This Dinosaur Fossil Was So Bizarre, Scientists Thought It Was Fake

Dec 7, 2017

By Laura Geggel

An enigmatic dinosaur — which sported a swan-like neck, amphibious flippers and Velociraptor-esque claws — could walk like a duck and swim like a penguin during its heyday on Earth, scientists have found after examining its fossilized remains.

In fact, the remains, which were on the black market for years, painted such a wacky image of a dinosaur that paleontologists thought it was a sophisticated fake at first.

Its discovery reveals that the bird-like dinosaur was likely semiaquatic and felt right at home in the water, the researchers said. This is surprising because the newfound species is a theropod — a group of bipedal, mostly meat-eating dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex — and it’s thought that most theropods didn’t spend much time in the water, the researchers said. (The major exception being Spinosaurus. Also, T. rex could likely swim, fossilized underwater footprints show.)

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2 comments on “This Dinosaur Fossil Was So Bizarre, Scientists Thought It Was Fake

  • This Dinosaur Fossil Was So Bizarre, Scientists Thought It Was Fake

    Incredulity about fossil evidence has certainly been widespread.
    Even captured animal samples, have been challenged as fakes – as in the case of the first platypus!

    The creationists favourite is the eye, . . . . and we have just found another one!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-42264946

    An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

    The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

    Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

    These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

    They found the ancient creature had a primitive form of compound eye, an optical organ that consists of arrays of tiny visual cells, called ommatidia, similar to those of present-day bees.

    The team, which included a researcher from Edinburgh University, said their findings suggested that compound eyes had changed little over 500 million years.

    Prof Euan Clarkson, of Edinburgh University’s school of geosciences, said: “This exceptional fossil shows us how early animals saw the world around them hundreds of millions of years ago.

    “Remarkably, it also reveals that the structure and function of compound eyes has barely changed in half a billion years.”

    The right eye of the fossil, which was unearthed in Estonia, was partly worn away, giving researchers a clear view inside the organ.

    This revealed details of the eye’s structure and function, and how it differs from modern compound eyes.

    The species had poor vision compared with many animals today but it could identify predators and obstacles in its path, researchers believe.

    Its eye consists of approximately 100 ommatidia, which are situated relatively far apart compared to contemporary compounds eyes, the team have found.

    Unlike modern compound eyes, the fossil’s eye does not have a lens.

    The team believe this is likely to be because the primitive species, called Schmidtiellus reetae, lacked parts of the shell needed for lens formation.

  • However – filling in another evolutionary “gap”:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43981165

    How birds got their beaks – new fossil evidence

    Scientists have pieced together the skull of a strange ancient bird, revealing a primitive beak lined with teeth.

    The “transitional” bird sheds light on a pivotal point in the pathway from dinosaurs to modern birds.

    Ichthyornis dispar lived in North America about 86 million years ago.

    The seagull-sized bird had a beak and a brain much like modern birds, but the sharp teeth and powerful jaws of dinosaurs like Velociraptor.

    “It shows us what the first bird beak looked like,” said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar of Yale University, a study researcher.

    “It’s a real mosaic of features, a transitional form.”

    The researchers combined fossil evidence from the complete skull and two previously overlooked cranial fossils with the latest CT scanning techniques to build an advanced 3D model of the skull of the primitive bird.

    As study researcher Daniel Field, from the University of Bath, put it, most skull fossils are “squashed flat during the fossilisation process”.

    He said the “extraordinary new specimen”, which was discovered only recently, reveals similar brain proportions to that of a modern bird, while other parts of the skull more closely resemble those of predatory dinosaurs.

    Dr Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, who is not connected with the research, described the study as a game-changer in how we understand the evolution of the bird beak and brain.

    “The beaks of these primitive birds were very small and seem to have been evolving to take over some of the functions of the hand, like manipulating food and cleaning the feathers, that became impossible once the hands were incorporated into the wing,” he said.

    “This helps show that the evolution of birds from dinosaurs was a long and gradual process – it didn’t just happen overnight, and for much of the Age of Dinosaurs there would have existed these creatures that looked half-dinosaur, half-bird.”

    The bones of Ichthyornis were first found in the 1870s by the US palaeontologist Othniel C Marsh.

    The famous naturalist Charles Darwin read about the fossil and said the work on “old birds” afforded support for the theory of evolution.

    A century or so on, the strange bird is filling in the gaps in our knowledge of these “extraordinary flying machines”.

    “Right under our noses this whole time was an amazing, transitional bird,” said Dr Bhart-Anjan Bhullar.

    The research is published in the journal, Nature.

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