Taxonomy term


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

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

Why red leaves remain elusive in Europe

As leaves change color every fall, the North American landscape transforms from a rolling verdure to a collage of vibrant yellows, oranges and reds. The autumn foliage in Europe, however, is rather bland, composed of mostly yellow leaves with red-leafed trees few and far between. Why this is the case has remained a mystery for years. But discovering why Europe’s leaves don’t turn red is only half of the battle; determining why the trees’ leaves turn yellow in the first place is the other.

03 Nov 2009