The fossil remains of Helicoprion are limited to some crushed cartilage and its teeth, which aren't unusual for fossil remains of sharks and shark-like fish. But those teeth are unique: formed in a spiral saw-type formation, known as a spiral dentition or toothwhorl, with the older teeth pushed into the center of the spiral by the newer teeth. Since a whorl was first discovered in 1899, there have been a number of theories about how the teeth were used, leading to numerous creative but largely untested reconstructions, until 2013, when a new CT scan enabled the researchers to make a new, improved reconstruction of Helicoprion. That scientific article is not so visually exciting, so let's enjoy Ray Troll's illustrations, and Mary Parrish's updated illustration. [more inside]
Ed Yong, science writer for The Atlantic, rounds up the various official state fossils, from Colorado's claim on Stegosaurus to Florida's accidental choice of agatized coral, which is actually the state stone. [more inside]
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 were snakes doing before they lost their legs? A new fossil discovery of an early snake with four tiny, stubby legs might shed some light on that question. Assuming it really is a snake, of course. However, the status of this fossil as a specimen from a private collection raises ethical questions. This is likely to be an illegally obtained specimen, like 2012's controversial Tarbosaurus bataar (previously, previously). Is it ethical for Science to promote findings from unethically sourced fossils when these are an increasing problem for paleontology? (Previously, previously.)
“Finding the head is the main scientific result. There’s been lingering controversy about this.” - A new reconstruction of hallucigenia sparsa answers questions about the shape and orientation of the animal, something that was previously so mysterious that scientists in the 70s had it upside down.
Rocks Made Of Plastic Found On Hawaiian Beaches. But is it rock, or just fused detritus? Depends on the timescale, similar to how the beaches of Normandy are part shrapnel. [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.
"We began the present study by asking, as some linguists have asked before us, why the ordering of certain conjoined elements is fixed." -Cooper and Ross, 1975 (pdf) Siamese twins in linguistics: examples are "here and there (and everywhere)" and "peas and carrots." Siamese twins are also known as "binomial freezes," "irreversible binomials," or "freezes," and they can change over time, too. And that can lead to fossil words! Speaking of fossil words, did you know about cranberry morphemes? [more inside]
This 419-Million-Year-Old Fish Has the World’s Oldest Known Face What makes it remarkable is everything that’s come after it: It’s the oldest known creature with a face, and may have given rise to virtually all the faces that have followed in the hundreds of millions of years since, including our own.
"The majority of fossil discoveries worth publishing about can either strengthen previous studies or dish out little parcels of new data. These allow us to slowly piece together the history of life on Earth, but do not significantly rock the boat. But every now and then you are confronted with a jaw-dropping specimen, a fossil that says, “forget the textbooks, THIS is how it happened…” Momentous discoveries like Lucy the Australopithecus and the first batch of Chinese feathered dinosaurs that unleashed a tsunami of new information, bringing sudden clarity to our view of the distant past, and forcing us to rethink what we thought we knew about evolution. Now joining their ranks is a little armoured fish called Entelognathus, described in Nature by an international team of researchers led by Prof. Zhu Min at IVPP, Beijing." [more inside]
Marguerite Humeau is an artist who has made reconstructions of extinct creatures' vocal tracts, extrapolating from extant species and fossil remains. The Extinction Orchestra. [more inside]
Established in 1814 by founding curator, the Danish botanist Nathanial Wallich at the premises of The Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum of Calcutta* is the oldest museum in Asia and the 9th oldest in the world. Referred to as a "museum of museums", considered outdated and obsolete, its Victorian Era majesty dimmed by modernization, the grande dame of Indian history still manages evoke paeans to its otherworldly wonders:
With collections to rival the Smithsonian and the British Museums, it isn't just a storehouse of countless artifacts from the world over. The building seems to be a tiny world, an island in the midst of a busy street. The tall gates with their spikes are the doorways to different recorded ages. All those entering through the high steps are travelers in a time machine. But this is not all that Kolkata's Jadughar or "House of Magic" has to offer. Its jadu lies in the magic with which it houses portions of man's past. The high ceilings seem to stretch to infinity. Amid the silence there is vibrant life. Showcasing essential elements of different cultures, the dark, often dank, interiors show up the objects more sharply. Gradually the eyes grow used to the absence of light; the smell seems natural. It is this ambience that gently draws you in and makes the textbook history we are used to, a tangible living reality.It remains a wonderful time-warp with plenty of mangy-looking stuffed animals, fish and birds, together with fossils so beloved of Victorian collectors, as well as fascinating Indian friezes, bas-reliefs and stone carvings and art.
