PALEO

paleo

Asymmetrical fossil feathers fill in timeline of flight

To get off the ground and evolve into flying birds, dinosaurs got a lift from asymmetrical feathers, which are more aerodynamic than symmetrical feathers. The discovery of a new species of asymmetrically feathered dinosaur in northeastern China from the Early Cretaceous is helping fill in the timeline of adaptations that led to flight.

29 Aug 2017

T. rex's bone-crushing bite

In a landscape rife with fearsome predators, Tyrannosaurus rex carved out a bone-crushing niche. New research analyzing the force generated by T. rex’s massive jaws found that the terrible tyrant’s bite could exert a pressure of more than 30,300 kilograms per square centimeter (431,000 pounds per square inch): a world record.

24 Aug 2017

Baby Louie dinosaur fossil gets a formal name

A baby dinosaur found fossilized with a clutch of eggs in China in the 1990s has finally been identified as an embryo from a new species of giant oviraptorosaur, according to a study in Nature Communications. The specimen, nicknamed “Baby Louie” and once featured on the cover of National Geographic, has been formally classified as a caenagnathid oviraptorosaur named Beibeilong sinensis, which translates to “Chinese baby dragon,” by Hanyong Pu of the Henan Geological Museum in Zhengzhou, China, and colleagues.

16 Aug 2017

Horned dinosaur find a first for eastern North America

Fossils of horned dinosaurs called ceratopsids, the group that includes Triceratops, are usually found in either western North America or Asia. But the discovery of a single ceratopsid tooth in Mississippi, reported in a new study in PeerJ, hints that this group spread into new territory at the tail end of the Mesozoic Era — just prior to going extinct.

20 Jul 2017

Massive trove of dinosaur tracks cataloged in Australia

In a remote region of Western Australia, paleontologists have documented the world’s most diverse assemblage of dinosaur tracks. The scientists found preserved in Early Cretaceous rocks thousands of tracks, 150 of which can be assigned to at least 11, and possibly as many as 21, different known track types representing theropods, sauropods, ornithopods and armored thyreophorans.

18 Jul 2017

Hangover echinoderms survived the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction event was disastrous for a wide range of organisms on land and in the sea, with as many as 70 percent of terrestrial and 81 percent of marine species dying off. One of the hardest hit marine phyla was the echinoderms, which today includes sea urchins and starfish. Echinoderms are thought to have suffered one of the most severe population reductions in evolutionary history, with only a few members surviving to repopulate the oceans in the Triassic. But in a new study, researchers have identified Triassic fossils from a handful of “hangover” species whose ancestors were previously thought to have gone extinct at the end of the Permian, suggesting the extinction wasn’t quite as cataclysmic for echinoderms as paleontologists have suspected.

12 Jul 2017

Precambrian rumblings of the Cambrian Explosion

The Cambrian Explosion, when the ancestors of most of today’s animal groups began appearing in the fossil record about 542 million years ago, was — as the name suggests — a geologically abrupt event. Paleontologists have long thought of the event as marking a boundary between distinct Precambrian and Cambrian faunas. In new research published in Geology, however, scientists report that small, shelly fossils once thought to occur only in Cambrian rocks have been found in rocks dating to the late Ediacaran, just before the Cambrian, implying an earlier start to the explosion than previously thought.

11 Jul 2017

Bipedalism left its mark on human skull: Kangaroos and upright rodents show same signs

The transition to bipedal walking in our ancestors changed the hominin skeleton in many ways. New research looking at how upright walking affected the structures at the base of the skull in both early humans and other bipedal mammals, like kangaroos, is shedding light on a once-controversial marker for bipedalism.

04 Jul 2017

Two ichthyosaurs become one

While dinosaurs ruled on land in the Mesozoic, dolphin-like marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs roamed the oceans. Paleontologists first described the genus in 1821 based on remains discovered in England, naming the first species Ichthyosaurus communis. The description of a second species, I. intermedius, followed in 1822. Although these two species were the earliest-known ichthyosaurs, they are also some of the most poorly understood, as their initial descriptions were based on limited remains.

22 Jun 2017

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

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