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A few hundred thousand years ago, a group of fish in an African lake evolved something new—a set of strong chewing jaws in their throats.
This is a counter-intuitive story because evolutionary innovations are typically seen as good things. These varied lifestyles depend on a crucial innovation—a second set of jaws in the cichlids’ throat.
For cichlids in Lake Victoria and Malawi, this wasn’t a problem, since they diversified in the complete absence of any wider-mouthed fish. McGee found that the fish-eating cichlids had mouths of similar size to the Nile perch but, because of their fused pharyngeal jaws, they could only open theirs half as wide. McGee writes that for “nearly half a century”, scientists have seen the pharyngeal jaws of cichlids and wrasses as “a classic example of evolutionary innovation that opened up new niches”. This summary also neglects to factor in a few key elements to the cichlid extinction (I’m not certain that holds true in the original paper, but I would suspect it to be the case due to its narrow focus).
Additionally, it’s worth noting that 6-foot Nile perch are becoming quite scarce in Lake Victoria. When wounded, poisonous nightshade can be sweet, a revelation that has scientists reconsidering the evolution of nectar. Top picks You can sign up for The Ed’s Up—a weekly newsletter of my writing plus some of the best stuff from around the Internet.
Sign up for my weekly newsletter - The Ed's Up - to find out about my writing and other activities. DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. National Geographic vient de publier sa compilation des meilleures photos du jour de 2015, choisies par des utilisateurs web comme vous et nous. Nathalia Holt's new book 'Rise of the Rocket Girls' tells the story of these pioneering women. In 1985, three years before Littlefoot and gang would set off for The Great Valley, paleontologist Jack Horner, writer James Gorman, and artist Doug Henderson told the story of a different baby dinosaur on a perilous journey. The site that inspired the story of Maia isn’t just a horizon of tiny bones and eggshells. Of all the dinosaurs that ever lived, only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction are preserved in the fossil record. Histology, or the study of bone structure, is one of the most important subfields within paleontology right now. As it turns out, the fictional Maia was even luckier than even Horner initially understood. There were a few dinosaurs in the middle of these two extremes, but, for the most part, young, vigorous Maiasaura were absent from the sample. Best of all, all that hard word raises the possibility that paleontologists can apply the same lessons to other places where dinosaurs died en masse.
As my students know, Holtz’s First Law of Dinosaur Paleoecology: In the Mesozoic, Life Was Cheap! These herbivorous dinosaurs, Maiasaurs and their relatives, were certainly not well equiped for defense; how could they have protected their offspring from hungry predators? Maiasaura, like most other hadrosaurs, didn’t possess strong armor, spikes or tail clubs like some other herbivores.
As for sandstorms, I mentioned these in connection with hadrosaurs in general, those which might have lived in more arid zones or near beaches. Your idea about hadrosaurs living in herds is quite likely, even though I suspect that young adults did leave home to found new communities, especially in times of scarcity or drought. Brian Switek is a freelance science writer and author of the critically-acclaimed books Written in Stone (2010), My Beloved Brontosaurus (2013), When Dinosaurs Ruled (2014), and Prehistoric Predators (2015).
This two-headed blue shark fetus was removed from its mother by fisherman Christopher Johnston in 2008, off the coast of Australia.
As we previously reported, there have been only about a half dozen reported cases of two-headed sharks.
In January 2011, scientists published a review of two-headed blue sharks in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records. The researchers, led by Felipe Galvan-Magana, wrote, “Abnormal sharks showed a symmetric bicephaly that could be caused by the high number of embryos found in the uterus of the blue shark, which is the most fecund species of shark in the world. In the case of the two-headed blue shark that appears in the photos in this post, Johnston told us that he found it while working as a longline fisherman in the Indian Ocean.
Johnston showed it to the captain and other crew, but he said they were too tired and focused on getting their work done to pay much attention. Johnston explained that the reason the fishermen cut open pregnant sharks was because they were only allowed to keep 20 blue sharks on a boat at a time, apparently including fetal ones. As for Johnston, these days he lives in Dubai, where he leads private recreational fishing trips for royals. He originally hails from Perth, Australia, although his family moved him to the Middle East when he was four years old.
