Arnold Schwarzenegger of duck-billed dinos – Gryposaurus monumentensis

The newest dinosaur species to emerge from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument had some serious bite, according to researchers from the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

“It was one of the most robust duck-billed dinosaurs ever,” said museum paleontologist Terry Gates, who is also with the U.’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. “It was a monster.”

Researchers from the Utah museum, the national monument and California’s Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology unearthed fossils of this ancient plant-eater from the rocks of the Kaiparowits Formation and say it dates to the Late Cretaceous Period 75 million years ago. They announced the name of the creature, Gryposaurus monumentensis, in the Oct. 3 issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Gryposaurus means “hook-beaked lizard” and monumentensis honors the monument where the fossils were found.

gryposaur_art.jpg
Artistic rendering by Larry Felder

Gryposaurus monumentensis is probably the largest dinosaur in the 75-million-year-old Kaiparowits fossil ecosystem,” said Alan Titus, paleontologist for the national monument.

Gates, lead author on the study, explained that this creature could have eaten just about any vegetation it stumbled across. “With its robust jaws, no plant stood a chance against G. monumentensis,” he said.

Scott Sampson, another paleontologist with the Utah museum who was involved with the project, emphasized the massively-built skull and skeleton, referring to the animal as the “Arnold Schwarzenegger of duck-billed dinosaurs.”

In 2002, a team from the Alf Museum, in Claremont, Calif., located at the Webb School, discovered the site that contained the skull used to describe the new creature. Every summer, the California institution, the only nationally-accredited paleontology museum on a high school campus, gives Webb students and volunteers the chance to participate in scientific field work.

The California team was working a stretch of Grand Staircase that Utah researchers had not examined. Duncan Everhart, a Pennsylvania furniture maker, is credited with finding the skull.

Don Lofgren, curator of the Alf Museum, said the team received permission from the monument to dig deeper in 2003.

“We determined it was a skull sitting upside down with the jaw on top,” he said.

Once Gates went out to take a look in 2004, he quickly realized the California team had a potentially-important find. The Alf Museum gave the Utah researchers permission to prepare and study the skull.

Titus noted the discovery of this new species was a team effort involving the Alf Museum, the Utah Museum of Natural History and the national monument.

“The cooperative effort put into its collection and research has truly been a model for scientific investigation on public lands,” he said.

It wasn’t until Utah researchers began working on the skull in 2005 that the full significance of the find began to emerge, Gates said.gryposaur_skull.jpg

The well-preserved skull was initially missing key pieces from the nose region. Fortunately, the California museum had collected a box full of eroded bones, including bits of the nose bone, which was critical for identifying the creature.

“I knew immediately that we had some species of Gryposaurus,” Gates said.

The creature’s large number of teeth embedded in the thick skull is among the features that made G. monumentensis, as well as other closely related duck-billed dinosaurs, such a successful herbivore.

At any given time, the dinosaur had over 300 teeth available to slice up plant material. Inside the jaw bone, there were numerous replacement teeth waiting, meaning that at any moment, this Gryposaur may have carried more than 800 teeth.

“It was capable of eating most any plant it wanted to,” Gates said. “Although much more evidence is needed before we can hypothesize on its dietary preferences.”

While the diet is unknown, given the considerable size of the creature, the massive teeth and jaws are thought to have been used to slice up large amounts of tough, fibrous plant material.

The teeth may hold important clues the dinosaur’s eating habits. The Utah museum plans to study the composition of the dinosaur teeth, which when compared to other plant-eating dinosaurs from the Kaiparowits Formation, will help researchers decipher differences in diet.

G. monumentensis is one of several new dinosaur species found in Grand Staircase, including: a Velociraptor-like carnivore named Hagryphus, a tyrannosaur, and several kinds of horned dinosaurs. In all, more than a dozen kinds of dinosaurs have been recovered from these badlands, and most represent species that are new to science.

“This is a brand new and extremely important window into the world of dinosaurs,” said Sampson.

Under ideal circumstances, paleontologists will find the skull and other key bones at the same site. In this case, the head was the only thing they managed to find from where the Alf team searched.

Researchers believe the head of this particular Gryposaur likely rolled into a bend of a river, where it was partly buried. The right half of the head remained exposed to the river current, dislodging several bones before this side was buried as well.

In other parts of the monument, Utah researchers have excavated bones believed to be from the same species. Gates estimates G. monumentensis may have grown up to 30 feet long as an adult.

“As each new find such as this new Gryposaur is made,” Titus said, “it is placed into the greater context of an entire ecosystem that has remained lost for eons, and is only now coming under scientific scrutiny.”

