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Smallest Dinosaur Ever Found Preserved In 99-Million-Year-Old Piece Of Amber

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Photo Credit: Yahoo

Jocelyne LeBlanc, Guest Writer

The skull of a hummingbird-size dinosaur from 99 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period has been discovered in a piece of amber. The tiny dinosaur has been named Oculudentavis khaungraae – by combining the Latin words “oculus” (eye), “dentes” (teeth), and “aves” (bird) for the first name, followed by the last name which is in reference to Khaung Ra who donated it. The piece of amber was initially discovered in a mine in Myanmar back in 2016 and was eventually donated to the Hupoge Amber Museum in China by Ra who had purchased the specimen.

The specimen weighs only 0.07 ounces which is equivalent to a couple of dollar bills. In fact, it measured just one-sixth of the size of the tiniest known early fossil bird meaning that it was the smallest known dinosaur during the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago).

The Oculudentavis khaungraae was around the size of a hummingbird.
The Oculudentavis khaungraae was around the size of a hummingbird.

Even though it was incredibly small, the Oculudentavis khaungraae had around a hundred very sharp teeth. Jingmai O’Connor, who is a senior professor of vertebrate paleobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as the co-lead researcher of the study (which can be read in full here), explained to Live Science, “It has more teeth than any other Mesozoic [dinosaur-age] bird that we know of,” adding that there were even teeth located underneath its eye at the back of the jaw “which suggests that the animal could really open its mouth really, really wide.” He went on to say that it was so small that the only thing it was probably able to eat was insects. Additionally, he noted the unusual sockets for the teeth by stating that “the teeth are fused into the skull, which is highly unusual for a dinosaur, including birds.”

Since the Oculudentavis khaungraae lived on an island arc, that might be the reason why some creatures were much smaller according to a theory suggesting that they “miniaturize” when they live on islands that are isolated. It may also be the reason why it developed some strange features like the bones around its eyes being in the shape of a spoon and potentially bulging out (similar to a lizard’s eyes). Another interesting fact is that its eyes were located on the sides of its head and they had small pupils suggesting that it hunted during the daytime. A picture of the Oculudentavis khaungraae skull preserved in amber can be seen here.

Burmese amber with Oculudentavis skull nearly perfectly preserved inside. (Lida Xing)
Burmese amber with Oculudentavis skull nearly perfectly preserved inside. (Lida Xing)

Many people in the science world have reacted to this incredible discovery. Darla Zelenitsky, who is an assistant professor of dinosaur paleobiology at the University of Calgary, told Live Science that the find is “truly astonishing” and that “This discovery is a stark reminder that ancient birds, and even non-bird dinosaurs potentially, may have evolved to diminutive sizes, but are unknown because they are too small to preserve in the fossil record under ordinary circumstances.”

Sara Burch, who is an assistant professor of biology (specializing in birds and meat-eating theropod dinosaurs) at the State University of New York College at Geneseo, weighed in by stating that the Oculudentavis khaungraae “provides a fascinating look at miniaturization in an early bird,” adding that “This new specimen is the size of a hummingbird, but exhibits some unique and unexpected adaptations that suggest that it was quite different ecologically.”

Specimens like this give us the opportunity to learn more about what is biologically possible at very small body sizes.”

Recommended Articles by Jocelyne LeBlanc
About the Author

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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Paleontologists Find One Of The Biggest Prehistoric Predatory Fish In History

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Photo Credit: Cretaceous Period

Jocelyne LeBlancGuest Writer

The remains of a gigantic 70-million-year-old fish that lived during the same time as the dinosaurs have been discovered in Argentine Patagonia. The fish belonged to the Xiphactinus genus and was one of the biggest predatory fish that ever existed on Earth.

In a statement that was recently released, it read in part that the palaeontologists from Argentina “found the remains of a predator fish that was more than six meters long”. “The fossils of this carnivorous animal with sharp teeth and scary appearance were found close to the Colhue Huapial lake” which is located about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) south of Buenos Aires. It had pretty distinct features as its body was quite slim with a large head and jaw which contained teeth that measured several centimetres in length and were as sharp as needles. Its appearance has been compared to the modern day tarpon fish although tarpons aren’t related to the Xiphactinus.

Recreation of a Xiphactinus.
Recreation of a Xiphactinus.

According to the statement, it lived in the Patagonian seas during the end of the Cretaceous Period (which lasted from 145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) when the temperatures were much calmer than they are today. As a matter of fact, the Patagonia region in South America is one of the most significant locations on Earth for where the remains of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been discovered.

