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  • Feature

    Why won’t this debate about an ancient cold snap die?

    Around 13,000 years ago, Earth was emerging from its last great ice age. The vast frozen sheets that had covered much of North America, Europe and Asia for thousands of years were retreating. Giant mammals — steppe bison, woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats — grazed or hunted across tundra and grasslands. A Paleo-Indian group of hunter-gatherers who eventually gave rise to the Clovis people...

    06/26/2018 - 14:00 Climate, Earth, Paleontology
  • Introducing

    These newfound frogs have been trapped in amber for 99 million years

    About 99 million years ago, tiny frogs hopped through a wet, tropical forest — and an unlucky few ran afoul of some tree sap. Four newly described frog fossils, preserved in amber, offer the earliest direct evidence of ancient frogs living in a humid tropical clime — just as many modern amphibians do.

    None of the frog fossils is complete, making it difficult to place the frogs within...

    06/14/2018 - 09:00 Paleontology, Ecology, Animals
  • News

    Oldest known lizard fossil pushes group’s origins back 75 million years

    A little animal that washed out to sea 240 million years ago off the coast of what’s now Italy turns out to be the oldest known fossil of a lizard.

    The identification pushes back the fossil record of snakes and lizards by about 75 million years, says Tiago Simões of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He and colleagues used observations of the fossil, called Megachirella...

    05/30/2018 - 16:24 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • Reviews & Previews

    Skeletons come in many shapes and sizes

    SkeletonsJan Zalasiewicz and Mark WilliamsOxford Univ., $24.95

    For much of life’s reign on Earth, organisms got by without skeletons. But since that innovation evolved about 550 million years ago, there’s been an evolutionary arms race of epic proportions.

    One of the first competitors was Cloudina, a small seafloor creature whose exterior skeleton almost certainly evolved in...

    05/27/2018 - 08:00 Evolution, Animals, Paleontology
  • News

    How birds may have escaped the dino-killing asteroid impact

    Nothing against trees. But maybe it’s better not to get too dependent on them if you want to survive a big flaming space object crashing into Earth.

    The asteroid impact that caused a mass extinction 66 million years probably also triggered the collapse of forests worldwide, a new investigation of the plant fossil record concludes. Needing trees and extensive plant cover for nesting or...

    05/24/2018 - 17:44 Paleontology
  • News

    The Chicxulub asteroid impact might have set off 100,000 years of global warming

    After a giant asteroid hit Earth about 66 million years ago, the planet’s climate went on a roller coaster ride.

    The space rock’s impact set off tsunamis and wildfires before climate-chilling clouds of sulfur gas engulfed the planet for decades, wiping out most life (SN: 11/25/17, p. 14). As these clouds dissipated, billions of tons of carbon dioxide, which spewed into the atmosphere...

    05/24/2018 - 15:13 Paleontology, Oceans, Climate
  • Science Visualized

    Here’s how hefty dinosaurs sat on their eggs without crushing them

    Brooding birds from chickadees to ostriches sit squarely on their eggs. But scientists thought some of the heftier dinosaur ancestors of birds might not be able to do that without crushing the clutches. Now, a new study finds that certain dinos with a little extra junk in the trunk also had a clever brooding strategy: They sat within an open space at the center of a ring of eggs, rather than...

    05/15/2018 - 19:05 Paleontology
  • News

    This ancient fowl bit like a dinosaur and pecked like a bird

    A bird that lived alongside dinosaurs may have preened its feathers like modern birds — despite a full mouth of teeth that also let it chomp like a dino.

    A new 3-D reconstruction of the skull of Ichthyornis dispar, which lived during the Late Cretaceous epoch between 87 million and 82 million years ago, reveals that the ancient fowl had a small, primitive beak and a mobile upper jaw....

    05/02/2018 - 13:00 Animals, Evolution, Paleontology
  • News

    These seals haven’t lost their land ancestors’ hunting ways

    Some seals still eat like landlubbers.

    Just like lions, tigers and bears, certain kinds of seals have claws that help the animals grasp prey and tear it apart. X-rays show that the bones in these seals’ forelimbs look like those found in the earliest seals, a new study finds.

    Ancestors of these ancient seals transitioned from land to sea at some point, preserving clawed limbs...

    04/17/2018 - 19:09 Animals, Paleontology
  • News

    Colorful moth wings date back to the dinosaur era

    Tiny light-scattering structures that give today’s butterflies and moths their brilliant hues date back to the days of the dinosaurs.

    Fossilized mothlike insects from the Jurassic Period bear textured scales on their forewings that could display iridescent colors, researchers report April 11 in Science Advances. The fossils are the earliest known examples of insects displaying structural...

    04/11/2018 - 14:14 Paleontology, Biophysics, Animals