Entry for July 01, 2007

Illustration by Karen Carr/Virginia Museum of Natural History via LiveScience accompanied Dave Mosher’s June 12, 2007 story, “Ancient Gliding Reptile Discovered.”

Nick Fraser, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History discovered fossils of two gliding reptiles about the size of a blue jay from head to tail in 220 million-year-old sediments inthe Solite Quarry in Pittsylvania county on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Named Mecistotrachelos apeoros, meaning “soaring, long-necked,” they appear to a group of extinct reptiles with long necks called protorosaurs, or prolacertiformes — a group that includes the Tanystropheus, which toted around a neck longer than its body and tail combined. Fraser told Live Science

The length of the neck on these guys is really surprising. But what’s even more interesting are the thick ribs near the base of the neck.” He explained that such bones are indicative of beefed up muscles near the membranous wings.

This would have given them much more maneuverability in the air than other gliders, even modern gliding lizards in the Malaysian rain forestsOne of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet. They are preserved in a hooked posture, which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit. I’m convinced it was using its hind limbs for grasping branches.

According to the Roanoke Times’s Ruth Tisdale, who appears to be the only other reporter who didn’t copy Mosher verbatim in her June 12 story “Tiny, winged lizard unearthed from quarry: The fossils will go on display next month at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville,” Fraser came close to throwing the unique bones.

I thought it was the bones of a fish tail When I went back through the notes I had gathered, I looked at it again and noticed a little head. I knew we had something then.

Fraser’s work is featured in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (click on Vol. 27, #2, when it becomes available) and the fossils will go on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History July 14.

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Reading The Woman Within, Glasgow’s autobiography. Will bring it to the library and include her outspoken critique of war, which would apply today.

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