New Species of Bone-Headed Dinosaur Hinting at Higher Diversity of Small Dinosaurs

Scientists have named a new species of bone-headed dinosaur (pachycephalosaur) from Alberta, Canada. Acrotholus audeti was identified from both recently discovered and historically collected fossils. Approximately six feet long and weighing about 40 kilograms in life, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur represents the oldest bone-headed dinosaur in North America, and possibly the world. Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, co-authored research describing the new species, which was published May 7, 2013 in the journal Nature Communications

“The unique fossil record of these animals suggests that we are only beginning to understand the diversity of small-bodied plant-eating dinosaurs” said lead author Evans, ROM curator, vertebrate palaeontology. Small mammals and reptiles can be very diverse and abundant in modern ecosystems, but small dinosaurs (less than 100 kg) are considerably less common than large ones in the fossil record. Whether this pattern is a true reflection of dinosaur communities, or is related to the greater potential for small bones to be destroyed by carnivores and natural decay, has been debated. The massively constructed skull domes of pachycephalosaurs are resistant to destruction, and are much more common than their relatively delicate skeletons—which resemble those of other small plant-eating dinosaurs….

“This fully domed and mature individual suggests that there is an undiscovered, hidden diversity of small-bodied dinosaurs. So when we look back, we need to reimagine the paleoenvironment. There is an evolutionary history that we just don’t know because the fossil record is incomplete…”


Image: Julius Csotonyi
Paleoenvironments and climatic changes in the Italian Peninsula during the Early Pleistocene: evidence from dental wear patterns of the ungulate community of Coste San Giacomo

I did it guys, I managed to get my paper published on Quaternary Science Reviews (an international palaeontology/palaeoclimatology journal)!. 

You can download it for free using this link until July 17!

“The extinction of old forms is the almost enevitable consequence of the production of new forms…But the utter extinction of a whole group of species may often be a very slow process, from the survival of a few descendants, lingering in protected and isolated situation. When a group has once wholly dissapeared, it does not reappear; for the link of generation has broken.”

- Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, (1859)

Henry de la Beche’s watercolor Duria Antiquior (1830). This is the earliest known attempt to draw a paleoenvironment (from the Jurassic Seas of the Dorset coast).

I like this quote because although it points to plausable theories concerning mass extinction and generation, it is still illusive and vague. Darwin fails to accept catastrophic events as causing mass extinctions, as well as the shifting of continental plates; or even formation of new ones. He holds the notion that continents simpily sunk and re-emerged over long periods of time, leading to marine fossils inland, and land fossils being dredged from the seas floor.

That is the joy to be found with reading new theories and hypothesis’; they are educated speculations based on logic and accumilation of fact. But, sometimes they miss a fundemental piece of evidence or fail to acept the plauseability of something else. Its virgin territory to be embarked upon, and kudos for getting deeply involved!orig

China Natural History Project

 The Academy’s ongoing China Natural History Project was inaugurated in May 1998 to provide new insights into the biology of the region’s flora and fauna. The Gaoligong Shan region in the northwestern Yunnan Province is comprised of a range of environments extending from high mountain meadows to lowland sub-tropical forests. This area is recognized as a “biodiversity hotspot” by the World Wildlife Fund—it hosts one of the most diverse assemblages of plant and animal species in all of China.

The physical geography of Yunnan has led to the evolution of a vast array of species types, but extreme isolation has resulted in poor documentation of its unique plant and animal inhabitants. The concentrations of endemic species—those found nowhere else in the world—support the theory that the region is an isolated paleoenvironment—an area that, due to its seclusion, has remained relatively unchanged for millions of years.

Discoveries to Date

Since the beginning of the project, many new species of plants, insects, spiders, and snakes have been discovered. Dave Kavanaugh, who’s returned to the region multiple times to hunt for carabid beetles, estimates that more than 40,000 specimens—representing at least 80 percent of which are new to science—have been collected, prepared, and identified. Academy colleague Charles Griswold has, with the collaborator Chang Min Yin, describe at least 36 new spider species.

Botanist Peter Fritsch has also made multiple trips to the region. On one of his earlier trips he discovered a population of flowering parasitic plants (Balanophora involucrata) that were thought to only occur in Africa, Australia, and eastern Asia. On more recent excursions, he’s focused on studying the high alpine plants, or wintergreens, of this area. Prior to his last trip, it was believed that there were seven species of wintergreens in this region.

Learn more at Scientific Academy Expeditions.