Pocket Dinosaurs

Scientists Discovered A Tiny Relative Of Dinosaurs And Pterosaurs

Life restoration of Kongonaphon kely

Life restoration of Kongonaphon kely, a newly described reptile near the ancestry of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, shown to scale with human hands. The fossils of Kongonaphon were found in Triassic (~237 million years ago) rocks in southwestern Madagascar and demonstrate the existence of remarkably small animals along the dinosaurian stem. Art by Frank Ippolito, ©American Museum of Natural History

By Anthony McLennan / Truth Theory

Fossils found in Madagascar suggest that dinosaurs’ ancestors could have been small enough to fit in the palm of a human hand.

When most of us think of dinosaurs, we think of massive beasts, perhaps several times the size of an elephant or as large as the biggest of whales. The Titanosaurs, for example, is believed to have weighed up to 90 tons. And although we know that smaller dinosaurs did exist, the thought of one fitting comfortably into a person’s hand would have seemed inconceivable to many people.

But now, after additional analysis on Kongonaphon fossils which were discovered in Triassic rocks (~237 million years ago) in 1998 in Madagascar, there seems to be a strong case to suggest that dinosaurs’ ancestors were once only as big, or rather as small, as 10 centimeters.

Kongonaphon-Alex Boersma

Life restoration of Kongonaphon kely, a newly described reptile near the ancestry of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, in what would have been its natural environment in the Triassic (~237 million years ago).
© Alex Boersma

The tiny bug slayer

The mini dinosaur’s full name is ‘Kongonaphon kely’, or ‘tiny bug slayer’ – derived from both ancient Greek and the Malagasy language.

The latest findings were released in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month.

“Although dinosaurs and gigantism are practically synonymous,” read part of the published report, “an analysis of body size evolution in dinosaurs and other archosaurs in the context of this taxon and related forms demonstrates that the earliest-diverging members of the group may have been smaller than previously thought, and that a profound miniaturization event occurred near the base of the avian stem lineage.”

Kongonaphon compared

Body size comparison between the newly discovered Kongonaphon kely and one of the earliest dinosaurs, Herrerasaurus.
Silhouettes from phylopic.org by Scott Hartman (CC BY 3.0) and AMNH/Frank Ippolito

The fossils which were found, have been linked to both dinosaurs and flying pterosaurs (huge flying reptiles, which weighed up to 250 kilograms), both of which belong to the group Ornithodira.

Little is known about the origin of Ornithodiras. But this new report suggests that a the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs could be linked with them having a common ancestor – the ‘Kongonaphon kely’, or ‘tiny bug slayer’.

from:    https://truththeory.com/scientists-discovered-a-tiny-relative-of-dinosaurs-and-pterosaurs/

Rethinking T Rex

T. Rex couldn’t stick out its tongue, new research shows

June 20, 2018, University of Texas at Austin
T. Rex couldn't stick out its tongue, new research shows
Reconstructions of dinosaurs at museums and theme parks often show their tongues wildly waving–a feature that is incorrect, according to new research led by The University of Texas at Austin and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Credit: Spencer Wright

Dinosaurs are often depicted as fierce creatures, baring their teeth, with tongues wildly stretching from their mouths like giant, deranged lizards. But new research reveals a major problem with this classic image: Dinosaurs couldn’t stick out their tongues like lizards. Instead, their tongues were probably rooted to the bottoms of their mouths in a manner akin to alligators.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the discovery by comparing the hyoid bones—the bones that support and ground the tongue—of and crocodiles with those of their extinct dinosaur relatives. In addition to challenging depictions of dino tongues, the research proposes a connection on the origin of flight and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.

The research was published June 20 in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Tongues are often overlooked. But, they offer key insights into the lifestyles of extinct animals,” said lead author Zhiheng Li, an associate professor at the Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.He conducted the work while earning his Ph.D. at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

The researchers made their discovery by comparing the hyoid bones of extinct , pterosaurs and alligators to the hyoid bones and muscles of modern and alligator specimens. Hyoid bones act as anchors for the tongue in most animals, but in birds these bones can extend to the tip. Because extinct dinosaurs are related to crocodiles, pterosaurs and modern birds, comparing anatomy across these groups can help scientists understand the similarities and differences in tongue anatomy and how traits evolved through time and across different lineages.

The comparison process involved taking high-resolution images of hyoid muscles and bones from 15 modern specimens, including three alligators and 13 bird species as diverse as ostriches and ducks, at the Jackson School’s High-Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography Facility (UTCT). The fossil specimens, most from northeastern China, were scrutinized for preservation of the delicate tongue bones and included small bird-like dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

T. Rex couldn't stick out its tongue, new research shows
Tongue and hyoid reconstructions from living taxa. Credit: Li et al. 2018

The results indicate that hyoid bones of most dinosaurs were like those of alligators and crocodiles—short, simple and connected to a tongue that was not very mobile. Co-author and Jackson School Professor Julia Clarke said that these findings mean that dramatic reconstructions that show dinosaurs with tongues stretching out from between their jaws are wrong.

“They’ve been reconstructed the wrong way for a long time,” Clarke said. “In most extinct dinosaurs their tongue bones are very short. And in crocodilians with similarly short hyoid bones, the tongue is totally fixed to the floor of the mouth.”

