fossil news

Dr. Joseph Hannibal, curator of invertebrate palaeontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History was the lead author researching millstones in Ohio, a study looking at the geology of the stones and the stone trade of the era. Hundreds of stones were examined over a 5 year period, finding charophyte’s (algae family) was a keen indicator to determine if the stones were local or from further afield. Results show that millstones were imported from France in the 18th & 19th century due to their superior cutting ability, the stones contained freshwater fossil material where a similar looking local stone contained seawater fossil evidence.

rockngem magazine issue64

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After 10 years of combined research a German & Chilean team have published their finding on one of the most significant finds relating to ichthyosaurs (fish lizards). The find initially discovered by glaciologists probably due to the Patagonian glacier melt and subsequent receding. The fossils were in an excellent state of preservation with virtually complete adult skeletons, young, embryos and some soft tissue.
From 146 million years ago (early cretaceous) During the study researchers found evidence of 4 different ichthyosaurs along with various bi valves, ammonites, fish and plant material.
The find in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia 2004 was an unique find of international importance.

A new fish - Robustichthys luopingensis determined after studying several examples from the Guanling Formation in Luoping, eastern Yunnan China has now been recognised. This Ionosopiform from circa 240 million years ago related to ray finned fish is the first known record existing in Asia.

An interesting stag party group out hiking in Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Albuquerque New Mexico stumbled upon a bone protruding a couple of inches from the ground, after a little digging they discovered what they thought might be a woolly mammoth skull, however after reporting the find to the state museum it appears the skull belonged to an older relative a stegomastodon. Once prepared the skull will be added to the museum’s exhibition.

Researchers at Kenya’s Koobi Fora region, known for its old hominin examples has revealed to researchers ancient hippo tracks, the 4 toed creatures evidence would’ve been left in a fertile area(unlike today) by Hippopotamus gorgops and possibly the pygmy species aethiopicus.

A significant group of pterosaur remains have been found in Xinjiang, China including a fairly complete egg, one of only a few ever found, bones of an estimated 40 individuals have been counted at the site including a new genus species called Hamipterus tianshanensis with a wingspan up to 3.5m. Previous fossil remains of pterosaurs have been elusive possibly due to the creature’s thin bones and poor fossilisation.

Blanus mendezi is a newly discovered amphisbaenians (worm lizard) the circa 11 million year old creature’s skull measuring a meer 11.2mm was found in Spain after an Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont researcher was examining sediment excavated several years earlier in the Catalonia region.

Obviously named by a Lord of The Rings fan Anthracosuchus balrogus a crocodilian species that grew to almost 5m and weighed over 400Kg has been found in the noteworthy fossil area of the Cerrejón coal mine Colombia (the giant turtle home).
Travelling from Africa some 70+million years earlier these creatures adapted to the warm swampy habitat and transition to fresh water.

A Dakosaurus maximus tooth was found in the English Channel measuring almost 60mm, the 152 million year old tooth belonged to a 4-5m ancient relative of the crocodile, but was not the top sea predator.

Will the latest Technology remove the need to extract fossils from precarious locations or will it just be used to take a copy prior to potential damaging extraction... X-ray tomography allows the fossil to be scanned in situ, it’s obviously early days because institutions haven’t budgeted for ‘big data’ storage enabling scans to be saved and potentially shared with other researchers, another foible to address is the copyright issue of data.

On a positive note further study of the fossil scans with biomechanical analysis will uncover answers to lots of questions regarding the physical attributes of the creatures. Even better Palaeontologists are making these fossil avatars freely available for 3-D printing for further research, education or fun.

Unfortunately search giant Google doesn’t appear to be quite so educationally focussed when it comes to selling fossils, especially of the shark tooth variety, several dealers have reported that they have been threatened by Google that their advertising campaigns will be suspended if they continue to sell fossil sharks teeth in line with Google endangered species policy. Actual Google merchant centre representatives appear bemused by the decision themselves. Whilst I sure we all want to protect endangered species simply classing several million year old fossils in the same category does little to provide education on the issue. Also it appears that the ban is somewhat random, if you look at google shopping and search for fossil sharks tooth you can see many listed, a high proportion by larger advertisers such as Ebay etc.

We asked Google’s UK press office (Portland Communications) regarding the issue but other than “My initial reaction is that the terms and conditions speak for themselves and that we wont have anything to share beyond them.” they’ve failed to comment on the number of actual sharks teeth they’re still happy to advertise on clients behalves.

A change of view? Researchers collected over 2,500 fossils from an area in Austria after a landslide near Salzburg, after careful study the researchers found the fossils lacked any light dependant organisms and thus deduced that these fossils originated from the deep sea. Current thinking suggested that life evolved from the shallows and creatures ventured to the deep, however this study suggests that the deep sea was quite prolific with examples dating back to 180 millions ago, much older than other existing samples.

With a femur larger than a man, it must be one of the largest dinosaurs, unearthed in Argentina, 7 of these enormous creatures are herbivore sauropods but yet to be named. Discovered by a farmer back in 2011 researcher José Luis Carballido, from the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio tried to give us perspective by suggesting an adult is equivalent to 14 African elephants in weight!

A ctenacanth (extinct shark (don’t tell Google) nicknamed godzilla shark has recently given up the fact after a scan that the 130 million year old creature had teeth on it’s outer lips to help with retaining prey after charging into them. A project to produce a 3d model is underway.

Vulpes qiuzhudingi possible ancestor of the artic fox from 5 million years ago has made a presence in Tibet, the fossil remains of a jaw bone and teeth add weight to the theory that the area was where shaggy coated creatures evolved then travelled and adapted to warmer climes.

During the Triassic period (251 - 1999 million years ago) nothosaurs were the top sea predators, researchers think the creature used its paddle like limbs to scoop prey towards its mouth whilst gliding along the sea bed, after finding over 300 well preserved prints on an ocean ledge in Chinas Yunnan province.

Metaspriggina a small fish thought to be 500 million years old had gills that researchers believe would have evolved into to jawbones in jawed vertebrates.
Found in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, the fish revives 1870s, naturalist Karl Gegenbaur theory although other researchers aren’t fully convinced.

Remember Eric Prokopi the guy that tried to sell a Mogolian Tarbosaurus bataar skeleton (by auction for $1 million), well finally he’s been sentenced, after the 3 month stay in custody (from a possible 17 years) he plans to rebuild his business and obtain proper documentation.

The English fossil shop business associate has also returned Mongolian fossils in order to avoid litigation. The high profile case seems to have deterred the previously open sales of Mongolian material within the USA and further afield.

A sample of Dominican Republic amber yielded 15 million year old ticks that were carrying Lyme disease bacteria; due to how amber is formed it can preserve organic and soft tissue material very well. This proves that animals and early man also suffered from the disease.

An 8 year old South Carolinian wrote to the state requesting they adopt the Columbian mammoth as the state fossil due to its historical importance, being one of the first vertebrate fossils discovered in the country by slaves in a swamp. Not plain sailing because creationist legislators tried to add amendments with biblical references, however the governor has subsequently overruled any changes.

Southern Methodist University researchers set out to accurately date marine fossils on Africas’ Atlantic shore, analysing the carbon-13 and carbon-12 isotopes within the fossils over a 140m section of shoreline ages ranged from 95 - 68 million years.
The most fossil abundant time was 71.5 million years ago which is 2 million years older than previously thought.

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