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dinosaur

Bringing dinosaur biology into the 21st century

We may know a lot about dinosaurs, but there’s an awful lot we don’t know yet, especially about their biology. How heavy were the dinosaurs? Were they fast or slow? Recent research poses new answers to these long-standing questions.

06 Jul 2012

Five outstanding questions in earth science

Even 15 years after the release of “Good Will Hunting,” there remains something appealing about watching the title character, a mathematically inclined janitor at MIT, scribble the solution to an unsolved mathematics problem on a hallway blackboard. In reality, there are a number of unsolved problems in mathematics, seven of which were designated in 2000 by the Clay Mathematics Institute as “Millennium Prize Problems,” each with a purse of $1,000,000. To date, only one has been solved.

27 Jun 2012

Quoth the feathered, iridescent Microraptor, Nevermore

Our knowledge of the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs is sketchy, at best, but new research on fossilized feathers is painting a remarkably clear picture of what one species, known as Microraptor, may have looked like — a raven with black iridescent feathers. The findings may have implications for the importance of sexual display in the early origins of feathers.

08 Mar 2012

Highlights of 2010: Definitive statements: a new trend?

“This is the way it was.” Or: “This is what is happening.” Hmmm. Scientists don’t usually make such definitive statements, given that in science, there are almost always caveats. Yet in the last year, such statements have been issued by several large groups of scientists who have come together to support a certain point of view. Are scientists feeling the need to dig in their heels because of public pressures? Or are we actually reaching some consensus?

10 Dec 2010

Tetrapod tracks reset timing of four-legged evolution

About 18 million years earlier than they were thought to exist, tetrapods — vertebrates with four limbs instead of fins — walked in what is today Poland. A new study published in Nature describes tracks belonging to a tetrapod in a Polish tidal flat, dating to the Middle Devonian period, about 395 million years ago. The discovery may prompt scientists to completely reassess the environment, origins and timing of early tetrapods.

07 Jan 2010

Dinosaurs' true colors revealed

Modern birds range across the color spectrum from brilliant blue to Big Bird yellow to vibrant vermillion, so it stands to reason that feathered dinosaurs shared these colorful traits. And in fact, few paleontologists have doubted that dinosaurs were multihued beasts. But until a couple of recent finds in China, they had no real evidence. Two new studies detail the findings, which researchers say also resolve the debate over whether birds descended from dinosaurs.

01 May 2010

Do impacts trigger extinctions? Impact theory still controversial

The revolution started with a bang in 1980. For some, this revolution became a religion, even an orthodoxy. The true believers became proselytes and began to see signs supporting their viewpoint everywhere. But each time the proselytes claimed to have found yet another example in support of their “religion,” naysayers and doubters emerged. Two sides formed, each loudly castigating and questioning their opponents.

This back-and-forth ideological debate describes both the historical and still-ongoing struggle over a purported cause of mass extinctions: the meteor impact theory.

23 Jun 2010

Age changes you: Torosaurus actually just old Triceratops

Triceratops and its cousin Torosaurus are not hard to tell apart. Both horned dinosaurs had a giant bony frill that rose up behind the head, but Torosaurus’ frill was much longer and was adorned with giant holes that were covered by a thin layer of protein called keratin. Yet Triceratops and Torosaurus may have been more alike than scientists realized: New research suggests that the two animals were actually the same species, with Torosaurus being the adult version of Triceratops.

04 Aug 2010

Triassic Park: On the origin of (dinosaur) species

Ask a third grader what happened to the dinosaurs and she will tell you that an asteroid killed them all. Many adults even know what caused the demise of the dinosaurs: A massive bolide crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico about 65 million years ago, setting in motion a series of environmental changes that killed off 60 percent of life on Earth. But if you ask people about the origin of dinosaurs 165 million years earlier, you get blank looks. Even many paleontologists have little to say about the subject.

18 Jan 2011

Benchmarks: September 30, 1861: Archaeopteryx is discovered and described

What's commonly thought of as the first bird, Archaeopteryx was first described 150 years ago this month.

02 Sep 2011

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