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  • Reviews & Previews

    Fossils sparked Charles Darwin’s imagination

    Darwin’s FossilsAdrian ListerSmithsonian Books, $19.95

    Charles Darwin famously derived his theory of evolution from observations he made of species and their geographic distributions during his five-year voyage around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle. But in the introduction of On the Origin of Species, the naturalist also cites another influence: the thousands of fossils that he...

    04/08/2018 - 08:00 Evolution, History of Science, Paleontology
  • News in Brief

    This ancient lizard may have watched the world through four eyes

    About 50 million years ago, a monitor lizard in what is now Wyoming perceived the world through four eyes. Saniwa ensidens is the only known jawed vertebrate to have had two eyelike photosensory structures at the top of the head, in addition to the organs we commonly think of as eyes, researchers report April 2 in Current Biology.

    The structures are called the pineal and parapineal...

    04/05/2018 - 12:19 Paleontology, Earth, Neuroscience
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers debate dinosaur designation and more

    Diagnosis dinosaur

    Some scientists are shaking up the dinosaur family tree and raising questions about which features define the ancient reptiles, Carolyn Gramling reported in “New fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur” (SN: 3/3/18, p. 18).

    “I am a bit put out by the continuing references to dinosaurs as being reptiles,” reader David Persuitte wrote. Dinosaurs’ legs were...

    04/05/2018 - 07:52 Paleontology, Evolution, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    New fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur

    “There’s a very faint dimple here,” Sterling Nesbitt says, holding up a palm-sized fossil to the light. The fossil, a pelvic bone, belonged to a creature called Teleocrater rhadinus. The slender, 2-meter-long reptile ran on all fours and lived 245 million years ago, about 10 million to 15 million years before scientists think dinosaurs first appeared.

    Nesbitt, a paleontologist at...

    02/21/2018 - 16:00 Paleontology, Evolution
  • News

    Fossil footprints may put lizards on two feet 110 million years ago

    Fossilized footprints from an iguana-like reptile provide what could be the earliest evidence of a lizard running on two legs.

    The 29 exceptionally well-preserved lizard tracks, found in a slab of rock from an abandoned quarry in Hadong County, South Korea, include back feet with curved digits and front feet with a slightly longer third digit. The back footprints outnumber the front ones...

    02/15/2018 - 13:19 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • Science Visualized

    This ancient creature looks like a spider with a tail

    What looks like a spider, but with a segmented rear plus a long spike of a tail, has turned up in amber that’s about 100 million years old.

    Roughly the size of a peppercorn (not including the tail, which stretches several times the body length), this newly described extinct species lived in forests in what is now Myanmar during the dinosaur-rich Cretaceous Period.

    Spiders as their...

    02/06/2018 - 15:35 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    Tiny scales in ancient lagoon may be the first fossil evidence of the moth-butterfly line

    Newly described little scaly bits could push back the fossil record of the moth-and-butterfly branch on the tree of life by some 70 million years. That raises the question of whether the drinking-straw mouthparts evolved long before the flower nectar many drink today.

    The microscopic ridged scales date from roughly 200 million years ago, around the time of one of Earth’s less famous mass...

    01/15/2018 - 07:00 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • News

    Ticks had a taste for dinosaur blood

    Ticks once tickled dinosaurs’ feathers.

    The tiny arthropods have been surreptitiously sucking blood for more than 100 million years, but evidence of early ticks’ preferred hosts has been scant. Now, samples of amber from Myanmar have caught the critters with their spiny mouthparts inside the cookie jar. A hunk of 99-million-year-old amber holds a tick tangled in a dinosaur feather,...

    12/12/2017 - 11:00 Animals, Paleontology
  • Introducing

    This ancient marsupial lion had an early version of ‘bolt-cutter’ teeth

    A skull and other fossils from northeastern Australia belong to a new species in the extinct family of marsupial lions.

    This newly named species, Wakaleo schouteni, was a predator about the size of a border collie, says vertebrate paleontologist Anna Gillespie of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. At least 18 million years ago (and perhaps as early as 23 million years ago), it...

    12/11/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Paleontology, Evolution
  • Introducing

    This new dinosaur species was one odd duck

    It may have walked like a duck and swum like a penguin, but a flipper-limbed creature discovered in what is now Mongolia was no bird. The strange new species is the first known nonavian dinosaur that could both run and swim, researchers say.

    To compensate for a long swanlike neck, probably used for dipping underwater for fish, this dino’s center of mass shifted toward its hips, allowing...

    12/06/2017 - 13:29 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution