Taxonomy term

paleobiology

Frogs fill in post-Gondwana picture

The positions of landmasses after the breakup of Gondwana during the late Mesozoic and early Paleogene are highly debated, especially the configurations of the Indian and Australian plates around the newly opening Indian Ocean. In a new study, the paleogeographic and genetic distributions of a group of frogs called Natatanurans were used to test the various post-breakup models — and the results bring additional clarity to the post-Gondwana puzzle.

22 Mar 2019

Dinosaur soft tissues preserved as polymers

Since 2005, several samples of ostensibly soft tissue, such as blood vessels and bits of organic bone material, have been gleaned from dinosaur bones. The finds have stirred debate because the notion that intact dinosaur proteins could survive tens of millions of years has proved a tantalizing but difficult pill to swallow for many paleontologists. In a new study, however, researchers have identified a chemical pathway — well known in food science but not seen before in paleontology — that may be the key to long-term preservation of soft-tissue structures.

12 Mar 2019

Marine animals have been migrating for millions of years

Scientists have suspected that ancient animals migrated in response to changing global temperatures, but until now, there was no documentation of this across extensive time periods. In a new study, researchers found that, for millions of years, marine organisms like corals, sponges and snails, have shifted their ranges in response to climate change.

20 Nov 2018

Down to Earth With: Paleobiologist Rowan Lockwood

In 1608, Captain John Smith noted that oysters “lay as thick as stones” on the floor of the Chesapeake Bay. The shell reefs — built up by hundreds of years of oyster generations — were so large, ships wrecked against them. And each oyster was so massive, to eat one, you had to cut it into pieces — like a steak.

27 Jul 2018

Fossil sea turtle hatchling reveals its Eocene proteins

study of a 54-million-year-old sea turtle hatchling found in Denmark is adding to a growing body of evidence that certain proteins can remain intact in the fossil record for tens of millions of years.

08 Feb 2018

Down to Earth With: Paleobiologist Gregory Erickson

As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Gregory Erickson wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He started out as an engineering major, then dabbled with getting a degree in wildlife management. In 1986, having taken numerous science courses, he happened to compare notes with his best friend, a geology major, and realized he was just a few courses shy of obtaining a geology degree himself. Eager to finish college, Erickson signed up for a class in vertebrate paleontology focusing on dinosaurs — a decision that ultimately changed his life.

22 Sep 2017

Down to Earth With: Paleobiologist Nigel Hughes

I first met Nigel Hughes, a paleobiologist at the University of California at Riverside (UCR), in 2010. He took me on a brisk walk through the UCR Botanical Gardens, where the trees kept us cool in the hot Southern California sun while he told me all about trilobites. 
 
03 Dec 2015

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

The trouble with turtles: Paleontology at a crossroads

Turtles are the last big vertebrate group to be placed firmly on the tree of life, and the arguments are getting messy. Scientists in three fields in particular — paleontolgy, developmental biology and microbiology/genomics — disagree about how, and from what, turtles may have evolved. 

31 Mar 2014

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