Ok, ok, ok. I think this means I can set up a Google Alert for dinosaurs.
Also, we should probably acknowledge Jurassic Park is real. Wishful thinking on that one, but maybe…Dr. Dave Hone has a piece over at The Guardian about the newly identified fossils that could improve our understanding of evolution.
The article begins by saying less than 20 years ago the first known feathered dinosaurs from China were unveiled to the public, but a new study indicates that this huge collection of fossils “represent two major temporal and evolutionary periods.”
The fossils were exceptionally well preserved which included the claws, skin, and feathers. This is very rare because the means to preserve fossils like this requires very fine volcanic ash, so it doesn’t happen often. Due to the initial discovery it was assumed all the fossils were from the same place and time and without exact origins it was impossible to correlate various fossil beds. However recently, the thought process on this has begun to change; there is clear evidence that some of the fossils are much older than others. This suggests that these fossils can be classified as new fauna. The older specimens come from a variety of localities, but are linked by the presence of a salamander species. The radiometric dating put these at about 160m years old. This specimen is then used as a marker for the others.
Dr. Hone’s paper refers to the new fauna as “Daohugou Biota” after the village close to where the initial fossils were discovered. The Biota refers to the Middle Jurassic period, where dinosaurs were diversifying, and is about 30m years older than the Jehol Biota, which is from the Early Cretaceous period. The Daohugou has much less research, but it is gaining more attention.
The largest contribution these fossils make is providing a potential bridge and test the validity of hypotheses and suggestions made by scientists about the dinosaur evolutionary process. The Daohugou dates to about when scientists suspect the birds have just split from the dinosaurs, but in the Jehol there are huge numbers of birds. Daohugou then predates all the major bird-bearing beds, but they have yet to discover a definitive bird, only very bird like dinosaurs like the Anchiornis. The scientists have the opportunity to look for the bird ancestors and their origins and evolution. Because the Jehol and the Daohugou present similar environments, they can study how things have change in this one place with time as the only big variable (HUGE).
This could have large ramifications. There is a lot of new information coming out of these beds in the last 20 years. Dr. Hone posits that the Jehol might be one of two great new faunas that reveal life in the Mesozoic.
I’m a bit of a dinosaur nerd, which we can all blame on Land before Time. Stuff like this still makes me feel like a little kid reading all the dinosaur books adults would give me. At some point this fell away, and I’m way older than 20, so some of these discoveries are after my childhood obsessive interest had peaked. But I’m comfortable with the tags: SCIENCE, Jurassic Park, dinosaurs, fun.
This is Kari O’Donnell’s first guest post for GeekCLE. When we asked Kari to tell us a little about herself she said, “There is nothing to know. I do research, go to class, and watch Netflix. I’m very funny. I spend far too much time on Twitter.”