PALEO

paleo

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

A jaw all the wider to bite you with

Tyrannosaurus rex  is often depicted with its fearsome jaws wide open, but few studies have looked at how wide the Cretaceous predator’s gape could actually be.

23 Feb 2016

Geologic Column: A Jurassic romance

What do "Jane Eyre," Bevin Boys and icthyosaur-hunting paleontologists have in common? Reader, I’ll tell you.

12 Feb 2016

Fossilized melanin reveals bats' true colors

Studies of pigments preserved in fossil feathers have changed our perception of how colorful dinosaurs were. Now, researchers have revealed the true colors of some of the first flying mammals as well. Two species of bats that lived during the Eocene about 50 million years ago were likely reddish-brown in color, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 
02 Feb 2016

Rising Star cave hominid walked its own way

After dozens of human-like fossils were discovered in a cave in South Africa last summer, they were declared distinct enough to be classified as a new species: Homo naledi. Two recent studies looking in detail at the new hominid’s hands and feet are revealing how different they were from other early humans.
 
30 Jan 2016

Ancient eggshells may reveal dinosaur body temperatures

Whether dinosaurs had metabolisms more like slow, cold-blooded reptilians or fast, warm-blooded birds has long been a mystery. Fossilized bones, which don’t preserve the delicate cell membranes that facilitate heat production in warm-blooded animals, are not likely to answer the question. Fossilized eggshells, however, might be just the ticket to determining the past body temperatures of egg-laying females, which, scientists say, might help address whether the dinosaurs’ metabolisms were warm or cold.
 
27 Jan 2016

Three new species of extinct baleen whales found

The evolution of baleen whales from toothed whales was gradual, with intermediate fossil species found that possess both teeth and baleen. Now, the discovery of three new whale species on New Zealand’s South Island is filling in the evolutionary story of baleen whales.
 
21 Jan 2016

Gouges in the ground are best evidence yet of dinosaur courtship

Dinosaurs may not have been lonely in love, according to new research published in Scientific Reports. An international team of scientists has discovered the first tangible evidence that dinosaurs engaged in courtship behaviors: parallel scrape marks up to about 1.8 meters long and 40 centimeters deep that were gouged in the ground during the Cretaceous.

15 Jan 2016

South African cave system reveals new early human ancestor

The Rising Star Cave system, near Johannesburg, South Africa, has never been extensively explored because of its complexity and extremely narrow passages. But in 2013, when a team of intrepid cavers from the Speleological Exploration Club of South Africa pushed through a narrow 12-meter-long chute with an average width of only 20 centimeters, they discovered a chamber filled with what looked like human bones.
 
31 Dec 2015

Unshelled ancestor fills big gap in turtle family tree

Turtles may seem like innocent creatures, but the uniquely shelled reptiles have long posed a problem for paleontologists. Shelled turtles are plentiful in the fossil record, but specimens of their intermediate forebears — the missing links between ancestral unshelled reptiles and modern turtles — have remained elusive. Now, a closer look at the skull of what may be one of the earliest turtle relatives is filling gaps in the turtle family tree.
 
28 Dec 2015

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