New giant dinosaur discovered in Russia

A new kind of giant dinosaur has been described in Russia. Dubbed Volgatitan, the herbivore belonged to a family of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods. It weighed 17 tons and walked the earth 200 million to 65 million years ago. The enormous dinosaur was identified from seven of its vertebrae, which had been stuck in a … Continue reading “New giant dinosaur discovered in Russia”

A new kind of giant dinosaur has been described in Russia. Dubbed Volgatitan, the herbivore belonged to a family of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods. It weighed 17 tons and walked the earth 200 million to 65 million years ago.

The enormous dinosaur was identified from seven of its vertebrae, which had been stuck in a cliff for 130 million years until they were discovered on the banks of the Volga river near Ulyanovsk in 1982.

“[The fossils] come from a cliff of marine sediments which are rich in invertebrate fossils such as ammonite and bones [of] marine reptiles,” study author Dr. Alexander Averianov of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Fox News.

180-MILLION-YEAR-OLD 'SEA MONSTER' FOUND WITH SKIN AND BLUBBER

Averianov’s co-author Vladimir Efimov found the first three giant vertebrae after they fell out of the cliff in the early ’80s. A few years later, more limestone from the cliff broke off containing the remaining vertebrae. Efimov published a short note about the discovery in 1997, describing his discovery as “giant vertebrae of unknown taxonomic affiliation.”

An image of the vertebrae. (Alexander Averianov and Vladimir Efimov)

The bones sat for 20 years until they were re-examined by Averianov.

“I started my work on sauropods quite recently, published on sauropod remains from the Late Cretaceous of Uzbekistan and describing the first sauropod taxa from Russia, Tengrisaurus and Sibirotitan, in 2017 and 2018 respectively,” Averianov said. “I decided to also study the fossils reported by Efimov and visited his museum in July 2017 and examined the fossils.”

'UNICORN' FROM THE ICE AGE MAY HAVE EXISTED AT THE SAME TIME AS HUMANS, SHOCKING DISCOVERY REVEALS

Upon inspecting the bones, he noticed the caudal vertebrae’s unusual morphology.

“[After] checking the literature when I returned home, [I] confirmed that this is a new taxon of titanosaurian sauropods,” Averianov recounted. A taxon refers to a specific group.

Titanosaurs were the last surviving group of the giant long-necked dinosaurs and were some of the largest land animals known to have lived. It was previously believed that Titanosaurs’ evolution took place mainly in South America in the Early Cretaceous before some taxa migrated to North America, Europe and Asia in the Late Cretaceous. However, this new discovery in Russia shows that Titanosaurs were more widely distributed in the Early Cretaceous and that some of their important evolutionary stages may have happened in Eastern Europe and Asia.

ENORMOUS 20,000-POUND 'RHINO ELEPHANT’ ROAMED THE TRIASSIC

Weighing in at 17 tons, Volgatitan’s not even close to being the largest titan of the Titanosaurs.

“The largest members of this lineage reached 50-70 tons, but they lived much later, in the Late Cretaceous period,” Averianov explained. “Volgatitan is one of the oldest titanosaurian sauropods which lived in the beginning of the Early Cretaceous period, some 130 million years ago. However, it is quite large comparative to other earliest Cretaceous sauropods.”

Averianov hopes to describe yet another new taxon of another dinosaur next, this one pretty famous as far as iconic dinos go.

“We are currently working on the dinosaurs collected from the Early Cretaceous site in Yakutia, Eastern Siberia,” he said. “The fauna is dominated by stegosaurs and possibly we shall describe a new taxon of stegosaur when all specimens will be prepared.”

The study can be found in the latest issue of Biological Communications.

180-million-year-old ‘sea monster’ found with skin and blubber

The fossil of a 180-million-year-old ichthyosaur from the Jurassic era has been discovered and it contains evidence of blubber and skin, making the creature more similar to modern-day dolphins than previously thought.

The team of researchers from North Carolina State University and Sweden’s Lund University used molecular and microstructural analysis to determine that the creature, described by National Geographic as a "sea monster," was likely warm-blooded and potentially could use its coloration to help it hide from predators.

