Eight years after purchasing a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull from L.A. art gallery, I.M. Chait, actor Nicholas Cage has returned the stolen find to its native Mongolia.
Cage outbid fellow star and fossil buff, Leonardo DiCaprio for the skull back in 2007, paying $276,000. Cage received a certificate of authenticity from the gallery, and, at the time, all seemed cool.
But then the Department of Homeland Security came knocking. And suspicions were raised that perhaps the skull had connections to infamous fossil thief, Eric Prokopi—who has since served a stretch in the big house for the theft of another Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton from Mongolia.
Once he was advised of that his bataar had been illegally smuggled out of Mongolia Cage agreed to give it back to its country of origin.
It’s getting weird again….Seems like the past twelve months have brought us more than the usual number of oddball fossil finds, each of which is making scientists reexamine their dinosaur assumptions.
This time the earth-shaking find is a Spinosaurus. Scientists are calling it the biggest dinosaur predator ever found—some 9 feet longer than a T Rex. And even weirder, it didn’t hunt on two legs. It’s the only known quadrupedal carnivore.
So, it’s huge and getting around on all fours—now for the bizarre…It had a 7 foot high bony sail on its back and spent much of its time in the water feeding on sharks, crocodiles and fish the size of Volkswagen Jettas… And, oh yeah, it could swim and had nostrils on top of its skull.
Yeah, I’d say that might cause a bit of a rethink. There’s never been anything else like it.
Meanwhile, in other breaking news—Mammals existed 40 million years earlier than previously thought.
A very weird dinosaur found in Siberia reveals that it’s possible that more dinosaurs than previously thought had both scales and feathers—not just the ones who ended up evolving into modern-day birds.
Several hundred of the 140 million-year-old weirdo dinos died and were quickly buried in the sediments on the bottom of a lake. The unique conditions excellently preserved their remains—even their skin. And paleontologists say that the skin is made up of three different types of scales as well as three kinds of feathers.
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus was part of the dino family that includes more famous names like about stegosaurus, ankylosaurus, and triceratops. All of them were previously believed to be scalely. But now scientists have to reevaluate.
The Kulindadromeus was one and half metres long, walked on two feet and had feathers…. maybe his relatives had a little bird in them as well.
You don’t have to be a PhD. to make an amazing dinosaur discovery. This week paleontologists confirmed that volunteer bone hunter, Kay Fredette, has discovered the largest Apatosaurus femur ever found.
While helping on a dig in Colorado she and another volunteer unearthed the colossal bone (6ft 7inches long) which scientists say came from the leg of a dinosaur that was 80 to 90 long.
And this isn’t her first big find either… in recent years Kay has bagged a handful of sauropods, and even well-preserved dinosaur skin.
The greatest fossil hunter the world has ever seen was a woman who lived more than two hundred years ago in Dorset, England. Mary Anning, also known as the monster hunter, was responsible for discovering ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and the first recognized pterosaur fossil in England. She got her start combing the beaches of the Dorset coast with her father—and though he died when she was only eleven, she got her passion for the strange beasts captured in the rock of her native county from him.
Check out her fascinating story here:
Arctic journal reports that the vertebra of a duck-billed hadrosaur from the cretaceous period found in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut suggests that the giant herbivore made its home in the hostile northern region year-round. In fact, the bone found on Axel Heiberg Island is the northern most fossil find ever recorded.
Although the average Arctic temperature was fifteen degrees warmer than today, the hadrosaurs still had to contend with a complete absence of daylight for almost half the year. The relative cold and lack of a plant-life meant a tough life for the hardy duck-bill. Mostly they would have scavenged twigs, decaying wood and fungi to survive. And migration was impossible because the island on which the fossil was found was cut off from the rest of North America by two seas.
It seems the more we learn about dinosaurs in the fossil record the more surprising and extreme they become. You go dinosaurs!
Check out the full story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/04/hadrosaur-northernmost-dinosaur-nunavut_n_5094151.html
image: Getty Images
Real life cowboy Clayton Phipps rides the Montana Badlands with a shovel and a GPS device hunting for dinosaur fossils. Along with his partner, former flooring salesman Mark Eatman, he has made some of the biggest amateur finds in recent years.
A T. rex tooth worth $10,000.
A Stygimoloch (that he calls a horned, ‘freaky critter’) that went for $100,000.
And the famous dueling dinosaurs which are expected to fetch $7 million at auction in Manhattan.
He credits his success to his keen fossil hunter’s eye, honed over the years to spot anomalies in the Hell’s Creek landscape. He can pick out a lump of black rock that turns out to be a piece of ankylosaur armor and in his home dino-lab he spends hours using X-Acto knives, debonder and a dentist’s microblaster to remove the rock and dirt around the specimen.
Whether you’re a former ranch-hand or a flooring salesman, keep your eyes open when you’re in the field—that next big find could be at your feet.
Cage outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for the 67-million-year-old T. Bataar skull at auction in 2007. But it now seems the biggest prehistoric skull ever found was provided by Eric Prokopi—a real life Time Eater.
Prokopi is currently facing 17 years in jail for stealing fossils from the rich beds of China and Mongolia, and selling them to private collectors—removing them from the light of science forever.
It doesn’t seem Cage or DiCaprio knew where the skull came from at the time—but the practice of collecting these great finds is in itself preventing paleontologists from properly examining finds and hurting our understanding of the great beasts.
Paleontologists in Utah have discovered a previously unknown relative of T. Rex that is 10 million years older than scientists thought possible. The 24-ft-tall predator known as Lythronax argestes—or ‘King of Gore’—was covered in scales and feathers, and had ‘banana-sized meat cleavers’ for teeth.
What’s even more important is that paleontologists figure there are 1 million acres of cretaceous rock yet to be surveyed in the area—rock that is likely to produce many more new species of dinosaur.