Taxonomy term

evolution

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

Are birds dinosaurs? New evidence muddies the picture

In 1861, German paleontologist Christian Erich Hermann von Mayer excavated the fine-grained limestone layers of a quarry near Solnhofen, Germany. The 150-million-year-old limestone had already proven promising for finding fossils: A year earlier, von Mayer had found the imprint of a single feather preserved in the rock. But this time, he discovered something more spectacular: an entire skeleton of what appeared to be an ancient bird.

31 Oct 2009

Down to Earth With: Jessica Whiteside

From Morocco to Connecticut, Jessica Whiteside has explored almost every Mesozoic rock outcrop there is. And she’s only three years out of graduate school. With a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Columbia University in New York, N.Y., under her belt, Whitehouse is now in Providence, R.I., working as an assistant professor of geological sciences at Brown University.

23 Oct 2009

Down to Earth With: Randy Olson

Marine biologist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson made a name for himself in 2006 with the release of his first feature-length movie, “Flock of the Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.” He followed that success with last year’s “Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy.” These movies feature hot-button science issues, but they are not documentaries. Rather, Olson says, they are designed to entertain and spark an interest in the scientific topic — whether evolution or climate change — so that viewers will want to learn more.

23 Jun 2009

Seal missing link found in the Arctic

A newly discovered web-footed mammal may be a “missing link” between land-based and marine pinnipeds, a group that includes seals, walruses and sea lions. The find, occurring on the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species," may shed new light on the land-to-sea animal evolutionary theory.

24 Apr 2009

Down to Earth With: Michael Novacek

When it comes to fossil hunting, Michael Novacek has just about seen it all. As a paleontologist, senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Novacek has braved everything from Andean snowstorms to Yemeni bandits in his quest for fossils. Somewhere, he found time to write two books about his expeditions: “Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs” (1996) and “Time Traveler” (2002). Novacek recently chatted with EARTH reporter Brian Fisher Johnson about his experiences.

23 Apr 2009

How amphibious whales returned to the sea

Millions of years ago, the first animals emerged from their watery habitat to live on dry land. After becoming fully adapted to a terrestrial environment, however, some animals, such as whales, ultimately returned to the ocean. But the evolutionary steps involved in that watery return have long been a mystery. Now, some exceptional fossils — and one really old baby — are shedding some light on how whales went back to the sea.

19 Feb 2009

Weird whale tusks act as matchmakers

In the depths of the ocean, the bizarre beaked whale looks more like an eerie mutant than a gentle giant. With its bird-like beak and sharp tusks that jut out from the top of its head, anyone would wonder: What’s with all the weaponry? Now scientists think they’ve found the purpose of these weird tusks — and it is not nearly as maleficent as you may think.

30 Jan 2009

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