After studying approximately 2000 fossils Swedish, Brazilian & Swiss researchers have determined that the introduction of ‘big cats’(felids) to North America from Asia had a major impact on the native ‘Dog family’(canid) species.
From its peek the number of canid species dropped drastically to only the 9 species seen today.
The results suggest that the felids were superior predators in comparison to the extinct dog species.

rock n gem magazine issue 68

Whilst you’re beachcombing this summer remember that England, Northern Germany and Spain are the most prolific places to find dinosaur footprints.

Biologist Pernille Veno Troelsen presented her analysis of the dinosaurs that made 142 million year old impressions in what is now Germany. The two culprits were probably Megalosauripus, one larger than the other, speculation can only be made that they were related, but evidence suggests that the smaller increased pace a few times in order to ‘keep up’ with the larger(possibly parent)
The area also contained prints from an Iguanodon, suggesting that it was a popular scenic walk!

 

A summer intern for the North Dakota Geological Survey, happened across a fossil lower jaw bone of a Glasbius twitchelli, a small mammal which appeared towards the end of the dinosaurs reign.
It was the first find that far east and the fossil was thought to be one of the most complete yet to be found. Palaeontologists hope it will provide further information on the Late Cretaceous fauna of North Dakota.

 

 

As construction got underway of an office building in Rotkreuz Switzerland, an excavator unearthed what resembled a large tusk, local experts were alerted to the discovery and recovered further bones and material however not enough to attempt a complete reconstruction similar to previous finds in the country.

 

 

Researchers have been focusing on theropod fossil teeth from the Campanian-Maastrichtian of the South Pyrenean Basin. Due to the scarcity of comprehensive bone material the study of teeth is one way the research can provide further information regarding the inhabitants at the end of the Cretaceous period.
The teeth studied suggest a further 5 smaller and one larger species were present, also it’s suggested that the dinosaurs became extinct over a relatively short period of time.

 

More teeth, this time in Tasmania, drilled from the ocean floor, after isotope analysis have shown the composition of the sea’s at various stages of time.
This fossil research enabled scientists to understand evolution of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the fact that the Tasmanian seaway had a lesser role in its development than first thought, being created 5 million years prior to the current.

 

 

And more... what helped keep the theropods on the top of the food chain? Perhaps their incredible serrated edge toughened teeth. Canadian researchers scanned a variety of teeth from theropods such as Allosaurus, Tyranosaurus rex, Coelophysis and Gorgosaurus, chemically analysing their structure before ascertaining that the teeth had specifically developed to enable the munching of flesh and bones!

 

 

Virtually unchanged for 20 million years! A herpetologist has studied a fossil Anolis lizards’ remains trapped in amber from the Caribbean islands and has found that they are virtually similar to the lizards of today.
Especially amazing because of how environment would have changed over the period since the Miocene. The lizards are a mere 2.5-8cms in size and have specifically adapted to their local tree habitant.

 

 

Another amber specimen from the region, heralded as the only salamander to have been found in amber has caused some excitement, the poor infant creature was encased after losing a leg.
Named Palaeoplethodon hispaniolae the webbed limb rarity was thought to have existed up to 30 million years ago.
No real theories as yet regarding how they came to be on the islands but interestingly the area is devoid of salamanders today!

 

 

A teenage trainee archaeologist has found an adult tooth in soil from Tautavel dated to between 550,000 and 580,000 years ago.
A major find for the trainee but not significant in relation to determining the timelines of humans in Europe versus Africa - we need more bones for that!

 

 

A combined UK university lead megafauna study has been published in the Ecography journal, ‘It was our fault!’ Using statistical analysis of human population, the megafauna demise and 90 000 years of climate change the study concluded that humans were the major cause for the decline and extinction of the large beasts such as sabre tooth tiger, giant armadillo, woolly mammoth & rhino.
However more study is required for the area of mainland Asia where the analysis didn’t follow the same pattern.

 

 

A team from the University of Portsmouth have discovered a snake with legs, perhaps the first example of how they developed into lizards. The sample 110 million years old from Brazil, actually seen on display in a German museum was named Tetrapodophis amplectus and most likely a younger member of its species was only approximately 20cms in length with tiny 1cn front legs with 5mm hands.

 

 

Following the aformentioned research the Brazilian authorities are now launching an investigation due to the fossil possibly being removed from Brazil illegally.

 

 

Palaeontologists in China have discovered a winged raptor, relative of the infamous velociraptor, it has layered feathers in a uniquely complex structure, called Zhenyuanlong suni the raptor is thought to have been was up to 5 feet in length and possibly due to its size was unable to fly but used its wings for grandstanding behaviour.

 

 

Steven Jasinski phd, a student, fulfilled his dream of discovering a new dinosaur species Saurornitholestes sullivani. The raptor find from a museums older collection had an unusually larger area for the olfactory bulb suggesting the creature had a shaper sense of smell.
Jasinski hopes that other will be inspired to re-evaluate old collections as well as field work.

 

 

The Malapa Fossil Site (South Africa) has yielded another famed specimen, 2+ million year old baboon fossil remains; currently the oldest yet found, Papio angusticeps is closely related to modern baboons.

 

 

An arthropod sample from the fossil beds of Chengjiang, China has been investigated by a modern computed microtomography scanning techniques. The comprehensive scan can reveal that the fossil was of the rarer Xandarella spectaculum species. This technique provides value information regarding the fossil shape (morphology) contained with the host slab.

 

 

Recent Bristol university research has provided us with a look at the countries coastal life from the Late Triassic(circa 200 million years ago). Fossils collected in the 80’s yielded a plethora of species including 6 species of shark, bony fish, a Pachystropheus rhaeticus and placodont also present were lizard like reptiles. The land creatures were presumed to have been washed into the sea.

 

 

Scarface (Ichibengops) the name or a new species of pre-mammal was discovered in Zambia, fossil head of the creature had grooves which are thought to be a delivery system for venom which is extremely rare for a pre-mammal.

 

 

The Asteraceae plant family contains daisies, chrysanthemums, sunflowers and some vegetables, pollen from what is thought to be the oldest members of the family have been discovered at the Antarctic Peninsula.
Still to be verified but potentially dated from the Cretaceous period these plants would have been present with the dinosaurs and may have shaped the bee & insect life we know today.

 

 

The latest world’s oldest flowering plant title goes to a freshwater species from Spain, approximately 130 million years old and called Montsechia vidalii.
It exists underwater and doesn’t really show signs of ‘flowering’ but bears a single seed fruit hence the classification as an angiosperm.

 

 

Quagga(extinct South African plains zebra) or more familiarly known as the world’s rarest skeleton is now complete, the only remaining skeleton of the creature was missing a hind leg but with CT scanning and 3d printing the missing bone was replaced.
The last living quagga was killed in 1883 (famed for its skin)

 

 

A 36mm hand bone fragment from Tanzania East Africa has researchers at odds, some say it come belong to an unknown larger species, others say the 2 million year old fragments isn’t enough to support a successor to Homo habilis.

 

 

Finally, if you live near Plymouth you might have heard of the ‘Tiger Tooth’ discovered in the 60’s but only handed into a museum 2 years ago. Originally thought to be from a n ice age leopard. Surprisingly it tested for high strontium levels which suggested the tooth wasn’t from the UK at all. Further radio carbon dating show the tooth was a mere 187 years old!
Further research identified that the area where the tooth was found was on the original site of a regency property belonging to 19th century photographer Linnaeus Tripe who must have picked it up as a souvenir on one of his photography trips.

 


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