A Brand New Dinosaur!

Paleontologists in Australia have discovered fossil fragments from a new type of dinosaur that walked the Earth during the Early Cretaceous epoch. The new dinosaur belongs to Ornithopoda (ornithopods), a major group of herbivorous bird-hipped dinosaurs.

Galleonosaurus dorisae. Image credit: James Kuether.

Ladies…

Dubbed Galleonosaurus dorisae, it inhabited the rift between Australia and Antarctica approximately 125 million years ago (Cretaceous period).

Five fossilized upper jaws of the ancient beast were found at the Flat Rocks locality of the Wonthaggi Formation in a region of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. The discovery confirms that on a global scale, the diversity of these small-bodied dinosaurs had been unusually high in the ancient rift valley that once extended between the spreading continents of Australia and Antarctica.

Galleonosaurus dorisae is a close relative of Diluvicursor pickeringi, another small ornithopod from excavations along the Otway coast to the west of the Gippsland region. However, Galleonosaurus dorisae is about 12 million years older than Diluvicursor pickeringi, showing that the evolutionary history of dinosaurs in the Australian-Antarctic rift had been lengthy.

The researchers also found that the ornithopods from Victoria are closely related to those from Patagonia in Argentina. “We are steadily building a picture of terrestrial dinosaur interchange between the shifting Gondwanan continents of Australia, South America and Antarctica during the Cretaceous period,” said Dr. Matthew Herne, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of New England.

The study was published in the Journal of Paleontology.

The Dinosaurs Were Doing Fine

You know, until that whole asteroid thing.

Image result for dinosaurs asteroid

It’s probably fine…

Most paleontologists agree that the Chicxulub asteroid impact, possibly coupled with intense volcanic activity, wiped out non-avian dinosaurs (all dinosaurs except birds) at the end of the Cretaceous period, approximately 66 million years ago.

However, there is debate about whether dinosaurs were flourishing or whether they had already been in decline due to climate change. A new study that modeled the changing environment and dinosaur species distribution in North America suggests that dinosaurs were likely not in decline before the Chicxulub strike.

According to the study, dinosaurs as a whole were adaptable animals, capable of coping with the environmental changes and climatic fluctuations that happened during the last few million years of the Late Cretaceous. It suggests previous analyses have underestimated the number of species at the end of the Cretaceous period.

During the Cretaceous, North America was split in two by a large inland sea. In the western half there was a steady supply of sediment from the newly forming Rocky Mountains, which created good conditions for fossilizing dinosaurs once they died. The eastern half of the continent was characterized by conditions far less suitable for fossilization.

This means that far more dinosaur fossils are found in the western half of North America, and this fossil record is often used to suggest dinosaurs were in decline during the few million years before the asteroid strike.

However, instead of using the fossil record exclusively, the researchers employed ‘ecological niche modeling.’ This approach models which environmental conditions, such as temperature and rainfall, each species would need to survive. The scientists then mapped where these conditions would occur across the continent over time.

This allowed them to create a picture of where groups of dinosaur species could survive as conditions changed, rather than just where their fossils had been found. The team found habitats that could support dinosaur groups were actually more widespread at the end of the Cretaceous period, but that these were in areas less likely to preserve fossils.

The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

Brand New Dinosaur Discovered In Venezuela

An international team of researchers have unearthed two leg bone fossils of the new species in the Andes Mountains near Venezuela’s western border, LiveScience reports.

The fossils indicate the first carnivorous dinosaur discovered in the country was about 4.9 to 6.5 feet long from nose to tail. The creature lived about 201 million years ago, during the early Jurassic period, on the ancient supercontinent Pangaea.

They’re calling the new dinosaur the “Thief of Tachira,” but this feisty little dinosaur  doesn’t sound like the sort that would have stolen many hearts. In fact, Tachiraptor admirabilis doesn’t seem very friendly at all.

The researchers said Tachiraptor was likely an ancestor of bigger dinosaurs like T. rex that lived in the later Jurassic. Their discovery may shed new light on the evolution of dinosaurs following the End-Triassic mass extinction that occurred a million years before Tachiraptor lived.

The paper describing the discovery was published Oct. 8 in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

There is no Bottom

There are numerous forms of denial of science out there, from global warming denialism, to AIDS denialism, anti-vaxxers, and creationism. They all have a lot in common, from their insular exclusionary attitude that refuses to accept evidence that doesn’t fit their world view, to the various strategies they use to reduce cognitive dissonance and fight against reality including:

-Quoting out of context (quote-mining) to dishonestly suggest that the quoted person agrees with them.

-Cherry-picking data to show the exact opposite of what the data really shows.

-Making phony lists of “experts” who agree with them.

-Picking on small differences within the scientific community as evidence that the “science is not settled”.

-Picking a small factoid (usually misinterpreted and out of context) as evidence that the whole of science is false.

And the list goes on. Usually, these obvious strategies to deny an overwhelming body of evidence are so transparently self-delusional that we can laugh at them. But then I ran into something that staggered even my sense of how low these people can go.

We are all familiar with how creationists use ad hoc explanations and special pleading to rescue the absurdities of their world view, from trying to cram all of the animals into Noah’s ark and dismissing the huge numbers problem through their non-biological concept of “created kinds”, to doing all sorts of violence to the geologic record to justify Noah’s flood story, to even insisting that men have one less rib than do women (They don’t, and this is easy to check). More extreme Biblical literalists even believe in a flat earth and reject the heliocentric solar system.

