July 15, 2013 |
The Tyrannosaurus rex of "Jurassic Park" fame chases any prey that moves, then devours it with a bone-crushing gnash of its enormous jaws and serrated teeth. But paleontologists don't necessarily back Steven Spielberg's portrayal of T. rex , with some saying it may have simply scavenged the remains of dead animals it happened to find. Now scientists have unearthed what they say is the first direct evidence that the dinosaur king hunted its prey, further supporting its reign at the top of the Cretaceous food chain.
July 5, 2013 |
Somewhere between 390 to 360 million years ago, a four-legged vertebrate, or tetrapod, crawled out of the water and gave rise to the amphibians, reptiles and mammals we see today. Scientists have established that this creature descended from fish and evolved its limbs and digits underwater, before its transition to dry ground. Life on land was accompanied by major modifications of the vertebrate skeleton, such as the evolution of a neck. Sandy Kawano, a graduate student at Clemson University, wondered how that transition from surf to turf might have happened - and she turned to modern animals to figure it out. Fossils of such science fiction muses as Ichthyostega , an early tetrapod, provide information on these organisms' appearance, but you can't get behavior out of old bones, Kawano said.
June 26, 2013 |
In December 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher impulsively - and successfully - bid on 12 parcels of land in southern Utah whose oil and drilling rights were being auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management under outgoing President George W. Bush. That might have been OK had DeChristopher planned to pay for and exploit the properties. But the 27-year-old preservationist was actually at the sale as part of a peaceful protest against the fossil fuel industry when he was randomly handed a bidder's paddle: No. 70. DeChristopher's staunch and inspiring journey after that fateful auction (which was later invalidated by incoming Interior Secretary Ken Salazar)
June 26, 2013 |
Researchers have unraveled the genetic code of a wild horse that loped across the frozen Yukon about 700,000 years ago, making it the oldest creature by far to reveal its DNA to modern science. Until recently, experts believed it was impossible to recover useful amounts of DNA from fossils that old. The previous record holder for oldest genome belonged to a polar bear that lived more than 110,000 years ago. The horse sequence, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, amounts to a dramatic increase in how far back scientists can peer into the biochemical history of advanced life.
June 6, 2013 |
A 55-million-year-old fossil of a mouse-sized primate has been identified as a crucial evolutionary link in the chain that led to apes and humans. Four inches long, with a 5-inch tail and protruding eyes, Archicebus achilles probably thrived for millions of years during a warm period of Earth's history, feasting on insects and leaping around in canopies of trees that surrounded a tropical lake in what now is China, according to a report published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
June 5, 2013 |
It's not the missing link between man and apes. But a mouse-sized tarsier that devoured insects in ancient China 55 million years ago could be a long-lost cousin who scampered in the treetops of tropical forests around the time the first primates arose in Asia, according to scientists. A team of paleontolgists carefully peeled apart layers of sedimentary rock containing the fossil, found in China 10 years ago. Then they took the two complementary sections, each of which had parts of the fossilized primate, and subjected them to a sophisticated X-ray technique at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.
May 15, 2013 |
Scientists have added two species of ape and monkey to the evolutionary tree, filling in a 10-million-year gap in the fossil record from a period when apes and Old World monkeys diverged. Fossil specimens of jaws and teeth, collected by Ohio University researchers in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania, date the primates to about 25.2 million years ago. Each was probably evolving separately by then, according to the scientists, whose work was published in the journal Nature. Rukwapithecus fleaglei was identified as a hominoid predecessor to the modern ape or chimpanzee, and Nsungwepithecus gunnelli was believed to be an early cercopithecoid, or Old World monkey, similar to a baboon or macaque.
May 7, 2013 |
Would Ice Age man understand us? It may depend on the words we choose. Digging through languages in Eurasia for "fossil" words that have escaped erosion over time, researchers say they have identified an ancestral language that existed as far as 15,000 years ago. This ancient language, described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may have given rise to several different language groups - including Indo-European, which boasts roughly...
April 17, 2013 |
They're big, they're furtive, they're weird-looking. You almost certainly wouldn't want to dine on one, since they're endangered and are said to cause digestive distress in people who eat them. But the African coelacanth is extremely useful in at least one way, said Jessica Alfoldi, a research scientist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. Because it resembles ancient marine ancestors, it's a beloved subject for biologists trying to figure out how land vertebrates' fish forebears first climbed out from oceans, some 400 million years ago. On Wednesday the fish became even more valuable for researchers, as Alfoldi and an international team of collaborators published a draft of the coelocanth's genome in the journal Nature . The genome, a record of the 2.86 billion DNA letter pairs that make up the strange beast's genetic blueprint, could help scientists answer a host of questions about land creatures' evolution -- for instance, how fins became limbs, or how animals developed placentas.
April 10, 2013 |
Scientists have discovered some of the oldest dinosaur embryos ever found - a rare collection of delicate fossils that offer an unprecedented look into the remarkably speedy early development of these enormous animals. The bed of Lufengosaurus bones and smashed eggshell, described in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature , may also provide some insight into the growth of birds and other dinosaur relatives. “There's nothing like this that has been discovered before,” said Luis Chiappe, a dinosaur paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, who was not involved in the study.