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fossil

New species of extinct dolphin found in Smithsonian archives

Freshwater river dolphins are one of the most compelling — and endangered — branches of the cetacean family tree. Now the discovery of a new species of extinct river dolphin found in the fossil archives of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is shedding light on the dolphin family tree, as well as the origins of the highly endangered South Asian river dolphin.

01 Dec 2016

Turtle shells evolved for burrowing, not protection

How the turtle got its shell is one of the long-standing conundrums of paleontology. Paleontologists know that one of the first steps toward a shell was a broadening of the ribs, which occurred about 50 million years before full shells evolved. But why the broadening, which conferred some disadvantages to movement and breathing, began, has been a mystery. Now, the discovery of a proto-turtle with a partial shell in South Africa is shedding some light on the early stages of shell development.

11 Nov 2016

Unique teeth helped vegetarian dinosaurs

Although the Tyrannosaurus rex might’ve been one of the most fearsome dinosaurs to roam Earth, it wasn’t the most common. That honor belonged to a group of vegetarian duck-billed dinosaurs called hadrosaurs. And now, scientists have uncovered the secret to their success: their teeth.

21 Oct 2016

Travels in Geology: Tumbler Ridge: Finding dinosaurs — and their predecessors and descendants — in northeastern British Columbia

Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark got its start when an 8-year-old found a dinosaur footprint and convinced his father to call the experts. Today, visitors can see an exceptional source of fossils from the Precambrian through the Pleistocene, along with stunning scenery.

18 Oct 2016

Antarctic no place to hide during end-Cretaceous extinction

The end-Cretaceous extinction is famous for killing off the dinosaurs, but many other species perished as well. A new study in Nature Communications of marine fossils found in the Antarctic indicates that the extinction event was just as deadly for creatures in the polar regions.

07 Oct 2016

Mammals hit harder than thought by end-Cretaceous extinction

Mammals, unlike the remaining nonavian dinosaurs and many other animals, are thought to have fared relatively well through the massive meteorite impact and protracted volcanism at the end of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago. After the extinction, mammals went on to dominate terrestrial ecosystems. But new research indicates that mammals might have taken a bigger hit than paleontologists have realized: Instead of about 75 to 85 percent of species going extinct, as prior studies suggested, it looks like about 93 percent of all mammal species may have gone extinct during the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction.

05 Oct 2016

Down to Earth With: Fossil preparator Bob Masek

When paleontologists unearth a fossil and rock still entombs part of it, they take it to someone like fossil preparator Bob Masek, who cleans and prepares the fossil for scientific study, and sometimes for display in a museum. In the 1990s, Masek helped prepare “Sue,” the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered, which now stands in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

 
30 Sep 2016

New species of uniquely horned dinosaur identified

The Triceratops family tree just got a little spikier. A decade ago, a retired nuclear physicist uncovered the large skull, legs, hips and backbone of a dinosaur on his land near Winifred, Mont. Now, the remains have been identified in a new study as a new member of the ceratopsid family, dubbed Spiclypeus shipporum, meaning “spiked shield.”

 
23 Sep 2016

Hammerhead herbivore pioneered vegetarianism in Triassic seas

New fossils found in southern China hint that the earliest herbivorous marine reptiles got off to a bizarre start: Atopodentatus unicus, which lived about 244 million years ago and sported a unique hammerhead-like snout for grazing underwater plants, sheds light on how the earliest marine reptiles began experimenting with herbivory after the Permian mass extinction, which killed off 96 percent of marine organisms about 252 million years ago. This “Great Dying” event left vast holes in the ecology of the Early Triassic, and a diversity of new feeding styles evolved to occupy the open niches.

 
21 Sep 2016

Scaling up: Mega-dino babies were mini adults

Even the largest dinosaurs to walk the planet had to start out small, hatching out of eggs, but whether these were miniature versions of adults has been a long-standing question. Now a new study looking at fossils belonging to a specimen of Rapetosaurus krausei, a type of titanosaur, that died at just a few weeks of age is revealing just how fully formed some of these eventual giants were at an early age.

25 Aug 2016

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