A fossil has been found in northern China that appears to be an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Dubbed Raptorex, it lived about 125 million years ago and bears the same characteristic features of its renowned descendent. Described as ‘a jaw on legs’ this body shape came to dominate the later carnosaur appearance. It is important because it demonstrates that these animals and their descendants were incredibly well-adapted. Having found this fossil has also gone some way towards explaining the tiny forelimbs that the giant T. rex bears: perhaps they remained undeveloped, un-needed once the animal had successfully occupied and dominated its ecological niche.
Now we can add giant eagles the size of hang-gliders to the list of New Zealand’s characteristic fauna.
The New Zealand Herald ran a story this week about a giant raptor, Haast’s Eagle, which seems to be the basis for Maori legends of man-eating birds. Recently revisiting the few fossils available of the birds, and using newly available technology, paleontologists have been able to better predict the lifestyle of these massive predators that became extinct only 500 years ago.
Because New Zealand was always so isolated geographically from the rest of the world, birds took over the ecological niches that mammals evolved to exploit elsewhere. This explains the unique birdlife of the islands including the kiwi, moa and Haast’s eagle.
And I love the line from the newspaper quoting Canterbury Museum curator Dr. Paul Schofield: “Haast’s eagle wasn’t just the equivalent of a giant predatory bird. It was the equivalent of a lion.”
Yep. A flying lion, possessed of a 3m wingspan and 4cm long talons, that could reach speeds of 80km when diving onto its unsuspecting prey! Yowsah.
Image acknowledgement: John Megahan
This article at Ars Technica concisely outlines 5 points that are frequently misunderstood in the mechanism of evolution.
The two most important points, to my mind, are the time scale over which evolution occurs and the unlikelihood of our being able to easily notice it happening.
As a single-page primer on evolution, I’d say this is recommended reading.
This has been making the rounds of teh intarwebz today.
See more in the same vein here at CreativeCloud.
See, there’s this … thing… I really want to buy. And it’s kind of really old. And there aren’t too many of them around. Certainly haven’t been in the last 60-70 million years… And there’s an auction coming up – October 3, actually, in Las Vegas – where I can buy one. But only if I have about $10 million.
More here. (via Wired.)
I love the Gizmodo tech blog. In addition to the steady stream of gadgets, threatening to lighten my wallet, there are occasionally items of quasi-news that are just, simply, too cool.
Check them out.
Researchers pursuing research into the loss of bone density experienced by astronauts who stay in micro-gravity for long periods have devised a magnet strong enough to levitate a mouse.
The super-conducting magnet generates a field powerful enough to lift the water in the mouse’s body, in an environment very close to room temperature. From past experiments, the researchers are confident that there are little if any long-lasting effects on the animals.
The next step will be a ride at MovieWorld on the Gold Coast. Kidding, kidding… plenty of work to be done before this will be done on humans.