Provoking: At the hands of forward thinking scientists, ever improving
technologies, and sometimes just pure luck, new discoveries and new
occasionally reveals itself, causing us to reflect . . . "perhaps
mankind still has a lot to learn about this universe we all call home!
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On December 4th of 2007 a
spokesperson from the University of Norway in Oslo, revealed that
one of their research teams have discovered the remains of a very
large, unidentified prehistoric reptile.
The discovery took place in the remote Svalbard islands in the
Arctic, approximately 300 miles north of mainland Norway.
Over the course of a year, the research team has recovered skull
fragments, vertebrae and the rather huge teeth, of two creatures
estimated to be approximately 35 to 40 feet in length.
Although the scientists consider this to be an entirely new species,
they are comparing it to the short necked plesiosaur that swam
Earth's seas 150 million years ago. The predatory short necked
plesiosaur has been hypothesized as a sea-dwelling version of the
voracious Tyrannosaurus rex. To put the newly discovered creature in
perspective, just think of a predator the size of a large school bus
with nine to ten inch long teeth.
What Caused the Extinction of
Dinosaurs . . . Really?
It is a fairly common perspective (as well
as the perspective still being taught in schools) that the mass
extinction of the dinosaur was brought about by a massive meteorite
strike roughly 65 million years ago.
While there is certainly
a strong body of evidence that this indeed is true, in part, new
research across a broader field of sciences has indicated that a
meteorite alone did not cause the extinction. It has been
determined that during that time period the Earth was ravaged with a
series of colossal volcanic eruptions.
The most notable eruption, that scientists have definitively related
to mass extinction is known as the Deccan Traps in India. This
massive ancient lava bed is estimated to have covered an area of
about 580,000 square miles, easily twice the size of the state of
Texas. The Super Volcano that produced this lava field would
have been unimaginably huge.
In roughly the same time period other Super Volcanoes were erupting
in various parts of the world. For example, scientists have
recently recognized that Yellow Stone National Park is actually the
caldera of an ancient but massive Super Volcano. (And it is
not dormant, as evidenced by its well known steam vents, like Old
Faithful.) When it erupted in prehistoric times, it was
massive and sent plumes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere and
across the continent.
Paleontologists have recently found the proverbial "smoking gun" in
the dinosaur bone beds of North Dakota. Here the bones were
found intermixed with volcanic ash from the Yellow Stone volcano,
however it was the forensic physiological evidence revealed in the
bones that is the most telling. The condition of the bones
clearly indicated that the creatures suffocated to death with lungs
full of volcanic ash.
Scientists also see the effect of ancient volcanoes in the fossils
of other organisms. Before the K-T extinction of the dinosaur
most sea life was very large and ornate. After the extinction
episode the same species were up to one-twentieth the size,
everything got smaller!
It is now theorized that the volcanoes of the period ejected over
ten to fifteen times more dust and ash into the atmosphere than the
previously 'extinction-credited' meteor that smashed into the
Yucatan area of Mexico.
Could it happen again? It certainly could!
Discovered in North Dakota
astonishing 67 million year old discovery could probably be
characterized as a “Holy Grail” of paleontology, as it is the most
complete dinosaur ever found. It was discovered in 1999 by
(then-teenage) Tyler Larson on his family’s North Dakota land.
Given the nick name “Dakota” this extraordinarily well preserved
duckbilled hadrosaur brings researchers closer then they have ever
come to touching a living dinosaur. This specimen has much of its
tissues, tendons, ligaments, and bone still encased in its skin. In
essence it is mummified, and it is revealing secrets to
paleontologists that have been locked away for 67 million years. In
preliminary studies this hadrosaur is altering theories of what the
skin of these ancient creatures looked like, their musculature and
mass and how they actually moved.
With “Dakota” scientists essentially have a three-dimensional
specimen to examine. It is extremely rare to ever find a dinosaur
skeleton with it bones attached or even complete much less one that
is essentially mummified intact. According to scientists the odds of
mummification are astronomically against occurring.
So far, research has concluded that the plant-eating hadrosaur,
often referred to as the “cows of the Cretaceous” was somewhat
stronger and larger then previously believed and was capable of
running at speeds of up to 28 miles (45 k) per hour. Interesting in
that they were thought to have been prey for the carnivorous
Tyrannosaurus rex, which scientist estimate could run at about 20
miles per hour. Certainly survival and evolution would have served
the prey with a bit more running speed!
The fossilized skin has lost any color it may have had, but it does
show all of the textures. The texture of skin shows a variation in
scale size as in modern reptiles, which may also suggest changes in
color. There also appears to be striping patterns near joints around
legs and tail. Scientists hope that they may find unfossilized soft
tissue that might provide protein samples.
As time goes on, it is almost certain that “Dakota” will reveal may
Articles by: Dr. Von Zuko 2007©
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