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Fossils In the News

This page is dedicated to News articles published in the public domain about fossils.  Click on the links below for additional information about each article..

Perot Museum Research in the News

Perot Museum paleontologists' research sheds new light on Alamosaurus fossils found in Big Bend National Park

The discovery nearly two decades ago of nine beautifully articulated  vertebrae at Big Bend National Park is shedding new light on a 66 million-year-old sauropod native to Texas and the North American southwest called Alamosaurus sanjuanensis.

 Paleontologists from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas have co-authored a scientific paper entitled “An articulated cervical series of Alamosaurus sanjuanensis Gilmore, 1922 (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) from Texas: new perspective on the relationships of North America's last giant sauropod." Their findings are now available online as an open access article at the Journal of Systematic Paleontology website and will appear in its forthcoming January/February 2017 print edition. The lead author is Ronald S. Tykoski, Ph.D., the Perot Museum’s Director of Paleontology Lab, and the co-author is Anthony R. Fiorillo, Ph.D., the Perot Museum’s Chief Curator and Vice President of Research and Collections. 

1.5 billion-year-old fossils reveal organisms of unusual size

From http://arstechnica.com/science 

Possibly related to algae, these simple critters grew as long as 30 centimeters.

by  Scott K. Johnson -  May 24, 2016 12:20pm CDT

The Cambrian “explosion” of life around 540 million years ago is one heck of a story, in which a huge variety of animal body plans first appear in the fossil record. But the harder we look, the more interesting and incredible the Cambrian prequels become. Now, there's a report of organisms big enough to be easily visible yet dating back to more than 1.5 billion years ago.

The fuse to the Cambrian bomb was quite long and, at the very least, had some firecrackers tied to it. Single-celled eukaryotes, organisms with a nucleus and other complex internal structures, joined the bacteria and archaea around 1.5 billion years before the Cambrian. About 60 million years before the start of the Cambrian, a considerable batch of complex organisms appeared, although their relationships to Cambrian life are contentious.

The history of multi-cellular eukaryotes in between is hard to piece together, as extraordinary luck is needed to preserve evidence of their soft cell bodies for us to find. We have a couple examples of tiny multi-cellular organisms that may have been eukaryotes, but a new discovery from a team led by Shixing Zhu of the China Geological survey adds a big one to the family. The long, flat fossils they found in 1.56 billion-year-old rocks were up to a whopping 30 centimeters long and 8 centimeters wide.

The fossils were found in shale rock in southern China. The rock is made from muds deposited just offshore in an ancient ocean. The researchers found 53 specimens that could be categorized into four consistent shapes—all pretty much variations of a necktie. Some were shaped like long tongues, some had squared-off ends, and some were closer to skinny wedges. We're often unsure if some enigmatic shapes in rocks this old are fossil imprints or just ripped up flakes of mud, but the consistency of the shapes in this case avoids that ambiguity.

Dissolving some of the rock, the researchers recovered patches of cells connected in sheets that allow closer inspection. As you’d hope, there was definitely organic carbon present. There was no sign of any organization of cells into specialized types, although the tongue-shaped fossils sported visible lines of some kind running from one end to the other. Some of the fossils also showed hints of what may have been “holdfasts”—anchors that seafloor organisms use to attach themselves to the bottom.

Enlarge / Partial sheets of cells extracted from the rock.

Maoyan Zhu

Based on similarities with algae, the researchers guess that these organisms were probably photosynthetic. That idea would fit with some estimates of when red and green algae evolved photosynthesis, but other estimates disagree, so the situation is murky. The fossils could fall within the algae family tree, or they could be something else that simply disappeared. Whatever they were, they look to have been large eukaryotes, which pushes back the timeline for the appearance of that sort of life.

The researchers write, “Continuing research promises new insights into marine ecosystems in the low oxygen world caricatured misleadingly as a ‘boring billion’ year interval of evolutionary as well as environmental stability.”

