Archive for Friday, August 12, 2011

Ancient sea reptile gave birth, didn’t lay eggs

Plesiosaurs fossil originally found in Kansas

August 12, 2011

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This undated image provided by the journal Science shows a life reconstruction of the plesiosaur Polycotylus latippinus giving birth to a single, large young, based on fossil evidence from the Upper Cretaceous (80 million years ago) of Kansas. The giant reptile was pregnant when she died more than 70 million years ago, according to a new analysis of the remains that offers the first proof that Plesiosaur gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

This undated image provided by the journal Science shows a life reconstruction of the plesiosaur Polycotylus latippinus giving birth to a single, large young, based on fossil evidence from the Upper Cretaceous (80 million years ago) of Kansas. The giant reptile was pregnant when she died more than 70 million years ago, according to a new analysis of the remains that offers the first proof that Plesiosaur gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows the detail of a Polycotylus latippinus' embryo. The giant reptile was pregnant when she died more than 70 million years ago, according to a new analysis of the remains that offers the first proof that Plesiosaur gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows the detail of a Polycotylus latippinus' embryo. The giant reptile was pregnant when she died more than 70 million years ago, according to a new analysis of the remains that offers the first proof that Plesiosaur gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

— The remains of a giant sea creature are providing the first proof that these prehistoric reptiles gave birth to their young rather than laying eggs.

Plesiosaurs, which lived at the time of dinosaurs, were large carnivorous sea animals with broad bodies and two pairs of flippers. Researchers have long questioned whether they would have been able to crawl onto land and lay eggs like other reptiles or gave birth in the water like whales.

“This is the first evidence of live birth in plesiosaurs — an exciting find,” said geology professor Judy A. Massare of the State University of New York, Brockport, who was not part of the research team.

The newly unveiled fossil was originally discovered in 1987 in Logan County in Kansas. Encased in rock, it had been stored in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County until resources were available to separate the bones for display at the museum.

F. Robin O’Keefe of Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., and the museum’s Luis Chiappe uncovered the bones of an adult plesiosaur (PLEE’-see-uh-sawr) and the remains of a fetus inside her. The museum dated the fossil, which is more than 15 feet long, to between 72 million and 78 million years ago.

The researchers report on their analysis of the pregnant plesiosaur in today’s edition of the journal Science.

O’Keefe said he had seen photos of the fossil, but was still surprised when he first saw it.

“I wasn’t prepared for the emotional response I had,” he said in a telephone interview. “You don’t very often walk up to one and say: ‘That is a really cool fossil.”’

“I walked around it for about a half hour, it excited me the way I used to get excited as a kid,” he said.

There had been evidence of live births in an ancestor of plesiosaurs. But the lack of proof for plesiosaur birth has been puzzling, said R. Ewan Fordyce, head of the geology department at the University of Otago, New Zealand, who was not involved in the research.

Fordyce said the researchers do a good job showing “that this is a fetus and not a young animal that has been eaten.” He said it was the right size for a fetus and in the right place, and there’s no sign that it had been eaten and digested.

Anthony Russell of the biological science department at the University of Calgary, Canada, called the find “significant.”

“It would be hard to imagine these animals coming out onto land laying eggs somewhere,” he added, so arguing that all plesiosaurs were doing this is a reasonable hypothesis.

In their paper, O’Keefe and Chiappe suggest a parallel between plesiosaurs and modern whales, also large animals that give birth to relatively big offspring. Like whales, they said, plesiosaurs may have formed social groups and tended their young.

Comments

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

"The museum dated the fossil, which is more than 15 feet long, to between 72 million and 78 million years ago."

Did you catch that? Facts didn't date the fossil (that would be impossible as there is no tag, no chip, no "made in xxxx", but only ratios of which it is unclear if any ratios were used in this case), but that "the museum dated the fossil". Of what relevance to the point of the article is the specific time of 72-78 million years ago? How does that add anything to the find other than seizing an opportunity to make a statement?

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

bozo, the point is, why does it matter regarding the find?

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 8 months ago

Wha'? Dating something is "not important"? Wow....just...wow. Other than that, wha's a sweet little smoochie woochie baby dinosaur.

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Guys, what is the topic of the article?

funkdog1 3 years, 8 months ago

Wow. You better hold on to your superstition a little tighter, gr. Some facts might accidentally get in.

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Interesting.

I ask what the topic of the article has to do with dating anything and I get silly responses. Kind of telling, don't you think? What superstition did I give? Do you think my question of the date and what it had to do with the topic is a superstition? Do you know what a superstition is?

And what might the facts be, dog? Are you even able to pick out the facts in the article? A more telling question would be, do you know what a fact is?

funkdog1 3 years, 8 months ago

You show me an article that discusses fossils of any kind that doesn't mention the era said fossil is dated to and I'll pretend you didn't just ask all those dumb questions.

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Excellent point, dog. And please tell us why do ALL articles about fossils, no matter the topic, feel the innate need to promote the age?

Is that what you are calling a superstition, my thought that there is some underlying motive that all articles promote age, whether it's relevant or not to the topic being discussed?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Because it's relevant, even if you think otherwise.

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Ok, I'll listen bozo. You say, because it's relevant. But you didn't say how so.

Are you able to explain how Plesiosaurs giving birth to live young rather than eggs is somehow relevant to it's age?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

Umm, it's an extinct animal. Telling when it's believed to have lived is basic information.

Your complaint is totally idiotic.

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Calling me names still does not explain how it is relevant. Whether an extinct animal gave live birth or lays eggs does not require giving it's age. If it's "basic information", do all articles require listing basic information? There are many such articles (dog says all), which do not list much relevant information, but gives your so-called "basic information". Just because something is always done doesn't make it relevant.

Do you expect to an article about the storm causing downed power lines to arc in the street and still posing a traffic hazard to give "basic information" of when the power plant was constructed? You fail yet again.

funkdog1 3 years, 8 months ago

Wow. Just ... wow. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how far humankind manages to move forward some folks insist on trying to live in times gone by.

Please, I beg of you. We have a decent university in this town. Sign yourself up for a basic paleontology class.

And just for the record, bozo did not call you a name. He called your complaint "idiotic."

gr 3 years, 8 months ago

Wow. Just ... wow, dog. All this and you have still yet to give a logical reason why the age of the fossil was relevant to this article about giving live birth. wow. Do you really think taking a course on fossils would stop me from asking why the age of something is relevant to giving live birth or laying eggs? Do you really think by you saying, "take a course", makes me think you know why this is relevant to the article?

Just because if all articles about fossils do give ages, does not mean it's relevant. Calling people dumb because they dare ask where the king's clothes are, still doesn't put clothes on him.

And what is with this rant about how far humankind moves forward? Does moving forward require ignoring whether something is relevant to an article or not? Or, do you intend to bring religion into it. Do you think Isaac Newton is of times gone by? Why not darwin? Why was Isaac Newton a theologian?

By the way, you have yet to give what the facts of the article are nor be able to demonstrate you know what a fact is.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

"You say, because it's relevant. But you didn't say how so."

You say it's irrelevant, but provide no reason why it isn't? (even though the age of an ancient fossil in an article about it is clearly relevant information.)

Or are you just miffed that they didn't claim it fell off the ark? Should they be checking for Noah's DNA?

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