Saturday, May 29, 2010

In the News

The team...or more specifically *I* made a news column in the San Jose Mercury News.

REALLY Busy Week for Ceratopsians: Medusaceratops lokii

Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D., a scientist at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has announced the discovery of a new horned dinosaur, Medusaceratops lokii. Approximately 20 feet long and weighing more than 2 tons, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur lived nearly 78 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period in what is now Montana. Its identification marks the discovery of a new genus of horned dinosaur.

Medusaceratops belongs to the Chasmosaurinae subfamily of the horned dinosaur family Ceratopsidae. The other subfamily is Centrosaurinae. The specimen is the first Campanian-aged chasmosaurine ceratopsid found in Montana. It is also the oldest known Chasmosaurine ceratopsid.

The new dinosaur was discovered in a bonebed on private land located along the Milk River in North Central Montana. Fossilized bones from the site were acquired by Canada Fossil, Inc., of Calgary, Alberta, in the mid-1990s. The company consulted with Ryan and his colleagues to identify material from the site. At first, the scientists could not make a positive identification.

Medusaceratops had giant brow bones more than 3 feet long over each eye, and a large, shield-like frill off the back of its skull adorned with large curling hooks. Medusaceratops lokii means “Loki’s horned-faced Medusa,” referring to the thickened, fossilized, snake-like hooks on the side of the frill. It was named after Loki, the Norse god of mischief, because the new dinosaur initially caused scientists some confusion.

“At first we couldn’t figure out what we had,” said Ryan. “Some of the material looked as if it came from a form related to Centrosaurus, a centrosaurine noted for having short brow horns. The rest of the pieces had giant brow horns similar to Triceratops, a chasmosaurine. That’s one of the problems with bonebeds—even though you can collect a large amount of material, much of it is broken and all of it is disarticulated, so the story is rarely clear cut.”

Eventually Ryan found a complete articulated skull of a centrosaur with long brow horns in southern Alberta of what appeared to be the new animal from Montana, and named it Albertaceratops in 2007. At that time, he assumed he was looking at a stray that had literally crossed the international border millions of years ago.

After reexamining the Montanan material more recently, Ryan realized that at least some of the material in the Montana bonebed was not Albertaceratops. Some of the elements were much larger than any other horned dinosaur from the same time period, including Albertaceratops. And even though Albertaceratops and Medusaceratops are superficially very similar, the shape and number of the hooks and ornaments along the edge of the frill actually puts them in separate horned dinosaur groups, with Medusaceratops being a chasmosaur.

Now we can add Meduaceratops lokii to the mix of new ceratopsians this week. Pix here.

Sad day

Just sold my Jeep.


Friday, May 28, 2010

WISE Finds a LOT More Asteroids

As of May 24, 2010, WISE had seen more than 60,000 asteroids. Of those, >11,000 were new! Think about that -- more than one in six of the asteroids seen in WISE images had not been noticed before by Earth-bound observers. In addition, WISE had also observed more than 70 comets, 12 of which were new, and about 200 near-Earth objects, more than 50 of which were new.

So, we've so far found over 20% more asteroids than we originally thought were there. Including lots of NEOs...greeeeeeeeeeeeeat.


Nuff said.

Militaria: X-51A Hypersonic Testbed

They were aiming for Mach 6 and got Mach 5. That's a mile a second, folks. *IF* you could sustain that for an hour, you could hit anywhere in a 3,600 mile radius.

Diabloceratops eatoni

There is a guest post by one of the describers, Dr James Kirkland, at Archosaur Musings. Go read. This has been quite a week for ceratopsians!

