Paleontology

Daniel Fisher with his team and the mastodon skull (Photo courtesy Levi Stroud, Michigan News. All rights reserved)

An American mastodon (Mammut americanum) skeleton considered the most complete among those found since the 1940s was discovered in the region called the Thumb in Michigan, USA. A four-day excavation at the Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning, near the city of Mayville, conducted by a team led by the University of Michigan with a number of volunteers made it possible to dig up about 75% of the specimen’s complete or nearly complete bones.

Artistic concept of Vegavis iaai in its habitat with its syrinx highlighted (Image courtesy Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for UT Austin)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research on the vocal organs of Vegavis iaai, a bird that lived over 66 million years ago, at the end of the dinosaurs era. The analysis of the fossils discovered in 1992 Antarctica’s Vega Island showed that they include the syrinx, the anatomic structure that allows birds to sing or chirp. This demonstrates for the first time that even such ancient birds had such capabilities.

Reconstruction of Rativates evadens (Image courtesy Andrey Atuchin)

An article published in the “Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology” describes a research on a theropod dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period, about 76 million years ago, which was called Rativates evadens. A team of paleontologists led by Bradley McFeeters of Carleton University reexamined a partial skeleton that was attributed to the species Struthiomimus altus concluding that its characteristics are quite different to actually be a different genus.

Illustration of Drepanosaurus (Image courtesy Victor Leshyk. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes the study of fossils of Drepanosaurus unguicaudatus, a reptile that lived in the Triassic period, about 212 million years ago. The discovery complete fossils of this animal in New Mexico allowed to carry out detailed exams which confirmed that it had very strong forelimbs with a huge claw and an anatomic conformation definitely out of the normal that surprised the paleontologists.

Convergence between ancient reptiles and dinosaurs (Image courtesy Michelle Stocker et al.)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes a research on a species of reptile that was called Triopticus primus. A group of paleontologists led by Michelle Stocker of Virginia Tech College of Science studied this reptile that lived about 230 million years ago, noting several features similar to those of pachycephalosaur dinosaurs that lived 100 million years later. The research also revealed other similarities between animals contemporary to Triopticus primus and dinosaurs that lived millions of years later.