Super-sized fleas adapted to feed off dinosaurs
Earliest fossil species had armoured mouthparts to attack thick hides.
Primitive fleas were built to sup on dinosaur blood in the Jurassic period, more than 150 million years ago. The potential host–parasite relationship has been uncovered thanks to a set of beautifully preserved fossils found in China.
Today, the varied group of parasitic insects known as fleas frequently infests mammals and birds. But little is known about their origins. The flea fossil record consists mainly of modern-looking species from the past 65 million years, and the identity of possible fleas from the Cretaceous period (145 million to 65 million years ago) has been debated by experts. But Michael Engel, a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and his colleagues have now extended the history of the parasites by at least 60 million years. Their work is published online today inNature 1.
Engel and his co-authors studied nine flea specimens from two sites: the 165-million-year-old Jurassic deposits in Daohugou and the 125-million-year-old Cretaceous strata at Huangbanjigou, both in China. The insects were not quite like fleas as we now know them. Whereas modern fleas range from 1 to 10 millimetres in length, the Jurassic and Cretaceous species were between 8 and 21 millimetres. “These were hefty insects as far as fleas are concerned,” says Engel.
First Photos of 298 Million Year Old Forest Unveiled.
“ Scientists have just released the first photos of the incredible 298 million year old buried forest that was recently found below a coal mine in Yuda, China. The extensive array of tree and plant fossils that were photographed were found still arranged in a forest landscape - a first for fossil discovery. The entire forest was covered by fallen ash, which erupted from an ancient volcano, preserving it for eternity.
Speaking of old things, did you hear about the 30,000 year-old seeds found in a permafrosted squirrel den that sprouted into flowers?
It’s truly amazing; both the forest and seeds. Just look at all these stunning photographs! I know I’ve reblogged this before, but I must do so again for obvious reasons.
The ‘best ever’ remains of a predator dinosaur have been unearthed in Germany with 98 per cent of its skeleton intact.
The discovery of the dinosaur, nicknamed Otto by palaeontologists in Bavaria, is being hailed as a sensation, and the German government has already decreed it cannot leave the country.
The theropod - ‘beast-footed’ - dinosaur is of the same family as the T. rex but the individual found in Kelheim has not yet been categorised.
Otto is 28 inches long and a juvenile. Hair and traces of skin have also been found on the skeleton.
The creature lived 135 million years ago and is being exhibited to the public for the first time on October 27 for four days at a special dinosaur exhibition in Munich.
‘It is a truly outstanding find,’ said Oliver Rauhut, curator at the Bavarian National Collection for Palaeontology and Geology where the find was announced today, ‘It is the best of its kind ever found in Europe.’
This article was published back in October of 2011, which I remember reading yet never posted about here. Truly a remarkable find! I’d love to see this guy in person.
LOS ANGELES – Twenty thousand years ago, give or take a few millennia, an enormous mammoth with a bad back, a misshapen tusk and a weird lump on his jaw wandered into a tar pit on what is now the Miracle Mile shopping district.
It was one of those Darwinian twists of fate, an ignoble end to a noble animal that led a hard life and died before his time. But even as that old rogue bull struggled against his inevitable end, all around him life went on. Saber-tooth cats and dire wolves hunted. Bison and camel grazed. Birds of every description flew overhead.
All of this unfolded exactly where Trevor Valle works at the George C. Page Museum. He knows this because he’s helping sort through one of the largest known caches of bones from the last ice age, meticulously cataloging animals that once roamed the very spot where he sits each day.
“Right where my desk is, there could have been a throwdown between dire wolves and a sloth,” says Valle, who so loves the Page that he had its logo tattooed on his arm even before he worked there. He smiles, then adds, “My job is so rad.”
For more than a century, scientists have been excavating fossils from the La Brea tar pits and cataloging them at the Page Museum. It’s a paleontological treasure chest, a snapshot of the late Pleistocene and Ice Age California.
That picture is growing sharper by the day as a team of paleontologists digs ever deeper into Project 23, a huge cache uncovered almost six years ago during the excavation of what would become a parking garage.
