campione. “Feathers clearly evolved in the dinosaur lineage, but right now, the data do not point to a feathered ancestor for them all.”

The first dinosaurs evolved from reptiles more than 230 million years ago. Feathers are thought to have arisen more than once in dinosaur lineages, and while they live on and give flight to modern birds, feathers first emerged for other reasons: for warmth or to provide colourful plumage displays.

Last year, scientists announced the discovery in Siberia of Kulindadromeus, a small, 150 million-year-old, plant-eating dinosaur that had both scales and feathers. The finding of such an ancient plumage prompted the group to speculate that a fuzzy coating of feathers may have been the rule for dinosaurs rather than the exception. Some artists have run with the idea and drawn up depictions of giant feathered brontosaurs.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Shedding pet dinosaurs

Q. Did dinosaurs peel or shed their skins?

A. Presumably, said Mark A. Norell, chairman of the division of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. But not all at once.

“Since we can’t directly observe extinct animals, we need to look at close relatives,” Dr. Norell said. “Birds are living dinosaurs, crocodilians their closest relatives. Both shed skin in patches and strips, not entire skins like snakes.

“Because crocodiles and birds share a common ancestor, we predict this skin-shedding style was present in that ancestor,” he continued. “Nonbird dinosaurs descend from this same ancestor. Without other information, we predict that even giant dinosaurs exfoliated their dead dry skin in patches.”

Everything that has skin sheds it, Dr. Norell emphasized, but there is a tremendous diversity in how skin sheds. In humans, for example, rubbing the dry skin of an arm across something black leaves a white scuff of dead skin cells, he said. And in birds, skin dries and sloughs off as small patches, like peeling after a bad sunburn.

Reptile shedding usually conjures visions of whole snakeskins, shed as a continuous piece, “looking like the ghost of a living serpent,” Dr. Norell said. But this is an anomaly; most animals do it differently. Typical reptiles — lizards, crocodiles and turtles — shed dry, irregular skin patches, and that is probably how dinosaurs did it, he said.

Link to NYTimes Question

Friday, May 22, 2015

Field Station: Dinosaurs making way for a highschool

'Field Station: Dinosaurs' park in Secaucus opening for final season

Outdoor prehistoric theme park "Field Station: Dinosaurs" will open tomorrow for its final season in Secaucus.

Park hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1 Dinosaur Way, Secaucus. The land of which the park sits will become the site of a new high school.

Originally opened in 2012, Field Station: Dinosaur was named Best Local Theme Park by Time Out New York that same year.

The themed family attraction has several different areas where participants can take part in games and workshops to receive stamps on their "passport," which they receive when they enter the park.

Featuring more than thirty life size moving dinosaurs, the various areas of the park include the base camp, the fire pit, amphitheater, the quarry, the lookout, and the plateau.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015


How Bird Beaks Got Their Start As Dinosaur Snouts

Scientists say they have reversed a bit of bird evolution in the lab and re-created a dinosaurlike snout in developing chickens.

"In this work, we can clearly see a comeback of the characteristics which we see in some of the first birds," says Arhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

The ancestors of birds are a group of dinosaurs that includes the famous velociraptor, Abzhanov says. This group of meat-eaters had long snouts, small brains and eyes, and lots of teeth. Somehow they transformed into birds, which have none of those things.

Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, another member of the research team at Yale University, says the goal is to understand exactly how birds became birds. "What's the deep history of birdiness?" wonders Bhullar. "How did the different parts of their body plan form?"

In particular, he and his colleagues are interested in birds' distinctive beak, which Bhullar calls "this insane sort of snout that they have."

To hunt for clues about the origin of the beak, the researchers have been studying various kinds of animal embryos, from birds like emus and chickens to nonbird reptiles like alligators, which are birds' closest living relatives.

Their work led them to two specific genes. These genes are active in the middle of the face-forming region of bird embryos, but not in the middle of that region in the embryos of other animals.
The team did an experiment to see what would happen if they blocked the effect of that localized gene activity in chicken embryos.

Bhullar says he remembers the night he put the altered, developing chicks under a microscope, and saw that they had unusual, broad snouts.

"That was a pretty remarkable moment," he recalls. "That's a moment that will stay with me, I think."

Link to full article

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kids Bring Box of Poop to American Museum of Natural History

Bed Bugs & Fossilized Dinosaur Poop Surface At AMNH's Identification Day

Once a year, kids with bubble-wrapped bones and sandwich bags full of nubby rocks crowd around precision-lit folding tables in the American Museum of Natural History's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall.

