How To Recycle an Ichthyosaur

by Brian Switek

Whales have very active afterlives. Once they settle on the ocean bottom, their bodies become both food and shelter for a host of different organisms – an oasis of bone and rotting flesh called a whalefall. But whales aren’t the only animals to have enriched the seafloor. During the Late Jurassic, over 90 million years before whales even existed, the bodies of aquatic reptiles called ichthyosaurs hosted a vibrant succession of marine life.

This week, Plymouth University paleontologist Silvia Danise and colleagues have described the ichthyosaur fall in Nature Communications. This isn’t the first time paleontologists have reported such a community. In 2008, Andrzej Kaim and coauthors described a pair of roughly 89 million year old plesiosaurs associated with snails that make their living in ephemeral undersea habitats. But the unfortunate ichthyosaur adds something new. The geologically older marine reptile underwent a slightly different trajectory during its breakdown…

(read more: Laelaps - National Geographic)

photo by Brian Switek

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Northern Green Jumping Spider - Mopsus mormon 

The genus Mopsus has only one species, Mopsus mormon (Araneae - Salticidae), which is the largest Australian jumping spider (15-18mm).

These salticids are large, beautiful, fast spiders and aggressive predators on insects and other spiders. They hunt actively on foliage in the day time and can inflict a painful but not lethal bite with large fangs. Due to the whiskers on the sides of their faces and their big eyes the males have a strange baboon-like appearance.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Graham Wise | Locality: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (2013) | [Top] - [Bottom]

astronomy-to-zoology

astronomy-to-zoology:

Blue Lyretail (Fundulopanchax gardneri)

Also known as the Gardner’s Killi or Steel-blue aphyoseminon, the blue lyre tail is a species of Nothobranchiid killifish which inhabits the tributary streams and marshes of the Benue and Cross River basins of Nigeria and Cameroon. Where it occurs in both savanna and forested regions. 

Like many other killifish species Fundulopanchax gardneri has become quite popular in the aquarium trade

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Actinopterygii-Cyprinodontiformes-Nothobranchiidae-Fundulopanchax-F. gardneri

Image: Violaine2 and Tommy Kronkvist

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Golden-tailed Gecko - Strophurus taenicauda
Also referred to as Golden Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus taenicauda (Gekkonidae) is a rare and beautiful species which is only found in Australia, from the Darling Downs to the coastal regions of central and south-eastern Queensland. This gecko’s eyes are especially amazing.
Currently, the Golden-tailed Gecko is listed as Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List.
References: [1] - [2]
Photo credit: ©Stephen Zozaya | Locality: Arcadia Valley, Queensland, Australia (2013)

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Golden-tailed Gecko - Strophurus taenicauda

Also referred to as Golden Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus taenicauda (Gekkonidae) is a rare and beautiful species which is only found in Australia, from the Darling Downs to the coastal regions of central and south-eastern Queensland. This gecko’s eyes are especially amazing.

Currently, the Golden-tailed Gecko is listed as Near Threatened species on the IUCN Red List.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Stephen Zozaya | Locality: Arcadia Valley, Queensland, Australia (2013)

Spinosaurus is First Known Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur
by Jon Tennant 
The meat-eating dinosaur Spinosaurus rose to terrifying fame in Jurassic Park III, when it took down the comparatively small Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, thanks to a newly discovered partial skeleton, Spinosaurus has an even greater claim to fame: this fearsome sail-backed beast spent much of its time in the water, a definitive first for dinosaurs.

Aquatic Hunter
A global team of paleontologists digitally reconstructed the skeleton of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus based on a new specimen from the Kem Kem beds of eastern Morocco. The fossils confirm that Spinosaurus was more than 49 feet (15 meters) long – at least 8 feet longer than T. rex, in line with previous estimates based on more fragmentary specimens. But the new skeleton was shown to be still growing, so a full adult would have been even bigger.
More unusually, there were signs that the dinosaur was a fantastic swimmer. Researchers determined that Spinosaurus had a suite of adaptations that allowed it to spend much of its time in the water and that, contrary to Jurassic Park’s representation, would have required the animal to walk on all four limbs when it was on land. That makes Spinosaurus the first dinosaur known to be adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle…
(read more: Discover Magazine)
illustration by Brian Engh

Spinosaurus is First Known Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

by Jon Tennant

The meat-eating dinosaur Spinosaurus rose to terrifying fame in Jurassic Park III, when it took down the comparatively small Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, thanks to a newly discovered partial skeleton, Spinosaurus has an even greater claim to fame: this fearsome sail-backed beast spent much of its time in the water, a definitive first for dinosaurs.

Aquatic Hunter

A global team of paleontologists digitally reconstructed the skeleton of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus based on a new specimen from the Kem Kem beds of eastern Morocco. The fossils confirm that Spinosaurus was more than 49 feet (15 meters) long – at least 8 feet longer than T. rex, in line with previous estimates based on more fragmentary specimens. But the new skeleton was shown to be still growing, so a full adult would have been even bigger.

More unusually, there were signs that the dinosaur was a fantastic swimmer. Researchers determined that Spinosaurus had a suite of adaptations that allowed it to spend much of its time in the water and that, contrary to Jurassic Park’s representation, would have required the animal to walk on all four limbs when it was on land. That makes Spinosaurus the first dinosaur known to be adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle…

(read more: Discover Magazine)

illustration by Brian Engh

Nomad’s Find Helps Solve Mystery of the Spinosaurus
by Kenneth Chang
The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.
That was April 2008.
The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that looked as if they were part of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago…
(read more: NY Times)
illustration by Davide Bonadonna

Nomad’s Find Helps Solve Mystery of the Spinosaurus

by Kenneth Chang

The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.

That was April 2008.

The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that looked as if they were part of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago…

(read more: NY Times)

illustration by Davide Bonadonna

The New Spinosaurus

by Brian Switek

Spinosaurus has changed dramatically since I was a kid. The model I used to terrorize my other toys with looked like an overgrown Allosaurus with a giant sail on its back.

As paleontologists rearranged the dinosaur family tree and found new species, however, they realized that Spinosaurus was a very different sort of animal, allied with croc-snouted, heavy-clawed dinosaurs like Baryonyx. When Spinosaurus finally tore up the celluloid in 2001′s Jurassic Park III, it was as a monstrous carnivore with giant claws, an elongated snout filled with conical teeth, and a flashy fin atop its back. And the evolution of Spinosaurus imagery has not stopped.

A paper out in Sciencexpress today proposes that Spinosaurus was far stranger than paleontologists expected.

The core of the new study, led by University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, is a partial skeleton of Spinosaurus found in the 97 million year old rock of Morocco. The importance of the new specimen is in revealing parts of Spinosaurus never seen before. The skeleton includes parts of the skull and some vertebrae, but the real keys to the new Spinosaurus are the hips and hindlimbs…

(read more: Laelaps - National Geographic)

illustration by Davide Bonadonna; skeletal by Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy, and Erin Fitzgerald