“Ichthyosaurs are interesting because they have many traits in common with dolphins, but are not at all closely related to those sea-dwelling mammals,” says research co-author Mary Schweitzer in a statement. “We aren’t exactly sure of their biology either. They have many features in common with living marine reptiles like sea turtles, but we know from the fossil record that they gave live birth, which is associated with warm-bloodedness. This study reveals some of those biological mysteries.”

85-MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

Johan Lindgren, the lead author on the study, noted “Both the body outline and remnants of internal organs are clearly visible,” adding “Remarkably, the fossil is so well-preserved that it is possible to observe individual cellular layers within its skin.”

The study has been published in the scientific journal Nature.

In addition to blubber and skin, the researchers found traces of an internal organ that is believed to be the creature's liver.

Evidence of the blubber, which is only found in "animals capable of maintaining body temperatures independent of ambient conditions," as well as the liver denotes that the creature had a similar skin makeup to a whale, dark on top and light on the bottom, to help it avoid predators.

“Both morphologically and chemically, we found that although Stenopterygius would be loosely considered ‘reptiles,’ they lost the scaly skin associated with these animals – just as the modern leatherback sea turtle has,” Schweitzer added in the statement. “Losing the scales reduces drag and increases maneuverability underwater."

He continued: “This animal’s preservation is unusual, especially for a marine environment – but then, the Holzmaden formation is known for its exceptional preservation. This specimen has given us more evidence that these tissues and molecules can preserve for extremely long periods, and that soft tissue analysis can shed light on evolutionary patterns, relationships, and how ancient animals functioned in their environment.

150-MILLION-YEAR 'SEA MONSTER' UNEARTHED IN INDIA

“Our results were repeatable and consistent across labs. This work really shows what we’re capable of discovering when we perform a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional study of an exceptional specimen.”

In April, a 205-million-year ichthyosaur fossil was discovered in southwestern England. The creature was estimated to be nearly 85 feet in length based on the fossil, which would make it nearly the size of a blue whale and "one of the largest animals to ever live."

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‘Unicorn’ from the Ice Age may have existed at the same time as humans, shocking discovery reveals

Unicorns may be mythical creatures from ancient literature, but an ancient rhinoceros that was thought to have died out 200,000 years ago bears an eery resemblance to the legendary creature — and may have actually walked the Earth with modern-day humans.

Known as Elasmotherium sibiricum, this giant beast may have become extinct around 39,000 years ago, according to a new study published in Nature.

"Stable isotope data indicate a dry steppe niche for E. sibiricum and, together with morphology, a highly specialized diet that probably contributed to its extinction," the researchers wrote in the study. E. sibiricum is also known as the "Siberian unicorn," because of the large horn atop its head.

SCIENTISTS WANT TO CLONE THIS EXTINCT, FROZEN PREHISTORIC HORSE

E. sibiricum was enormous, at approximately 3.5 tons. By comparison, the white rhinoceros, the largest living rhino, weighs approximately 2.5 tons.

In addition to its size, its structure and shape was also "remarkable," the researchers noted: "relatively slender limbs indicating adaptation for running, despite its mass; absence of incisors and canines; and—uniquely among rhinoceroses—continuously growing cheek teeth with distinctive, highly convoluted enamel plates."

Its elongated horn, significantly larger than other rhinos, may be the result of a "bony protuberance on the frontal bone of the skull, which implies a horn base much larger than in any other rhinoceros, living or extinct," the researchers added.

"E. sibiricum was thought to have become extinct by 200,000 years ago, although recent, unconfirmed reports suggested that it might have persisted into the late Pleistocene, the researchers wrote in the study. "Its ecological niche has been a matter of speculation, from grazing on dry steppes to foraging for roots in damp riverine environments."

The researchers, led by study co-author Adrian Lister, looked at 25 bone samples and found 23 were able to be analyzed using radiocarbon dating because there was enough collagen left in them. Based on the data, Lister and the other researchers were able to determine that the species was still living in Europe and Asia approximately 39,000 years ago, along with modern humans.