Clarke is no stranger to overturning dinosaur conventions. Her 2016 study on dinosaur vocalizations found evidence that large dinosaurs might make booming or cooing sounds, similar to the sounds made by crocodiles and ostriches.

In contrast to the short hyoid bones of crocodiles, the researchers found that pterosaurs, bird-like dinosaurs, and living birds have a great diversity in hyoid shapes. They think the range of shapes could be related to flight ability, or in the case of flightless birds such as ostriches and emus, evolved from an ancestor that could fly. The researchers propose that taking to the skies could have led to new ways of feeding that could be tied to diversity and mobility in tongues.

“Birds, in general, elaborate their tongue structure in remarkable ways,” Clarke said. “They are shocking.”

That elaboration could be related to the loss of dexterity that accompanied the transformation of hands into wings, Li said.

T. Rex couldn't stick out its tongue, new research shows
Incredible fossils discovered in Northeast China with the hyoid bones preserved. The blue and green arrows are pointing to the hyoid apparatus. Credit: Li et al. 2018

“If you can’t use a hand to manipulate prey, the tongue may become much more important to manipulate food,” Li said. “That is one of the hypotheses that we put forward.”

The scientists note one exception linking tongue diversity to flight. Ornithischian dinosaurs—a group that includes triceratops, ankylosaurs and other plant-eating dinosaurs that chewed their food—had hyoid bones that were highly complex and more mobile, though they were structurally different from those of flying dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

Further research on other anatomical changes that occurred with shifts in function could help improve our knowledge of the evolution of birds, Clarke said, giving an example of how changes in the tongues of living birds are associated with changes in the position of the opening of the windpipe. These changes could in turn affect how birds breathe and vocalize.

However, the researchers note that the fossil record as yet can’t pin down when these changes to the windpipe occurred.

“There is more work to be done,” Li said

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-06-rex-couldnt-tongue.html#jCp

Pre-Historic Undersea Islands Found

Giant, Dinosaur-Age Islands Found in Deep Sea?

Odd rocks may have been from supercontinent Gondwana, research says.

A sonar image of the underwater land masses.
A sonar image shows the newfound deep-sea plateaus.

Photograph courtesy Joanne Whittaker

Richard A. Lovett

for National Geographic News

Published November 21, 2011

Giant, sunken pieces of an ancient continent from the time of the dinosaurs may have been discovered deep in the Indian Ocean, scientists say.

The two fragments, called microcontinents, are possibly leftovers from whenIndia, Antarctica, and Australia were part of a supercontinent known as Gondwana (see a map of Earth during this time.)

The plateaus, the combined size of West Virginia, have long been known to cartographers as the Batavia Seamount and the Gulden Draak—or Golden Dragon.

But not much else was known about the features, other than their location, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of Perth, Australia (map).

Surprising Deep-Sea Island Discovery

To fill in the gaps, an international team of scientists recently mapped the seabed and dredged samples from as deep as 8,200 feet (2,500 meters).

What the scientists found surprised them. Rather than the normal basalt rock of most seabeds, the scientists pulled up chunks of granite, gneiss, and sandstone—rocks normally found on continents.

Some samples even contained fossils, said team member Joanne Whittaker, a marine geophysicist at the University of Sydney in Australia.

“It’s quite clear that these two plateaus are little fragments of Gondwana left behind as India moved away from Australia,” Whittaker said.

(See “Undersea Mountain Photos: Brittlestar Swarm, More Found.”)

Ancient Continent Pieces Once Rolling Terrain?

Scientists initially thought the plateaus had flat tops, a sign that they’d been above sea level long enough to have been eroded into plains.

But, as mapping continued, it became clear the plateaus’ physical features were rolling, ranging in elevation from as little as 2,600 feet (1,000 meters) to 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) below the surface. That would mean the highest plateau rises up to about 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) above a surrounding abyss.

The fossils found in the fragments were marine bivalves, a type of mollusk—indicating that the life-forms had lived in shallow water, not on land.

The animals were also discovered in the deeper regions of the plateaus, not the highest peaks, which may have once been islands. “It’s difficult to tell,” Whittaker said. “But that’s certainly something we’ll be looking at.”

Whittaker and colleagues will also try to match the rock samples with rocks on a nearby geological feature, the underwater Western Australian margin, which may help “pin exactly where these little pieces [of Gondwana] came from,” she said.

Few details are known about how the breakup of Gondwana formed the Indian Ocean about 130 million years ago, she added. (See a prehistoric time line.)

Gondwana Breakup Still a Mystery

Some of the story of the breakup will never be told, since the Gondwana portion of what is now India later collided with Asia.

“In India, the equivalent rocks are probably now squashed beyond recognition somewhere in the Himalayas,” Whittaker said.

As for whether dinosaurs might have once roamed the two plateaus, that depends on whether the features ever extended above sea level, and if so, when.

“Who knows? Whittaker said. At the moment, “anything’s possible.”

from:    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/111121-dinosaurs-gondwana-ancient-rocks-science/?source=hp_dl1_news_gondwana20111122#