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Fear and New Papers in Las Vegas

Another new batch o' stuff!  First, the straight-up dinosaurs:

Ye, Y., Peng, G.-Z., and Jiang, S. 2007. Preliminary histological study on the long bones of Middle Jurassic Shunosaurus and Omeisaurus from Dashanpu, Zigong, Sichuan. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica 46(1):135-144.

Lindgren, J., Currie, P.J., Siverson, M., Rees, J., Cederström, P., and Lindgren, F. 2007. The first neoceratopsian dinosaur remains from Europe. Palaeontology 50(4):929-937. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00690.x.

ABSTRACT: Shallow marine, nearshore strata of earliest Campanian (Gonioteuthis granulataquadrata belemnite Zone) and latest Early Campanian (informal Belemnellocamax mammillatus belemnite zone) age in the Kristianstad Basin, southern Sweden, have yielded isolated leptoceratopsid teeth and vertebrae, representing the first record of horned dinosaurs from Europe. The new leptoceratopsid occurrence may support a European dispersal route for the Leptoceratopsidae, or may represent an entirely endemic population. The presence of leptoceratopsid teeth in shallow marine deposits contradicts previous hypotheses suggesting that basal neoceratopsians mainly preferred arid and/or semi-arid habitats far from coastal areas.

Then, from the "I wish I was a dinosaur" category (joke!):

Brochu, C.A. 2007. Systematics and taxonomy of Eocene tomistomine crocodylians from Britain and northern Europe. Palaeontology 50(4):917-928. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00679.x.

ABSTRACT: The holotype of Dollosuchus dixoni (Owen) from the Early-Middle Eocene Bracklesham Beds of England is a set of mandibular fragments that cannot be distinguished from corresponding parts of other longirostrine crocodylians. An isolated humerus from the Bracklesham Beds is consistent with a gavialoid, but it cannot be referred to the holotype of D. dixoni. The name Dollosuchoides densmorei is established for the well-preserved skull and skeleton of a tomistomine from the Middle Eocene of Belgium that had been referred to D. dixoni. It can be clearly distinguished from the basal tomistomine 'Crocodilus' spenceri Buckland from the Lower Eocene of England, which cannot be referred to Dollosuchoides and is provisionally referred to Kentisuchus Mook. Although basal within Tomistominae, Dollosuchoides is more closely related to Tomistoma than to Kentisuchus.

Lastly, from the "here's how to do paleontology properly" camp:

Peterson, K.J., Summons, R.E., and Donoghue, P.C.J. 2007. Molecular palaeobiology. Palaeontology 50(4):775-809. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00692.x.

ABSTRACT: For more than a generation, molecular biology has been used to approach palaeontological problems, and yet only recently have attempts been made to integrate research utilizing the geological and genomic records in uncovering evolutionary history. We codify this approach as Molecular Palaeobiology for which we provide a synthetic framework for studying the interplay among genotype, phenotype and the environment, within the context of deep time. We provide examples of existing studies where molecular and morphological data have been integrated to provide novel insights within each of these variables, and an account of a case study where each variable has been tackled to understand better a single macroevolutionary event: the diversification of metazoan phyla. We show that the promise of this approach extends well beyond research into the evolutionary history of animals and, in particular, we single out plant evolution as the single greatest opportunity waiting to be exploited by molecular palaeobiology. Although most of our examples consider how novel molecular data and techniques have breathed new life into long-standing palaeontological controversies, we argue that this asymmetry in the balance of molecular and morphological evidence is an artefact of the relative 'newness' of molecular data. In particular, palaeontological data provide unique and crucial roles in unravelling evolutionary history given that extinct taxa reveal patterns of character evolution invisible to molecular biology. Finally, we argue that palaeobiologists, rather than molecular biologists, are best placed to exploit the opportunity afforded by molecular palaeobiology, though this will require incorporating the techniques and approaches of molecular biology into their skill-set.

Donoghue, P.C.J., and Benton, M.J. 2007. Rocks and clocks: calibrating the Tree of Life using fossils and molecules. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22(8):424-431. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.05.005.

ABSTRACT: A great tradition in macroevolution and systematics has been the ritual squabbling between palaeontologists and molecular biologists. But, because both sides were talking past each other, they could never agree. Practitioners in both fields should play to their strengths and work together: palaeontologists can provide minimum constraints on branching points in the Tree of Life with considerable precision, and estimate the extent of unrecorded prehistory. Molecular tree analysts have remarkable modelling tools in their armoury to convert multiple minimum age constraints into meaningful dated trees. As we discuss here, work should now focus on establishing reasonable, dated trees that satisfy rigorous assessment of the available fossils and careful consideration of molecular tree methods: rocks and clocks together are an unbeatable combination. Reliably dated trees provide, for the first time, the opportunity to explore wider questions in macroevolution.

Jerry D. Harris
Director of Paleontology
Dixie State College
Science Building
225 South 700 East
St. George, UT  84770   USA
Phone: (435) 652-7758
Fax: (435) 656-4022
E-mail: jharris@dixie.edu
and     dinogami@gmail.com


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