Around 75 million years ago, southern Utah differed dramatically from today’s arid desert and redrock country. During much of the Late Cretaceous, a shallow sea split North America down the middle, dividing the continent into eastern and western landmasses.

In what Sampson terms “West America,” G. monumentensis and its fellow dinosaurs lived in a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the seaway to the east and rising mountains to the west. Due in large part to the presence of the seaway, the climate was moist and humid.

Thanks to more than 100 years of fossil collection, scientists know more about the Cretaceous dinosaurs from North American than they do from any other time or continent on Earth, Sampson noted.

While G. monumentensis gulped down its greens and tried to avoid predatory tyrannosaurs down in Utah, closely related but different species of duck-billed dinosaurs were doing the same thing farther north, in places like Montana and Alberta, Canada.

The new Utah species is proving crucial for determining patterns of duck-billed dinosaur evolution and ecology during the Late Cretaceous of North America, Gates said. He added that “this calls for a re-evaluation of previous ideas about the evolution of duck-billed dinosaurs across the world”.

Earlier explanations of dinosaurs undertaking long distance migrations have gone out the window. “Now we have to figure out how so many different kinds of giants managed to coexist in such small areas,” said Sampson. “We’re just beginning to unravel this story.

Bones from G. monumentensis are on display at Big Water Visitor Center in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and for a short time at the Utah Museum of Natural History before returning to the Alf Museum.

gryposaur_art2.jpg
Artistic Rendering by John Moore
gryposaur_copter.jpg
Photo: Raymond M. Alf Museum
The skull, weighing over 200 pounds, had to be air-lifted from the remote dig site by a helicopter in order to transport it to the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

The Blue Auction Details

The 10 new fish that need naming are:

blue_Pterois.jpgPterois ToBeDetermined Lionfish are one of the most spectacular and dangerous of reef fishes, having poisonous spines that cause excruciating pain for up to three days after a wound is inflicted. Docile during the day, they emerge just before sunset and perform elaborate courtship displays with their showy fins extended. This species can “herd” small fish by throwing its pectoral fins out like a net, encircling its prey, and then striking out with lightning speed to ingest its quarry whole. First collected from Cendrawasih Bay, this new species has now been photographed from Northern Sulawesi to eastern Papua New Guinea..

blue_Pterocaesio.jpg Pterocaesio ToBeDetermined – Colorful fusiliers typically form large conspicuous shoals of thousands of individuals that swirl around divers visiting outer reef slopes. This species is one of the smaller but more vividly colored of the known fusiliers, with gold blaze across its body making it visible even in the depths.

blue_Pseudochromis.jpgPseudochromis ToBeDeterminedDistantly related to groupers, the dottybacks are secretive fish highly sought by advanced scuba divers. This distinctive species — with yellow and black “racing stripes,” blue eyes and cherry belly — was discovered amid the deep reefs in Triton Bay, where it typically lives in mated pairs and displays a strong curiosity for scuba divers. Unlike many fish, dottybacks are committed parents and carefully care for their eggs until they hatch.

blue_Pseudanthia.jpg Pseudanthias ToBeDetermined - Fairy basslets form massive colorful shoals that hover a few meters above the reef, feeding on plankton. All fairy basslets mature first as females, later changing sex to become males as they grow larger. Males typically oversee a harem of up to 20 females. This species has been collected only from deep reefs in Cendrawasih Bay.

blue_Pictichromis2.jpgPictichromis ToBeDetermined - Known only from Cendrawasih Bay in the eastern Bird’s Head, this gorgeous magenta and yellow fish inquisitively investigates any divers that come near it. It is normally found below 15m depth and hides under reef overhangs. Its vibrant colours make it perhaps the most beautiful of the dottybacks.

blue_Melanotaenia.jpg

Melanotaenia ToBeDetermined – The lone freshwater fish at auction, this rainbowfish has been found in only two small mountain streams on the island of Batanta in the Bird’s Head. With approximately 60 known species in this family of fish, each having a very limited distribution, rainbowfish have inspired a cult following. The striking males of this species can “flash” irridiscent blue colors to attract mates in the deep pools that form below stunning waterfalls in the streams on Batanta.

blue_Hemiscyllium_2.jpg Hemiscyllium ToBeDetermined – The completely singular evolutionary path this shark has taken gives it pectoral fins uniquely developed for walking. This form of motion, unknown in other sharks, made this distinctive species an international media darling when it was discovered last year. Although it can swim if frightened, this shark commonly crawls across shallow coral reefs in search of its prey. Also notable are the male’s unusually large clasper organs. This shark is known only from Cendrawasih Bay.

