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In the lead-up to the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction, dinosaur diversity is argued to have been either in long-term decline, or thriving until their sudden demise. The latest Cretaceous (Campanian–Maastrichtian [83–66 Ma]) of North America provides the best record to address this debate, but even here diversity reconstructions are biased by uneven sampling. Here we combine fossil occurrences with climatic and environmental modelling to quantify latest Cretaceous North American dinosaur habitat. Ecological niche modelling shows a Campanian-to-Maastrichtian habitability decrease in areas with present-day rock-outcrop. However, a continent-wide projection demonstrates habitat stability, or even a Campanian-to-Maastrichtian increase, that is not preserved. This reduction of the spatial sampling window resulted from formation of the proto-Rocky Mountains and sea-level regression. We suggest that Maastrichtian North American dinosaur diversity is therefore likely to be underestimated, with the apparent decline a product of sampling bias, and not due to a climatically-driven decrease in habitability as previously hypothesised.
We describe the partially preserved femur of a large-bodied theropod dinosaur fromthe Cenomanian “Kem Kem Compound Assemblage” (KKCA) of Morocco. Thefossil is housed in the Museo Geologico e Paleontologico “Gaetano GiorgioGemmellaro” in Palermo (Italy). The specimen is compared with the theropod fossilrecord from the KKCA and coeval assemblages from North Africa. The combinationof a distally reclined head, a not prominent trochanteric shelf, distally placed lessertrochanter of stout, alariform shape, a stocky shaft with the fourth trochanter placedproximally, and rugose muscular insertion areas in the specimen distinguishes itfrom Carcharodontosaurus, Deltadromeus and Spinosaurus and supports referral toan abelisaurid. The estimated body size for the individual from which this femur wasderived is comparable to Carnotaurus and Ekrixinatosaurus (up to 9 meters in lengthand 2 tons in body mass). This find confirms that abelisaurids had reached theirlargest body size in the “middle Cretaceous,” and that large abelisaurids coexistedwith other giant theropods in Africa. We review the taxonomic status of thetheropods from the Cenomanian of North Africa, and provisionally restrict theLinnean binomina Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis and Spinosaurus aegyptiacus tothe type specimens. Based on comparisons among the theropod records from theAptian-Cenomanian of South America and Africa, a partial explanation for theso-called “Stromer’s riddle” (namely, the coexistence of many large predatorydinosaurs in the “middle Cretaceous” record from North Africa) is offered in termof taphonomic artifacts among lineage records that were ecologically andenvironmentally non-overlapping. Although morphofunctional and stratigraphicevidence supports an ecological segregation between spinosaurids and the otherlineages, the co-occurrence of abelisaurids and carcharodontosaurids, two groupsshowing several craniodental convergences tha
The Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous interval represents a time of environmental upheaval and cataclysmic events, combined with disruptions to terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Historically, the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary was classified as one of eight mass extinctions. However, more recent research has largely overturned this view, revealing a much more complex pattern of biotic and abiotic dynamics than has previously been appreciated. Here, we present a synthesis of our current knowledge of Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous events, focusing particularly on events closest to the J/K boundary. We find evidence for a combination of short-term catastrophic events, large-scale tectonic processes and environmental perturbations, and major clade interactions that led to a seemingly dramatic faunal and ecological turnover in both the marine and terrestrial realms. This is coupled with a great reduction in global biodiversity which might in part be explained by poor sampling. Very few groups appear to have been entirely resilient to this J/K boundary ‘event’, which hints at a ‘cascade model’ of ecosystem changes driving faunal dynamics. Within terrestrial ecosystems, larger, more-specialised organisms, such as saurischian dinosaurs, appear to have suffered the most. Medium-sized tetanuran theropods declined, and were replaced by larger-bodied groups, and basal eusauropods were replaced by neosauropod faunas. The ascent of paravian theropods is emphasised by escalated competition with contemporary pterosaur groups, culminating in the explosive radiation of birds, although the timing of this is obfuscated by biases in sampling. Smaller, more ecologically diverse terrestrial non-archosaurs, such as lissamphibians and mammaliaforms, were comparatively resilient to extinctions, instead documenting the origination of many extant groups around the J/K boundary. In the marine realm, extinctions were focused on low-latitude, shallow marine shel
