Teeny-tiny chameleon species discovered in Madagascar.
Courtesy D'Arcy NormanSpeaking of the Permian (see JGordon's post down yonder) a team of paleontologists led by the legendary Bob Bakker from the Houston Museum of Natural Science has uncovered the nearly complete skeletal remains of an iconic sail-backed reptile known as Dimetrodon. The prehistoric predator is often mistaken for a dinosaur but is in fact a primitive mammal-like reptile, a branch that split off from other vertebrates some 310 million years ago. This makes Wet Willi a very, very, very distant relative to all mammals living today, including us humans. Basically, vertebrates are divided into three categories depending on how many major fenestrae (holes to lighten the skull and for muscle attachment) are located in the cranium. The basic three types are anapsids (no holes), synapsids (one hole), and diapsids (two holes). Turtles are an example of the first type, mammals the second, and most reptiles (including dinosaurs) the third. The new Dimetrodon remains were discovered in the Texas Red Beds in the north-central part of the state. He was named Wet Willi in honor paleontologist S. W. Williston who quarried in the same fossil rich site a century ago.
Fossils of a gigantic prehistoric snake as long as a school bus were uncovered recently in a South American coal mine
Titanoboa cerrejonensis lived in what used to be a tropical environment along a seacoast with brackish waters and a diverse flora and fauna. That former lush world is now an open-pit coal mine in Cerrojon in northern Colombia. Because of its huge size, scientists speculate that the average temperature during the cold-blooded Titanoboa’s reign would have had to been hotter than previously thought – at least 6 to 8 degrees warmer than it is today.
Paleontologist Jonathan Bloch of the University of Florida was the lead author of the paper describing the snake that appears in the recent issue of the journal Nature.
The skeletons of eight individuals were collected alongside the remains of a giant turtle and a crocodile ancestor, more than likely the snakes’ last meal.
Generally a snake can consume something about as big as itself. This means Titanoboa - which weighed in at about one-and-a-quarter tons - could have devoured a whole cow if it were living today. But fortunately it lived about 60 million years ago, just after the dinosaurs went extinct.
From the looks of this monstrosity I’d say that’s lucky for the dinosaurs.
But the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is quite proud of its new four eyes, a rare Beal’s four-eyed turtle, which recently hatched. Don’t get all panicky, it is not some genetic mutant freak turtle. It only has two actual eyes, but also two white spots on the top of its head that look like another set of eyes.
It is now one of only 18 four-eyers known to be in captivity in the U.S. and Europe. Years ago, the species were fairly common in the wild in China but its population numbers have dropped due to low reproduction rates.
I never knew such a rare turtle existed. But now I’m thinking –- here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, we have a pair of preserved two-headed turtles on display in our collections gallery. Aren’t they the “real” four-eyed turtles?
French and Chinese paleontologists have discovered the tiny fossilized remains of a 150-million-year-old newborn aquatic reptile with two heads. Axial bifurcation, or two-headedness, is a well-known developmental flaw in turtles and snakes today. SMM's collection includes "Emily," a two-headed turtle. (You can see Emily for yourself in the Collections Gallery.)