Taxonomy term

evolution

Geomedia: Books: To Tiktaalik and beyond

In 2008, Neil Shubin penned the terrific, “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,” in which he explored the stories of deep time as they are written in the details of our bodily architecture. As both a professor of anatomy and the paleontologist who discovered Tiktaalik, a transitional fossil between fish and amphibians, Shubin was ideally positioned to tell this tale.

 
18 Feb 2015

Geomedia: Books: Are we causing a sixth extinction?

Last year, Elizabeth Kolbert released her latest excellent book. Her previous volume, “Field Notes from a Catastrophe,” set a high bar for accessible, accurate science writing about environmental issues, but in my opinion, “The Sixth Extinction” surpasses it in several regards. Readers of this magazine will appreciate its solid geologic grounding and perspective, with entire chapters devoted to the end-Ordovician and end-Cretaceous extinctions, as well as sections on the principles of evolution and Earth history. Climate change, the focus of her earlier book, looms large here too, though it is just one of the many threats to the survival of our biosphere that Kolbert covers.

20 Dec 2014

Ancient shark jaws resemble those of modern fish

Sharks are thought to have one of the most consistent body plans in the animal kingdom; the formidable predators seem to have remained roughly the same for more than 400 million years. But a new study, published in Nature, suggests that sharks are not the unchanging, “living fossils” that paleontologists once thought.
 

07 Sep 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

Creationism comes to the county fair

Although better known for “best cow” awards, silly games and deep-fried foods on sticks, county fairs have proved good places for creationists to reach captive audiences. How can scientists counter this county fair push with messages of their own?

30 Jun 2014

The trouble with turtles: Paleontology at a crossroads

Turtles are the last big vertebrate group to be placed firmly on the tree of life, and the arguments are getting messy. Scientists in three fields in particular — paleontolgy, developmental biology and microbiology/genomics — disagree about how, and from what, turtles may have evolved. 

31 Mar 2014

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

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

Blogging on EARTH: Ancient whale with a big bite named for Moby Dick author

In a Peruvian desert, scientists discovered the fossils of an extinct whale with a big bite. The whale's teeth and jaws were so powerful that it feasted on other whales.

30 Jun 2010

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