Tag Archives: nicholas longrich

From a Few Bones, the Most Primitive Snake Emerges

Researchers at Yale have identified an ancient slithering creature from the time of T. rex as the most primitive known snake, a finding with implications for the debate over snake origins.

“It’s the missing-link snake,” said Nicholas Longrich, a postdoctoral fellow in Yale’s Department of Geology & Geophysics and the lead author of a paper about the lizard-like snake published July 25 online in the journal Nature. “It’s the ‘Lucy’ of snakes.”

The paper argues that snakes descend from terrestrial rather than marine ancestors, as recently proposed by others, and that snakes emerged once lizards developed long, limbless bodies for burrowing. (more…)

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Primitive Birds Shared Dinosaurs’ Fate

A new study puts an end to the longstanding debate about how archaic birds went extinct, suggesting they were virtually wiped out by the same meteorite impact that put an end to dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

For decades, scientists have debated whether birds from the Cretaceous period — which are very different from today’s modern bird species — died out slowly or were killed suddenly by the Chicxulub meteorite. The uncertainty was due in part to the fact that very few fossil birds from the end of this era have been discovered. (more…)

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Newly Discovered Dinosaur Likely Father of Triceratops

Triceratops and Torosaurus have long been considered the kings of the horned dinosaurs. But a new discovery traces the giants’ family tree further back in time, when a newly discovered species appears to have reigned long before its more well-known descendants, making it the earliest known member of its family.

The new species, called Titanoceratops after the Greek myth of the Titans, rivaled Triceratops in size, with an estimated weight of nearly 15,000 pounds and a massive eight-foot-long skull. (more…)

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Prehistoric Bird Used Club-like Wings as Weapon

Long before the knights of medieval Europe wielded flails or martial artists brandished nunchucks, it appears that a flightless prehistoric bird used its own wings as a similar type of weapon in combat.

Paleontologists at Yale and the Smithsonian Institution have discovered that Xenicibis, a member of the ibis family that lived about 10,000 years ago and was found only in Jamaica, most likely used its specialized wings like a flail, swinging its upper arm and striking its enemies with its thick hand bones. (more…)

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Using Discards, Scientists Discover Different Dinosaurs’ Stomping Grounds

By examining the type of rock in which dinosaur fossils were embedded, an often unappreciated part of the remains,

Certain dinosaur species liked to live in different habitats, separated by only a few miles. Image credit: Nicholas Longrich

scientists have determined that different species of North American dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous period 65 million years ago occupied different environments separated by just a few miles.

Hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs, along with the small ornithopod Thescelosaurus, preferred to live along the edge of rivers, according to the research. Ceratopsians, on the other hand, which include the well-known Triceratops, preferred to be several miles inland.

The findings, which appear in the online edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, give scientists a more complete picture of the distribution of different species and help explain how several large herbivores managed to coexist. (more…)

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