"We put this day on the calendar," said Caitlin Trasande, whose sons Camilo, 6, and Ramiro, 5, had just learned that the rocks they collected at Lake Taghkanic last summer contain 450-million-year-old marine fossils. "We were waiting and waiting for this day to come." Camilo, especially, couldn't believe it. "This was a flat snail that lived!" he shrieked, jumping up and down. "A brachiopod is a filter-feeding animal that usually lives in shells! You can see the imprint of the snail itself!"

Nearby, Entomologist Lou Sorkin held a sealed pill bottle of living bed bugs up to the light. A tiny camera projected the bugs onto a flat-screen television behind him. Sorkin studies bed bug infestations within New York apartment buildings, and he'll proudly show you the raw, red patch of skin on back of his hand where he lets them feed. Yesterday, he helped a nervous New Yorker identify a picture of a biting bug from her apartment. It was a mite.

On Identification Day, museum-staff Anthropologists, Paleontologists, Zoologists, and Ornithologists invite New Yorkers to bring in puzzling shells, artifacts, rocks, and occasionally insects and feathers. Equipped with magnifying glasses and comparison specimens from the museum collection, they start by asking for context—where did this bone come from? Did you find it on Rockaway Beach, or did you buy it on eBay? Paleontologist Carl Mehling admits that, "More than fifty percent of the time it's pure imagination. Someone will come in and say, 'This looks like a dinosaur skull!' But it's just a rock. When I hear something fantastic like that, I'm already concocting my gentle letdown."

That was the case for Joey Rosado and his son Javier, who like to visit Coney Island the day after a big storm, to collect bones and rocks that get spit out onto the sand. Javier handed over two sharp bones that he hoped came from a dinosaur. But Mehling quickly identified them as "left-over barbecue," citing the clean-cut edges that could only come from a bone saw.

There are exceptions, though. A few years ago, a woman showed Mehling a skull that she had found on the beach in Virginia. "Immediately I could see that it was part of a walrus skull. I knew that it couldn't be modern, because walruses today are strictly arctic. The skull is probably tens of millions of years old." And yesterday, even Mehling was surprised when a shoebox full of fossilized dinosaur poop landed on his table. Bridget, who lives in Manhattan, found the poop on a construction site when she was traveling in Berkshire, England.

Poop is one of Mehling's specialities, and it's notoriously hard to identify. "It's really, really hard to know what kind of animal fossilized poop came from, because, unlike a body part, poop doesn't have to look a certain way," he explained. "And when a creature poops, it's not obligated to hang out and die right next to it."

Full story and lots more pictures here

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hundred year old eggs -- times a million.

Home of the Dinosaurs

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Every inch of Loch Ness being indexed by Google

The search for the Loch Ness monster has moved online, thanks to Google

The legend of the Loch Ness monster has captured people's imaginations for more than 1,000 years and shows no signs of waning.

There are more Google searches for the alleged creature today than there are for famous British institutions such as Buckingham Palace and the Peak District, the company revealed.

In response to the demand, Google is rewarding the cryptozoologists in all of us by making it possible to search for "Nessie" using Google Street View.

Google's announcement coincided with the 81st anniversary of the "Surgeons Photograph," an iconic image that appeared to show the ancient-looking reptile bobbing in the water, but was later revealed to be an elaborate hoax. Since then, many scientists have pointed out the sheer improbability -- if not impossibility -- of Nessie's existence. But that hasn't stopped the world from looking, and now Google is diving in.

With the help of Adrian Shine, who heads the Loch Ness and Morar Project, a team from Google mounted a 360-degree camera on a boat and captured images of the lake every 2.5 seconds, according to the Atlantic. The team also took underwater photos in the murky 800-foot lake, allowing monster hunters to scour above the water and below.

More here

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Some sap has a story to tell

Dinosaur Feathers Discovered in Canadian Amber

Today a group of paleontologists announced the results of an extensive study of several well-preserved dinosaur feathers encased in amber. Their work, which included samples from many stages in the evolution of feathers, bolstered the findings of other scientists who've suggested that dinosaurs (winged and otherwise) had multicolored and transparent feathers of the sort you might see on birds today. The researchers also presented evidence, based on the feathers' pigmentation and structures, that today's bird feathers could have evolved from dinosaur feathers.
We've got a gallery of these intriguing feathers preserved in amber.
In a profile of lead researcher Ryan McKellar, The Atlantic's Hans Villarica writes:
These specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution, from early-stage, single filament protofeathers to much more complex structures associated with modern diving birds... They can't determine which feathers belonged to birds or dinosaurs yet, but they did observe filament structures that are similar to those seen in other non-avian dinosaur fossils.
Villarica also did io9 readers a favor and asked McKellar whether this discovery could lead to a Jurassic Park scenario. McKellar said:
Put simply, no. The specimens that we examined are extremely small and would not be expected to contain any DNA material. To put this into context, the only genetic material that has been recovered from amber is from lumps of mummified insect muscle tissue in much younger Dominican amber that are approximately 17 million years old and well after the age of dinosaurs.
So much for our dreams of dino domination.

