A rare look at a dinosaur baby inside its egg
The great long-necked dinosaurs, or sauropods, of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the largest animals ever to live on land. In a paper published in Current Biology, an international team of researchers including members from Uppsala University use cutting-edge imaging technology to give us a unique glimpse of the very beginning of a sauropod life: the face of an unhatched young inside an egg.
Sauropods like Brontosaurus and Argentinosaurus sometimes exceeded thirty metres in length and may have weighed as much as eighty tonnes, ten times as much as a really large African elephant.
And yet, these stupendous animals started life small: unlike modern-day giants such as elephants and whales, which are very large already at birth (a new-born blue whale is seven metres long), sauropods hatched out of eggs that were not much bigger than grapefruit. How were they able to grow so large from such small beginnings? And what did a baby sauropod look like?
80 million years old sauropod egg
Fossil eggs of sauropods are not terribly rare, but it is very uncommon to find anything inside them. Even when embryo bones are preserved they are extremely delicate and almost impossible to study. The fossil presented in the new paper, a Cretaceous sauropod egg from Patagonia in Argentina, about 80 million years old, was first treated with dilute acetic acid to expose some of the bones.
This has been done before with other sauropod embryos, but it only provides a partial view of the fossil because the bones are so fragile that they can never be removed from the rock and pieced together.
So the team took a radically different approach, taking the fossil to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France, where extremely powerful x-rays produced by a giant accelerator ring were used to make a high-resolution three-dimensional image of the bones, including the parts still buried in the rocks.
The researchers could reconstruct the bones
The principle is the same as a hospital CT scanner, except that the x-ray beam from the synchrotron would kill you in seconds. Using special software the researchers could then reconstruct the bones, move them about in virtual space in the computer, and piece together the face of the tiny sauropod.
What a face it is! The eyes are huge and forward-facing, the snout short, the top of the head apparently round and domed although the bones of that region had not fully formed. Seen through human eyes it would have looked cute, as many baby animals do. The forward-facing eyes suggest that the hatchling would have been able to focus on objects in front of it with stereoscopic vision.
A more puzzling feature is a forward-pointing spike at the tip of the upper jaw. Modern birds and reptiles have a so-called egg tooth in approximately this position, which helps them break through the egg shell at hatching time. However, this is a horny structure on the skin that falls off soon after hatching, not a bony spike, and it points upwards not forwards.
The shape of the skull is different
Many puzzles remain, besides the function of the mystery spike. The shape of the skull is different from those of sauropod embryos previously described from Argentina, suggesting that they belong to different species, but at present it is not possible to assign any of them to known adult sauropods. All the sauropod embryos seem to show accelerated formation of the bones of the face compared to the rest of the skeleton, but the significance of this is also unclear.
What is clear, however, is that the application of synchrotron imaging to this ancient egg has given us an extraordinary and precious glimpse of a fleeting life that ended before it really began: a baby giant that never got to walk the earth.
Kundrát, M. et al. 2020. Specialized Craniofacial Anatomy of a Titanosaurian Embryo from Argentina. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.091
Stone Age strategy for avoiding inbreeding
Blood relations and kinship were not all-important for the way hunter-gatherer communities lived during the Stone Age in Western Europe. A new genetic study, conducted at several well-known French Stone Age burial sites, shows that several distinct families lived together. This was probably a deliberate system for avoiding inbreeding.
Human-driven extinction of birds much greater than previously known
On many of the world's islands, bird species began to become extinct with the arrival of humans. In a new study involving researchers from the University of Gothenburg and Uppsala University, it is estimated that humans have contributed to the extinction of around 1,400 bird species – twice as high as previously thought.
ERC grants for research on fungi and skeletons
Aaron Vogan, researcher at the Department of Organismal Biology, and Sophie Sanchez, Associate Professor at the same department, have both been awarded ERC Consolidator Grants. The grants are for projects on the DNA of fungi and the development of the skeleton.
Location of strong sense of discomfort in brain found
Researchers have identified a new neural circuit in the brain which produces a strong sense of discomfort when activated. The discovery also allows them to show for the first time that the subthalamic nucleus, a structure in the brain that controls voluntary movements, may also play a role in the development of depression. The results could lead to better treatments for Parkinson's disease. The study has been published in the scientific journal Cell Reports.
Forskare från IOB med i Historien om Sverige
Forskaren Helena Jankovic Malmström och professor Mattias Jakobsson är båda med i programmet "Historien om Sverige" på SVT.
