Friday, September 12, 2014

[Paleontology • 2014] Ikrandraco avatar • An Early Cretaceous Pterosaur with an unusual Mandibular Crest from China and A Potential Novel Feeding Strategy

Ikrandraco avatar
Wang, Rodrigues, Jiang, Cheng & Kellner, 2014

The Aptian Jiufotang Formation of northeast China is a Konservat Lagerstätte particularly rich in pterosaurs, notably azhdarchoids. Here we describe a new genus and species of toothed pteranodontoid pterosaur, Ikrandraco avatar gen. et sp. nov., based on two laterally flattened specimens. Ikrandraco avatar is diagnosed by a suite of features, including a very low and elongate skull, strongly inclined quadrate, and a deep, blade-like bony mandibular crest with a hook-like process on its posterior edge, an unusual structure so far unique to this taxon. The particular skull shape hints at a distinct feeding habit for pterosaurs that potentially includes temporary skimming and an extensible skin acting as a throat pouch that was more developed than in any other pterosaur known so far. The presence of two other taxa of purported piscivorous pterosaurs in the Jiufotang Formation suggests distinct resource exploitation in this part of China during the Early Cretaceous.

ancient pterosaur Ikrandraco avatar had at least 40 pairs of small teeth and possibly a throat pouch for catching fish.
illustration: Chuang Zhao

Systematic paleontology

Pterosauria Kaup, 1834
Pterodactyloidea Plieninger, 1901

Dsungaripteroidea Young, 1964
Pteranodontoidea Marsh, 1876

Ikrandraco gen. nov.

Type species: Ikrandraco avatar, type by monotypy.
Etymology: Ikran, from the fictional flying creature portrayed in the movie Avatar that shows a well developed dentary crest, and draco, from the Latin meaning dragon.

Diagnosis: The same for the type species.

Ikrandraco avatar sp. nov.
Etymology: Avatar, in allusion to the homonymous science fiction movie.

The remains of an extinct flying reptile (shown here in a reconstruction) that lived some 120 million years ago reveal the creature had a wingspan of 4.9 feet (1.5 meters). The pterosaur now called Ikrandraco avatar may have stored food in a throat pouch similar to a pelican.
illustration: Chuang Zhao

Xiaolin Wang, Taissa Rodrigues, Shunxing Jiang, Xin Cheng & Alexander W. A. Kellner. 2014. An Early Cretaceous Pterosaur with an unusual Mandibular Crest from China and A Potential Novel Feeding Strategy. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 6329 doi:

Citation: Humphries S, Bonser RHC, Witton MP, Martill DM (2007) Did Pterosaurs Feed by Skimming? Physical Modelling and Anatomical Evaluation of an Unusual Feeding Method. PLoS Biol. 5(8): e204. doi:

Ancient Flying Reptile Ate Like a Toothy Pelican  via @NatGeo

[Paleontology • 2014] Semiaquatic Adaptations in a Giant Predatory Dinosaur, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus

Cretaceous Leviathan
The only known dinosaur adapted to life in water, Spinosaurus swam the rivers of North Africa a hundred million years ago. The massive predator lived in a region mostly devoid of large, terrestrial plant-eaters, subsisting mainly on huge fish.
Art: Davide Bonadonna. Sources: Nizar Ibrahim, University of Chicago; Cristiano Dal Sasso and Simone Maganuco, Natural History Museum of Milan

We describe adaptations for a semiaquatic lifestyle in the dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. These adaptations include retraction of the fleshy nostrils to a position near the mid-region of the skull and an elongate neck and trunk that shift the center of body mass anterior to the knee joint. Unlike terrestrial theropods, the pelvic girdle is downsized, the hind limbs are short, and all of the limb bones are solid without an open medullary cavity, for buoyancy control in water. The short, robust femur with hypertrophied flexor attachment and the low, flat-bottomed pedal claws are consistent with aquatic foot-propelled locomotion. Surface striations and bone microstructure suggest that the dorsal “sail” may have been enveloped in skin that functioned primarily for display on land and in water.

Ibrahim, N., Sereno, P., Dal Sasso, C., Maganuco, M., Martill, D., Zouhri, S., Myhrvold, N., Iurino, D. 2014. Semiaquatic Adaptations in a Giant Predatory Dinosaur. Science.

Digital skeletal reconstruction and transparent flesh outline of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus
Color codes are used to show the origin of different parts of the digital skeletal model.
Bones of the neotype and for Suchomimus tenerensis were CT-scanned, surfaced and size-adjusted before being added to the model.
Color coding: red, neotype (FSAC-KK 11888); orange, Stromer’s bones; yellow, isolated bones from the Kem Kem; green, surrogate bones modeled or taken from the spinosaurids Suchomimus, Baryonyx, Irritator or Ichthyovenator; blue, inferred bones from adjacent bones. A red dot below the posterior dorsal centra shows the approximate position of the center of mass.
Model by Tyler Keillor, Lauren Conroy, and Erin Fitzgerald. |

A reconstruction of the skull of Spinosaurus, with known elements in blue.
Art by Davide Bonadonna.

Researchers have long debated whether dinosaurs could swim, but there has been little direct evidence for aquadinos. Some tantalizing hints have appeared, however, in claimed "swim tracks" made by the bellies of dinos in Utah and oxygen isotopes indicating possible aquatic habitats in a group of dinosaurs called spinosaurs. Now, a research team working in Morocco has found the most complete skeleton yet of a giant carnivore called Spinosaurus, very fragmentary remains of which were first discovered in 1912 in Egypt. The new fossils not only confirm that Spinosaurus was bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex, but also show that it had evolutionary adaptations—ranging from pedal-like feet to a nostril far back on the head to high bone density like that of hippos—clearly suited for swimming in lakes and rivers.

Michael Balter. 2014. Giant Dinosaur was a Terror of Cretaceous Waterways. Science. 345(6202): 1232. DOI:

Scientists Report First Semiaquatic Dinosaur, Spinosaurus
Massive Predator Was More Than 9 Feet Longer Than Largest Tyrannosaurus rex
Spinosaurus: The First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur via @science2_0


pre-2014 PaleoArt 

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus
All Yestered by Rodrigo-Vega on @deviantART 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

[PaleoMammalogy • 2014] Anthracotheres from Wadi Moghra, early Miocene, Egypt; Jaggermeryx naida, Afromeryx grex & A. palustris

 Jaggermeryx naida
Top and side views of a fossilized jaw bone of an ancient creature recently named after Mick Jagger, in honor of the animal's big, sensitive lips and snout. The animal's jaw bones suggest it was roughly the size of a small deer.
Photo: Gregg Gunnell, Duke Lemur Center | DOI: 10.1666/13-122

The early Miocene site of Wadi Moghra, Qattara Depression, Egypt, is important for interpreting anthracothere (Mammalia, Artiodactyla) evolution, because the Moghra sediments preserve a higher diversity of anthracotheres than any other pene-contemporaneous site. New specimens from Moghra are described and form the basis for the systematic revision of Moghra anthracotheres provided here. Among the important discoveries recently made at Moghra is the first complete skull of Sivameryx moneyi. Other new specimens described here include two new species of Afromeryx, and a new genus and species, all of which are unique to Moghra. A review of biogeographic information supports the conclusion that three of the Moghra anthracotheres (Brachyodus depereti, B. mogharensis, and Jaggermeryx naida, n. gen. n. sp.) are members of late surviving lineages with a long history in Africa, while three other species (Afromeryx grex, n. sp., A. palustris, n. sp., and Sivameryx moneyi) represent more recent immigrants from Eurasia.

Ellen R. Miller, Gregg F. Gunnell, Mohamed Abdel Gawad, Mohamed Hamdan, Ahmed N. El-Barkooky, Mark T. Clementz and Safiya M. Hassan. 2014. Anthracotheres from Wadi Moghra, early Miocene, Egypt. Journal of Paleontology. 88(5); 967-981.  DOI: 10.1666/13-122

UW Researcher Contributes to Discovery of Mick Jagger-Like Swamp Creature

Ancient swamp creature had lips like Mick Jagger
A swamp-dwelling, plant-munching creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa has been named after Rolling Stones lead singer Sir Mick Jagger, because of its big, sensitive lips and snout. The name of the animal, Jaggermeryx naida, translates to 'Jagger's water nymph.'

[PaleoMammalogy • 2014] Three New Jurassic euharamiyidan species Reinforce early Divergence of Mammals

Arboreal Mammals in a Jurassic forest.
The three animals on the left side represent the three new species of euharamiyidan mammals. The other two represent a gliding species and another euharamiyidan, respectively, that were reported earlier.
reconstruction: Zhao Chuang

The phylogeny of Allotheria, including Multituberculata and Haramiyida, remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals. Here we report three new species of a new clade, Euharamiyida, based on six well-preserved fossils from the Jurassic period of China. These fossils reveal many craniodental and postcranial features of euharamiyidans and clarify several ambiguous structures that are currently the topic of debate. Our phylogenetic analyses recognize Euharamiyida as the sister group of Multituberculata, and place Allotheria within the Mammalia. The phylogeny suggests that allotherian mammals evolved from a Late Triassic (approximately 208 million years ago) Haramiyavia-like ancestor and diversified into euharamiyidans and multituberculates with a cosmopolitan distribution, implying homologous acquisition of many craniodental and postcranial features in the two groups. Our findings also favour a Late Triassic origin of mammals in Laurasia and two independent detachment events of the middle ear bones during mammalian evolution.

