Technology World's smallest dinosaur is actually a 'weird' prehistoric lizard, scientists say
Las Vegas couple finds Ice Age horse fossil while workers dug their new pool
Workers building a new swimming pool for a Las Vegas couple got a bit of a shock when they dug up a set of bones that are believed to date back to the Ice Age and may have been buried there for 14,000 years. © KTNV The fossilized bones of a prehistoric horse were found about four or five feet deep by workers building a swiming pool. Homeowner Matt Perkins told CNN that he and his husband found out about the discovery on Monday morning, when police came to investigate. It only took the police a few minutes to figure out that there wasn't a crime scene in Perkins' back yard.
A tiny skull entombed in 99-million-year-old amber that became the subject of scientific debate last year was initially thought to belong to the world's smallest dinosaur species.
However, thethat unveiled the discovery of Oculudentavis khaungraae was retracted later that year. New research published on Monday, based on another, better-preserved amber specimen, suggests that the skull was from a prehistoric lizard.
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The man was walking along a river when he made the amazing discovery, which experts estimate to be around 84 million years old. And museum officials think the remains may represent one of two known species of ancient sea turtle that have previously been found in the area. There is also the possibility that the fossil could belong to a new species altogether. "Either way, this discovery is a win for paleontology in British Columbia," Larson said in the museum press release.
"It's a really weird animal. It's unlike any other lizard we have today," said co-author of the new study Juan Diego Daza, a herpetologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at Sam Houston State University in Texas, in a news release.
"We estimate that many lizards originated during this time, but they still hadn't evolved their modern appearance," he said. "That's why they can trick us. They may have characteristics of this group or that one, but in reality, they don't match perfectly."
The authors of the new paper published in the journal Current Biology named the creature Oculudentavis naga in honor of the Naga people of India and Myanmar, where the amber was found. They said it was from the same family or genus as Oculudentavis khaungraae, but likely a different species.
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Oculudentavis means "eye tooth bird" in Latin, but Daza said taxonomic rules for naming and organizing animal species meant that they had to continue using it even though it wasn't accurate.
"Since Oculudentavis is the name originally used to describe this taxon, it has priority and we have to maintain it," Daxa said. "The taxonomy can be sometimes deceiving."
The better-preserved amber, which was found in the same amber-mining region in Myanmar as the first described Oculudentavis specimen, held part of the lizard's skeleton, including its skull, with visible scales and soft tissue. Both pieces of amber were 99 million years old.
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Researchers estimate that the species could have reached 25-40 meters (82-131 feet) in length.Remains of the dinosaur were first uncovered in 2006 west of Eromanga, in the northeastern state of Queensland, Australia. They represent the largest skeletal remains of a dinosaur ever to be discovered in the country.
The authors said the creature was difficult to categorize, but by using CT scans to separate, analyze and compare each bone from the two species, they detected characteristics that identified the animals as lizards.
These included the presence of scales; teeth attached directly to the jawbone rather than nestled into sockets, as dinosaur teeth were; lizardlike eye structures and shoulder bones; and a hockey-stick-shaped skull that is universally shared by other scaled reptiles.
In the better-preserved specimen, the team spotted a raised crest running down the top of the snout and a flap of loose skin under the chin that may have been inflated in display, characteristics shared by other lizards.
The authors believe that both species' skulls had become deformed as the amber, made from globs of resin from ancient tree bark, hardened around them. They said that Oculudentavis khaungraae's snout was squeezed into a narrower, more beaklike shape while Oculudentavis naga's braincase was compressed.
The distortions magnified birdlike features in one skull and lizardlike features in the other, said coauthor Edward Stanley, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History's Digital Discovery and Dissemination Laboratory.
Scientists confirm discovery of Australia's largest dinosaur
A new species of dinosaur discovered in Australia has been confirmed as the largest ever found in the country, and one of the biggest in the world. © Courtesy Eromanga Natural History Museum An artist's impression of Australotitan cooperensis, the largest known dinosaur discovered in Australia. The fossilized skeleton, nicknamed "Cooper," was found in southwest Queensland in 2007, at Cooper Creek in the Eromanga Basin. But the skeleton remained a mystery for years, and has only now been scientifically described and named by paleontologists.
"Imagine taking a lizard and pinching its nose into a triangular shape," Stanley said in a statement. "It would look a lot more like a bird." Birds are the only living relatives of dinosaurs.
An ethical minefield
Some of paleontology's most exciting finds in recent years have emerged from northern Myanmar's rich amber deposits. Much of the amber finds its way to markets in southwest China, where it is bought by collectors and scientists. However,, particularly since 2017, when Myanmar's military took control of amber mines. Government forces and ethnic minorities have fought in this region for years, and a has accused the military of torture, abductions, rape and sexual violence.
The study authors said in the news release that the amber was purchased by gemologist Adolf Peretti before 2017 from an authorized company that has no ties to Myanmar's military, and money from the sale did not support armed conflict.
They said use of the specimen followed guidelines set out by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which has asked colleagues to refrain from working on amber sourced from Myanmar since June 2017.
"As scientists we feel it is our job to unveil these priceless traces of life, so the whole world can know more about the past. But we have to be extremely careful that during the process, we don't benefit a group of people committing crimes against humanity," Daza said.
"In the end, the credit should go to the miners who risk their lives to recover these amazing amber fossils."
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"It was surprising, and I didn't really understand the impact of it in the beginning," said the woman who found the fossil while visiting her son on the dig.The fossil was discovered in an excavation project sponsored by the University of Oregon, according to the The Register-Guard. Foreman and amateur paleontologist Greg Carr led a team of researchers on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management four miles outside of Mitchell, Oregon in mid-June.