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.
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 .
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]
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.
Darren Tanke has been guest blogging at Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings about his preparation of a Gorgosaurus (as seen here). [more inside]
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.
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?