Tag Archives: paleontologist

Yale’s legacy in ‘Jurassic World’

On a summer evening in 1993, Professor John Ostrom, a paleontologist at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, had a chance to see one of his discoveries spring to life.

“Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel, was setting box-office records. Both the filmmaker and the novelist had consulted Ostrom. The tale’s primary dinosaur antagonists, the vicious Velociraptors, were based on Deinonychus — a Cretaceous predator whose fossilized remains Ostrom discovered in Montana in 1964. (more…)

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Research in the news: A 520 million-year-old food plan

Anyone who’s read a children’s menu at a restaurant knows that kids and adults tend to like different foods. New research suggests at least one animal species had the same arrangement half a billion years ago.

It seems the earliest ancestors of spiders and horseshoe crabs, called chelicerates, had separate ecological niches for adults and larvae. They ate different foods, in other words, and did not compete for the same prey. This approach has been seen in many modern animal species, but never in one this old. (more…)

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Ancient sharks reared young in prehistoric river-delta nursery

ANN ARBOR — Like salmon in reverse, long-snouted Bandringa sharks migrated downstream from freshwater swamps to a tropical coastline to spawn 310 million years ago, leaving behind fossil evidence of one of the earliest known shark nurseries.

That’s the surprising conclusion of University of Michigan paleontologist Lauren Sallan and a University of Chicago colleague, who reanalyzed all known specimens of Bandringa, a bottom-feeding predator that lived in an ancient river delta system that spanned what is today the Upper Midwest. (more…)

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Colossal New Predatory Dino Terrorized Early Tyrannosaurs

A new species of carnivorous dinosaur – one of the three largest ever discovered in North America – lived alongside and competed with small-bodied tyrannosaurs 98 million years ago. This newly discovered species, Siats meekerorum, (pronounced see-atch) was the apex predator of its time, and kept tyrannosaurs from assuming top predator roles for millions of years.

Named after a cannibalistic man-eating monster from Ute tribal legend, Siats is a species of carcharodontosaur, a group of giant meat-eaters that includes some of the largest predatory dinosaurs ever discovered. The only other carcharodontosaur known from North America is Acrocanthosaurus, which roamed eastern North America more than 10 million years earlier. Siats is only the second carcharodontosaur ever discovered in North America; Acrocanthosaurus, discovered in 1950, was the first. (more…)

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Global warming led to dwarfism in mammals — twice

ANN ARBOR — Mammal body size decreased significantly during at least two ancient global warming events. A new finding that suggests a similar outcome is possible in response to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan paleontologist and his colleagues.

Researchers have known for years that mammals such as primates and the groups that include horses and deer became much smaller during a period of warming, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), about 55 million years ago. (more…)

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Small, Speedy Plant-Eater Extends Knowledge of Dinosaur Ecosystems

Bethesda, MD — Dinosaurs are often thought of as large, fierce animals, but new research highlights a previously overlooked diversity of small dinosaurs. In the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a team of paleontologists from the University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and University of Calgary have described a new dinosaur, the smallest plant-eating dinosaur species known from Canada. Albertadromeus syntarsus was identified from a partial hind leg, and other skeletal elements, that indicate it was a speedy runner. Approximately 1.6 m (5 ft) long, it weighed about 16 kg (30 lbs), comparable to a large turkey.  

Albertadromeus lived in what is now southern Alberta in the Late Cretaceous, about 77 million years ago. Albertadromeus syntarsus means “Alberta runner with fused foot bones”. Unlike its much larger ornithopod cousins, the duckbilled dinosaurs, its two fused lower leg bones would have made it a fast, agile two-legged runner. This animal is the smallest known plant-eating dinosaur in its ecosystem, and researchers hypothesize that it used its speed to avoid predation by the many species of meat-eating dinosaurs that lived at the same time.   (more…)

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