The earliest homo sapien fossils outside of Africa have been carbon dated to approximately 177,000 years, according to a January 2018 study in the journal Science.

E. sibiricum is thought to have inhabited areas such as Kazakhstan, western and central Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, and certain areas in Mongolia and China, though that may be more closely associated with E. caucasicum, another genus of rhinoceros.

CAN THE LONG-EXTINCT WOOLLY MAMMOTH BE CLONED?

Speaking with LiveScience, Ross MacPhee, a curator with the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, said it's possible that these creatures lived even longer than believed, given the scarcity of their fossils.

"Rhino fossils are comparatively rare — they're not at all like wooly mammoths or bison in Siberia — and the fewer specimens you have, the less certain you can be," MacPhee told the publication. "You don't really know where you are, with respect to the 'life cycle' of the species."

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Stunning dinosaur discovery: 170-million-year-old footprint found in Scotland

An extremely rare 170-million-year-old dinosaur footprint has been found in Scotland. Paleontologists, however, are keeping its precise location secret until they can complete their research.

The footprint was discovered earlier this year by Dr. Neil Clark, curator of palaeontology at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. Clark told Fox News that he had just given a talk in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands and decided to “visit the Jurassic rocks” in the area.

“After about a half hour looking, I spotted the footprint and was able to immediately recognize it as the footprint of a sauropod dinosaur,” he told Fox News. “I had to do a double take on the footprint as I couldn’t believe that such an obvious footprint had not been seen previously, considering the number of researchers who visit the coast each year.”

RARE DINOSAUR PRINTS MADE 170 MILLION YEARS AGOFOUND IN SCOTLAND

Sauropods were huge dinosaurs with long necks and long tails. The footprint is about 30 inches by 20 inches.

An image of the dinosaur footprint taken by Dr. Neil Clark – for scale, the yellow GPS next to the footprint is about 5.5 inches (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow)

While dozens of dinosaur footprints have been found on the Isle of Skye, the footprint spotted by Clark is the first to be found on the Scottish mainland. “Previously all the dinosaurs that have been found in Scotland have been found in the west of the country and belong to a different geographical area called the Hebrides Basin,” Clark explained. “The new discovery adds dinosaurs to another geographical area called the Moray Basin.”

Dating back to the Middle Jurassic period about 170 million years ago, Clark described the footprint as extremely rare. Palaeontologists, he said, will use the footprint to gain insight into distribution of dinosaurs.

The precise location of the footprint is being kept secret while Clark raises money for his research. “I have been trying to crowdfund the project in order to do some accurate mapping of the area by drone to pinpoint the dinosaur footprints,” he told Fox News. “The research will be commenced once we are able to crowdfund enough to cover the costs.”

INCREDIBLE DINOSAUR 'ROAD' DISCOVERY: 'MOTHER LODE' OF DINO TRACKS FOUND AT NASA SITE

Apatosaurus, a type of sauropod (iStock) (Warpaintcobra)

The discovery of the dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Skye was announced earlier this year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, an incredible dinosaur path, which even shows the tracks of a baby dinosaur, has been found at NASA’s Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Last year, vandals wrecked a dinosaur footprint in rock at a renowned paleontology site in Australia.

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Scientists may have uncovered what dinosaur DNA looks like

Life will find a way, as Jeff Goldblum's character puts it in Jurassic Park.

Researchers at the University of Kent in the U.K. say they’ve discovered the genetic secret of how dinosaurs came to dominate Earth for 180 million years.

The team of scientists used mathematical techniques to identify possible genetic characteristics of the first dinosaurs. They worked backwards from birds and turtles, which are the closest modern-day relatives of dinosaurs.

The results of their work, published in Nature Communications in May, suggest that birds today have very similar DNA to ancient dinosaurs.

Dinosaur DNA was likely organized into chunks known as chromosomes, researchers found. They believe that the creatures' larger number of chromosomes could explain why they came in so many shapes and sizes.

