Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dinosaur of the Deep

Norway's First Dinosaur Found
By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

May 3, 2006— A knucklebone discovered 1.4 miles below the North Sea represents both Norway's first dinosaur find and the world's deepest dino fossil, according to a paper to be published in next month's Norwegian Journal of Geology.

Picture from here

Workmen stumbled upon the fossil while drilling through sandstone for oil exploration at the Snorre offshore field located at the northern end of the North Sea. Jørn Harald Hurum, lead author of the paper, described the bone to Discovery News. "It is a long bone, probably (a) tibia/fibula or radius/ulna," he said.

"It is only a small fragment, but it contains a histology only known from Plateosaurus of the same age in Germany (Radial fibro-lamellar bone). So our educated guess (same age and same histology) is Plateosaurus."
Hurum further explained that the fibrous bone tissue located within the knucklebone is unique to Plateosaurus. It is associated with very rapid growth and high rates of bone deposits in the body...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A rebuttal of circular reasoning

Claim: Scientists use circular reasoning when they are dating rock layers and fossils. Fossils are used to date the rock layers that are used to date the fossils that are used to date the layers... etc. Also, the principles of dating that rock layers and the fossils are based on the assumption that evolution is fact.

Rebuttal: When out in the field with no access to advanced dating equipment, paleontologists/geologists make relative dates of the layers based on their position relative to those [layers] above and below it (e.g. World War I was fought before World War II). Some of these layers can be tested later to obtain a more absolute date (WWI was fought between 1914-1918 and WWII was fought 21 years later). A lot of strata (ro
ck layers) are not dated accordingly by the fossils they contain and these methods of relative and absolute dating are self-sufficient.

Yet there are some particular fossils that occur only in specific strata. Called index fossils, they are typically widespread and very common. They are usually very easy to diagnose or distinguish and have a relatively short species duration that in turn gives those dating the rock a shorter span of time in which to make a relative date. When available, these fossils are very useful in making relative dates because of their correspondance with the strata layers that have already been previously dated by other means.

Lastly, the principles of stratigraphy and the naming and classification of the geological column was first ignited by the work of English geologist William Smith. Smith, who was the first to create a geological map of England, conducted most of his work between the 1790's and the early 19th century. Charles Darwin had not yet begun his voyage with the HMS Beagle until December of 1831. It was stratigraphy and William Smith's principle of faunal succession that influenced Darwin and his theory of evolution, not the other way around.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

These hips don't lie

(Image: H Zaher)

Scientists have found fossils of a legged snake with “hips” – a specimen that could be the most primitive snake ever unearthed. The find suggests early snakes were not creatures of the sea and has reignited the debate over how snakes evolved.

Sebastián Apesteguía at the Argentine Museum of Natural History and his team found the snake fossil in a terrestrial deposit in the Río Negro province of north Patagonia, Argentina, in 2003. Unlike a handful of legged fossils found in marine deposits and identified as snakes over the past decade, the new fossil, named Najash rionegrina, has a well-defined sacrum supporting a pelvis and functional hind legs outside of its ribcage.

The creature's skeletal structure suggests it was evolutionarily closer to its four-legged ancestor than previous fossils. And since the scientists found it in a terrestrial deposit, it is near certain that the animal lived on land.

From the NewScientist.com news service:
"Oldest snake fossil shows a bit of leg"
Click on the link to continue reading the article

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A rebuttal of no new fossils

Claim: Few or no fossils are being formed in the present-day. The process of fossilization requires sudden death followed by sudden burial followed by enormous pressure. They also must lay undisturbed throughout the process.

Rebuttal: Fossils continue to form in the present-day. To claim that the fossilization process is non-existent and extremely rare is merely an arrogant claim made by a person that obviously lives in the confines of their highly, urbanized world. Several places continue to preserve fossils. Geyser deposits preserve insects and plant material; the La Brea Tar Pits have trapped several organisms and a human in relatively recent times and many fluvial systems continue to bury living things each year:

Fast burial is not a complete necessity to guarantee an organism’s fossilization. Bones can last a year or more before they are buried and shells (which are overwhelming common) can last for centuries at the most. There is even fossil evidence showing how an organism or its hard parts have laid out for elapsed periods of time before being buried by sediment.

