This was a great year for dinosaurs. Dreadnoughtus, "Jar Jar Binks," and a swimming Spinosaurus all made headlines — and 2015 could hold even more surprises.
It wasn't always like this. From 1984 to 1994, there were about 15 new dinosaur species named per year. This year, nearly one species was discovered every week.
"We're absolutely in a golden age of dinosaur discovery," David Evans, who oversees dinosaur research at the Royal Ontario Museum, told NBC News. "It is probably a better time to be a dinosaur paleontologist now than any other time in the last century."
The 'Jurassic Park' effect
When it comes to finding dinosaurs in the dirt, paleontologists are using the same tools that they were 30 years ago. Satellite images might give them a better view of dig sites, but for the most part the process has not changed much.
So why are there so many dinosaur discoveries these days? More people are looking for them. Evans estimates that the number of dinosaur paleontologists has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years.
Every paleontologist interviewed for this story pointed to one catalyst for the paleontology boom: Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster "Jurassic Park."
"It put the most lifelike, scientifically accurate dinosaurs ever on the big screen," Evans said. "That helped the public moved beyond the classical view of dinosaurs as slow, dim-twitted creatures."
Famed Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner admits he has a special affection for the film. He served as scientific adviser for the original "Jurassic Park" and was the inspiration for Dr. Alan Grant, the movie's protagonist. He also consulted on the upcoming "Jurassic World" starring Chris Pratt.
"'Jurassic Park' attracted an incredible number of people to the field," Horner told NBC News. "I'm hoping that we put together something cool with 'Jurassic World' that people will really like and get more children interested in paleontology."
Increased interest led to increased paleontology budgets for museums and universities, Evans said. That has made a big difference in places like China and Argentina, relatively unexplored areas where a new generation of paleontologists has unearthed most of the recent headline-grabbing discoveries.
"The number of dinosaur researchers is much higher now than in the '90s," Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland, told NBC News. "Anytime you are exploring a region and a slice of time that hasn't been sampled before, chances are that everything you are finding is new."
2014 and beyond
Some of the biggest discoveries of the year were not new species. Instead, they were more complete fossils of dinosaurs the scientific community knew very little about.
Take Spinosaurus, a massive carnivore that was even bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex. While its teeth indicated it ate fish, scientists were divided on whether it roamed the land and water looking for prey.
This year, the matter was settled. A new paper showed that the dinosaur's unique body structure — tiny hind limbs, dense bones, crocodile-like receptors in its snout — was best suited for the water and caused it to waddle on land.
"That was probably the most significant find of the year," Horner said.
There were other big discoveries in 2014. Dreadnoughtus fossils discovered in Argentina belonged to a creature that measured 85 feet (26 meters) long and weighed about 65 tons (59 metric tons), or about as much as a dozen elephants.
Excerpt from natmonitor.com An international team of researchers, during a survey of the Mariana trench has found a new species of fish and found evidence of other known species living at new depths.
The Mariana trench is the deepest known part of the ocean, far too deep for humans to visit. At the deepest part of the trench the water pressure would be the equivalent of “one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
The survey was conducted using the Hadal-Lander, a vehicle built in Aberdeen Scotland for deep sea research. The vehicle is equipped with a variety of high resolution cameras, scientific instruments and an array of small baited funnel traps used to lure and trap small animals.
The researchers deployed the craft an unprecedented 92 times along the trench at depths ranging from 5000 – 10,600 meters. At a depth of 8145 meters the team observed a kind of snail fish, 500 meters deeper than any fish has been observed previously. “This really deep fish did not look like anything we had seen before, nor does it look like anything we know of, it is unbelievably fragile, with large wing-like fins and a head resembling a cartoon dog,” said Dr Alan Jamieson from the University of Aberdeen in a statement.
During the expedition the team also captured images of a ‘supergiant’ amphipod. These extremely large crustacean was originally discovered in traps off of New Zealand in 2012 but has never before been observed in its natural habitat. Video footage collected by the team shows the animal swimming, feeding and fighting off predators. A number of other species were also filmed, setting new depth records for three fish families.
