Saturday, October 15, 2011

Two extraordinary paleontology finds this week: one good, one bad...

Fig 1.- Speed painting of the giant prehistoric kraken.

In the Triassic period, giant squids were roaming the oceans to pray on large ichthyosaurs the size of a school bus.  Mark McMenamin, a professor of Geology at Mount Holyoke College, MA, presented this claim at the last Geological Society of America conference in Minneapolis (October 10, 2011). The proof lays in the curious arrangement of vertebral disks observed in the remains of the ichthyosaur Shonisaurus. According to McMenamin, this can only be the work of some giant artsy prehistoric cephalopods portraying themselves on the sand with the bones of their hapless victims! This is probably the most ludicrous paleontological claim made since the treeosaur. Amazingly, some major news outlets took the bait (see for instance here).

 Fig 2.- Reconstruction of the Kelheim theropod.

The second extraordinary announcement of the week is the discovery of a 98% complete articulated skeleton of a young theropod dinosaur in Germany, the most complete ever found in Europe. The discovery has been unveiled by Oliver Rauhut, conservator of the Bavarian Paleontological and Geological collections in Munich. The press release unfortunately gave very little details about it. The fossil has been uncovered near Kelheim in Bavaria, and is, I would guess in view of the geology of the region, of Late Jurassic age (and not 135 MYA i.e. Early Cretaceous as said in the news). Judging from the photo of the skeleton that came with the release, it looks to be a compsognathid with a very long tail. General proportions of the skull and limbs are strikingly similar to Juravenator. But what do I know about this amazing yet unnamed theropod? Let’s wait for the full description of the fossil that will hopefully be published in the upcoming months.

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission (Email: nobu dot tamura at yahoo dot com)

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