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Armour-Plated Dinosaur's Last Meal Found Beautifully Preserved, 110 Million Years Later – ScienceAlert

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The last meal of a huge armour-plated dinosaur has been found 110 million years later, still in its fossilised belly, in what is now northern Alberta.

First described in 2017, this thorny, 1,300-kilogram nodosaur (some 2,800 pounds) unearthed in 2011, is said to contain the best-preserved dinosaur stomach found to date.

After five years of careful work, exposing the dinosaur within the marine rock, the soccer-ball sized mass in tummy has now bestowed us with the first definitive glimpse into what large, plant-eating dinosaurs once munched on all those millennia ago.

“When people see this stunning fossil and are told that we know what its last meal was because its stomach was so well preserved inside the skeleton, it will almost bring the beast back to life for them, providing a glimpse of how the animal actually carried out its daily activities, where it lived, and what its preferred food was,” says geologist Jim Basinger from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

That’s something we’ve never really known about any herbivorous dinosaur. While this dinosaur represents just one species of one ankylosaur family – known as Borealopelta markmitchelli and without the archetypal ‘club’ tail of its closest relatives – it could help us better understand dinosaur digestion and physiology, especially since ankylosaurs are found on every continent, including Antarctica.

Some might even remember these dinosaurs from their brief cameo in the animated Land Before Time, in which the lumbering character Kosh does little more than munch on fruit and contentedly belch. In real life, however, some families of ankylosaurs might be pickier and prefer their vegetables.

Just before the Borealopelta in Alberta kicked the bucket and was washed out to sea, perhaps by a flood, scientists say it was nomming on stems, twigs and particular species of fern, while largely ignoring conifer and cycad leaves, which were abundant at the time.

In fact, of all the chewed leaf material found in its guts, 88 percent were deemed fern leaves and just 7 percent were stems and twigs.

“When we examined thin sections of the stomach contents under a microscope, we were shocked to see beautifully preserved and concentrated plant material,” says biologist David Greenwood from Brandon University in Canada.

“In marine rocks we almost never see such superb preservation of leaves, including the microscopic, spore-producing sporangia of ferns.”

Altogether, the team found 50 types of plant microfossils, including six types of moss or liverwort, a wide variety of ferns, several types of conifers, and two flowering plants.

Among the edible contents, researchers also found gizzard stones – deliberately swallowed rocks animals ingest to help with the digestion of tough materials (crocodiles and seals do this, for example).

But perhaps the most intriguing discovery was the presence of burnt vegetation, which may have been eaten by accident, or potentially on purpose.

“[T]here is considerable charcoal in the stomach from burnt plant fragments, indicating that the animal was browsing in a recently burned area and was taking advantage of a recent fire and the flush of ferns that frequently emerges on a burned landscape,” says Greenwood.

“This adaptation to a fire ecology is new information.”

If that interpretation is correct, this would represent the earliest evidence of large-bodied herbivores capitalising on the regrowth of vegetation after a fire. And while that might sound incredibly niche, this affects a lot of other life on Earth.

Today, across modern ecosystems, large herbivores are thought to be crucial to the landscapes they occupy. In fact, they are often termed ‘keystone’ species because they help support the ecosystem at large.

“Like large herbivores alive today, such as moose and deer, and elephants in Africa, these nodosaurs by their feeding would have shaped the vegetation on the landscape, possibly maintaining more open areas by their grazing,” explains Greenwood.

The researchers are pretty sure the exceptionally preserved dinosaur died soon after its last meal, but whether or not that meal is indicative of what other herbivorous dinosaurs of its time ate remains unclear.

This is, after all, only a single specimen, and its diet may not reflect the typical or average diet of either the individual or the taxon.

Especially when you consider this dinosaur is thought to have died in late spring to mid-summer, and diet is often tied to seasonal changes and landscape variation in food availability.

“These caveats aside,” the authors write, “these data do represent the best available direct evidence of diet in an herbivorous non-avian dinosaur.”

The chances of us finding something like this again are extremely rare.

The fossilised stomach is now on display alongside the dinosaur’s skeleton at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta.

The study was published in Royal Society Open Science (link not yet live at time of publishing).

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Grizzly bears in the dark as they try to share living space with humans: study – Medicine Hat News

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By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press on July 7, 2020.

A grizzly bear roams an exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo, closed for nearly three months because of the coronavirus outbreak, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Seattle. Grizzly bears are doing their best to get along with people, but it still isn’t enough. Newly published research assessing more than 40 years of data concludes that without large wilderness areas to replenish their numbers, the bears would disappear from landscapes they share with humans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Elaine Thompson

EDMONTON – Grizzly bears are doing their best to get along with people, but it still isn’t enough.

Newly published research concludes that without large wilderness areas to replenish their numbers, grizzlies would disappear from landscapes they share with humans.

“The persistence of bears near people, when we see them along highways or near towns, they’re really propped up by the fact they exist near some sort of secure wilderness,” said Clayton Lamb, a University of Alberta biologist and lead author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers found bears in populated areas in Alberta and British Columbia have even changed how they hunt in an attempt to share living space with humans.

“The bears are doing what they can,” Lamb said. “The difference might have to be made up by us.”

The study set out to examine an emerging phenomenon in wildlife conservation – large carnivores re-establishing themselves on mixed landscapes including cities, highways, rural communities and patchworks of natural habitat.

It digested 41 years worth of mortality, movement and demography among 2,669 grizzlies over nearly 400,000 square kilometres of British Columbia.

