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fossil

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

Getting there and getting around the Burgess Shale

Traveling to the Burgess Shale requires a plane ticket, a guide, and the legs and lungs to hike high into the Canadian Rockies.

01 Jan 2013

The Burgess Shale bestseller

The Burgess Shale owes much of its fame to a book called “Wonderful Life” by the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Published in 1989, the book was a bestseller. The title is a reference to the scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which George Bailey’s guardian angel replays the tape of life as if George had never been born, to dramatic effect.

01 Jan 2013

Travels in Geology: Famous fossils and spectacular scenery at British Columbia's Burgess Shale

Of all the famous fossil localities in the world, perhaps none is as widely celebrated as British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. High in the Canadian Rockies, the Burgess Shale contains some of the oldest and most exquisitely detailed fossils of early life on Earth. Visiting the Burgess Shale requires some preparation — you must hire a guide and hike 22 kilometers at high elevation — but for a fossil enthusiast, the payoff is worth every step.

01 Jan 2013

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

Blogging on EARTH: Finding prehistoric souvenirs in Michigan

Around the Fourth of July, I usually visit my parents and participate in a geological family tradition that is pointless to the extreme and yet addictive and fun. Mom and Dad live on Lake Leelanau near Traverse City, Mich. The lake is about a dozen kilometers long and a few kilometers wide. It’s a great place for water-skiing, fishing, jet-skiing and kayaking.

04 Jul 2012

Move over Homo habilis: Early human evolution remapped

Mapping out how one species of early hominin branches to another has always been complicated by the rarity of complete specimens and lack of precise dating methods for fossils more than 50,000 years old. Now researchers studying the braincase, pelvis, hands and feet of a primitive hominin — which lived about the same time early Homo species were evolving — are taking full advantage of a rare, nearly complete assemblage of fossils and a new highly accurate dating method to once again redraw humankind’s ancient lineage.

08 Sep 2011

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

It's a Dirty Job, But Someone's Gotta Do It

Fossilized feces reveal significant details about ancient life

How often do you laugh when you talk to a scientist? Over the years, I have interviewed and talked with dozens of geologists, biologists and archaeologists. I often come away feeling the researcher’s passion and excitement about his or her subject, but rarely do I come away with a sense of mirth, until I started to talk to people who work with coprolites. I don’t mean to imply that the researchers aren’t serious about their work — they are. But they also exude a healthy sense of humor.

28 Aug 2008

Third hominin coexisted with modern humans and Neanderthals

Modern humans and Neanderthals lived side by side on the Eurasian landscape for tens of thousands of years — but it turns out they weren’t alone, much to researchers’ surprise. A team of researchers has found a hominin bone in a Siberian cave containing DNA that doesn’t match up with either known hominin species at that time, the researchers reported in Nature today, indicating that these humans shared the continent with a third, unknown hominin.

24 Mar 2010

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