Fossils

fossil

Fossilized dinosaur feces reveal flexitarian diet

Fossilized feces tell paleontologists a lot about what dinosaurs ate. Some unusual coprolites discovered in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument may indicate that normally herbivorous dinosaurs occasionally ate crustaceans.

03 Jan 2018

Mysterious Miocene bipedal footprints found in Crete

A curious set of 5.7-million-year-old bipedal footprints found in western Crete — far from the cradle of humanity in Africa and dating to the Late Miocene, long before hominins are thought to have walked upright — has paleoanthropologists scratching their heads.

27 Dec 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleontologist Ali Nabavizadeh

A perfect day in the life of paleontologist Ali Nabavizadeh wouldn’t be complete without a fresh corpse. The subjects of his work at the dissection table range from a rhinoceros, to an elephant head, to the human cadavers essential to the anatomy classes he teaches at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J. The only thing that could possibly top a fresh corpse, in fact, is an extremely old one.

20 Dec 2017

19th-century discovery now reveals modern human arrival in Sumatra

Modern humans began journeying out of Africa by at least 75,000 years ago, eventually expanding across the planet. Evidence of these early human travels, including fossils and artifacts, is typically spotty and difficult to find. But one such discovery more than a century ago has shed new light on the appearance of humans in Southeast Asia.

19 Dec 2017

Transitional Chilesaurus fills gap between major dinosaur groups

In 2015, a new dinosaur was discovered in southern Chile, but its odd set of characteristics left paleontologists scratching their heads: Was it a carnivore or an herbivore? A closer look at the bones of the dinosaur, named Chile­saurus, is helping scientists determine how it fit into the Late Jurassic landscape.

06 Dec 2017

Can fossil footprints reveal the weight of a dinosaur?

Body mass is a fundamental factor in determining how much food an animal requires, how it moves and grows, and what role it plays in its ecosystem. Measuring modern animals is often a straightforward matter of putting them on a scale, but it’s no easy feat for paleontologists interested in extinct creatures like dinosaurs, since many of these animals’ weighty parts — their organs, muscles and skin, for example — are long gone. Frequent claims of “the heaviest dinosaur of all time,” for example, as in the case of the recently named Patagotitan, are fraught with uncertainty. Recent research, however, is offering a novel approach to estimating dinosaur body masses by examining the footprints they left behind.

27 Nov 2017

Marine megafaunal extinction discovered

Extinctions of large land animals during the Pleistocene are well documented. In a new study, scientists report that marine megafauna also suffered severe losses several million years ago, around the time that the first hominid ancestors were emerging in Africa.

17 Nov 2017

When agriculture went to our heads

The dawn of agriculture left an indelible mark on early human societies, and a new study finds that eating softer, cultivated foods subtly changed the shape of human skulls. Scientists have long suspected that the transition from hunting and foraging to farming and raising livestock would have affected our skulls, specifically the mandible and other anatomy involved in chewing, but quantifying such changes has proven difficult.

01 Nov 2017

Mangroves sprouted in Arctic during Eocene

Mangrove trees, which today thrive in tropical and subtropical climates in the low and midlatitudes, grew in the high Russian Arctic about 56 million years ago, scientists reported in Geology. It’s the northernmost occurrence of mangrove trees ever documented.

24 Oct 2017

Chemical clues illuminate fossil plant relationships

To reconstruct relationships among extinct plants and animals, paleontologists often compare genetic sequences from distinct organisms or analyze differences in fossil shapes. But both techniques have limitations: DNA does not last more than about a million years in the rock record, so genetic comparisons are typically limited to relatively recent species; and finding fossils intact enough to use for shape comparisons can be difficult. In a recent study, scientists describe a new technique that could help get around these issues — for some plants at least — using molecular remnants that are more robust than DNA and are preserved in fossil leaves.

17 Oct 2017

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