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.
Current technology such as implantable batteries are opening doors for enhancing the human body. On the other end of the spectrum, engineers are working on artificial intelligences capable of honing skills humans aren’t. To practice building more human-like robots, scientists at Harvard and MIT created a soft muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight.
The simple objects are constructed out of metal or plastic “skeletons” that are covered in either a liquid or air, and then sealed in plastic or fabric “skins.” The muscle pulls taught when a vacuum is created inside the skin, and goes slack when the vacuum is released.
The invention, inspired by traditional Japanese origami, are highly durable and easy to make. In fact, developers claim it takes only 10 minutes and less than a dollar to produce a single muscle. The secret to their resilience lies in a simple concept: folding and pressure.
“Vacuum-based muscles have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don’t expand when they’re operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body,” [said] Daniel Vogt, a research engineer at the Wyss Institute.
Looks like muscular robots may be a lot less squishy that we pictured.
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.
Despite being a 24-year-old franchise, Jurassic Park’s momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, we should be anticipating at least two more films. While our experience with dinosaurs doesn’t exceed the discovery of their fossils, learning about them is fascinating. But working directly with their remains is not always simple. In fact, the biggest dinosaur ever discovered went unnamed for years — until now.
A team of researchers finally decided what to call this new species of prehistoric colossus: Patagotitan mayorum. The name roughly translates to the “giant from Patagonia” — with a nod to the Mayo family, which own the farm where the fossils were found.
The gentle giant is believed to have been part of the plant-eating sauropod family. Its skeleton is also one of the most complete titanosaurs to date.
All told, the researchers say the dinosaur likely weighed more than 70 tons and stretched to a length of more than 120 feet. Its femur alone weighs more than half a ton.
Comparing Patagotitan to the infamous T-Rex is pretty much a Jupiter-to-Pluto situation. However, close contenders are the Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus. It’s discoveries like this one that make me eager for another Jurassic film, Velociraptors and all.