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NEWSFILE: PALAENTOLOGY

Let`s Talk about Worms


30 Sep 98

Worms may have lived on Earth a billion years ago. NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Reuters) - Worm-like animals may have lived below the Earth's seas more than a billion years ago - nearly twice as long ago as commonly believed, Yale University researchers said Wednesday. In a finding that sheds new light on the origin of multicellular animals, the scientists, along with colleagues in Germany and India, discovered fossilised tunnels that may be burrows left by ancient worm-like creatures that lived in sandbeds beneath a shallow sea that covered what is now central India. The findings, reported by Yale Geology and Geophysics Professor Adolf Seilacher and colleagues at the University of Tubingen and Jadavpur University in Calcutta, will be published in the Oct. 2 issue of the journal ‘Science, ’ Yale University said in a news release.

Scientists previously thought multicellular animals originated 500 million to 6 00 million years ago, in a sudden explosion of diversity during the early Cambrian period. The newly discovered ‘trace fossils’ were preserved when the sea beds solidified into rock about 1. 1 billion years ago. Before this discovery, the oldest known fossil evidence of multicellular animals was 580 million years old. One point of controversy is that the trace fossils preserved in the Chorhat Sandstone could possibly be due to physical processes, which can create patterns in sedimentary rocks that look very similar to tracks left behind by animals.

However, Seilacher and his colleagues argued the Chorhat findings were best explained as products of burrowing animals. They said the findings added to a body of evidence suggesting the diversification of animal designs experienced a ‘slow burn’ well before the Cambrian period's ‘big bang’ of animal evolution. The existence of billion-year-old worms would suggest that ‘animal body plans changed very little before the explosive emergence of new designs in the Precambrian/Cambrian transition and the onset of an arms-race style of Darwinian evolution, ’the authors said in their paper.

Time is waiting in the wings, it speaks of senseless things, its game is you and me etc...

8 Oct 1998 USA TODAY -

Fossils hint life crept in earlier than we thought.

Complex, multicellular life was thought to have erupted on Earth half a billion years ago in an evolutionary ‘big bang. ‘ But new evidence suggests these ancestral creatures may have slithered onto the scene earlier and much more gradually. Researchers led by Yale University's renowned fossil expert Adolf Seilacher have discovered what appear to be fossils of worm-like animals in billion-year-old rocks. These fossils are twice as old as any other evidence for multicelluar life yet discovered.

The team, including scientists from Germany and India, found tunnels they believe were burrows left by worm-like animals as they wriggled through sandbeds underneath a shallow sea covering what is now central India. These ‘trace fossils’ were preserved when the beds solidified into rock 1.1 billion years ago, the scientists suspect. The findings, out in Friday's Science, add a new perspective to the origin of multicellular animals. The Cambrian explosion, about 540 million years ago, is thought to have been when a wide variety of organisms with hard skeletons originated almost at once and left their mark on the fossil record. ‘These burrows suggest that the diversification of animals proceeded very slowly before the appearance of organisms with hard skeletons, ’ the researchers write in Science.

Others call the findings extremely important but say they raise nagging questions. ‘I'd like to be certain that these are real burrows, ’ says Steven Stanley, Johns Hopkins professor of paleobiology. Indeed, Seilacher and colleagues first thought roots or termites made them. But they note that the diameters of the holes vary from tunnel to tunnel but remain constant along each individual tunnel.

WE told you this years ago

USA TODAY - Friday, Oct 2 Georgia Statesboro — Whales once had legs, believe it or not, and the only known fossil from that stage will be displayed at Georgia Southern University Museum. The USA's oldest whale fossil was unearthed in '83 during construction of a power plant.

Dino Drama

SCIENCE TODAY Monday, Sept 21, 1998 The fireball that may have doomed the dinosaur.

Dinosaurs became extinct 6 5 million years ago, and there has been much speculation as to the cause of their demise. The most developed theory is that the extinction resulted from the collision of a huge asteroid with the Earth. A primary figure behind this theory is the American geologist Walter Alvarez. He describes the scientific adventure leading to the theory in a beautifully written book, ’T rex and the Crater of Doom’ (Penguin, 1998 ). Geologists study the Earth, its history, and the physical, chemical and climatic conditions that explain the structure and activity of the planet.