Sinoceratops zhuchengensis: a Basal Ceratopsid From China

Ceratopsid dinosaurs represent one of the best known dinosaur groups in the Late Cretaceous, and their unquestionable fossil records are exclusively restricted to western North America. Here we report a new ceratopsid dinosaur, Sinoceratops zhuchengensis gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Wangshi Group of Zhucheng, Shandong Province, China. Cladistic analysis places this new taxon as the only known ceratopsid from outside North America, in a basal position within the Centrosaurinae. It is considerably larger than most other centrosaurines but similar in size to basal chasmosaurines. Furthermore, it is more similar to chasmosaurines than to other centrosaurines in several features, thus blurring the distinction of the two ceratopsid subgroups. This new find not only provides significant information on the morphological transition from non-ceratopsid to ceratopsid dinosaurs, but also complicates the biogeography of the Ceratopsidae, and further demonstrates that fossil sampling has profound effects on reconstructing dinosaurian biogeography.

From Paleoblog. Paper here.

What age is it? Beyond Cretaceous...

Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna: A Mexican Ceratopsid

A new species of horned dinosaur unearthed in Mexico has larger horns that any other species – up to 4 feet long – and has given scientists fresh insights into the ancient history of western North America, according to a research team led by paleontologists from the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

"We know very little about the dinosaurs of Mexico, and this find increases immeasurably our knowledge of the dinosaurs living in Mexico during the Late Cretaceous," said Mark Loewen, a paleontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study.

The 72-million-year-old rhino-sized creature – Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna – was a four- to five-ton plant-eater belonging to a group called horned dinosaurs, or ceratopsids. The name Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna (Koh-WHE-lah-SARA-tops mag-NAH-KWER-na), refers to the Mexican state of Coahuila where it was found, and to the Greek word "ceratops" meaning "horned face." The second part of the name, magnacuerna, is a combination of Latin and Spanish meaning "great horn," in reference to the huge horns above the eyes of this dinosaur.

The study, partially funded by the National Geographic Society, was conducted by Mark Loewen, Scott Sampson, Eric Lund and Mike Getty, paleontologists at the Utah Museum of Natural History. Also involved were Andrew Farke of the Raymond M. Alf Museum in Claremont, Calif.; Martha Aguillón-Martínez, Claudio de Leon and Rubén Rodríguez-de la Rosa from the Museum of the Desert in Saltillo, Mexico; and David Eberth of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada.

The new species is to be announced in the book "New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs" to be released next week by Indiana University Press.


The rocks in which Coahuilaceratops was found also contain large fossil deposits of jumbled duck-bill dinosaur skeletons. These sites appear to represent mass death events, perhaps associated with storms such as hurricanes that occur in the region today.

"Sitting near the southern tip of Laramidia, this region may have been hammered by monstrous storms," Sampson said. "If so, such periodic cataclysms likely devastated miles of coastline, killing off large numbers of dinosaurs."

They also state that there are two other ceratopsian skeletons present at the site that they are still working to describe and grasp what they are.

This has been quite a week for ceratopsian news! More shortly!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ajkaceratops kozmai: an European Ceratopsian

A Late Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur from Europe with Asian affinities

1. Attila Ősi (A)

2. Richard J. Butler (B)

3. David B. Weishampel (C)


A. Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungarian Natural History Museum, Research Group for Paleontology, Ludovika tér 2, Budapest 1083, Hungary

B. Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, Richard-Wagner-Straße 10, Munich 80333, Germany

C. Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA


Ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) represent a highly diverse and abundant radiation of non-avian dinosaurs1, 2, 3, 4, 5 known primarily from the Cretaceous period (65–145 million years ago). This radiation has been considered to be geographically limited to Asia and western North America1, 2, 3, with only controversial remains reported from other continents. Here we describe new ceratopsian cranial material from the Late Cretaceous of Iharkút, Hungary6, from a coronosaurian ceratopsian, Ajkaceratops kozmai. Ajkaceratops is most similar to ‘bagaceratopsids’ such as Bagaceratops and Magnirostris, previously known only from Late Cretaceous east Asia3, 5, 7, 8. The new material unambiguously demonstrates that ceratopsians occupied Late Cretaceous Europe and, when considered with the recent discovery of possible leptoceratopsid teeth from Sweden9, indicates that the clade may have reached Europe on at least two independent occasions. European Late Cretaceous dinosaur faunas have been characterized as consisting of a mix of endemic ‘relictual’ taxa and ‘Gondwanan’ taxa, with typical Asian and North American groups largely absent10, 11. Ajkaceratops demonstrates that this prevailing biogeographical hypothesis is overly simplified and requires reassessment. Iharkút was part of the western Tethyan archipelago, a tectonically complex series of island chains between Africa and Europe12, and the occurrence of a coronosaurian ceratopsian in this locality may represent an early Late Cretaceous ‘island-hopping’ dispersal across the Tethys Ocean.