See more beautiful amber with feathers here

Thursday, April 9, 2015

5 Year Old Paleontologist Digs Dinos, Literally

This 5-year-old who found a rare dinosaur fossil in Texas is living his best life

On Wednesday, I realized I was not a cool 5-year-old. I suppose I always knew this.

Sure, I did cool things. I mean, I climbed trees and jumped in puddles and was generally pretty into Cardinals baseball and also sno cones. And that all sounds well and good.

But then I read this story about 5-year-old Wylie Brys, who — with his dad — discovered a dinosaur fossil, which is being excavated this month in Mansfield, Tex.

And now I'm forced to admit that my 5-year-old self was definitely not that rad. Not even close. Wylie Brys is straight crushing childhood.

Wylie goes poking around for fossils fairly regularly with his father, Tim Brys, who works at the Dallas Zoo. This particular find happened on land behind a suburban shopping center, not far from a grocery store.

On this trip, Wylie walked up ahead of his dad, Tim Brys told The Post in a telephone interview. When he came back, Wylie had a chunk of bone with him. Tim Brys asked his son to show him where he found it.

"My dad told me it was a turtle," Wylie told the Dallas Morning News. "But now he's telling me it's a dinosaur."

Said his father of the find: "It was a pretty good size and I knew I had something interesting."
Southern Methodist University scientists believe the fossil may be about 100 million years old.

Read more story here

He's back!

A Century Later, Beloved Brontosaurus May Reclaim Its Name

Brontosaurus is back, baby!

Generations of schoolchildren have learned that a massive, long-necked dinosaur called Brontosaurus once roamed Earth. But in fact, scientists dropped that name more than a century ago -- referring to it as Apatosaurus instead.

Now, after a thorough analysis of dozens of long-necked specimens, a team of British and Portuguese paleontologists says it's time to revive the old name.

"It's the classic example of how science works," study co-author Dr. Octavio Mateus, a paleontology professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal, said in a written statement. "Especially when hypotheses are based on fragmentary fossils, it is possible for new finds to overthrow years of research."

The backstory. Starting in the 1870s, rival paleontologists Othniel C. Marsh and Edward D. Cope were scouring the American West, competing to find new dinosaurs in what became known as the "Bone Wars."

During Marsh's digs, his team found two incomplete skeletons of massive, long-necked sauropods. Based on one of the skeletons, Marsh announced the discovery of a new dinosaur called Apatosaurus ajax, the "deceptive lizard" in 1877. Then, two years later, he described the second skeleton as belonging to another new species called Brontosaurus excelsus, the "noble thunder lizard."

But after paleontologists collected a specimen with features similar to both Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus, they said the two dinosaurs were too similar to belong to separate genera. And so in 1903, Brontosaurus was re-classified as Apatosaurus excelsus.

A second look. For the new analysis, the researchers spent five years examining the scans and fossils of 81 sauropod specimens. Then they conducted statistical analyses to discover how much the dinosaurs differed, based on 477 specific features, Scientific American reported.

"Our research would not have been possible at this level of detail 15 or more years ago," Dr. Emanuel Tschopp, a paleontologist who led the research while completing his PhD at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, said in the statement.

Read more here

Thursday, April 2, 2015

O Romeosaur, Romeosaur! Wherefore art thou Romeosaur?

Dinosaur 'Romeo and Juliet' Found Buried Together

A dinosaur couple that appears to have died together after wooing each other has been identified in remains unearthed at the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

The dino couple, named Romeo and Juliet since they are reminiscent of Shakespeare's famous doomed lovers, were entombed together for over 75 million years, according to a new study in the journal Scientific Reports.

Key to the research was figuring out the sex of the dinosaurs.

"Determining a dinosaur's gender is really hard," lead author Scott Persons said in a press release. "Because soft anatomy seldom fossilizes, a dinosaur fossil usually provides no direct evidence of whether it was a male or a female."

Persons, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, and his team compared the remains of the bird-like dinosaurs, which were oviraptors (avian-resembling two-legged predators), with the anatomy of modern birds.

The researchers found evidence that the dinosaurs sported long feathers on the ends of their tails. The feathers were not suitable for flight, so they must have served some other purpose.

"Our theory," explained Persons, "was that these large feather-fans were used for the same purpose as the feather fans of many modern ground birds, like turkeys, peacocks, and prairie chickens: they were used to enhance courtship displays. My analysis of the tail skeletons supported this theory, because the skeletons showed adaptations for both high tail flexibility and enlarged tail musculature — both traits that would have helped an oviraptor to flaunt its tail fan in a mating dance."


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April stupids.

New York needs a little levity, but come on...
SADLY, no dinosaur bones have been discovered by JCB workers at Rocester.
The story in today's Sentinel relating the 'find' of a 166 million-year-old creature on the site of a new golf course, was concocted for April Fools Day.

It follows a fine tradition of similar articles which have appeared in this newspaper over the years on April 1.

Yesterday's Sentinel also carried a story about students at Keele University attempting to levitate a clock tower on campus – and was accompanied by a video on our website.

Full story here

Friday, March 27, 2015

Our future AI overlords

Computerized CogniToy dinosaur is the latest smart toy for kids

It may look like a mini robot dinosaur, but there is a new generation of smart toy from which your child can learn.

Wirelessly connected to the internet, the toy initiates and engages in real conversations with your childm powered by IBM's computer wizard "Watson" for cognitive computing.

The so-called smart toy, or CogniToy, is personalized to your child, and there are parental controls to monitor your child's progress.

"A 5-year-old can ask 100 questions a day," co-founder JP Benini said. "What if this thing never gets tired of answering 'why?' That's what the idea started with."

The company, Elemental Path in Midtown, put out a promotional video on Kickstarter to raise capital for the line of CongniToys.

"It not just has the ability to answer questions, but play educational games, tell stories, and even light conversational dialogue," Benini said.

Working with a prototype that could be offered in three colors, Benini and Sean O'Shea, two of the four co-founders, decided to make the smart toy utilizing 3-D printer technology.

"There are not many things that are universally appealing than a dinosaur," Benini said.

Design changes evolved from there into the current toy.

"When kids drag around that one toy that they love, they give it the name," Benini said. "They name their imaginary friends. Why not name their virtual dino friend?"

The toy, company officials stress, is designed for engaging play experiences and to grow with each child.

"We're not trying to replace parents, teachers, or tutors," Benini said. "We're just trying to give a supplemental source."

Link to article


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bones and Tensegrity

Tensegrity is a 60's term coined by Buckminster Fuller that inspired Kenneth Snelson to make monumental artworks with cable and tubing, but the principles are building blocks for more than just pop sculpture. When applied to bones, some interesting origins of tendons and locomotion can be inferred. This is especially interesting to me when looking at naked bones of dinosaurs. Which bone is connected to which other bone? What did they look like with tendons holding muscle to bone? How did they get around? How did their skin stretch?

Check out some cool bone tensegrity models here and here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dinosaur Kisses

Did Dinosaurs Have Lips?

Paleoartist Puts a Face on Ancient Bones


CHICAGO—After careful consideration, Tyler Keillor made a decision: T. rex had lips. In the debate over dinosaurs’ “oral margin,” one of the country’s top paleoartists has taken sides. Mr. Keillor’s job is to create “flesh models” of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals based on fossil evidence—giving creatures that died millions of years ago a face, a story and sometimes lips.

Using traditional mediums like clay and resin, as well as CT scanning and 3-D printing, he is at the forefront of incorporating digital art and technology into paleontology.

Mr. Keillor works at the University of Chicago Fossil Lab under celebrity paleontologist Paul Sereno. His work, found in museum collections around the world, is often the public’s first look at a newly discovered species, as with the pebbly-faced predator Rugops primus, which was unveiled in 2004. “A plain fossil doesn’t look like a heck of a lot to the average person,” Mr. Keillor says.

Instead of studying science, he cut his teeth working in a dental laboratory, doing special-effects makeup and studying wig making at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. As a child, he “would try to make little puppets of the alien from ‘Alien,’ ” he says. He dropped out of college to work on low-budget horror movies, commercials and stage productions.

His skill set was well-suited to Dr. Sereno’s team. After another paleoartist struggled with the hair of a “7,000-year-old beautiful woman,” Dr. Sereno says, he turned her over to Mr. Keillor. “When you see it in the ground in the field, you need to have the mind and eye of an artist,” he says. “Paleontology is about envisioning things and bringing them back to life.”

On a recent Thursday, the soft-spoken Mr. Keillor, 42 years old, was painting orange silicone over pieces of a 95-million-year-old rib, the last of about 100 Spinosaurus bones he was reproducing for the University of Chicago before it repatriated the originals back to Morocco.

Read full article

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Croc's grandpappy found in the Carolinas

Meet the 'Carolina Butcher,' a Pre-Dino Predator
Carnufex carolinensis roamed the earth roughly 231 million years ago, researchers say.
The Carnufex carolinensis, illustrated in this artist's rendering, is believed to have measured 9 feet long.

Herbivores, meet your worst nightmare.

Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of a fearsome crocodilian ancestor: A 9-foot-long fanged beast that roamed prehistoric North Carolina 231 million years ago.

Stomping about on hind legs like the long-lost miracle love child of supervillains Killer Croc and the Lizard, researchers believe Carnufex carolinensis – meaning "Carolina Butcher" – feasted on armored reptiles, early mammal relatives and other small prey that made their home in the Tar Heel State, which researchers say was then just breaking apart from the supercontinent Pangea.

“The discovery of Carnufex, one of the world’s earliest and largest crocodylomorphs, adds new information to the push and pull of top terrestrial predators across Pangea,” Lindsay Zanno, an assistant research professor in the biology department at North Carolina State University, said in a statement.

The skull, spine and upper forelimb of the reptilian beast were uncovered in the Pekin geologic formation in North Carolina's Chatham County, where ancient sediment has churned up other prehistoric remains.

"Fossils from this time period are extremely important to scientists because they record the earliest appearance of crocodylomorphs and theropod dinosaurs, two groups that first evolved in the Triassic Period, yet managed to survive to the present day in the form of crocodiles and birds," Zanno said.

Already, scientists believed that cousins of the ancient crocodile ranked among the top predators in the Southern Hemisphere, hunting alongside theropod dinosaurs – a dynamic that created a “predator pileup” and led to the extinction of the crocodile relatives.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CreepBay blogged us!

Mermaids are the sexiest thing in the sea. In or out of holographic bodysuits. And This trio must be the super model variety. They are all skin and bones. Which is probably why they don’t do a thing for my rusty barnacle. I would have totally thrown them my dingy when they were still buxom and wet though.

Monday, March 16, 2015

New Tinysaurs coming soon!

Almost finished editing the Angel and the Minotaur Tinysaur models!

Also, a modern, more accurate T-Rex coming soon!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hidden in a museum, new species of Ichthyosaur discovered.

New species of ichthyosaur found in museum archive

A fossil spent 30 years stored away in a South Yorkshire museum, believed to be a plaster replica and forgotten, until it caught the eye of a young paleontologist working in the museum’s collections, who has now identified it as a new species of prehistoric marine reptile. 

Dean Lomax, 25, determined the fossil to be 189 million years old, the remains of a species of ichthyosaurus, a carnivorous seagoing reptile shaped like a dolphin.

Lomax published his findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

So well preserved was this Jurassic mummy at the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, that Lomax was able to see the inside of its stomach, where they found the hook shaped remains of a squid, the entree of its last meal.

Lomax worked on the project alongside Judy Massare, from the State University of New York, comparing their specimen’s skeleton to those of nearly 1,000 different ichthyosaur specimens kept in museums throughout the US and Europe.

Several features on his specimen’s fin bones set the animal apart from its Jurassic cousins. Ichthyosaur remains actually appear quite often in Great Britain, where it filled the seas in sufficient numbers in the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They became extinct some time in the Late Cretaceous period 70 million years ago, before the extinction of the last dinosaurs. Mary Anning, a seashell collector and amateur fossil hunter, found the first one back in 1811, and Lomax’s specimen is named Ichtyhosaur annigae in her honor.

How Lomax’s specimen got mistaken for a copy is unclear, as it was particular specimen was found on the coast of Dorset back in the early 1980s and presented to the museum.

Read more here

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dear Clarks, I don't like how girls have flowery shoes...

Dinosaur-mad schoolgirl, 8, takes on Clarks over 'sexist' shoes range covered in flowers and butterflies

An eight-year-old girl has taken on Clarks over its 'sexist' shoes range saying she would rather wear dinosaur trainers than a pair covered in flowers and butterflies.

Sophia Trow took to social media to vent her frustration after being told the Stomp Claw range of dinosaur trainers was for boys only.

She tweeted the multi-national company saying: 'Dear Clarks, I don't like how girls have flowery shoes - I like dinosaurs and fossils, so I think that other girls might as well.'

The eight-year-old from Middlesbrough said she was upset when she was told the specific range, which leaves behind 'awesome' reptilian footprints, was not suitable for female bone structure.

'I really want dinosaur shoes because they leave footprints in the sand and mud,' she said.

'Clarks should learn what girls really want and do something about it.'
She said she felt like killing anyone who told her she couldn't have or do things 'just because I'm a girl'.

'I don't like how girls just have to like pink and purple - I like blue and science and fossils,' she said. 

Sophia's sentiments are backed by her six-year-old sister Helena and their mother, 34-year-old Jane Trow. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dino burns like fossil fuel.