Nature Communications, 2016. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11500  (About DOIs).

How We Found the Dinosaur Doomsday Site

By Eric Betz  March 23, 2016


When the impact hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, it wiped out most life on Earth. (Credit: NASA)

On March 22, 1991, David Kring stood at a podium at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston and revealed the exact location of the most important impact event in the past 100 million years. The dinosaur-killing space-rock struck Mexico’s present-day Yucatan Peninsula near the town of Chicxulub.

By that time, most geologists already accepted Luis and Walter Alvarez’s once-wild theory that a 65-million-year-old, worldwide layer of iridium — a material common in asteroids, but not on Earth — implied an extinction event. But for a decade, scientists had tried and failed to find the crater.

That led many to assume an impact in the deep ocean, which might explain the absence of a bowl as big as Connecticut. Kring didn’t buy it. His gut told him the Mount Everest-sized space rock struck closer to land. The path to proving it started along the banks of the Brazos River in Texas.

Putting the Clues Together

In 1985, Jan Smit, a paleontologist at University Amsterdam, and A.J.T. Romein of the State University of Utrecht, published a summary of what was known about the Cretaceous-Tertiary event — the moment when most of Earth’s life died. Their lengthy report looked at evidence from around the world. But it was just one sentence in that 16-page paper that stood out to Kring. The paleontologists pointed to a thick layer of sandy sediment “This may be the first evidence of impact (tsunami)–triggered sediment,” Romein and Smit wrote.

That set Kring searching for an impact crater in the western hemisphere.

Scientists found the next clue in the Caribbean. Florida International University scientist Florentin Maurrasse spotted an unusually thick layer of iridium near Beloc, Haiti, that implied the dino-killing impact couldn’t be far off.

And when American television producer Robin Bates flew out for a science show about the site, he returned with a sample for Glen Izett, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, who was next on his interview list. Inside the sediment, Izett found tiny bits of glass. These so-called tektites are only found close to impact sites.

“That told us that somewhere in the Caribbean there was a crater,” says Kring.

Chicxulub_Map

In the coming months, a scientific drilling operation will extract rock cores from Chicxulub’s peak ring, something never before tried. Their results could help explain the events that followed the dino-killing impact. (Credit: David Kring)

And it turned out that two geophysicists, Glen Penfield and Antonio Camargo, had already stumbled across ground zero on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula while looking for oil deposits. The pair wondered if the strange site was an impact crater or some kind of volcanic feature.

“They saw a circular feature, and in the oil world circular deposits mean traps,” says Kring. “When petroleum geologists see something circular, they see oil and say, ‘I want to drill that.’”

You Got It

Fortunately for Kring, the petrol hunters did exactly that. And when the pair shared the drill cores brought up from a site called Yucatan-6, it showed shocked quartz — the rocks were melted with the telltale signs of an extraterrestrial impact.

Kring got to present the smoking gun at LPSC back in 1991, but he says the find was really the work of seven North American geologists.

Chicxulub_Gravity copy

On the ground, there are few signs of a mass-extinction event in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. But gravitational data reveals one of the largest craters in the inner solar system. (Credit: Virgil L. Sharpton, University of Alaska, Fairbanks)

And after he finished his talk, one man stood up in the audience. It was esteemed astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker, the leading expert on asteroid impacts and a scientist who prepped astronauts to travel to the moon. “You got it,” Shoemaker said.

The other impact crater experts in the room that day bought the evidence as well. Later that night, a group gathered to plan the first scientific drilling operation at Chicxulub.

Tied Together

But to convince the larger geology community, Kring needed to tie the rocks recovered from Chicxulub to the rocks found in Haiti and conclusively date the impact crater. So, instead of heading to the impact site, he stayed in the lab. Over the next year, Kring was able to chemically link the sites. That scientific paper set off headlines around the world in 1992 and launched the word “Chicxulub” into the public vernacular.

