Recent discoveries of a 1-million-year-old Stegomastodon and ancient water bird fossil are taking a backseat, thanks to an even greater finding. As luck would have it, paleontologists have hit the jackpot in Xinjiang, China with 215 pterosaur eggs. Fortunately, there are no plans to open up a real-life Jurassic Park — yet.
“When you have a really unique find, you basically can’t do anything to it because that’s all you’ve got. But now that we have literally hundreds of eggs to work with, we have more options — such as cutting different eggs into cross-sections to study growth rates.” [said paleobiologist David Unwin.]
16 of the eggs contain embryonic remains, encompassed by dozens of highly-intact skeletons. Though this particular species of pterosaur boasted an 11-foot wingspan, it technically wasn’t a dinosaur. Scientists assume pterosaurs would’ve closer resembled a giant albatross — just significantly more frightening.
“I think these new embryonic finds are really exciting because with these, we can begin to reconstruct the embryonic development of pterosaurs inside the egg. I just think it’ll take time to do that.” [said Unwin.]
With potentially 300 more surrounding eggs undiscovered, the horizons for study are limitless. Let’s just hope nobody gets any crazy ideas.
Nowadays, it seems the discoveries of prehistoric remains are all happening by chance. It was a nine-year-old who came upon the skeleton of a Stegomastodon. Now, two brothers have found an impressive water bird fossil while on a hike in northern Japan.
The new species, named Chupkaornis keraorum, belonged to a group of ancient birds, hesperorinthiforms, that were flightless, expert water divers during the Cretaceous [period].
Estimates claim the bird was the size of a healthy duck. With sturdy hind legs and tiny forelimbs, it presumably lived mostly in water. Prior, the bird has never been found in Japan.
“It’s really helping us understand the global distribution of a widespread group of birds. And it helps us understand their early evolution.”
Remains of the diving bird have only been present in North America. Contrary to popular belief, fossil discoveries are often made by common citizens. Significant findings don’t always require an active search. Sometimes, a sense of adventure is all anyone needs.
Hiking is always an exciting activity. You discover a lot of things — about yourself, about nature, and if you’re this young boy, occasionally a 1-million-year-old fossil. The bones were from a Stegomastodon, or prehistoric elephant.
“I was running farther up, and I tripped on part of the tusk,” Jude Sparks, who was hiking in the desert with his parents and brothers, said. “My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up, and there was another tusk.”
Talk about sheer coincidence! The family immediately contacted the New Mexico State University, who confirmed that the skull was only one of two complete fossils. The skull measured to weigh nearly a ton.
“I have every hope and expectation that this specimen will ultimately end up on exhibit and this little boy will be able to show his friends, and even his own children, ‘Look what I found right here in Las Cruces,'” [said NMSU professor Peter Houde].
As for the rest of the animal’s remains, there’s a chance they are hiding nearby. “It’s quite possible it was preserved.”
While the skull was held together by surrounding sediment, it’s possible the rest of the skeleton eroded away. Whatever the case, Jude now has an incredible story to tell.