Taxonomy term


Down to Earth With: Paleontologist Lisa D. White

As a college student at San Francisco State University, Lisa D. White’s first choice of major was photography. She was drawn to landscapes, and dreamed of becoming “the black female Ansel Adams,” she tells me, surrounded by fossils. We’re in a lab at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) in Berkeley, where she is assistant director of Education and Public Programs. She is also a micropaleontologist, and from 1990 until joining UCMP in 2012, she was professor of geology and later associate dean at San Francisco State University.

01 Sep 2017

Evolution of eyes, not limbs, led fish onto land

In the Middle Devonian, roughly 385 million years ago, the first vertebrates began making their way out of water. For these pioneering fish, the adaptation of fins into limbs facilitated the transition. But in a new study, researchers have found that millions of years before fully functional terrestrial limbs evolved, some fish were developing better eyesight — an evolutionary adaptation they suggest gave an advantage to fish hunting insects near the shore.

28 Jun 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

Ancient plankton communities stressed before mass extinction

Changes in our modern ecosystems, such as declines in biodiversity and invasive species, are similar to those that preceded the first of Earth’s mass extinctions about 443 million years ago, according to a new study. Researchers recently found that ancient plankton communities began to show environmental stress nearly 400,000 years before the extinction, as the planet cooled.

15 Nov 2016

Geologic Column: Editia elegantis: A story of science, discovery and the elegance of a wife's contribution

A simple disagreement between the author's parents — one a graduate student and the other a young wife and mother — resulted in an article in the Journal of Paleontology and a collection in the Smithsonian National Musuem of Natural History. 

15 Aug 2016

Underwater archaeology reveals pre-Clovis people butchered mastodon in Florida

Evidence has been mounting for cultures older than the Clovis people, with archaeological sites and artifacts older than 14,000 years found as far south as Chile and genetic evidence dating the first incursions into North America to about 15,000 years ago. Now, a new study reporting on an underwater archaeological excavation at a site in Florida that dates to 14,550 years ago is adding more evidence of pre-Clovis people, and shedding light on how they may have spread across the Americas.

13 May 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

Geomedia: Documentaries: Bearded ladies doing paleontology

A paleontologist at a dig site wipes sweat from her brow, drinks from a water bottle and scratches her beard before peeling it off to expose her bare face to the cool air. If that sounds odd to you, it is meant to be. This is the Bearded Lady Project (BLP), a new documentary film project headed by filmmaker Lexi Jamieson Marsh and University of Wyoming paleontologist Ellen Currano. BLP, which launched in summer 2014 with funding from Currano’s National Science Foundation early career development grant, aims to highlight geoscience gender stereotypes, which include bearded men in plaid shirts doing dangerous fieldwork that women cannot or should not do, the filmmakers say.
02 Oct 2015

Earliest primates were tree dwellers

The first primates evolved shortly after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. But whether these small mammals lived on the ground or in trees has puzzled paleontologists, who only had fossil teeth and jaws to examine, which left much of the animals' appearance and behavior a mystery.

24 Apr 2015

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