Chicxulub_ImpactEffects

The Chicxulub impact set off an airblast like a nuclear bomb that swept across much of North America, leveling forests. (Credit: David Kring)

“Finding Chicxulub was incredibly important in understanding the post-impact environmental effects,” says Kring. “Many environmental consequences are a function of distance from the impact site. So you had to know the distance from the impact site before you could evaluate the fossil record anywhere in the world.”

Chicxulub also allowed Kring and his colleagues to create a laundry list of specific environmental impacts. But scientists still don’t fully understand how global ecosystems collapsed, or exactly how they eventually recovered.

In the coming weeks, a team of scientists will begin drilling Chicxulub’s central peak ring for the first time. Discover will be on site in Mexico as the team tries to answer some of those questions.

Fossilized Nervous System is Oldest, Most Detailed Ever Found

By Kiona Smith-Strickland 3/1/16 Discover Magazine

A group of researchers working in South China recently unearthed the fossil remains of 520-million-year-old, centipede-like creatures whose central nervous systems had been preserved in remarkable detail, down to individual nerves.

Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis was a small creature, just 2 to 4 inches long, with a segmented, armor-plated body and a heart-shaped head shield. As part of a now-extinct group called fuxianhuidae, it walked the Earth on its 80 pairs of legs during the Cambrian period, a time around 500 million years ago when primitive organisms began to evolve in many directions, causing an explosion of biodiversity. Most of the animal phyla we know today first started to show up in the fossil record during the Cambrian, and that’s what makes C. kunmingensis so important.

A team of paleontologists led by Jie Yang says that studying its well preserved central nervous system could help them better understand how the nervous systems of today’s crustaceans and creepy-crawlies evolved. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read Full Article Here

New Worm Lizard Discovered in West Texas

From www.sciencedaily.com

Researchers have discovered a new species of extinct worm lizard in Texas and dubbed it the "Lone Star" lizard. The species -- the first known example of a worm lizard in Texas -- offers evidence that Texas acted as a subtropical refuge during one of the great cooling periods of the past.

A paper describing the new species was published on Feb. 18 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The species is officially named Solastella cookei. Solastella is a Latinized form of lone star.

"Nothing has been called Solastella before, which is amazing to me because there are so many fossils from Texas. It's the one guy, and it's from the Lone Star State, so it just seemed to fit," said Michelle Stocker, a paleontologist who described the extinct reptile while earning her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences. She is now a research scientist at Virginia Tech.

The second part of the scientific name honors botanist William Cook, a professor at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, which owns the property where the fossils were collected.

Worm lizard is the common name for a group of reptiles called amphisbaenians, whose long bodies and reduced or absent limbs give them an earthworm-like appearance. The group includes extinct species as well as ones still living today. Solastella belonged to a subgroup called Rhineuridae, a group with only one living member -- the Florida worm lizard.

Read more by clicking here.

The Arlington Archosaur Site is in the news!

By Kevin Cokely, NBCDFW    

                



More than a decade after the first fossil was unearthed, the Arlington Archosaur site continues to yield new, ancient discoveries.

"This has turned out to be an amazing ride," said Art Sahlstein, who discovered the site in North Arlington in 2003. "The site is still producing amazing fossils, new creatures, never before seen any place on the planet. And they're Texas-only dinosaurs

On a recent Saturday, volunteers uncovered a fossilized bone from a prehistoric crocodile.

"We have four, maybe more, species of crocs here and this represents probably one of the younger individuals of one of our big crocs," said Dr. Chris Noto, paleontologist at the University of Wisconsin who oversees the dig site.

"We're talking about 95 to 96 million years ago," Noto said. "And at this point, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was prime ocean-front real estate".

The thousands of fossils collected from the Arlington Archosaur site are now at Fair Park in Dallas, kept securely cataloged at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science Building.

