Fossil leaves provide clues to ancient Australian habitat

Researchers have long thought that the scrublands of Australia developed over the last 25 million to 30 million years as part of a global trend toward colder and drier climates in which rainforests yielded ground to more open, fire-prone environments.

20 Apr 2016

China's Red Deer Cave people may have survived until the last ice age

In the 1980s, a collection of bones from very small hominids was excavated from a cave in southwestern China, alongside a number of bones from a species of large red deer. Nicknamed the “Red Deer Cave people,” but not yet declared a distinct species, researchers previously dated radiocarbon in the sediments where the bones were found to about 14,000 years ago. In a new comparative study, the same team has now found that the hominids from which the bones came appear to have been similar to — although far smaller than — Homo habilis and Homo erectus, suggesting it could indeed be a new species.

19 Apr 2016

Making tracks through the Dinosaur Diamond

The Dinosaur Diamond scenic byway is an 824-kilometer-long dinosaur fossil- and trackway-sightseeing extravaganza. Follow the route through Utah and Colorado to traverse the Late Triassic through the Cretaceous.

18 Apr 2016

Museums and exhibits in the Dinosaur Diamond

All around the Dinosaur Diamond area there are exiting museums and exhibits highlighting the area's rich paleontological history.

18 Apr 2016

Bat signals

Bats, the only true-flight mammals, first appeared during the Early Eocene after a period of acute global warming known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Despite decades of study, however, much remains unknown about bats. Recent discoveries are shedding new light on the natural history of these creatures, which today comprise one of the most diverse mammalian groups.

07 Apr 2016

Inside an icthyosaur's brain

While the dinosaurs were busy ruling the continents in the Mesozoic, an order of marine reptiles known as the ichthyosaurs ruled the oceans. Ichthyosaurs are well known from numerous fossils, but they are often found flattened, limiting researchers’ ability to study the skulls and braincases as they existed in life.

01 Apr 2016

A long layover on the Bering land bridge

About 11,500 years ago, two infants were laid to rest side by side in a shallow grave 80 kilometers southeast of what is now Fairbanks, Alaska. The area was once part of Beringia, a strip of ice-free land connected to Asia during the last ice age. Researchers found the remains in 2013, and have now sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes of the two children. The results revealed that the infants had different mothers and that their genetic signatures are found today throughout North and South America.

23 Mar 2016

Parasites of the Paleozoic

Parasitism — an ecological relationship in which one species benefits at the expense of its host — is common among living organisms, but as most parasites are soft-bodied, it’s rare to find them preserved in the fossil record. Two recent discoveries, however, have lengthened the short list of ancient parasites

03 Mar 2016

Mammoths may have suffered from bone disease

The demise of mammoths, which went extinct by the end of the Pleistocene about 12,000 years ago, is thought to have been brought about by a combination of climate change and overhunting by early humans. A new study indicates that another culprit might have contributed as well: Mammoth bones retrieved from Northern Eurasia — from sedimentary strata close to the animals’ last known appearance in the fossil record — appear to show evidence for bone diseases associated with nutrient deficiencies.
28 Feb 2016

Earliest Americans were wide-ranging wanderers

About 40 years ago, when the Monte Verde archaeological site in southern Chile was dated to 14,800 years ago, conventional ideas of American anthropology were turned on their heads. Until then, the “Clovis First” theory, which held that modern humans only began populating the Americas from Asia via the Bering land bridge roughly 13,500 years ago, was widely accepted. That people had lived thousands of kilometers farther south more than 1,000 years before the Clovis culture arose came as a shock initially, but the idea, and the Monte Verde site, has gradually become accepted over time.

27 Feb 2016