En trilobits sista måltid avslöjad
En 465 miljoner år gammal trilobit med bevarat maginnehåll har gjort att forskare för första gången kunnat studera matvanorna hos ett av de vanligaste och mest välkända fossila ryggradslösa djuren. Studien har publicerats i den vetenskapliga tidskiften Nature och har letts av forskare vid Uppsala universitet.
Linnémedaljen har tilldelats Mattias Jakobsson
Professor Mattias Jakobsson har tilldelats Uppsala universitets Linnémedalj för 2023.
Tobias Andermann and Mattias Jakobsson awarded prizes from the The Royal Society of Sciences
The Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala has presented their prizes for 2023. Among the winners are two people from IOB.
New findings on the genetic history of Europeans
A new DNA study has nuanced the picture of how different groups intermingled during the European Stone Age, but also how certain groups of people were actually isolated. The study was carried out by researchers at Uppsala University working with an international team of researchers, who produced new genetic data from 56 Central and Eastern European individuals from the Stone Age.
Center för människans förhistoria får forskningsanslag från Vetenskapsrådet
Fem forskningsmiljöer vid Uppsala universitet får bidrag i Vetenskapsrådets excellenssatsning. Det handlar om nyskapande forskning kring vikingatiden, livets kemi, geometri och fysik, extrema klimathändelser och människans förhistoria. Människans förhistoria är ett center som drivs av forskningsprogrammet Människans evolution.
Torftig livsmiljö för suggor påverkar kultingarnas arvsmassa
I en ny studie har forskare från Uppsala universitet tillsammans med internationella kollegor undersökt vilka avtryck en torftig livsmiljö för suggor lämnar på nästa generation. Grisarna i studien föddes upp i Brasilien och hölls enligt uppfödningsstandard i landet. Suggornas obekväma och ostimulerande miljö förde med sig flera olika typer av förändringar i epigenomet hos avkomman.
Mikael Thollesson i UppTalk Weekly
Mikael Thollesson har medverkat i UppTalk Weekly och pratat om utforskning av okända svampdjur i havet. Se samtalet nedan.
Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki med i P4-dokumentär
Forskaren Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki har medverkat i en dokumentär som heter "Dinosauriejägaren" från Sveriges Radio P4.
MIkael Thollesson i UppTalk Weekly
Mikael Thollesson kommer att vara med i samtalsserien UppTalk weekly den 18 april mellan 12:00 och 12:30. Samtalet sänds live på Youtube.
Scientists: Madagascar’s unique biodiversity in grave danger
Madagascar has an enormous biodiversity, with most of the plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth. But the rich life on the island is in grave danger and governments and environmental organisations must help. This is claimed by a large number of researchers, including from Uppsala University, in the journal Science.
New major EU-funded research project takes broader approach to mental health
To improve understanding of mental health, today’s symptom-based diagnoses need to be complemented with biological criteria accounting for differences between individuals and the sexes. A major EU-funded research project, coordinated by Uppsala University, will pursue an interdisciplinary path towards better strategies to protect vulnerable individuals from mental illness.
DNA sequence enhances understanding origins of jaws
Researchers at Uppsala University have discovered and characterised a DNA sequence found in jawed vertebrates, such as sharks and humans, but absent in jawless vertebrates, such as lampreys. This DNA is important for the shaping of the joint surfaces during embryo development.
Genetisk variation skapas i svampsporer
Den mesta av en svamps genetiska variation uppkommer i de ganska kortlivade svampsporerna. I mycelet, som svampen tillbringar den absolut största delen av sin livscykel som, skapas inte alls lika mycket variation. Det visar forskare från Uppsala universitet i en ny studie som publiceras i den vetenskapliga tidskriften PNAS.
Large predatory dinosaurs discovered in Skåne
Roughly 200-million-year-old footprints of large predatory dinosaurs, along with the skeletons of other dinosaurs, animals and plant fossils, have been discovered in the Norra Albert clay pit in northern Skåne. The discoveries surprised the researchers, as they show that carnivorous dinosaurs of this size existed much earlier than previously known.
Uppsala expedition to Greenland makes spectacular fossil discovery
Following an exceptionally successful scientific expedition to Greenland, more than 200 kg of fossil material is on its way back to Uppsala. “The discoveries will revolutionize our understanding of the early evolution of land vertebrates” says Per Ahlberg, Professor of evolutionary Organismal Biology and leader of the expedition.