The Earth's history is written in the rocks. Rocks are formed by various processes. Igneous and sedimentary rocks are two main types. Igneous rocks are formed when molten magma wells on to the surface from the interior of the Earth, cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rocks are formed at the bottom of oceans and lakes when material from the water slowly settles out and compacts. Over time, rocks are laid down on top of each other in layers, with the oldest on the bottom, the next oldest on top of them, and so on up to the youngest rocks in the top layer.

By studying these layers geologists build up a picture of the Earth’s history. The age of each rock layer is gauged by measuring the radio-active elements in the layer. The fossilised plants and animals in each layer show the types of life that flourished when the layer formed. The geological record is divided into broad eras, each sub-divided into periods and stages. The Earth was formed about five billion years ago and life arose about 3. 5 billion years ago.

Several massive extinctions of life forms are seen in the geological record. The extinction of 6 5 million years ago occurred at the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, the KT boundary, when about half the life forms on Earth, including the dinosaurs, vanished for ever. The dinosaurs had been the top animals on Earth for 150 million years. Some scientists believe the extinction of 6 5 million years ago was gradual, developing slowly over thousands of years. I am no expert in the area, but it seems to me that the evidence for a sudden extinction is more convincing. What could cause a sudden massive extinction of life? A catastrophe is the obvious answer, but geologists hate invoking a catastrophe to explain anything.

One of the fathers of geology, Charles Lyell (1797-1875), introduced the doctrine of uniformitarianism. This states that the forces that now operate to shape the Earth are the same forces that always operated, and these slow processes, operating over deep time, are sufficient to explain the present features of the Earth. This doctrine excluded the idea that sudden catastrophes contributed significantly to forming the Earth's features. Uniformitarianism has been very useful in facilitating the orderly development of geology. It has explained most things about the Earth and has prevented a profusion of ‘quickfix’ catastrophic hypotheses arising to explain the questions posed by the stories written in the rocks. But uniformitarianism is too rigid incompletely dismissing the significance of catastrophes. The KT boundary is marked by a centimetre-thick layer of clay. Alvarez's team found that this layer contains more iridium than other rocks in the Earth's crust. Where did this world-wide dusting of iridium come from?

This question sparked the idea of collision with an asteroid. Asteroids contain a higher concentration of iridium than rocks in the Earth's crust. If a huge asteroid slammed into Earth and vaporised, one would expect a noticeable worldwide deposition of iridium. How could an asteroid wipe out life on a global scale? This would result from the secondary effects of impact. Enormous amounts of dust would be blown into the atmosphere and carried around the globe. The searing heat generated by the asteroid would start huge forest fires, belching thick black smoke up to join the dust. This blanket of soot and smoke would blot out the sun, plunging the Earth into freezing darkness for months. The freezing darkness would devastate plant life and animal life with vegetarian feeding habits. Large carnivores would succumb next, deprived of large herbivores to feed on. It is easy to visualise how a large number of life forms could be wiped out.

A massive search was undertaken for an impact crater sufficiently large to fit the asteroid extinction hypothesis. It was found on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and announced to the world in 1991. It is estimated that the asteroid was about 10 kilometres in diameter and smashed into the Earth at a speed of about 30 km per second. If it were placed quietly on the surface of the Earth it would stand taller than Mount Everest. Its volume would be equal to the volume of all buildings in the US. The energy released on impact was equivalent to an explosion of 10,000 times the present world nuclear arsenal. The impact also released massive amounts of carbon dioxide from limestone (a storage form of carbon dioxide). Carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas and, after the dust and smoke were washed out of the atmosphere, it raised the temperature of the Earth to sweltering heat. The heat of the incoming asteroid would also split nitrogen molecules, allowing nitrogen to combine with oxygen to produce nitrous oxide (NO). The NO would combine with water in the atmosphere to produce nitric acid. This acid then rained from the skies, killing animals and plants. When dinosaurs ruled the Earth mammals were small and occupied a minor role. Large animals suffered disproportionately from the asteroid impact, but many small mammals survived. Their descendants became the dominant land animals, eventually producing human beings. One wonders what Tyrannosaurus rex felt as he watched the fireball light up the sky on the last day of the Mesozoic world. William Reville is a senior lecturer in biochemistry at UCCE.

What`s Afoot

1 August 1998 // 3:47 PM EDT

Largest group of dinosaur prints found LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters)

The world's largest group of dinosaur footprints have been discovered at a site near the Bolivian town of Sucre, a Swiss palaeontologist who has been studying the area announced .