Monday, May 24, 2010


In this case she is just, plain, awesome though.

Caltech Team Develops Paleothermometer for Extinct Animals

Was Tyrannosaurus rex cold-blooded? Did birds regulate their body temperatures before or after they began to grow feathers? Why would evolution favor warm-bloodedness when it has such a high energy cost?

Questions like these—about when, why, and how vertebrates stopped relying on external factors to regulate their body temperatures and began heating themselves internally—have long intrigued scientists.

Now, a team led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has taken a critical step toward providing some answers.

Reporting online this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they describe the first method for the direct measurement of the body temperatures of large extinct vertebrates—through the analysis of rare isotopes in the animals' bones, teeth, and eggshells.

"This is not quite like going back in time and sticking a thermometer up a creature's back end," says John Eiler, Robert P. Sharp Professor of Geology and professor of geochemistry at Caltech. "But it's close."

Studying the mechanisms of and changes in temperature regulation in long-extinct animals requires knowing what their body temperatures were in the first place. But the only way scientists have had to study temperature regulation in such creatures was to make inferences based on what is known about their anatomy, diet, or behavior. Until now.

The technique the team has developed to measure body temperature in extinct vertebrates looks at the concentrations of two rare isotopes—carbon-13 and oxygen-18. "These heavy isotopes like to bond, or clump together, and this clumping effect is dependent on temperature," says Caltech postdoctoral scholar Robert Eagle, the paper's first author. "At very hot temperatures, you get a more random distribution of these isotopes, less clumping. At low temperatures, you find more clumping."

In living creatures, this clumping can be seen in the crystalline lattice that makes up bioapatite—the mineral from which bone, tooth enamel, eggshells, and other hard body parts are formed. "When the mineral precipitates out of the blood—when you create bone or tooth enamel—the isotopic composition is frozen in place and can be preserved for millions of years," he adds.

In addition, work in Eiler's lab has "defined the relationship between clumping and temperature," says Eagle, "allowing measurements of isotopes in the lab to be converted into body temperature." The method is accurate to within one or two degrees of difference.

"A big part of this paper is an exploration of what sorts of materials preserve temperature information, and where," notes Eiler.

To do this, the team looked at bioapatite from animals whose form of body-temperature regulation is already known. "We know, for instance, that mammals are warm-blooded; all the bioapatite in their bodies was formed at or near 37 degrees centigrade," says Eagle.

After showing proof of concept in living animals, the team looked at those no longer roaming the earth. For instance, the team was able to analyze mammoth teeth, finding body temperatures of between 37 and 38 degrees—exactly as expected.

Going back even further in time, they looked at 12-million-year-old fossils from a relative of the rhinoceros, as well as from a cold-blooded member of the alligator family tree. "We found we could measure the expected body temperature of the rhino-like mammal, and could see a temperature difference between that and the alligator relative, of about 6 degrees centigrade," Eagle says.

There are, however, limitations to this sort of temperature sleuthing. For one, the information that the technique provides is only a snapshot of a particular time and place, Eiler says, and not a lifelong record. "When we look at tooth enamel, for instance, what we get is a record of the head temperature of the animal when the tooth grew," he notes. "If you want to know what his big-toe temperature was two years later, too bad."

And, of course, the technique relies on the quality of the fossils available for testing. While teeth tend to withstand the rigors of burial and time, eggshells are "fragile and prone to recrystallization during burial," says Eiler. Finding good specimens can be difficult.