The world’s oldest heart found in placoderm
Most researchers can only guess how animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago were built internally, given that innards disintegrate. However, researchers have now found extremely well-preserved hearts, stomachs, livers and intestines in 380-million-year-old placoderm fossils.
Svampar viktiga i sötvattensmiljöernas ekosystem
Tillgång till sötvatten är helt nödvändigt för vår överlevnad. Utan det lider vi brist på dricksvatten, fisk att äta och möjlighet att bevattna åkrar. Sjöar, floder och pölar är dessutom hem för otaliga arter. Men hur de här känsliga ekosystemen är uppbyggda är inte helt känt.
Hundreds of large habitat shifts have shaped life on Earth today
An international team led by Uppsala University researchers has uncovered that eukaryotes (organisms with a cellular nucleus) have made hundreds of big leaps from sea to soil and freshwater habitats, and vice versa, during their evolution. The results, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, also provide insights into what the habitats of our ancient microbial ancestors looked like.
Video about Ancient DNA
Idag kan avancerad dna-teknik hjälpa oss förstå hur människor och folkgrupper levde och interagerade för tusentals år sedan. Följ med in i Uppsala universitets Ancient DNA-laboratorium, som sätter ljus på forntida kvarlevor.
Climate resilient microalgae could help restore coral reefs
Coral species exhibit different temperature tolerances. This is in part due to the composition of their microalgae symbionts. With a new method, researchers from Uppsala University were able to predict how individual microalgae might behave under future temperature stress and identify more tolerant coral symbionts.
Lyssna på Per Ahlberg i forskarpodden
För knappt 400 miljoner år sedan kravlade en grupp fiskar upp på land och gav upphov till de fyrbenta ryggradsdjuren. Per Ahlberg, professor i evolutionär organismbiologi, har länge forskat om de här varelserna som kallas tetrapoder och är alla groddjurs, reptilers, fåglars och däggdjurs gemensamma förfäder.
ERC-anslag till Fabien Burki
Europeiska forskningsrådet (ERC) delar ut 313 nya ERC Consolidator Grants i 24 olika länder. Bland mottagarna finns två forskare vid Uppsala universitet: Maria Tenje och Fabien Burki. Dessutom delas ett ERC Starting Grant ut till Ingela Lanekoff.
350 years old remains in a Stone Age site in Portugal
An African man who lived just 350 years ago was buried in a prehistoric shell midden in Amoreira in Portugal. This was very surprising because Amoreira and other midden sites in the Muge region are well known by archaeologists for the cemeteries of the last hunter-gatherers living in the area 8 000 years-ago.
The reign of the dinosaurs ended in spring
The asteroid which killed nearly all of the dinosaurs struck Earth during springtime. This conclusion was drawn by an international team of researchers after having examined thin sections, high-resolution synchrotron X-ray scans, and carbon isotope records of the bones of fishes that died less than 60 minutes after the asteroid impacted. The team presents its findings in the journal Nature.
Exposure to chemical mixtures during pregnancy alters brain development
By linking human population studies with experiments in cell and animal models, researchers have provided evidence that complex mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals impact children’s brain development and language acquisition. With their novel approach, the scientists show that up to 54 per cent of pregnant women were exposed to experimentally defined levels of concern.
Previously unknown dinosaur habitat found in Poland
In summer 2021, in an opencast clay mine in Borkowice, Poland, researchers found what may be Europe’s largest array of dinosaur tracks. Several hundred very well-preserved footprints from at least seven dinosaur species were discovered, and the scientists say far more remain to be found.
Multimillion kronor bequest to mycological research at Uppsala University
Thanks to an SEK 10 million donation from two private citizens, a new foundation will be established: The Lennart and Kerstin Holm Scholarship Fund for Mycological Research. This will have a significant impact on fungal research at Uppsala University, which examines systematics, ecology and evolutionary biology.
Mattias Jakobsson intervjuad i Rektorspodden
Fossila fotspår visar fotens utveckling
De äldsta kända fotspåren av förmänniskor har hittats på Medelhavsön Kreta och är minst sex miljoner år gamla, enligt ett internationellt team av forskare från Tyskland, Sverige, Grekland, Egypten och England. Studien har publicerats i tidskriften Scientific Reports och leds av leds av Uwe Kirscher och Madelaine Böhme vid universitetet i Tübingen.