Patagonia is located at the base of South America which includes the lower portions of Argentina and Chile. It covers an area of approximately 300,000 square miles (777,000 square kilometres) of Argentina and 131,275 square miles (340,000 square kilometres) of Chile.

tarpon fish 2020
The Xiphactinus looked similar to the modern day tarpon.

Prior to this recent find, the Xiphactinus had mostly been unearthed in the northern hemisphere with the exception of a recent discovery in Venezuela. In fact, the Xiphactinus has been connected to Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States (Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas). Some previously found remains were so well preserved that their stomach contents were still intact.

The researchers’ findings were published in the scientific journal Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

Recommended Articles by Jocelyne LeBlanc
About the Author

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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Ancient

America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been

The text of the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, Jesus Christ, or Christianity.

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Christian Nation
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United Statesby Howard Chandler Christy.

The founding fathers’ religion wasn’t always worn on their sleeves. Looking back, it’s quite difficult to tell where some of our nation’s great leaders fell on the religious scale. Deism was popular at the time – the belief in God as the creator of all things, but not as a miracle worker or one that answers to prayer.

Sure, there are the books written and speeches given. But often personal letters and eyewitnesses are a more accurate gauge of belief. As with any time period, there are sometimes those who aren’t what they seem or claim to be on the surface.

These are the men that fought for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In fact, God, Jesus Christ, and Christianity are not stated once in all of the Constitution, and it is clearly done so on purpose.

The Constitution even bars all laws from “respecting an establishment of religion,” while also protecting “the free exercise thereof.”

Remember, the founding fathers understood their history. They’d seen how the Christian governments of Europe took advantage of the individual freedom of its citizens. They’d seen they constant internal bickering and wars amongst Christian factions.

Even though the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” today some of these very men would be deemed unfit to lead on their respective platforms. To hold them up as a Pinnacle of Christianity is likely as false as George Washington’s teeth. Here are some of the surprising faiths of our founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The man that composed the Declaration of Independence was more interested in protecting religious freedom than imposing religion upon anyone else. It was this very freedom that allowed Thomas Jefferson to cut up his bible and take out anything he didn’t like. Mainly, that included any mention of miracles or things that were “contrary to reason.” This aligned his beliefs more with Deism than Christianity – of which he was baptized into at birth.

Jefferson’s custom assemblage of bible passages was never meant to be published; it was strictly for his own use. However, it acquired a name; The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Almost 70 years after he died, Jefferson’s great-granddaughter sold the book to the Smithsonian Institution.

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know,” Jefferson once said. This stance caused a slight ruckus in the Presidential election of 1800 when the Federalists attacked him as being atheist. Nevertheless, Jefferson won that election running under the Democratic-Republican party.

In 1823, Jefferson wrote to John Adams, famously remarking:

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding…. “

John Adams
John Adams 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

These words, placed in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli by founding father and first vice-president John Adams, are often used as a springboard for debate.

While those words are printed in black and white, there is some underlying context to consider. The treaty goes on to say that “it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” Which gives the context of religious opinions as an invalid excuse to go against the treaty.

So, perhaps that snippet of one document doesn’t prove Adams’ reluctance to full-heartedly embrace Christianity, but later he recognized the “rise of sects and schisms, heresies and bigotries, which have abounded in the Christian world,” and reportedly used deist language in his speeches.

Whatever religion John Adams identified himself as throughout his life, a letter to his wife says quite the mouthful on Catholicism. “This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful and affecting,” he wrote. “The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood…”

George Washington
George Washington 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Another founding father with an unclear belief system was none other than our very first President, George Washington. To say his religion is unclear simply brings notice that there are many books written about Washington, and all of them put him anywhere in the spectrum between Orthodox Christian and strict Deist.

Washington used terms such as “Providence” or “supreme architect” when making speeches or writings. These are Deist terms – but not exclusively so. Washington did not use the names “Jesus” or “Christ” in public appearances; but again, many at the time did not.

Born unto Protestants, Washington certainly frequented church as a child, but reportedly did not attend regularly as an adult, or participate in religious rites. He often left services before communion – and when called out on it, stopped attending that church on communion days.

At any rate, Washington was a staunch advocate for religious freedom. Perhaps the most telltale indication of how religious Washington was came at the end of his life. On his deathbed no priest was called; no minister summoned. In life, he’d imparted to his children the importance of honesty and character, but no mention of religion.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A proponent of free thought and reason, Paine had one of the more defined belief systems. He lamented institutionalized religion – and Christianity in particular. In his younger days, some of the hardships he endured would sway others to the comforting arms of the church. Paine’s wife died in childbirth, and his child died as well.