WEST VIRGINIA MAN ARRESTED AFTER 17 RATTLESNAKES FOUND IN HIS HOME

“We think it generates variation. Having a lot of chromosomes enables dinosaurs to shuffle their genes around much more than other types of animals. This shuffling means that dinosaurs can evolve more quickly and so help them survive so long as the planet changed,” Professor Darren Griffin told the BBC.

Although this sounds like a potential seed for a Jurassic Park-style theme park, researchers disagree.

“We are not going to have Jurassic Park anytime soon,” Griffin told the BBC, adding that simply putting dinosaur DNA into a distant relative’s egg would not produce a dinosaur.

According to CNET, researchers speculated that the way in which DNA was organized might have “provided a blueprint for evolutionary success” because it is able to generate variation and thus facilitate natural selection—which keeps animals alive. It may also be why we see so much variation in modern-day birds.

However, there was one life-altering challenge the dinosaurs could not overcome—the massive asteroid impact 66 million years ago that wiped out all of them.

Christopher Carbone covers technology and science for Fox News Digital. Tips or story leads: christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow @christocarbone.

Jurassic-era monster predators flourished during extreme climate change 150M years ago

A new study of fossilized teeth reveals that monster Jurassic-Era predators thrived in deep water more than 150 million years ago.

The study, from paleontologists at Edinburgh University, also shows that species that lived in shallow waters eventually died out.

"Teeth are humble fossils, but they reveal a grand story of how sea reptiles evolved over millions of years as their environments changed," said Dr. Steve Brusatte, School of GeoSciences, in a press release.

SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

Dr. Brusatte continued: "Changes in these Jurassic reptiles parallel changes in dolphins and other marine species that are occurring today as sea-levels rise, which speaks to how important fossils are for understanding our modern world.

The study, published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal, analyzed the size and shape of reptiles living in tropical waters over an 18 million-year period, in what is now modern day northern France and the northern part of England.

"Groups did not significantly overlap in guild space, indicating that dietary niche partitioning enabled many species to live together," the study's abstract reads. "Although a highly diverse fauna was present throughout the history of the seaway, fish and squid eaters with piercing teeth declined over time while hard-object and large-prey specialists diversified, in concert with rising sea levels."

Smaller species used thin, piercing teeth to catch fish, while larger species had broader teeth.

NEW SPIKY-SKULLED DINOSAUR LIVED ON A LOST CONTINENT

"Deep-water species may have flourished as a result of major changes in ocean temperature and chemical make-up that also took place during the period," the researchers added in the statement. "This could have increased levels of nutrients and prey in deep waters, benefiting species that lived there."

STUNNING DINOSAUR DISCOERY: 170-MILLION-YEAR-OLD FOOTPRINT FOUND IN SCOTLAND

"Studying the evolution of these animals was a real – and rare – treat, and has offered a simple yet powerful explanation for why some species declined as others prospered," Davide Foffa, of Edinburgh University's school of geosciences said in the statement. "This work reminds us of the relevance of palaeontology by revealing the parallels between past and present-day ocean ecosystems."

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Amazing giant dinosaur discovery: New dino species identified

A discovery that's been 65 million years in the making.

A new species of dinosaur has been discovered, known as Ledumahadi mafube, the largest animal that walked the Earth during its lifetime.

Ledumahadi mafube, which means "a giant thunderclap at dawn," in the South African language Sesotho, walked in an unusual way. It did not walk on straight limbs, but rather with a "crouched" stance, causing scientists to believe L. mafube was an "evolutionary 'experiment'."

T. REX COULDN'T STICK OUT ITS TONGUE

"The first thing that struck me about this animal is the incredible robustness of the limb bones," said lead author Dr. Blair McPhee in a statement. "It was of similar size to the gigantic sauropod dinosaurs, but whereas the arms and legs of those animals are typically quite slender, Ledumahadi's are incredibly thick."

Dr. McPhee continued: "To me this indicated that the path towards gigantism in sauropodomorphs was far from straightforward, and that the way that these animals solved the usual problems of life, such as eating and moving, was much more dynamic within the group than previously thought."