blue_Corythoichthys.jpg

Corythoichthys ToBeDetermined – Pipefish, like their seahorse relatives, stand out in the fish world because of their “male pregnancy” — the female deposits her fertilized eggs in a specialized pouch on the male’s belly and he tends the eggs until they hatch. The subtle but ornate color pattern on this new species differentiates it from other pipefish, while also keeping it camouflaged on the reef’s shallow coral heads and in gorgonian sea fans.

blue_Chrysiptera.jpg

Chrysiptera ToBeDetermined – Considered the gems of the coral reef, brightly-colored Chrysiptera damselfish are found exclusively in areas of healthy coral. Although small, these fish can live up to 15 years and produce copious numbers of offspring — with the males actually taking the primary role in tending the eggs. The beautiful species on auction is known only from Sebakor Bay in the Bird’s Head and was discovered in April 2006.

blue_Paracheilinus.jpg

Paracheilinus ToBeDeterminedConsidered the most spectacularly colored of all coral reef fishes, flasher wrasse derive their common name from the unique courtship behavior of the males – which rise up in the water column and suddenly “flash” electric neon colors while simultaneously erecting their fins to draw the attention of potential mates. Photographing a male in full courtship display is considered a “holy grail” for accomplished underwater photographers. This species is arguably the most stunning of all the flashers (there are 16 known species), and was discovered in April 2006. It is known only from the southern Bird’s Head Seascape, from Raja Ampat to Triton Bay.

Name a New Species or Discover One Yourself!

And we’re back! After a little hiatus we are back and ready to start telling you about the new species being discovered all the time.

To start things off….The Blue Auction! Where you can bid for the naming rights of 10 marine species. Also up for bid is a chance to go on an expedition with scientists and search for more undiscovered marine species.

Francesco M. Bongiovanni, President of the Monaco-Asia Society, Peter Seligmann, Chairman & CEO of Conservation International, Hugh Edmeades, Chariman of Christie’s,

are pleased to present The Blue Auction, which shall take place at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, Principality of Monaco, on September 20th, 2007
under the High Patronage and in the presence of

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

and for the benefit of marine biodiversity conservation programs undertaken by
Conservation International

All of the species in The Blue Auction were discovered by world-renowned fish scientist Dr. Gerry Allen and CI’s Bird’s Head Regional Coordinator Dr. Mark Erdmann during surveys in the Bird’s Head in 2006 and 2007, and the descriptions of the species (save for their commemorative names) have already been prepared by them. Dr. Allen has described over 400 species of fish during his illustrious career, and has arranged for all of The Blue Auction species descriptions to be published in a single special edition of the scientific journal Aqua, the International Journal of Ichthyology in the final quarter of 2007. The winning bidders for each of The Blue Auction species will receive a large format photograph of the species with the commemorative species name embossed on the photograph, in addition to both hard copy and electronic versions of the special edition of Aqua formalizing their species name.

New Cichlid Species – Ptychochromis loisellei

The Wildlife Conservation Society has announced that one of their ichthyologists from the New York Aquarium received the ultimate honor recently, when a freshwater fish discovered on the African island nation of Madagascar was named after him.

Dr. Paul Loiselle, who has dedicated much of his career safeguarding Madagascar’s little known freshwater fishes, received the honor from a team of biologists from the American Museum of Natural History, after they named a new species of cichlid Ptychochromis loisellei. The announcement was made in a recent edition of American Museum Novitates. [pdf]

The authors of the paper wrote that the new species was “named for our colleague Paul Loiselle in recognition of his many contributions to the understanding and conservation of Madagascar’s freshwater fishes.”

The newly described black and gold cichlid is about five inches long, and known locally as a “garaka.” It can be found living in several river systems in the northeastern part of the country.

Ptychochromis loisellei
(Photo courtesy WCS)

Loiselle himself has discovered fifteen freshwater fishes during his fourteen years of field work in Madagascar. He is considered one of the world’s experts on cichlids – a family of perch-like fishes comprising nearly 2,000 different species. Many cichlids are popular in aquarium trade, including angelfish, oscars, and discus.

Large-scale deforestation and other kinds of human impact have put Madagascar’s unique wildlife at great risk. Despite limited resources, the Malagasy government has made conservation a priority in recent years, announcing plans to set up new protected areas. To educate and inspire the public about its efforts to save this island-nation’s amazing wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Society will open a new Madagascar exhibit in 2009 at the Bronx Zoo, as part of a newly announced $650 million capital campaign called “Gateways to Conservation.”

loisellei2.jpg

(Photo by Paul Loiselle.)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae

Sucker-footed Bat – Myzopoda schliemanni

Scientists have discovered a new species of bat that has large flat adhesive suckers attached to its thumbs and hind feet.

