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Vikings crossed the Atlantic before Columbus, reaching Newfoundland: Scientists – Toronto Sun

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Long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic, eight timber-framed buildings covered in sod stood on a terrace above a peat bog and stream at the northern tip of Newfoundland, evidence that the Vikings had reached the New World first.

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But precisely when the Vikings journeyed to establish the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement had remained unclear – until now.

Scientists on Wednesday said a new type of dating technique using a long-ago solar storm as a reference point revealed that the settlement was occupied in 1021 AD, exactly a millennium ago and 471 years before the first voyage of Columbus. The technique was used on three pieces of wood cut for the settlement, all pointing to the same year.

The Viking voyage represents multiple milestones for humankind. The settlement offers the earliest-known evidence of a transatlantic crossing. It also marks the place where the globe was finally encircled by humans, who thousands of years earlier had trekked into North America over a land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska.

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“Much kudos should go to these northern Europeans for being the first human society to traverse the Atlantic,” said geoscientist Michael Dee of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

The Vikings, or Norse people, were seafarers with Scandinavian homelands: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They ventured through Europe, sometimes colonizing and other times trading or raiding. They possessed extraordinary boat-building and navigation skills and established settlements on Iceland and Greenland.

“I think it is fair to describe the trip as both a voyage of discovery and a search for new sources of raw materials,” Dee said. “Many archaeologists believe the principal motivation for them seeking out these new territories was to uncover new sources of timber, in particular. It is generally believed they left from Greenland, where wood suitable for construction is extremely rare.”

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Their wooden vessels, called longboats, were propelled by sail and oars. One surviving example, called the Oseberg ship, is roughly 70 feet (21.6 metres long).

The Viking Age is traditionally defined as 793-1066 AD, presenting a wide range for the timing of the transatlantic crossing. Ordinary radiocarbon dating – determining the age of organic materials by measuring their content of a particular radioactive isotope of carbon – proved too imprecise to date L’Anse aux Meadows, which was discovered in 1960, although there was a general belief it was the 11th century.

The new dating method relies on the fact that solar storms produce a distinctive radiocarbon signal in a tree’s annual growth rings. It was known there was a significant solar storm – a burst of high-energy cosmic rays from the sun – in 992 AD.

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In all three pieces of wood examined, from three different trees, 29 growth rings were formed after the one that bore evidence of the solar storm, meaning the wood was cut in 1021, said University of Groningen archaeologist Margot Kuitems, the study’s first author.

It was not local indigenous people who cut the wood because there is evidence of metal blades, which they did not possess, Dee said.

The length of the occupation remains unclear, though it may have been a decade or less, and perhaps 100 Norse people were present at any given time, Dee said. Their structures resembled Norse buildings on Greenland and Iceland.

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Oral histories called the Icelandic Sagas depict a Viking presence in the Americas. Written down centuries later, they describe a leader named Leif Erikson and a settlement called Vinland, as well as violent and peaceful interactions with the local peoples, including capturing slaves.

The 1021 date roughly corresponds to the saga accounts, Dee said, adding: “Thus it begs the question, how much of the rest of the saga adventures are true?”

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This 130 million-year-old ichthyosaur was a 'hypercarnivore' with knife-like teeth – Livescience.com

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You wouldn’t want to meet an ichthyosaur while taking a dip in the early Cretaceous seas. That goes double for Kyhytysuka sachicarum: This newly identified 130 million-year-old marine reptile, now known from fossils in central Colombia, had larger, more knife-like teeth than other ichthyosaur species, a new study finds — and that is saying something, as ichthyosaurs are famous for their long, toothy snouts. 

These big teeth would have enabled K. sachicarum to attack large prey, such as fish and even other marine reptiles. 

“Whereas other ichthyosaurs had small, equally sized teeth for feeding on small prey, this new species modified its tooth sizes and spacing to build an arsenal of teeth for dispatching large prey,” paleontologist Hans Larsson of McGill University’s Redpath Museum in Montreal, Canada, said in a statement.

Related: Fossilized ‘ocean lizard’ found inside corpse of ancient sea monster

One toothy family  

Ichthyosaurs were a large group of marine predators that first evolved during the Triassic period around 250 million years ago from land-dwelling reptiles that returned to the sea. The last species went extinct about 90 million years ago during the late Cretaceous. With long snouts and large eyes, they looked a bit like swordfish. Most species had jaws lined with small, cone-shaped teeth that were good for snagging small prey. 