Hahaha, that worm looks like a penis! Oh, wait, that's the headline. Well, for the most part: 'Missing link' connects two weird, wormy sea creatures [more inside]
A group known as the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers have uncovered an unusual fossil (since dubbed "Godzillus") which is currently the subject of investigation and debate. Among the current questions? "Is it animal or vegetable?".
The most well-preserved dinosaur fossil ever found in Europe was recently announced: a 98 percent intact juvenile theropod that will be on public display this month in Munich.
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]
"The date of depletion of fossil fuels has been pushed back into the future by centuries -- or millennia."
"Everything you've heard about fossil fuels may be wrong: The future of energy is not what you think it is"
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.
“The gaudy leonine sunflower Hangs black and barren on its stalk, And down the windy garden walk The dead leaves scatter,- hour by hour”
Rare fossilised flower found, related to sunflowers. "A 45 million-year-old fossil flower found in northern Argentina has uncovered the evolutionary roots of Earth’s most populous plant family. Image can be viewed here. Called Asteraceae, the family includes dozens of domesticated species — from sunflowers, daisies and chrysanthemums to lettuce, artichoke and tarragon — and some 23,000 undomesticated plants. But despite its ubiquity, Asteraceae’s fossil legacy is sparse, containing little more than pollen grains. A few larger, detailed fossils exist, but they’re relatively young."
Today mammals are the only surviving members of the Synapsids, but several hundred million years ago, they had company. Meet the dicynodonts: beaked, sabre-toothed herbivores that look like nothing you've seen before. [more inside]
Paleontologists discover the skull of a massive predatory whale (Leviathan melvillei) in Peru. Discovery News presents this finding with the best of all possible illustrations. (via)
Can a snake prey on a dinosaur? The answer is yes. A plug of wet sediment captures a snake preying on a dinosaur hatchling.
"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]
Meet Edestus Giganteus and Helicoprion. The Edestidae family of sharks had a single row of teeth in the upper and lower jaws, creating, in effect, a scissors. Helicoprion's teeth grew in a buzz-saw shaped whorl in the lower jaw! Both sharks are known only from their fossil teeth, leading to mystery and detective work. [more inside]
Two-hundred -and-forty million years ago, a recently-discovered amphibian hunted with a special feature: teeth in the roof of the mouth. [more inside]
Scientists find a 'mummified' Hadrosaur in North Dakota "He looks like a blow-up dinosaur in some parts," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester in England who is leading the inquiry. "When you actually look at the detail of the skin, the scales themselves are three dimensional. . . . The arm is breathtaking. It's a three-dimensional arm, you can shake the dinosaur by the hand. It just defies logic that such a remarkable specimen could preserve." [more inside]
Dinosaurs preach Young Earth creationism. "The Fossil Finders are a group of eight homeschooled children on a search for the [Biblical] truth on fossils." (This shorter excerpt cuts to the main argument, involving the discovery of flexible T. Rex tissue. Scientists remain interested in the find.) The video was produced by World's Biggest Dinosaurs, the people who now own the roadside landmark, Cabazon Dinosaurs -- and have turned it into a creation museum. [Previously]
Lucy, one of the oldest and most complete fossilized hominid skeletons, is hitting the road. Although not without a little controversy. (And that's even before the creationists get wind of the tour!)
Geologists have discovered the remains of one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests , near Danville IL. The four square miles of fossils are in a coal mine 250 feet below the surface.
Fair Price Energy. One persons idea for a free market solution to the fossil fuel problem.
New biofuel would combine jet fuel and soya oil to slash consumption of fossil fuel, and help slow the rise in greenhouse gas levels...
We're now one step closer to making fuel cell cars. It was announced a few days ago that Quantum Technologies' Hydrogen Storage Tank capable of powering current fuel cell cars up to 300 miles has received the highest rating from a German auto safety commission. This is part of the previously discussed billion dollar effort by GM to bring fuel cell cars to the market. Seems like we're getting one step closer to finally saying goodbye to fossil fuel powered cars.
Oldest fossilised vomit pile uncovered "We believe this is the first time the existence of fossil vomit on a grand scale has been proven beyond reasonable doubt"