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New ‘reaper of death’ tyrannosaur is the oldest found in Canada




Thanatotheristes degrootorum, seen in this artist’s impression, is the first new tyrannosaur species named in Canada in 50 years. (Submitted by Julius Csotonyi)


A new species of tyrannosaur — the oldest ever found in Canada — has been discovered in Alberta.

Thanatotheristes degrootorum was as long as two cars lined up bumper to bumper and would have towered over an adult human. It stood about 2.4 metres tall at the hips, said Jared Voris, a University of Calgary PhD candidate who led the research identifying it as a new species.

The animal would have been a fearsome predator 79 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period, likely preying on herbivores such as the horned dinosaur Xenoceratops and the dome-headed dinosaur Colepiocephale.

Those are the only two other dinosaur species identified from the same location — a fossil site called the Foremost Formation — and the same period of time. At the time, it was coastal plain with swampy areas near an inland sea called the Western Interior Seaway that extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers who discover a new species have the privilege of naming it, so Voris canvassed his colleagues for suggestions.

The winner for the first part of the new dinosaur’s name translates roughly to “reaper of death” — coming from the Greek god of death Thanatos and the Greek word “theristes,” which means “reaper” or “harvester.” It was suggested by Amanda Hendrix, a master’s student in the same research group, which is led by Prof. Darla Zelenitsky, who co-authored the study.

“This animal would have absolutely been an imposing creature in the ecosystem that it lived in and it would very likely have been the apex predator,” Voris said. “It was really nice to have some sort of name that encapsulated that kind of behaviour.”


Darla Zelenitsky, Jared Voris and Francois Therrien, co-authors of the study, pose with the actual fossils of the species. (Submitted by Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology)


Found by members of the public

The second part of the animal’s name honours the two ranchers who discovered the fossil, John and Sandra De Groot of Hays, Alta., as they were walking along the shoreline of the Bow River in 2010. They alerted the Royal Tyrell Museum, which labelled the partial jaws and teeth as belonging to a tyrannosaur and filed it to the appropriate drawer in their collection.

About eight years later, Voris came across it while doing research on a different species of tyrannosaur, Gorgosaurus, during his master’s degree.

He noticed that it came from a rock formation where no tyrannosaurs had been positively identified before. On closer examination, he realized it was like no other tyrannosaur he had ever seen.

“I started to realize, ‘Well, this could actually be a new species,'” Voris said.


An artist’s impression shows how the new species of tyrannosaur discovered in southern Alberta, might have looked. (Submitted by Julius Csotonyi)


It’s the first new tyrannosaur species found in Canada in 50 years.

One of the unique features that helped prove that was some unusual ridges on the specimen’s upper jaw. Those helped identify a second, very broken specimen found by Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrell Museum, another co-author, in 2018.

The researchers published their description of the new species Monday in the Journal of Cretaceous Research.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of bones to go on — mostly fragments of its jaws with broken teeth. By looking at the impressions on both sides of the rock it came from, it appears the skull was originally intact, Voris said.

Sadly, it appears the entire skull fell out of the riverbank, and most of the bones were washed away before the De Groots stumbled upon what was left.

Rare find

Still, it’s a lucky find, Zelenitsky said. It is only the third dinosaur species identified in southern Alberta from this time period, and the first top predator.

“They were relatively rare in the ecosystems,” she said. In the Cretaceous, as now, there were far more herbivores than predators. “These were probably only a few per cent of the animals.”

Finding one helps build a picture of what the ecosystem was like in southern Alberta at this time, she said.


There wasn’t much fossil material from the new tyrannosaur to study — mostly parts of its jaws and broken teeth. (Submitted by Jared Voris)


Thanatotheristes is most closely related to the other tyrannosaurs found in Alberta and northern Montana about 2.5 million years later, Gorgosaurus and Daspletosaurus, and quite different from tyrannosaurs found in the southern U.S. in the same time period.

The most well-known tyrannosaur, T. rex, lived around 11 million years after Thanatotheristes. At the time that Thanatotheristes roamed, T. rex’s closest relatives were still in Asia.

Voris and Zelenitsky both think there are more Thanatotheristes specimens out there, and hope to find more complete specimens.

“One of my goals now is to see if we can find more of another individual and see how to see exactly how different it is from some of the other tyrannosaurs in Alberta,” Voris said. “I have a hunch that it might be pretty different.”

The research team hopes to do some more exploration in the Foremost Formation.

While only three dinosaur species have been identified there, lots of teeth hint at unidentified species of bird-like and duck-billed dinosaurs, Voris said.

“There’s just a whole bunch of new discoveries waiting to be made.”

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Talk like you: Scientists discover why humans evolved to talk while other primates can’t – Euronews



Why did humans evolve to talk, while monkeys were left to hoot, squeak and grunt to communicate?

The question has long puzzled scientists, who blamed our closest primate cousins’ inability to reproduce human speech sounds on their vocal anatomy.

Until now, researchers could not quite underpin what happened exactly during our evolution to make us able to speak while apes and monkeys can’t, given our vocal structures look almost identical to other primates.

Now, a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science claims to have the answer – and it’s not what anyone expected.

Analysing the phonal apparatus – the larynx – of 43 species of primates, a team of researchers based mainly in Japan found that all non-human primates – from orangutans to chimpanzees – had an additional feature in their throat that humans do not have.

