The most important (transitional) fossil you’ve never heard of

I LOVE ME SOME TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS!

But this one is particularly interesting, as it fills a crucial hole in the fossil record and demonstrates how four-limbed creatures became established on land. Found on the Scottish border, it’s called (wait for it…) Tiny.

Read about it here! _95576018_fa89156d-5853-4015-88e4-1e18fea86279.jpg

 

Caves made from Giant Sloths

Local geologists in South America were investigating a series of caves that didn’t look anything like caves they had seen before. They didn’t look natural.
Well it turns out that they may be made by the long extinct giant sloths that used to roam the landscape. Or other megafauna that have long since gone extinct. Captivated? Read about it here. 
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The Woolly Mammoth’s Last Stand

Woolly mammoths once flourished from northern Europe to Siberia. As the last ice age drew to a close some 10,000 years ago, the mainland population perished, victims of climate change and human hunters.

However, a remote island population survived for 6000 years after the mainland had died off. And from a tooth of a male mammoth, geneticists have now deciphered the reason the population ultimately went extinct.

Read about it in the New York Times.

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Oldest fossil on earth?

The history of life on earth is fascinating, and largely one of the reasons I started studying evolutionary biology.

There is solid evidence of life dating back to 3.5 billion years, at which point the earth was a billion years old.

Last August, Dr. Van Kranendonk and his colleagues reported discovering fossils in Greenland that are 3.7 billion years old and were once mats of bacteria that grew in shallow coastal waters.

But then, a new study, published in the journal Nature, Mattew S.Dodd, Dominic Papineau and their colleagues at University College London studied rocks that are older.

They came from a remote geological formation in Canada called Nuvvuagittuq, which stretches across four square miles on the coast of Hudson Bay.Researchers have variously estimated its age at 3.77 billion years or 4.22 billion years — just 340 million years after the formation of the planet.

Want to read more? Check it out at the Washington post!

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Iron-rich chert, shown here in red, containing ancient fossils was formed near hydrothermal vents on an ancient seafloor, according to a new study. 

 

Dinosaur Babies are a Bit on the Slow Side

Since birds are dinosaurs, we have long assumed the quick way that birds exit their shell was mimicked in their much larger and significantly more extinct brethren.

However, it turns out that it takes much longer (3-6 months) for a dinosaur to exit its shell.

Why does that matter? Well it might have put them at a disadvantage relative to faster producing animals, like mammals and modern birds.

Curious how scientist figured it out (No, they didn’t clone dinosaurs like Jurassic Park… yet)? Check it out over at Science.

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The Spike-Toothed Salmon

“Back in 1972 paleontologists T. Cavender and R.R. Miller named a huge fossil fish from the Pliocene deposits of Oregon. They called it Smilodonichthys rastrosus – the “knife fish.” The fish’s impressive teeth were thought to stick straight down, like those of a sabertooth cat, and so it became known as the sabertooth salmon.”

Curious? You should be! Read all about this fearsome salmon and it’s history over at Scientific American!

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The Pregnant T-rex

It’s often hard to determine the sex of fossils (most of our parts that determine such things are not… fossilizable).

But researchers from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences found a medullary bone, a kind of tissue found only in female birds that are carrying eggs, or have just finished laying them, in a T-rex fossil from the Cretaceous.

While this is exciting (and you should read about it over at the Washington Post), it may be more exciting as researchers now have a means of identifying sex of dinosaurs. Which allows us to find out more about sex-linked traits in extinct dinosaurs.

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