The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

The 13-ton, roughly 49-feet long giant (approximately double the size of an African elephant) lived during the early part of the Jurassic era, some 200 million years ago. Fossils of the sauropod were found in South Africa, near the country's border with Lesotho on what was then the super continent Panagea, in the 1980s. But it wasn't until 2017 when the entire dinosaur was excavated that paleontologists learned how it walked, LiveScience reported.

TERRIFYING 150 MILLION-YEAR-OLD 'MYSTERY' DINOSAUR SELLS FOR $2.4M

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) paleontologist Professor Jonah Choiniere noted that Ledumahadi is closely related to other gigantic dinosaurs from Argentina, hammering home the idea that Pangaea was still forming during the early Jurassic period.  "It shows how easily dinosaurs could have walked from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires at that time," Choiniere said in the statement.

Dr. Jennifer Botha-Brink from the South African National Museum analyzed the fossil's bone tissue and was able to determine its age, adding it had reached adulthood before it died.

"We can tell by looking at the fossilized bone microstructure that the animal grew rapidly to adulthood," said Dr. Botha-Brink in the statement. "Closely-spaced, annually deposited growth rings at the periphery show that the growth rate had decreased substantially by the time it died."

33-FOOT-LONG DINOSAUR, BIGGER THAN KING KONG, UNEARTHED IN ARGENTINA

Like most sauropods, L. mafube had a long neck and tail and was an herbivore.

"Many giant dinosaurs walked on four legs but had ancestors that walked on two legs. Scientists want to know about this evolutionary change, but amazingly, no-one came up with a simple method to tell how each dinosaur walked, until now," Dr. Roger Benson said in a statement.

The discovery comes shortly after fossils of Ingentia prima (which means "great cousin") were unearthed in Argentina.

The discovery of I. prima marked the first sign of "gigantism" in dinosaurs, some 30 million years earlier than previously thought.

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85 million-year-old sea monster found in Kansas

Popularized in the hit movie "Jurassic World," the mosasaur has come back to life after an 85 million-year-old fossil of a newborn creature was discovered in Kansas.

A "neonate-sized Tylosaurus specimen" (a type of mosasaur), has been identified and examined, with researchers looking at broken bones, including its snout, braincase and upper jaw.

"Despite its small size, a suite of cranial characters diagnoses FHSM VP-14845 [the fossil's identification] as a species of Tylosaurus, including the elongate basisphenoid morphology," the study's abstract reads.

JURASSIC-ERA MONSTER PREDATORS FLOURISHED DURING EXTREME CLIMATE CHANGE 150M YEARS AGO

The creature, which could grow up to 42 feet when it reached adulthood, had an "estimated skull length of 30 [centimeters]," indicating its neonatal state. It was found in the Smoky Hill Chalk Member of western Kansas in 1991, LiveScience reports, but it was originally identified as a Platecarpus, a genus that could grow to almost 20 feet in length.

Dentigerous portion of tylosaurine premaxillae. A–B, FHSM VP-14845, Tylosaurus sp. in A, dorsal and B, ventral views. C, TMM 40092-27, Tylosaurinae, in ventral view. Broken lines in A and B indicate reconstructed outlines of the element. C based on Polcyn et al. (2008 Polcyn, M. J., G. L. Bell Jr., K. Shimada, and M. J. Everhart. 2008. (Credit: Takuya Konishi, Paulina Jiménez-Huidobro & Michael W. Caldwell)

The paper was written in August 2017 and finally published online on Thursday, determining that it is indeed a Tylosaurus.

Other variants of mosasaur could reach up to 50 feet in length and are thought to have weighed as much as 30,000 pounds, with some referring to them as the "T. rex of the seas."

The study's lead researcher, University of Cincinnati assistant professor Takuya Konishi, was able to determine that the fossil was indeed a mosasaur after looking at its long snout and sharp teeth, a feature similar to modern-day orcas, according to LiveScience.

SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

"Somewhat unexpectedly, both pairs of premaxillary teeth project anteriorly and laterally at the base, implying a procumbent nature atypical of tylosaurines," the study reads. "Also unusual are closely spaced first and second premaxillary teeth, where the second pair is also located posterolateral to the first pair."

