Thursday 3 February 2011

Evolutionary discoveries and freaks of nature

 Frogs re-evolved "lost" bottom teeth after more than 200 million years, according to new research. By Ella Davies Earth News reporter
Tree-dwelling Gastrotheca guentheri are the only frogs with teeth on both their upper and lower jaw.  The reappearance of these lower teeth after such a long time fuels debate about whether complex traits are lost in evolution or if they can resurface. Scientists suggest this new evidence identifies a "loophole" in previous theories.
The species Gastrotheca guentheri is even more unusual, being the only known frog to have teeth on its lower jaw. Dr John Wiens led a team of scientists from Stony Brook University, New York to investigate this exceptional feature. Their findings are reported in the journal Evolution.

A two-headed albino snake is the star attraction drawing the crowds to one of everyone's favourite events of the year - the exhibition of natural world oddballs in Switzerland.The Basel show features all manner of weird and wonderful animals, from mammals to marsupials.But it seems the one area everyone is drawn to this year is the reptiles house - which, this month, is the home of the world's most unusual snake, Mince.This twin-credible freak of nature is an albino garter snake which boasts two heads - making it look even more intimidating than normal.He is the only two-headed albino snake in the world, according to its owner Tom Beser, who also claims he could command offers well into five figures to buy the animal.'There are eight of these two headed snakes in the world, albino and normal. But this is the only snake which is both two headed and albino,' he said.

Read more and pics here :

ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2011) — Triceratops and Torosaurus have long been considered the kings of the horned dinosaurs. But a new discovery traces the giants' family tree further back in time, when a newly discovered species appears to have reigned long before its more well-known descendants, making it the earliest known member of its family. Longrich was searching through scientific papers when he came across a description of a partial skeleton of a dinosaur discovered in New Mexico in 1941. The skeleton went untouched until 1995, when it was finally prepared and identified incorrectly as Pentaceratops, a species common to the area. When the missing part of its frill -- the signature feature of the horned dinosaurs -- was reconstructed for display in the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, it was modeled after Pentaceratops.
"When I looked at the skeleton more closely, I realized it was just too different from the other known Pentaceratops to be a member of the species," Longrich said, adding that the specimen's size indicated that it likely weighed about twice as much as adult Pentaceratops. The new species is very similar to Triceratops, but with a thinner frill, longer nose and slightly bigger horns, Longrich said.Instead, Longrich believes that Titanoceratops is the ancestor of both Triceratops and Torosaurus, and that the latter two split several millions years after Titanoceratops evolved. "This skeleton is exactly what you would expect their ancestor to look like," he said.Titanoceratops was probably only around for about a million years, according to Longrich, while the triceratopsian family existed for a total of about 10 million years and roamed beyond the American southwest into other parts of the country and as far north as Canada.
Nicholas R. Longrich. Titanoceratops ouranous, a giant horned dinosaur from the Late Campanian of New Mexico. Cretaceous Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2010.12.007

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