Friday, March 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: March 2017

Well. That was a month, eh? Before we dive into this wild lunar cycle of paleontological action, I'll put out one more call: if you are a paleoartist and you haven't taken the 2017 Survey of Paleoartists, do it! It's easy and won't take too long.

In the News

Ornithoscelida. This is the name given new clade consisting of ornithischia and theropoda, according to a new phylogenetic study by Matthew Baron with Paul Barrett and David Norman. This new model proposes that the sauropodomorphs and theropods aren't quite as closely related as we've thought, with saurischia redefined to be sauropodomorpha + hererrasauridae. Many interesting implications here. Let's see how is pans out over time. Read more from Darren Naish at TetZoo, Ed Yong at the Atlantic, and Pete Bucholz at Earth Archives.

Anchiornis plus lasers! New research using the technique of laser-stimulated fluorescence has "fleshed out" the little-dinobird-that-could, confirming some hypotheses about soft tissue anatomy in paravians and throwing in some surprises, to boot (no pun intended, but the foot integument has stoked conversation online). Read more from Scott Hartman at Skeletal Drawing, Andrea Cau at Theropoda, and NatGeo.

Want more dinobird soft tissue, eh? A newly described, remarkable specimen of Confuciusornis has been found to preserve soft tissue features of the ankle and foot. "Microscopic analyses of these tissues indicate that they include tendons or ligaments, fibrocartilages and articular cartilages, with microstructure evident at the cellular level. Further chemical analyses reveal that even some of the original molecular residues of these soft tissues may remain, such as fragments of amino acids from collagen, particularly in the fibrocartilage." The authors conclude that Confuciusornis represents a transitional state between the leg posture of ancestral theropods and modern birds. Read the Nature Communications paper and the release from Bristol University.

Daspletosaurus isn't left out of the March integument madness. A new species of the tyrant, D. horneri, has been described by Thomas Carr, based on fossils that have been long awaiting description. Another new tyrannosaur, big whoop, right? Well, this one has major implications for restorations of these Cretaceous poster children. Carr and team studied an extremely well preserved specimen, determining that the face was covered by large scales like those of modern crocodiles, and had no lips. Furthermore, the face was supplied with a powerful web of nerves, making it highly sensitive. Read more from Phys Org, Science, and Eurekalert. Already lots of critiques popping up, but of course we'll have to see what pops up in further publications.

The Burmese amber strikes back. This time, mid-Cretaceous amber containing platycnemid damselflies shows evidence of courtship behavior. The insects possessed the enlarged tibiae of their modern relatives. It's a pretty stunning find, and thankfully the private collector who purchased the amber provided it to scientists so it could be published. Read more at Phys Org and Cosmos.

In the discovered-but-not-described bin, another titanic Mesozoic penguin from New Zealand. This new one is about as large as the largest ancient penguins and was found a few meters above the discovery site of Waimanu manneringi, most ancient of the proud lineage. Read more at Laelaps from Brian Switek.

New research has compared the lower jaws of a whole bunch of therizinosaurs to better understand the feeding adaptations of the various species. Read more about it from Albertonykus at Raptormaniacs.

A late Jurassic turtle has been found to have the ability to retract its neck into its shell. Read more on Platychelys from Jon Tennant at PLOS Paleo Community.

Finally, this one seemed to get buried in the press in February, so I'm including it this month, thanks to Ashley Hall calling attention to it. An absolutely gorgeous new fossil of Eoconfuciusornis from the Yixian Formation, preserving soft tissue of the ovaries and wing.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Writing for Palaeontology Online, Elsa Panciroli provides a comprehensive overview of the earliest mammals.

C.M. Kosemen is back on Youtube! Check out his first entry in his rebooted series, in which he tells the Parable of Darth Atopodentatus the Wise.

Luis V. Rey offers an intriguing look at Yehuecauhceratops, restoring it with big, fleshy nostrils.

On Discover's "Dead Things" blog, Gemma Tarlach is profiling up-and-coming paleontologists. The first profile in the series is all about Sanaa El-Sayed and one heck of a big catfish.

Over at the Paleo-King blog, Nima has estimated how much time a sauropod would have to spend eating each day.

