Fossils

fossil

Neanderthals and humans suffered similar levels of head injuries

Paleolithic Neanderthals have traditionally been depicted as more aggressive than Homo sapiens, and reliant on inferior hunting techniques with close-range weapons that would have put them at greater risk of suffering gruesome injuries and shortened life spans. A seemingly high incidence of Neanderthal remains bearing evidence of traumatic injuries has helped shape the narrative that they lived harder, more violent lives and died younger than their modern human neighbors. But a new study in Nature looking at skull injuries in Eurasian hominids casts doubt on this brutish stereotype.

19 Mar 2019

Hard-knock hominid skeletons tell harsh tales

The Pleistocene was a hard time for hominids. Homo fossils from this period, when humans evolved and expanded from Africa and across Eurasia, are riddled with an unusual number of skeletal abnormalities. Swollen braincases, bowed femurs, twisted long bones, pronounced dwarfism and malformed teeth are just a few of the unusual skeletal features found in many Pleistocene hominid fossils. A new statistical study has confirmed that these anomalies occur at higher-than-expected rates in the Pleistocene fossil record. But whether this elevated incidence was mainly caused by nutritional stress or inbreeding, or if it’s an artifact of preservational bias, is unknown.

15 Mar 2019

Dinosaur soft tissues preserved as polymers

Since 2005, several samples of ostensibly soft tissue, such as blood vessels and bits of organic bone material, have been gleaned from dinosaur bones. The finds have stirred debate because the notion that intact dinosaur proteins could survive tens of millions of years has proved a tantalizing but difficult pill to swallow for many paleontologists. In a new study, however, researchers have identified a chemical pathway — well known in food science but not seen before in paleontology — that may be the key to long-term preservation of soft-tissue structures.

12 Mar 2019

Earliest bird-like lungs found in China

Before birds took to the air, a number of anatomical features evolved that allowed them to get off the ground. While many of these features were skeletal adaptations that have been well-documented in the fossil record, when exactly the large-volume lungs needed to power flight developed has long been a mystery. But the recent discovery of a unique fossil bearing a significant amount of preserved soft tissue, including lung tissue, has shed light on how early birds adapted to breathe in flight.

26 Feb 2019

Benchmarks: February 17, 2017: Arkansas Gets a State Dinosaur

In 1972, the first dinosaur remains ever found in Arkansas — a fossilized foot — were pulled out of a gravel and sand pit near the Sevier County town of Lockesburg in the southwestern part of the state. Though the foot remained a scientific mystery for decades, it became something of a local celebrity.

17 Feb 2019

Mesosaurs may have spent time on land

Mesosaurs are famous for being the earliest-known fully aquatic reptiles. With their whip-like tails, webbed feet and nostrils on top of their heads, the 2-meter-long reptiles appear to have been well adapted for life in the water. But in a new study, scientists have found fossil evidence that mesosaurs may have spent some of their adult lives on land.

21 Jan 2019

Early mammal reproduced like a reptile

A mother found fossilized alongside 38 of her young is offering a rare glimpse into early mammalian reproductive strategies. Unearthed in northeastern Arizona, the 184-million-year-old fossils are from specimens of Kayentatherium wellesi, an early mammal-like tritylodont that falls between reptiles and true mammals on the evolutionary tree.

09 Jan 2019

Two new species fill gap in dinosaur family tree

Cretaceous rocks in northwestern China have yielded two new dinosaur species that help fill a 70-million-year gap in dinosaur phylogeny. The new species — Xiyunykus pengi and Bannykus wulatensis — are both alvarezsaurians, an odd group of dinosaurs that, by the Late Cretaceous, had evolved many avian characteristics such as birdlike skulls, tiny teeth and light, slender bodies, as well as unique mole-like single-clawed forearms that were likely useful for digging.

17 Dec 2018

Spiky new American ankylosaurid originated in Asia

A new genus and species of ankylosaurid discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah reveal new information about the spread of armored dinosaurs into North America. Most North American ankylosaurids are known for their smooth skulls, but the new specimen more closely resembles spiky-skulled Asian ankylosaurids.

28 Nov 2018

"Easy bake" fossils resemble real deal

Most fossils are millions of years in the making, but a new technique is allowing scientists to simulate the process of fossilization in about 24 hours. The laboratory-based method, described in a study published in the journal Palaeontology, sheds light on how exceptionally preserved fossils form generally over geologic time and may provide custom samples for research projects investigating specific conditions under which certain fossils formed.

27 Nov 2018

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