Clive Palmer's dinosaur Jeff destroyed by fire at Palmer Coolum Resort

Fire has destroyed a 10-metre model Tyrannosaurus rex, nicknamed Jeff, that was standing at Clive Palmer's resort on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Firefighters were called to the blaze at the Coolum resort about 1:30am to find Jeff already well alight.

Police had been investigating whether the fire was started deliberately, but Mr Palmer told the ABC he did not believe arson was involved in Jeff's demise.

"Apparently he's had an electrical fault and burnt down," he said.

"There was a storm through the morning and all I know is there was an electrical fault and he caught fire and that was the end of him."

Mr Palmer said he was still deciding whether to bring in a replacement once what remained of Jeff was dismantled.

"Jeff's brother is waiting in the dinosaur park to be liberated to take his place," the Federal MP said.
"Question is whether we bring him out or whether we leave him where he is - he's very happy with the other dinosaurs.

"Certainly the next birth we have of a dinosaur, we will name after Jeff."
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service Superintendant Russell Thompson said Jeff's rubber and fiberglass coating burnt "very, very quickly".

"Very unusual call this one - we had a dinosaur on fire. I've had everything else but this is the first time I've had a dinosaur on fire," he said.

"There was only a small section of the tail left that was unburnt once the first appliance arrived.
"They had that fire out within a few minutes."

Full article

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finally, recognition!

Sir Richard Owen: The man who invented the dinosaur

The Victorian scientist who coined the word "dinosaur" has been honoured with a plaque at the school he attended as a child. But who was Sir Richard Owen?

Dinosaur fossils have been the subject of mystery, superstition and scholarly wonder for millennia, but the prehistoric reptiles did not receive their famous name until 1842.

Marvelling at the specimens being uncovered in southern England at the time, a young Owen recognised that the remains shared a number of distinctive features.

They were "terrible lizards", he said. A diverse family of awesome animals that deserved their own distinct taxonomic group - which he named Dinosauria.

The palaeontologist, who rose from a poor background in Lancashire to become something close to what we might consider a celebrity scientist today, went on to establish London's Natural History Museum in 1881.

There, the latest fascinating dinosaur fossils became famous around the globe, and the terracotta-walled institution remains at the forefront of research today.

Full Story Here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Private ownership of fossils? Yay or nay?

Dinosaurs for sale: How fossil business impacts science

Commercial sellers offer scientists access to unique specimens, but at a cost

In 2009, commercial fossil hunters in Montana excavated what was, unbeknownst to them, the jaws of an important new species of dinosaur.

Scientists weren't informed, and the fossil was sold to a private collector.

Fortunately, the story doesn't end there, as it sometimes does.

'It's wrong for people to assume they can get something for free.'- Peter Larson, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research

In the fall of 2010, the private collector heard that paleontologist David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto would be visiting his town of Fort Peck, Mont. He wanted to know more about the fossil he had purchased, so he showed it to Evans.

"I was blown away," Evans recalled. "I instantly knew it was a new species of raptor."

"It was a unique find that is scientifically very important," added Evans, who co-authored a paper describing the new raptor in 2013.

The jaws turned out to belong to the only raptor from its time period ever found in North America. The turkey-sized meat-eater named Acheroraptor temertyorum would help paint a more vivid picture of the diverse ecosystem where Tyrannosaurus rex stalked Triceratops 66 million years ago.

Acheroraptor also revealed a surprise — it was a close relative of dinosaurs in Asia, suggesting that dinosaurs were migrating between continents.

But no one knew any of that until Evans, the  ROM's curator of vertebrate paleontology and an associate professor at the University of Toronto, talked the collector into selling his treasure to the ROM. It became part of the ROM's collection in 2011. The museum doesn't disclose the prices it pays in order to minimize their effect on the market, but Evans said it was reasonable and affordable.

Bringing the fossil into a museum was the only way it could be studied and be recognized as a new species with its own scientific name. That's because science needs to be repeatable by other scientists, Evans said, and that's possible only when they have unrestricted public access through an institution such as a museum.

"If we had not bought it," he added, "it would have continued to be in the hands of a private collector and off-limits to science."
Acheroraptor illustration

The story of Acheroraptor illustrates how buying fossils from commercial collectors can provide scientists and the public with access to extraordinary dinosaur specimens they couldn't otherwise study. But it also shows how easily the commercial trade can inadvertently keep important specimens out of scientists' reach.

That is, the bustling dinosaur business has a profound influence on the science of paleontology – something that paleontologists struggle with.

Canadian museums often buy dinosaur fossils

Dinosaurs are a huge public draw, but for many Canadian museums, buying dinosaurs is the only way to get them.

Laws enacted since the late 1970s in the main provinces where dinosaur fossils are found — Alberta and Saskatchewan — specify that dinosaur fossils are owned by the Crown. Regulations effectively ban them from being removed from the province.