Footprints up to 3 feet long were found in the area, which includes prints of several dinosaur species, making it one of the rarest finds in the world. ‘There is no comparable site in the world, ’ said Swiss palaeontologist Christian Meyer, according to local media .

Meyer's team has been studying the site for the last two months, after Bolivian scientists found it two years ago, and recently concluded it is the largest site known to exist in the world. The site covers an area of 26 9,100 square feet, Meyer said, emphasising that nowhere else on earth is there an area that large with dinosaur footprints. He called on authorities to protect the site.

The area is situated in a limestone quarry, with the prints embedded in the mountainside, at inclines of up to 70 degrees. The prints are whole and look like the dinosaurs might have been walking in a mud lake. Meyer warned that the prints could disappear altogether within 20 years because of rain and wind if efforts are not made to protect them from erosion and destruction. Limestone mining near by makes the area even more precarious.

The site is 435 miles southeast of La Paz at an altitude of 9, 186 feet. The large size of the area has meant several different species have been identified including a giant tyrannosaurus rex estimated to be up to 82 feet high. Apart from dinosaur bones, signs of fish life, crocodiles and turtles also have been found, supporting the theory that the valley was a large lake where the dinosaurs came to bathe, Meyer said.

There she Blows!!!!!

Hulbert,Jr., R. C., R.M.Petkewich, G.A. Bishop, D.Bukry, and D.P.Aleshire. 1998 .

A new middle Eocene protocetid whale.

A shallow-marine fossil biota was recovered from the Blue Bluff unit (formerly part of the McBean Formation) in the Upper Coastal Plain of eastern Georgia. Biochronologically significant molluscs (e. g. Turritella nasuta, Cubitostrea sellaeformis, Pteropsella lapidosa) and calcareous nannoplankton (e. g. Chiasmolithus solitus, Reticulofenestra umbilica, Cribocentrum reticulatum) indicate a latest Lutetian-earliest Bartonian age, or about 40 to 41 Ma. Georgiacetus vogtlensis new genus and species is described from a well-preserved, partial skeleton. Georgiacetus is the oldest known whale with a true pterygoid sinus fossa in its basicranium and a pelvis that did not articulate directly with the sacral vertebrae, two features whose acquisitions were important steps toward adaptation to a fully marine existence. The posterior four cheek teeth of G. vogtlensis form a series of carnassial-like shearing blades. These teeth also bear small, blunt accessory cusps, which are regarded as being homologous with the larger, sharper accessory cusps of basilosaurid cheek teeth. - Journal of Palaeontology 72: pp907-927.

South American Stuff

Two Dinosaur Eggs Believed Discovered in Bolivia

August 13, 1998

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters)- Scientists said on Wednesday they had found what were thought to be two dinosaur eggs in southern Bolivia in what could be one of the biggest fossil fields in the world. ‘We found two eggs that could be from dinosaurs, ’ team leader Christian Mayer told a news conference late on Wednesday, adding the eggs dated back some 6 8 million years. ‘They were found in green limestone and there may be more in other layers, ’ said the Swiss palaeontologist. The eggs were dug up in a fossil field in Cal Ork'o, 440 miles (700 km)southeast of the capital La Paz and near the city of Sucre. ‘Of the eggs we found, one measures 25 cm (10 inches) and the other, from a flying reptile, is big and measures 40 cm (16 inches), ’ Mayer said. The eggs were found after six weeks of digging and will be flown to Switzerland for laboratory analysis. `We have to prepare them and compare them with other remains and skeletons known throughout the world, ’ Mayer said.

The fossil field, peppered with tracks from dozens of species, could be one of the largest in the world, Mayer said. Some of the tracks indicate beasts measuring up to 1,100 feet (350 meters) long, the longest yet known, he said. The tracks included footprints from Tyrannosaurus, the notorious meat eater. Bones at the site were from crocodiles, fresh water fish and turtles. The expedition at Cal Ork'o is funded by the Swiss National Scientific Investigation Fund, the textile firm Mammut and local cement company FANCESA.

Mayer said he had heard from Bolivian President Hugo Banzer that a foundation would be set up to preserve the site.

The Christian Science Monitor Web site of The Paleontological Research Institution.

