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.
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!
Iron-rich chert, shown here in red, containing ancient fossils was formed near hydrothermal vents on an ancient seafloor, according to a new study.
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.
“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!
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.
Crocodiles are known for their stealthiness in water. And their speed over short distances. But, fossil hunters in Africa have recently found the remains of a primitive crocodile that “galloped” on land.
Why you say? Well, so they could better run down and eat dinosaurs.
Read about it over at the Guardian, or just check out these crazy photos.
Antarctica has one of the worlds driest deserts, which it turns out is perfect for preserving seals. For thousands of years. For next summer this means a new mummy movie, Seal Mummies!
But seriously, Paleontologists Paul Koch and Emily Brault from UCSC are using these mummies for something besides next summer’s blockbuster. They are looking at the long term ecological impacts of the changing climate in Antartica. What’s more, there are a TON of seal mummies just lying around. Over 500 in fact, some of them hundreds or thousands of years old. What this can tell us about the changing ecosystem is invaluable. Read about it over at Forbes.