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The Incredible Shrinking New Papers

Oy, I've been lapse of late -- the curse of having tests and exercises to construct and grade, all while taking a class! Thanks to SP and Colin McHenry and others for keeping me up to date on some of these journals that I don't check regularly... Firstly, though, new dinosaur -- this one is available free on-line at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1096-3642.2007.00349.x (congrats, Bucky!!!):

Gates, T.A., and Sampson, S.D. 2007. A new species of Gryposaurus (Dinosauria: Hadrosauridae) from the late Campanian Kaiparowits Formation, southern Utah, USA. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 151(2):351-376. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2007.00349.x.

ABSTRACT: A new species of the hadrosaurine hadrosaurid Gryposaurus was discovered in the late Campanian Kaiparowits Formation of southern Utah. Gryposaurus monumentensis, sp. nov. is distinguished from other Gryposaurus species by possessing a more robust skull, enlarged clover-shaped prongs on the predentary oral margin, an anteroposteriorly narrow infratemporal fenestra, and other autapomorphies plausibly associated with feeding adaptations. The derived morphology revealed in G. monumentensis necessitates revision of the generic diagnosis of Gryposaurus, including the addition of synapomorphies that further aid in distinguishing this taxon from Kritosaurus. A revised phylogenetic analysis places Gryposaurus within a monophyletic clade that includes Brachylophosaurus and Maiasaura. Gryposaurus monumentensis represents the most southern example of Gryposaurus, and underlines the remarkable diversification and long duration of this genus. Based on the phylogenetic, geographical, and stratigraphic evidence at hand, Gryposaurus was the most diverse genus within Hadrosaurinae; it also possessed one of the largest geographical and stratigraphic distributions, spanning more than five million years of the Campanian, and ranging from Alberta in the north to Utah (and possibly Texas) in the south.

Then a pterosaur paper:

Grellet-Tinner, G., Wroe, S., Thompson, M.B., and Ji, Q. 2007. A note on pterosaur nesting behavior. Historical Biology 19(4):273-277. doi: 10.1080/08912960701189800.

ABSTRACT: Based on examination of eggshell structure and predicted vapor conductances in eggshells in recently described material from Argentina and China we conclude that pterosaurs buried their eggs. Egg-burying imposes theoretical restrictions on the distribution of pterosaurs, both geographically and spatially, raises the possibility of thermal sex determination and supports previous suggestions that they exhibited nesting fidelity. Some features associated with egg-burying, such as weight savings, are likely to have been fortuitous pre-adaptations for these flying reptiles, but others may have disadvantaged them relative to avian competitors or increased their vulnerability to extinction in a cooling climate.

...and stuff on general animal ecology and functional morphology that may be of interest for dinosaurian analogy:

Jeschke, J.M. 2007. When carnivores are 'full and lazy'. Oecologia 152(2):357-364. doi: 10.1007/s00442-006-0654-2.

ABSTRACT: Are animals usually hungry and busily looking for food, or do they often meet their energetic and other needs in the 24 h of a day? Focusing on carnivores, I provide evidence for the latter scenario. I develop a model that predicts the minimum food abundance at which a carnivore reaches satiation and is released from time constraints. Literature data from five invertebrate and vertebrate species suggest that food abundances experienced in the field often exceed this threshold. A comparison of energetic demands to kill rates also suggests that carnivores often reach satiation: for the 16 bird and mammal species analyzed, this frequency is 88% (average across species). Because pressure of time would likely lead to trade-offs in time allocation and thus to a nonsatiating food consumption, these results suggest that carnivores are often released from time constraints.

McHenry, C.R., Wroe, S., Clausen, P.D., Moreno, K., and Cunningham, E., S. 2007. Supermodeled sabercat, predatory behavior in Smilodon fatalis revealed by high-resolution 3D computer simulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(41):16010-16015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0706086104.

ABSTRACT: The American sabercat Smilodon fatalis is among the most charismatic of fossil carnivores. Despite broad agreement that its extraordinary anatomy reflects unique hunting techniques, after >150 years of study, many questions remain concerning its predatory behavior. Were the "sabers" used to take down large prey? Were prey killed with an eviscerating bite to the abdomen? Was its bite powerful or weak compared with that of modern big cats? Here we quantitatively assess the sabercat's biomechanical performance using the most detailed computer reconstructions yet developed for the vertebrate skull. Our results demonstrate that bite force driven by jaw muscles was relatively weak in S. fatalis, one-third that of a lion (Panthera leo) of comparable size, and its skull was poorly optimized to resist the extrinsic loadings generated by struggling prey. Its skull is better optimized for bites on restrained prey where the bite is augmented by force from the cervical musculature. We conclude that prey were brought to ground and restrained before a killing bite, driven in large part by powerful cervical musculature. Because large prey is easier to restrain if its head is secured, the killing bite was most likely directed to the neck. We suggest that the more powerful jaw muscles of P. leo may be required for extended, asphyxiating bites and that the relatively low bite forces in S. fatalis might reflect its ability to kill large prey more quickly, avoiding the need for prolonged bites.

