Egypt unveils rare whale fossil museum to boost tourism

Daily Mail

Originally Posted: January 14, 2016

SMU professor Louis Jacobs led a study that discovered dozens of rare “walking whale” fossils in the Sahara desert. “The whales were stranded upriver at a time when east Africa was at sea level and was covered with forest and jungle,” said Jacobs. Now, a $2.17 billion museum has opened onsite to help preserve the rare fossils. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach, Earth Science, XTO presents map of North Texas fault lines

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted:

The fault lines on the map are clear and strikingly large. They slant north to south across Dallas, Tarrant and neighboring counties.

Some have nicknames. One is the Big D Fault, a thick, red gash at least 14 miles long that cuts below Oak Cliff, Love Field and the Medical District. To the west is the Airport Fault, which runs beneath Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Developed by a unit of the energy giant ExxonMobil Corp., the map provides new information about the existence of underground features that could be contributing to the earthquakes that have been jolting North Texas for the last several years. READ MORE

Brian Stump, Earth Sciences, says North Korea likely detonated a nuclear explosion

Science Magazine

Originally Posted: January 6, 2016

Does North Korea really have an H-bomb?

By Richard Stone

North Korea claims to have detonated its first hydrogen bomb yesterday. But experts are skeptical that the pariah state detonated—not an ordinary atomic device—but a much more powerful “H-bomb of justice,” as state media is now calling it. So what kind of device did the reclusive regime test? And how can nuclear jockeys make such a determination from afar?

There’s no doubt that North Korea detonated something near where it conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013. Seismic stations yesterday recorded a magnitude-5.1 earthquake with a waveform nearly identical to those registered after North Korea’s earlier tests, supporting its claim. The waveform confirms that an explosion triggered yesterday’s earthquake, says Brian Stump, a seismologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “It could be a chemical or nuclear explosion, but because of the magnitude it is likely a nuclear explosion,” he says. Researchers are now “chewing through the waveforms” registered by seismometers in the region “to see what’s different from 2013,” says Andy Frassetto, a seismologist with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology consortium in Washington, D.C. READ MORE

Louis Jacobs, Earth Sciences, featured in The 10 Strangest Animal Discoveries of 2015 article

Yahoo News

Originally Posted: December 28, 2015

Every year, scientists wade into jungles, deserts and museum collections to examine animals and, if they’re lucky, discover a new species.

For instance, in 2015 researchers identified a ruby-red sea dragon off the coast of Australia, a new species of giant tortoise in the Galápagos Islands and an ancient spikey worm with 30 legs in China. As these newfound creatures are uncovered, it’s important to protect them from pollution, habitat loss and the havoc caused by invasive species, especially as Earth enters its sixth mass extinction, experts say.

In the meantime, scientists are busy learning about these new animals, and whether these critters can inspire new materials, robots and medicines. Here’s a look at 10 newly identified ? and exceptionally strange ? animals, both living and extinct. READ MORE

Texas Pterosaur Is Remarkably Similar To English Cousins, Say Researchers

Nature World News

Originally Posted: December 9, 2015

A newly discovered toothy pterosaur may be a Texas native, but it is remarkably similar to its English relatives, researchers from Southern Methodist University (SMU) reveal in a new study.

Similarities between this new 94-million-year-old flying reptile, called Cimoliopterus dunni, and the already-known Cimoliopterus cuvieri in England suggests a link between the two places. That is, it seems that the animals were able to move between the two continents during the early Cretaceous, even though the North Atlantic Ocean was progressively widening at this time, according to a news release.

“The Atlantic opened the supercontinent Pangea like a zipper, separating continents and leaving animal populations isolated, so gene flow ceased and we start to see evolutionary divergence,” Timothy S. Myers, a paleontologist from SMU, explained in the release. “Animals start to look different and you see different species on one continent versus another. Pterosaurs are a little trickier because unlike land animals they can fly and disperse across bodies of water. The later ones are pretty good flyers.” READ MORE

New North American pterosaur is a Texan — but flying reptile’s closest cousin is English


Originally Posted: December 8, 2015

New species marks only the third toothed pterosaur identified from North America’s Cretaceous — each one discovered in North Texas

A new species of toothy pterosaur is a native of Texas whose closest relative is from England.

