Posts Tagged ‘discovered’

Brontomerus mcintoshi – the dinosaur with thunder thighs

// February 23rd, 2011 // Comments Off on Brontomerus mcintoshi – the dinosaur with thunder thighs // Recent Research

Brontomerus. Image by Francisco Gascó

Across my twitter feed today we welcomed a new dinosaur. Brontomerus mcintoshi was named for it’s “thunder-thighs” and as honour to retired physicist and avocational paleontologist “Jack” McIntosh.

I hope Jack has no hang-ups about his thighs, as I can assure you if someone called a dinosaur “Thunder-thighs skelletti” I would whap them with my peg leg.

But I’m sure Jack is pleased to hand his name to this butt-kicking dinosaur. With huge thigh muscles, as shown by bone fragments, Brontomerus may have kicked his way out of hairy situations.

The authors of the paper suggest kicking could have been used by males fighting over females (or indeed, females fighting over males, which I put forward as an equally possible alternative.) If capable of delivering crippling kicks, they probably used their legs against predators as well.

Another suggestion is that Brontomerus used the thighs as a kind of “dinosaur four-wheel drive,” according to co author Matt Wedel, which helped them climb rough and hilly terrain.

The paper is based on a healthy smattering of bone samples from two individuals, a juvenile (a few years old) and an adult. The samples represent about 10% of the total skeleton, not much, but people work with less. With an incomplete skeleton, caution has been advised in describing its behaviour and good-looks. But I say, if you want to go ahead and imagine the dino as Xena trained in kickboxing, why the hell not?

Authors with fossils. Image by Linda Coldwell

Brontomerus is a sauropod, one of the long-necks, as are the familiar members Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus (my personal favourite. It’s fun to say!) It was found in Utah, North America, and lived about 110 million years ago.

Until recently, the Early Cretaceous Period was a bit of a black hole for fossils. After the stegosaurus, but before T-rex and duckbills, there was a gap. Now paleontologists are looking at rocks from that period, they’re uncovering more about that mysterious time.

It seems to me like there have been a LOT of new dinosaurs found lately. Three found in Queensland, Australia, plus Mojoceratops and Linheraptor Exquisitus.

According to Mike Taylor’s fact sheet on Brontomerus, “although the first dinosaurs were named almost 200 years ago, more than half of all known dinosaurs have been discovered in the last 30 years.” At least it’s not just me.

Check out their blog or read the paper (warning: PDF)

ResearchBlogging.orgMichael P. Taylor, Mathew J. Wedel, and Richard L. Cifelli (2011). A new sauropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah, USA Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 56 (1), 75-98 : DOI: 10.4202/app.2010.0073

A Vampire Flying Frog by any other name…

// January 11th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Recent Research

Rhacophorus vampyrus

Vampire Flying Frog. Image by Australian Museum

Actually, it’s not QUITE as cool as it sounds.

This new frog species, the Vampire Flying Frog, was discovered in Vietnam by scientists from the Australian Museum. Rhacophorus vampyrus was a latecomer to the International Year of Biodiversity, which yielded a wealth of newly discovered creatures.

But the name. The name. To be honest, it reminds me of the ten shelves in every bookstore devoted to vampire teen fiction. I’m all for making science sexy, but seriously. In the paper it doesn’t even say “Vampire flying frog” as in the media release and all the news articles. It actually says “Vampire tree frog” which sounds less vampiric and more like it drinks tree sap or something.

The name makes a promise that the frog doesn’t deliver on. Now if the frog looked like THIS then I would applaud the name.

Giant Vampire Frog

The Flying part is true enough. There are several species of tree frog that are called “flying frogs” because they can glide. It’s a good quality to have when you live up in trees. With larger hands and feet and extra webbing they can parachute through the air.

Vampire Flying Tadpole

Tadpole with fangs. Image by Australian Museum

The Vampire part is… well… it’s neat. The tadpoles have fangs.

Normally tadpoles have beak-like mouth pieces, but this one has two black, hard fang-shaped appendages made of keratin (the same stuff as your hair.)

According to the scientists, it looks too big to be involved in feeding but might help the tadpole hold onto tree bark. The frog creates foam nests, laying its eggs in water-filled tree-holes.

More details on the tadpoles will be published in another report. The original report can be downloaded in pdf by clicking through the citation: Rowley, J. et al. (2010). A new tree frog of the genus Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from southern Vietnam Zootaxa

Another cool thing about the frog is it changes colour. In daylight it’s a pale tan, but at night it’s stunning brick red. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing for tree frogs. Any herpetologists in the house?

New monkey species discovered, sneezes when wet

// October 27th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Recent Research

Snub nosed monkey

Image reconstructed on photoshop based on similar species and a carcass of the new species. Image by Dr Thomas Geissmann.

Meet Rhinopithecus strykeri, the Burmese snub-nosed monkey that sneezes when it rains. It is covered with black hair from its head to its very long tail, except for its ears and chin beard which have little white tufts. Angelina Jolie lips complete the look.

On it’s flat little face it has an upturned nose and wide nostrils, perfect for rain catching. When it rains they are often found with their heads between their legs. Hating life.

The monkey was found in Northern Myanmar, formally known as Burma. The research was conducted by a team of primatologists including Flora & Fauna International.

It’s new to science, but old news to the local people who already knew it well in Lisu language as mey nwoah and in Law Waw language as myuk na tok te, both mean ‘monkey with an upturned nose.’

It’s like the Margay cat again… we don’t hear about it until it’s documented in a SCIENCE way, in a journal, written and peer reviewed. /rant.

Though they DID interview hunters as part of the fieldwork. One of the hunters even gave them a bag he had made with the skin of a juvenile snub-nosed monkey. I guess that counts.

Other species of snub-nosed monkeys have been found in China and Vietnam, but this one is different in that it is particularly black, especially sneezy, and the skin around its eyes is pale pink instead of blue (among other things.) All snub-nosed monkeys are considered endangered, and it is estimated that the population of this species is only 260 – 330 individuals. Local people and Flora & Fauna International are working to protect the newly found species, but as always conservation is a tough gig.

Below is the citation for the journal article BUT BE WARNED! I couldn’t find it. I tried to resolve the doi and got nada. I searched all through the American Primate Journal and found nothing. I’ll keep checking and see if it comes back. Post a comment if you can find it before me.

ResearchBlogging.orgGeissmann, T., Lwin, N., Aung, S., Aung, T., Aung, Z., Hla, T., Grindley, M., & Momberg, F. (2010). A new species of snub-nosed monkey, genus Rhinopithecus Milne-Edwards, 1872 (Primates, Colobinae), from northern Kachin state, northeastern Myanmar American Journal of Primatology DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20894

UPDATE: Thanks to the comments below who found the journal article. Download it in pdf.

New species discovered in Papua New Guinea

// October 7th, 2010 // Comments Off on New species discovered in Papua New Guinea // Recent Research, Science Communication

Image by Piotr Naskrecki/iLCP

This katydid is one of the new species discovered in Papua New Guinea during a recent expedition by Conservation International.

Another katydid had huge spiky back legs, which it stuck in the air and jabbed at attackers. The researchers discovered it was quite painful.

Their goal was to rapidly identify new species and give an indication of the wealth of biodiversity in PNG. It gives them ammo when approaching governments and seeking help in conserving the area. Here is a video from a herpetologist (someone who studies frogs, not herpes!) about his experiences. The first bit is a little boring, but then they start sneaking up and pouncing on insects and such which is lolz to watch.

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