As to the reader comments that asked if such two-headed creatures could be traced to pollution, radiation, or other environmental ills, Wagner had told us that it is very difficult to pin abnormalities on a single cause.


Out of the 20, he should have kept this one and submitted it to a local marine biology clinic so that it could have been analyzed more. People are sick and cruel for any purpose – fooling with nature and killing for money is not humane! Birth defects in any species are not normal but happen – but we as a species are polluting this planet!
Ocean ViewsOcean Views brings new and experienced voices together to discuss the threats facing our ocean and to celebrate successes.
The Aquarium of the WorldDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. The carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them.
Photograph: Clownfish reared in acidified water can't recognize the chemical signals that guide them to their unusual home—the tentacles of an anemone.
The advent of sharp eyes allowed animals to sense each other over long distances, triggering an enscalating arms race between voracious predators and armoured prey. They’re strong because they consist of separate bones that have fused together, and this fusion limits the extent to which cichlids can open their mouths. Matthew McGee from the University of California, Davis found that the fish-eating species were most likely to have gone extinct, which suggests that the perch hadn’t eaten the cichlids into oblivion.
As a result, they take many hours to deal with prey that the Nile perch can swallow in a few minutes. Other groups of fish, including wrasses, damselfish, and flying fish, independently hit on the same innovation. While jaw size is a relevant factor in catching prey, it also tends to dictate the kinds of prey a species goes after. His work has appeared in Wired, the New York Times, Nature, the BBC, New Scientist, Scientific American, the Guardian, the Times, and more. Phenomena is hosted by National Geographic magazine, which invites you to join the conversation. She hatched as a big-eyed, wobbly-legged infant, and spent her early days in the warmth of the nest as she grew and her limbs became stronger.
Over the past three decades paleontologists from Montana’s Museum of the Rockies have dug up hundreds of Maiasaura bones from a second horizon just above the nesting grounds. And of the dinosaurs that have come down to us as petrified skeletons, many are only known from fragments or partial skeletons. Even though the bones were strewn into a jumble when buried, paleontologists have been able to recover elements from animals of different sizes and ages that died very close to each other in time. By cutting into bones and looking at them under the microscope paleontologists can see how fast a dinosaur was growing, estimate its age, and get other biological information otherwise invisible to us. Within the sample, 31 of the bones lacked any lines of arrested growth (or LAGs) that are usually taken as markers of each passing year. Maiasaura grew at rates comparable to their living avian cousins, and the survivorship estimates Woodward and colleagues were able to calculate compare well with those biologists have recorded for red deer and Dall sheep. The disarticulated remains of at least 48 individual Allosaurus have been found at the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah, for example, and New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch quarry is famous for producing hundreds of Coelophysis skeletons. If the mortality rate among infant Maiasaurs was so high, then the birth rate must have been or must necessarily have become proportionate. Evidence from fossil deposits indicate many species of hadrosaur, including Maiasaura, indicates that they lived in large herds. Hadrosaurs in general, lacking sharp teeth and claws, spines or tails long and strong enough to really lash out and deliver a disabling blow, must have been easy prey for medium to large carnivores. In addition to writing for a variety of publications - from Slate to Nature - Brian is an amateur paleontologist and was the science adviser for the Jurassic World website. One of our readers, Christopher Johnston, then sent us an email with photos he had taken on September 27, 2008 of a similarly surprising find: a two-headed blue shark. The phenomenon arises through conjoined development of twins, the same process that produces what used to be called Siamese twins in people.
The malformed female blue shark embryos the scientists examined had been found inside a pregnant adult female that had been caught in the Gulf of California off the western coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico. He indicated that the fins had to remain on the bodies, to prevent the finning that is driving down shark numbers around the globe. Michael Wagner of Michigan State University recently confirmed to us that two-headed animals rarely survive in the wild. Sometimes the problems also arise spontaneously, an imperfect expression of life’s machinery. If he finds a pregnant mother to be carrying up to 100 pups, how can they ensure they’re not killing 100 more aside from the 20 they have?