Pristine preservation doesn’t always necessarily mean fast burial. Some finely detailed fossils can be preserved when an organism dies in an
anoxic lake bottom where little or no process of decay occurs. Lakes also contain fine sediments and silt that preserve fine details in a fossil organism (i.e. the feathered dinosaurs from Liaoning-- see below). Peat bogs are also generous preservatives.

An organism in the process of becoming a fossil is almost always disturbed in some form or another. Scavenging in particular is a common occurrence seen in fossil remains, whether it is the scattering of fossil material or bite marks or both. Burrowing organisms can come into contact with a dead body and its hard parts long before the permanent fossilization of the fossil material.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yet another Hominid from Ethiopia

Hominid fossils from Ethiopia link ape-men to more distant human ancestors
Press Release from From the UC – Berkeley on www.eurekalert.org

Berkeley -- New fossils discovered in the Afar desert of eastern Ethiopia are a missing link between our ape-man ancestors some 3.5 million years ago and more primitive hominids a million years older, according to an international team led by the University of California, Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The fossils are from the most primitive species of Australopithecus, known as Au. anamensis, and date from about 4.1 million years ago, said Tim White, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and one of the team's leaders. The hominid Australopithecus has often been called an ape-man because, though short-statured, small-brained and big-toothed, it walked on two legs unlike the great apes.

More primitive hominids in the genus Ardipithecus date from between 4.4 million and 7 million years ago and were much more ape-like, though they, too, walked on two legs.

"This new discovery closes the gap between the fully blown Australopithecines and earlier forms we call Ardipithecus," White said. "We now know where Australopithecus came from before 4 million years ago." The fossil finds and an analysis of the hominid's habitat and evolutionary position are reported by White and co-authors from Ethiopia, Japan, France and the United States in the April 13 issue of Nature.

Since the first Australopithecus skull, the famous Taung child, was discovered in South Africa 82 years ago by Raymond Dart, fossils of this hominid have been found all over eastern Africa spanning a 3-million-year time period. Seven separate species have been named, including the most primitive, Au. anamensis, which dates from 4.2 million years ago, and Au. africanus, Dart's find. The most specialized species, Au. boisei, died out about 1.2 million years ago, long after the genus Homo had spread throughout the Old World...

To read the full press release, click on the link to eurekalert above to be redirected.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Tiktaalik went extinct...

Okay... so maybe Tiktaalik roseae didn't go extinct by getting denied access to Noah's ark. Yet underneath the skin of such a simple cartoon lies a deeper message for me. Young-Earth creationists claim the flood in Genesis was responsible for the entire fossil record and the 99% percentage of life that is now extinct.

Yet I don't see why then God would tell Noah to bring along two of every animal to be saved by the initial floodwaters only to go extinct once they are released. Wouldn't this make God's plan to save his creation pointless, since 99% of it would still inevitably vanish after its release back into the wild?

From what I was taught in Sunday school, God has a lot more brains than that. And I don't think the whole "he works in mysterious ways" cuts it sense it clearly states the facts in Genesis 6:19-20 and Genesis 8:17 that the animals that were saved were to repopulate the Earth.

Now I know there is much more to the secular side of this story as far as the feasibility for a global flood and its invisible traces are, but I just wanted to take a nip in the butt of this argument by strictly using the text Creationists use for themselves and turn the tables of the game.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The new fish out of water

Arctic fossils mark move to land
BBC News Science and Nature
Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Fossil animals found in Arctic Canada provide a snapshot of fish evolving into land animals, scientists say. The finds are giving researchers a fascinating insight into this key stage in the evolution of life on Earth. US palaeontologists have published details of the fossil "missing links" in the prestigious journal Nature. The 383 million-year-old specimens are described as crocodile-like animals with fins instead of limbs that probably lived in shallow water.

Before these finds, palaeontologists knew that lobe-finned fishes evolved into land-living creatures during the Devonian Period. But fossil records showed a gap between Panderichthys, a fish that lived about 385 million years ago which shows early signs of evolving land-friendly features, and Acanthostega, the earliest known tetrapod (four-limbed animals) dating from about 365 million years ago.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mapusaurus roseae


Dinosauria Owen, 1842
Theropoda Marsh, 1881
Carcharodontosauridae Stromer, 1931
Giganotosaurinae n. subfam.
Mapusaurus roseae n. gen.

