Posted: 21 Dec 2009 12:43 PM PST
Early dinosaurs weren't just covered in feathers. They were also poisonous.
Analysis of skulls belonging to different species of Sinornithosaurus, a group of feathered predatory theropods that lived 125 million years ago in what is now northeast China, shows skeletal features reminiscent of modern rear-fanged snakes and lizards.
Sinornithosaurus' rear teeth were long, with grooves connected to ducts running under their fangs to a pocket that could have housed a venom gland. "These features are all analogous to the venomous morphology of lizards," wrote paleontologists in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers speculate that Sinornithosaurus' long teeth could have penetrated the feathers of its avian prey, penetrating just far enough to release their poison. Like most modern rear-fanged reptiles, the venom probably wasn't lethal, but instead shocked prey into immobility.
Short front teeth were probably used "to pluck the feathers off their victims," wrote the researchers, who suggest that other members of Sinornithosaurus' family, including the velociraptors of Jurassic Park fame, had the same venomous capabilities.
Images: 1. Sinornithosaurus skull at left and illustration at right/PNAS
Citation: "The birdlike raptor Sinornithosaurus was venomous." By Enpu Gonga, Larry D. Martin, David A. Burnham, and Amanda R. Falk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106 No. 51, December 22, 2009.
Posted: 21 Dec 2009 11:09 AM PST
The snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast this weekend was so big, it is even impressive from space. NASA's Aqua satellite took this image centered on Washington, D.C., on Sunday with its MODIS instrument.
The blizzard shut down the federal government, stranded travelers, left hundreds of thousands without power and crushed the hopes of many retailers hoping for big sales during the weekend before Christmas.
The image covers 300 miles lengthwise. The two big rivers near the center are the Susquehanna (to the north) and Potomac rivers, which run into Chesapeake Bay. Washington, D.C., sits alongside the Potomac, just north of the river's hook-shaped curve. The inlet to the north is Delaware Bay.
|You are subscribed to email updates from Johnus Morphopalus's Facebook notes |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|