Sometime in New York City

Sept 15, 1998

Portland Point Quarry is one of the few destinations in New York's Finger Lakes region where you won't need your water-colour paints. People do not come here to admire a lake's blue waters, a dramatic gorge or splendid autumn foliage. No, Portland Point offers nothing more than an embankment of loose shale with as much allure as an elephant's back. Yet for many, this gray landscape is an ideal hunting ground. ‘In the next hour you will find about six different species of fossils,’ announces Warren Allmon, director of the Paleontological Research Institution in near by Ithaca. Like many in his field, Allmon is catering to the public's new-found interest in fossil hunting. ‘It started even before what we call that movie, ’ says museum scientist Sally Shelton, referring to ’Jurassic Park’. ‘But after that , it has certainly skyrocketed,’ adds Shelton, a manager for the collections program at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

Institution field trips are increasingly popular (they run from May to Sept, attracting more than 250 participants), and enrolments in the Denver Museum of Natural History Palaeontology Certificate programme have also steadily risen since the programme began in 1990. Fossil hunting has also gone commercial, particularly in the wake of the highly publicised 1997 sale of a T-Rex skeleton to Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History for almost $8.4 million. In response, the Paleontological Research Institution and other institutions around the country have stepped up efforts to educate the public - to ensure that amateur palaeontologists go about collecting fossils in a manner that enhances research.

‘What's fascinating about it is the age of these things, ’ says Robert Ploss, a retired science teacher who goes on frequent field trips through the Paleontological Research Institution. Armed with a rock hammer, old kitchen knives, a pry bar, and a stash of paper lunch bags, Ploss has explored various parts of New York state and travelled as far as the Chesapeake Bay, where he found fossil shark teeth and ancient whale bones. He often takes a grandson along because, he says, ’It gets children interested in science, gets them to start understanding their home, the earth. ‘ Ploss donates any interesting finds to the Paleontological Research Institution. ‘It's not like stamp collecting, ’ Shelton stresses. ‘People who hunt for fossils want to be part of the science, part of the team. ‘The first step is to go out hunting. At Portland Point, for example, one gray chip looks pretty much like another, until fossil hunters notice ripples too regular to have occurred naturally. This is when they realise what they are holding is the mid-section of a trilobite, an extinct marine animal that thrived during the Devonian epoch some 380 million years ago.

Thanks to events 10 to 15 million years ago, such fossils are easy to find in the Finger Lakes area. ‘Glaciers are just like undergraduates, ’Allmon explains. ‘They follow the path of least resistance. ‘ So time after time, they crept down river beds and bulldozed out all the rock’ and with it all traces of later inhabitants including dinosaurs. On the upside, however, they exposed rock that is ‘particularly fossiliferous, ’says Bryan Isacks, who chairs the Geology Department at Cornell University in Ithaca. Children, like first-time adult fossil hunters, typically approach the endeavour with some wariness.

When a neighbour invited Maureen Healey and her twin, Elizabeth, to join her on a the Paleontological Research Institution field trip, the girls accepted. But they had their doubts. ‘I thought it wasn't going to be much fun and we wouldn't find much stuff, ’ says Maureen. At first, that seemed to be the case. ‘We weren't having much luck, and I had found a rock that was just lying there, and I was holding it. Then I dropped it by accident, ’ Maureen recalls, ’and a piece broke off. And it had sea shells inside. ‘Maureen had discovered one of the secrets of a successful hunt: The best finds sometimes lurk inside the rock. Atone point, she cracked open a piece of shale and discovered a shell that was’ very thin, like paper. ‘It was the inner lining of a brachiopod, a creature that resembles a clam and survives today only in the deep waters of New Zealand fjords, off the coast of Scotland and in Puget Sound, Washington.

Before the day was through, Maureen had also learned another lesson. ‘I lost a really good trilobite because it was so breakable, ’ she says, referring to the friability of shale. To avoid further losses, she placed her finds carefully in plastic bags, wrapping them when she could. Ideally, a collection like hers would be labelled with information about where it was found and in what kind of rock. Such details reveal the fossil's full story and explain the enduring lure of fossil hunting. ‘What could be more interesting than the history of life?’ Allmon says. ‘We are all interested in where we came from. This is 'Roots' writ large.

‘Tips for hunting fossils: you don't need much to go fossil-hunting. At most, an old kitchen knife, a screwdriver, a hammer, a bag, and lots of tissue will do. Fossils can be quite fragile, so make sure you pack your interesting specimens carefully, perhaps even laying them out in a flat box. The only other tools are a pen and paper.’ These are extremely important, because fossils only reveal their full story if a palaeontologist knows where they were found. Otherwise, even the most well-preserved specimen is virtually useless from a scientist's point of view. As for choosing sites, ’road cuts are some of the best places to pick fossils, ’ says Allmon. So are construction sites and quarries. But it is crucial to find out who the site belongs to and, public or private, ask permission and act responsibly.

