Fossils

fossil

The Lizard King rises

The trouble with being a lizard is that your mammal neighbors are always trying to eat your dinner, or make you into their dinner, wielding a competitive advantage scientists have long attributed to their warm-blooded metabolism. For this reason, large lizards like the Komodo dragon are extremely rare, and only occur in isolated island environments that lack other predators. Now, a giant fossil species of herbivorous lizard that appears to have happily coexisted with various large mammal species has been identified in Eocene-aged rocks from Myanmar.

11 Nov 2013

Down to Earth With: Kirk Johnson

In 1967, at a family picnic in Casper, Wyo., 6-year-old Kirk Johnson stumbled across a fossil that looked to him like an ancient rattlesnake tail (it turned out to be a brachiopod). Not long after, while hiking in his home state of Washington, he accidentally knocked over a piece of shale, fortuitously discovering a fossil leaf. The ensuing epiphany that he had a knack for finding fossil treasures led to what he now calls his “paleo obsession.”

16 Oct 2013

Benchmarks: August 3, 1769: The La Brea Tar Pits are described

Long before Los Angeles’ infamous traffic packed the pavement of Wilshire Boulevard, the area teemed with hundreds of species of Ice Age animals that became trapped in an asphalt quagmire of a different sort: the La Brea tar pits.

03 Aug 2013

Down to Earth With: Adrian Hunt

Adrian Hunt grew up in England, but after earning his undergraduate degree in geology at the University of Manchester, he began looking for somewhere foreign to attend graduate school. At the time, Hunt says, he thought, “If it doesn’t work out, at least I’d see somewhere exotic.” He ended up in New Mexico, where his brother was working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array in Socorro. It worked out and Hunt stayed to complete a master’s degree at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, followed by a doctorate at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

18 Mar 2013

Travels in Geology: Famous fossils and spectacular scenery at British Columbia's Burgess Shale

Of all the famous fossil localities in the world, perhaps none is as widely celebrated as British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. High in the Canadian Rockies, the Burgess Shale contains some of the oldest and most exquisitely detailed fossils of early life on Earth. Visiting the Burgess Shale requires some preparation — you must hire a guide and hike 22 kilometers at high elevation — but for a fossil enthusiast, the payoff is worth every step.

01 Jan 2013

The Burgess Shale bestseller

The Burgess Shale owes much of its fame to a book called “Wonderful Life” by the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Published in 1989, the book was a bestseller. The title is a reference to the scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which George Bailey’s guardian angel replays the tape of life as if George had never been born, to dramatic effect.

01 Jan 2013

Getting there and getting around the Burgess Shale

Traveling to the Burgess Shale requires a plane ticket, a guide, and the legs and lungs to hike high into the Canadian Rockies.

01 Jan 2013

Bringing dinosaur biology into the 21st century

We may know a lot about dinosaurs, but there’s an awful lot we don’t know yet, especially about their biology. How heavy were the dinosaurs? Were they fast or slow? Recent research poses new answers to these long-standing questions.

06 Jul 2012

Blogging on EARTH: Finding prehistoric souvenirs in Michigan

Around the Fourth of July, I usually visit my parents and participate in a geological family tradition that is pointless to the extreme and yet addictive and fun. Mom and Dad live on Lake Leelanau near Traverse City, Mich. The lake is about a dozen kilometers long and a few kilometers wide. It’s a great place for water-skiing, fishing, jet-skiing and kayaking.

04 Jul 2012

Down to Earth With: Matt Kuchta

Matt Kuchta is the geology program at the University of Wisconsin at Stout (UW-Stout), located in Menomonie, Wis. It’s a young program: Kuchta is in just his second year as a tenure-track assistant professor, after working as an adjunct instructor at the undergraduate instruction-focused school for two years while pursuing a doctorate in geology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which he received in 2009.

15 Nov 2011

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