Ability to speak and develop languages

While both humans and non-human primates produce sounds by forcing air through their larynges, causing folds of tissue to vibrate, monkeys and apes have an additional feature, a thin flap of tissue known as vocal membranes, or vocal lips.

Compared to apes and monkeys, humans were found to lack this anatomical vocal membrane – a small muscle just above the vocal cords – as well as balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs which apes and monkeys use to produce the loud calls and screams we’re not quite capable of.

According to the researchers, humans have lost this extra vocal tissue over time, somehow simplifying and stabilising the sounds coming out of our throat, and allowing us, in time, to develop the ability to speak – and eventually develop very complex sophisticated languages.

Monkeys and apes, on the other hand, maintained these vocal lips which don’t really allow them to control the inflection and register of their voice and produce stable, clear vocal fold vibrations.

“Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy,” says the study.

Communication through sign language

It’s unclear when humans lost these extra tissues still present in apes and monkeys and became able to speak, as the soft tissues in the larynx are not preserved in fossils, and researchers could only study living species.

We know that it must have happened sometime after the Homo Sapiens lineage split from the other primates, some 6-7 million years ago.

The fact that apes and monkeys haven’t developed the ability to speak like humans doesn’t mean that they are not able to clearly communicate with each other.

Though their vocal anatomy doesn’t allow them to form vowel sounds and proper words, non-human primates have a complex communication system based primarily on body language rather than oral sounds.

But monkeys and apes have also proven to be able to communicate with humans.

In the not-often-happy history of the interaction between non-human primates and humans, researchers have been able to teach apes and monkeys to communicate with people.

Koko the gorilla, for example, became famous for being able to use over 1,000 hand signs in sign language, while the bonobo Kanzi was reportedly able to communicate using a keyboard.

But when it comes to having a chat, monkeys and humans might never be able to share one.

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When Summer 'Supermoons' Hit Your Eye: Spectacular Photos – Forbes



When the moon takes the celestial stage during the summer, the spectacle is simply amazing: Currently topping the program is the Sturgeon Supermoon, shining in all its splendor.

In July, it was the Buck Supermoon, the biggest and shiniest of the year. That one followed the Strawberry Supermoon that delighted sky watchers in June.

They have other stage names. This Sturgeon Moon, which derives its principal name from the giant sturgeon fish season in the Great Lakes, is known also as Thunder Moon, Mead Moon and Hay Moon, among others, and is the last supermoon of the year.

July’s Buck Moon, which drew that name because the antlers of male deer — bucks — are in full-growth mode at the time, is also called Salmon Moon and Berry Moon.

The Strawberry supermoon of June gets its name from fruit harvest seasons. It’s also known as Blooming Moon, Honey Moon and the Mead Moon.

The full moon names collected by the iconic Old Farmer’s Almanac come mainly from Native American tribes, Colonial American, and European sources.

“A full moon doubles as a supermoon when it’s near perigee, or the point in the moon’s orbit that is closest to Earth,” the Almanac explains, making it larger and brighter.

August’s Sturgeon Moon is the fourth and final supermoon of the year and it happens to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, considered by many as “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA. It will peak on August 13 and will remain active through August 24.

And if you happen to notice a bright-looking “star” near the moon, you’re looking at Saturn.

Lunar lovers and star seekers have been enjoying the summer’s stunning celestial performances and here are some of the best photos taken around the globe:

July’s Buck Supermoon

June’s Strawberry Supermoon of June

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Tips on how to spot the 2022 Perseid meteor shower –



The Perseid meteor shower will peak this year early Saturday morning over Cochrane. 

Local photographer, Dylan Kaniski is gearing up for some sleepless nights to ensure the perfect shot. “I’m always really excited for this meteor shower, it is one of the biggest of the year and we always get a lot of great meteors.”

Meteor showers are clouds of debris left when comets zoom past Earth on their way around the sun. The Perseids come from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last visible in 1992. While Cochranites won’t be seeing the comet again until 2125, in the meantime, sky gazers can enjoy the yearly shower from the debris. 

“It does change every year and some years are better than others. But this one is special because the Perseids are pretty consistent from year to year. I usually get a really good shot and that’s why people are really excited about this.”

Unfortunately, a full moon will make it trickier to see this year but Kaniski has plenty of tips for people looking to experience the Perseids for the first time.

“The best way to view the meteor shower is to first get somewhere dark. It doesn’t have to be anywhere super far. I personally like going to the mountains but anywhere around Cochrane, you can go to the countryside just 10 minutes out of town.”

“If you can’t make it out of town, just go into a local park or even turning your back to any streetlights and just letting your eyes adjust is going to help out.”

He also believes you don’t need top-of-the-line photography equipment to get breathtaking shots.

“You don’t need any fancy equipment or anything special. Meteors do move quite fast and they’re usually quite bright so you don’t really have any struggles capturing them with any-level cameras.”

“For advice on cameras, I like to do a higher ISO around like 6,400 and usually a 20-second exposure time. If people are heading out and want to capture it with their cameras, I suggest using a focal length that’s a little bit tighter because a lot of meteors can be a bit smaller, and having a tighter focal length will allow you to emphasize the size of the meteor. Something like 20 to 35 millimeters is what I would recommend.”

”I’d stay away from the super wide angle lenses that you see a lot of nighttime and landscape photographers using.”

While the 2022 Perseid meteor shower will peak early on August 13, 2022, meteors could be visible on clear nights leading up to and past Saturday morning.

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