Friday, 3 November 2017

Are There Dinosaurs in Malaysia?


What are dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles that lived from about 243 million years ago to 65 million years ago, during a time on earth we call the Mesozoic era. The clade Dinosauria consists of non-avian dinosaurs and avian (feathered)-dinosaurs that are birds that continued to exist past the K-T extinction event, but for this science fact, we will be referring to the non-avian dinosaurs only.

How do we know they existed?

Fossils of dinosaurs had been discovered around the globe, to an extent that a dinosaur discovery revolution started in the 70’s. In February 2014, a 145-75 m.y.o. spinosaurid tooth fossil was found in an undisclosed dig site in Pahang by a team of University Malaya and Japanese scientists.

Paleontology teams from UM, UKM, University Malaya Kelantan and Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS had discovered dinosaur tooth fossil of a dinosaur from the Ornithischian order, dinosaur tracks (of possible sauropods) and bone fossils from Sungai Cicir, Gunung Gagau and Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu.

Which period is significant in Malaysia?

Rocks from the Mesozoic era, which spanned 252 to 66 million years ago and cover the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods are all available in Malaysia, though not in all states. It is easier to discover fossils from the Cretaceous periods because newer fossils are more well-preserved.

Why is This Science Important / Relevant to Us

The science of dinosaurs is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It is a field of study that intrigues a lot of public interest towards certain sciences. Its popularity allowed the awareness of dinosaur sciences be raised among the public and can be used in movies, theme parks, museums and many other forms of public attractions and entertainment. 

The study of dinosaurs helps us to understand the history of our planet earth: allowing us to predict the circumstances of future events on the planet in comparison to past events. This study allows us to understand living things in the present better. For example, the study of dinosaurs allows us to question the function of feathers on modern-day birds, because most feathered dinosaurs did not have their feathers functioned for flight. The study of dinosaurs also allows us to compare the magnitude of today’s extinctions (whereby every year some species of animals go extinct) with that of the dinosaurs’ since the dinosaurs were involved in the K-T extinction event.

Aside from that, a lot of fresh discoveries were carried out in untapped locations. For example, the some largest dinosaurs to ever walked the earth (such as Argentinosaurus) were uncovered in South America. Discoveries in India helped us understand the hazardous environmental conditions and natural disasters during the Cretaceous period. Madagascar’s discoveries helped us understand cannibalistic dinosaurs. Antarctica was where dinosaurs that could survive extreme cold were discovered. In China, dinosaurs with feathers were abundantly discovered. Who knows what kind of new discoveries we can get in Malaysia.

Dinosaur discovery in Malaysia is yet to be classified, therefore here are some pictures of dinosaurs from similar groups to get a rough idea what kinds of dinosaurs had been discovered in Malaysia.

 Spinosaurid tooth found in Pahang in 2014.

 Example of a fish-eating spinosaur: Suchomimus from Africa.

Ornithischian tooth found in Terengganu in late 2014.

 Example of a plant-eating dinosaur from the Ornithischian order: Zalmoxes from Romania

 (Possibly) Sauropod track fossil found in Terengganu in 2014.

 Example of a plant-eating sauropod: Argentinosaurus from Argentina.

Map of Late Cretaceous (~66 mya).

Similar dinosaurs were distributed in the southern regions i.e. South America, Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia such as sauropods, spinosaurids, and abelisaurs. Ornithischians were widely distributed around the globe, though the crested hadrosaurs, thick-headed pachycephalosaurs, and ceratopsians were more commonly distributed around the northern regions i.e. China, Russia and North America, along with the famous tyrannosaurs.

Today, distribution in animal species can be seen around the globe, e.g. marsupials can only be found in Australia.

References

1. SBS News (2014, February 19): A team of Malaysian and Japanese paleontologists has found a darkened tooth fossil after a nearly two-year dig in the central state of Pahang. Retrieved from http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/02/19/first-malaysian-dinosaur-fossil-found

2. Dusty Drawers (2014, November 15): Dinosaur fossils from Terengganu. Retrieved from https://malayanoplia.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/dinosaur-fossils-from-terengganu/



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