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paleo

Scientists sequence oldest modern human genome to date

A chance fossil find along a Russian river has provided researchers with the oldest genomic data ever sequenced from a modern human. The fossil, a nearly complete left femur, was pulled from a bank along the Irtysh River near the Ust’-Ishim district in western Siberia in 2008 by a Russian artist before it made its way to scientists.

11 Feb 2015

Stegosaur's tail packed a lethal punch

With their big lumbering bodies and plates of armor, stegosaurs can be likened to the modern-day rhinoceros. Both are primarily peaceful plant eaters, but you wouldn’t want to make either of them mad. Now, paleontologists have uncovered evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat: a predatory allosaur with a lethal conical wound the size and shape of a stegosaur tail spike.

07 Feb 2015

Ancient cave art discovered in Indonesia

Europe has long been thought to have been the home of the oldest art in the world — including a stash of cave paintings in northern Spain that date to about 40,000 years ago — but a new dating technique may put Indonesia on the ancient art map as well.

06 Feb 2015

New species of titanosaurus discovered in Tanzania

The Cretaceous landscape was dominated by huge herbivorous sauropods, the largest land animals ever to walk the planet. Fossils from many of these massive creatures have been unearthed around the world, but the recent discovery of a new specimen of titanosaurus in Tanzania is among the first sauropods found on the African continent.

14 Jan 2015

Neanderthals dined on pigeons

The butchering, cooking and eating of birds has previously been thought to be an enterprise unique to modern humans, who were smart enough to catch them. However, a discovery in the dolomite caves of the Rock of Gibraltar shows that Neanderthals were the first to enjoy avian fare.

06 Jan 2015

Dating the demise of the Neanderthals

For a time, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals shared space in Europe, likely interacting and possibly interbreeding, but roughly 40,000 years ago the Neanderthals died out for unknown reasons. Pinpointing the extinction of the Neanderthals has proved difficult due to limitations in carbon-14 dating techniques, the accuracy of which declines in samples approaching and older than 50,000 years due to a decreasing amount of carbon-14 for testing. Now, using a new dating technique, scientists have confirmed that Neanderthals likely disappeared between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.

04 Jan 2015

Hallucigenia finally finds a home

A fossil so bizarre that it was formally dubbed Hallucigenia has finally found a place in the evolutionary tree of early life. One of the more head-scratching fossils to come out of the famous 500-million-year-old Burgess Shale assemblage in British Columbia, the worm-like creature with legs, spikes and a head difficult to distinguish from its tail was originally drawn both backwards and upside down: The spines were originally thought to be legs, and its legs were thought to be tentacles.

02 Jan 2015

All dinosaurs may have had feathers

Since the first feathered dinosaur was discovered in China in 1996, more and more feathered theropod specimens have been found. Now, a new nontheropod fossil found in Siberia and described in Science suggests that all species of dinosaurs may have had feathers.

01 Jan 2015

Oldest-known skeletal animals found

The Ediacaran Period, which lasted from 635 million to 541 million years ago, is famous for the evolution of soft-bodied organisms that pre-dated the Cambrian Explosion, the relatively brief period during which most of the major animal phyla appeared. Now, Ediacaran-aged animals with skeletons have been found.

29 Dec 2014

Limited ranges left ammonites vulnerable to extinction

Why spiral-shelled, ocean-faring ammonites went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous while the nautilids — the ammonites’ less abundant and less diverse cephalopod relatives — survived has long puzzled paleontologists. Nautilids tended to dwell deeper in the ocean than ammonites, perhaps keeping them farther out of harm’s way after the asteroid struck, which likely led to acidification of the ocean surface. Now, a new study suggests that the animals’ geographic range may have contributed to which ones lived and which ones died.

13 Dec 2014

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