The researchers say this is a remarkable find because the new bat belongs to a Family of bats endemic to Madagascar–and one that was previously considered to include only one rare species.

The new species, Myzopoda schliemanni, occurs only in the dry western forests of Madagascar, while the previously known species, Myzopoda aurita, occurs only in the humid eastern forests of Madagascar, according to new research recently published online in the journal Mammalian Biology: The description of a new species of Myzopoda (Myzopodidae: Chiroptera) from western Madagascar (abstract). The new species is different from the known species based on coloration, measurements and cranial characteristics.

Due to the physical similarities between M. schliemanni and M. aurita, the researchers concluded that one species probably evolved from the other, most likely after the bat dispersed across the island from east to west.

Myzopoda schliemanni
(M. schliemanni -Photo by Steven M. Goodman, Courtesy of The Field Museum)

Myzopoda are often found in association with broad-leaf plants, most notably Ravenala madagascariensis or the Travelers’ Palm, a plant that is endemic to Madagascar but has been introduced to numerous tropical countries. Myzopoda are found in association with such plants because they can use their suckers to climb and adhere to the leaves’ flat, slick surface. It is thought that they roost in the leaves during the day.

Myzopoda were considered endangered because of their limited distribution and the notion that the family included only one species. The new research, however, modifies both of these ideas.

The researchers determined that Myzopoda is not endangered by the loss of the moist tropical forests because the bat appears to have adapted very well to the large broad-leaf Ravenala that are often pioneering plants in zones where the original forests have been cleared and burned.

Sucker-footed bat (M. aurita) on leaf
(M. aurita, the only other member of this Family of bats endemic to Madagascar.
Photo by Merlin Tuttle, Bat Conservation International)

“For now, we do not have to worry as much about the future of Myzopoda,” said Steven M. Goodman, Field Museum field biologist and lead author of the study. “We can put conservation efforts on behalf of this bat on the backburner because it is able to live in areas that have been completely degraded”

The other co-authors of the research are Félix Rakotondraparany, lecturer in the Animal Biology Department at the University of Antananarivo, and Amyot Kofoky, graduate student at the University of Mahajanga.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Suborder Microchiroptera
Superfamily: Nataloidea
Family: Myzopodidae

The Harry Potter Dino – Dracorex hogwartsia

An exciting new species discovery, especially for Harry Potter fans, is officially on the books. It’s called Dracorex hogwartsia and is a plant eating pachycephalosaur.
Paleontologist, Dr. Robert Bakker, explains how he came up with the name:Dr Bakker

“The creature is a very special dinosaur that seems at home in a “Harry Potter” adventure. It was a plant-eater, only about as heavy as the war horse of a medieval knight. And it carried an armor-plated head of almost magical configuration, covered with knobs and spikes, horns and crests. I was staring at the skull last summer, and the name just popped into my head, hogwartsia.”

The full name, Dracorex hogwartsia, comes from the Latin words draco (meaning dragon), rex (meaning king), and hogwartsia (after the fictional Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry created by J.K. Rowling)

Author J.K. Rowling was delighted by the naming and wrote: “The naming of Dracorex hogwartsia is easily the most unexpected honour to have come my way since the publication of the Harry Potter books! I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs … I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker’s paper describing ‘my’ dinosaur, which I can’t help visualising as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”

The nearly complete pachycephalosaur skull was donated to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis by Steve Saulsbury, Patrick Saulsbury and Brian Buckmeier, all from Sioux City, Iowa. The three friends found the fossil during a fossil collecting trip in the Hell Creek Formation in central South Dakota, and agreed the museum would be the perfect home for the specimen. Brought to the museum’s Paleo Prep Lab for cleaning and studying, it was little more than a box of parts, head banging dracorexshattered by erosion before its discovery. It took Victor Porter, the vertebrate paleontologist at The Children’s Museum, two years to patiently glue together the many fragments.

Fierce debates have raged about whether the pachy’s butted each other, but since no good neck bones had been found, conclusive evidence was lacking. The Children’s Museum Paleo Lab personnel scored a cretaceous triumph when they pieced together four nearly complete neck vertebrae for D. hogwartsia. Special anti-twist joints and enlarged muscle attachments seem to show that these dinosaurs indulged in violent kinetic exercises. “They were head-bangers!” said Bakker.

