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  • News

    Anatomy analysis suggests new dinosaur family tree

    The standard dinosaur family tree may soon be just a relic.

    After examining more than 400 anatomical traits, scientists have proposed a radical reshuffling of the major dinosaur groups. The rewrite, reported in the March 23 Nature, upsets century-old ideas about dinosaur evolution. It lends support to the accepted idea that the earliest dinosaurs were smallish, two-legged creatures. But...

    03/22/2017 - 14:06 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • Science Visualized

    Under lasers, a feathered dino shows some skin

    What happens when you shoot lasers at a dinosaur fossil? Some chemicals preserved in the fossil glow, providing a nuanced portrait of the ancient creature’s bones, feathers and soft tissue such as skin.

    Soft tissue is rarely preserved in fossils, and when it is, it can be easily obscured. A technique called laser-stimulated fluorescence “excites the few skin atoms left in the matrix,...

    03/20/2017 - 14:40 Paleontology
  • News

    Identity of ‘Tully monster’ still a mystery

    The true nature of the “Tully monster” may once again be a mystery.

    Just last year, some researchers declared that the extinct aquatic animal was a vertebrate, possibly a relative of today’s lampreys. Not so fast, says vertebrate paleontologist Lauren Sallan. Like a mismatched puzzle, the Tully monster lacks some vertebrate pieces and has others that are the wrong shape, Sallan and...

    03/06/2017 - 07:00 Paleontology, Animals
  • News

    Oldest microfossils suggest life thrived on Earth about 4 billion years ago

    Tiny, iron-rich fossils exhumed from the depths of an ancient ocean could reveal the cradle of life.

    These micrometer-scale structures are probably remnants of microorganisms that once lived amidst ancient hydrothermal vents, researchers suggest March 1 in Nature.

    “In a nutshell, what we’ve found are the oldest microfossils on Earth,” says study coauthor Matthew Dodd, a...

    03/01/2017 - 13:00 Paleontology, Microbes
  • News

    Fossil shows that ancient reptile gave live birth

    A prehistoric marine reptile may have given birth to its young alive.

    A fossil from South China may be the first evidence of live birth in the animal group Archosauromorpha, scientists report February 14 in Nature Communications. Today Archosauromorpha is represented by birds and crocodiles — which both lay eggs.

    Whether this fossil really is the first evidence of live birth in...

    02/14/2017 - 12:30 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News

    Horses buck evolutionary ideas

    A cautionary tale in evolutionary theory is coming straight from the horse’s mouth. When ancient horses diversified into new species, those bursts of evolution weren’t accompanied by drastic changes to horse teeth, as scientists have long thought.

    A new evolutionary tree of horses reveals three periods when several new species emerged, scientists report in the Feb. 10 Science. The...

    02/09/2017 - 14:00 Evolution, Paleontology, Animals
  • The –est

    Pinhead-sized sea creature was a bag with a mouth

    A roughly 540-million-year-old creature that may have once skimmed shorelines was a real oddball.

    Dozens of peculiar, roundish fossils discovered in what is now South China represent the earliest known deuterostomes, a gigantic category of creatures that includes everything from humans to sea cucumbers.

    No bigger than a pinhead, the fossils have wrinkly, baglike bodies and gaping...

    02/03/2017 - 14:00 Paleontology
  • Editor's Note

    Endings make way for new beginnings for Earth and SN

    Life on Earth has survived at least five major extinction events, but it is the dinosaurs’ mass die-off that most captures our imagination. It appears to have been a dramatic one, as Thomas Sumner writes in "Devastation detectives try to solve dinosaur disappearance" (SN: 2/4/17, p. 16). A fiery asteroid impact carved out a chunk of what’s now below the Caribbean Sea, killing many animals...

    01/25/2017 - 15:06 Animals, Paleontology, Evolution
  • Feature

    With dinosaurs out of the way, mammals had a chance to thrive

    For dinosaurs, the end of the world began in fire.

    The space rock that stamped a Vermont-sized crater into the Earth 66 million years ago packed a powerful punch. Any animal living within about a thousand miles of the impact zone was probably vaporized, says paleontologist Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

    “Everything would have been toast.”

    But...

    01/25/2017 - 14:30 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • Feature

    Devastation detectives try to solve dinosaur disappearance

    Below the shimmering turquoise waters of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula lies the scene of a prehistoric mass murder. In a geologic instant, most animal and plant species perished. Drilling through hundreds of meters of rock, investigators have finally reached the footprint left by the accused: Earth’s most notorious space rock impact, Chicxulub. The dinosaur killer.

    Sleuthing scientists are...

    01/25/2017 - 14:30 Earth, Paleontology