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Rare fossil of horned dinosaur from ‘lost continent’ found

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New Delhi: A scientist at Britain’s University of Bath identified a rare fossil of a dog-sized horned dinosaur from eastern North America, also called the ‘lost continent’ of Appalachia.

About 66-100 million years ago, North America was split into two continents by a shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway. Dinosaurs living in the western continent, called Laramidia, were similar to those found in Asia.

But few fossils of animals from Appalachia have been found because these areas were densely vegetated, making it difficult to discover and excavate fossils.

Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution based in the University of Bath’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry, studied a fragment of a jaw bone kept in the Peabody Museum at Yale University. It turned out to be a member of the horned dinosaurs — the Ceratopsia.

“Just as many animals and plants found in Australia today are quite different to those found in other parts of the world, it seems that animals in the eastern part of North America in the late Cretaceous period evolved in a completely different way to those found in the western part of what is now North America due to a long period of isolation,” Longrich said.

“This adds to the theory that these two land masses were separated by a stretch of water, stopping animals from moving between them, causing the animals in Appalachia to evolve in a completely different direction, resulting in some pretty weird looking dinosaurs,” Longrich added.

Ceratopsia was a group of plant-eating horned dinosaurs and the fossil studied by Longrich comes from a smaller cousin of the better known Triceratops, the leptoceratopsids. It was about the size of a large dog.

“Studying fossils from this period, when the sea levels were very high and the landmasses across the Earth were very fragmented, is like looking at several independent experiments in dinosaur evolution,” Longrich said.

During the late Cretaceous period (66-100 million years ago), many land masses – eastern North America, Europe, Africa, South America, India, and Australia – were isolated by water.

“Each one of these island continents would have evolved its own unique dinosaurs – so there are probably many more species out there to find,” Longrich added.

His study, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, highlights it as the first fossil from a ceratopsian dinosaur identified from the late Cretaceous period of eastern North America.

(IANS)

 

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Newly Discovered Fish Fossil in Nevada (US) has Shark like Features

Researchers learned of the fossil about five years ago after fossil collector Jim Jenks of West Jordan, Utah, stumbled upon it near Winecup Ranch north of Wells

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Birgeria americana, newly discovered fish species
The 26-cm-long fossil preserving the right side of the skull of Birgeria americana. VOA
  • A fossil found in northeastern Nevada shows a newly discovered fish species 
  • Scientists believe, it looked and ate like a shark
  • Researchers call this fish, Birgeria Americana 

New Delhi, August 9, 2017: A fossil found in northeastern Nevada shows a newly discovered fish species that scientists believe looked, and ate, like a shark.

The fossil is what remains of a bony, sharp-toothed fish that would have been about six-feet-long (1.83 meters) with long jaws and layers of sharp teeth.

The type of jaw and teeth on the fish suggest it would have chomped down on its prey before swallowing it whole, like a shark, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

“The surprising find from Elko County in northeastern Nevada is one of the most completely preserved vertebrate remains from this time-period ever discovered in the United States,” said Carlo Romano of the University of Zurich, lead author of a Journal of Paleontology article about the find.

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The fish, which researchers called Birgeria americana, predates Nevada’s most famous fossil, the Ichthyosaur, by more than 30 million years. The Ichthyosaur was a 55-foot-long (16.76 meters) reptile. One of the largest concentrations of Ichthyosaur fossils was found near Berlin, Nevada. The find led to the Ichthyosaur becoming Nevada’s state fossil.

Birgeria americana found in Nevada
Possible look of the newly discovered predatory fish species Birgeria americana with the fossil of the skull shown at bottom right. VOA

The evidence shows the fish was alive and well about 1 million years after mass extinction 66 million years ago wiped out an estimated 90 percent of marine species.

It also shows a large fish was surviving in water previously thought to be too warm to support such life.

At the time, water near the equator, which is where land that became Nevada was positioned about 250 million years ago, could have been warmer than 96 degrees. “The eggs of today’s bony fish can no longer develop normally” at such a high temperature, researcher said.

ALSO READ: Living Fossil in Illinois Waterways: Disappeared from 1990’s Water, Fish “Alligator Gar” is back in US Rivers

Researchers learned of the fossil about five years ago after fossil collector Jim Jenks of West Jordan, Utah, stumbled upon it near Winecup Ranch north of Wells.

“It was just a very lucky find,” said Jenks, who was credited among the paper’s authors. “I happen to notice the teeth glinting in the sun. That is what caught my attention.”

Jenks turned the fish over to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which has a large collection of fossils and connections with leading researchers. (VOA)