Tuesday, September 14, 2010

crocs, museums, footprints and cryptozoology

Lots of dinosaur news over the last little while. Although this posts starts off with a crocodile which isn't a dinosaur at all - then about museums, cryptology and footprints, not really dinosaurs BUT it's in the same vein as dinosaurs, so this is still really cool.

Cat-like crocodile roamed earth with the dinosaurs

The discovery of the bizarre, lanky creature had mammal-like teeth and skinny legs shows that bony plated reptiles were once far more diverse than they are today.

It enjoyed land-based lifestyle on the African floodplains far removed from its aquatic descendants, preying on dragon flies and other insects and small animals.

The new species' fossilised remains were dug up from 105 million year old rock by palaeontologists scouring a river bank in Tanzania.

Professor Patrick O'Connor, of Ohio University, said: "At first glance, this croc is trying very hard to be a mammal. Its head would fit in the palm of your hand.

"If you only looked at the teeth, you wouldn't think this was a crocodile. You would wonder what kind of strange mammal or mammal-like reptile it is."

"This gives us a number of interesting evolutionary-developmental research questions to begin addressing using living crocodiles as models."

He said it wasn't as heavily armoured as other crocodiles, except along the tail. This suggests the creature was quite mobile and probably actively foraged on land, unlike water-dwelling crocs.

Pakasuchus means "Cat" (from Paka, the Ki-Swahili word for cat) and "Crocodile (from souchos, ancient Greek). Over the last year or so there have been a lot of very interesting crocodile "discoveries" (I only use brackets because these specimens can be uncovered 15 years ago, but the papers aren't published for many years while the researchers remove the fossils from rock, study, compare, classify and then theorize over their research - the process is a long and difficult one). So many neat crocodiles - they were as diverse over the millenniums (iz dat spelt rite?) as finches are today - just amazing.

Guinness confirms world's largest dinosaur museum in China

JINAN, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- A dinosaur museum in east China's Shandong Province has been confirmed by Guinness World Records as the largest of its kind in the world, a museum official said Monday.

The Shangdong Tianyu Museum of Nature in Pingyi County, which opened in 2004 and is devoted to dinosaur and other prehistoric fauna, applied for a Guinness World Record in early June and received the confirmation Monday, said Yin Shiyin, deputy curator of the museum.

"It contains 28,000 square meters (301,389 sq ft) of exhibition space, housing 1,106 dinosaur specimens and thousands of other ancient fossils," the London-based agency said in a certificate to confirm it as the world's largest dinosaur museum.

The dinosaur specimens are all represented by almost complete skeletons, including 368 psittacosaurid specimens, 391 dromaeosaurid specimens, 255 Anchiornis specimens, 22 Jeholosaurus specimens, and 70 other rare dinosaurs and unnamed dinosaur fossils, the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a certification document.

A ceremony to mark the recognition as the world's largest dinosaur museum will be held on Sept. 28 at Tianyu, and officials from Guinness World Records headquarters would attend, Yin said.

First off - this is really cool. BUT just because it's big, doesn't mean it's necessarily cool. For example, 368 psittacosaurid specimens? First off - ONE psittacosaurus is almost one too many - what the hell do they need hundreds of them for? Psittacosaurs are the worst dinosaurs - even stupid mammals would eat this species of dinosaur! What kind of dinosaur get eaten by a sub-mammal? A lousy one, that's what type.

However, some of the most fascinating and unbelievable fossils with feather impressions have been procured from the fossilized muds of China. So incredible that the pigment representative of the colour of the feathers has been preserved. It's incredible - and I'd be astonished if those weren't on display - meaning this should be a very awesome exhibit.

Stay tuned for an update around Sept. 28!

Fox Bumps Spielberg’s Dinosaur Show to 2011

You're gonna have to wait a little longer for your TV dinosaurs: Fox just announced that it's pushing the premiere of Steven Spielberg's big dino-drama Terra Nova. The show had been set to debut this winter, but today the network said it won't be ready until May. And even then, we'll only get to see the pilot episode, since the actual series premiere of Nova — which stars Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) as a dude who takes his family back in time in order to save the Earth — won't be until fall 2011. It's the same scheduling strategy the network used to launch Glee, so maybe it'll all work out. Plus, it means we'll have more time to think up Land of the Lost jokes.
I'm looking forward to see what comes up. I haven't any idea what they're going to do with this - but I hope they have a legitimate awesome dinosaur as a main character that they team up with, which has a personality and stuff like that all to itself. But better than in Land of the Lost.

Royal Tyrrell featured on newly minted 50-cent coin

Royal Tyrell Museum will be honoured on a newly minted 50-cent coin. My only advice, watch out! Fifty Cent will come looking for that eventually and you probably don't want to get shot over a coin.

Celebrating its 25th birthday this summer, the Royal Tyrrell Museum seems to be getting nods from all over the country.

The latest came from the Royal Canadian Mint which rolled out a new dinosaur collector-coin in honour of the museum.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of the Mint’s series of dinosaur coins,” says Tyrrell marketing coordinator Leanna Mohan.

With a lenticular Albertosaurus in front of the museum itself, the brass coin is sure to be a favourite of local and visiting dinosaur enthusiasts.
and more with the Tyrrell Museum ...
Royal Tyrrell Museum ready to welcome 10-millionth guest

With 9,979,065 guests having marched through the doors by closing on Thursday, and the Drumhellerarea museum averaging around 3,000 visitors daily, Royal Tyrrell staff are bracing to hit the milestone very soon.