Havana Good Time

HAVANA (Sept 15, 1998 - Cuban scientists announced the discovery of 2,000-year-old human bones and pottery-work belonging to an indigenous people. Local scientists said the remains - from the Siboney tribe that inhabited Cuba until the 16th-century Spanish conquest - were uncovered by erosion and rock movements at a former burial site in the central highland region, Jibacoa valley. ‘Fragments of ceramic also appeared, showing the level of development achieved by these native inhabitants of the Jibacoa valley more than 2,000 years ago, ’said a report in Cuba's official daily newspaper, Granma. The location of the remains implied there had been floods during that era, ’so the inhabitants had to climb the mountainsides to carry out the burials, ’Granma added. Scientists made the discovery during a major search of the zone intended to shed more light on the island’s indigenous past. No other details of the find were available. The Spanish conquest ravaged Cuba’s native population through war and disease. Few direct descendants of Indian tribes remain in Cuba, where most of the 11 million inhabitants are of European or African descent.

Name Game

Dinosaur is named after boy who found creature's fossil. A. P. ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. * Zuniceratops christopheri is believed to be 90 million years old, the oldest horned dinosaur ever found. An 8-year-old boy has the distinction of having a dinosaur named after him. And not just any dinosaur. The creature - dubbed Zuniceratops christopheri - is believed to be the oldest horned dinosaur ever found, some 90 million years old. The first of its fossils were discovered Nov. 11, 1996 , in western New Mexico by Christopher Wolfe of Phoenix and his dad, palaeontologist Doug Wolfe. Chris found the first piece. With the publication of a paper in the bulletin of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History on Thursday, the name became official.

‘It's exciting - definitely real exciting,’ said Chris, a third-grader who some day wants to explore other planets for fossils. Chris recalls the discovery as if it were yesterday. ‘My mom stopped to rest at the bottom of the hill, and we went up the hill. I found a piece of the horn, then my dad found a piece and I found another piece, ’ Chris said. He was attracted, he said, ’by the color - blackish purple, a little bit shiny. ‘ The fossilised fragments were from the small horn that protected the creature’s eye. The plant-eating dinosaur also was marked by a ‘frill, ’ a shield that swept back from its neck, like that of a Triceratops. Besides the horn and the brow itself, Christopher and his father found jaw parts, the brain case and teeth. Experts theorise the three-horned Zuniceratops was 10 to 12 feet long, maybe 500 pounds and lived 90 million years ago.

What`s Afoot 2

USA TODAY - Monday, Sept 28 Wyoming Shell — A field of dinosaur tracks that survived about 16 5 million years has encountered tougher times since being discovered last year. This month, palaeontologists found that people making unauthorised plaster casts of the tracks damaged a few of the best dinosaur footprints at the Red Gulch Dinosaur Track site.

The Littlest Star

World's smallest mammal fossil found in Wyoming tree stump. Sept 30, 1998

By Joseph B. Verrengia, Associated Press

SNOWBIRD, Utah (AP) — Scientists have uncovered the fossilised fragment of the world's smallest mammal — a tiny shrew-like creature no heavier than a dollar bill that somehow survived the planet-wide catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Researchers made the assessment based on a set of jaws and a few teeth so small that their distinguishing details only can be viewed with a powerful scanning electron microscope. The find was announced Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Palaeontology.

The bones of Batodonoides, coloured jet black and in pristine condition, emerged from a large tropical tree trunk entombed in limestone sediments, some of which are dated to 6 5 million years ago.

Palaeontologists pried the petrified stump from a treeless badlands section of north-central Wyoming. The fossil of the ancient mammal, believed to weigh as little as 1. 3 grams, was discovered in a University of Michigan laboratory by researchers using acid to dissolve the surrounding limestone.

‘At first I thought I was looking at a fish jaw, ’ said Jonathan Bloch. ‘Under the microscope, I realized I was looking at the smallest mammal teeth I had ever seen. It's very primitive. ‘

Other researchers at the meeting said Bloch's discovery was likely, but they had not yet examined his data to confirm the finding. The teeth of the batodonoides measure a millimetre or less in height. that and other features suggest to the researchers that it was significantly smaller than the two smallest living mammals — the Least shrew at 2.5 grams and the Bumblebee bat at 2 grams.

