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EARLY EARTH
Well-preserved Canadian fossil reveals dinosaur armor like no other
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Aug 3, 2017


Snail fossils reveal origin of rocks used to carve ancient Spanish monuments
Washington (UPI) Aug 3, 2017 - A number of famed Spanish stone monuments feature gastropod fossils dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. Using the fossils as a guide, researchers were able to identify the quarries from which the stone was sourced during the 18th century.

The ancient fountains outside the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, are made of dolomite, a type of sedimentary rock popular with stone artisans and architects. Prized for its light color, the stone is also characterized by the plethora of snail shells trapped within.

Analysis of the ancient snail fossils allowed researchers to locate the original source of the prized stone.

The snail species, Trochactaeon lamarckim, featured in the monuments hails from the Late Cretaceous epoch. The fossils are 85 million years old.

Researchers used historical records to identify possible locations of the ancient quarries. The fossils allowed the scientists to confirm the exact origin of the dolomite.

"These quarries, lost over a century ago, are located in RedueƱa in the province of Madrid," researcher David M. Freire-Lista told SINC. "Here the geological formation of the dolomite -- a sedimentary rock similar to limestone -- known as Castrojimeno presents characteristic features, such as a layer containing fossils that do not appear in other areas."

In addition to the Prado Museum monuments, the stone was also used to build the Fountain of Apollo and the Palacio de las Cortes.

"Its petrographic and petrophysical properties, being of particular note its low solubility and porosity, lend it an excellent quality and durability for use in places where water is present, such as these fountains," Freire-Lista said.

Researchers detailed their analysis in the journal AIMS Geosciences.

One of the most well-preserved dinosaur fossils ever recovered has revealed a set of scales unlike any sported by armored dinosaurs.

The newly discovered dinosaur species, Borealopelta markmitchelli, was the Humvee of the Cretaceous period. Despite the tank-like species' impressive size, the dinosaur's scales also served as camouflage, suggesting it hid to avoid predation.

Spectral analysis of the 110-million-year-old herbivore's scales revealed the presence of pigmentation. The dinosaur was darker on top and lighter on the bottom, a camouflage strategy known as countershading.

"Color patterns can be used for sexual display, thermoregulation, communication and many other reasons," researcher Jakob Vinther told BBC. "But, today, countershading is used for camouflage and we think that the new species had this type of pigment pattern to help it to hide from predators."

If the species was discovered, its heavy armor would have made it difficult to wound. However, the stout stature of Borealopelta markmitchelli would have made it hard for the herbivore flee.

Scientists were able to study the armor's 3D structure thanks to the fossil's superb condition.

"Normally when we find a dinosaur we find bits and pieces of skeletons, and occasionally soft issue," Caleb Brown at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, told New Scientist. "In this case we have all the skin preserved in the front half of body -- so it actually looks like it looked back in the Cretaceous."

The fossil -- believed to be Alberta's oldest -- was originally discovered by a shovel operator six years ago. It's now on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.

Researchers described the new species this week in the journal Current Biology.

EARLY EARTH
Dinosaur-era plant found growing in Wisconsin lakes
Washington (UPI) Jul 31, 2017
Scientists have found a surprise algae species growing in Wisconsin lakes, a species most thought was existent from the Americas. Lychnothamnus barbatus is a tall algae species. It has previously been found in Europe and Australasia. Cretaceous-era fossils unearthed in Australia offer the only evidence of the species in the Americas. Having disappeared from the scientific record, ... read more

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