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Researchers Unearth Enormous Ancient Crocodile Relative in Tunisia

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As if average-sized crocodiles aren't terrifying enough, a team of researchers recently discovered an ancient relative of the reptile that was roughly the size of a bus, with a skull over five feet long.

According to BBC, the 30-foot creature lived 130 million years ago during the early Cretaceous period and has been given the name Machimosaurus rex ("fighting lizard-king") for its impressive size. At the time, it was the largest known marine crocodylomorph, a group of extinct animals that includes crocodilians and their relatives. "There's no question this animal had a terrific diet," co-discoverer Federico Fanti said of the remains, which he and his team found while exploring a part of Tunisia where no one had searched for fossils before. The bones were visible without digging, Fanti said. "We could see the outline of the body in the ground and counted more than one."

The researchers say that the discovery of Machimosaurus rex could change scientific understanding of the transition between the Jurassic and the Cretaceous periods. While some scientists believe a mass extinction event occurred during the transition, the fact that Machimosaurus rex seems to have survived about 20 million years past the extinction of other large reptiles undermines the mass die-out theory.

"We think that we are not looking at a global extinction but local extinction of different species," Fanti told BBC. "Dependent on where in the world you are digging, you are going to find that some species survived and others did not."

The researchers' report on the discovery, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, includes a graphic showing the size of the newly discovered species in comparison to an adult human. 

[h/t: BBC]

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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