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 Extinct Creatures - those that walked the earth
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By: jkr (offline) on Friday, January 08 2010 @ 08:55 AM EST (Read 8612 times)  
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Extinct Creatures

This topic may include the extinction of animals from hundred of thousands of years ago to modern day extinction.


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By: jkr (offline) on Friday, January 08 2010 @ 09:14 AM EST  
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Fossil footprints show 4-legged animals conquered land millions of years earlier than thought

LONDON- January 6, 2010 - The water-dwelling ancestors of modern-day mammals, reptiles and birds emerged onto land millions of years earlier than previously believed, researchers reported.

A set of fossilized footprints show that the first tetrapods - a term applied to any four-footed animal with a spine - were treading open ground 397 million years ago, well before scientists thought they existed.

An expert unconnected with the research said the find would force experts to reconsider a critical period in evolution when sea-based vertebrates took their first steps toward becoming dinosaurs, mammals and - eventually - human beings.

"It blows the whole story out of the water, so to speak," said Jenny Clack, a paleontologist at Cambridge University.

Until now, scientists thought they had the evolution from fin to foot fairly well understood. The earliest tetrapods had been traced to 385 million years ago. Experts theorized that they had split from their close relatives, a fleshy-finned family of fish, a few million years earlier and then gone on to conquer land.

But the new fossil footprints - uncovered between 2002 and 2007 in a disused quarry in central Poland - push the timing back by several million years, according to Grzegorz Pienkowski, the scientific director of the Polish Geological Institute in Warsaw, where most of the article's authors are based. He said the fossils had been securely dated from the deposits they were found with.

Although at least some of the footprints may have been made in shallow water, paleontologist Per Ahlberg, one of the article's co-authors, said it was nevertheless clear from the shape of the toe prints and the nature of the sediment that the animals spent time walking around on land.

Story here


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By: jkr (offline) on Wednesday, February 03 2010 @ 02:12 PM EST  
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Smashed asteroids may be related to dinosaur killer

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Astronomers have found a comet-like object they believe was created by the collision of two asteroids, possible siblings of the rogue rock blamed for killing the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

Science

The object, known as P/2010 A2, was circling about 90 million miles (144 million km) from Earth in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter when it was spotted last week by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"The truth is we're still struggling to understand what this means," lead scientist David Jewitt with the University of California at Los Angeles, told Reuters on Tuesday. "It's most likely the result of a recent collision between two asteroids."

If so, he said, "It'd be the first case we've seen of an asteroid smash happening, basically caught in the act."

The object resembles a comet, but its nucleus is severed from its tail, which "has a very strange appearance, the likes of which we've never seen before," Jewitt said.

Studies of the object -- and searches for similar ones -- would improve scientists' understanding of how asteroids break apart, information that may be useful to thwart a future asteroid strike on Earth.

"The thing that we want to understand is how the asteroids smash into each other and destroy each other," Jewett said. "It might help us understand even how to destroy an asteroid and prevent one from hitting us."

Scientists believe a giant comet or asteroid that hit Earth about 65 million years ago was linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs, possibly by throwing up dust or chemical clouds that blocked the sun or by igniting global wildfires.

more to the story: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61154120100202


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By: jkr (offline) on Wednesday, February 03 2010 @ 02:58 PM EST  
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Dinosaur had orange tail feathers:

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This illustration shows how Sinosauropteryx would have looked with their orange-and-white striped tails. (Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing)


A small two-legged dinosaur had orange and white rings around its tail, researchers say, the first time the colour of a dinosaur's feathers has been determined.

The British, Irish and Chinese scientists also found that an early crow-sized bird had patches of white, black and reddish feathers.

The paleontologists looked at the fossils of the metre-long dinosaur Sinosauropteryx and the early bird Confuciusornis to find clues on the colour of the animals' bristles and feathers.

Sinosauropteryx had short orange and white bristles, which are considered the evolutionary precursors of feathers, down its back and up its tail. The bristles are structurally similar to the short, two-branched feathers of the kiwi.

Confuciusornis was a true bird, with a toothless beak, wings and two long tails.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010 ... z0eVLbYF2V


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By: jkr (offline) on Wednesday, February 10 2010 @ 11:10 AM EST  
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Crocodile ancestors found in Sahara

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A six-metre croc with three sets of fangs is among the five ancient relatives of modern-day crocodiles found in the Sahara Desert, scientists said Thursday.

Three of the fossils, discovered by researchers led by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago and Hans Larsson of McGill University, represent newly named species.

The fossil remains were found in a series of expeditions beginning in 2000.

All of the prehistoric crocs lived about 100 million years ago in the southern super-continent known as Gondwana, when the region that is now the Sahara featured dinosaurs and grassy plains criss-crossed by rivers.

