Province's first recognized native dinosaur returns home to Royal B.C. Museum - Times Colonist - Canadanewsmedia
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Province's first recognized native dinosaur returns home to Royal B.C. Museum – Times Colonist

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British Columbia’s first recognized native dinosaur is back home at the Royal B.C. Museum after travelling back and forth across Canada.

Ferrisaurus sustutensis made its world debut today in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ — the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences.

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Distantly related to triceratops but smaller and lacking the horns and armoured neck frill, ferrisaurus was about the size of a modern bighorn sheep. It weighed about 150 kilograms and lived 67 to 68 million years ago in the prehistoric redwood forests of northern B.C.

Victoria Arbour, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal B.C. Museum, and David Evans, paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum, are co-authors of the newly published description of the dinosaur they named after the area where it was found, the Sustut River basin.

Arbour said the few fossils of the creature’s bones were first collected in 1971 by a geologist working near the Sustut River, where forest clearing and blasting for a new rail line had exposed underlying rock. The geologist kept them for several years before donating them to Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Arbour, who was interested in paleontology, examined them while at Dalhousie as an undergraduate in 2006. Recognizing them as belonging to something special, she lobbied to have them sent back to the Royal B.C. Museum.

“I just thought it made sense for the specimens to be at the provincial museum where they could be stored properly,” said Arbour. “Little did I know I would eventually make my way back here to study them in more detail.”

Before she arrived in Victoria in 2018 to take her post, Arbour did post-doctoral work at the Royal Ontario Museum. There, she met Evans, who had done his own work on leptoceratopsids, the line of dinosaurs to which the ferrisaurus belongs.

Remembering the specimens she had arranged to have transferred to the Royal B.C. Museum, Arbour raised them with Evans and the two got to work.

Arbour said she interviewed the geologist who collected them. He had good notes to identify the site where they were found, which was fortunate, since GPS was not widespread technology when he picked up the fossils.

In 2017, she led an expedition back to the Sustut area to look for more of the fossilized skeleton. No more bones were found, but pieces of a turtle shell and some fossilized plants were collected, offering clues about the creature’s habitat. “I am hoping in the future we may find a more complete skeleton of this particular dinosaur,” Arbour said.

She and Evans had concluded that one of the fossils collected in 1971 was a toe bone belonging to a ferrisaurus, based on its stubby shape and distinctive claw.

“We would sit down and take a look at the fossils, argue about them, discuss them with each other,” said Arbour. “It was really great to be able to collaborate with David. He is a very knowledgeable dinosaur person.”

Arbour then made trips to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, all of which had relatively complete skeletons of ferrisaurus species for comparison.

Extrapolating from those skeletons and working from the specimens collected in B.C., the two scientists were able to put together a likely approximation of Ferrisaurus sustutensis.

The creature is believed to have had a parrot-style beak and lived as a plant eater. But little else is known, since relatively few fossils have been collected.

“It probably walked on four legs most of the time, but might have walked on two legs some of the time,” said Arbour. “It had a short stubby tail instead of a long slender tail like some dinosaurs.

“It’s a group of dinosaurs we still don’t know an awful lot about. That’s another thing that’s pretty cool about this species.”

The fossils of the Ferrisaurus sustutensis, which Arbour has nicknamed Buster, are on display until Feb. 26 at a pocket gallery called B.C.’s Mountain Dinosaur on the main floor of the Royal B.C. Museum. The display is open to the public, free of charge.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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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.

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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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