Almost every week, on continents around the world, remains of once-living creatures come to light. Here are just a few of the fascinating fossils that have been reported this month. What do they suggest about life in their day?
- Sea monsters: According to New Scientist, nine giant ichthyosaurs have been found in Nevada – now a desert. And that’s not all. Something even scarier killed them: giant squids the size of blue whales, the largest current animals on Earth. If Mark McMenamin of Holyoke College is right, the giant kraken of myth was real. Other paleontologists don’t buy his explanation, but the ichthyosaur part is undeniable; although the nine giants died in different ways, “Ancient currents seem to have aligned the skeletons,” the article said.
- Nice T. rex: The feared giant of Jurassic Park, Tyrannosaurus Rex, was bigger and faster than thought, reported PhysOrg. A team from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Royal Veterinary College “applied cutting edge technology and computer modeling to ‘weigh’ five Tyrannosaurus rex specimens.” Old Sue could claim “I was a teenage monster.” One researcher claimed, “We estimate they grew as fast as 3,950 pounds per year (1790 kg) during the teenage period of growth, which is more than twice the previous estimate,” making it one of the largest bipeds that ever lived. Someone get word to the animators for Terra Nova.
- Pterosaur tooth tales: Based on a piece of snout and a bit of a tooth from a pterosaur, according to Live Science, a researcher from the University of Leicester has decided that “a group of the extinct, flying reptiles could reach sizes larger than previously thought.” So ugly it could be called cute (see artist’s conception in the article), Coloborhynchus capito, a rare ornithocheirid found in England, used its teeth and beak to capture fish while gliding over the water, somewhat like a pelican. Extrapolating from the exceptional tooth size, the researchers estimated a wingspan of 27 feet for the creature. By comparison, today’s largest bird, the California condor, spreads its wings up to 10 feet.
- Dinosaur Arkansas raceway: A “Huge New Dinosaur Trackway” as long as two football fields, located in Arkansas, was reported by National Geographic News. The article dates the two prints at 120 million years and identifies two species, “the eight-ton Acrocanthosaurus atokensis—one of the largest predators ever to walk Earth—and sauropods, or long-necked plant-eaters.” The prints show that the former did not have webbed feet and walked pigeon-toed with toes turned a bit inward. For 120 million years, these prints never saw the light of day, but then, the article said, “A private citizen recently found the tracks, which were possibly exposed after a rainstorm scoured away a thin layer of shale.”….
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