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http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009 ... :b28933704


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By: jkr (offline) on Saturday, March 06 2010 @ 09:10 PM EST  
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Scientists conclude that asteroid hit killed dinosaurs worldwide


WASHINGTON - An all-star panel of researchers says it was the crash of a giant asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

Think you've heard that before? You're right.

In 1980, Louis Alvarez and his son Walter published a paper blaming the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago on an asteroid impact. The probable crater was later found at Chicxulub, Mexico, and the idea gained wide scientific acceptance.

In the past few years, however, suggestions were made that the demise of the dinosaurs might have been caused by the eruption of volcanoes, known as the Deccan Traps, in India, or multiple asteroid impacts.

That prompted 41 geologists, paleontologists and other researchers to come together to review the data.

Their conclusion, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science: It was a giant asteroid striking Chicxulub that blasted a cloud around the world that led to the end of the dinosaurs.

The argument for multiple impacts isn't supported by worldwide data, and the Deccan eruptions actually began 400,000 years before the end of the dinosaurs, Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/1003 ... aur_demise


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By: jkr (offline) on Thursday, April 08 2010 @ 11:52 AM EDT  
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Fossils could represent unknown human ancestor
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A discovery at a fossil site in South Africa made public on Thursday signals a new ancestral addition to the hominid species one that may prove to be the origin of modern humans from apes.

The nearly two million-year-old fossil, dubbed Australopithecus sediba, is being described as a new species of hominid, which is defined as a primate of a family that includes humans and their fossil ancestors.

It also might prove to be the link between "ape-man" and the first known human species, says Prof. Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

A team of paleoanthropologists, led by Berger, made the discovery at a UNESCO site, the Maropeng and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, 40 kilometres outside the city. They have worked for two years to extract the bones from rock, and their findings will be published in two papers from Berger and Prof. Paul Dirks, in the journal Science on Friday.

"Sediba, which means natural spring, fountain or wellspring in Sotho, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, was deemed an appropriate name for a species that might be the point from which the genus Homo arises," Berger said in a news release.

More specifically, the find is suspected to be the "transitional species" between the Australopithecus africanus and either Homo habilis, the first species considered to be human, or even a direct ancestor of Homo erectus.

The fossils an adult female and juvenile male were found almost intact in a deeply eroded cave. They are described as having long arms, like an ape, short powerful hands, a very advanced pelvis and long legs capable of striding and possibly running like a human. It is likely that they could have climbed, said researchers.

"It is estimated that they were both about 1.27 metres, although the child would certainly have grown taller. The female probably weighed about 33 kilograms and the child about 27 kilograms at the time of his death," said Berger.

"The brain size of the juvenile was between 420 and 450 cubic centimetres, which is small (when compared to the human brain of about 1,200 to 1,600 cubic centimetres) but the shape of the brain seems to be more advanced than that of australopithecines."

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/wor ... z0kWZaTf3R


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By: jkr (offline) on Thursday, October 13 2011 @ 01:58 PM EDT  
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T. rex bigger than thought, and very hungry

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON | Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:39pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Tyrannosaurus rex grew faster and weighed more than previously thought, suggesting the fearsome predator would have been a ravenous teen-ager, researchers said Wednesday.

Using three-dimensional laser scans and computer modeling, British and U.S. scientists "weighed" five T. rex specimens, including the Chicago Field Museum's "Sue," the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton known.

They concluded that Sue, who roamed the Great Plains of North America 67 million years ago, would have tipped the scales at more than 9 tons, or some 30 percent more than expected.

Intriguingly, the smallest and youngest specimen weighed less than thought, shedding new light on the animals' biology and indicating that T. rex grew more than twice as fast between 10 and 15 years of age as suggested in a study five years ago.

"At their fastest, in their teenage years, they were putting on 11 pounds or 5 kilograms a day," John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College in London told Reuters.

"Just think how much meat that is. That's a hell of a lot of cheeseburgers ... it's a whole lot of duck-billed dinosaurs they needed to be chowing down on."

Hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs were common plant-eaters that lived alongside T. rex, making them an obvious meal for the giant meat-eaters.

A huge appetite means T. rex would have needed extensive territory and they were probably relatively rare. Their rapid teenage growth spurt also suggests they must have had a high metabolic rate, fuelling the idea they were warm-blooded.

A large body mass would have come at the expense of agility and the lower-leg muscles of T. rex were not as proportionately large as those of modern birds, indicating a top speed of about 10-25 miles per hour. "It's not super-fast but they were no slouches," Hutchinson said.

The latest research, published online in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to the body of evidence that has made T. rex among the most intensively studied of all dinosaurs.

The researchers, led by Hutchinson and Peter Makovicky of the Field Museum, used scans of skeletons to build digital models and then added flesh using the structure of soft tissues in birds and crocodiles as a guide.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/ ... 6D20111013


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