jurassic-period

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CHILESAURUS: ENIGMATIC COUSIN OF T. REX WAS VEGGIE

A new dinosaur from the late Jurassic period, called Chilesaurus diegosuarezi has  baffled scientists due its peculiar anatomy. The animal was discovered at Aysen, southern Chile. Has been identified as a primitive species of theropod, and exceptionally, was herbivorous. Its name refers to its geographical origin and Diego Suarez, a seven year old boy who found the first bone.
The animal belongs to the theropod group of dinosaurs, which includes the carnivorous tyrannosaurs and velociraptors. But unlike its meat-eating cousins, Chilesaurus had switched diets and become a vegetarian. Meat eaters tend to have sharp teeth and large heads supported by thick necks. Chilesaurus had a horny beak, flatter teeth for chomping plants, a small head and slender neck. “It’s a therapod that turned vegetarian,” said Novas, who leads the study.
“Its arms were robust, but the hands only had two fairly short fingers, ending in slightly curved claws, so they did not use its hands to catch animals. This dinosaur could be described as a puma headed-guanaco and atrophied hands like a T. rex, "adds Novas
The finding illustrates how much relevant data on the early diversification
of major dinosaur groups remain unknown.

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The Wave

In the Coyote Buttes ravine in Arizona, huge waves of richly-coloured sandstone undulate across the landscape, looking as though they were painted by a giant hand. 190 million years ago in the Jurassic era, these sandstone waves (dubbed “The Wave”) were actually sand dunes migrating across the desert, but over the years they have calcified both horizontally and vertically, becoming compacted rocks. Their strange ridges and troughs were created by millions of years of wind and rain erosion, whose twists and turns reflect changes to the wind patterns in the Jurassic period. Erosion still affects the Wave today, mostly by wind that is now naturally channelled through it. This formation is a snapshot in geological time, a breathtaking exhibit of the effect of natural forces on their environment. It can only be reached on foot via a five kilometre hike, and since the sandstone is fairly soft, visitors are highly regulated—only twenty people are allowed to walk on the Wave each day. Walking across the weird, topsy-turvy landscape would be a surreal experience in itself, but if you need another reason to visit, the formation also boasts the fossil burrows of ancient arthropods like beetles—as well as the imprints of dinosaur tracks.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

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Apatosaurus, Iguanadons (swift bipedal hypsilophodontids), Apatosaurus louisae, Tyrannosaurus rex, Hesperornis, Ichithyosaurus, Rhomaleosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Dolichorhynchops, Tylosaurus, Thalassiodracons.

Researchers Discover “Bizarre” Jurassic Insect With Giant Sucker

Posted by Carrie Arnold in Weird & Wild on June 30, 2014

Scientists have discovered a “bizarre” parasite from the Jurassic era that really sucked.

An international team of researchers recently described this 165-million-year-old fossilized fly larvae that they found in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region in northeastern China once studded with volcanoes and freshwater lakes. They named the species Qiyia jurassica (“Qiyia” is derived from the Chinese word for “strange”), and with good reason: Its unusual features include an upper abdomen that had been converted into a giant sucker, which it used to slurp the blood of local salamanders.

“They’re kind of creepy,” said Dena Smith, curator of invertebrates at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder. “Being able to see the detail of the mouthparts and some of the hairs on the body shows you just how great the fossil record can be.”

Many of us think of the Jurassic as the time of the dinosaurs, but a diverse range of insects and reptiles lived then too. The ancient freshwater lakes that covered this part of Inner Mongolia were home to countless species of insect and various types of salamanders, many of which were discovered in the same area as Q. jurassica

Many of these fossils have been found by local farmers tilling their fields. In return for turning over their discoveries to national museums and universities, the farmers get a small fee from the Chinese government. The fossils, meanwhile, are lent to scientists around the world to study.

Jes Rust, a paleontologist at the University of Bonn in Germany and one of the researchers who studied this strange fossil, received a piece of mudstone that had preserved a fly larva in astonishing detail.  It was entombed in fine-grained mud that had preserved all of its body’s tiny features.

“This find was a huge surprise,” said Rust. “I had never seen anything like it.”

The first thing he noticed was the thorax, or upper abdomen, of the larva, which had evolved into a giant sucking plate. The plate was surrounded by six ridged spines that helped the larva adhere to its prey.

Rust also noticed that the thorax was extremely muscular. He believes the larva used these muscles to pull up slightly on the sucker, creating an area of negative pressure—similar to how people use a straw—that would allow the blood to flow into its body.

The head, on the other hand, was abnormally small. Its mouthparts functioned as a stinger. The lower abdomen had legs on either side of each segment, much like a caterpillar.

Rust and his colleagues published their finds on June 24 in the journal eLife.

Interestingly, the ancient lake in which Q. jurassica was discovered did not contain any fish during the Jurassic. The only inhabitants for Q. jurassica to prey on were salamanders 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) long.

Rust believes that many more strange finds will come out of this area. Given its large assortment of past inhabitants, “this region is an excellent place to document ancient life.”

Smith adds that this unusual find is important not just for the fossil itself, but also for what the discovery represents.

“For years, people thought insects were so fragile that they would never get preserved,” she said. “This meant we had to study the evolution of insects without the fossil record. But this find helps to illustrate that the fossil record can be quite good. We might be able to see how the whole insect world got started.”

‘Dad, look what I found!’ How five-year-old girl dug up rare 160m-year-old fossil with plastic spade

A five-year-old schoolgirl discovered a rare 160million-year-old fossil while digging beside a lake using a plastic spade.

Delighted Emily Baldry found the Jurassic period rock at Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire while on her first archaeological dig with dad Jon.

And the 130lb fossil, which she has named Spike, has now been restored to its full splendour by palaeontologist Neville Hollingworth.

‘It’s so exciting to see him,’ said Emily, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, on being reunited with the ammonite. 'I was very happy when I first saw him and now he looks very shiny.

'I bring him into school and all my friends like him too.’

She yesterday presented the fossilised sea creature, which is 40cm in diameter and has 2cm spikes, to the Gateway Information Centre near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Read more.

New species of marine reptile identified from Skye fossils

A new species of marine reptile that lived about 170 million years ago has been identified from fossils found on the Isle of Skye.

Measuring 14ft (4.2m) from snout to tail, it hunted fish and other reptiles in warm shallow seas around Scotland during the Jurassic Period.

Palaeontologists said they had given it a Gaelic name, Dearcmhara, to reflect its connection with the Hebrides.

Work to identify it was led by the University of Edinburgh and museums.

A team of palaeontologists studied fossil fragments of skulls, teeth, vertebrae and an upper arm bone unearthed on Skye over the past 50 years.

They identified several examples of extinct aquatic animals - known as ichthyosaurs - which lived during the Early to Middle Jurassic, including the entirely new species.

‘Uniquely Scottish’

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “During the time of dinosaurs, the waters of Scotland were prowled by big reptiles the size of motor boats.

"Their fossils are very rare, and only now, for the first time we’ve found a new species that was uniquely Scottish.”

He added: “Without the generosity of the collector who donated the bones to a museum instead of keeping them or selling them, we would have never known that this amazing animal existed.”

The work was carried out by a consortium involving the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland, the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum, Scottish National Heritage and Skye’s Staffin Museum.

Dr Nick Fraser, of National Museums Scotland, said: “Not only is this a very special discovery, but it also marks the beginning of a major new collaboration involving some of the most eminent palaeontologists in Scotland.

"It has brought together key organisations, local collectors on Skye and specialists from further afield. We are excited by the programme of work and are already working on additional new finds.”

The study is published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.

Read more here.

Image credit: Todd Marshall