"Twenty-five years went by really quickly. To actually host 10-million visitors in that time is pretty exciting and, we feel, a pretty significant achievement," said executive director Andie Neuman.

'Secret location' of dino skeletons found in South Dakota Badlands

A palaeontology team is hoping to find a Triceratops skeleton from a 'secret location' they've found in the South Dakota Badlands.

Phil Manning, from the University of Manchester, and his team believes there are at least three skeletons of this iconic dinosaur gently weathering in 65-million-year-old rocks at the undisclosed site.

"We have been working on the exceptional preservation of soft tissue and the biomechanics of dinosaurs from the Hell Creek for over five years now, but this is our first major Manchester-led expedition to this very promising field area," Discovery News quoted Manning as saying.
I'm really interested in what makes this location a secret, and why it's important that it remains a secret. Whoever wrote the headline didn't read the story, or whoever wrote the story didn't know what made this article so exciting.

Do Dinosaurs Inhabit The Waters Off The UK Coast?

Short answer: no

Written By: Ken Hulsey

For centuries, strange creatures that resemble aquatic dinosaurs have, allegedly, been washing ashore in the UK. One of the most famous of these was the infamous "Gurock Beast" whose body washed shore during the second world war. Several eyewitnesses described the creature as having a long neck, wide body, short tail, and flippers, a description that strongly resembles a Plesiosaur, a species of aquatic dinosaur which went extinct millions of years ago.

Unfortunately, the carcass of the "Gurock Beast" was quickly chopped up and disposed of by the British military, who were, rightfully so, more concerned about defending the island nation from the Nazis than proving that dinosaurs were still with us.

Amazingly, it is a creature with a long neck, wide body, short tail, and flippers, that was reportedly seen by several witnesses off the coast of Devon just yesterday.

Reportedly the mysterious creature was 'fishing' some 30-yards off the coast when it was spotted by some local residents. At first, the group believed the animal to be a very large sea turtle, that was, until a long neck with a reptilian head came out of the water snapping at a school of fish.

Reportedly, when this happened, the fish scattered like mad, with some even trying to escape the creature by trying to come onto the sandy beach.

One of the witnesses, Gill Pearce, had the forethought to snap a quick photo of the animal before it swam away, and to file a report with the Marine Conservation Society.

Clare Fischer from the MCS describes what Ms. Gill saw:

"Gill Pearce spotted the creature about 20 metres from the bay at Saltern Cove, near Goodrington.

"It was observed at about 15.30 on 27 July but by the time she had got her camera it had moved further out.

"She spotted it following a shoal of fish which beached themselves in Saltern Cove.

"The creature remained in the sea, then went out again and followed the shoal - this indicates it's not a turtle as they only eat jellyfish.

"We would love to know if other people have seen anything like this in the same area and can help clear up the mystery."

Experts at the MCS are baffled by the reports coming out of Saltern Cove. The creature being described by witnesses doesn't match any marine life that is known to inhabit the waters off the British isles.
Awesome story, eh?! I'm excited about where we are as a society - and I'll clarify that by saying, with everyone carrying a camera or video camera at basically any given moment all over the world, we are undoubtedly bound to have a film of a Sasquatch or loch monster at some point very soon. And that's very exciting to me.

Ancient footprints represent a 'giant leap' for life on land
Dozens of fossilized reptile footprints left behind 318 million years ago in present-day New Brunswick [right here in Canada! Hell yeah!] will rewrite the history of animal evolution on land, says a team of Canadian and British researchers whose discovery along a Bay of Fundy sea-cliff is detailed Friday in a major scientific journal.

The ancient trackways are not only the world's earliest evidence of reptilian life, they are also the first known signs of vertebrates — animals with a backbone — living in a continental interior, far from any ocean shore.

But the new reptile footprints are proof that these creatures ... had adapted to dry, inland ecosystems at a time when the world's continents were fused in a single mass called Pangaea and the future Canada was located in tropical climes near the Earth's equator.

Now situated at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the sandstone strand was once an inland riverbed located 500 kilometres from the ocean when several reptiles up to 20 centimetres in length — and looking "a bit like a gecko," says Falcon-Lang — made their mark more than 300 million years ago.

"The footprints were found as I tripped and fell while climbing," he told Postmedia News. "The boulder I grazed my knee on was covered in reptile tracks."

Falcon-Lang, who has made several important discoveries in Eastern Canada over the years, added: "While looking at the rocks, I could imagine the earliest reptiles scampering around a contracting water hole — the first pioneers to invade the dry continental interiors."

At least three separate creatures, all from the era when certain amphibian species were morphing into reptiles, are believed to have left trackways at the site: Hylonomus lyelli, Dendrerpeton and Calligenethlon.

The world's earliest reptile-body fossils come from a 315-million-year-old coastal setting in Nova Scotia. And reptile tracks of a similar age were found by Falcon-Lang and other scientists in New Brunswick in 2007.

Neat stuff - I would really like to fall down, but only if I was felled by a fossil-rock covered in lizard tracks. That would be great.

And that's it - cool dinosaur news from a few weeks ago.

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