Taxonomy term

mary caperton morton

Rearranging the dinosaur family tree

Dinosaurs have long been grouped into two major clades — Ornithischia and Saurischia — largely based on the shapes of their hips. But new phylogenetic research is shaking up the dinosaur family tree, suggesting the traditional two-branch system needs reorganizing.

20 Jun 2017

Downgrading the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction, nicknamed the “Great Dying,” is thought to be the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Many textbooks claim that up to 96 percent of marine life died out during this event, but a new study suggests this cataclysmic number has been overestimated.
 

23 Jan 2017

Butchery or trampling? Controversy marks ancient animal bones

At some point in early human evolution, our ancestors began regularly hunting, butchering and consuming meat from large game, a protein- and fat-rich change in diet that may have helped fuel the development of a larger and more complex brain. When exactly this change took place has long been a matter of debate. Stone tools from 2.6 million years ago have offered the most solid evidence to date. But the discovery several years ago of a pair of 3.4-million-year-old animal bones in Dikika, Ethiopia, that appear to show cut marks indicative of butchery could push the date back significantly. Some researchers think the bones were marked by incidental trampling, however, not by early humans. 
 
22 Nov 2015

Earth's most abundant mineral finally gets a name

An elusive, high-density form of magnesium iron silicate, long known colloquially as “silicate perovskite,” now officially bears the name “bridgmanite,” after the father of high-pressure experiments, Nobel laureate Percy W. Bridgman.

 
03 Jun 2015

Getting There and Getting Around Wyoming

To drive all or part of this loop, fly into Cheyenne and rent a car. You can also fly into Denver, 160 kilometers south of Cheyenne. The loop runs from Cheyenne to Laramie, then up through Casper, Buffalo, Gillette and Devils Tower before returning back south to Cheyenne via U.S. Highway 85. Primitive and developed camping opportunities abound in Wyoming, and hotels, motels and other accommodations can be found in the cities along the loop. 

 
24 Nov 2013

Boondocking 101: How to camp for free in Wyoming

When I drove this loop around Wyoming last spring, I did it in 10 days, camped out every night and didn’t pay for a single campsite. Wyoming is replete with public land: Nearly half of the state’s lands are held by the federal government and managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Travelers are free to camp on BLM lands or national grasslands or in national forests,  a practice known as dispersed camping, boondocking or coyote camping. You can stay in one site up to 14 days, but you must honor “Leave No Trace” ethics: After you leave your campsite, there should be no trace that you were ever there. 

 
24 Nov 2013

Travels in Geology: The wild east of Wyoming: Bone wars, outlaw hideouts and crack climbing

When vacationers plan trips to Wyoming, the western half of the state, with its grizzly bears, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, tends to be the biggest draw. But Eastern Wyoming — home to bone wars, outlaw hideouts and the nation’s first national monument — also boasts a captivating mix of Wild West history and geologic marvels.

24 Nov 2013

Writing on the Rocks

Visitors to White Sands should plan on making a slight detour to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, an hour’s drive from the national monument. This scenic basalt ridge between White Sands and the White Mountains contains one of the greatest concentrations of petroglyphs anywhere in the Southwest. More than 21,000 petroglyphs of geometric and abstract shapes, faces and animals were etched into the dark rocks by the Jornada Mogollon people, who lived in this area between A.D. 1000 and 1400. 

 
24 Sep 2013

Getting There and Getting Around New Mexico

White Sands National Monument is located in south-central New Mexico. To get there, fly into Albuquerque or El Paso, rent a car and drive 360 kilometers south on Interstate 25 from Albuquerque or 160 kilometers north from El Paso. The closest town to White Sands is Las Cruces, which has plenty of hotels, restaurants and attractions, including a natural history museum and a historic Spanish village. 

 
24 Sep 2013

Missile testing

White Sands National Monument is surrounded by military installations, with the White Sands Missile Range to the north and Holloman Air Force Base to the east. Occasionally, the national monument and U.S. Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces are closed due to missile testing. 

 
24 Sep 2013

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