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fossil

Benchmarks: September 1, 1957: Fossil Cycad National Monument is dissolved

On Sept. 1, 1957, with the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Congress declared Fossil Cycad National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota to be no more. At one time, the site held the world’s largest collection of rare fossil cycad-like plants that thrived during the Cretaceous. Over the years, mismanagement, vandalism and theft left the site barren of fossils — the site never had a staff or visitor center, and was never opened to the public. The site’s initial designation as a national monument, in October 1922, had been brought about by the crusading of one man, Yale University paleobotanist George R. Wieland; in the end, he was also responsible for its demise.

01 Sep 2014

The subcontinent's sturdy mammals

India is home to some hardy mammals, according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers reported that 20 of 21 mammalian taxa identified from fossils found in southern India have survived on the subcontinent over at least the last 100,000 years, with some lineages stretching back twice that long.
 

27 Aug 2014

Extra rib may be sign of mammoth decline

High rates of a congenital defect in woolly mammoths may offer evidence that inbreeding and environmental stress contributed to the animals’ demise during the Late Pleistocene, according to a new analysis of fossil mammoth neck bones.

26 Aug 2014

South American fossils offer revised view of Gondwana assembly

Fossils of a known age have been found for the first time in rocks in Brazil that, although long-studied, had previously eluded scientists’ attempts to pinpoint their age. The discovery of the marine animals dates the rocks to 550 million years ago, researchers say, offering important insights into the geological evolution and timing of the assembly of the former supercontinent Gondwana.
 

25 Aug 2014

Changing the landscape: Geoscientists embrace 3-D printing

The rapid proliferation of 3-D printing technology that began in the early 2000s sent ripples of excitement through the tech world and beyond despite the initial high price of printers. Now, more affordable printers have broken this barrier, and geoscientists have started testing the waters.
 

24 Aug 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.

12 Aug 2014

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

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