But Thomas Paine made no qualms about his radical Deism; calling the bible the “pretended word of God”. And we know he’s read it because he tears it a new one book by book in his writing The Age of Reason.

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God,” he writes.

Paine may have never held public office but is deemed a founding father nonetheless. There weren’t many American Revolutionary rebels who didn’t read Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense which shaped the demand for independence from Great Britain. Without Paine, The United States might still be under British rule.

This article (America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been) was originally created for All That Interesting and is published here under Creative Commons.

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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Modern Reason Why The Maya Abandoned Ancient City Of Tikal

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Ancient City Of Tikal
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

There are many reasons why major cities today might collapse and be abandoned by their citizenry – war, natural disaster, changing demographics, climate change, etc. In most cases, the cause is evident or easy to ascertain. That hasn’t been the case with the great cities of the Classic Maya civilization. It reigned over what is now Central America for centuries – from about 250 to 900 CE – when the massive urban centres of Palenque, Copán, Tikal and Calakmul collapsed and were mysteriously abandoned, with some Mayas moving to the Northern Yucatán where a few empires grew (Chichén Itzá for example) but then collapsed again, this time for a very explainable reason – the invasion of Europeans. Recently, archaeologists studying the ruins of Tikal in what is now Guatemala finally figured out the reason why it was abandoned … and it’s a very modern tragedy.

“The ancient Maya abandoned the major center of Tikal in the mid-ninth century CE and although scholars have studied this site intensively for the past 60 years, exactly how and why the city met its ill-fated ending have remained unanswered questions. Our investigations, combining novel aDNA and soil geochemistry assays, however, shed significant new light on the abandonment of this once-powerful political, ceremonial and commercial hub.”

Tikal: Located in the wilds of Tikal National Park about 200 miles north of Guatemala City, this metropolis was settled as early as 600 B.C.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports and summarized in a press release by the University of Cincinnati, anthropologists, geographers, botanists, biologists and chemists from the school describe how they went underground into 10 reservoirs which had been used to collect and store rainwater in this area that was far from lakes and rivers and prone to droughts. The waters were used for drinking, households, farming and by the leaders for ceremonial pools used to show their alleged mastery over the rains and the waters. Unfortunately, the masters weren’t in control of something else – the habits of their own people.

“We found two types of blue-green algae that produce toxic chemicals. The bad thing about these is they’re resistant to boiling. It made water in these reservoirs toxic to drink.”

David Lentz, a UC professor of biological sciences and lead author of the study, tells what the researchers found when analysing the sediments from the reservoirs. Even if the Tikal residents held their noses and tried to force down the algae-filled water, there was something else in it that would have killed them … mercury. How did this toxic metal end up in the water? The researchers ruled out the surrounding bedrock and volcanic ash. But when they came back out of the reservoirs and looked around, they found the answer.

“Color was important in the ancient Maya world. They used it in their murals. They painted the plaster red. They used it in burials and combined it with iron oxide to get different shades.”

Kenneth Tankersley, an associate professor of anthropology in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences and study co-author, knew exactly what gave those murals their red color variations – cinnabar. Cinnabar is a bright-red toxic mercury sulphide mineral used as a pigment around the world – including in ancient Central America.

“That means the mercury has to be anthropogenic.”

There’s your word and warning for the day. ‘Anthropogenic’ means “originating in human activity.” The Maya and their leaders liked seeing everything decorated, so they slapped coats of cinnabar-laden colouring on every bare surface. That might not have been a problem if Tikal was on a river and the runoff headed downstream to the next unsuspecting village, but every rain washed a little bit off of every wall into every reservoir that eventually ended up in every glass and bowl and belly. It was mercury poisoning together with the foulest-tasting water around that caused the demise and abandonment of Tikal.

The Mayan city of Tikal is an outsized time capsule with a natural ambiance that hasn’t changed in 1,300 years.

“There may well have been those who saw the events described above and the concomitant droughts as a failure of their leaders to adequately appease the Maya gods. Indeed, these events coming together must have resulted in a demoralized populace who, in the face of dwindling water and food supplies, became more willing to abandon their homes.”

While that explains the demise of Tikal, it may not be the reason for the abandonment of other cities, but it must have contributed in some part.

Residents of Flint, Michigan, are welcome to send a copy of this story to THEIR Leaders.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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The Mysterious Ancient Chamber Of Golden Balls Found By A Robot In Mexico

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Teotihuacan 2020
Photo Credit: Macduff Everton

Brent SwancerGuest Writer

Ancient sites are more often than not peppered with the mysteries of the past. They hold enigmas and unsolved clues that almost seem to taunt us through the mists of time, and as much as we study ancient sites, we usually seem to dig up more questions than answers. One fairly recent case of this happened in the country of Mexico, where a team of archaeologists exploring a mysterious ancient city sent a robot down into its bowels and turned up more than they bargained for.

