Taxonomy term


Move over Homo habilis: Early human evolution remapped

Mapping out how one species of early hominin branches to another has always been complicated by the rarity of complete specimens and lack of precise dating methods for fossils more than 50,000 years old. Now researchers studying the braincase, pelvis, hands and feet of a primitive hominin — which lived about the same time early Homo species were evolving — are taking full advantage of a rare, nearly complete assemblage of fossils and a new highly accurate dating method to once again redraw humankind’s ancient lineage.

07 Sep 2011

Benchmarks: September 30, 1861: Archaeopteryx is discovered and described

What's commonly thought of as the first bird, Archaeopteryx was first described 150 years ago this month.

02 Sep 2011

Triassic Park: On the origin of (dinosaur) species

Ask a third grader what happened to the dinosaurs and she will tell you that an asteroid killed them all. Many adults even know what caused the demise of the dinosaurs: A massive bolide crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico about 65 million years ago, setting in motion a series of environmental changes that killed off 60 percent of life on Earth. But if you ask people about the origin of dinosaurs 165 million years earlier, you get blank looks. Even many paleontologists have little to say about the subject.

18 Jan 2011

Benchmarks: December 31, 1853: Dinner in a dinosaur

The weather in London on Saturday, Dec. 31, 1853, could not have pleased Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. After a relatively warm Friday, the temperature had plummeted, snow had begun to fall, and for the first time in more than a decade, masses of ice floated down the Thames River. The snow made the streets so slippery that injured pedestrians filled the hospitals.
03 Dec 2010

The first dinner in a beast

Surprisingly, there is precedence for eating dinner in the body of a massive beast. In February 1802, Rembrandt Peale, an early American painter best known for his portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, invited 12 friends and family to dine under the rib cage of a mammoth, which had recently been erected in his father’s museum in Philadelphia.
03 Dec 2010

Questions arise over earliest evidence of human tool use

The debate over when our ancestors first used stone tools is not over just yet. In August, researchers had reported finding scratch marks on two 3.4-million-year-old animal bones that they said were made by Australopithecus afarensis — the ancestor made famous by Lucy — scraping meat off the bones with sharp-edged stones. If true, that would push tool use back to 800,000 years earlier than previously thought.

18 Nov 2010

Age changes you: Torosaurus actually just old Triceratops

Triceratops and its cousin Torosaurus are not hard to tell apart. Both horned dinosaurs had a giant bony frill that rose up behind the head, but Torosaurus’ frill was much longer and was adorned with giant holes that were covered by a thin layer of protein called keratin. Yet Triceratops and Torosaurus may have been more alike than scientists realized: New research suggests that the two animals were actually the same species, with Torosaurus being the adult version of Triceratops.

04 Aug 2010

Paleo Patrol: Primates of the Caribbean

The only monkeys you’ll find on the islands of the Caribbean today were brought there (intentionally or not) by people. But just a few thousand years ago, thriving populations of primates existed across the Caribbean. The discovery of exceptionally well-preserved monkey bones in the Dominican Republic is helping researchers better understand the evolutionary history of these now-extinct primates.

22 Jul 2010

Blogging on EARTH: Ancient whale with a big bite named for Moby Dick author

In a Peruvian desert, scientists discovered the fossils of an extinct whale with a big bite. The whale's teeth and jaws were so powerful that it feasted on other whales.

30 Jun 2010

Do impacts trigger extinctions? Impact theory still controversial

The revolution started with a bang in 1980. For some, this revolution became a religion, even an orthodoxy. The true believers became proselytes and began to see signs supporting their viewpoint everywhere. But each time the proselytes claimed to have found yet another example in support of their “religion,” naysayers and doubters emerged. Two sides formed, each loudly castigating and questioning their opponents.

This back-and-forth ideological debate describes both the historical and still-ongoing struggle over a purported cause of mass extinctions: the meteor impact theory.

23 Jun 2010