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Top Ten Dinosaur and Fossil Finds: Most Viewed of 2009

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Ambrosia
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« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2009, 04:29:33 am »

Exaggerated Conclusion?

Hans-Dieter Sues, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C, said that scientists discovered in the 1970s that some duck-billed dinosaur species were in fact animals in different stages of maturity—representing a smaller number of species.

Sues, who was not involved in the new research, agrees that some dinosaur species from the late Cretaceous may prove to be juveniles of other species.

"Many dinosaurs—just like many present-day vertebrates—changed a lot in their appearance as they grew up," he said.

But "some of [these] conclusions are controversial," Sues cautioned, adding that the idea that up to a third of all species may be reclassified is an exaggeration.

In fact, Sues suspects that a second wave of dinosaur extinction is unlikely—unless, that is, fossil hunters hit the jackpot.

"Testing such hypotheses is difficult," he said, because "it requires more fossil material than is currently available."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091009-dinosaur-species-never-existed_2.html
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2009, 04:30:10 am »



Many fossils of young dinosaurs, including T. rex relatives (above, a computer-generated image of a young T. rex), have been misidentified as unique species, paleontologists said in October 2009.

That means up to a third of all dinosaur species may have never existed, experts say.

Photograph © NGC
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2009, 04:32:30 am »

Tiny "T. Rex" Found -- 150-Pound Species Came First
Rebecca Caroll
for National Geographic News
September 17, 2009


If dinosaur evolution were an Austin Powers movie, T. rex would be Dr. Evil. And today scientists unveiled Mini-Me.

But in this case, it was the tiny terror that gave rise to the larger, more infamous relation.

Raptorex kriegsteini, described this week in the journal Science, likely lived about 125 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period.

That's almost twice as far back as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, which first arose about 85 million years ago, according to study leader Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago.

Raptorex has all the main characteristics of its larger descendants such as T. rex—big head, nipping teeth, stubby arms, fast legs—but packed into a 9-foot (3-meter) frame.

This T. rex design in miniature "reveals a spectacular carnivore strategy," according to Sereno, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

(Read National Geographic magazine editor Chris Sloan's take on Raptorex.)
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2009, 04:33:02 am »

Tiny T. rex "Evolutionarily Staggering"

The 150-pound (70-kilogram) Raptorex "was running things down, dispatching them with its powerful jaws, and clutching them with its two-fingered hands"—the same hunting strategy that apparently worked for 6-ton T. rex, Sereno said.

"That's the pretty evolutionarily staggering thing," he added. Raptorex is T. rex, but "scaled up, almost without change, a hundred times."

The find runs counter to previous theories, which had said that T. rex's stumpy arms were a relatively recent evolutionary development. As tyrannosaurs got larger, their arms simply didn't scale up fast enough, and the limbs eventually became small in relation to the dinosaurs' oversized bodies, the older theories say.

It's still thought, however, that T. rex's earlier ancestors—even before Raptorex—had relatively long arms.
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #19 on: December 24, 2009, 04:33:32 am »

T. rex-style Arms Not a Liability

The new dinosaur is "a very significant find" for understanding the evolution of tyrannosaurs, said paleontologist Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland.

"We didn't know where and when in the history of the tyrannosaurs this arm-shortening occurred," said Holtz, who was not part of the study.

"Now the question is going to be, What were they doing [with those small arms]?" Holtz said. "There's not much of a reach," he added, speculating that the tyrannosaurs grabbed prey first with their jaws and then used their arms to help hold onto their quarry.

Study leader Sereno noted that it can be hard for people to appreciate the trade-offs that evolution inevitably entails.

"It would seem to a human that forelimbs are so useful, that only when you got to the size of a tyrannosaur and you could frighten everybody with a growl could you get rid of [forearms]," he said.

"But this common sense type of thinking almost never works with evolution," Sereno said. In the tyrannosaurs, for instance, "long, heavy forelimbs are a significant burden and would seriously curtail agility in the hunt."
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #20 on: December 24, 2009, 04:34:01 am »

Smuggled T. rex Ancestor Heading Home

The new findings are based on a nearly complete Chinese dinosaur skeleton, which was excavated in secret, smuggled into the United States, and sold at auction to private collector Henry Kriegstein.

Sereno said he convinced Kriegstein to donate the fossil back to science.

Although the exact location the dinosaur came from will never be known, the excavated block containing the dinosaur's skeleton also included fish bones and clamshells that link it to Northern China's Yixian fossil formation.

