PALEO

paleo

Hell Creek Formation reveals a 'chicken from hell'

The Late Cretaceous landscape was a scary place, populated by TyrannosaursVelociraptors and a newly described ostrich-sized predator nicknamed the “chicken from hell.” The discovery of three specimens in the Hell Creek Formation in North and South Dakota that add up to a nearly complete skeleton is giving paleontologists their first good look at Anzu wyliei, a 66-million-year-old theropod related to Oviraptors.

16 Jul 2014

Ancient food web shows modern structure

All animals have to eat, but who eats whom or what is often difficult for ecologists to discern in modern habitats, let alone in extinct ecosystems. Now a new study focusing on an exceptional assemblage of 48-million-year-old fossils in Germany has pieced together one of the most complex food webs ever constructed, and the results show this ancient ecosystem was strikingly similar to today’s food webs.

11 Jul 2014

Message in a bottle gourd

For about the last 10,000 years, bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) have been cultivated the world over for food and crafted into canteens, instruments and other utilitarian goods. But just how they became globally ubiquitous by the Early Holocene has long been a subject of debate among anthropologists and archaeologists. Some scientists thought the plant migrated with humans from Africa to Asia and, eventually, across the Bering land bridge to the Americas. But a new study suggests it’s unlikely the plants would have survived the long trek through harsh Arctic conditions, and instead offers a different globe-tripping hypothesis for everyone’s favorite dried fruit-turned-drinking vessel.

04 Jul 2014

Dinosaur feathers burst into color

Bright coloration likely emerged in dinosaurs right after the evolution of feathers, according to a new study in Nature. And the burst of color may have been more than an aesthetic change, researchers say: It may have readied feathered dinosaurs for flight.

26 Jun 2014

Down to Earth With: Steven Stanley

It’s no wonder Steven Stanley says he can’t imagine having pursued any career other than research and teaching in geology and paleontology. After studying under eminent scientists like Alfred Fischer, Colin Pittendrigh and Harry Hess while a student at Princeton and then Yale in the 1960s, Stanley went on to add many of his own paradigm-shifting contributions to our understanding of fossils, evolution and Earth’s environmental history. He has also authored several popular textbooks and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and, most recently in 2013, the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) highest honor, the Penrose Medal.
 

24 Jun 2014

Cryptic creatures made for a spectacular hanging garden

Researchers studying an outcrop of Middle Devonian-aged carbonate rock in the Hamar Laghdad area of Morocco have found the remains of a community of submarine cave-roof-dwelling corals, crinoids, cnidarians and sponges that, while living, would have constituted a “spectacular hanging garden.”

22 Jun 2014

Early Triassic fossil showed live birth in action

An exceptional case of fossil preservation has provided the oldest view yet of the moment of live birth in a vertebrate. The fossil contains parts of four marine reptile individuals — a mother and her three young — from the ichthyopterygian genus, Chaohusaurus, and was unearthed in the Anhui Province of eastern China. While one of the young is still inside the mother and a second is already outside (and mostly obscured from view by other portions of the fossil), the third juvenile can be clearly seen emerging headfirst from the mother’s pelvis. Thought to be about 1 meter long when fully grown, Chaohusaurus lived about 248 million years ago in the Early Triassic and was an ancestor of later ichthyosaurs.

22 Jun 2014

Did tidal zone trilobites lead the way onto land?

With their Cambrian-defining ubiquity, 270-million-year longevity and impressive diversity, trilobites often rank as people’s favorite sort of fossil. Now a set of 500-million-year-old trace fossils found in Tennessee is potentially expanding the trilobites’ territory from the deep ocean all the way inland to the resource-rich Cambrian tidal flats. But whether the tracks mean that trilobites were part of an ecological bridge that helped animals transition from the sea onto land to colonize the empty continents is up for debate.

22 Jun 2014

Spanish cave reveals possible new Neanderthal ancestor

A trove of thousands of hominin fossils unearthed from a prolific cave in northern Spain is proving a boon for paleoanthropologists studying human evolution and the early ancestors of Neanderthals. The fossils are proving difficult to categorize as a recognized species, however, raising the prospect of a new category of hominin for these Middle Pleistocene specimens.

19 Jun 2014

New burgess shale fossil site found in Canada's Kootenay National Park

With its plethora of ancient and exquisitely preserved soft-bodied fossils, the Burgess Shale in Canada’s Yoho National Park is one of the world’s most famous fossil sites. Now a sister site has been discovered just 40 kilometers away in Kootenay National Park, and the new find may prove even richer than the original.
 

18 Jun 2014

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