If the Royal Ontario Museum had not bought the Acheroraptor fossil, it would have remained off-limits to science, says curator and paleontologist David Evans. (Royal Ontario Museum)

Paleontologists say the laws do a good job of safeguarding fossils for science. But they mean museums like the ROM, located in Ontario where no dinosaur fossils have been found, can't grow its collection except by buying fossils from outside Canada, mainly from the U.S.

"Every major museum in Canada buys fossils and it's been a common practice for a century," Evans said.

That said, museums far prefer to collect fossils themselves than buy them — partly because many have trouble affording them, and partly because commercial specimens are often missing important scientific data about their origins.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dinosaurs on Mars!


Mars Dinosaur? It's Just Another Curio From Curiosity Rover

If you scan through the thousands of pictures that NASA's Curiosity rover has sent back from Mars, you'll find a lot of interesting rock formations. Some of them, including a formation that looks like a toothy dinosaur skull, wind up on Scott Waring's UFO Sightings Daily.

The "Ancient Dinosaur Skull" is the latest offering, but the picture was actually taken a long time ago — back on Sol 297 in June 2013, when Curiosity was rolling through an area known as Glenelg. Scientists say the site was a stream bed in ancient times, as evidenced by the rounded pebbles strewn across the landscape.

Some of those pebbles ended up stuck in the crevices of a wind-sculpted rock, and all this led Waring to call attention to the dinosaurian appearance: "Look closely and you will see there is a nostril area, lower jaw area and jaw hinge area as well," he writes. "There are also teeth. A crap load of teeth and evenly spaced and white as all get out. It's the details that we have to focus on. It leads us to the truth."

Yes, the truth is out there — and the truth is that this is the latest example of pareidolia, the human tendency to pick out seemingly meaningful patterns even in randomly arranged phenomena. The Face on Mars is a good example of that, as are the Mermaid on Mars, the Mars Rat, the Mars Iguana, the Penis on Mars, the Rover Rotini and other Red Planet anomalies.

What is it about Mars that sparks so many strange sightings? Now that's a mystery worth investigating.

Read the full article here

Friday, February 20, 2015

I hear you knocking...

A: Knock knock.
B: Who's there?
A: Interrupting dinosaur.
B: Interrupting dinosa---
A: RAWR!!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Does DNA remember?

Can evolution run BACKWARDS? Birds found to regrow bone previously discarded by dinosaurs 230 million years ago

  • Scientists have found that birds regrew a bone known as the 'pisiform'
  • It disappeared from the biology of two-legged dinosaurs when they no longer needed strong wrists
  • However when dinosaurs evolved into birds the bone reappeared
  • The new bone is known as the ulnare and is in the same position
  • It suggests the effects of evolution can be reversible

In 1890 Belgian palaeontologist Louis Dollo postulated that evolution could not run backwards - something widely accepted by the scientific community.

But now a study has claimed that the changes induced by evolution can be reversible, meaning certain animals can return to an earlier biological trait.

The remarkable discovery was made by finding birds had regrown a bone previously discarded by dinosaurs millions of years ago.

They found that 230 million years ago, two-legged dinosaurs no longer required the strong wrists of their four-legged brethren, and thus they became weak.
The number of bones in wrists shrank from 11 to three, with one in particular of interest to disappear being the pisiform.

But according to research by Dr Vargas, the bone reappeared when dinosaurs evolved into birds and took flight.

The new bone, called the ulnare, appears in the same place as the pisiform once did.
The pisiform allowed bird wings to remain rigid on the upstroke. The study found it disappeared in bird-like dinosaurs, but modern birds later evolved to once again use this tiny bone.
'This idea that a bone can disappear and reappear in evolution has been resisted a lot in evolutionary biology,' Dr Vargas previously told Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience.

Scientists don't know how these bones disappeared, though. Professor Vargas said part of the problem is that palaeontologists look at fossils, while biologists focus on embryos.

But his team brought the research together by looking at fossils as well as studying bird anatomy.
The team also traced certain proteins in 3D embryonic skeletons that were linked to the creation of collagen, which makes up connective tissue.

Read more here

Thursday, January 22, 2015

3D Tinysaur instructions: Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus 3D exploded ribs and plates

Please poke, spin, shake, and break. If you do manage to break it, please let me know... unless you use a DDOS attack, which is kinda cheating.

Slam away here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Utah's Dinosaur 'Death Trap' Reveals Trove of Giant Predators

A bed of quicksand entombed six or more Utahraptor dinosaurs—Velociraptor cousins—that may have died while hunting together.

