Author Archives: Mikko K Haaramo

Cave Bear diets

Club members has had some passing interest of the subject. 🙂

Robu, M., Wynn, J. G., Mirea, I. C., Petculescu, A., Kenesz, M., Puşcaş, C. M., Vlaicu, M., Trinkaus, E. & Constantin, S., 2018:

The diverse dietary profiles of MIS 3 cave bears from the Romanian Carpathians: insights from stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) analysis.

–Palaeontology: Vol. 61, #2, pp. 209-219 [doi: 10.1111/pala.12338]

–Mikko H.

A what..?!? Semiaquatic basal dromaeosaur

Hi all,

Ah, life is wonderful. 🙂

Cau, A., Beyrand, V., Voeten, D. F. A. E., Fernandez, V., Tafforeau, P., Stein, K., Barsbold, R., Tsogtbaatar, K., Currie, P. J. & Godefroit, P., 2017: Synchrotron scanning reveals amphibious ecomorphology in a new clade of bird-like dinosaurs.
–Nature: in press [doi: 10.1038/nature24679]


“Maniraptora includes birds and their closest relatives among theropod dinosaurs. During the Cretaceous period, several maniraptoran lineages diverged from the ancestral coelurosaurian bauplan and evolved novel ecomorphologies, including active flight, gigantism, cursoriality and herbivory. Propagation X-ray phase-contrast synchrotron microtomography of a well-preserved maniraptoran from Mongolia, still partially embedded in the rock matrix, revealed a mosaic of features, most of them absent among non-avian maniraptorans but shared by reptilian and avian groups with aquatic or semiaquatic ecologies. This new theropod, Halszkaraptor escuilliei gen. et sp. nov., is related to other enigmatic Late Cretaceous maniraptorans from Mongolia in a novel clade at the root of Dromaeosauridae. This lineage adds an amphibious ecomorphology to those evolved by maniraptorans: it acquired a predatory mode that relied mainly on neck hyperelongation for food procurement, it coupled the obligatory bipedalism of theropods with forelimb proportions that may support a swimming function, and it developed postural adaptations convergent with short-tailed birds.”


–Mikko H.

Dino-tail in Amber!

‘Beautiful’ dinosaur tail found preserved in amber

Xing, L., McKellar, R. C., Xu, X., Li, G., Bai, M., Persons, W. S. I. V., Miyashita, T., Benton, M. J., Zhang, J., Wolfe, A. P., Yi, Q., Tseng, K., Ran, H. & Currie, P. J., A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber.

–Current Biology: in press [doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.008]


New tritylodont from Early Cretaceous of Japan

Hiroshige Matsuoka, Nao Kusuhashi & Ian J. Corfe (2016)
A new Early Cretaceous tritylodontid (Synapsida, Cynodontia, Mammaliamorpha) from the Kuwajima Formation (Tetori Group) of central Japan.

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1112289

We describe tritylodontid remains from the Lower Cretaceous Kuwajima Formation (Tetori Group) in central Japan as representing a new genus, Montirictus kuwajimaensis, gen. et sp. nov. Montirictus is a medium-sized tritylodontid genus characterized by upper cheek teeth having the cusp formula 2-2-2 with subequal cusps, buccal and lingual cusps retaining a crescentic shape with both buccal and lingual ridges anteriorly, and ‘V’-shaped buccolingual cross-sections of two anteroposterior grooves between the three cusp rows. Tentative dating of the Kuwajima Formation to the Barremian-Aptian makes it the stratigraphically youngest representative of a long-lived, globally distributed and abundant mammaliamorph lineage and extends the known geographic range of tritylodontids.


Placental Phylogeny

Has this yet passed the scrutiny of our people?

Tarver, J. E., dos Reis, M., Mirarab, S., Moran, R. J., Parker, S., O’Reilly, J. E., King, B. L., O’Connell, M. J., Asher, R. J., Warnow, T., Peterson, K. J., Donoghue, P. C. J. & Pisani, D., 2016:

The Interrelationships of Placental Mammals and the Limits of Phylogenetic Inference.

–Genome Biology and Evolution: Vol. 8, #2, pp. 330-344 [doi: 10.1093/gbe/evv261]


Placental mammals comprise three principal clades: Afrotheria (e.g., elephants and tenrecs), Xenarthra (e.g., armadillos and sloths), and Boreoeutheria (all other placental mammals), the relationships among which are the subject of controversy and a touchstone for debate on the limits of phylogenetic inference. Previous analyses have found support for all three hypotheses, leading some to conclude that this phylogenetic problem might be impossible to resolve due to the compounded effects of incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) and a rapid radiation. Here we show, using a genome scale nucleotide data set, microRNAs, and the reanalysis of the three largest previously published amino acid data sets, that the root of Placentalia lies between Atlantogenata and Boreoeutheria. Although we found evidence for ILS in early placental evolution, we are able to reject previous conclusions that the placental root is a hard polytomy that cannot be resolved. Reanalyses of previous data sets rec!

over Atlantogenata + Boreoeutheria and show that contradictory results are a consequence of poorly fitting evolutionary models; instead, when the evolutionary process is better-modeled, all data sets converge on Atlantogenata. Our Bayesian molecular clock analysis estimates that marsupials diverged from placentals 157-170 Ma, crown Placentalia diverged 86-100 Ma, and crown Atlantogenata diverged 84-97 Ma. Our results are compatible with placental diversification being driven by dispersal rather than vicariance mechanisms, postdating early phases in the protracted opening of the Atlantic Ocean.