The newly identified species was likely at least twice as long as an adult human, based on the size of the fossils that have been found (most of a skull and a few pieces of spine and ribs). Probable ichthyosaur fossils were first unearthed in Colombia in the 1960s, but researchers couldn’t agree on the species or precisely how ichthyosaurs from the region were related to others from the same time period. 

For the new study, Larsson and his colleagues focused on a skull kept in the collections of Colombia’s Museo Geológico Nacional José Royo y Gómez, and also considered another partial skull and bones from the spine and ribcage kept at Colombia’s Centro de Investigaciones Paleontológicas. Larsson and his colleagues announced the discovery and name of the marine reptile Nov. 22 in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology

Image 1 of 5

Here, an image and anatomical interpretation of the skull of Kyhytysuka sachicarum. (Image credit: Dirley Cortés)
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Skeleton of the extinct ichthyosaur Kykytysuka compared to a human for scale.

Skeleton of the extinct ichthyosaur Kykytysuka compared to a human for scale. (Image credit: Dirley Cortés)
Image 3 of 5

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile.

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile. (Image credit: Dirley Cortés)
Image 4 of 5

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile.

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile. (Image credit: Dirley Cortés)
Image 5 of 5

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile.

This life reconstruction of Kyhytysuka sachicarum from the early Cretaceous of Colombia shows the swordfish-like reptile. (Image credit: Dirley Cortés)

“We compared this animal to other Jurassic and Cretaceous ichthyosaurs and were able to define a new type of ichthyosaurs,” Erin Maxwell of the State Natural History Museum of Stuttgart, Germany, said in the statement. “This shakes up the evolutionary tree of ichthyosaurs and lets us test new ideas of how they evolved.”

Marine predator 

The researchers named the new ichthyosaur species  Kyhytysuka, meaning “the one that cuts with something sharp” in the language of the Indigenous Muisca culture  of Colombia.. There are other species of ichthyosaur with big teeth for catching large prey, the researchers wrote in the study, but those species are from the early Jurassic, at least 44 million years earlier than K. sachicarum. 

The new species lived at a time when the supercontinent Pangea was breaking up into two landmasses — one southerly and one northerly — and when Earth was warming and sea levels were rising. At the end of the Jurassic, the seas underwent an extinction upheaval, and deep-feeding ichthyosaur species, marine crocodiles and short-necked plesiosaurs died out. These animals were replaced by sea turtles, long-necked plesiosaurs, marine reptiles called mososaurs that looked like a mix between a shark and a crocodile, and this huge new ichthyosaur, said study co author Dirley Cortés of McGill’s Redpath Museum. 

“We are discovering many new species in the rocks this new ichthyosaur comes from,” Cortés said in the statement. “We are testing the idea that this region and time in Colombia was an ancient biodiversity hotspot and are using the fossils to better understand the evolution of marine ecosystems during this transitional time.”

Originally published on Live Science

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Kyhytysuka: A pure carnivorous `fish lizard` from 130 million years ago discovered – WION

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The 130-million-year-old hypercarnivore Kyhytysuka, often known as the “Fish Lizard,” has been unearthed.

A remarkable 130-million-year-old swordfish-shaped marine reptile fossil reveals the emergence of hypercarnivory in these last-surviving ichthyosaurs.

A group of multinational researchers from Canada, Colombia, and Germany have unearthed a new prehistoric marine reptile.

The specimen is a brilliantly preserved meter-long skull from one of the few remaining ichthyosaurs — prehistoric beasts that look alarmingly like live swordfish. 

According to researchers, this new species reveals the entire picture of ichthyosaur evolution.

This species, according to experts, originates from a crucial transitional era in the Early Cretaceous.

The Earth had emerged from a comparatively cold phase, sea levels were increasing, and Pangea, the supercontinent, had been split into northern and southern territory.

There were additional worldwide extinction events near the end of the Jurassic, which altered marine and terrestrial ecosystems. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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Scientists in Chile discover fossils from dinosaur with 'unique' tail – TRT World

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The new species has something never seen before on any animal: seven pairs of “blades” laid out sideways like a slicing weapon.

The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms, producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur.
(AFP)

Scientist have announced that fossils found in Chile are from a strange-looking dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon.

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists, during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

“That was the main surprise,” Vargas added. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

The osteoderms – structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

Biogeographic link

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two metres (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore. 

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

READ MORE:
‘Hell Heron’: England’s Isle of Wight home to two new dinosaurs species

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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