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King of Clubs: A new twist in the origin of the ankylosaur’s powerful tail

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One of the most impressive weapons to appear during the dinosaur arms race of the Cretaceous Period was the big bony tail club wielded by some members of a group of tank-like plant-eaters.

A new study provides a step-by-step account of the evolution of this distinctive feature possessed by the heavily armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus and its cousins, a bludgeon that may have given even the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex reason to worry.

The researchers studied fossils of the group called ankylosaurs including early, primitive species with no tail club and later ones with a fully developed one.

Ankylosaurs began to evolve tail clubs much earlier than previously thought, the researchers found, and the clubs evolved in two steps over tens of millions of years.

First, vertebrae in the back part of the tail changed so that the tail became stiff. Next, bones that form in the skin to provide body armor, called osteoderms, became very large at the tip of the tail and completely enveloped the tail’s end to form a club that could be swung at an enemy.

Ankylosaurs lived at a time when the largest land predators in Earth’s history including T. rex roamed the landscape, dismembering other dinosaurs with powerful jaws and serrated teeth. In an arms race, some plant-eaters developed defensive weaponry.

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“A tail club was definitely an effective weapon and could have broken the ankle of a predator,” said paleontologist Victoria Arbour of North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who led the study published this week in the Journal of Anatomy.

“But in living animals today, weapons are also often used for battling members of your own species – consider the horns of bighorn sheep or the antlers of deer – so perhaps ankylosaurs did something similar.”

Ankylosaurs were wide-bodied, four-legged dinosaurs covered in bony plates and spikes. The oldest known ankylosaur dated from around 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, Arbour said. The first fully formed ankylosaur tail club appeared around 75 million years ago during the Cretaceous.

Ankylosaurus, measuring around 20 feet (6 meters), was the largest and last of the ankylosaurs, living at the end of the age of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

Ankylosaurs from China were crucial for understanding the tail club’s origins, including Gobisaurus, from about 92 million years ago, and Liaoningosaurus, from about 122 million years ago, Arbour said.

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Fox host: ‘Ecstatic’ Pompeo and Bolton having ‘tickle parties’ as they push Trump into conflict with Iran

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Fox News host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery on Tuesday worried that President Donald Trump's top advisors were pushing him towards a war with Iran.

"I think Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are jumping around like a couple of 11-year-olds at a sleepover," she remarked during a panel discussion on "Outnumbered."

"They're having pillow fights and tickle parties because they are ecstatic at the thought of an increased military presence near Iran. That's very unfortunate, because the problem isn’t directly challenging Iran with some of their misbehavior. The problem is getting into another Afghanistan and another protracted military campaign --"

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‘This should scare the hell out of you’: Photo of Greenland sled dog teams walking on melted water

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In yet the latest shocking image depicting just how fast the world's natural systems are changing due to the global climate emergency, a photograph showing a vast expanse of melted Arctic ice in Greenland—one in which a pair of sled dog teams appear to be walking on water—has gone viral.

The photo, taken by researcher Steffen Olsen from the Centre for Ocean and Ice at the Danish Meteorological Institute just last week, showed two teams of dogs pulling sleds designed for ice and snow through ankle-deep water atop a melted ice sheet in the country's Inglefield Bredning fjord.

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Trump says attacks on oil tankers ‘very minor’

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President Donald Trump downplayed recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington blames on Iran and noted that the United States is less dependent on energy supplies from the region.

"So far, it?s been very minor," Trump told Time magazine in an interview released Monday.

However, Trump said he accepts the US intelligence assessment that Iran is behind the explosions that damaged the hulls of Norwegian and Japanese tankers.

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