An artist's rendition of the amphibious Cartorhynchus lenticarpus. (Stefano Broccoli)
In a Nov. 5th article penned by Rachel Feltman(washingtonpost.com) entitled Newly discovered fossil could prove a problem for creationists (But apparently not a really big problem), a report published in the journal Nature claims to have discovered the missing link proving that modern man has evolved from a sometimes aquatic, sometimes not, (he apparently changed his mind once or twice about which direction he wanted to evolve) little green fish/frog/alligator/lizardy type character named Cartorhynchus lenticarpus. Although I chuckled all through the unsubstantiated claims of the report's lead author Ryosuke Motani, one of my favorite moments had to be when Motani describes his brainstorming activity. "Initially I was really puzzled by this fossil. I could tell it was related [to ichthyosaurs], but I didn't know how to place it. It took me about a year before I was sure I had no doubts." (Wait Ryosuke, go back to that moment in time while you were kicking an empty soda can around your neighborhood while trying to figure out how you could pound a square green peg into a round hole. I think that's where your theory may have gone slightly askew.)
My absolute favorite moment of the study though had to be the team's conclusion that the foot and a half long green amphibian "probably had a happy life". I could see now a room full of white lab coats concurring with one another. "Yes yes, happy indeed. I concur." A young lab technician then sheepishly speaks up. "I must disagree sirs. My research shows its not easy being green." "Oh yes, yes," the group of senior scientists now concede. "Indeed, it's not easy being green."
Motani's statement that his team now hopes to find the preceding evolutionary ancestor to Cartorhynchus lenticarpus as their next major breakthrough is the part of this report that I can't get out of my mind. What would the odds be that this small group of researchers not only find one crucial missing link, but will also discover the very next missing piece of the long evolutionary puzzle chain, evidence countless archeologists, scientists and researchers have been, for centuries, turning over stones in search of. Something smells fishy here, and it isn't the great, great, great grandfather of Kermit the Frog. Greg Giles Excerpts from the washingtonpost.com article by Rachel Feltman: Researchers report that they've found the missing link between an ancient aquatic predator and its ancestors on land. Ichthyosaurs, the dolphin-like reptiles that lived in the sea during the time of the dinosaurs, evolved from terrestrial creatures that made their way back into the water over time.
But the fossil record for the lineage has been spotty, without a clear link between land-based reptiles and the aquatic ichthyosaurs scientists know came after. Now, researchers report in Nature that they've found that link — an amphibious ancestor of the swimming ichthyosaurs named Cartorhynchus lenticarpus.
"Many creationists have tried to portray ichthyosaurs as being contrary to evolution," said lead author Ryosuke Motani, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California Davis. "We knew based on their bone structure that they were reptiles, and that their ancestors lived on land at some time, but they were fully adapted to life in the water. So creationists would say, well, they couldn't have evolved from those reptiles, because where's the link?"
Now the gap has been filled, he said.
The creature is about a foot and a half long and lived 248 million years ago.
"Initially I was really puzzled by this fossil," Motani said. "I could tell it was related [to ichthyosaurs], but I didn't know how to place it. It took me about a year before I was sure I had no doubts."
One of the most important differences between this new ichthyosaur and its supposed descendants comes down to being big boned: When other vertebrates have evolved from land to sea living, they've gone through stages where they're amphibious and heavy. Their thick bones probably allowed them to fight the power of strong coastal waves and stay grounded in shallow waters. Sure enough, this new fossil has much thicker bones than previously examined ichthyosaurs.
"This animal probably had a happy life. It was in the tropics, and it was probably a bottom feeder that fed on soft-bodied things like squid and animals like shrimp," Motani said. "And for a predator like that to exist, there has to be plenty of prey. This was probably one of the first predators to appear after that extinction."
This single fossil hasn't revealed all of the ichthyosaurs' secrets. Motani hopes to find the preceding evolutionary ancestor next — one that was also amphibious, but spent slightly more of its time on land. "We're looking for that one now," Motani said.View Article Here Read More
This artist's impression shows the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale. Image Credit: ESA/ATG Medialabjpl.nasa.govComet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is releasing the Earthly equivalent of two glasses of water i...
March's Virgo full Moon occurs on March 8. The Sabian Symbol is Virgo 19: A Swimming Race. This Symbol speaks of being in the 'race' or being outside of it. Being competitive, or letting others take the lead without contest, of the need to be in the le...
There is no telling what tomorrow will bring. Have the idea, which is an intention, that tomorrow will bring you everything you want. Would you rather spend your thoughts on the nebulous unwanted things that tom...