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2009-07-12 – Australia: World’s Oldest Dinosaur Burrow

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World’s Oldest Dinosaur Burrow Discovered In Australia

Posted on: Friday, 10 July 2009, 16:20 CDT | Related Video

Paleontologists have discovered the world’s oldest dinosaur burrows in Australia.  The 106-million-year-old burrows are the first to be found outside of North America, and were much closer to the South Pole when they were created.

In total, three separate burrows have been discovered, the largest of which was about 6ft. long.  Each burrow had a similar design and was just large enough to contain the body of a small dinosaur.

The discovery supports the theory that dinosaurs living in harsh, cold climates burrowed underground to survive.

The only other known dinosaur burrow was discovered in 2005 in Montana, and contained the bones of an adult and two young dinosaurs of a small new species called Oryctodromeus cubicularis. Two years after its discovery, scientists dated the burrow from 95 million years ago.   

The older burrows in Australia were found by one of the researchers who made the original Montana discovery.

“Like many discoveries in paleontology, it happened by a combination of serendipity and previous knowledge,” said Anthony Martin of Emory University in Atlanta.

“In May 2006, I hiked into the field site with a group of graduate students with the intention of looking for dinosaur tracks. We did indeed find a few dinosaur tracks that day, but while there I also noted a few intriguing structures,” he told BBC News.

Martin returned to the site, known as Knowledge Creek about 150 miles from Melbourne, to study the structures in July 2007 and again in May of 2009.

He was astonished at what he found.

“I was scanning the outcrop for trace fossils, and was very surprised to see the same type of structure I had seen in Cretaceous rocks of Montana the previous year,” said Martin.

That original structure was the burrow of O. cubicularis.

“So to walk up to the outcrop and see such a strikingly similar structure, in rocks only slightly older, but in another hemisphere, was rather eerie,” Martin said.

Within the rock, which is part of the Otway group of rocks that have produced a large diversity of vertebrate fossils, Martin discovered three separate burrows less than 10 feet apart, two of which formed a semi-helix twisting down into the rock.

The largest and best-preserved burrow turns twice before ending in a larger chamber. Dubbed tunnel A, it is more than 6 feet in length. Martin calculates that an animal weighing around 22 pounds would have created each burrow. Twisting burrows can help keep predators at bay and provide a steady temperature and humidity environment.

Alligators, aardwolves, coyotes, gopher tortoises and striped hyenas are among the modern animals that make such burrows.

Although Martin isn’t sure which species of dinosaur made the burrows, he noted how similar their designs are to the burrow created by O. cubicularis.

A number of small ornithopod dinosaurs, which stood upright on their hind legs and were about the size of a large iguana, were believed to have lived in the area during the same time in the Cretaceous period.

Martin has ruled out a number of other sources that could have created the burrows.

The fact dinosaurs created them makes sense, he said.

Australian researchers first proposed two decades ago that some dinosaurs might have created burrows to survive harsh climates they couldn’t escape from by migrating.

“It gives us yet another example of how dinosaurs evolved certain adaptive behaviors in accordance with their ecosystems,” Martin said.

“Polar dinosaurs in particular must have possessed special adaptations to deal with polar winters, and one of their behavioral options was burrowing. It provides an alternative explanation for how small dinosaurs might have overwintered in polar environments.”

Martin hopes that paleontologists will be on the look out for dinosaur burrows, and for dinosaurs that are physically adapted to burrowing into soil.

The findings were published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Image 1: Drawing by James Hays, Fernbank Museum

Image 2: Following his Montana discovery of the first trace fossil of a dinosaur burrow, Emory University paleontologist Anthony Martin has found evidence of older, polar dinosaur burrows in Victoria, Australia.

On the Net:

Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports


luglio 12, 2009 Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, 1 Cretaceo, An. Vertebrates, Mesozoic, Oceania, P - Impronte, P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia | , , , | Lascia un commento

2009-03-04 – Kansas,USA: Il più antico cervello fossilizzato (Oldest fossilized brain)


Oldest fossilized brain ever is uncovered in Kansas

By Katherine Harmon in 60-Second Science Blog

A 300 million-year-old fossilized fish brain was discovered during a routine computed tomography (CT) scan, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now, scientists assumed that brains rarely—if ever—turned into fossils. Other soft tissue fossils, such as muscles and kidneys, have been found that date back longer than 350 million years ago, but because the brain is delicate and consists mostly of water, it’s much less likely to be preserved in fossil form, says study co-author John Maisey, a curator in the paleontology division of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  But “It’s more than just a curiosity,” he says. “Modern technology has revealed a fossil that we really didn’t know about before.” High-powered scans using x-ray synchrotron microtomography (which, like a CT, uses x-rays to image cross-sections of an object) allowed scientists to peer into the rock-solid skull to see the 0.06-by-0.28-inch (1.5 by 7 mm) brain.

