Tag Archives: lizards

Study finds turtles are closer kin to birds, crocodiles than to lizards, snakes

What are turtles, and where did they come from?

Precise answers to these questions have long eluded scientists. But new research led by Daniel Field of Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution recasts the turtle’s disputed evolutionary history, providing fresh evidence that the familiar reptiles are more closely related to birds and crocodiles than to lizards and snakes. (more…)

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New Research Revises Conventions for Deciphering Color in Dinosaurs While Suggesting Connection between Color and Physiology

AUSTIN, Texas — New research that revises recently established conventions allowing scientists to decipher color in dinosaurs may also provide a tool for understanding the evolutionary emergence of flight and changes in dinosaur physiology prior to the origin of flight.

In a survey comparing the hair, skin, fuzz and feathers of living terrestrial vertebrates and fossil specimens, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Akron, the China University of Geosciences and four other Chinese institutions found evidence for evolutionary shifts in the relationship between color and the shape of pigment-containing organelles known as melanosomes, as reported in the Feb. 13 edition of Nature. (more…)

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UCLA Professor Leads Effort to Protect Africa’s Rainforests from Ravages of Climate Change

UCLA professor Thomas B. Smith will head an international research project investigating the effects of climate change on biodiversity in Central Africa’s rainforests, under a $4.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

UCLA will receive $3 million through the NSF’s Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program, the agency announced this week. Smith, the director of UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research and a professor with joint appointments at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, will lead the team of U.S. and international researchers. (more…)

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Ancient Meat-Loving Predators Survived for 35-Million Years

Lived through period of species extinction

A species of ancient predator with saw-like teeth, sleek bodies and a voracious appetite for meat survived a major extinction at a time when the distant relatives of mammals ruled the earth.

A detailed description of a fossil that scientists identify as a varanopid “pelycosaur” is published in the December issue of Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature. Professors Sean Modesto from Cape Breton University, a U of T alumnus, and Robert Reisz from University of Toronto Mississauga provide evidence that a group of ancient, agile predators called varanopids survived for more than 35 million years and co-existed with more advanced animals. (more…)

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UF-led study: Invasive Amphibians, Reptiles in Florida Outnumber World

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has the world’s worst invasive amphibian and reptile problem, and a new 20-year study led by a University of Florida researcher verifies the pet trade as the No. 1 cause of the species’ introductions.

From 1863 through 2010, 137 non-native amphibian and reptile species were introduced to Florida, with about 25 percent of those traced to one animal importer. The findings appear online today in Zootaxa. (more…)

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Fossil Reveals Oldest Evidence of Live Birth in Reptiles

*A fossil from north-eastern China has revealed that terrestrial reptiles were giving birth to live young at least as early as 120 million years ago.*

The newly discovered fossil of a pregnant lizard proves that some squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) were giving birth to live young, rather than laying eggs, in the Early Cretaceous period – much earlier than previously thought. The fossil shows a pregnant female filled with the tiny skeletons of more than 15 baby lizards at a stage of development similar to that of late embryos of modern lizards. The mother lizard, which is 30 centimetres long (excluding her tail), probably died only a few days before giving birth.

The discovery is described in the journal Naturwissenschaften by scientists from UCL (University College London) and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. (more…)

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UF Researchers Link Oceanic Land Crab Extinction to Colonization of Hawaii

GAINESVILLE, Fla.University of Florida researchers have described a new species of land crab that documents the first crab extinction during the human era.

The loss of the crab likely greatly impacted the ecology of the Hawaiian Islands, as land crabs are major predators, control litter decomposition and help in nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Their disappearance was caused by the arrival of humans to the islands and resulted in large-scale changes in the state’s ecosystem. Researchers said the full impact of the extinction on Hawaii is unknown, but they are certain it led to changes in the diversity of the food web, a continuing concern to conservationists studying species loss in other habitats. The study will be published online May 16 in PLoS ONE. (more…)

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MU Researcher Works to Save One of the World’s Most Endangered Birds

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— The Tuamotu Kingfisher is a multicolored, tropical bird with bright blue feathers, a dusty orange head, and a bright green back. The entire population of these birds – less than 125 – lives on one tiny island in the south Pacific, and without serious intervention, they will no longer exist. One University of Missouri researcher is trying to stop the birds’ extinction by working with farmers and residents on the island inhabited by the kingfishers.

“If we lose these birds, we lose 50,000 years of uniqueness and evolution,” said Dylan Kesler, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “Because it has lived in isolation for a very long time, it’s unlike any other bird. There is no other bird like this on the planet.” (more…)

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