If you’d like to get a peek at this dino critter visit the The Children’s Museum ofdraco_museum.jpg Indianapolis where it is on display. The museum has also kindly hosted the scientific paper describing D. hogwartsia online and you can read it yourself here: Dracorex hogwartsia, n. gen., n. sp., a spiked, flat-headed pachycephalosaurid dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota. [pdf]

Don’t forget to check out thier page dedicated to D. hogwartsia, there’s a video of the unveiling and lots of pictures. (best viewed in IE) and you can also buy a cool t-shirt.

dracorex

The Batman Fish – Otocinclus batmani

Otocinclus batmaniIchthyologist, Pablo Lehmann, honors the caped crusader by naming a new species after him. Otocinclus batmani aka “The Batman Fish” is a catfish from Colombia and Peru. It’s small and measures under 2 inches so put those recipes away!

HINT: If you are wondering why this little critter was named after Batman take a closer look at the tail.

You can read Lehmann’s paper published in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology online here: Otocinclus batmani, a new species of hypoptopomatine catfish (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) from Colombia and Peru [pdf].

On a side note, if you have a fresh water aquarium and need help with algae problems keep an eye out for O. batmani’s cousins for sale at your local aquarium. They are often sold as “oto cats” or “dwarfed sucking catfish” and are fantastic algae eaters. They do much better than the commonly sold chinese algae eaters who actually tend to stop eating algae as they get older.

Da nuh nuh nuh na nuh nuh na nuh … BATFISH!

Batmani
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Genus: Otocinclus

Pregnant and stuck under a Ping Pong table – Maiaspondylus lindoei

Back and 1971 Allan Lindoe helped dig up some ichthyosaur fossils. Somehow they ended up getting stashed under a ping-pong table in a science lab at the University of Alberta where they sat for some 25 odd years until Dr. Michael Caldwell decided to clean things up and rediscovered the fossils.

The paper describing the new species was published in the journal Palaeontology, A New Genus of Ichthyosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western Canada (abstract).

The new animal was named Maiaspondylus lindoei—”maia” meaning “good mother” because the fossil was found along with embryos, and “spondylus” meaning “vertebra” because the embryos were found near the spinal column. The species name, lindoei, is in honor of Allan Lindoe.

So what exactly is an ichthyosaur? The name makes them sound like a type of dinosaur, but researchers have guessed that they looked more like a dolphin or a fish. But they weren’t fish either. They were air-breathing marine reptiles. To learn more about ichthyosaurs check out Ryosuke Motani’s Ichthyosaur Page

ichthyosaurs
(Painting by Heinrich Harder, circa 1916)

Canada's Northwest Territories

The M. lindoei sample was collected in Canada’s Northwest Territories and it’s speculated that it was sitting their for some 100 million years before spending the last 25 under the ping pong table. Prior to this discovery all cretaceous ichthyosaurs were classified under a single genus, Platypterygius. Scientists felt that this speciman was distinct enough to warrant a new genus.

Read more:Express News, University of Alberta: Ancient sea creature rediscovered after 25 years

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Subclass: Diapsida
Superorder: Ichthyopterygia
Order: Ichthyosauria

Ogilbia suarezae, a Caribbean Fish.

Check out these two articles about the recent discovery of a caribbean fish named Ogilbia suarezae.

The Ithaca Journal: Fish species named for Cornell scientist, 30 years after her thesis

Cornell University Chronicle: A fish called Suarez is named for biomedical professor

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Ophidiiformes
Family: Bythitidae
Genus: Ogilbia

Four New Snailfish Species found off the Aleutian Islands

 Allocareproctus unangasScientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently published a paper describing four new snailfish species they found on various survey studies done around the Aleution Islands.

Snailfish are usually tadpole shaped with soft, scaleless skin that is covered with a jellylike mucus. They are so slimy they are sometimes referred to as snotfish!

The official names of the newly described species are:

Allocareproctus kallaion – from the Greek word for comb in reference to its teeth.
Allocareproctus ungak – from the Aleut word for “whiskers” because it has so many whisker-like papillae on its head.
Allocareproctus tanix – unlike its cousins, this critter has a bald forehead so takes the Aleut word for forehead.
Allocareproctus unangas – Named in honor of the people of the Aleutian Islands. Unangas is the word for the Aleuts of Atka Island, a major island near the center of the new species’ known range.

The meaning behind the genus name, Allocareproctus, is a little funny. It is derived from greek, “Allo” meaning “other” and “Careproctus” meaning “head” and “anus” – So, sounds like you can safely call them Snotty Butthead fish!?

You can read the researchers’ full report, Revision of the snailfish genus Allocareproctus Pitruk & Fedorov (Teleostei: Liparidae), with descriptions of four new species from the Aleutian Islands [pdf] which was published in Zootaxa.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes
Family: Liparidae
Genus: Allocareproctus