Image of fossilized brain courtesy of A. Pradel

Image of fossilized brain courtesy of A. Pradel

The fossil was from an iniopterygian, an ancient extinct fish that is a relative of sharks, rays and ratfish. What surprised researchers even further is that it showed a brain similar to that of modern-day shark.

In the fossilization process, the brain itself was replaced with hard minerals, which preserved the shape of the original organ, and the rest of the cavity was filled with sediment, Maisey says. He notes that researchers found several fossilized craniums, each resembling a little “broken bowl of rock,” in rock from the Upper Carboniferous period in Kansas and Oklahoma. But only one has yielded a preserved brain structure.

“It’s quite possible that brain fossils are actually more common, and we simply haven’t been able to find them,” says Maisey, who noted that researchers may now try to check out other fossilized skulls with the high-tech scanners to see if they contain mineralized brains. Of course, this finding also means that paleontologists  may have to  stretch their own brains a bit to include things other than bones. “Now we have to learn new things about brains,” Maisey joked, “that we didn’t have to bother with [before].”



Oldest Fossil Brain Found in “Bizarre” Prehistoric Fish

National Geographic – ‎3-mar-2009‎
The fossil was found in an iniopterygian, an extinct ancestor of modern ratfishes (see albino ratfish picture), which are distant relatives of sharks and

marzo 4, 2009 Posted by | - Pesci / Fishes, America Northern, An. Vertebrates, Articolo sc. di riferimento, Bl - Top posts, Paleontology / Paleontologia, X - J.Vert.Paleo. | , , , , , | Lascia un commento

2008-10-14: Kansas,Usa: Scoperte le più antiche tracce fossili di un insetto volatore (Fossil Impression,Flying Insect)

Due studiosi della Tufts University (Kansas,Usa), Richard J. Knecht e Jake Benner, hanno persentato la scoperta del ritrovamento delle più antiche tracce fossili di un insetto volatore rinvenute a North Attleboro.




Researchers Discover Oldest Fossil Impression of a Flying Insect


Tufts University student and a faculty lecturer uncover what they believe is the world’s oldest known full-body impression of a primitive flying insect, a 300 million-year-old specimen from the Carboniferous Period. Surprise discovery made in a most unlikely place – behind a suburban strip mall.

While paleontologists may scour remote, exotic places in search of prehistoric specimens, Tufts researchers have found what they believe to be the world’s oldest whole-body fossil impression of a flying insect in a wooded field behind a strip mall in North Attleboro, Mass.

During a recent exploration as part of his senior project, Richard J. Knecht, a Tufts geology major, and Jake Benner, a paleontologist and senior lecturer in the Geology Department, set out to hunt for fossils at a location they learned of while reading a master’s thesis that had been written in 1929. With chisels and hammers, the team reached the shale and sandstone outcropping described in the paper. There they delicately picked away pieces of rock before reaching a section that yielded fossils. Just below the surface, they uncovered a fossilized impression of a flying insect.

Not just any fossil

It was not just any fossil. Knecht says it is the world’s oldest known full-body impression of a primitive flying insect, a 300 million-year-old specimen from the Carboniferous Period. It is a rare find in the specialized world of ichnology, which is the study of fossilized animal tracks, impressions and trails to investigate behavior. Knecht says a preserved full-body impression of a flying insect from this or any previous period has never been discovered.

The fossil, Benner says, “captures a moment in time over 300 million years ago when a flying insect just happened to land on a damp, muddy surface leaving almost a perfect impression of its body behind.”

Knecht and Benner presented the fossil at the Second International Congress on Ichnology, in Krakow, Poland last month. The pair will present other trace fossils from the site, including tracks of amphibians and precursors to reptiles, at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America meeting in Houston later this month.

