April, 2008

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Fossil Pterosaur from China flies into Evolutionary History

The latest fossil discovery by international researchers, led by Dr. Wang Xiaolin and Dr. Zhou Zhonghe from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS in cooperation with Brazilian paleontologists Alexander W. A. Kellner and Diogenes de Almeida Campos, has been reported in the on line edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Feb. 12.? The fossil was found in the western part of Liaoning province, a region that was forested when the animal ¨C dubbed Nemicolopterus crypticus, or ¡°hidden flying forest dweller¡± ¨C lived there about 120 million years ago.

The most dramatic of this pterosaur is its miniature size with a wingspan of only 25 centimeters, about the size of a modern sparrow or swallow. Wang, who is also the lead author of the published paper, said all the pterosaurs of earlier periods (Late Triassic to Jurassic) found so far had teeth. And the toothless ones that lived in the Cretaceous period were usually quite big, with their bodies, including their ¡°wingspan¡±, stretching from 6-12 meters. Most pterosaurs usually lived near the sea or lake. The tiny Creature found in Liaoning, China seems to be the only one living in trees. ¡°This is a now providing us with information about pterosaurs that were living deep inside the continent¡­It¡¯s new species. It¡¯s showing us a new chapter of the evolutionary history of those animals,¡± Kellner said.

Function of Nitrogen Deposition in Mature Forests

Prof. Mo Jiangming and his research team from the South China Botanical Garden, CAS found that the increase of nitrogen reduces soil respiration in the Dihu Mountain Forest Eco-system, a mature tropical forest in southern China. This sound development in the research in nitrogen deposition in forest ecosystem has recently been reported in journal Global Change Biology (Mo et al., 2008, 14: 403-412). This finding is consistent with the previous results of litter decomposition experiment conducted at the same site, where increase of nitrogen was shown to decreases litter decomposition rate, which has been published in another journal Plant and Soil (Mo et al., Plant and Soil, 2006, 282: 135-151).

These findings mentioned above imply that elevated N deposition may drive accumulation of soil carbon in the research area of mature forest, and thus can partially explain the reason for the accumulation of soil carbon over two decades observed at the same site by Zhou Guoyi, which has been published in Science. (2006, 314: 1417). In addition, these findings also suggest that with increasing atmospheric nitrogen deposition driven by the economic development, mature forests will probably play an important role in mitigating atmospheric CO2 increase.


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