Paleontology

The first truly semi-aquatic dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, has been announced.

New fossils of the massive Cretaceous-era predator reveal it adapted to life in the water some 95 million years ago, providing the most compelling evidence to date of a dinosaur able to live and hunt in an aquatic environment.

The fossils also indicate that Spinosaurus was the largest known predatory dinosaur to roam the Earth, measuring more than 9 feet longer than the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. 



Evolution is still the favored theory, according to fossil records. Credit: Flickr/Brent Danley, CC BY-NC-SA

By John Long, Flinders University

A new species of titanosaurian, a member of the large-bodied sauropods that thrived during the final period of the dinosaur age, has been found in Tanzania.

Many fossils of titanosaurians have been discovered around the globe, notably in South America, but few have been recovered from the continent of Africa. 


A new supermassive dinosaur species with the most complete skeleton ever found of its type has been unveiled. Dreadnoughtus schrani was  85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons in life, making iy the largest land animal for which a body mass can be accurately calculated.

Its skeleton is exceptionally complete, with over 70 percent of the bones, excluding the head, represented. Because all previously discovered supermassive dinosaurs are known only from relatively fragmentary remains, Dreadnoughtus offers an unprecedented window into the anatomy and biomechanics of the largest animals to ever walk the Earth.

The Taung Child, a hominin discovered in South Africa 90 years ago by Wits University Professor Raymond Dart, has been studied using the Wits University Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) facility and the results cast doubt on theories that Australopithecus africanus shows the same cranial adaptations found in modern human infants and toddlers.

Instead it seems to disprove current support for the idea that this early hominin shows infant brain development in the prefrontal region similar to that of modern humans.


For most people, the Jurassic period conjures up images of huge dinosaurs chomping their way through lush vegetation and each other. 

But mammals and their immediate ancestors were also around 201 to 145 million years ago, just not as spectacular as we are now. 

Early Jurassic mammals were thought to have been confined to the ecological margins, eating whatever insects they could find. However, this was also the time when new mammal characteristics – such as better hearing and teeth capable of precise chewing – were developing. So, if the earliest mammals were all small generalized insectivores, where was the competition driving the evolution of such features?


Scientists have reported discovery of a new ancient pterosaur species called Caiuajara dobruskii - and the bones of 47 members to go with it. Caiuajara dobruskii lived during the Cretaceous in southern Brazil, according to the paper.

There may be more among the hundreds of bones. The pterosaur bone bed in the interdunal lake deposit of a Cretaceous desert contains at least 47 individuals, with wing spans of between 0.65 and 2.35 meter. Caiuajara dobruskii is the southermost occurrence of the edentulous clade Tapejaridae (Tapejarinae, Pterodactyloidea) recovered so far.


A comparison of Baltic Sea region amber with amber from Asia could be significant - rather than being found just in Mecklenburg, Poland or Belarus, European species have been found almost 10,000 kilometers away in Fushun, even though Europe and Asia were divided by the Strait of Turgay, a wide arm of the ocean, 50 million years ago.  

The pieces from the Baltic region are younger than the ones from Fushun and the assumption has been that this body of saltwater prevented species migrations between the continents.  



Golden coffin: An insect is trapped in Fushun amber. Credit:
(c) Bo Wang / Universität Bonn


Paleontologists have discovered the exquisitely preserved brain in the fossil of one of the world's first known predators that lived in the Lower Cambrian, about 520 million years ago. The discovery revealed a brain that is surprisingly simple and less complex than those known from fossils of some of the animal's prey. 


A new raptorial dinosaur fossil with exceptionally long feathers, including a long feathered tail, has led the authors to believe they were instrumental for decreasing descent speed and assuring safe landings. 

Changyuraptor yangi is a 125-million-year-old dinosaur found in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. The location has seen a surge of discoveries in feathered dinosaurs over the last decade. The newly discovered, remarkably preserved dinosaur sports a full set of feathers cloaking its entire body, including the extra-long tail feathers.