Unlike dinosaurs, which laid eggs, mosasaurs gave birth to live young. The size of this newborn, which likely would have measured at around 7 feet, suggests it did not live long, Konishi said, according to LiveScience.

NEW SPIKY-SKULLED DINOSAUR LIVED ON A LOST CONTINENT

"I'm thinking that this came out and somehow, miraculously, it got preserved and then discovered," Konishi said.

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Flesh-eating piranha-like fish’s 150-million-year-old remains discovered in Germany

This is one fish that definitely belonged in Jurassic mark – bite mark, that is.

A 150-million-year old Piranha-like fish has been discovered, capable of ripping the flesh off the bones of its prey, according to a new study.

The fish, Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, lived during the late Jurassic period, when sharks and turtles feasted on creatures in the sea using their teeth and dinosaurs roamed the land. However, fish were thought to eat only plankton and crushed shells or swallow their food whole, so the presence of teeth surprised the researchers.

85 MILLION-YEAR-OLD SEA MONSTER FOUND IN KANSAS

"The dentition pattern, tooth shape, jaw morphology, and mechanics are all indicative of a feeding apparatus suitable for slicing flesh or fins, thus pioneering a new ecological niche," a summary of the study reads. "Evidence suggests that it may have exploited aggressive mimicry in a striking parallel to the feeding patterns of modern piranha."

This illustration shows an artist’s reconstruction of the head of the piranha-like fish. The remains of an 150-million-year old piranha-like species – the earliest known flesh-eating fish – have been discovered in a German quarry. (Credit: SWNS)

The summary continues: "Remarkably, fossil fishes recovered from the same deposits as the new pycnodontiform show injuries to fins and fin bases. As a marine piranha-like fish contemporary with dinosaurs, it is the oldest known flesh-eating actinopterygian, revealing remarkable convergent evolution with modern piranhas."

The study was published in the scientific journal Cell Biology.

These dinosaur-aged piranhas were discovered in German limestone, in the quarry of Ettling in the Solnhofen region of the country.

The study's co-authors, Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert and James Cook University professor David Bellwood, were "stunned" at the findings, comparing it to finding a "sheep with a snarl like a wolf." They were able to use CT-scans to look at the fossilized fish and estimate characteristics such as bite force and then compare them with modern-day piranhas.

"But what was even more remarkable is that it was from the Jurassic," Dr. Kölbl-Ebert said in a statement. "Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time. Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

Bellwood was amazed at how similar these fish are to modern-day piranhas, which do not eat living flesh as is commonly thought, but the fins of other fishes.

SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE UNCOVERED WHAT DINOSAUR DNA LOOKS LIKE

"This is an amazing parallel with modern piranhas, which feed predominantly not on flesh but the fins of other fishes," Bellwood added in the statement. "It's a remarkably smart move as fins regrow, a neat renewable resource. Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future."

Piranhas will occasionally eat small mammals, but it is usually when the animal is already dead.

 Scientists say the "remarkable" bony fish lived in the sea at the same time as the dinosaurs roamed the earth and had teeth like a piranha, which it used to bite off chunks of flesh from other fish. (Credit: SWNS)

Though P. pinnatomus is not related to the modern fresh-water piranha, its similarities (such as long pointed teeth and strong jaws) highlight the "staggering example of evolutionary versatility and opportunism" that was going on in the salty seas millions of years ago.

"The new finding represents the earliest record of a bony fish that bit bits off other fishes, and what's more it was doing it in the sea," Bellwood said. "So when dinosaurs were walking the earth and small dinosaurs were trying to fly with the pterosaurs, fish were swimming around their feet tearing the fins or flesh off each other."

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T. Rex’s puny arms were useful after all

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tyrannosaurus rex and other meat-eating dinosaurs are often mocked for their laughably puny arms, but new research indicates that these fearsome predators could do a lot more with these little limbs than previously realized.