Matvanornas betydelse för moderna hajars uppkomst
Tillgången på byten och förmågan att anpassa sig till förändrade miljöer har haft avgörande betydelse i hajarnas utveckling. En studie där över 3 000 hajtänder analyserats ger ny inblick i hur dagens hajgrupper uppkom. Resultaten har publicerats i den vetenskapliga tidskriften Current Biology.
Philippine ethnic group has most Denisovan DNA
The Philippine ethnic group Ayta Magbukon has the highest proportion of genes from our extinct relatives, the Denisovans, a new study led by Uppsala University shows. Their Denisovan share far exceeds that of ethnic groups in Papua New Guinea, who previously held the record. The study is published in the scientific journal Current Biology.
Bakterie som misstänks ge sjukdom hos människa hittad hos svenska fladdermusfästingar
Den kortbenta fladdermusfästingen är en ganska vanlig blodsugare på fladdermöss i Sverige och det händer ibland att den också biter människor. I en ny studie beskriver forskare från Uppsala universitet och Linköpings universitet hur de funnit en art av borrelia hos fladdermusfästingar som de misstänker framkallar sjukdom hos människa. Det här är första gången arten påträffats i Sverige.
New beetle found in fossil faeces attributed to dinosaur ancestor
The tiny beetle Triamyxa coprolithica is the first-ever insect to be described from fossil faeces. The animal the researchers have to thank for the excellent preservation was probably the dinosaur ancestor Silesaurus opolensis, which 230 million years ago ingested the small beetle in large numbers.
Komplett dna från 35 000 år gammal kvinna klarlagt
För första gången har man lyckats få fram hela genomet från de 35 000 år gamla skallbenen från kvinnan Peştera Muierii 1, i Rumänien. Nu har en forskargrupp, ledd av Mattias Jakobsson vid institutionen för organismbiologi, klarlagt hennes kompletta dna.
Ny studie förklarar hur plastkemikalier kan orsaka lägre IQ
Plastkemikalien bisfenol F kan framkalla förändringar i en gen som är viktig för neurologisk utveckling. Det har forskare vid Uppsala universitet och Karlstads universitet upptäckt. Mekanismen kan förklara varför exponering för ämnet under fosterstadiet kan kopplas till lägre IQ vid sju års ålder, ett samband samma forskargrupp tidigare sett.
Big ERC grant for research on the origin of land animals
The European Research Council (ERC) has now distributed the grants in its 2020 ERC Advanced Grants call and Uppsala University is one of the recipients. The grant of EUR 2.4 million goes to Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Organismal Biology, whose research seeks to reveal more about the origins of land animals by studying the tracks left by our more than 360 million-year-old ancestors – the ‘tetrapods’.
Largest-ever DNA mapping study of the Philippines
Over 50 millennia, at least five major immigration waves have successively populated the Philippines, the most comprehensive survey of genetic variations in the country to date shows. This Uppsala University study comprises 2.3 million DNA markers from some 1,000 individuals and suggests that climate change may have played a role in the mass movement of populations.
New light shed on the early evolution of limb bone marrow
When and how bone marrow first originated in the limbs of early four-legged animals is disputed in evolutionary biology. With the help of powerful X-ray technology, an international research team, led by Uppsala University, has now discovered that this evolutionary adaptation most likely took place after the first tetrapods stepped ashore. The study is published in the scientific journal eLife.
Multigenerational effects of environmental toxins
The effects of the endocrine disruptor linuron on frogs are not limited to those exposed, but are passed on to their offspring and grand-offspring. First generation offspring have reduced body weight and decreased fertility, while second generation offspring have increased body weight and a disrupted metabolism. This is demonstrated by a new study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University that has now been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
Chronic stress causes genetic changes in chickens
How can stress in animals be measured? Scientists from Uppsala University and elsewhere have now found that what are known as epigenetic biomarkers could be used to detect long-term exposure to stress in commercially raised chickens. This may, in time, lead to improved conditions in animal rearing. The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.
Kraftiga tidvatten kan ha drivit på fiskarnas utveckling
Big tidal ranges some 400 million years ago may have initiated the evolution of bony fish and land vertebrates. This theory is now supported by researchers in the UK and at Uppsala University who, for the first time, have used established mathematical models to simulate tides on Earth during this period. The study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
A tiny jaw from Greenland sheds light on the origin of complex teeth
A team of scientists led from Uppsala University have described the earliest known example of dentary bone with two rows of cusps on molars and double-rooted teeth. The new findings offer insight into mammal tooth evolution, particularly the development of double-rooted teeth. The results are published in the scientific journal PNAS.