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'The blob': Scientists confirm discovery of a completely new undersea species – SaltWire Network

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Deep in the dark, murky waters of our oceans, a gelatinous blob, shaped like a dislodged human molar, floats along the seabed.

Thanks to its love for extreme depths and remote oceanic corners, no one had ever seen the blob, or even knew it existed, until a team of scientists accidentally discovered it during a deep-sea dive off the coast of Puerto Rico in 2015, with help from an underwater, remotely-operated vehicle called ‘Deep Discover.’

Five years on, in a paper published this month, scientists with the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have confirmed that the blob is an entirely new species of undersea creature,

Duobrachium sparksae

– a never-before-seen species of jelly-like ctenophore. It’s also the first time that researchers have discovered a species using high-definition video footage only.

“It’s unique because we were able to describe a new species based entirely on high-definition video,”

explained

NOAA marine biologist Allen Collins in a release.

“We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects.”

Ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, have bulbous, balloon-like bodies, from which protrude two tentacle-like strings, known as cilia. There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, according to the NOAA, and despite their name, they are not at all related to jellyfish. Ctenophores, the group explains, are carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.

Three different specimens were filmed by the vehicle at depths around 3,900 metres, in an underwater area called the Arecibo Amphitheater, which lies within a trench known as the Guajataca Canyon, off Puerto Rico.

One of the animals appeared to use its tentacles to touch the seabed, scientists said.

“It was a beautiful and unique organism,” oceanographer Mike Ford was quoted as saying in a release.

“It moved like a hot air balloon attached to the seafloor on two lines, maintaining a specific altitude above the seafloor. Whether it’s attached to the seabed, we’re not sure. We did not observe direct attachment during the dive, but it seems like the organism touches the seafloor.”

Identifying a new species solely via photographic and video evidence has often yielded contentious results, the scientists explained in their paper, as natural classification “relies heavily” on the physical specimen samples preserved in museums “to serve as references to which other material can be compared.”

“Indeed, the idea of using photographic evidence to establish new species has been highly contentious in recent decades.”

In this case, however, the team was able to avoid any pushback due to the high-definition quality of the footage they recorded of the three observed specimens. The team hopes to collect real-life specimens on future dives, but fears it may be decades before they run into the species again.

“Even if we had the equipment, there would have been very little time to process the animal because gelatinous animals don’t preserve very well,”

Collins said.

“Ctenophores are even worse than jellyfish in this regard.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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All-purpose dinosaur opening reconstructed – Science Daily

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For the first time ever, a team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, have described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent — the all-purpose opening used for defecation, urination and breeding.

Although most mammals may have different openings for these functions, most vertebrate animals possess a cloaca.

Although we know now much about dinosaurs and their appearance as feathered, scaly and horned creatures and even which colours they sported, we have not known anything about how the vent appears.

Dr Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, along with colleagues Robert Nicholls, a palaeoartist, and Dr Diane Kelly, an expert on vertebrate penises and copulatory systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have now described the first cloacal vent region from a small Labrador-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, comparing it to vents across modern vertebrate animals living on land.

Dr Vinther said: “I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the colour patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and colour patterns.

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory.”

Dr Kelly added: “Indeed, they are pretty non-descript. We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.

“Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

The cloaca is unique in its appearance but exhibits features reminiscent to living crocodylians such as alligators and crocodiles, which are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs and other birds.

The researchers note that the outer margins of the cloaca are highly pigmented with melanin. They argue that this pigmentation provided the vent with a function in display and signalling, similar to living baboons and some breeding salamanders.

The authors also speculate that the large, pigmented lobes on either side of the opening could have harboured musky scent glands, as seen in living crocodylians.

Birds are one the few vertebrate groups that occasionally exhibit visual signalling with the cloaca, which the scientists now can extend back to the Mesozoic dinosaur ancestors.

Robert Nicholls said: “As a palaeoartist, it has been absolutely amazing to have an opportunity to reconstruct one of the last remaining features we didn’t know anything about in dinosaurs.

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signalling to each other gives palaeoartists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship. It is a game changer!”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Dinosaur fossils could belong to the world's largest ever creature – CTV News

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Experts have uncovered the remains of a gigantic dinosaur in Argentina, and believe it could be one of the largest creatures to have ever walked the Earth.

Paleontologists discovered the fossilized remains of a 98 million-year-old titanosaur in Neuquén Province in Argentina’s northwest Patagonia, in thick, sedimentary deposits known as the Candeleros Formation.

The 24 vertebrae of the tail and elements of the pelvic and pectoral girdle discovered are thought to belong to a titanosaur, a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs, characterized by their large size, a long neck and tail, and four-legged stance.

In research published in the journal Cretaceous Research, experts say they believe the creature to be “one of the largest sauropods ever found” and could exceed the size of a Patagotitan, a species which lived 100 million to 95 million years ago and measured up to a staggering 37.2 meters (122 feet) long.

“It is a huge dinosaur, but we expect to find much more of the skeleton in future field trips, so we’ll have the possibility to address with confidence how really big it was,” Alejandro Otero, a paleontologist with Argentina’s Museo de La Plata, told CNN via email.

Titanosaur fossils have been found on all continents except Antarctica. But the biggest “multi-ton” varieties of the species — including those titanosaurs exceeding 40 tons — have mostly been discovered in Patagonia.

Without analyzing the dinosaur’s humerus or femur, experts say it is not yet possible to say how much the creature weighs. However, the partially recovered dinosaur “can be considered one of the largest titanosaurs,” experts said, with a probable body mass exceeding or comparable to that of a Patagotitan or Argentinosaurus.

Patagotitans may have been the world’s largest terrestrial animal of all time, and weighed up to 77 tons, while Argentinosaurus were similarly gargantuan, and measured up to 40 meters (131 feet) and weighed up to 110 tons — weighing more than 12 times more than an African elephant (up to 9 tons).

Experts believe that the specimen strongly suggests the co-existence of larger titanosaurs together with medium-sized titanosaurs and small-sized rebbachisaurids at the beginning of the Late Cretaceous period, which began 101 million years ago.

“These size differences could indeed explain the existence of such sauropod diversity in the Neuquén Basin during the Late Cretaceous in terms of niche partitioning,” they wrote.

Researchers said that, while they don’t believe the creature to belong to a new species, they have so far been unable to assign it to a known genus of dinosaur.

The research was conducted by Argentina’s The Zapala Museum, Museo de La Plata, Museo Egidio Feruglio and the universities of Río Negro and Zaragoza.

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Tuesday brings no new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador – SaltWire Network

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —

For the second straight day, there were no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 announced by Health and Community Services.

The provincial government says another person in the Eastern Health region has recovered, bringing the number of active cases in the province down to five. One of those individuals is still in hospital.

To date, 76,740 people have been tested and 384 people have recovered.

Public Health is reminding residents that COVID Alert is available for download free through the Apple or Google Play app stores and is encouraging people to download it in order to help reduce the spread of the virus.

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