Paleontologists use fossilized remains of insect bodies to study anatomy and develop hypotheses about evolutionary processes. Typically the only evidence available for this type of work is remains of insect wings. Bodies of primitive flying insects are rarely preserved and therefore little is known about them. The North Attleboro fossil will provide researchers with evidence of how it moved once it landed on a surface, as well as its stance, position of its legs and details about its abdomen and thorax.

The impression is about three inches long and is imprinted on the flat side of a rock. The impression does not contain direct evidence of the insect having wings but Knecht and Benner say evidence suggests that it was a winged insect. According to Benner, the insect’s anatomy and body plan are consistent with those of primitive flying insects. He also points out that “there are no walking tracks leading up to the body impression, indicating that it came from above.”

Michael S. Engel, a leading entomologist at the University of Kansas, is working with Knecht and Benner to study the insect. He says that a preliminary inspection of the anatomy indicates that it may be related to the common mayfly. “We can tell from the imprint that it has a very squat position when it lands,” Engel says. “Its legs are sprawled and its belly is pressed down. The only group that does that today is the mayfly.”

Identifying the insect will also help the researchers to gain knowledge about the ecosystem of that period and what type of animals lived in it. The specimen may also advance understanding of insect flight and evolution from smaller, non-flying scurrying animals.

“Once we pin down what type of insect it is we can begin to think about the conditions, the climate and life that must have existed in the environment to support its life,” says Knecht. “One focus is the insect itself. Another is the broader big picture of the world it lived in.”

A moment 300 million years ago

The insect lived in the Pennsylvanian Era – the second half of the Carboniferous Period – and dates back to about 310 million years. Nearby sites of similar age exist in the Canadian Maritimes, Pennsylvania and the southeastern United States. There are no other active explorations of Pennsylvanian rock formation in New England.

Knecht learned of the site while conducting research on sedimentary rocks in the region for his senior thesis. He found an obscure reference to it in an unpublished master’s thesis on amphibian trackways that was originally written by a Brown University student in 1929. The paper was published a year later in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

Knecht, 30, is a senior at Tufts who enrolled through Tufts’ Resumed Education for Adult Learners program (REAL), following coursework at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He is a native of Chatham, Mass. At Tufts he has received four grants and fellowship money to support his work from the Paleontological Society, the Geological Society of America and Tufts University.


Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university’s schools is widely encouraged.



other links: (updated 2008-10-16 10:18 Italy)

Mall-sprawl site yields a treasure from eons past
Boston Globe – 1 ora fa
Tufts geology senior Richard J. Knecht with his North Attleborough fossil discoveries, including the 310 million-year-old footprints of what is believed to
World’s oldest fossil of flying insect discovered in North
Boston Globe – 12 ore fa
By Colin Nickerson, Globe Correspondent Scientific sleuthing by a Tufts University geology team in a rock formation behind a strip mall in North
Oldest Full-Body Insect Fossil Found
FOXNews – 18 ore fa
Scientists have uncovered what they are calling the oldest full-body impression of a flying insect, possibly an ancient mayfly. “[The fossil] captures a
Tufts research: oldest flying insect fossil found
WTEN – 11 ore fa
AP – October 15, 2008 4:44 PM ET NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tufts University researchers have uncovered what they believe is the oldest fossil of a
World’s oldest flying insect fossil found
United Press International – 12 ore fa
BOSTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) — A US student and his teacher say they’ve found the world’s oldest known fossil impression of a flying insect.
300 Million-Year-Old Fossil Found In N. Attleboro
WBZ – 16 ore fa
NORTH ATTLEBORO (WBZ) ― Geologists in North Attleboro estimate that a recently discovered fossil is 300 million years old. Geologists found the fossil
Here’s the buzz about fossil in NA
Attleboro Sun Chronicle – 15 ott 2008
BY AMY DeMELIA SUN CHRONICLE STAFF Geologists are buzzing about a fossil found in North Attleboro that researchers say may be the oldest whole-body
Researchers Discover Oldest Fossil Impression of a Flying Insect
Scientific Frontline – 14 ott 2008
While paleontologists may scour remote, exotic places in search of prehistoric specimens, Tufts researchers have found what they believe to be the world’s

ottobre 14, 2008 Posted by | - Insetti, America Northern, Lang. - Italiano, P - Ritrovamenti fossili, Paleontology / Paleontologia, Paleozoico | , , , , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento