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Last updateFri, 01 Dec 2023 2pm

New fossil evidence solves evolutionary mystery in extinct giant marine predator

    The teeth and stomach contents of two exceptionally well-preserved fossils from Alberta answer questions about the evolutionary success of mosasaurs, an extinct group of giant, flipper-equipped (or flipper-bearing) marine lizards that dominated the waters 90 – 65 million years ago.
    A team of researchers, led by Dr. Takuya Konishi and Dr. Donald Brinkman of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology studied two of the world’s best-preserved 74-million-year-old Prognathodon specimens found in Southern Alberta.
    They were able to determine what the entire animal looked like for the first time, and what the little known predator ate. The preserved gut contents revealed the remains of a large fish, a sea turtle with a shell 60 cm in diameter, and a possible ammonite jaw.
    “Macroscopically, the teeth of Prognathodon are blunt-ended and robust, a shape suited for crunching. Microscopically, most of the teeth were equipped with cutting edges, useful for slicing meat. It’s this combination that enabled these predators to handle both hard and soft prey; they could eat nearly anything that swam in the ocean,” Konishi explains.
    For over a century, scientists did not have enough fossil evidence to confirm what Prognathodon, a particularly large-headed mosasaur, looked like in life. “Between the two specimens, we now know it had a slender skeleton, similar to other mosasaurs, but a bigger skull,” states Konishi. “This suggests that evolution in mosasaurs involved modifications to their head first, followed by the rest of their body.”  This was probably advantageous for all mosasaurs as they could share the same environment with reduced competition for the same kind of food source, which may have maintained, or even increased, an overall diversity of mosasaurs.
    The later part of mosasaur evolution is characterized by an increased tooth variation among different mosasaurs. Their overall diversity continued until they became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 65 million years ago.
    The findings from the study are published in the September 2011 edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Hayden looking forward to provincial election

    Drumheller-Stettler MLA and Minister of Agriculture Jack Hayden is looking forward to the next provincial election whenever it may come.
    Hayden secured the nomination for the PC Party last spring to run in the Drumheller-Stettler riding in the next election. He is excited to  begin the campaign.
    “I think an election is going to rebuild a lot (of confidence in the party) because the facts are going to come out. Right now, opposition parties can say what they like, but when it comes election time they have to back it up,” said Hayden. “I have been involved in politics for many years, at the local level as well, and I don’t think I have ever been looking forward to an election as much as I am looking forward to this one. Let’s get into the debates and get these people standing up making these ridiculous statements because I can't wait to defend our government’s record.”
    And he says that record is strong.
    “We are the only jurisdiction in North America that actually has a bank account. We have one of the highest standards of living in the North American continent. We invest more in education and health care than anywhere else in North America. We actually have money. Our net worth exceeds that of the rest of the country,” said Hayden.
    He says the success relates to management at the provincial and local level.
    “I know we are fortunate to have oil and gas, but you know what? There is oil and gas in British Columbia, there is oil and gas in Saskatchewan, and they all have deficits. It is not like they haven’t had the opportunities we have had. It is good management, and not just the provincial government, we have been really blessed at the local level with what people have done.”
    He feels the next election could be interesting. The Official Opposition Liberals have a new leader, the NDP is still backing Brian Mason, and the Wildrose and Alberta Party are both mobilizing.
    “All through my time in public service I have never taken the opposition for granted. Every morning when I get up I am 10 votes behind,” said Hayden.
    Through the leadership race, Hayden  has put his support behind Doug Horner.
    “In the constituency, I asked the executive to put together a list of what they would like to see in a new leader and then have all the leaders come to the constituency and give them an opportunity to speak … and then we voted as to who we would support for the leadership race,” said Hayden. "We picked Doug Horner, so that is the candidate that I supported and that is the candidate my executive have been working for.”
    Despite this, Gary Mar edged out Horner in the Drumheller Constituency by nine votes in the first ballot. Hayden said he will continue to support Horner, but is comfortable with any of the remaining candidates at the helm.
    “I have confidence in all the candidates,” said Hayden.
    “The thing going for Doug was a past Ag Minister, so he understands agricultural issues and has family roots in the constituency.”
    Hayden said he has a strong working relationship with Allison Redford, and when he was first elected sat beside Gary Mar in the legislature.
    “In fac,t in my school board days, Gary was the education minister. He is a great guy,” said Hayden.
    The run off for the PC Party leadership will take place on October 1. Local voting is at the Ramada Inn.

Brummie to be honoured by alumni, fraternity

    Prominent Drumheller resident and doctor, Brummie Aiello is being honoured this week by the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine Alumni and his fraternity for his service to the community.
    Brummie, who just turned 101 this summer, graduated from the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 1936 with his Bachelors of Science and in 1939 from the Faculty of Medicine.
    His son, Chip Aiello, explains the Faculty of Medicine Alumni and his university fraternity, Delta Epsilon, are planning to honour Brummie for his considerable positive effect on the community, and to foster a relationship between the institutions and Drumheller.
    Chip said from what he understands, Brummie is the oldest living member of his fraternity.
    He explained that Brummie was invited to an event with the alumni in June in Edmonton, but they were not able to attend. As it turns out, discussion at the event among attendees, including Roy Leriche, who once was a doctor in Drumheller, centred on Brummie and his service. They decided to organize the event to recognize his work.
    The private ceremony will take place this Friday at the Ramada, and prominent University of Alberta alumni as well as community leaders have been invited.


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