Raptorex kriegsteini, named after the collector's father, an Auschwitz survivor, will eventually be shipped back to Northern China, where it will be displayed in a museum in Hohhot, the capital of China's Inner Mongolia region.

"Fossils like these should be protected from smugglers, or there's a chance they could disappear forever," Sereno said.

Until that day comes, Sereno hopes the story of this fossil can serve as a model for saving—and learning from—smuggled dinosaurs.

"I think everybody involved with this Raptorex is a winner here," he said.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/09/090917-tiny-t-rex-dinosaur-raptorex.html
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2009, 04:35:04 am »



Newfound Raptorex kriegsteini (illustrated above) resembled T. rex in nearly every way, except size, scientists announced in September 2009.

The new dinosaur species lived millions of years before its infamous descendant, and Raptorex's discovery suggests that tyrannosaurs' stumpy arms evolved later than previously thought.

Illustration by Todd Marshall via Science
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #22 on: December 24, 2009, 04:36:38 am »

5 "Oddball" Crocs Discovered, Including Dinosaur-Eater
Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
November 19, 2009


ON TV When Crocs Ate Dinosaurs airs Saturday, November 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel. Preview Crocs >>

A "saber-toothed cat in armor" and a pancake-shaped predator are among the strange crocodile cousins whose bones have been found beneath the windswept dunes of the Sahara, archaeologists say. (See pictures of BoarCroc, PancakeCroc, DuckCroc, RatCroc, and DogCroc.)

The diverse menagerie of reptiles ruled Gondwana—a landmass that later broke up into the southern continents—about a hundred million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. (See a prehistoric time line.)

"There's an entire croc world brewing in Africa that we really had only an inkling about before," said Paul Sereno, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago and leader of a new study.

"We knew about SuperCroc, the titan of all crocs, but we didn't have quite an idea of what existed in the shadows of the Cretaceous," he said.

Ancient crocodile cousins—called crocodilyforms—were not widespread in the Northern Hemisphere. But the south blossomed with bizarre riffs on the croc theme, added Sereno, also a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

(The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

The team found three new species, nicknamed PancakeCroc, BoarCroc, and RatCroc, as well as new skeletons of the previously named DuckCroc and DogCroc. (Meet the strange crocs of the Sahara.)

"There's more to a croc than meets the eye of a living person," Sereno said. "We have crocs here [in what was once Gondwana] that ate plants and galloped and ate dinosaurs and were flat as a board."

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Ambrosia
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« Reply #23 on: December 24, 2009, 04:37:04 am »

Dino-Era Crocs Were "Real Oddballs"

Sereno and colleagues have been scouring the harsh deserts of northern Africa since 2000 for evidence of a "lost world" of crocodilian ancestors.

Crocodilians are a living group that includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and more. (See alligator and crocodile pictures.)

Each ancient species evolved unique adaptations to reign over its own corner of the lush, river-carved plains of present-day Niger and Morocco, the study says.

For instance, the rodent-like RatCroc had buckteeth for rooting through the ground after tubers or simple animals.

The flat-bodied PancakeCroc was the "ultimate sit-and-wait predator," Sereno said. The animal would lie motionless and "wait for something stupid" to swim into its rail-thin, 3-foot-long (0.9-meter-long) jaws, which were lined with rows of spiky teeth.

DuckCroc had a long, smooth, sensitive nose to poke through vegetation as well as hook-shaped teeth to snag frogs and small fish in shallow water.

And the plant-eating DogCroc had lanky legs that meant it was likely spry enough to run into the water if threatened.

By far the mightiest of the lot, BoarCroc was a 20-foot-long (6.1-meter-long) "saber-toothed cat in armor" that ate dinosaurs for dinner.

Three sets of fangs—so long they jutted above and below the jaw when shut—handily sliced meat, while a snout reinforced with bonelike armor boosted the animal's ramming power.

"Gondwana had lots of real oddballs," said Hans Dieter-Sues, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the research.

"For somebody who has studied a lot of fossil crocodilyforms, I'm fascinated by these creatures," Sues said.
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2009, 04:37:39 am »

Croc Survivors

Skeletal analysis reveals that many of the Gondwana crocs were surprisingly limber, and some may have been able to gallop like modern saltwater crocodiles in Australia, said study leader Sereno, who has studied crocodile movement.

That crocodilian ancestors could run and swim with equal dexterity may have given them a leg-up on escaping predators—and extinction, Sereno added.