The new 94-million-year-old species, named Cimoliopterus dunni, is strikingly similar to England’s Cimoliopterus cuvieri.

Identification of the new flying reptile links prehistoric Texas to England, says paleontologist Timothy S. Myers, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who identified the fossil as a new species.

Pterosaur relatives from two continents suggests the prehistoric creatures moved between North America and England earlier in the Cretaceous — despite progressive widening of the North Atlantic Ocean during that time.

The Texas and English Cimoliopterus cousins are different species, so some evolutionary divergence occurred, indicating the populations were isolated from one another at 94 million years ago, Myers said.

The similarity between the two species, however, implies minimal divergence time, so gene flow between North American and European populations would have been possible at some point shortly before that date.

“The Atlantic opened the supercontinent Pangea like a zipper, separating continents and leaving animal populations isolated, so gene flow ceased and we start to see evolutionary divergence,” said Myers, a research assistant professor in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at SMU. “Animals start to look different and you see different species on one continent versus another. Pterosaurs are a little trickier because unlike land animals they can fly and disperse across bodies of water. The later ones are pretty good flyers.”

Based on fossils discovered so far, it’s known that toothed pterosaurs are generally abundant during the Cretaceous in Asia, Europe and South America. But they are rare in North America. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, new earthquake map shows quakes continue along fault line found in February

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: October 20, 2015

On Friday — or, as I like to say, two small earthquakes ago — our local earthquake task force (consisting of U.S. Geological Survey and SMU seismologists and Dallas and Irving city hall-passers) met to get a better look at that two-mile-long Irving-to-Northwest Dallas fault line uncovered in February. And what they saw was the new map posted above, which pinpoints quakes and smaller “events” detected by seismographs between January 1 and October 16. MORE

Listen: Thousands Of Vertebrate Paleontologists Descend On Dallas


Originally Posted: October 15, 2015

LISTEN : Everything I knew about paleontology conferences, I learned from TV and “Friends.” There was that time Ross and his girlfriend were prepping for a conference in Barbados.

“By using CT scans and computer imaging, we can in a very real way bring the Mesozoic era into the 21st century,” Ross says.

In the real world, at the conference put on by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the lingo isn’t so simple. Here are some of the session titles:

“A new large non-pterodactyloid pterosaur from a late-Jurassic interdunal desert environment with a neo-eolian nugget sandstone of Northeastern Utah.” READ MORE

Watch: Louis Jacobs, Earth Sciences, Unalaska’s oddball desmostylian

New fossils from the Aleutian Islands intensify the mystery surrounding a toothy, hippopotamus-sized mammal unique to the North Pacific. An oddball creature, it suction-fed shoreline vegetation, say paleontologists from Southern Methodist University and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas. YouTube Preview Image

Louis Jacobs, Earth Sciences and paleontologist Anthony Fiorillo announced the discovery of a new species of ancient mammal.

Huffington Post

Originally Posted: October 8, 2015

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown creature — and it ate in a unique way that hasn’t been seen before.

The extinct species, which belonged to a group of aquatic mammals called Desmostylia that lived across the North Pacific some 23 million years ago, hoovered up vegetation like some sort of beastly vacuum cleaner, according to a study published last week in the journal Historical Biology.

“The new animal — when compared to one of a different species from Japan — made us realize that desmos do not chew like any other animal,” Dr. Louis Jacobs, professor of paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a co-author of the study, said in a written statement. “They clench their teeth, root up plants and suck them in.”

The researchers concluded that the species, which was dubbed Ounalashkastylus tomidai, might have braced its lower jaw and teeth against the upper jaw and used its powerful muscles to suck up vegetation. READ MORE