Dec 8, 2017

New dinosaur discovery highlights fake fossil concerns

Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History examining a replica of a 122-foot-long dinosaur on display. Photo: Mary Altaffer / AP

The distinction between authentic and fake dinosaur fossiles is similar to that of artwork: sometimes blatantly obvious, and other times apparent to only experts. Some are questioning whether a fossil of a new dinosaur called Halszkaraptor— with "a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc's, a swanlike neck and killer claws," according to the AP — is real.

Why it's happening: There's a large market for fossils, which has led people "trying to earn a buck" to forge them for cash, Ed Yong writes at the Atlantic.

  • Forgers can make fossils appear more dramatic or novel by adding feathers, reconstructing tiny features, or even gluing specimens together to make them appear as one.
  • But one of the red flags about Halszkaraptor for Steve Brusatte from the Unviersity of Edinburgh is its murky past. Per Yong, the fossil traveled from Mongolia to Japan and Britain, and then France, which gives "few reassurances and many chances for tampering."
  • Philip Currie, at the Unviersity of Alberta, was one of the scientists called in to test Halszkaraptor's authenticity. He used a synchorotron to observe the "continuity of the bones and the rocks," and said he's "at least a 9" out of 10 on how sure he is that the fossil is real.
  • Currie told the Atlantic the only way to be absolutely positive, is if another team finds another fossil of the same specimen on their own.

Keep in mind: Fake fossils generally have "little impact" on our knowledge of dinosaurs, the Atlantic reports, because they aren't typically the subject of scientific research.

Go deeper

O'Brien rejects intelligence report of Russia effort to re-elect Trump

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected on ABC's "This Week" an assessment from a congressional briefing led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected.

Why it matters: The report put the Trump administration under fresh scrutiny in regard to steps it has been taking to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. encountered in 2016.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Iranian state TV: Hardliners win landslide victory in low-turnout election

Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian state TV announced Sunday that hardliners won a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections two days ago, including all 30 seats in Tehran, AP reports.

Why it matters: Voter turnout in the election only reached 42.57%, according to Iran's interior ministry, the first time turnout dipped below 50% since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The low turnout may signal dissatisfaction with the Iranian government and the election system.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World