This Face Changes the Human Story. But How? This is the story of one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the past half century, and of what it might mean for our understanding of human evolution.
"What could you possibly have in common with a mushroom, or a dinosaur, or even a bacterium? More than you might think. In this Lab, you’ll puzzle out the evolutionary relationships linking together a spectacular array of species. Explore the tree of life and get a front row seat to what some have called the greatest show on Earth. That show is evolution." Evolution Lab is a educational game created by the Life on Earth Project and NOVA Labs
Troubles in Paradise is a review of the history and arguments of the creationism/intelligent design movement, written by James Downard.
A team of researchers, including University of Edinburgh paleontologist Stephen Brusatte and Swarthmore College Associate Professor of Statistics Steve C. Wang, cataloging 853 skeletal characteristics in 150 dinosaurs and analyzing the rate at which these characters change, and they found that "there was no grand jump between nonbirds and birds in morphospace." In other words, birds didn't suddenly come into existence, but evolved, bit by bit, or characteristic by characteristic. But when birds were finally a thing, they went crazy. "Once it came together fully, it unlocked great evolutionary potential that allowed birds to evolve at a super-charged rate."
Dimetrodon is not a dinosaur! Sorry to ruin your childhood yet again, but it's not even a reptile. It's a synapsid, which makes it one of our cousins. [more inside]
After a species goes extinct, in some cases its "ghost" may linger in the ecosystem it leaves behind in the form of evolutionary anachronisms. [more inside]
"Pretty much everyone interested in dinosaurs, in the history of life, or in such matters as the evolution of intelligence and/or brain size, will be familiar with the various speculations on ‘humanoid dinosaurs’ that have made their way into the literature." - Tetrapod Zoology on Dinosauroids [more inside]
Consider this animal, the newest fossil discovery from Jianni Liu in China. She calls it "the walking cactus." We have grasses and flowers and beetles in more varieties than you can imagine, and yet, in some deep architectural way, the developmental paths were set way back then, 500 million years ago. The Walking Cactus is just another souvenir of that crazy moment.
"So I called my dad over and about five metres away he started swearing, and I was like 'what did I do wrong?' and he's like, 'nothing, nothing - you found a hominid'."The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures (hominids) have been found in South Africa. Some researchers dispute that the fossils are of an unknown human species, but others say they may help fill a key gap in the fossil record of human evolution. [more inside]
"These data revealed a surprisingly consistent pattern of decomposition throughout time. This pattern shows that as these modern fish decayed, their most recently evolved features -- those characters that are most informative because they distinguish closely related animals within the same lineage -- rotted first. The last features to disappear were more ancient; those that are shared by all vertebrates, such the notochord."
Ardipithecus: We Meet At Last. (Single Link Carl Zimmer)
Meet Ida, the missing link. "Ida is the most complete early primate fossil ever found, and scientists believe that she could be one of our earliest ancestors. She is a remarkable link between the first primates and modern humans and despite having lived 47 million years ago, her features show striking similarities to our own."
On April 23, 2009 Natalia Rybczynski, Mary R. Dawson, and Richard H. Tedford published their paper "A semi-aquatic Arctic mammalian carnivore from the Miocene epoch and origin of Pinnipedia" in the journal, Nature, detailing their 2007 discovery of the species they have named Puijila darwini. The carnivorous marine mammal, which lived about 21 to 24 million years ago, was discovered practically by accident, but as a "transitional fossil" is re-writing our understanding of pinniped evolution. It could also be noted that it was most likely cute as all get out, and is already the star of it's own mini documentary.
The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive, an online library dedicated to the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). Includes an excellent selection of videos. And The Official Stephen Jay Gould Archive [still under development], which includes two of his books and his Harvard course online. [more inside]
Bone Wars is an educational game that "simulates the process of creating a scientific hypothesis and testing it against new data" (A good thing to teach kids with people like these guys running around). The game is based on the legendary Cope/Marsh feud: a conflict that caused one Dinosaur to be classified twice and could make for a really cool movie someday.