The Weight of Thought

Finally, meet Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a fantastic swimmer and the biggest meat-eating dinosaur ever discovered. This 95-million-year-old Cretaceous predator had a massive, spiny sail on its back, and it paddled in the river, eating sharks. Whole sharks. The findings were published in Science this week.

The very first S. aegyptiacus fossils were discovered about a century ago in the Egyptian Sahara, and it was named “spine reptile.” Those first fossils were housed at the Bavarian State Collection, but were destroyed in World War II during an April 1944 Royal Air Force raid of Munich. “We had to wait close to 100 years for a new skeleton,” Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Chicago says in a telebriefing statement. “The animal we are resurrecting is so bizarre, it is going to force dinosaur experts to rethink many things they thought they knew.”

Paleontologists working on desert cliffs called the Kem Kem beds in eastern Morocco recently unearthed a more complete set of fossils — including portions of a skull, axial column, pelvic girdle, and limbs — that suggests the dinosaur was semi-aquatic. This is a first: Dinosaurs were thought to be terrestrial, having never colonized aquatic environments like marine reptiles.

lmost all dinosaurs were probably covered in feathers, Siberian fossils of a tufted, two-legged running dinosaur dating from roughly 160 million years ago suggest.

Over the past two decades, discoveries in China have produced at least five species of feathered dinosaurs. But they all belonged to the theropod group of “raptor” dinosaurs, ancestors of modern birds. (Related: “Dinosaur-Era Fossil Shows Birds’ Feathers Evolved Before Flight.”)

Now in a discovery reported by an international team in the journal Science, the new dinosaur species, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus (KOO-lin-dah-DRO-mee-us ZAH-bike-kal-ik-kuss), suggests that feathers were all in the family. That’s because the newly unearthed 4.5-foot-long (1.5 meter) two-legged runner was an “ornithischian” beaked dinosaur, belonging to a group ancestrally distinct from past theropod discoveries


Dinosaurs grew attractive feathers to entice potential loversNew fossil found in Canada suggests that early feathered dinosaurs may have used their colorful feathers to woo potential mates.


Dinosaurs grew attractive feathers to entice potential lovers
New fossil found in Canada suggests that early feathered dinosaurs may have used their colorful feathers to woo potential mates.


Dinosaur Feathers Trapped in Amber

A large treasure trove of ancient amber deposits in Canada has given insight into the evolution of feathers from dinosaurs to modern birds. Amber is essentially fossilised resin that preserves anything unlucky enough to become trapped in it, and researchers have found feathers preserved from the Late Cretaceous Period—70 to 85 million years ago. 11 distinct sets of feathers from 4,000 amber deposits filled in gaps in the fossil record, showing the progression of feathers from hair-like filaments to the branched, structured, flight-capable plumes of modern birds. “We’re finding two ends of the evolutionary development [of] feathers trapped in the same amber deposit,” says Ryan McKellar, the study’s co-author. The specimens were so well-preserved that researchers could even see the pigments that once coloured them—the feathers ranged from transparent to mottled to bright. Some had even become specialised, not for flight but for diving underwater, and some may have come from China’s 125-million-year-old Sinosauropteryx prima, the first dinosaur fossil discovered with feathers intact. The find suggests that dinosaurs were not all the scaly, drab creatures that we often imagine—a wide array of brightly-coloured creatures roamed the earth too, perhaps right up to the dinosaurs’ extinction.

(Image Credit: National Geographic)

Leaping lizards! - by Nature Video

High-speed video footage of leaping lizards supports a 40-year-old hypothesis about how theropod dinosaurs, like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park fame, adjusted the angle of their tails to stay stable when jumping.

When I first heard the news that paleontologists had discovered a giant, fuzzy tyrannosaur, I was giddy with excitement. The dinosaur, dubbed Yutyrannus, was a confirmation of an idea that researchers and artists had been cautiously exploring for years. While most of the feathered dinosaurs discovered so far have been very small and often quite bird-like animals, Yutyrannus was a roughly 30-foot-long bruiser which showed that even huge predators might have sported fluffy plumage. And if an imposing predator like Yutyrannus sported a fuzzy coat, the same might be true for the theropod’s notorious cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex. The tyrant king may not have been the wholly scaly monstrosity I grew up knowing, but an apex predator decorated by patches of simple protofeathers. 

Not everyone shared my enthusiasm. “Tyrannosaurs were supposed to be scaly,” came the cantankerous cry from die-hard fans of more reptilian dinosaurs. Why are paleontologists so committed to destroying the fantastic imagery Jurassic Park embedded in our cultural landscape? Across the web, tyrannosaur traditionalists registered their displeasure. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!” mourned one WIRED commenter, and elsewhere, Yutyrannus was presented as a “fuzzball” and “chicken from hell.” And while the outrage was not as great as when people mistakenly believed that paleontologists were trying to kill Triceratops, at least some dinosaur fans lamented the increasingly avian aspect of tyrannosaurs.

Dinosaurs Changing Nature Ending

It sounds like the plot to a science fiction story, but new scientific research hypothesizes that “advanced dinosaurs” may have evolved on other planets in the universe.

According to Dr. Ronald Breslow, the advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs would likely be monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans.

"We would be better off not meeting them," Breslow concludes in a study that appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In his report, Breslow discusses the age-old mystery of why the building blocks of terrestrial amino acids (which make up proteins), sugars, and the genetic materials DNA and RNA exist mainly in one orientation or shape. 

The researchers, from Philadelphia’s Drexel University, are using 3D printing to create dino-bones and then attaching artificial muscles and tendons to create dinosaur robots.

“Technology in paleontology hasn’t changed in about 150 years,” paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara said. “We use shovels and pickaxes and burlap and plaster. It hasn’t changed - until right now.”

The 3D printers build the dino-bones by repeatedly putting out thin layers of resin or another material to build up the object based on a digital design.

“It’s kind of like Star Trek technology, where you can press a button and the object pops out,” Lacovara said, adding that a six-inch model of a bone can be printed in a few hours.

Harvard scientists are hoping to turn chickens into mini-dinosaurs, according to the Daily Mail.

Scientists at the Ivy League university have ‘rewound’ evolution with chicken DNA to create embryos with alligator-like snouts instead of beaks.

By altering the DNA of chicken embryos in the early stage of their development, the team were able to ‘undo’ evolutionary progress and give the creatures snouts which are thought to have been lost in the cretaceous period millions of years ago.