New species of Homo from South Africa – Welcome Homo naledi

Berger, L. R., Hawks, J., de Ruiter, D. J., Churchill, S. E., Schmid, P., Delezene, L. K., Kivell, T. L., Garvin, H. M., Williams, S. A., DeSilva, J. M., Skinner, M. M., Musiba, C. M., Cameron, N., Holliday, T. W., Harcourt-Smith, W., Ackermann, R. R., Bastir, M., Bogin, B., Bolter, D., Brophy, J., Cofran, Z. D., Congdon, K. A., Deane, A. S., Dembo, M., Drapeau, M., Elliott, M. C., Feuerriegel, E. M., Garcia-Martinez, D., Green, D. J., Gurtov, A., Irish, J. D., Kruger, A., Laird, M. F., Marchi, D., Meyer, M. R., Nalla, S., Negash, E. W., Orr, C. M., Radovcic, D., Schroeder, L., Scott, J. E., Throckmorton, Z., Tocheri, M. W., VanSickle, C., Walker, C. S., Wei, P. & Zipfel, B., 2015: Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.

–eLife: Vol. 4, in press [doi: 10.7554/eLife.09560]

Also featured in National Geographic

Comments on Jurassic World in IltaSanomat by Maija & Mikko (in Finnish)


Maija Karala and I gave a little interview and opinions to IltaSanomat of the Jurassic World.

Unfortunately it’s is only in Finnish.

Those who haven’t yet watched the trailers, do so, it helps to understand some comments.

–Mikko H.



Monsterous! – Head of Hallucigenia revealed

From the BBC newspiece:
“When we put it into the electron microscope, we were delighted to see not just a tiny pair of eyes looking back at us, but also beneath them a really cheeky semi-circular smile”.

Smith, M. R. & Caron, J.-B., 2015: Hallucigenia’s head and the pharyngeal armature of early ecdysozoans.
–Nature: in press [doi: 10.1038/nature14573]


The molecularly defined clade Ecdysozoa comprises the panarthropods (Euarthropoda, Onychophora and Tardigrada) and the cycloneuralian worms (Nematoda, Nematomorpha, Priapulida, Loricifera and Kinorhyncha). These disparate phyla are united by their means of moulting, but otherwise share few morphological characters-none of which has a meaningful fossilization potential. As such, the early evolutionary history of the group as a whole is largely uncharted. Here we redescribe the 508-million-year-old stem-group onychophoran Hallucigenia sparsa from the mid-Cambrian Burgess Shale. We document an elongate head with a pair of simple eyes, a terminal buccal chamber containing a radial array of sclerotized elements, and a differentiated foregut that is lined with acicular teeth. The radial elements and pharyngeal teeth resemble the sclerotized circumoral elements and pharyngeal teeth expressed in tardigrades, stem-group euarthropods and cycloneuralian worms. Phylogenetic results indi!

cate that equivalent structures characterized the ancestral panarthropod and, seemingly, the ancestral ecdysozoan, demonstrating the deep homology of panarthropod and cycloneuralian mouthparts, and providing an anatomical synapomorphy for the ecdysozoan supergroup.

Recent interesting paleonews

Welker, F., Collins, M. J., Thomas, J. A., Wadsley, M., Brace, S., Cappellini, E., Turvey, S. T., Reguero, M., Gelfo, J. N., Kramarz, A., Burger, J., Thomas-Oates, J., Ashford, D. A., Ashton, P. D., Rowsell, K., Porter, D. M., Kessler, B., Fischer, R., Baessmann, C., Kaspar, S., Olsen, J. V., Kiley, P., Elliott, J. A., Kelstrup, C. D., Mullin, V., Hofreiter, M., Willerslev, E., Hublin, J.-J., Orlando, L., Barnes, I. & MacPhee, R. D. E., 2015: Ancient proteins resolve the evolutionary history of Darwin/’s South American ungulates.
–Nature: in press [doi: 10.1038/nature14249]