The Blue Lias Formation at Lyme Regis (Dorset, UK) includes an exceptional pavement of abundant large ammonites that accumulated during a period of profound sedimentary condensation. Ammonites were originally composed of aragonite, an unstable polymorph of calcium carbonate, and such fossils are typically prone to dissolution; the occurrence of a rich association of aragonitic shells in a condensed bed is highly unusual. Aragonite dissolution occurs when pore-water pH is reduced by the oxidization of hydrogen sulphide close to the sediment-water interface. Evidence suggests that, in this case, the oxygen concentrations in the overlying water column were low during deposition. This inhibited the oxidation of sulphides and the associated lowering of pH, allowing aragonite to survive long enough for the shell to be neomorphosed to calcite. The loss of aragonite impacts upon estimates of past biodiversity and carbonate accumulation rates. The preservational model presented here implies that diagenetic loss of aragonite will be greatest in those areas where dysoxic-anoxic sediment lies beneath an oxic waterbody but least where the sediment and overlying water are oxygen depleted. Unfortunately, this implies that preservational bias through aragonite loss will be greatest in those biotopes which are typically most diverse and least where biodiversity is lowest due to oxygen restriction.
Exceptionally preserved organic remains are known throughout the vertebrate fossil record, and recently, evidence has emerged that such soft tissue might contain original components. We examined samples from eight Cretaceous dinosaur bones using nano-analytical techniques; the bones are not exceptionally preserved and show no external indication of soft tissue. In one sample, we observe structures consistent with endogenous collagen fibre remains displaying ~67 nm banding, indicating the possible preservation of the original quaternary structure. Using ToF-SIMS, we identify amino-acid fragments typical of collagen fibrils. Furthermore, we observe structures consistent with putative erythrocyte remains that exhibit mass spectra similar to emu whole blood. Using advanced material characterization approaches, we find that these putative biological structures can be well preserved over geological timescales, and their preservation is more common than previously thought. The preservation of protein over geological timescales offers the opportunity to investigate relationships, physiology and behaviour of long extinct animals.
Pentastomids (tongue worms) are worm-like arthropods known today from ∼140 species . All but four are parasitic on vertebrates. Their life cycle typically involves larval development in an intermediate host followed by maturation in the respiratory tract of a definitive terrestrial host. Fossil pentastomids are exceedingly rare and are known only from isolated juveniles [2-6]. The identity of the possible hosts of fossil pentastomids and the origin of their lifestyle have generated much debate. A new, exceptionally preserved species, described based on adults from 425-million-year-old marine rocks, is the only known fossil pentastomid associated with a host, in this case a species of ostracod crustacean. The pentastomids are preserved near eggs within the ostracod and also, uniquely for any fossil or living pentastomid, are attached externally to the host. This discovery affirms the origin of pentastomids as ectoparasitic on marine invertebrates. The terrestrialization of pentastomids may have occurred in parallel with the vertebrate invasion of land.
Large-scale extraction of power from tidal streams within the Pentland Firth is expected to be underway in the near future. The Inner Sound of Stroma in particular has attracted significant commercial interest. To understand potential environmental impacts of the installation of a tidal turbine array a case study based upon the Inner Sound is considered. A numerical computational fluid dynamics model, Fluidity, is used to conduct a series of depth-averaged simulations to investigate velocity and bed shear stress changes due to the presence of idealised tidal turbine arrays. The number of turbines is increased from zero to 400. It is found that arrays in excess of 85 turbines have the potential to affect bed shear stress distributions in such a way that the most favourable sites for sediment accumulation migrate from the edges of the Inner Sound towards its centre. Deposits of fine gravel and coarse sand are indicated to occur within arrays of greater than 240 turbines with removal of existing deposits in the shallower channel margins also possible. The effects of the turbine array may be seen several kilometres from the site which has implications not only on sediment accumulation, but also on the benthic fauna.
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