By studying the arm movements of two distant relatives of T. rex — the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and the American alligator(Alligator mississippiensis) — researchers have learned that T. rex and other theropods (a group of mostly meat-eating, bipedal dinosaurs) could likely turn the palms of their hands toward their chests.

In essence, "they may have been able to rotate the palm of the hand inward and upward in such a way that the palm would face the chest when the elbow was flexed," study co-researchers Christopher Langel, an undergraduate student of geology, and Matthew Bonnan, a professor of biology, who are both at Stockton University in New Jersey, told Live Science. [Photos: Newfound Dinosaur Had Tiny Arms, Just Like T. Rex]

This adds to the popular saying that "T. rex was a clapper not a slapper," in the way that it held its hands. In other words, the dinosaur likely kept its hands in a clapping position (palms facing inward) rather than a slapping stance (palms facing downward). But the dinosaur king wasn't limited to clapping: the new research suggests T. rex and other theropods could turn their palms inward and upward if they so desired.

As for why this would be advantageous, it's hard to say for certain without seeing a ferocious, nonavian theropod in action, the researchers said. "But we might speculate that such a movement (rotating the forearm and hand in toward the chest) could allow some theropods to bring prey in close for a bite,"Langel and Bonnan told Live Science in an email.

In fact, the next step of the scientists' research may shed light on this question. The team plans to examine the shapes of the forelimb bones in the theropod Allosaurus and compare them with those of alligators and turkeys "to help us narrow down whether this could actually occur in a theropod dinosaur," said Langel and Bonnan. The two presented their research here at the 78th annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting yesterday (Oct. 17). The research has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Turkey time

The researchers couldn't simply study a T. rex arm, because soft joint tissues rarely fossilize. "As a consequence, we are missing information on what the shapes of the [theropod] joints actually looked like and how far apart the bones were when the predatory dinosaur was alive," Langel and Bonnan said.

To investigate, then, the researchers looked at the ulna and humerus in the alligator and turkey with a technique called X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology, or XROMM. First, the investigators attached each wing and arm to a plexiglass platform between two devices that generated X-ray movies. Then, the researchers used fishing wire to tug on the elbow of each specimen, causing the wing and arm to fold up, the researchers said. [Image Gallery: The Life of T. Rex]

Finally, "we used the two X-ray views of each elbow to reconstruct how the bones moved in three dimensions by precisely matching virtual models of each bone to the movies," the researchers said.

The results showed just how complex turkey and alligator elbows are. In humans, "when we flex our elbows, both forearm bones follow the hinge joint to fold in toward the upper arm," the researchers said. "Our hands often rotate palm side up when we flex our elbows, because one forearm bone pivots around the other."

On the other hand (so to speak), in alligators and turkeys, "the elbow joint is more complex, and both bones in the forearm not only pivot around the joint, but [also] rock sideways toward the upper arm bone as the elbow is flexed," the researchers said. "Unlike our elbows, both forearm bones [in alligators and turkeys] cause the palm of the hand to turn inward and somewhat upward."

These results were somewhat unexpected, the scientists said.

"It was especially surprising to see how much the forearm bones could rock side to side at the elbow, a movement that is essentially off limits to mammals like us," Langel and Bonnan said. "In essence, alligators and turkeys can turn the palm of the hand inward and upward like we do, but [they do it] by using more-complex movements of the bones at the elbow. Once again, Mother Nature has solved the same problem in different ways." [Dinosaur Profile: Tyrannosaurus Rex (Infographic)]

Other paleontologists were impressed with the team's approach.

"If we just look at bones without considering cartilaginous reconstructions, we could potentially slip into different results as to how we reconstruct the movement of limb joints," Viktor Radermacher, a master's student of paleontology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, who wasn't involved with the research, told Live Science. "And that has very big downstream implications for how we interpret ancestral things that then evolve into more specialized forms and understanding that transition."

Matthew Inabinett, a graduate student of paleontology at East Tennessee State University, who wasn't involved with the research, agreed. "It's easy to forget how much of a part soft tissue and cartilage play" in the movement of creatures that died so long ago, Inabinett told Live Science.

Originally published on Live Science.