Algae ate themselves to death and caused a global extinction

Errant asteroids and toxic emissions from volcanic eruptions are the usual suspects in mass extinctions. But during the Ordovician, it was a million-year stretch of cooling ushered in by proliferating algae that triggered a worldwide glaciation and extinction event, according to a new study.

08 Nov 2018

Extinct gibbon found in Chinese tomb

About 2,200 years ago, a Chinese noblewoman was buried in a tomb with a menagerie of animals, including 12 horses, a leopard, a lynx and a species of gibbon unknown to modern science. The new ape, identified using detailed cranial and dental measurements as a new genus and species — Junzi imperialis — may represent the first ape to have gone extinct due to human influence after the last ice age.

26 Oct 2018

Earth's first footprints

As far as we know, life originated on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago, and for roughly the first 3 billion years of that history all life was microscopic. Then, during the Ediacaran Period from 635 million to 541 million years ago, the first organisms visible to the naked eye emerged. Although many members of this group, called the Ediacara biota, would have looked alien to us, some nonetheless had features we might find familiar. And according to a new study, it was Ediacaran creatures that left behind Earth’s oldest-known footprints.

05 Oct 2018

Grazing gave elephant ancestors an edge

The poor dental hygiene of some ancient elephant-like beasts has proven a boon to future scientists. In a new study, researchers used grass fragments recovered from the teeth of two extinct species of Central Asian gomphotheriids to decode the animals’ feeding habits during the middle Miocene.

24 Aug 2018

Great Barrier Reef has died and recovered before

It’s hard to imagine Earth without the Great Barrier Reef, yet with the threats confronting it — including ocean warming and acidification — its demise is a possibility marine scientists are studying. A new study of how sea-level rise and sedimentation have impacted the reef over the last 30,000 years, however, shows it might be more resilient than previously thought.

22 Aug 2018

Travels in Geology: The pyramids of Giza: Wonders of an ancient world

At the edge of Cairo, three massive pyramids rise from the Giza Plateau’s Mokattam Formation, which comprises of layers of middle Eocene limestones and dolomites. These rocks, which display fossil evidence of their origins at the bottom of the Tethys Sea some 50 million years ago, provided the millions of multiton blocks used to construct the pyramids.
16 Aug 2018

Island-dwelling mammal had small brain, keen senses

A host of fossils has been discovered near the Romanian town of Haţeg, including 15 species of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs — some of them dwarf dinosaurs — and enormous pterosaurs with 12-meter wingspans, prompting the establishment of the Haţeg Country Dinosaurs Geopark in 2005.

26 Jul 2018

The Paleo-Bell River: North America's vanished Amazon

With similar geologic and tectonic histories, including a continuous mountain cordillera along their western margins, why does South America have a massive river draining a continentwide basin but North America does not? Before the Pleistocene, it did.
25 Jul 2018

Mineral clue to finding perfectly preserved fossils?

The exquisitely preserved fossils found in the 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale in Canada are famous for the detailed anatomy they display. They also provide a rare and crucial record of the Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major animal groups first appeared.

17 Jul 2018

Pterosaurs flew into the Late Cretaceous

Late Cretaceous skies might have been more crowded than previously thought. Until recently, scientists thought the dearth of pterosaur fossils found from the Late Cretaceous meant that the flying reptiles were in decline before the catastrophic end of the Mesozoic. But the recent discovery in Morocco of several new pterosaur species suggests this unique branch of reptiles may have been thriving just before the end-Cretaceous extinction.

04 Jul 2018