The classification of Illinois's state fossil, the Tully monster, has been a mystery since its discovery in 1958. But now a team at Yale has determined that it is a vertebrate ancestor of the lamprey, after studying over a thousand fossils and noticing the presence of a notochord, among other distinctively vertebratey features. The (paywalled) Nature paper is here.
It's been a big couple of months for very large (and very strange) theropod dinosaurs. The eight-foot-long arms of Deinocheirus mirificus were discovered in the Gobi in 1965 and the animal has remained a source of speculation since then. Now a team of paleontologists from the Korea Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources has discovered two well-preserved specimens, and it seems that Deinocheirus was even weirder than we thought. Here's the Nature link.
A gigantic fish-eater (Bigger than a T. rex!) with a crocodile snout and a large sail on its back, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus has always been a strange and enigmatic creature. It may have just become something stranger: a semiaquatic, quadrupedal theropod dinosaur. [more inside]
Scientists at Drexel university have discovered and described the most complete supermassive dinosaur ever found. According to paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, the titanosaur "weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more than seven T. rex. Shockingly, skeletal evidence shows that when this 65-ton specimen died, it was not yet full grown. It is by far the best example we have of any of the most giant creatures to ever walk the planet." It's name? Dreadnoughtus .
"It’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month again. That wonderful time of the month where we take a look at one of the underwhelming fossil fish specimens in the Grant Museum collection. By staring at and reading about unloved, unspectacular fossil fish specimens I hope to increase global fishteracy as well as explore the question, why do we have material like this in museums? What is the point? What is the value? Maybe we also learn something important about ourselves. Something like, ‘I don’t find bad fish fossils particularly fascinating’. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s the journey not the destination that matters right?" [more inside]
Western Digs is a source for "dispatches from the American ancient West." Posts are sorted into three main categories: Dinosaurs & Ancient Life (Paleontology, split into Dinosars, The Ice Age, Birds and All Fossils), Prehistoric Americans (Archaeology, split into Ancient Southwest and The Mississippians [Cahokia]), and Modern Artifacts (Historic Archaeology, including the subset The 20th Century). If you're not sure where to start reading, here are Western Digs’ Top 5 Paleontology Stories of 2013 and Western Digs’ Top 5 Archaeology Stories of 2013.
"One thing I was wondering is if any of these paleontologists you’ve talked to have given their argument of why paleontology is important." Fossils are "just basically rocks," he said. "It's not like antiquities, where it's somebody's heritage and culture and all that."Bones of Contention: A Florida man's curious trade in Mongolian dinosaurs. [previously]
The Evolution Documentary channel (autoplays video) has collected documentaries and clips about evolution available on youtube, including documentaries from BBC, Nova, and National Geographic. [more inside]
The Turkana Basin Institute and the Kenya National Museums are digitizing their fossil collections. Look around their virtual laboratory and collections and get up close and personal with some of paleoanthropology's most important fossils. There are over 20,000 specimens that are housed in the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi as well as in the laboratories of the Turkana Basin Institute to the east and west of Lake Turkana. These range in age from 28 million years to several thousand years in age and have been recovered over the past six decades of exploration of the fossil rich deposits around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Photographs of an almost perfectly preserved 298 million year-old fossilized forest discovered under a coal mine in China [pdf] (In Wuda, Inner Mongolia). [more inside]
British scientists have discovered a “treasure trove” of Charles Darwin fossils that have been lost for more than 150-years. | 'I spotted some drawers marked "unregistered fossil plants",' he recalls. 'I can't resist a mystery, so I pulled one open. What I found inside made my jaw drop!' Inside were hundreds of fossil plants, polished into thin translucent sheets known as 'thin sections' and captured in glass slides so they could be studied under a microscope. | The British Geologic Survey has images 33 of the "Lost Fossils" online. [more inside]
DINOSOAP archaeological soap lets you easily experience the fun of archaeological work! Body itself as a special soap made of double-modulation soap: scrub in the process each time, easier to dissolve the outer layer of the "loess" will gradually erode, slowly revealing more difficult to dissolve the inner layer buried in the "dinosaur fossil." Just few weeks, a mini ancient dinosaur fossils can be excavated Hello! [more inside]
A History of Skeletal Drawings: Part 1 - pre-20th century, Part 2 - Bone Wars to the 1950's, Part 3 - Dino Renaissance to the present. Via Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs.
Biggest Rabbit was "Roly-Poly." The remains of a 26 pound prehistoric rabbit were found on an island believed to have been without predators, accounting for their size. "He was probably on an evolutionary vacation," said Brian Kraatz, an expert in rabbit evolution, like an "islander beach bum."
The Ocucaje desert in Peru is one of the richest marine fossil sites in the world. Now that it is starting to draw attention from the outside world, questions are being raised over who should be allowed access to the treasures. [more inside]
Darren Tanke has been guest blogging at Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings about his preparation of a Gorgosaurus (as seen here). [more inside]
Dinosaur coloration has always been a source of wild speculation. Artistic renders have ranged from the conservative (battleship grey, lizard green) to the flamboyant, but all guesses appeared equally valid. While there are some wonderfully preserved examples of dinosaur skin texture, fossils have remained stubbornly monochromatic… until now. [more inside]
Scientists discover fossilized claw of enormous ancient sea scorpion. They estimate this thing was 2.5 meters long. Sorry about the nightmares. [via]
GIANT PENGUINS! The discovery in 2005 of fossils in Peru is challenging previous views about the evolution of penguins. They were tall, fast, and enjoyed being smacked by cavemen*.
* may not be true
* may not be true
A retired construction guy with a large property was bulldozing a new driveway and noticed some shiny rocks. He excavated carefully, revealing an entire forest of upright, undisturbed petrified trees (photo gallery). Soon he began cataloging and selling pieces to museums but has since stopped. More about his find. (via girlhacker)
"Hundreds of skeletons of prehistoric animals have been found in a volcanic ash bed buried beneath the rolling farmlands of northeastern Nebraska. Some of the best-preserved fossil rhinos, horses, camels, and birds known anywhere have been, and are being, excavated by museum crews working in the Ashfall Fossil Beds in northern Antelope County." [*]Guide from the Nebraska Game and Parks with a quick video tour [*]More information from Nebraska's NET page [*]Wikipedia Link [*] Photos from a Field Trip of Geologists
Orsten or stinkstone (it smells like rotten eggs), is a limestone nodule that has preserved Cambrian fossils extremely well. Scanning Electron Microscopic images of the fossils reveals incredible detail.
Fossil records show Biodiversity comes and goes in a 62 million year cycle. The analysis, performed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UBC, has withstood thorough testing so that confidence in the results is above 99-percent.
The life and times of Thalassocnus, the aquatic sloth. They're long extinct, but apparently modern sloths are excellent swimmers, so you can imagine how they came to be.
Why no Pliestocene Park? "Everyone seems to assume that the primeval condition of the Great Plains was bison and prairie dog, with the occasional pronghorn herd, but no other large mammals. Yet for 1.65 million years, North America teemed with large animals: the 'pleistocene megafauna.' Then as the last ice age was ending and the first humans were coming over from Siberia, most of them died out." Sad -- doesn't everybody want a pony?
Coelacanth quiz. Test your knowlege about this unpalatable but interesting ol' fish.
Fossil Horses in Cyberspace. Equine history.
Scientists Find World's Oldest Known Genitals - A team led by Prof. Jason Dunlop from Humboldt University has found the world's oldest genitals. This new find is older than the previous record holder (discovered by Prof. David Siveter of the University of Leicester) by about 300 million years. The record holder for world's oldest pile of vomit remains unchallenged. Images of whip-wielding biologists in fedoras escaping giant rolling boulder traps to discover penis fossils flood my mind.
This Thursday, the Canadian Museum of Nature opens an exhibit of Asian dinosaur skeletons from the Russian Paleontological Institute. Putting Russian dinosaur collections on tour reportedly raises funds for cash-strapped scientific institutions back home, but others allege that Russia's own museums are the poorer for it, and that the money -- and fossils -- may be going astray.
Birds are not descended from Dinosaurs. The latest in the ongoing debate about the origin of birds and whether they evolved from dinosaurs or from a earlier common ancestor. Chinese scientists report the discovery of a 120 million year old bird fossil that had feathers and could clearly fly.