Bones found almost 50 years recognized as B.C.'s first dinosaur species - SooToday.com - Canadanewsmedia
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Bones found almost 50 years recognized as B.C.'s first dinosaur species – SooToday.com

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VICTORIA — A geologist’s discovery of a mysterious claw in rocks along a rail line in British Columbia’s northern wilderness almost 50 years ago has led to the recognition of the first dinosaur species unique to the province.

Nicknamed Buster, the partial bones, which included toes, shins and shoulder bones, formed the evidence to officially designate a new dinosaur species that roamed the province more than 67 million years ago, says Victoria Arbour, the Royal B.C. Museum’s curator of paleontology.

The dinosaur’s species name, Ferrisaurus sustutensis, means the iron lizard from the Sustut River, Arbour said. It was discovered on a rail line along the Sustut River north of Smithers.

“I think it’s really exciting that Ferrisaurus is a new species from B.C. because B.C. isn’t a place that is really well-known for dinosaur fossils,” she said. “It really highlights there’s a lot of potential for even more dinosaur discoveries down the road if we look hard enough.”

Arbour said she and colleagues spent years examining the bones before publishing their finding on Thursday in The Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“We don’t have any parts of the skull but we know, based on the bones we do have, that it was part of the same group of dinosaurs called the leptoceratopsids,” she said in an interview at the museum where the new dinosaur discovery is part of a free public display called B.C.’s Mountain Dinosaur.

“They are little cousins of the more famous dinosaurs like Triceratops,” said Arbour. “They had a parrot-like beak, a very short frill and no horns on the face. They were plant eaters and probably walked on four legs but might have been able to get around on two legs sometimes.”

Ferrisaurus was about 1.75 metres long and likely weighed about 150 kilograms. She described the dinosaur as similar in size to a large wild boar or a bighorn sheep. Arbour said she suspects Ferrisaurus was prey for many of the large meat-eating dinosaurs, including the notorious Tyrannosaurus rex. 

Arbour led an expedition in 2017 to the Sustut River site where the bones were discovered and found new fossils, including plants and part of a turtle.

Arbour said the province’s rugged terrain is a major reason why dinosaur bone discoveries, other than in northeast B.C., are rare compared with Alberta and Saskatchewan where there are large areas of flat land and exposed rocky zones.

She is planning to return to the Sustut River area in the summer to look for more dinosaur fossils.

Arbour said she originally encountered the bones in Nova Scotia as a student at Dalhousie University. She said the man who found the bones, Kenny Larsen, kept them for years but eventually donated them to the university.

The bones then made their way from Nova Scotia to the Royal B.C. Museum where Arbour was later hired as curator of paleontology and embarked on her dinosaur species discovery.

“Before it had a scientific name, and we were pretty sure it was a new species, we needed something to call it and Buster seemed to be a good fit for a couple of old bones from the Sustut River,” said Arbour.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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SpaceX's Starlink satellites mess with stargazers' observations – KoamNewsNow.com

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(CNN) – SpaceX has launched at least 120 Starlink satellites into orbit since May. But astronomers say they’ve already seen their fears of sky obstruction come to fruition.

Clarae Martínez-Vázquez, an astronomer at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Coquimbo, Chile, tweeted that the bright lights reflected by the satellites interfered with a high-powered camera used to observe other galaxies.

“Wow!! I am in shock!! The huge amount of Starlink satellites crossed our skies tonight at [the observatory],” she said. “Our DECam exposure was heavily affected by 19 of them! The train of Starlink satellites lasted for over 5 minutes!! Rather depressing… This is not cool!”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk started developing the project in 2015 to boost internet connection on the ground. The hope is that more satellites will expand bandwidth and coverage.

But astronomers fear that the more crowded low Earth orbit becomes, the more light will interfere with their telescopes’ observations.

Satellites on Earth

Satellites can be visible from Earth, thought they’re usually quite faint. But when their panels reflect a “burst” of sunlight back to Earth, they can appear brighter for a brief period, according to National Geographic.

Those streaks of bright light can obstruct the astronomical objects just underneath them and could trigger false signals in telescopes, Nature reported.

In March, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that there are currently more than 2,000 satellites in orbit, though that count didn’t include the Starlink satellites.