Another in the long list of "fossil vs. molecule" papers:

Benton, M.J., and Donoghue, P.C.J. 2007. Paleontological evidence to date the Tree of Life. Molecular Biology and Evolution 24(1):26-53. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msl150.

ABSTRACT: The role of fossils in dating the tree of life has been misunderstood. Fossils can provide good "minimum" age estimates for branches in the tree, but "maximum" constraints on those ages are poorer. Current debates about which are the "best" fossil dates for calibration move to consideration of the most appropriate constraints on the ages of tree nodes. Because fossil-based dates are constraints, and because molecular evolution is not perfectly clock-like, analysts should use more rather than fewer dates, but there has to be a balance between many genes and few dates versus many dates and few genes. We provide "hard" minimum and "soft" maximum age constraints for 30 divergences among key genome model organisms; these should contribute to better understanding of the dating of the animal tree of life.

And here's a slightly older paper I only just came across...

Gheerbrant, E., and Rage, J.-C. 2006. Paleobiogeography of Africa: how distinct from Gondwana and Laurasia? Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 241(2):224-246. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2006.03.016.

ABSTRACT: Although Africa was south of the Tethys Sea and originally belonged to the Gondwana, its paleobiogeographical history appears to have been distinct from those of both Gondwana and Laurasia as early as the earliest Cretaceous, perhaps the Late Jurassic. This history has been more complex than the classical one reconstructed in the context of a dual world (Gondwana vs. Laurasia). Geological and paleobiogeographical data show that Africa was isolated from the Mid-Cretaceous (Albian-Aptian) to Early Miocene, i.e., for ca. 75 million years. The isolation of Africa was broken intermittently by discontinuous filter routes that linked it to some other Gondwanan continents (Madagascar, South America, and perhaps India), but mainly to Laurasia. Interchanges with Gondwana were rare and mainly "out-of-Africa" dispersals, whereas interchanges with Laurasia were numerous and bidirectional, although mainly from Laurasia to Africa. Despite these intermittent connections, isolation resulted in remarkable absences, poor diversity, and emergence of endemic taxa in Africa. Mammals suggest that an African faunal province might have appeared by Late Jurassic or earliest Cretaceous times, i.e., before the opening of the South Atlantic. During isolation, Africa was inhabited by vicariant West Gondwanan taxa (i.e., taxa inherited from the former South American-African block) that represent the African autochthonous forms, and by immigrants that entered Africa owing to filter routes. Nearly all, or all immigrants were of Laurasian origin. Trans-Tethyan dispersals between Africa and Laurasia were relatively frequent during the Cretaceous and Paleogene and are documented as early as the earliest Cretaceous or perhaps Late Jurassic, i.e., perhaps by the time of completion of the Tethys between Gondwana and Laurasia. They were permitted by the Mediterranean Tethyan Sill, a discontinuous route that connected Africa to Laurasia and was controlled by sea-level changes. Interchanges first took place between southwestern Europe and Africa, but by the Middle Eocene a second, eastern route - the Iranian route - involved southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. The Iranian route was apparently the filtering precursor of the definitive connection between Africa and Eurasia. The relationships and successive immigrations of mammal (mostly placental) clades in Africa allow the recognition of five to seven phases of trans-Tethyan dispersals between Africa and Laurasia that range from the Late Cretaceous to the Eocene-Oligocene transition. These Dispersal Phases involve dispersals toward Laurasia and/or toward Africa (immigrations). The immigrations in Africa gave rise to faunal assemblages, the African Faunal Strata (AFSs). All successful and typical African radiations have arisen from these AFSs. We recognize four to six AFSs, each characterized by a faunal association. Even major, old African clades such as Paenungulata or the still controversial Afrotheria, which belong to the oldest known AFS involving placentals, ultimately originated from a Laurasian stem group. Africa was an important center of origin of various placental clades. Their success in Africa is probably related to peculiar African conditions (endemicity, weak competition). Although strongly marked by endemicity, the African placental fauna did not suffer extinctions of major clades when Africa contacted Eurasia. The present geographic configuration began to take shape as early as the Mid-Cretaceous. At that time, the last connections between Africa and other Gondwanan continents began to disappear, whereas Africa was already connected to Eurasia by a comparatively effective route of interchange.