Sitting out at a site located fewer than 30 miles (50 kilometres) from the bustling urban center of Mexico City, lies one of the true wonders of the ancient world, a massive city built more than a thousand years before the arrival of the Aztecs. Called Teotihuacan, meaning “the place where men become gods,” it was once the center of a thriving mega polis of an estimated 100,000 residents, which at a time when the total population of the Earth was only 200 million made it perhaps one of the largest cities in the world at the time, seeing its heyday from between 100 B.C. and 650 A.D. The mysterious people of this city built by hand wide swaths of road, walls, elaborate buildings, and ornate temples such as the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, which were grand pyramids not unlike those of faraway Egypt, to the point that when the Aztecs found it abandoned, they were awestruck by its splendour.

Teotihuacan is in and of itself an enigma. Although it was once perhaps the most populous and sprawling city the world had ever seen, almost nothing is known of its people and culture, and it was all mysteriously abandoned in some mass exodus event in around 700 A.D. for reasons unknown. Just about the only thing we know is that they worshipped around eight different gods, and made frequent animal and human sacrifices, but that is about it. In modern times this ancient city has been the focus of countless excavations, many of which have only deepened the mystery behind these long lost people, and although much of the surface of this place has been mapped, excavations have only scratched the surface of what lies beyond that, and there are also believed to be extensive labyrinthine systems of manmade tunnels and chambers underground that are completely uncharted territory. It is here at one of these places of perpetual darkness not looked upon with human eyes for thousands of years that yet another mystery would be found.

Teotihuacan

In 2013, something very odd was found down beneath a pyramid called the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, also known as Temple of Quetzalcoatl, when archaeologists from the Mexico National Institute of Anthropology and History were exploring its dank spider web of subterranean tunnels. To do this, they employed a robot called Tláloc II-TC. Measuring a mere 3 feet long, the remote-controlled robot was designed to squeeze into tight spaces too small for humans to enter, and it carries cameras, infrared scanners, 3-D mapping equipment, and a mechanical arm to push away debris in its path. Part of a robotic system called Tlaloque, it is carried to the target site by a larger rover, which dispenses it and another similar small robot like itself, and the system has been instrumental in uncovering numerous previously unknown tunnels, rooms, and side chambers. It was in one of these rooms that it would make a spectacular discovery. Archaeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez would say:

“The robot was able to enter in the part of the tunnel which has not yet been excavated yet and found three chambers… We believe that high-ranking people, priests or even rulers, went down to the tunnel to perform rituals.”

This was already exciting enough as it was, but what made it truly remarkable is what was found inside. There scattered all over the ground out in the open were hundreds of yellow clay spheres or orbs, measuring from 1.5 to 5 inches in circumference and covered with pyrite, also commonly called “fool’s gold,” which had over the centuries oxidized to become an amber mineral called jarosite. Because of this, back in pre-Hispanic times when they were first placed here the spheres would have appeared to be metallic, made of gold, and would have shone and glittered brilliantly. The walls too are covered in a coating of magnetite, pyrite and hematite, which would have made it seem as if the whole, scintillating chamber was crafted of solid gold. Truly it would have been a magnificent, breath-taking sight to see back in the time when people still ventured here long ago, but the archaeologists have no idea at all as to what they mean or what their function was. Indeed, the whole origin and purpose of the chamber is a complete mystery, and it has been called by the team “an unprecedented discovery.”

Fool’s gold.

One of the main ideas was that this was likely a place of great importance, perhaps the center of the whole complex and used as a place for rulers and high priests, either as a place for rituals, a burial chamber, or both, although it is an utter mystery as to what kinds of rituals might have been carried out here. The spheres might have been objects for ritual purposes, talismans, or as offerings to their gods. It would have been an incredibly important place, further supported by evidence that seems to show that the main tunnel that leads to the secret chambers was at one point totally sealed off, as if to protect something of great value, and the main tunnel itself is lined with jade, stone, shell and pottery objects that would have been luxury items at the time. It is thought that if the cave is explored further, there may be more discoveries in the darkness, perhaps even the remains of a ruler, never found before in the city of Teotihuacan. At the moment there are no answers, and they remain just another of the many questions the ancients have left in their wake for us to ponder.

Recommended Articles by Brent Swancer
About the Author

Is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He’s written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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