It found mortality has increased steeply with the amount of human impact measured through an index that includes human population, land use, infrastructure, coastlines, roads, railroads and navigable rivers.

Deaths have outnumbered births and the difference is being made up through emigration of young grizzlies from nearby wilderness. For every point the index increases, a local bear population must increase the number of individuals it draws by about two per cent.

“Grizzly bear range is quite tied to the distance from some secure piece of wilderness,” said Lamb.

That’s despite the grizzlies’ efforts to adapt to humans. The study found young, newly arrived bears gradually learned ways to avoid contact, such as hunting and gathering at night.

Adolescent bears in areas dominated by humans have increased their nocturnal time by up to three per cent annually, which has led to corresponding increases in survival. The cost, however, is steep.

The scientists found it takes 14 years for a grizzly to learn how to co-exist with humans. For every bear that makes it, 29 don’t.

“A lot of those bears would have been born on a mountaintop 10 kilometres away and lived with mom in an avalanche chute and lived a normal bear life,” Lamb said.

“Then they find a home near town and get lured in by an apple tree. The gauntlet they have to run is very difficult.”

The study shows that high mortality has impacts far from where the deaths take place. Bears dying in mixed-used areas draws more grizzlies from the wilderness to take their place.

“Conflicts with people have rippling effects on (bear) populations far removed,” Lamb said.

Highway overpasses are one good way to reduce deaths, he suggests. But humans living with bears have to get better at removing attractants such as roadkill or fruit trees to end the bears’ constant, often fatal, migration from the wilderness.

“We’re not quite there,” said Lamb. “The system relies quite heavily on adjacent wilderness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020

– Follow @row1960 on Twitter

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Odd pink snow in the Alps is pretty, but it might also be a red flag – CNET

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Pink Snow as seen in the Presena glacier.


Miguel Medina/Getty Images

Pink snow, also called “watermelon snow,” has appeared at the Presena glacier in northern Italy, according to researcher Biagio Di Mauro of the Institute of Polar Sciences at Italy’s National Research Council. While it’s not uncommon for the Italian alps to be “pretty in pink” in spring and summer, scientists become cautious when the phenomenon, which is caused by algae, starts happening more frequently. 

Di Mauro told CNN that 2020’s lack of snowfall and higher temperatures have nurtured the algae’s growth. More algae could lead to ice melting faster.

When Di Mauro tweeted clarification for an article from The Guardian, he said the algae was probably Chlamydomonas nivalis, a snow algae. He also said the algae’s relationship with climate change hasn’t been proven yet. 

Di Mauro tweeted photos of the pink snow on Monday.

Across the ocean, in late May, Antarctica reported green snow, caused by microscopic algae. Though microscopic, the green blooms could be spotted by satellites. The color might also have connections with the impact of warming climates, researchers said.


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Grizzly bears in the dark as they try to share living space with humans: study – BarrieToday

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EDMONTON — Grizzly bears are doing their best to get along with people, but it still isn’t enough.

Newly published research concludes that without large wilderness areas to replenish their numbers, grizzlies would disappear from landscapes they share with humans.

“The persistence of bears near people, when we see them along highways or near towns, they’re really propped up by the fact they exist near some sort of secure wilderness,” said Clayton Lamb, a University of Alberta biologist and lead author of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers found bears in populated areas in Alberta and British Columbia have even changed how they hunt in an attempt to share living space with humans.

“The bears are doing what they can,” Lamb said. “The difference might have to be made up by us.”

The study set out to examine an emerging phenomenon in wildlife conservation — large carnivores re-establishing themselves on mixed landscapes including cities, highways, rural communities and patchworks of natural habitat.

It digested 41 years worth of mortality, movement and demography among 2,669 grizzlies over nearly 400,000 square kilometres of British Columbia.

It found mortality has increased steeply with the amount of human impact measured through an index that includes human population, land use, infrastructure, coastlines, roads, railroads and navigable rivers.

Deaths have outnumbered births and the difference is being made up through emigration of young grizzlies from nearby wilderness. For every point the index increases, a local bear population must increase the number of individuals it draws by about two per cent.

“Grizzly bear range is quite tied to the distance from some secure piece of wilderness,” said Lamb.

That’s despite the grizzlies’ efforts to adapt to humans. The study found young, newly arrived bears gradually learned ways to avoid contact, such as hunting and gathering at night.

Adolescent bears in areas dominated by humans have increased their nocturnal time by up to three per cent annually, which has led to corresponding increases in survival. The cost, however, is steep. 

The scientists found it takes 14 years for a grizzly to learn how to co-exist with humans. For every bear that makes it, 29 don’t. 

“A lot of those bears would have been born on a mountaintop 10 kilometres away and lived with mom in an avalanche chute and lived a normal bear life,” Lamb said.

“Then they find a home near town and get lured in by an apple tree. The gauntlet they have to run is very difficult.”

The study shows that high mortality has impacts far from where the deaths take place. Bears dying in mixed-used areas draws more grizzlies from the wilderness to take their place. 

“Conflicts with people have rippling effects on (bear) populations far removed,” Lamb said. 

Highway overpasses are one good way to reduce deaths, he suggests. But humans living with bears have to get better at removing attractants such as roadkill or fruit trees to end the bears’ constant, often fatal, migration from the wilderness.  

“We’re not quite there,” said Lamb. “The system relies quite heavily on adjacent wilderness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2020

— Follow @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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