Close up of Hugo Salais' female Pelicanimimus eating a lizard

This Mesozoic Month: December 2018

This Mesozoic Month

Here we are, at the end of 2018. And it’s been a thrilling sprint to the finish, as one game-changing paper after another has dropped. Not only that, we’ve also marked our first full year here at our WordPress digs. It’s been a pleasure to build on what we created at Blogger, and we’re all excited to take LITC to new heights. If you like what we do and want to help us keep growing, consider a pledge at our Patreon!

In the News

  • I love when big new drops right at the end of the year as people are trying to put together year-end summaries. The pterosaurian integumentary situation just got a lot more interesting, with new fossils demonstrating branched and tufted feathery structures. A new paper in Nature described anurognathid fossils from the Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation of China, with four kinds of feathers the authors describe as identical to types we see in non-avian dinosaurs. And that’s not all: melanosomes! These little critters had ginger-colored feathers on at least part of their bodies. It’s like this big decadent pterosaur feast for the holidays. Still, there are some prominent skeptical voices warning caution, and I look forward to further studies that will help resolve the issue. Read more from Pete Bucholz at Earth Archives, Gemma Tarlach at Dead Things, Richard Conniff at SciAm, and Nicholas St. Fleur at the NYT.
  • Our oldest angiosperm fossil is now of Jurassic vintage! Nanjinganthus pushes the origin of angiosperms back tens of millions of years. Read more from Phys Org and Everything Dinosaur.
  • Saltriovenator zanellai, recently published in open-access journal PeerJ, is “the largest and most robust theropod from the Early Jurassic” and sheds light on the evolution of the avian hand. Read more from Gemma Tarlach at Dead Things, Susan Scutti at CNN, and Nick Squires at the Telegraph. Andrea Cau has a bunch of posts on Saltriovenator, starting here.
  • Dr. Mary Schweizer and team published a paper supporting the idea that keratin can be preserved in the fossil record. Check it out in PLoS One.
  • And that’s not all Dr. Schweizer has for us: a new paper in Nature reveals that ichthyosaurs, in this case an exceptional specimen of Stenopterygius, had blubber and was countershaded. Read Brian Switek’s piece for Smithsonian, Pete Bucholz’s for Earth Archives, Michael Greshko’s at NatGeo, James Ronan’s at Jurassic Finds, and Gemma Tarlach’s for Discover’s Dead Things.
  • In an open access paper seeking to better understand the ornithischian communities of early Cretaceous Australia represented by the Griman Creek Formation at Lightning Ridge, paleontologists have found a new small-bodied taxon dubbed Weewarrasaurus pobeni. Positioned between the Australian-Antarctic Rift and Queensland, Lightning Ridge shows a community blending the faunas of each.
  • The holotype of the erythrosuchid Garjainia prima has been fully described in a paper that also parses out the phylogenetic relationships of the group. You may remember Mark Witton’s excellent reconstruction from 2014.
  • Hone, Witton, and Habib have teamed up to publish on a Pteranodon cervical vertebra with a Cretoxyrhina tooth embedded in it, the first documented feeding trace of this particular shark munching on Pteranodon. Read the open access paper here, and (newlywed) Dave Hone’s post at Archosaur Musings.
  • “The weirdest feathers” Jingmai O’Connor has ever seen have been published, in a paper describing feathers preserved in 31 pieces of Early Cretaceous amber found in Myanmar. These long, paired feathers have an extremely thin, semi-cylindrical rachis that likely would have been non-expensive to grow and easily broken off, hinting at a possible defensive use. Read more from John Pickrell at Science.
  • The Mesozoic fossil record in Bulgaria just got a new boost from a recently-discovered locality bearing crocodylomorphs, testudines, a theropod, and a possible titanosaur. Read the paper here, authored by scientist-artist Vladimir Nikolov and team.
  • Excellent news for the Crystal Palace dinosaurs – and for the world, honestly. The crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to install permanent bridges to the islands on which the prehistoric statuary reside was a success! Check out Darren Naish’s recent post at TetZoo for an up close and personal tour of the statues.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Dispatches from Himmapaanland

There wasn’t a lot of paleoart on Natee’s feed this month, but I won’t let that stop me from sharing a sampling of their December posts here!

The LITC AV Club

Benjamin Burger on Dicynodonts

If you need a post-Lasowicia refresher on the dicynodonts, Benjamin Burger’s got you covered.

Swimming the Western Interior Seaway

Eons invites us to explore the great body of water that bisected North America in the Late Cretaceous.

All the Frills

Alan McDonald of the Canadian Museum of Nature takes up behind the scenes to watch the prep of a very special Triceratops frill. Read more about the fossil at the museum’s blog.

Triassic Apocalypse on SciFri

NPR’s Science Friday did a cool story on the end-Triassic extinction, accompanied by awesome art by Franz Anthony. Read the story or listen to the broadcast version.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Utahraptor Project Approaches the Halfway Point

Those Utahraptor are getting closer and closer to being fully prepped and studied, slowly but surely. The Utahraptor Project crowdfunding effort is nearing the 50% funded mark. If you can’t donate, spread the word by sharing the campaign!

The Empty Wallets Club

Your Moment of Paleoart Zen

Hugo Salais takes us back to the early Cretaceous Las Hoyas ecosystem in this stunning piece, featuring a sexually dimorphic pair of Pelicanimimus amid a flight of enantornithes. From the textures of the ornithomimosaurs’ integuments and surfaces to the evocatively lit background, it’s the kind of masterful paleoart that seems to come alive with sound and smell.

Dawn at Las Hoyas © Hugo Salais and used here with the artist’s permission.

Keep up with Hugo at DeviantArt and Facebook. Awesome, awesome work.

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