Twitter icon
Facebook icon
RSS icon
YouTube icon

fossil

For toothed whales, ecolocation is an ancient art

A new fossil find shows that toothed whales — including dolphins, orcas and sperm whales — have been using echolocation to navigate in low-visibility waters for millions of years. The discovery of a 28-million-year-old skull belonging to a previously unknown genus of toothed whale suggests that echolocation evolved extremely early in the whale family tree.

22 Jul 2014

Pompeii-like eruption fossilized dinosaurs in death poses

In A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy, burying the town of Pompeii and entombing its citizens in ash, which preserved their death poses for thousands of years. In northern China, a similar fate seems to have befallen dinosaurs, mammals and early birds. A new study, published in Nature Communications, sheds light on the preservation history of the Jehol Biota — an ancient ecosystem dating to between 130 million and 120 million years ago.

20 Jul 2014

Hell Creek Formation reveals a 'chicken from hell'

The Late Cretaceous landscape was a scary place, populated by TyrannosaursVelociraptors and a newly described ostrich-sized predator nicknamed the “chicken from hell.” The discovery of three specimens in the Hell Creek Formation in North and South Dakota that add up to a nearly complete skeleton is giving paleontologists their first good look at Anzu wyliei, a 66-million-year-old theropod related to Oviraptors.

16 Jul 2014

Ancient food web shows modern structure

All animals have to eat, but who eats whom or what is often difficult for ecologists to discern in modern habitats, let alone in extinct ecosystems. Now a new study focusing on an exceptional assemblage of 48-million-year-old fossils in Germany has pieced together one of the most complex food webs ever constructed, and the results show this ancient ecosystem was strikingly similar to today’s food webs.

11 Jul 2014

La Brea climate adaptation as different as cats and dogs

The La Brea tar pits are famous for being a predator trap. For every herbivore, a dozen or more carnivores are pulled from the prolific Pleistocene fossil site in downtown Los Angeles. Two new studies focusing on the two most common species found at the tar pits — dire wolves and saber-toothed cats — are characterizing how the tar pits’ two top predators coped with the warming climate toward the end of the last ice age, and the results are surprisingly dissimilar: While the wolves got smaller, the cats got bigger.

09 Jul 2014

Arctic megafauna thrived on pollen-poor plants

Ancient changes in vegetation have traditionally been studied based on fossil pollen; however, this record tends to be biased toward plants that produce lots of pollen, such as grasses, reeds and sedges. Now, researchers have sequenced plant DNA retrieved from radiocarbon-dated permafrost samples and gained further insight into the Arctic plant communities not readily identifiable by pollen analysis.
 

24 Jun 2014

Cryptic creatures made for a spectacular hanging garden

Researchers studying an outcrop of Middle Devonian-aged carbonate rock in the Hamar Laghdad area of Morocco have found the remains of a community of submarine cave-roof-dwelling corals, crinoids, cnidarians and sponges that, while living, would have constituted a “spectacular hanging garden.”

22 Jun 2014

Did tidal zone trilobites lead the way onto land?

With their Cambrian-defining ubiquity, 270-million-year longevity and impressive diversity, trilobites often rank as people’s favorite sort of fossil. Now a set of 500-million-year-old trace fossils found in Tennessee is potentially expanding the trilobites’ territory from the deep ocean all the way inland to the resource-rich Cambrian tidal flats. But whether the tracks mean that trilobites were part of an ecological bridge that helped animals transition from the sea onto land to colonize the empty continents is up for debate.

22 Jun 2014

Dueling dinosaurs hit the auction block

In 2006, fossil collector Clayton Phipps (a Montana rancher known as the “Dinosaur Cowboy”) and his crew discovered a rare fossil on private land in Montana’s Hell Creek Formation: the bones of two fully articulated dinosaurs that appeared to have died together, locked in battle. The fossil duo — a small, pony-sized carnivorous tyrannosaurid and a slightly larger herbivorous ceratopsian, both now preserved in plaster — became known as the “Montana Dueling Dinosaurs.” Last November, the fossils were put on the block at Bonhams auction house in New York City — but they did not sell. Had the set fetched the nearly $9 million it was expected to, it would have set a record for a fossil sale. For now, the Dueling Dinosaurs remain locked in an unidentified warehouse somewhere in the United States — along with any scientific information the unique specimens may reveal.

09 Jun 2014

The Lizard King rises

The trouble with being a lizard is that your mammal neighbors are always trying to eat your dinner, or make you into their dinner, wielding a competitive advantage scientists have long attributed to their warm-blooded metabolism. For this reason, large lizards like the Komodo dragon are extremely rare, and only occur in isolated island environments that lack other predators. Now, a giant fossil species of herbivorous lizard that appears to have happily coexisted with various large mammal species has been identified in Eocene-aged rocks from Myanmar.

11 Nov 2013

Pages