April 17, 2019

We're not talking a Barney stuffed animal or a life-size replica of Baby Sinclair: There is a real dinosaur up for sale on eBay, with the seller asking $2.95 million, plus $45.70 shipping and handling, for the fossil.

Estimated to be 68 million years old, the fossil is of an infant Tyrannosaurus rex, with a 15-foot-long body and 21-inch skull. In an understatement, the eBay listing describes this as a "RARE opportunity indeed to ever see a baby REX."

The skeleton was found by Alan Detrich in 2013, on private land near Jordan, Montana. In 2017, he let the University of Kansas Natural History Museum borrow it, and surprised everyone when he announced he wanted to auction the fossil off. Paleontologists had hoped that by examining the skeleton, they'd be able to finally figure out whether small Tyrannosaurs from North America are infants, or if they should actually be classified as Nanotyrannus, The Guardian reports. If the fossil goes to a private collector, the debate won't be settled anytime soon.

While stopping short of wishing an asteroid would hit Detrich and the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology made it known they are very upset with both parties. In an open letter, the organization said the skeleton should have been studied before going on display, and that by exhibiting the fossil, it was brought to the attention of "hundreds or thousands of visitors, potentially enhancing its commercial value." Catherine Garcia

May 18, 2016

A retired nuclear physicist made a big discovery in the badlands of Montana: a previously unknown dinosaur species that lived 76 million years ago.

In 2005, Bill Shipp hired an amateur paleontologist to show him how to hunt for fossils at a ranch he acquired near Winifred, and while digging he discovered what ended up being the leg bone of a dinosaur. Now, details of the find have been published in the online journal PLOS ONE: The scientific name of the species is Spiclypeus shipporum, and paleontologists say it is closely related to the Triceratops — both had horned faces and head frills. Because the bones were found near the Judith River rock formation, the dinosaur has been nicknamed "Judith."

The dinosaur ate plants, weighed up to four tons, and was approximately 15 feet long. "I found it accidentally on purpose," Shipp told The Associated Press. "I was actually looking for dinosaur bones, but with no expectation of actually finding any." Canadian Museum of Nature paleontologist Jordan Mallon told AP that when Judith died, it was at least 10 years old and its bones show signs of infection. "It's an exciting story, because it's a new species, and yet we have this sort of pathetic individual that suffered throughout its lifetime," Mallon said. "If you're hobbling along on three limbs, you're probably not going to be able to keep up." Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2015

When it comes to blockbuster franchises, life always finds a way. Universal has formally announced a sequel to this summer's smash hit Jurassic World, which will hit theaters on June 22, 2018. Jurassic World's Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard will reprise their starring roles.

Of course, the announcement of a sequel is no great surprise; Jurassic World recently became the third highest-grossing movie in history, behind only Avatar and Titanic. Still, it's going to get increasingly more challenging for these Jurassic movies to justify their narratives. Dinosaurs may be cool, but how many times do they need to escape and kill a bunch of people before families decide to spend their holidays at Disney World instead? Scott Meslow

June 13, 2015

Jurassic World raked in an estimated $82.8 million at the box office Friday, a figure Forbes reports is the third-biggest opening day haul of all time. Including late-night Thursday screenings, the blockbuster starring Chris Pratt was surpassed in dough only by Avengers: Age of Ultron and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

The film is on pace to possibly take in $200 million on opening weekend. Hold onto your butts. Julie Kliegman

January 6, 2015

In this month's issue of Smithsonian magazine, Eva Holland explores Canada's wealth of dinosaur fossils in the badlands of Alberta.

Drumheller, Canada, bills itself as the "Dinosaur Capital of the World" — hundreds of dinosaur skeletons have been found in the vicinity. The fossils come from 60 different species that date to the late Cretaceous period, representing as many as five percent of the world's known dinosaur species.

Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum is home to more than 150,000 fossils found near Drumheller, including species ranging from raptors to triceratops. But the museum isn't the only source of dinosaur information in the area — Francois Therrien, a paleontologist at the museum, believes a nearby canyon could hold new clues about the dinosaurs' extinction.

(Facebook.com/Royal Tyrrell Museum)

The K-T boundary, made up of the debris at a canyon carved by the Red Deer River, is the same debris left by an asteroid or comet that many believe killed the dinosaurs. The heat and collision from the impact would have killed many animals, but Therrien proposes that they may have already been a gradual decline among animal and plant species before the impact took place.

According to Therrien, climate change may have "weakened the dinosaurs enough to make an otherwise survivable event truly disastrous," Holland reports. Recent studies have concluded that some species of large herbivores may have declined before the dinosaurs' extinction, and the rocks along the Alberta river site may hold further clues about environmental change before the impact. Read more about the new theory and Alberta's dinosaur treasures over at Smithsonian. Meghan DeMaria

September 11, 2014

Researchers now believe the 50-foot-long Spinosaurus may have been the first dinosaur to take the plunge, swimming in the rivers of North Africa 97 million years ago.

The dinosaur had a giant sail on its back, much like a shark's fin, and likely ate ancient crocodiles, fish, and other floating objects. "It was the biggest carnivorous dinosaur, but Spinosaurus wasn't a land animal," University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim told National Geographic. "This was a creature adapted to life in the water."

Before Spinosaurus, researchers say, dinosaurs were only on land, and after 150 million years of evolution "suddenly we see these adaptations in Spinosaurus where it is able to swim," University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno said.

The paleontologists studied Spinosaurus fossils — including a skull, claws, and the back sail — found in the Moroccan Sahara, and found that the predator had a snout similar to a crocodile's, paddle-like feet, and dense bones that helped with buoyancy. "Spinosaurus has almost no 'junk in the trunk,'" dinosaur expert Thomas Holtz told National Geographic. "This doesn't make much sense for a land animal that makes a living chasing other land animals. But if it is an animal that doesn’t spend most of its time on land, but instead in the water, it doesn't need strong leg muscles."

Spinosaurus was discovered in Egypt in 1912 by the German paleontologist Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach. His findings were destroyed during a World War II bombing in Munich, which brought research to a standstill. Read more about the Spinosaurus and how the paleontologists found these new fossils at National Geographic. Catherine Garcia

September 9, 2014

Paleontologists from Ohio University have made a huge discovery in Tanzania: a new species of titanosaur.

The Rukwatitan bisepultus likely weighed as much as several elephants, and had forelegs six-and-a-half feet long, the Los Angeles Times reports. The fossil that paleontologists found included vertebrae, ribs, pelvic bones, and legs, and was inside of the wall of a cliff in the Rukwa Rift Basin in southwestern Tanzania.

The titanosaur died about 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, and is a big find not just because of its size, but because of how rare it is to unearth a titanosaur fossil in Africa. Researchers say that this discovery will help them in figuring out relationships between different species. Catherine Garcia

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