The Weight of Thought

An ambitious project to showcase the prehistory of the south coast of England, famous for its marine fossils from ammonites to giant sea reptiles, has attracted support from David Attenborough and Eden Project founder Tim Smit.
A former quarry on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, is being investigated as the site for the £85m Jurassica park for which the designer of the Shard building in London, Renzo Piano, has provided preliminary sketches of a domed glass and steel roof, according to the journalist behind the idea.
The site is within the 95-mile long Jurassic coast,a world heritage site because of its importance in understanding geological periods from 250m to 65m years ago.

breakingnews:


DNA study suggests dogs originated in Europe
AP: A new DNA study published Thursday indicates dogs originated in Europe some 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.
This large DNA study aligns with the earliest known doglike fossils, which also came from Europe. Other DNA studies have suggested that dogs originated in east Asia and the Middle East. Scientists agree that dogs became the first domesticated animals after emerging from wolves.
Photo: This photo provided by the Center for American Archaeology on Nov. 12, 2013 shows canine bones buried at the Koster site in Greene County, Ill.(AP Photo/Center for American Archaeology, Del Baston)

breakingnews:

DNA study suggests dogs originated in Europe

AP: A new DNA study published Thursday indicates dogs originated in Europe some 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.

This large DNA study aligns with the earliest known doglike fossils, which also came from Europe. Other DNA studies have suggested that dogs originated in east Asia and the Middle East. 

Scientists agree that dogs became the first domesticated animals after emerging from wolves.

Photo: This photo provided by the Center for American Archaeology on Nov. 12, 2013 shows canine bones buried at the Koster site in Greene County, Ill.(AP Photo/Center for American Archaeology, Del Baston)

Under the rich Venezuelan soil, paleontologists have found treasures rivaling the bountiful oil: a giant armadillo the size of a Volkswagen, a crocodile bigger than a bus and a saber-toothed tiger.

Oil companies’ surveys of the soil have uncovered a trove of fossils dating from 14,000 to 370 million years ago.

Many of the 12,000 recorded specimens from different eras are now kept in a tiny office of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research.

A strong smell of oil fills the room as Ascania Rincon opens the drawer of a filing cabinet to reveal the tar-stained femur of a giant, six-ton mastodon from 25,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.

Unfazed by the significance of the finds already made, the head of the institute’s Laboratory of Paleontology is intent on realizing his next goal: locating human fossils for proof of prehistoric human life in the area.

mothernaturenetwork:

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.

mothernaturenetwork:

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.

crownedrose:

Whale fossil discovered on Flint River, Georgia

From article:A Georgia Southern University team of professors and students Monday started excavating the fossil of a whale on the shore of the Flint River. The geology dig has been in the works for two years, and the team calls it a stunningly significant find. 

Three students and two professors from Georgia Southern University dig carefully on the bank of the Flint River, unearthing so far about a 7 foot fossil of the backbone of a 35 million year old whale.

“And it turns out we have a nice part of a probably this ancient fossil whale called a bassilosaurus,” said Dr. Katy Smith of Georgia Southern University.

This ancient whale was between 50 to 70 feet long, and swam freely in what was then the ocean. In a person, this vertebrae would be about 2 inches long, to give you an idea how big this whale was.

sciencesoup:

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 human ancestors began scavenging for meat regularly on the open plains of Africa about 2.5 million years ago, they apparently took more than their fair share of flesh. Within a million years, most of the large carnivores in the region—from saber-toothed cats to bear-size otters—had gone extinct, leaving just a few “hypercarnivores” alive, according to a study presented here last week at a workshop on climate change and human evolution at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Smilodon

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.



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.