Did you hear about all of the new coelurosaurian Monopoly pieces? A penguin, a rubber duck, and a so-so Tyrannosaurus rex. Read more at Everything Dinosaur.

Want to fight back against anti-science forces? At the SciAm guest blog, Jonathan Foley and Christine Arena have some ideas.

Jordan Mallon shared his most-overlooked paper with Dave Hone in an installment of the "Buried Treasure" series. Read more about "Taphonomy and habitat preference of North American pachycephalosaurids" over at Archosaur Musings.

At Mary Anning's Revenge, Meaghan and Amy shared a couple of their recent paleo talks. Check out the vids, do it.

One of my favorite podcasts is In Defense of Plants, so I was extra excited to see that Dr. Caroline Strömberg stopped by to talk paleobotany. She discusses her specialty in researching phytoliths, silica particles produced by certain plants, and gives a wonderful overview of the science.

At New Views on Old Bones, Paul Barrett has been writing about an expedition to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, in search of Early Jurassic fossils. Check out parts one, two, and the recently published finale.

Duane writes about "the longest tenured and most successful marine tetrapod family of all time," the plesiosaurs, at Antediluvian Salad.

Some good posts on female paleontologists for Women's History Month: Learn about American paleontologist Mignon Talbot at the Tetanurae Guy and read about Mary Anning from Fernanda Castano.

The Empty Wallets Club

Cover for Abby Howard's book, Dinosaur Empire

Comic artist Abby Howard (Junior Scientist Power Hour) announced her new book, Dinosaur Empire!, due to be released in August by Amulet Books. It looks amazing - a trip through the entire Mesozoic, with fauna that clearly is based on contemporary science. Check out her announcement comic, and then preorder it!

Cover for Steve White's book, Dinosaur Art 2

Dinosaur Art, the 2012 paleoart book edited by Steve White and published by Titan Books, was such a big deal that we dedicated a whole week to it. The book got a lot of press, but I think it's fair to say that LITC provided the most in-depth analysis you'll find, as each contributor to the blog provided a review, and we published an interview with White. So LITC is pretty excited that its sequel is coming this October! This time, we'll be treated to the work of Willoughby, Witton, Lacerda, Atuchin, and more.

Tyrannosaurus rex illustration by Raven Amos with text saying Science Made Dinosaurs Awesome!
Raven Amos has added another terrific design to her NeatoShop storefront, taking direct aim at the myopic, small-minded, backwards-thinking, and utterly annoying "science ruined dinosaurs" crowd. Science made dinosaurs awesome!

Book cover for Patrick Murphy's Dinosaurs A-Z: Dinosaur Classics
Illustrator Patrick Murphy has released his first book, an introduction to dinosaurs for kids 9 and up. Order it here!

The LITC AV Club

Wound up with more videos than usual, so why not give them their own special section?

Here's short n' sweet PBS News Hour feature on Julius Csotonyi's paleaort. Thanks to Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (and Palaeoblog) for giving big ups to paleoart.

Larry Witmer talks about a sweet, sweet Triceratops brain endocast.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum's speaker series recently featured Peter Larson, who spoke on his research tracking theropod diversity and disparity in the late Cretaceous.

Filmmaker Lexi Marsh is challenging "a lost legacy" with The Bearded Lady Project. Her 20 minute short film, focusing on Dr. Ellen Currano, debuted early this month at the University of Wyoming at Laramie. Read Carolyn Gramling's great interview with Marsh at Science. Check out the trailer above, too.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs has just embarked on another field trip to educate the children of Mongolia about their country's priceless natural heritage. They can always use donations to fund their efforts, or you can visit their shop and pick up a shirt, mug, or print to support them.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

I am a fan of Joschua Knüppe's naturalistic paleoartwork, and when I saw his latest pterosaur illustration for Pteros, I immediately asked for permission to feature it here. Gegepterus changi is a ctenochasmatid pterosaur hailing from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation.

Gegepterus changi, illustrated by Joschua Knüppe, and shared here with the artist's permission.

Read more about lil' G at Pteros. Keep up with Joschua at DeviantArt and Facebook.

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