Xianshou songae, mouse-sized animal was a tree dweller in the Jurassic forests and belonged to an extinct group of Mesozoic mammals called Euharamiyida.
reconstruction: Zhao Chuang

Figure 1: The holotypes of three euharamiyidan species.
 a, Holotype (LDNHMF2001) of Shenshou lui. b, Holotype (IVPP V16707A) of Xianshou linglong. c, Holotype specimen (BMNHC-PM003253) of Xianshou songae.

Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758

Allotheria Marsh, 1880

Euharamiyida (new clade)

Shenshou lui gen. et sp. nov. Bi, Wang, Guan, Sheng and Meng

Etymology. Shen, from pinyin of the Chinese word, meaning deity, divinity or cleaver; shou, from pinyin of the Chinese word for creature, animal or beast; specific name after Lu Jianhua, the collector of the holotype.

Eleutherodontidae Kermack et al., 1998

Xianshou gen. nov. Wang, Meng, Bi, Guan and Sheng

Etymology. Xian, from pinyin of the Chinese word meaning celestial being or immortal.

Xianshou linglong sp. nov. Wang, Meng, Bi, Guan and Sheng

Etymology. linglong, from pinyin of the Chinese word, meaning ‘exquisite’, and also after the town name Linglongta where the specimen came from.

Xianshou songae sp. nov. Meng, Guan, Wang, Bi and Sheng

Etymology. The specific name is after Rufeng Song, the collector of the holotype specimen.

 Bi, Shundong; Wang, Yuanqing; Sheng, Xia and Meng, Jin 2014. Three New Jurassic euharamiyidan Species Reinforce early Divergence of Mammals. Nature. doi:

Fossils of New Squirrel-like Species Support Earlier Origin of Mammals

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

[PaleoMammalogy • 2014] Huaridelphis raimondii • A New early Miocene Squalodelphinidae (Cetacea, Odontoceti) from the Chilcatay Formation, Peru

 skull and partial mandible of the new squalodelphinid species Huaridelphis raimondii, with an outline of the head and potential fish prey.
photo: G. Bianucci | DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.858050

The fossil record of odontocetes (toothed cetaceans) is relatively scarce during the Oligocene and early Miocene compared with later in the Miocene and Pliocene; most of the odontocete families from these epochs are known by a limited number of species and specimens. Among those, Squalodelphinidae is a family of small- to medium-sized platanistoids with single-rooted teeth, which until now has included only four genera based on diagnostic material, from the early Miocene of Europe, Argentina, and North America. Recent field work in the Pisco-Ica desert, southern coast of Peru, has resulted in the discovery of several marine vertebrate-rich localities in various levels of the late Oligocene–early Miocene Chilcatay Formation. Based on three specimens from Ullujaya and Zamaca, including two well-preserved skulls with periotics, we describe a new squalodelphinid genus and species, Huaridelphis raimondii. This new species increases the early Miocene diversity of the family and is also its smallest known member. It further differs from other squalodelphinids by its thin antorbital process of the frontal, abruptly tapering rostrum, and higher tooth count. A more fragmentary skull, from Zamaca, is referred to Squalodelphinidae aff. H. raimondii. This skull provides information on the morphology of the tympanic, malleus, and incus, currently unknown in H. raimondii. Focusing on platanistoids with single-rooted teeth, our phylogenetic analysis suggests that Squalodelphinidae are monophyletic and confirms the sister-group relationship between the latter and Platanistidae. The relationships within Squalodelphinidae are not fully resolved, but H. raimondii might be one of the earliest diverging taxa.

 the skull of the new squalodelphinid species Huaridelphis raimondii in dorsal and lateral view.
photo: G. Bianucci 

Etymology— From ‘Huari,’ ancient culture of the south-central Andes and coastal area of Peru (500–1000 AD), and from ‘delphis,’ the Latin word for dolphin. Gender masculine. The species name honors Antonio Raimondi (1826–1890), an Italian scientist who first documented fossil whales from Peru (Bianucci, 2010).