"It's the diversity of what's coming out of here. I mean, we have crocs, turtles, dinosaurs, fish fragments," said Dr. Ron Tykoski, Perot Museum Fossil Preparator. "Just an incredible number of species of things out there splashing around, eating one another and trying not to be eaten at the same time. So many things come out of here and it's going to allow us to paint a really full picture of what life was like right here in Dallas-Fort Worth 95, 96 million years ago."

Volunteers still gather weekly to excavate the hillside, each highly skilled at carefully searching for evidence of an ancient age.

"My heart beats when I find something new," said Stephen King, who started volunteering eight years ago. "I'm just uncovering the past. The crazy thing about it, the bones talk to me. They don't tell me what I'm going to find during the day, but they just show me the land in my dreams where I'm going to find something."

"Every new fossil that we find here, every new piece of information that we uncover is important," said Noto. "Because there's nothing else quite like this outside the DFW area."


Huge Dinosaur Tracks in Scotland

Click on image to see video.

New Pterosaur Named After DPS member

Posted on November 17, 2015 by Andrew McDonald

A new species of pterosaur has been named based on a fossil from northern Texas.Cimoliopterus dunni  was named after Brent Dunn, who discovered the fossil.


An artist's rendering of the pterosaur Aetodactulus halli (named after Lance Hall of the DPS).

Read more by following this link:

http://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/2015/11/17/new-flying-pterosaur-discovered-texas/

First Fossil Fest of Grapevine a Huge Success

Andrew Buckley Special to the Star-TelegramThe first Fossil Fest of Grapevine held this past week was a huge success.  Check out the video from the Star Telegram of the activities and some of our own members here.

Fossil Bob and Mark McKinzie in the News

Ancient “Supershark” Fossils Found in Texas

by AMNH on 10/19/2015 01:18 pm

RESEARCH POSTS

Even before the age of dinosaurs, enormous, toothy predators were roaming what is now Texas. New work led by the Museum shows that giant sharks were hunting in the shallow waters that once covered most of North America for much longer than previously thought.

TX Supershark

A reconstruction of the Texas “supershark” in comparison to a human. 

© AMNH/J. Maisey


Researchers from the Dallas Paleontological Society recently discovered a pair of fossil braincases from massive, and now extinct, relatives of modern-day sharks in rocks from Jacksboro, Texas, that date back 300 million years. The researchers, Mark McKinzie and Robert Williams, donated the fossils to the Museum and worked with John Maisey, a curator in the Division of Paleontology, to estimate how big the sharks would have been by comparing them to smaller, more complete fossils of closely related sharks. 

The results suggest that these two Texas ‘supersharks’ measured between 18 and 26 feet in length (5.5 to 8 meters). The largest of these specimens would have been 25 percent bigger than today’s largest predatory shark, the great white.

“Everything is bigger in Texas, even 300 million years ago,” Maisey said. 

These new fossils indicate that giant sharks go much further back into the fossil record than previously thought. Prior to this find, the oldest giant shark specimens had been recovered from rock dating back just 130 million years. The largest shark that ever lived, C. megalodon is much younger, with an oldest occurrence at about 15 million years ago.

The fossil braincases may belong to an extinct species of shark called Glikmanius occidentalis, or they may represent a larger related species that is new to science.

The researchers presented their findings on the new Texas “supershark” at the annual meeting for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Dallas on October 16.


Dr Louis Jacobs and Dr. Tony Fiorillo on KERA

By KAT CHOW  OCT 14, 2015


Everything I knew about paleontology conferences, I learned from TV and “Friends.” There was that time Ross and his girlfriend were prepping for a conference in Barbados.

"By using CT scans and computer imaging, we can in a very real way bring the Mesozoic era into the 21st century,” Ross says.

In the real world, at the conference put on by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the lingo isn’t so simple. Here are some of the session titles:

“A new large non-pterodactyloid pterosaur from a late-Jurassic interdunal desert environment with a neo-eolian nugget sandstone of Northeastern Utah.”

