Fossils

fossil

Down to Earth With: Fossil preparator Bob Masek

When paleontologists unearth a fossil and rock still entombs part of it, they take it to someone like fossil preparator Bob Masek, who cleans and prepares the fossil for scientific study, and sometimes for display in a museum. In the 1990s, Masek helped prepare “Sue,” the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered, which now stands in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

 
30 Sep 2016

New species of uniquely horned dinosaur identified

The Triceratops family tree just got a little spikier. A decade ago, a retired nuclear physicist uncovered the large skull, legs, hips and backbone of a dinosaur on his land near Winifred, Mont. Now, the remains have been identified in a new study as a new member of the ceratopsid family, dubbed Spiclypeus shipporum, meaning “spiked shield.”

 
23 Sep 2016

Hammerhead herbivore pioneered vegetarianism in Triassic seas

New fossils found in southern China hint that the earliest herbivorous marine reptiles got off to a bizarre start: Atopodentatus unicus, which lived about 244 million years ago and sported a unique hammerhead-like snout for grazing underwater plants, sheds light on how the earliest marine reptiles began experimenting with herbivory after the Permian mass extinction, which killed off 96 percent of marine organisms about 252 million years ago. This “Great Dying” event left vast holes in the ecology of the Early Triassic, and a diversity of new feeding styles evolved to occupy the open niches.

 
21 Sep 2016

Scaling up: Mega-dino babies were mini adults

Even the largest dinosaurs to walk the planet had to start out small, hatching out of eggs, but whether these were miniature versions of adults has been a long-standing question. Now a new study looking at fossils belonging to a specimen of Rapetosaurus krausei, a type of titanosaur, that died at just a few weeks of age is revealing just how fully formed some of these eventual giants were at an early age.

25 Aug 2016

Redefining Homo: Does our family tree need more branches?

Paleoanthropologists have traditionally used four traits to classify hominins as members of the genus Homo. But none of the criteria are very stringent, leading to an assortment of hominins with widely varying features being counted in the same genus. Some researchers think it’s time to scrap Homo and start over.
21 Aug 2016

The new kid on the block

In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.

21 Aug 2016

New dating of 'hobbit' sheds light on when it lived

Since 2004, when scientists first announced the discovery of fossil remains of a new species of hominin from Indonesia — dubbed Homo floresiensis and nicknamed “hobbits” due to the species’ meter-tall stature — researchers have been trying to pinpoint exactly when H. floresiensis lived and when it died off. Several recent studies shed light on the topic.

16 Aug 2016

Seeds may have saved bird-like dinosaurs from extinction

About 66 million years ago, nearly three-quarters of life on Earth, including all species of nonavian dinosaurs, were wiped out. However, a few species survived the mass extinction event, including the Neornithes, the ancestors of modern birds. A new study suggests they may have done so by relying on seeds when other food sources were scarce.

04 Aug 2016

Teeth hold clues to human success, Neanderthal decline

During the Upper Paleolithic, modern humans and Neanderthals coexisted until about 40,000 years ago, when Neanderthals went extinct for unknown reasons. Wear patterns on teeth from both humans and Neanderthals are providing insight into how different dietary strategies may have led to Homo sapiens’ success and the Neanderthals’ decline.

03 Aug 2016

Tully monster mystery solved

In 1958, an amateur fossil collector named Francis Tully found a strange fossil in a quarry near Morris, Ill., southwest of Chicago. Thousands more of the worm-like Tullimonstrum gregarium, better known as the “Tully monster,” were recovered from the same deposit — now a National Historic Landmark called Mazon Creek fossil beds. But the creature’s full appearance and just what sort of animal the Tully monster was have remained mysteries. In a new study, researchers have now finally identified it as a jawless fish, similar to modern lampreys.

02 Aug 2016

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