The examination of fossil cetacean remains in the locality of Ullujaya, Pisco Basin, Peru.
photo: G. Bianucci 

Based on three specimens, including two well-preserved skulls, from early Miocene localities of the Chilcatay Formation (Ullujaya and Zamaca), Pisco-Ica desert, southern coast of Peru, we describe a new genus and species of Squalodelphinidae, Huaridelphis raimondii. In addition to periotic characters, H. raimondii differs from other known squalodelphinids in, among others, its smaller size, the thin antorbital process of the frontal, the more abrupt tapering of the rostrum, and the higher tooth count. Another fragmentary skull from the Chilcatay Formation in Zamaca is referred to Squalodelphinidae aff. Huaridelphis raimondii. It brings additional information on the morphology of the tympanic, malleus, and incus, not yet known in H. raimondii. Our phylogenetic analysis of platanistoids with single-rooted teeth suggests that the family Squalodelphinidae is monophyletic; the analysis also confirms the sister-group relationship between the latter and Platanistidae. The relationships within Squalodelphinidae are not fully resolved, but H. raimondii might be one of the first diverging taxa of the family.

Olivier Lambert, Giovanni Bianucci & Mario Urbina. 2014. Huaridelphis raimondii, A New early Miocene Squalodelphinidae (Cetacea, Odontoceti) from the Chilcatay Formation, Peru
 Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 34(5); 987-1004.
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.858050 

New species of extinct dolphin sheds light on river dolphin history

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

[Mammalogy / Evolution • 2013] Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: the Biochemistry, Ecology and Evolution of Slow Loris Nycticebus Venom

Figure 6 Potential mimicry of spectacled cobras in Javan and Bengal slow lorises
(1). Javan slow loris (2) Spectacled cobra (rear view) (3) Spectacled cobra (front view) (4) Bengal slow loris.
Only seven types of mammals are known to be venomous, including slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.). Despite the evolutionary significance of this unique adaptation amongst Nycticebus, the structure and function of slow loris venom is only just beginning to be understood. Here we review what is known about the chemical structure of slow loris venom. Research on a handful of captive samples from three of eight slow loris species reveals that the protein within slow loris venom resembles the disulphide-bridged heterodimeric structure of Fel-d1, more commonly known as cat allergen. In a comparison of N. pygmaeus and N. coucang, 212 and 68 compounds were found, respectively. Venom is activated by combining the oil from the brachial arm gland with saliva, and can cause death in small mammals and anaphylactic shock and death in humans. We examine four hypotheses for the function of slow loris venom. The least evidence is found for the hypothesis that loris venom evolved to kill prey. Although the venom's primary function in nature seems to be as a defense against parasites and conspecifics, it may also serve to thwart olfactory-orientated predators. Combined with numerous other serpentine features of slow lorises, including extra vertebra in the spine leading to snake-like movement, serpentine aggressive vocalisations, a long dark dorsal stripe and the venom itself, we propose that venom may have evolved to mimic cobras (Naja sp.). During the Miocene when both slow lorises and cobras migrated throughout Southeast Asia, the evolution of venom may have been an adaptive strategy against predators used by slow lorises as a form of Mullerian mimicry with spectacled cobras.
 Keywords: Venoms, Ecology, Primates, Intraspecific competition, Predation, Ectoparasite, Naja naja

Figure 1 The slow loris Nycticebus brachial gland (dark oblong area on the inside of the elbow region).

Figure 2 Slow lorises in defensive posture, whereby the arms are raised above the head to combine saliva with brachial gland exudate: Nycticebus menagensis, N. javanicus and N. coucang.  
Figure 5 Male wild Nycticebus javanicus, from Cipaganti near Garut, Java, during three successive captures in April 2012, November 2012 and February 2013, showing his appearance before receiving a severe conspecific bite wound, just afterwards, and 3 months afterwards.