“The hemodynamics of vascular retia: Testing a hypothesis of blood pressure regulation through the artiodactyl carotid rete.”

“The effects of substrate, body position, and plasticity on the morphology of ruminant unguals.”

Louis Jacobs, a vertebrate paleontologist at Southern Methodist University, and Anthony Fiorillo, a paleontologist at Dallas’ Perot Museum, are helping organize the conference. Walking with them is like trailing a rock star -- they’re inundated with fans and well-wishers. 

”We specialize in animals with backbones, and how they’re preserved in the rocks, and what they mean, and what they tell us about the earth got to be the way it is,” Jacobs explains. 

For example, Jacobs says, we wouldn’t know much about past climates if it weren’t for rock records -- and fossils. This kind of knowledge helps scientists predict what might happen in the future.

And the pair recently announced they had a ground-breaking find: a new species of marine mammal. 

“I’d heard rumor that there were some scrappy fossil mammal remains that had been found out there, so I asked Louis to come with me, and we went to the city of Unalaska,” Fiorillo says. On that Aleutian island, southwest of the mainland, they were presented with a big block of unidentified fossil remains.

And in that block, they discovered something new -- something they’d never seen before. 

Hippo-sized, it lived 33 million years ago. It had a huge snout and tusks, and swam like a polar bear, with its front legs paddling. It was vegetarian, and consumed food by sucking it like a vacuum.

The conference continues until Saturday, and is at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas.


Field Trip In the News

From the Mineral Wells Index front page 



Wooly Mammoth found in Michigan

CBS NEWS October 2, 2015, 5:21 PM

Farmer James Bristle came across a surprising find while digging in a soy field with a friend near Chelsea, Michigan -- the remains of a woolly mammoth.

"It was probably a rib bone that came up," Bristle told the Ann Arbor News. "We thought it was a bent fence post. It was covered in mud."

Eventually, researchers from the University of Michigan determined that Bristle had stumbled upon the bones of an animal that has been extinct for over 10,000 years.    Read More

Researchers: "Lost world" of dinosaurs thrived in snowy dark of Alaska

September 22, 2015

by Rachel Feltman, The Washington Post


Read about a new species of dinosaur, that lived in the cold and the dark of Alaska.  Click Here.  

This face Changes the Story of Human Evolution

September 11, 2015
by Jamie Shreeve, National Geographic
Photographs by Robert Clark

Homo naledi
, discovered in a cave near Johannesburg, is a human ancestor unlike any species previously known. The find is arguably one of the most important discoveries in human origins research in half a century. It’s also the most perplexing.

Read the Story

New Species in Human Lineage is Found In South African Cave

September 10, 2015  By: John Noble Wilford in the New York Times, photo by Themba Hadebe/ AP Photo

  Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only    dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star Cave: lots and lots of bones.

 The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening.  This was, the scientists concluded, a large,  dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage - Homo naledi.

  Read More.


Bizarre human sized sea scorpion found in meteorite crater

September 1, 2015



About 460 million years ago, a sea scorpion about the size of an adult human swam around in the prehistoric waters that covered modern-day Iowa, likely dining on bivalves and squishy eel-like creatures, a new study finds.  

Read More.

Allonautilus found off New Guinea

Monday, August 31, 2015  by Elizabeth Goldbaum, Staff Writer Livescience.com


Allonautilus, possibly the World's Rarest animal, spotted off the coast of Papua New Guinea.  

To read about this amazing creature, click here.

Dinosaur Tracks Found At Lake Grapevine Reported by NBCDFW

Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015 By Kevin Cokley

 Several fossilized dinosaur tracks buried for millions of years have been  discovered along the shore of Lake Grapevine, unearthed by the heavy  rainfall and high lake levels this past spring.

 "The area around the lake has been completely transformed by the high  water levels," said paleontologist Christopher Noto, with the University of  Wisconsin, who made rubber molds of the tracks. 

 Read More.

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