A dwarf sauropod has recently been described by paleontologists. Holger Luedtke, a paleontology hobbyist first came across teeth and other remains of a herbivorous dinosaur in a quarry near in North Germany in 1998.
At the time, scientists thought they may be juveniles. However, Dr. Martin Sander, who is an expert on the micro-structure of dinosaur skeletons, studied the bones and concluded that they were adults. In short, he was able to measure rings of growth in the bones. Rings are spaced further apart when the dinosaurs are young and growing rapidly. As they age the space between the rings becomes smaller.
When first found the dino was nicknamed ‘Hanna’, but has now been given the new and official scientific name Europasaurus holgeri, in honor of its discoverer. It essentially means Holger’s reptile of Europe.
So how mini was it? Well, the diagram below shows it was still pretty big compared to a human. But it was quite tiny when compared to one of its closest cousins the Apatosaurus (aka Brontosaurus) who was among the largest land animals that ever existed.
The paper describing the new species was published in Nature.
Models and photo: Dinopark Münchehagen.
Diagram depicting the relative size between two E. holgeri (juvenile and adult) and a human by Octávio Mateus, Museu da Lourinhã
Check out another recently described sauropod, Erketu ellisoni.
The discovery of a cryptic species of scalloped hammerhead shark species has recently hit the press.
Cryptic species are groups of species that are anatomically indistinguishable but are reproductively isolated and usually have been differentiated by genetic analysis.
Scalloped hammerhead sharks, known scientifically as Sphyrna lewini, are found all over the globe but the new species seems to live primarily off the east coast of the US and claims the waters of South Carolina for nursery grounds. The 2 species look virtually identical but they are genetically distinct and their numbers of vertebrae differ.
The new species hasn’t been officially described or named yet. However, a likely name is S. gilberti after Carter Gilbert who first noticed the variation in vertebrae among the scalloped hammerhead sharks. Information about the discovery can be found on USC News site, What’s swimming in the waters off the coast? USC scientist finds ‘genetically distinct’ shark.
Also, a brief interview with one of the researchers can be found on South Carolina’s Homepage, Shark! USC researcher helps find new species of hammerhead.
For lots of great information on scalloped hammerheads check out this FACT SHEET.
Researchers have submitted a paper for publication:
Stoner, D. S., J. M. Grady, W. B. Driggers, K. A. Priede and J. M. Quattro. Molecular Evidence for a Cryptic Species of Hammerhead Shark (Genus Sphyrna). Marine Biology.
Here’s some interesting news considering the recent buzz surrounding the Polargrizz discovery.
It seems that scientists may have mimicked evolution by breeding 2 species of butterflies to create a butterfly that almost exactly matches a 3rd butterfly species found in the wild.
Heliconius melpomene, has wings with bright red bands. (upper right of photo)
Heliconius heurippa, has BOTH yellow and red bands. This caused biologists to theorize that it may be a hybrid of the two other species. (center of photo)
Researchers then bred H. cydno and H. melpomene to see if they could recreate the look of H. heurippa. Just three generations of interbreeding later and they had themselves a critter that looked remarkably like H. heurippa.
The researchers’ findings were published in today’s issue of Nature, Speciation by hybridization in Heliconius butterflies (subscription required). National Geographic also published a story about the research, Two Butterfly Species Evolved Into Third, Study Finds.
CenSeam researchers Bertrand Richer de Forges and Philippe Bouchet found a new species of shrimp while trolling an undersea plateau in a remote area between Australia and New Caledonia.
If you know French you can read Richer de Forges’ paper, Découverte en mer du Corail d’une deuxième espèce de glyphéide (Crustacea, Decapoda, Glypheoidea) [pdf] otherwise you can visit CenSeam’s site where he talks about the discovery.
The new species was named Neoglyphea neocaledonica which means essentially means “new Glyphea of New Caledonia”.
The interesting thing about this new critter is that it is only the second Neoglyphea to be classified. Neoglyphea inopinata AKA the “fenix lobster” was first caught in 1906 and then stashed away in the Smithsonian Institute’s collection unidentified. It sat there waiting for over 60 years before it was rediscovered and classified by French scientists Forest and de Saint Laurent in 1975. Before that it was thought that ALL Glypheides were extinct as previously all species discoveries were from fossil samples.
FYI: CenSeam formed in 2005 and their mission is to do a Global Census of Marine Life on Seamounts. What’s a Seamount? An underwater mountain, of course! They are often hotspots for biodiversity and it is estimated that there are over 100,000 seamounts throughout the world’s oceans.