No large group of recently extinct placental mammals remains as evolutionarily cryptic as the approximately 280 genera grouped as ‘South American native ungulates’. To Charles Darwin, who first collected their remains, they included perhaps the ‘strangest animal[s] ever discovered’. Today, much like 180 years ago, it is no clearer whether they had one origin or several, arose before or after the Cretaceous/Palaeogene transition 66.2 million years ago, or are more likely to belong with the elephants and sirenians of superorder Afrotheria than with the euungulates (cattle, horses, and allies) of superorder Laurasiatheria. Morphology-based analyses have proved unconvincing because convergences are pervasive among unrelated ungulate-like placentals. Approaches using ancient DNA have also been unsuccessful, probably because of rapid DNA degradation in semitropical and temperate deposits. Here we apply proteomic analysis to screen bone samples of the Late Quaternary South American native ungulate taxa Toxodon (Notoungulata) and Macrauchenia (Litopterna) for phylogenetically informative protein sequences. For each ungulate, we obtain approximately 90% direct sequence coverage of type I collagen α1- and α2-chains, representing approximately 900 of 1,140 amino-acid residues for each subunit. A phylogeny is estimated from an alignment of these fossil sequences with collagen (I) gene transcripts from available mammalian genomes or mass spectrometrically derived sequence data obtained for this study. The resulting consensus tree agrees well with recent higher-level mammalian phylogenies. Toxodon and Macrauchenia form a monophyletic group whose sister taxon is not Afrotheria or any of its constituent clades as recently claimed, but instead crown Perissodactyla (horses, tapirs, and rhinoceroses). These results are consistent with the origin of at least some South American native ungulates from ‘condylarths’, a paraphyletic assembly of archaic placentals. With ongoing improvements in instrumentation and analytical procedures, proteomics may produce a revolution in systematics such as that achieved by genomics, but with the possibility of reaching much further back in time.

Zanno, L. E., Drymala, S., Nesbitt, S. J. & Schneider, V. P., 2015: Early crocodylomorph increases top tier predator diversity during rise of dinosaurs.
–Scientific Reports: Vol. 5, 9276 [doi: 10.1038/srep09276]

Triassic predatory guild evolution reflects a period of ecological flux spurred by the catastrophic end-Permian mass extinction and terminating with the global ecological dominance of dinosaurs in the early Jurassic. In responding to this dynamic ecospace, terrestrial predator diversity attained new levels, prompting unique trophic webs with a seeming overabundance of carnivorous taxa and the evolution of entirely new predatory clades. Key among these was Crocodylomorpha, the largest living reptiles and only one of two archosaurian lineages that survive to the present day. In contrast to their existing role as top, semi-aquatic predators, the earliest crocodylomorphs were generally small-bodied, terrestrial faunivores, occupying subsidiary (meso) predator roles. Here we describe Carnufex carolinensis a new, unexpectedly large-bodied taxon with a slender and ornamented skull from the Carnian Pekin Formation (~231 Ma), representing one of the oldest and earliest diverging crocodylomorphs described to date. Carnufex bridges a problematic gap in the early evolution of pseudosuchians by spanning key transitions in bauplan evolution and body mass near the origin of Crocodylomorpha. With a skull length of >50 cm, the new taxon documents a rare instance of crocodylomorphs ascending to top-tier predator guilds in the equatorial regions of Pangea prior to the dominance of dinosaurs.

Van Roy, P., Daley, A. C. & Briggs, D. E. G., 2015: Anomalocaridid trunk limb homology revealed by a giant filter-feeder with paired flaps.
–Nature: in press [doi: 10.1038/nature14256]

Exceptionally preserved fossils from the Palaeozoic era provide crucial insights into arthropod evolution, with recent discoveries bringing phylogeny and character homology into sharp focus. Integral to such studies are anomalocaridids, a clade of stem arthropods whose remarkable morphology illuminates early arthropod relationships and Cambrian ecology. Although recent work has focused on the anomalocaridid head, the nature of their trunk has been debated widely. Here we describe new anomalocaridid specimens from the Early Ordovician Fezouata Biota of Morocco19, which not only show well-preserved head appendages providing key ecological data, but also elucidate the nature of anomalocaridid trunk flaps, resolving their homology with arthropod trunk limbs. The new material shows that each trunk segment bears a separate dorsal and ventral pair of flaps, with a series of setal blades attached at the base of the dorsal flaps. Comparisons with other stem lineage arthropods indicate that anomalocaridid ventral flaps are homologous with lobopodous walking limbs and the endopod of the euarthropod biramous limb, whereas the dorsal flaps and associated setal blades are homologous with the flaps of gilled lobopodians (for example, Kerygmachela kierkegaardi, Pambdelurion whittingtoni) and exites of the ‘Cambrian biramous limb’. This evidence shows that anomalocaridids represent a stage before the fusion of exite and endopod into the ‘Cambrian biramous limb’, confirming their basal placement in the euarthropod stem, rather than in the arthropod crown or with cycloneuralian worms. Unlike other anomalocaridids, the Fezouata taxon combines head appendages convergently adapted for filter-feeding with an unprecedented body length exceeding 2 m, indicating a new direction in the feeding ecology of the clade. The evolution of giant filter-feeding anomalocaridids may reflect the establishment of highly developed planktic ecosystems during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.