 Anne-Isola Nekaris, Richard S Moore, Johanna Rode and Bryan G Fry. 2013. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: the Biochemistry, Ecology and Evolution of Slow Loris Venom. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases. 19(1):21. DOI:

[Paleontology • 2014] Rukwatitan bisepultus • The basal titanosaurian sauropod (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) from the middle Cretaceous Galula Formation, Rukwa Rift Basin, southwestern Tanzania

 deceased Rukwatitan bisepultus individual and the initial floodplain depositional setting from which the holotypic skeleton was recovered, from the Rukwa Rift Basin, Tanzania.
illustration: Mark Witton [markwitton-com], University of Portsmouth

Whereas titanosaurians represent the most diverse and cosmopolitan clade of Cretaceous sauropod dinosaurs, they remain rare components of Cretaceous African faunas. Currently recognized continental African titanosaurians include Aegyptosaurus baharijensis and Paralititan stromeri from early Upper Cretaceous deposits near Bahariya Oasis, Egypt, and Malawisaurus dixeyi and Karongasaurus gittelmani from the Lower Cretaceous (∼Aptian) Dinosaur Beds of Malawi, in addition to several undesignated and fragmentary forms across the continent. Here, we describe a new titanosaurian taxon, Rukwatitan bisepultus, on the basis of a partial, semiarticulated postcranial skeleton recovered from the middle Cretaceous Galula Formation in southwestern Tanzania. Unique to Rukwatitan are carotid processes on posterior cervical vertebrae, a deep coracobrachialis fossa and subquadrangular cross-section of the humerus, and a slender, curved, teardrop-shaped pubic peduncle on the ilium. Parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses of 35 sauropod taxa congruently place Rukwatitan as a non-lithostrotian titanosaurian, a relationship supported by cervical vertebrae with undivided pleurocoels and strongly procoelous anterior caudal vertebrae. Rukwatitan differs from the potentially penecontemporaneous and geographically proximate Malawisaurus by exhibiting weakly developed chevron articulations and posteriorly inclined neural spines on the middle caudal vertebrae, a proximally robust and distally unexpanded humerus, and an anteroventrally elongated coracoid. Similar to biogeographic patterns identified in certain crocodyliform clades (e.g., small-bodied notosuchians), titanosaurians on continental Africa appear to exhibit a regional (e.g., southern versus northern Africa), rather than a continental- or supercontinental-level signal.

Ohio University paleontologists have identified a new species of titanosaurian, a member of the large-bodied sauropods that thrived during the final period of the dinosaur age, in Tanzania. This image shows a silhouette of Rukwatitan bisepultus and the skeleton segments recovered from the Rukwa Rift Basin site. The scale bar represents 1 meter.
photo: Eric Gorscak, Ohio University

Gorscak, E., O'Connor, P. M., Stevens, N. J. & Roberts, E. M. 2014. The basal titanosaurian Rukwatitan bisepultus (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) from the middle Cretaceous Galula Formation, Rukwa Rift Basin, southwestern Tanzania. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 34(5): 1133-1154.

New species of titanosaurian dinosaur found in Tanzania

Monday, September 8, 2014

[Botany • 2013] Sabinaria magnifica • A New Genus and Species of Palms (Cryosophileae, Coryphoideae, Arecaceae) from the Colombia-Panama border

Sabinaria magnifica Galeano & R. Bernal 

The new palm genus Sabinaria (Cryosophileae, Coryphoideae, Arecaceae) and the new species Sabinaria magnifica from the Colombia-Panama border are described and illustrated. Sabinaria differs from other genera in the tribe in the leaf blades with a single deep, medial, abaxial split, and short abaxial splits in each segment, mostly unisexual flowers with biseriate perianth, calyx connate with the corolla at a single place on its margin, large, tightly appressed, persistent rachis bracts that hide the pistillate flowers, and fruits tightly packed and hidden among leaf bases, often covered by litter.
 Keywords: Arecaceae; Cryosophileae

Type species: Sabinaria magnifica Galeano & R. Bernal

Etymology:— Named after our daughter Sabina Bernal Galeano, with the suffix –ria arbitrarily chosen, in accordance with Art. 20 of the International Code of Nomenclature (McNeill et al. 2012). 

Se describen e ilustran el nuevo género de palmas Sabinaria (Cryosophileae, Coryphoideae, Arecaceae) y la nueva especie Sabinaria magnifica, de la frontera entre Colombia y Panamá. Sabinaria difiere de otros géneros en la tribu por la lámina foliar con una sola división abaxial central y cortas divisiones abaxiales en cada uno de los segmentos, flores principalmente unisexuales con perianto biseriado, cáliz connato con la corola en un solo punto en su margen, grandes brácteas del raquis fuertemente adpresas y persistentes, que ocultan las flores pistiladas, y frutos apiñados, ocultos entre las bases de las hojas y a menudo cubiertos por hojarasca. 

Rodrigo Bernal and Gloria Galeano. 2013. Sabinaria, A New Genus of Palms (Cryosophileae, Coryphoideae, Arecaceae) from the Colombia-Panama border. Phytotaxa 144 (2): 27–44. [1]