But I was flabbergasted to read of an entire group of creationists that deny that dinosaurs even existed!

I’m used to the creationist trope of dinosaurs coexisting with humans, and we all remember the photo of P.Z. Meyers riding on a Triceratops at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. At least those creationists have the decency to admit that dinosaurs were real, and that the fossils are real remnants of animals that once existed.

Besides the usual attacks on radiometric dating and refutations of other creationists’ claims that Biblical references to behemoths and dragons actually refer to dinosaurs, this site makes the bizarre claim that all the dinosaur fossils were fabricated by scientists.  Now even if that were possible (where exactly is this factory that’s so busy making thousands of fake dino fossils?), why would scientists do it?  A representative quote for how these paranoid people argue that paleontologists are creating fraudulent dinosaur fossils is as follows:

What would be the motivation for such a deceptive endeavor? Obvious motivations include trying to prove evolution, trying to disprove or cast doubt on the Christian Bible and the existence of the Christian God, and trying to disprove the “young-earth theory”. Yes, there are major political and religious ramifications.

The dinosaur concept could imply that if God exists, he may have tinkered with his idea of dinosaurs for awhile, then perhaps discarded or became tired of this creation and then went on to create man. The presented dinosaur historical timeline could suggest an imperfect God who came up with the idea of man as an afterthought, thus demoting the biblical idea that God created man in His own image. Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

Highly rewarding financial and economic benefits to museums, educational and research organizations, university departments of paleontology, discoverers and owners of dinosaur bones, and the book, television, movie and media industries may cause sufficient motivation for ridiculing of open questioning and for suppression of honest investigation.

The last one is a real knee slapper considering that so many paleontologists are poorly paid and can’t even get a job in paleontology.

The premise of the website is that dinosaurs are a fiction designed to “prove” evolution, disprove creationism thus driving us away from God. Which would be a neat trick if true since the earliest scholarly descriptions of what would now be recognized as dinosaur bones first appeared in the late 1600s while Origin of the Species wasn’t published until 1859. So the authors also get an F in history.

The authors go into extremely bizarre thinking about dinosaurs and paleontology. They jump from one paranoid speculation to another, all in an attempt to suggest that dinosaur bones are forgeries planted in the outcrop by crooked paleontologists, and there is no way they could have gotten there without fraud. The list of mistakes and lies and misconceptions about fossils and geology is so long that I don’t have space to even begin listing them all.

So go ahead and read this website if you dare. You’ll need a strong stomach for lies and self-deception and hopefully you will not be shocked by the low view of humanity that emerges from reading it.

Five Common Myths About Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago, likely wiped out by a huge comet or asteroid. But we can look at the fossil evidence they left behind to understand what these prehistoric beasts were really like. If you’re still relying on what you learned in grade school, and saw in Hollywood classics like Jurassic Park you’ve got dinosaurs all wrong. The scientific understanding of dinosaurs, and dinosaur behavior, has changed drastically even in recent years.

In ancient times, fossilized dinosaur bones were thought to have belonged to monsters, giants, or even dragons. In the 1800s, scientists realized that the teeth and bones were unlike those of any living animal so they must have been the remains of long-extinct creatures. And so, British paleontologist Sir Richard Owen coined the word “dinosaur” to describe these prehistoric creatures. But the fossil record can be hard to interpret, which brings me to those myths:

Dinosaurs were dumb: In the 1970s, a system was developed to estimate dinosaur intelligence based on the dinosaur’s brain weight relative to the brain weight of another living animal. It turns out that, based on that system, some dinosaurs (like the Velociraptor) were pretty smart.

Brontosaurus was the biggest dinosaur of all: Like me, you may have been taught that one of the biggest dinosaurs was the enormous plant-eater called Brontosaurus. But there’s one problem, that guy never even existed. Brontosaurus was invented when 19th century paleontologist O.C. Marsh misidentified an Apatosaurus skeleton as belonging to a new species. Even though the mistake was discovered in 1903, it wasn’t until the 1970s when museums got around to fixing their skeleton displays. Still, the long-necked dinosaurs were the largest.

Dinosaurs were covered in scales: You may have heard that some dinosaurs sported feathers. Fossil evidence now suggests that most or even all of them did. Researchers recently found fossils belonging to a small, two-legged dinosaur with scales and feather-like structures, dating back around 160 million years. This leads scientists to think that dinosaurs’ plumes may have evolved much earlier in dinosaur history than previously thought.

Dinosaurs were cold blooded: At first scientists thought dinosaurs were cold-blooded like reptiles. Then some researchers said that dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded. But based ondinosaurs’ growth rate, size, and metabolism, some scientists now pose that dinosaurs were mesotherms, which means they couldn’t control their body temperature as us mammals do, but they weren’t so dependent on their environments as cold-blooded reptiles are. They were somewhere in between.

Dinosaurs were slow movers: Dinosaurs may have been much speedier than you probably thought. Computer simulations suggest that this tiny guy was the fastest dinosaur of all, with a running speed of around 40 mph. Meanwhile, a six-ton T. rex could reach a top speed of around 18 mph. That’s one guy I’m glad I’ll never have to outrun.