Some ancient crocs must have survived the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Being nimble on land and in water suggests the crocodile cousins may have taken refuge from environmental catastrophe in bodies of fresh water, where modern crocodilians still thrive, said Sereno, whose study appears today in the journal ZooKeys.

(Related: "'Lost World' of Dinosaurs Survived Mass Extinction?")

Christopher Brochu, a paleontologist at the University of Iowa, said that it's hard to tell if the ancient crocs really galloped.

Only a small number of modern-day crocodilians gallop, so it's possible the gait evolved among true crocodilians, said Brochu, who was not involved in the study.

"We need to be cautious," he said, "when extending behavior seen in a subgroup of crocodilians to more distant relatives."

He added the new species "are truly beautiful animals" that "really are going to be critical in understanding how the group was so diverse and dominant in the southern continents."

No matter how the ancient crocs moved, there's no denying that some of their traits—passed down via evolution—have helped crocodilyforms as a whole outmaneuver extinction, Sereno said.

"They were a really successful group—they are survivors."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091119-dinosaurs-crocodiles-missions.html
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Ambrosia
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« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2009, 04:40:26 am »



BoarCroc (pictured in an artist's illustration) was a 20-foot-long (6.1-meter-long) "saber-toothed cat in armor" that ate dinosaurs for dinner.

The creature is among five ancient crocodile cousins discovered beneath the windswept dunes of the Sahara, archaeologists said in November 2009.

Illustration courtesy © NGT


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/091222-top-ten-dinosaurs-2009-fossils.html
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Tyrannosaurus Rex
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« Reply #26 on: December 28, 2009, 06:20:36 am »

AUSTRALIA DINOSAUR PICTURES: Three New Species Found



July 6, 2009--Meet Matilda, or Diamantinasaurus matildae (above, in an artist's depiction), one of two giant, plant-eating dinosaur species recently discovered in Australia.

The fossilized creature, which measures almost 60 feet (18 meters) long, was unearthed in the northeastern outback town of Winton, Queensland, in 2006. A third new species, a carnivorous dinosaur dubbed Banjo, was also found at the site. (Watch a video about Banjo's discovery.)

The dinosaurs were named after famed Australian poet Banjo Paterson and characters from his works.

(Related: "New Dinosaur May Link S. American, Aussie Dinos.")

The 98-million-year-old Matilda is the first new sauropod to be described in Australia in 75 years, said team member Scott Hocknull, a paleontologist and senior curator of geosciences at Queensland Museum in Brisbane.

The fossils, described recently in the journal PLoS One, were unveiled at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in Winton on July 3, 2009.

--Carolyn Barry in Sydney, Australia
—Images courtesy Travis R. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/photogalleries/australia-new-dinosaur-pictures/
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Tyrannosaurus Rex
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« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2009, 06:23:51 am »



The ferocious-looking carnivore Australovenator wintonensis (above, in an artist's impression) is one of three new dinosaurs recently unearthed in the Australian outback town of Winton.

The 16.5-foot-long (5-meter-long), 6.5-foot-tall (2-meter-tall) meat-eater is the most complete theropod—a group of two-legged dinos related to birds—ever found in Australia and maybe even in the world, Hocknull said in July 2009.

Nicknamed Banjo, the velociraptor-like dinosaur had three slashing claws on both hands and larger arms than its cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex.
—Image courtesy Travis R. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs
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Tyrannosaurus Rex
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« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2009, 06:25:01 am »



The discovery of Clancy, a huge plant-eating sauropod (seen above in an illustration), confirms that giant dinosaurs existed in what is now Australia, paleontologists said in July 2009.

The 60-foot-long (18-meter-long) dinosaur roamed the region's vast fern-filled plains 98 million years ago in the mid-Cretaceous period, just before the island broke away from Gondwanaland, an ancient supercontinent.

—Images courtesy Travis R. Tischler, Australian Age of Dinosaurs
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« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2009, 06:26:30 am »



Paleontologist Hocknull examines a huge bone from Matilda, the most complete sauropod skeleton ever found in Australia, in an undated photograph.

Fossils of "strange pythonlike lizards with limbs, crocodiles, turtles, [and] armored dinosaurs" are among the skeletons also uncovered near Matilda's remains in the outback town of Winton, Hocknull said.

Hundreds of bones not yet analyzed will likely reveal more new species, he said. "There's [also] tantalizing evidence in the south of Queensland of really, really big sauropods—perhaps twice the size of Matilda and Clancy," he added.

"We don't have the T. rex yet, but there's every likelihood that we'll find [it]."
—Photograph courtesy Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History
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