Is it normal (though unusual) for sharks to be born two-headed, or is this caused by we humans, polluting and screwing up the oceans?
To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. In the limited confines of East Africa’s Great Lakes—Victoria, Malawi, and Tanganyika—the cichlids have diversified into a staggering number of species in a very short span of time.


This allows them to crush, chew, and process whatever food they grab with their mouths, including tough morsels like snails and scales.
Their restricted gape makes predatory cichlids less competitive than other hunting fish, which can swallow much bigger prey.
That changed in the 1950s, when fisherman introduced the voracious, big-mouthed Nile perch into Lake Victoria. Their innovative throat jaws, which had stood them so well in the pre-perch era, had suddenly turned them into inferior competitors. McGee studied the diets of these families to see what kinds of food they specialised in throughout their evolutionary history. Thus, very young juvenile Nile perch may have directly competed (and do still compete with the small remainder) with the haplochromine cichlids for their tiny prey species (mostly cyprinids and juveniles of other cichlids), but when both are adults they no longer occupy the same niche.
Were the two species competing for resources, the cyprinid populations would have either remained stable or, more likely, declined. But her salad days quickly ended when hungry Troodon raided the nesting ground, and as Maia matured she encountered even bigger, toothier dangers in the surrounding forests. So many bones have been found here, in fact, that Woodward and her collaborators have been able to assemble the first good picture of what Maiasaura population biology was like. This means that the majority of the dead dinosaurs were yearlings that were still growing extremely quickly. These fully mature dinosaurs had a mortality rate of 44.4%, Woodward and coauthors concluded, and probably represent the attrition that comes with old age. And the fact that such conclusions are possible at all is not only owed to the fortuitous discovery of so many dinosaurs in one place, but to the decades of work Museum of the Rockies researchers and volunteers have put into the site. Maiasaura, a model organism for extinct vertebrate population biology: a large sample statistical assessment of growth dynamics and survivorship.
Could you please tell me, is it known how many eggs a female Maiasaur usually laid at a time? Recent studies indicate that while hadrosaurs weren’t as fast as their larger predators, they could retain a set speed for a longer period of time. Living in herds would have decreased the chances of any one individual being picked off by a predator. He says most seem to “swim off fine” but what if they all die within 20 minutes?
They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. He found that they were unusually quick to diversify into species that tackle hard-to-eat foods, like tough plants or crunchy animals. But, unlike the six-inch-ish haplochromines who only go after small fish, the Nile perch is a quick-growing (they reach 2ft. Ultimately, though, Maia survived long enough to become a mother herself, and this, according to a new study by paleohistologist Holly Woodward and colleagues, would have made Maia a very exceptional member of her species.
From this Woodward and her colleagues calculated that baby Maiasaura faced an 89.9% mortality rate in their very first year.
Which is why I believe that the natural impulse for survival would have provided these mostly helpless species with an elevated birth rate (as in the case of fish). Nutrient-making bacteria allowed bugs to thrive on an impoverished diet of sap, and become the bane of plants.
By contrast, they were unusually slow to produce species that tackle hard-to-catch foods like other fish. If baby dinosaurs even survived to the moment they pushed out of their eggs, the odds were set against most of them surviving to adulthood.
Among Como crocodiles, only 4 percent of the (b) class survive to grow into the final (c) size class. Each of these breakthrough adaptations allowed their owners to exploit some previously inaccessible opportunity, and allowed obscure species to diversify into vast families. Some eat only snails, others graze on algae, and yet others specialise on the scales of other fish.
So these other groups were subject to the same trade-off—chewing throat jaws for tough foods, or wide mouths for swallowing other fish.
While 50 or so partial Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons are known, for example, they don’t represent a single population but are from different places and slices of time from a window of about two million years.
The few prime-aged Maiasaura in the sample might have been undergoing some unique growing pains that made them more susceptible, Woodward and colleagues write, which might be related to the onset of sexual maturity at around three years of age.
In other words, the haplochromines and tilapiine cichlids go on the menu (as well as younger Nile perch).
Thus reigniting conflict in an unstable area and causing more needless death, suffering, and so on.



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