Top: The Rancho La Brea tar pits are composed of heavy oil fractions called asphaltum. Even today, crude oil still seeps up through the Sixth Street Fault to the surface, forming large pools within Hancock Park. It looks like melted chocolate and smells like hot asphalt.
Bottom Left: “We’ve pulled out 16,000 fossils and counting,” says lead excavator Carrie Howard. “It’s been filled with bone from the very top. It just keeps going.”
Bottom Right: The 404 dire wolf skulls displayed in the Page Museum are among 1,600 found in the tar pits over the years.
I have an iridescent ammonite similar to this (though mine shows more of the leafy pattern) that has been missing for a few weeks, but luckily I found it yesterday after emptying out a bag of new science books. A smaller ammonite is still on the loose, but I’m happy my iridescent Cleoniceras cleon is now safe in its display unit.
I post so much about theropods (as they are my favourite ones to focus on), so here’s one not in that suborder: Edmontosaurus! This dinosaur belongs to the suborder Ornithopoda, and lived during the Late Cretaceous. These were big hadrosaurs, being (at maximum) just over 40 feet long. We’ve been lucky to find Edmontosaurus remains brilliantly preserved, leaving behind skin and other soft tissue impressions which are stunning and valuable for palaeontologists. The photo above (HQ) is the well known “Trachodon mummy”, frozen in the pose it was discovered in back in 1908 by Charles Sternberg (& sons). This genus has a very interesting history since their original discoveries, and overall they really are stunning specimens (but then again… all dinosaurs are)!
I can never get enough of Giganotosaurus. Theropod Of The Day will be starting up next week for sure! I’ve got a lot of posts ready to go now, so keep a lookout for Giganotosaurus and all those other awesome theropods!
Psiloceras planorbis (Ammonite Fossil) (by cobalt123)
Text from photographer: ’A large and wondrous fossil specimen, seen in the booth for Chris Moore at the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show in Tucson, Arizona. This capture was in available light inside a vendor booth at the Ramada Ltd. I’ve never seen such fossils and certainly never knew that the ammonites I have collected for years had their earliest ancestor in these. The ammonites evolved into squid and mollusks. The identification labels these as “Lower Lias, Lower Jurassic”. The slabs were found in Somerset, England in shale. The colors are natural and there is only a bit of varnish to protect the nacre which is iridescent and glows.’
Here’s another one of my newest specimen additions. Anyone like to take a guess at what this is?
Here are two photos from a crinoid specimen (part of a stem) I found. It’s well preserved, and even the Head of Geology was pleased with how it had been fossilised. One reason for the crinoid stem having such a fossilisation is because the rock around it is chert, a very durable sedimentary rock. There are other cross sections of crinoids in the chert, but this one definitely is the coolest! I’ll have more photos of my recent finds coming up soon.
Uintacrinus socialis (by afagen on Flickr)
Seeing as most of my new fossils contain types of crinoids, I thought I’d do a quick post about these guys!
The above crinoid is called Uintacrinus socialis, and it is from the Cretaceous Period. Crinoids are more commonly known as “sea lilies” and “feather stars”, belong to the phylum Echinodermata. The great thing about crinoids is that they are still around today, which means these awesome guys are yet another example of living fossils. Though instead of a stem, Uintacrinus socialis had a globular cup, which as you can see above is composed of polygonal plates. The arms of Uintacrinus socialis were quite long, reaching up to around 1 metre in length, and used to filter food through the water.
In general, crinoids came onto the scene during the Ordovician Period and have lived in the seas ever since, adapting well when selective extinctions occurred. Though, crinoids were also much more prevalent in ancient seas. The fossils I discovered a few weeks ago date back to around 400 million years ago, which is pretty amazing stuff. I found a very well preserved section of a crinoid stem in Chert - which is a very durable sedimentary rock - and the detail of the stem is just absolutely fantastic!
Trilobites (by Tom Fournier-Park)
Hoping to find some of these guys on tomorrow’s fossil hunt! I’ll be happy with whatever I discover, but I’ve got the urge to dig one of these up.