Etymology: "Mapu" is a Mapuche (local indigenous people) term for Earth. Therefore "Mapusaurus" should be translated as "Earth reptile." The term "roseae" refers to the rose-colored rocks that surround the site where Mapusaurus n. gen. was found, and to Rose Letwin (Seattle) who sponsored the expeditions in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Horizon and Locality: Huincul Formation, Río Limay Group (Cenomanian), of the Neuquén Group. Cañadón del Gato in the Cortaderas area 20 km southwest of Plaza Huincul, Neuquén Province, Argentina.

Abstract- A new carcharodontosaurid theropod from the Huincul Formation (Aptian- Cenomanian, Upper Cretaceous) of Neuquén Province, Argentina, is described. Approximately the same size as Giganotosaurus carolinii Coria & Salgado, 1995, Mapusaurus roseae n. gen., n. sp. is characterized by many features including a deep, short and narrow skull with relatively large triangular antorbital fossae, relatively small maxillary fenestra, and narrow, unfused rugose nasals. Mapusaurus roseae n. gen., n. sp. has cervical neural spines and distally tapering epipophyses, tall dorsal neural spines, central pleurocoels as far back as the first sacral vertebra, accessory caudal neural spines, stout humerus with poorly defined distal condyles, fused metacarpals, ilium with brevis fossa extending deeply into ischial peduncle, and femur with low fourth trochanter.

Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Mapusaurus n. gen. shares with Carcharodontosaurus Stromer, 1931 and Giganotosaurus Coria & Salgado, 1995 several derived features that include narrow blade-like teeth with wrinkled enamel, heavily sculptured facial bones, supraorbital shelf formed by a postorbital/palpebral complex, and a dorsomedially directed femoral head.

Remains of Mapusaurus n. gen. were recovered from a bonebed where 100% of the identifiable dinosaur bones can be assigned to this new genus. Based on the metatarsals recovered, a minimum of seven individuals was buried at the site. It is conceivable that this bonebed represents a long term or coincidental accumulation of carcasses. The presence of a single carnivorous taxon with individuals of different ontogenic stages provides evidence of variation within a single population, and may also indicate some behavioural traits for Mapusaurus roseae n. gen., n. sp.


  • Coria, R. A. & P. J. Currie. 2006. A new carcharodontosaurid (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Geodiversitas 28(1): 71–118.

Monday, April 03, 2006

"Gi-normous" oviraptor from Utah

Press Release: Giant Raptor Dinosaur Discovered in Utah Monument
New “egg-thief” dinosaur roamed the southwest

April 3, 2006—Scientists from the University of Utah and the Utah Museum of Natural History have discovered the remains of a new bird-like, meat-eating dinosaur in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), southern Utah. Although represented only by the fossilized remains of hand and foot bones, comparisons with more complete skeletons found in Asia demonstrate that this animal was about seven feet tall when standing upright.

Discovery of this Utah giant, which is much larger than its counterparts in Canada and the northern US, nearly doubles the documented range of these dinosaurs in North America, and demonstrates that they roamed much farther south than previously thought. A scientific paper naming and describing this animal, and published in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, was authored by Lindsay Zanno, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Scott Sampson, chief curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History (UMNH), and associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

The new dinosaur, formally dubbed Hagryphus giganteus, which means “giant four-footed, bird-like god of the western desert” in reference to the animal’s outward resemblance to a large land bird, its giant stature, and its discovery in the Utah desert. Hagryphus is a member of the oviraptorosaurs, a group of bird-like feathered dinosaurs with toothless beaks, powerful arms and formidable claws. These enigmatic animals are thought by some paleontologists to have been omnivorous, feeding on a mixture of meat and plants.

Although only the hands and feet of Hagryphus are known, the scientists were able to use the animal’s close relatives to estimate the size of the skeleton. The researchers say they do not know why this dinosaur was so much larger than its northern cousins but speculate that it may have been related to different environmental conditions in the south.

To read the full press release, click on the title above to be redirected to the Utah Museum of Natural History's website and access the release and contacts to the scientists involved.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

PalaeoPurchase(s) of April

Made for the Xiphactinus excavation behind Plano West senior high school in Plano, Texas. Army green with beige lettering and image. Says Varsity Paleontology in militaristic stenciling on the front. Also says X-fish (meaning the fish Xiphactinus) X-cavation and Est. 65 million years ago. Lastly, it includes the name of the school and the year during the discovery and dig. On the backside of the shirt is a crest-like symbol with the head of a Xiphactinus and a pick and shovel crossed behind it.