Fossils

fossil

"Missing link" or major hype?

A squirrel-sized primate that lived 47 million years ago in the rainforests of Europe may be the common ancestor of monkeys, apes and humans, according to scientists who announced the discovery of the “missing link” fossil yesterday at a press conference. The well-preserved fossil has been at the center of a whirlwind PR blitz, including a History Channel documentary airing next week and an upcoming book — yet some scientists say the bones don’t live up to the hype.

20 May 2009

Soft tissue preserved in 80-million-year-old dino fossil

A two-year-old debate is back in the flesh — literally.

Molecular paleontologist Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues presented evidence this week in Science that they had successfully recovered and identified collagen, a type of protein, from the femur of an 80-million-year-old hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur.

30 Apr 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

Benchmarks: March 1, 1872: "Bone Wars" heat up

By Brian Fisher Johnson

Edward Drinker Cope stood before a smoke-filled audience at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 1, 1872. One of the nation’s leading paleontologists, Cope would present his latest fossil find: an extinct flying reptile he designated Ornithochirus. Certainly the piece would be recognized as a major contribution to the scientific understanding of ancient life. More importantly, Cope thought, he would receive credit as its discoverer.

27 Feb 2009

There and back again: Alien From Earth tells the tale of the Hobbit

For many years, local legend on the Indonesian island of Flores told of an elflike creature with large feet and a voracious appetite that lived alongside humans. Flores was already a mythical sort of place, featuring (now-extinct) dwarf elephants, Komodo dragons and giant rats the size of rabbits.

11 Nov 2008

Odd crests helped dinos communicate

Paleontologists have puzzled over the lambeosaur, an odd-looking duck-billed dinosaur, since its fossils were discovered in 1914. In particular, scientists were curious about the distinctive crest on the lambeosaur’s head: Elongated and complex nasal passages led air from the dinosaur’s nostrils up into the hollow crest and back down into its lungs. But what purpose these nasal passages served was a mystery — until now.

31 Oct 2008

It's a Dirty Job, But Someone's Gotta Do It

Fossilized feces reveal significant details about ancient life

How often do you laugh when you talk to a scientist? Over the years, I have interviewed and talked with dozens of geologists, biologists and archaeologists. I often come away feeling the researcher’s passion and excitement about his or her subject, but rarely do I come away with a sense of mirth, until I started to talk to people who work with coprolites. I don’t mean to imply that the researchers aren’t serious about their work — they are. But they also exude a healthy sense of humor.

28 Aug 2008

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