They are going after dinos next.

This will get...exciting.

Paper link.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I didn't know...

Bats have a metabolism that is 3 to 5 times higher than terrestrial mammals. Apparently, the OXPHOS pathway is different in bats. It is sufficiently different that it is one way you can differentiate a member of Chiroptera from the rest of mammals, since it seems to have arisen once and been relatively conserved. That difference is apparently the reason why bats are the only truly flying mammals. There's a paper on it here that I read and I am chewing on mentally.

However, in there are also two other tidbits.

Primates have a unique variant on the pathway...for supporting the ever enlarging brain. This was selected for pretty aggressively, I'd guess.

Apparently, there was something like that - but not the same - happening in Proboscidea for much the same reasons.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Blogging Hiatus Almost Over

Sorry for the silence. It was rough getting the family out the door to Ukraine. I've been elbow deep in rocket stuff and trying to keep myself from lapsing into depression. They're going to be gone until the 26th of June. I miss them terribly.

To make matters worse, there is a lot of very distressing news coming back from Ukraine. Prices for food, for example, are nearly US prices...yet the average Ukrainian income is 5 to 10% (at most) of an American family. In fact, in some cases, things and food that we take for granted here, is something that Americans would avoid for the price even with American prices.

Brown outs are common.

Violent crime has gone waaaay the hell up. Murders are not uncommon. Rape has sky rocketed.

Despite the fact that the Party of Regions won the Gorlovka, Donestk area, do not mistake that as support for the government. They were very ticked at the Orange Coalition for its stupidity., but there was a lot of pre-election coercion as well. They are extremely angry with the world right now. Despite what some say, this includes Russia. The Ukrainians have NOT forgotten the Gas War.

I may have enough soon to write something up, but truthfully, I am going to be sleepless until they come home.

Friday, May 07, 2010

More Spec Art: The Boeing Fan Wank

It seems highly unlikely that this will get funded. However, it's a purty picture.

Oh. For all of you that supported the JSF over F-22 recently. HAHAHAHAHA!


Same price, lesser plane.

Puerto Rico Status in the Senate (sorta HR 2499)

May 19, 2010: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Date of scheduled hearing. SD-366. 9:30 a.m.

I'll have more time after everyone is enroute on Tuesday. I suspect the fight in the Senate will be rougher than in the House. Oh, I do disagree with Noel. Later, folks. later.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Lab Scientists Discover Inexpensive Catalyst for H2 Production

Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

"Our new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum, today's most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule," said Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex. "In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry."

Karunadasa holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley's Chemistry Department. She is the lead author of a paper describing this work that appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled "A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water." Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley.

No time...

I wonder how much this effects the energy requirements though for its production.

Family with Fevers

It doth suck. We were all sick. The kids the worst and then Lyuda. I am too but someone had to be up and taking care of the family.

Magyarosaurus: Horse Sized Sauropod

(image credit: Mihai Dumbrav)
In 1895, the sister of an eccentric palaeontologist called Franz Baron Nopcsa discovered small dinosaur bones on their family estate in Transylvania. Nopcsa interpreted these as the remains of dwarfed animals that had once lived on an island. Among these finds were a number of bones belonging to a sauropod dinosaur which Nopcsa named Magyarosaurus dacus, after his native country.

A team of scientists led by Koen Stein and Professor Dr. Martin Sander from the University of Bonn, decided to cut up the fossil bones of the dwarfed dinosaur and study their microstructure. "It's astonishing that the microanatomy of these bones has been preserved for us to study after 70 million years," says Stein, who carried out the research as part of his PhD studies. "Bone is a living tissue, and throughout an animal's life it is constantly dissipating and building up again." Humans, for example, have completely resorbed and rebuilt their skeleton by the time they are fully grown. This also occurred in sauropod dinosaurs. "We were able to distinguish these rebuilding features in Magyarosaurus, which prove that the little dinosaur was fully grown," Koen Stein explains.

Paper here.