A couple 'o things in _Palaeontology_'s online first section:

Kubo, T. and Benton, M.J. Evolution of hindlimb posture in archosaurs: limb stresses in extinct vertebrates. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00723.x

ABSTRACT: During the Triassic, some 250-200 million years ago, the basal archosaurs showed a transition from sprawling to erect posture. Past studies focused on changes in bone morphology, especially on the joints, as they reorientated from a sprawling to an erect posture. Here we introduce a biomechanical model to estimate the magnitude of femur stress in different postures, in order to determine the most reasonable postures for five basal archosaurs along the line to crocodiliforms (the rhynchosaur Stenaulorhynchus, the basal archosaur Erythrosuchus, the 'rauisuchian'Batrachotomus, the aetosaurs Desmatosuchus and Typothorax). The results confirm a sprawling posture in basal taxa and an erect posture in derived taxa. Erect posture may have evolved as a strategy to reduce large bending stresses on the limb bone caused by heavy body weights in larger forms.

Poinar, G., Jr., Voisin, C., and Voisin, J.-F. 2007. Bird eggshell in Dominican amber. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00713.x.

ABSTRACT: Here we report an eggshell in Dominican amber, representing the first vertebrate egg in any amber deposit. The eggshell is compared with present-day eggs of lizards, snails and birds. Based on the surface structure and type of shell breakage, it appears that the most likely candidate is a bird, and with that consideration, an avian group that produces eggs similar to the fossil in shape, size and colouration is the Trochilidae (hummingbirds). Several possible explanations of how the fossil could be preserved in amber are provided. If indeed a hummingbird was involved, this discovery would represent the first New World record of a fossil trochilid.

Lastly, lots of new stuff also in _Naturwissenschaften's_ online first section:

Fernandez, M. and Gasparini, Z. 2007. Salt glands in the Jurassic metriorhynchid Geosaurus: implications for the evolution of osmoregulation in Mesozoic marine crocodyliforms. doi: 10.1007/s00114-007-0296-1

ABSTRACT: The presence of salt-excreting glands in extinct marine sauropsids has been long suspected based on skull morphology. Previously, we described for the first time the natural casts of salt-excreting glands in the head of the Jurassic metriorhynchid crocodyliform Geosaurus araucanensis from the Tithonian of the Vaca Muerta Formation in the Neuquén Basin (Argentina). In the present study, salt-excreting glands are identified in three new individuals (adult, a sub-adult and a juvenile) referable to the same species. New material provides significant information on the salt glands form and function and permit integration of evolutionary scenarios proposed on a physiological basis in extant taxa with evidence from the fossil record. G. araucanensis represents an advanced stage of the basic physiological model to marine adaptations in reptiles. G. araucanensis salt glands were hypertrophied. On this basis, it can be hypothesized that these glands had a high excretory capability. This stage implies that G. araucanensis (like extant pelagic reptiles, e.g. cheloniids) could have maintained constant plasma osmolality even when seawater or osmoconforming prey were ingested. A gradual model of marine adaptation in crocodyliforms based on physiology (freshwater to coastal/estuarine to estuarine /marine to pelagic life) is congruent with the phylogeny of crocodyliforms based on skeletal morphology. The fossil record suggests that the stage of marine pelagic adaptation was achieved by the Early Middle Jurassic. Salt gland size in the juvenile suggests that juveniles were, like adults, pelagic.

Louchart, A., Tourment, N. Carrier, J., Roux, T., and Mourer-Chauvire, C. 2007. Hummingbird with modern feathering: an exceptionally well-preserved Oligocene fossil from southern France. doi: 10.1007/s00114-007-0309-0.

ABSTRACT: Hummingbirds (Trochilidae) today have an exclusively New World distribution, but their pre-Pleistocene fossil record comes from Europe only. In this study, we describe an exceptionally preserved fossil hummingbird from the early Oligocene of southeastern France. The specimen is articulated, with a completely preserved beak and feathering. Osteological characters allow to identify it as Eurotrochilus sp. This genus is a stem group representative of Trochilidae and was recently described from the early Oligocene of southern Germany. The new fossil reveals that these European Trochilidae were remarkably modern in size, skeletal proportions and the shape of the wing, tail and beak and hyoid bones. These features confirm the early acquisition of the abilities of hovering and nectarivory in hummingbirds, probably before the Oligocene. In several morphological characteristics, they resemble members of the 'true hummingbirds' (subfamily Trochilinae) and differ from hermits (Phaethornithinae). These features, which include a short and square tail and a moderately long, almost straight beak, appear to be primitive within the family Trochilidae.

...and two papers concerning Cretaceous fossil ants, which I'll mention but not post since they're only of tangential relevance to a dinosaur list server...

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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