The discovery of the first anatomically modern ear in a group of 260 million-year-old fossil reptiles significantly pushes back the date of the origin of an advanced sense of hearing, and suggests the first known adaptations to living in the dark.
The ability of modern animals to hear a wide range of frequencies, highly important for prey capture, escape, and communication, was long assumed to have only evolved shortly before the origin of dinosaurs, not much longer than 200 million years ago, and therefore comparatively late in vertebrate history.
But why would these animals have possessed such an ear” “Of course this question cannot be answered with certainty”, explains MÃ¼ller, “but when we compared these fossils with modern land vertebrates, we recognized that animals with an excellent sense of hearing such as cats, owls, or geckos, are all active at night or under low-light conditions.
Fossils from two early whales — a male and a rare pregnant female — shed light on how these ancestors to modern whales made the leap from walking on land to ruling the sea.
The fetal remains, found with the 47.5 million-year-old pregnant female, were positioned head down, suggesting these creatures gave birth on land, while spending much of the rest of their time in the water
The fetal skeleton is the first specimen of the extinct whale group known as Archaeoceti, and the find represents a new species named Maiacetus inuus, a hybrid of the words for “mother whale” and Inuus, the name of a Roman fertility god.
The fetus was positioned head down like other land animals, allowing it to begin breathing right away. This suggests the group had not yet made the leap to giving birth in the water like modern whales, which are born tail first to allow them to start swimming right after birth.
The 8.5-foot (2.59-meter) male, which was collected in the same fossil beds as the female, is about 12 percent bigger and had fangs that were 20 percent larger than those of the female. Gingerich said these well developed choppers suggest the creatures spent a large portion of their time catching and eating fish.
Both fossils had four flipper-like legs that could have supported their weight on land, but only for short distances, suggesting these whales likely came on shore to mate, rest and give birth, Gingerich said.
Fossils from northeastern Colombia reveal the biggest snake ever discovered: a behemoth that stretched 42 to 45 feet long, reaching more than 2,500 pounds.
“This thing weighs more than a bison and is longer than a city bus,” enthused snake expert Jack Conrad of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was familiar with the find.
“It could easily eat something the size of a cow. A human would just be toast immediately.”
Actually, the beast probably munched on ancient relatives of crocodiles in its rainforest home some 58 million to 60 million years ago, he said.
The discoverers of the snake named it Titanoboa cerrejonensis (“ty-TAN-o-BO-ah sare-ah-HONE-en-siss”). That means “titanic boa from Cerrejon,” the region where it was found.
While related to modern boa constrictors, it behaved more like an anaconda and spent almost all its time in the water, Head said. It could slither on land as well as swim.
Conrad, who wasn’t involved in the discovery, called the find “just unbelievable…. It mocks your preconceptions about how big a snake can get.”
Titanoboa breaks the record for snake length by about 11 feet, surpassing a creature that lived about 40 million years ago in Egypt, Head said. Among living snake species, the record holder is an individual python measured at about 30 feet long, which is some 12 to 15 feet shorter than typical Titanoboas, said study co-author Jonathan Bloch.
The film is the brainchild of Dan Bishop, an experience production designer on many projects.
Starring Jana, stand-up comic Rowdy Arroyo, Cody Vaughn, Donny Boaz, and Bo Myers
Animaltronic work of Larry Billings:
CGI work of Michael Napodano:
Thanks to Avery, who I hope avoids any attacking raptors!
by Lawrence Bartlett Tue May 20, 3:14 AM ET
SYDNEY (AFP) – Scientists said Tuesday they had “resurrected” a gene from the extinct Tasmanian tiger by implanting it in a mouse, raising the future possibility of bringing animals such as dinosaurs back to life.
In what they describe as a world first, researchers from Australian and US universities extracted a gene from a preserved specimen of the doglike marsupial — formally known as a thylacine — and revived it in a mouse embryo.
“This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said research leader Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne.
The announcement was hailed here as raising the possibility of recreating extinct animals.
Mike Archer, dean of science at the University of New South Wales who led an attempt to clone the thylacine when he was director of the Australian Museum, called it “one very significant step in that direction.”
“I’m personally convinced this is going to happen,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I’ve got another group working on another extinct Australian animal and we think this is highly probable.”
Pask told AFP in a telephone interview that while recreating extinct animals might be possible one day, it could not be done with the technique his team used on the Tasmanian tiger.
“We can look at the function of one gene within that animal. Most animals have about 30,000 genes,” he said.
“We hope that with advances in techniques that maybe one day that might be possible, but certainly as science stands at the moment, we are not able to do that, unfortunately.
“We’ve now created a technique people can use to look at the function of DNA from any extinct species, so you could use it from mammoth or Neanderthal man or even dinosaurs if there’s some intact DNA there.”
The last known Tasmanian tiger, which took its name from the Australian island and the stripes on its back, died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, having been hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s.
Some thylacine pups and adult tissues were preserved in alcohol, however, and the research team used specimens from the Museum Victoria in Melbourne.
“The research team isolated DNA from 100-year-old ethanol-fixed specimens,” the scientists said in a statement.
“After authenticating this DNA as truly thylacine, it was inserted into mouse embryos and its function examined.
“The thylacine DNA was resurrected, showing a function in the developing mouse cartilage, which will later form the bone.”
The results were due to be published in the international scientific journal PLoS ONE on Tuesday.
“This research has enormous potential for many applications including the development of new biomedicines and gaining a better understanding of the biology of extinct animals,” said co-researcher Richard Behringer of the University of Texas.
At a time when extinction rates are increasing the discovery is critical, said senior author Marilyn Renfree of the University of Melbourne.
“For those species that have already become extinct, our method shows that access to their genetic biodiversity may not be completely lost,” she said.
But Renfree also cautioned that the recreation of extinct animals was not the aim of the research.
“Maybe one day this might be possible but it won’t happen in my lifetime,” she told AFP. “It might happen in my children’s lifetime, but there’s so many steps we need to achieve before you could actually make this work.”
The prospect of bringing extinct animals back to life caught the public imagination after Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton.
In that story, dinosaurs are cloned from genetic material found in mosquitoes that had sucked their blood before becoming preserved in amber. The dinosaurs then wreak havoc.
ScienceDaily (May 17, 2008) â€” Palaeontologists have discovered fossil remains in Scandinavia of parrots dating back 55 million years. Reported May 14 in the journal Palaeontology, the fossils indicate that parrots once flew wild over what is now Norway and Denmark.
Parrots today live only in the tropics and southern hemisphere, but this new research suggests that they first evolved in the North, much earlier than had been thought.
The fossil parrot was discovered on the Isle of Mors in the northwest of Denmark â€“ far from where youâ€™d normally expect to find a parrot. Itâ€™s a new species, officially named ‘Mopsitta tanta’. However, already its nick-name is the â€˜Danish Blue Parrotâ€™, a term derived from a famous comedy sketch about a ‘Norwegian Blue Parrot’ in the 1970s BBC television programme â€˜Monty Pythonâ€™.
The article goes on to explain the Monty Python Show for a long time. Seriously, a LOOOOOONG time. Science writers suck.