Friday, September 11, 2015

Tyrannosaur footpath found near Tumbler Ridge

A university student exposed a huge and rare dinosaur footprint, in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., from the same family of top predators as the T.Rex.

Carina Helm, a 20-year-old UBC student, was out repairing some local boardwalks in the area when her father pointed out the region was rich in fossilized specimens.
"Before that I had never realized the area we're in is the right age for bearing fossils," she told CBC.
She realized that she might have stumbled across a dinosaur pathway earlier that summer when she was out berry picking with her friends, so the pair determined to take a short detour back to that site. 

"The very first rock I looked at had this enormous track-shape," she recalled. "At first, I thought it wasn't anything because it was so big and I had never seen anything like that before, but after looking at it for a bit, I felt you could absolutely see three toes there," she said.
They called the local paleontologist who examined the specimen and determined it's one of 14 unusual tyrannosaurs worldwide.
"It's appealing big. It's a single footprint and it's fairly large, nearly 60 cm in length and from its shape, it's simple to tell it's from a large meat-eating dinosaur," said Richard McCrea, a palaeontologist at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.
"It can sometimes be a challenge to recognize the maker of a single print, particularly one that has been weathered by the elements. Even with the tips of the digits eroded away, the track establish by Carina Helm still possesses characteristics that make it particular as the product of a meat-eating dinosaur."
He speculated the track might have even been larger as the tip and claw of the best toe have been eroded away.
He says the research centre plans to pick up the specimen and bring it back to the museum for defense, and go back to the area for further examination.
"If Carina could find this track ... we might find a lot more footprints or trackways in the area, which would be interesting," he said.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Study Report on Dinosaur's Tail evolution

One of the most remarkable weapons to show during the dinosaur arms race of the Cretaceous Period was the big bony tail club wielded by some members of a group of tank-like plant-eaters.

A new study provides a step-by-step account of the progress of this distinctive feature possessed by the heavily armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus and its cousins, a bludgeon that may have given even the violent Tyrannosaurus rex reason to worry.

The researchers studied fossils of the group called ankylosaurs with early, primitive species with no tail club and later ones with a fully developed one.
Ankylosaurs began to evolve tail clubs much earlier than formerly thought, the researchers found, and the clubs evolved in two steps over tens of millions of years.

First, vertebrae in the back part of the tail changed so that the tail became stiff. Next, bones that form in the skin to provide body armor, called osteoderms, became very large at the tip of the tail and entirely enveloped the tail's end to form a club that could be swung at an enemy.

Ankylosaurs lived at a time when the main land predators in Earth's history including T. rex roamed the landscape, dismembering other dinosaurs with great jaws and serrated teeth. In an arms race, some plant-eaters developed suspicious weaponry.

"A tail club was absolutely an effective weapon and could have broken the ankle of a predator," said paleontologist Victoria Arbour of North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who led the study published this week in the Journal of Anatomy.

"But in living animals today, weapons are also often used for battling members of your own species - consider the horns of bighorn sheep or the antlers of deer - so perhaps ankylosaurs did something alike."

Ankylosaurs were wide-bodied, four-legged dinosaurs enclosed in bony plates and spikes. The oldest known ankylosaur dated from around 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, Arbour said. The first fully formed ankylosaur tail club appeared around 75 million years ago during the Cretaceous.

Ankylosaurus, measuring around 20 feet (6 meters), was the largest and last of the ankylosaurs, living at the end of the age of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.