Sunday, May 25, 2014

Paleontology Week in Review: 5/24/14

This week, starting every Saturday, I’ll do a paleontology week in review. I’ll go over new discoveries, recommend articles on them, and give my perspective on it.
First up is Leinkupal laticauda, discovered by a team led by Palbo Gallina of the Universidad Maimoides, who has a right to be cocky about his find.  Leinkupal, like most dinosaur finds, is sadly incomplete, mostly vertebrae. However, the vertebrae indicate a small (30 foot) sauropod, and a unique one at that.  This is because the vertebrae are unmistakably, distinctly diplodocid. Diplodocids were long-snouted,  whip-tailed sauropods that reached their heyday in the Late Jurassic with their banner species: the legendary Apatosaurus, the famous Diplodocus, Barosaurus, African Tornieria, Portuguese Dinheirosaurus, and the gigantic Supersaurus among them. Like their stegosaur compatriots, they went into a sudden extinction at the end of the Jurassic. As the stegosaurs were replaced by ankylosaurs, diplodocids were replaced by the titanosaurs, broad-toothed, box-headed sauropods that conquered every continent and lasted until the end of the Cretaceous.
What makes Leinkupal unique is its being in the Bajada Colorado Formation, about 133 million years ago. It’s been 12 million years after the Jurassic extinction, and no diplodocids have been found in the Cretaceous until now.  It’s a survivor, and survivor species are fascinating. What allowed them to survive? What kind of environment did it have? What were the other species? Unfortunately, little is known on this formation and so we don’t know, but it’s a great discovery and I hope Gallina et all will find more about this unique animal.
Here’s the paper:

The other news is even bigger, but also a South American sauropod. I was talking about Titanosaurs earlier, and they include the giant sauropods Paralititan, Antarctosaurus, Puertasaurus, and Argentinasaurus.  This team includes Drs. Diego Po, Pablo Puerta and Jose Luis Carballido from the Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio.  They announced that seven specimens were found, with the huge bones being excavated for the past three years and will continue for a long time in the future.  The animals are estimated to be up to 130 feet long, larger than any other sauropods found.  Matt Wedel used a femur to calculate one specimen to be the size of the current record holder for largest dinosaur, Argentinasaurus, while other experts argue for a larger size. Regardless, this is a close relative of the giant Puertasaurus and Argentinasaurus, and in the same titanic size range.

Here are two good articles on the find
The formation is not reported in most of the press releases, but the location-Chubut, and the report of Tyrannotitan teeth, suggest the animal is from the Cerro Barcino formation. The environment, according to earlier finds, was a dry plain, so dry that the resident crocodile predator Barcinosuchus seemed to be specialize in terrestrial prey. Other dinosaurs include the giant predatory carnosaur Tyrannotitan, the smaller ceratosaur (perhaps the last non-abeliosaurid) Genyodectes, and the smaller titanosaurus Chubutisaurus.    I hope to soon make an article on the succession of South American formations, but it preceded the other giants Argentinasaurus, Antarctosaurus, and Puertasaurus the same way Tyrannotitan preceded Giganotosaurus, Mapusaurus, Aerosteon and Orkoraptor.

Sadly, there's been no paper and no name given to this new giant, but I'll give you updates as they come up in the news! Right now we can just cheer on Carbadillo and company and wish them the best of luck on this amazing discovery.

That’s all the news for this week , and I’ll see you the next Saturday if anything comes up!

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