The most visible, like the International Space Station, are in low Earth orbit, and are easier to spot in the summer, when the sun shines for longer periods — thus, satellites have more time to reflect it.

And many, many more satellites could join those already in orbit. SpaceX has permission from regulators to launch more than 10,000 satellites, and recently requested adding 30,000 more.

In response to the initial uproar in May, Musk asserted that the Starlink satellites wouldn’t impact astronomical observations.

“There are already 4,900 satellites in orbit, which people notice ~0% of the time,” he tweeted. “Starlink won’t be seen by anyone unless looking very carefully & will have ~0% impact on advancements in astronomy.”

Reached by CNN on Wednesday, a SpaceX spokesperson responded that it is speaking with leading astronomy groups to find ways that the satellites won’t disrupt their work. On a more tactical level, it’s also making the base color of Starlink satellites black, which it hopes will help. If it needs to, SpaceX says it can adjust some of the satellites’ orbits, too.

In other words: they’re listening.

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Cheekbone of ancient snake sheds light on snake evolution – Edmonton Sun

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The jaw structure of an ancient legged-snake holds critical insight into the evolution of the slithering reptiles, according to joint research from Argentinian and University of Alberta paleontologists.

The “strikingly” well-preserved fossil is of the rear-limbed snake Najash rionegrina, found in Argentina. According to research from paleontologists Fernando Garberoglio and Michael Caldwell, nearly 100-million years ago, these legged snakes still had a cheekbone, also known as a jugal bone, which has all but disappeared in modern-day snakes.

“Our findings support the idea that the ancestors of modern snakes were big-bodied and big-mouthed — instead of small burrowing forms as previously thought,” said Garberoglio, from the Fundación Azara at Universidad Maimónides, in Buenos Aires, Argentina and lead author on the study in a release.

“The study also reveals that early snakes retained their hindlimbs for an extended period of time before the origin of modern snakes which are for the most part, completely limbless.”

Paleontologists’ understanding of how snakes evolved has been hindered due to a limited fossil record. However, the fossils in this study have been crucial in reconstructing snake evolution.


A 100-million-year-old fossil of a legged snake’s cheekbone discovered in Argentina provides new insight into how modern snakes evolved, thanks to new research from a collaboration between Argentinian and University of Alberta paleontologists. Photo credit: Fernando Garberoglio

Using micro-computed tomography scanning, the researchers were able to visualize the skull structure. They could examine pathways of nerves and blood vessels as well as the skeletal structure that would otherwise be impossible to see without damaging the specimen.

“This research revolutionizes our understanding of the jugal bone in snake and non-snake lizards,” said Caldwell, a professor in the department of biological sciences and earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta. Caldwell is a co-author of the study.

“After 160 years of getting it wrong, this paper corrects this very important feature based not on guesswork, but on empirical evidence.”

The snake fossils in the study are found in Northern Patagonia and are closely related to an ancient lineage of snakes that populated the southern hemisphere continents of Gondwana. The researchers believe they are related to only a small number of obscure, modern snakes.

ajunker@postmedia.com

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Look up! Northern lights to dance across Canada overnight – CTV News

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TORONTO – Forecasters say the northern lights will be unusually vibrant and visible Wednesday night and early Thursday morning across almost all of Canada.

This is because energy from a solar storm is expected to hit the earth Wednesday night, amplifying the usual aurora borealis.

According to the aurora forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Canadians in cities including Edmonton and Winnipeg will see dazzling displays from the natural phenomenon, if the skies are clear.

The entire country will, weather permitting, potentially be able to see the lights low on the horizon. So will people in U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Seattle.

Based on midday forecasts, cloud cover blocking the lights looked to be a serious concern in Winnipeg and Halifax, less serious in places such as Edmonton and Toronto, and not a concern at all in Vancouver and Montreal.

However, skywatchers whose plans are foiled by clouds on Wednesday may not be out of luck.

While the aurora borealis is expected to recede from its peak by Thursday night, it will still be visible in many of the same areas. People in parts of Nova Scotia, southern Ontario and Vancouver Island, however, will not be expected to see any sort of repeat performance.

Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the northern lights should head to a dark location far from the lights of the city, as light pollution can obscure the aurora. Peak viewing conditions are typically between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. local time, although the aurora can be visible anytime between sunset and sunrise.

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