A nine-ton block of sandstone that was pulled from a Utah mountain late last year holds the biggest fossil trove ever found of the giant predatory dinosaur known as Utahraptor. Covered in feathers, with a huge sickle claw on each second toe, Utahraptor looked like a pumped-up version of the Jurassic Park star Velociraptor.

The fossils might help resolve a long-standing debate about whether these predators hunted in groups. In the Jurassic Park films, velociraptors were shown cooperating to chase down prey, an idea based at the time on several predators that had been found alongside an herbivore. The new fossils may help confirm whether the silver screen got it right. (See also: "Jurassic World Dinosaurs Stuck in the 1980s, Experts Grumble.")

Scientists have found the remains of six Utahraptor dinosaurs in the rock so far, and more may be trapped there.

If the dinosaurs died together, they might provide some long-sought evidence of group hunting. The densely packed dinosaurs (in some places, fossils are stacked three feet thick) may have died at different times as they blundered into quicksand, or perhaps they died together in a social supper gone horribly wrong.

The remains were excavated in a massive effort that has spanned more than a decade, led by Utah state paleontologist James Kirkland. (See video above for more on the excavation effort.)

The recent finds include never-before-seen bones that are already changing scientific views of the Utahraptor anatomy.

"We're really going to have a different view of this guy," Kirkland says. Part of the emerging picture is that while young Utahraptor dinosaurs were lightly built and turkey size, Kirkland explains, the adults were heavily muscled, "Arnold Schwarzenegger" versions.

Quicksand Find

Kirkland was tipped off to the site in 2001 by a geology student who had found what first looked like a human arm bone while scouting eastern Utah's early Cretaceous rocks. All the Utahraptor fossils are contained within a large blob of sandstone that appears to have once been what geologists call a "dewatering feature," or in common terms, "quicksand," Kirkland says.

After relocating the site, Kirkland found that the hollow bone was actually part of a dinosaur foot. And there was more.

By chipping off smaller pieces of the block, Kirkland and his team uncovered bones from a 16-foot-long adult Utahraptor, four juveniles, and a baby that would have been only about three feet long from snout to tail.

Other bones at the site belong to a beaked, bipedal herbivore called an iguanodont. The remains of these dinosaurs may have been what attracted the Utahraptor group to the site in the first place.

But these bones are only the bits and pieces that paleontologists have been able to chip off so far. The vast majority of the bones reside in a massive block of sandstone, which gave Kirkland a clue as to why so many raptors became buried in one place.

Dinosaur Death Trap

Kirkland thinks that the Cretaceous drama played out like this: An unwary iguanodont stumbled into the quicksand, bellowing and struggling. If this didn't attract carnivores, then "that nice meaty smell would have," Kirkland says, like flies to flypaper. One Utahraptor after another tried to nab an easy meal and only ended up getting stuck, adding to the deathly aroma.

"We believe it's going to be the first example of dinosaurs trapped in quicksand en masse in the fossil record," Kirkland says.

In order to investigate this idea, though, Kirkland and his team had to get the block out of the field for delicate preparation. "We didn't want to take out a nine-ton block," he says, but "every time we tried to cut in, we kept hitting legs and vertebral columns." (Read about hunting for fossils in "Digging Utah's Dinosaurs" in National Geographic magazine.)

Airlifting the dinosaur-filled rocks with heavy-lift helicopters was too expensive, so Kirkland and his team worked with hands and heavy machinery to get the dinosaurs off the hill and to their temporary home at Salt Lake City's Department of Natural Resources. (See video above.)

Other researchers are paying close attention as the work proceeds. "Any time you find multiple dinosaurs together it's a big deal," says University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen Brusatte, "and even more so if they are dromaeosaurs, some of the most iconic but also the rarest dinosaurs in the North American fossil record."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dinosaurs arrive at Staten Island Zoo

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — "Jurassic World," the latest installment of the "Jurassic Park" film franchise, isn't due out until June — but you don't have to wait for that summer blockbuster to score face-time with dinosaurs. 
Eight of the scaly prehistoric creatures are wintering at the Staten Island Zoo, where "Dinosaur Encounters" debuted Thursday, Dec. 18.
A triceratops is among the four species that were welcomed for their four-month stay by about 60 preschoolers who walked over from the Broadway YMCA. The exhibit is now open to the public through April 1 and is free with regular admission to the Zoo.
"They're not real. They're like toys," said one of the adults shepherding the slowly moving wide-eyed tots as they arrived.
Part of Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus, the animatronics are part of a 30 life-sized herd of the extinct animals that have been brought to life by scientists, engineers and imaginative artists. Triggered by motion detectors, the eight beasts move heads and tails and grunt and growl hoarsely. 
"The combination of science and imagination, education and fun is something that Field Station shares with the Staten Island Zoo," said Zoo executive director Ken Mitchell.

Read all about it here