The discovery challenges long-held views about the smallest body size a warm-blooded creature can support. The fossil's modern cousins have the largest heart size-to-body ratio of any mammal to support bodies that are comparatively heavier. Their hearts pump furiously and they have to eat voraciously to support a rapid metabolism and generate enough energy.

The shape of the Batodonoides' teeth is similar to a family of ancient mammals distantly related to shrews that were widely distributed in the North American West. They scurried in the underbrush of tropical forests where dinosaurs roamed until the giant reptiles died off 6 5 million years ago, possibly from a colossal comet impact combined with climate change and disease.

These tiny mammals, perhaps no larger than a gumdrop, are among the few creatures in the fossil record that hung on, along with squirrel-sized primates and other adaptable creatures.

Other members of this shrew-like group have been found as far west as San Diego. They persisted far and wide for 45 million years after the dinosaurs vanished.

Like its cousins, the smallest mammal's teeth have high, sharply-pointed crowns that probably were used to puncture and shear insects.

Scientists can only speculate as to how the bones wound up in the tree stump. Shrew-like animals are hunted by birds, and the stump also has yielded a complete fossil egg and eggshell fragments. Fine-grained silt may have killed theatre and filled the stump, covering the bones and eventually hardening into limestone.

Dinosaurs ruled every continent, looked more bizarre than popular images. Oct 1, 1998

By Joseph B. Verrengia, Associated Press

Another Account of the same story (let`s face it we`re thorough)

SNOWBIRD, Utah (AP) — Dinosaurs ruled the Earth from Alaska to Antarctica and may have looked even more bizarre than their Hollywood images, according to new studies.

Nearly all of the more than 6 00 dinosaur species identified in the past century have been found in the rocky deserts of western North America and northeast Asia, especially Mongolia.

But studies announced late Thursday extend the footprints of several dinosaurs around the planet, including discoveries in Africa, South America and even in gravel slopes peeking above the glaciers of Antarctica just 300 miles from the South Pole. At least 17 significant dinosaur discoveries were made on seven continents during the past year.

None of the finds were of a creature so radical as to spawn another sequel to ‘Jurassic Park, ’ said scientists at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

Together, the discoveries point to a period 6 5 million to 230 million years ago when the continents were breaking apart and slowly shifting towards their current positions. The upheaval literally scattered and split dinosaur populations.

As continents moved and climates and habitats changed, dinosaurs migrated and new groups replaced old ones. But scientists caution that much of the story is based on a few fossils, some as large as an 18-wheeler and others limited to a few teeth.

‘We're getting a much better global view of the dinosaurs, ’ said Catherine Forster, a paleoanatomy expert at the State University of New York — Stony Brook. ‘But are they spreading everywhere at once, or are they ending on one continent and beginning on another? The answer is in the details of how they are related to each other, ’ she said. ‘When we figure that out, we'll figure out the migrations. ‘

Among the finds: A meat-eater, Carcharodontosaurus, in Argentina. Previously, the 100-million-year old remains of this beast were found only in North Africa and its remains were destroyed in World War II.

A few teeth of a duck-billed hadrosaur were found on Vega Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, extending its range south for thousands of miles.

Researchers are reconsidering dinosaurs' appearances as well.

Philip Currie of the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada revealed more details of a pair of feathered, turkey-sized meat-eaters discovered in China. Currie said the theropods are transition creatures in the link between dinosaurs and birds, with serrated teeth, short arms and long legs and tails and sporting thick plumage for insulation.

Others seek to redraw dinosaurs' images into even more striking appearances.

Lawrence Witmer of Ohio University said that examinations of hundreds of dinosaur fossils failed to show the structural features necessary to make lips, cheeks and other facial features work. Witmer said he would strip the muscular cheeks off of triceratops and its cousins, and replace them with a large horny beak similar to turtles — an arrangement more conducive to munching on trees and large plants.

He also would peel the lips off the Tyrannosaurus rex, exposing all of its dagger-sized teeth along its four-foot jaws. ‘People want dinosaurs to sneer and snarl, but I can find no justifiable scientific reason to put lips on a dinosaur,’ Witmer said. ‘Lips or no lips, T-Rex was ferocious. Without lips, he looks even more terrifying.‘

FROM Info Beat - net newspaper copied August 31, 1998


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