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Paleontology

SCIENCE
October 28, 2004 | Robert Lee Hotz, Times Staff Writer
On an isolated Indonesian island, scientists have discovered skeletons of a previously unknown human species -- tiny, Hobbit-sized figures who lived among dwarf elephants and giant lizards as recently as 12,000 years ago. Experts in human origins called the discovery, made public Wednesday, of an extinct human species barely 3 feet tall the most important -- and surprising -- human find in the last 50 years.
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SCIENCE
October 16, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Scientists have unearthed the perfectly preserved remains of a 130-million-year-old dinosaur that provide a first look at how at least some of the prehistoric creatures slept. The small two-legged dinosaur was discovered in China, curled up with its head tucked under a forearm similarly to how modern birds sleep. The dinosaur, about 21 inches long, is of a new species, dubbed Mei long, which means "soundly sleeping dragon" in Chinese.
SCIENCE
October 2, 2004 | From Reuters
Fossils from extinct dogs show why bigger is not always better: Giant meat-eating animals died out because they relied too heavily on hunting other big animals, scientists reported Thursday. Smaller, quicker carnivores could vary their diet more, hunting small rodents and mixing in berries, roots and other food sources, said Blaire van Valkenburgh and colleagues at UCLA.
SCIENCE
September 25, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
A newly discovered fossil may be the remains of one of the first stealth hunters, a swimming reptile that could use its long neck to sneak up on prey and strike without warning. A resident of a shallow sea about 230 million years ago in what is now southeast China, the reptile hunted in murky waters. Its neck extended 5 1/2 feet, allowing its small head to sneak up on prey before its bulky body came into view.
SCIENCE
September 4, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Scientists have found a 16-foot fossil of a new species of fish-like lizard that swam the seas 160 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled on land. The ichthyosaur -- a giant reptile with fins and big teeth -- was found with about 10 other skeletons of creatures in a Jurassic graveyard on a Norwegian island about 1,000 miles from the North Pole. "We believe it's a new species of ichthyosaur," Joern Hurum, of Oslo's Geological Museum, told Reuters on Thursday.
SCIENCE
September 4, 2004 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
A chimp-sized human ancestor walked upright 6 million years ago, far earlier than other known species with a human-like gait, researchers reported Thursday. CT scans of the top of a fossil thighbone show that the creature walked upright. The researchers' findings, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, take the dawn of human gait back another 3 million years from "Lucy," who had been the earliest known prehuman to have walked on two legs.
SCIENCE
August 7, 2004 | Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer
The first look inside the skull of Archaeopteryx, one of the earliest known bird-like creatures, suggests that its brain was sophisticated enough to master the vagaries of flight. Paleontologists have long argued whether the 147-million-year-old creature, about the size of a modern crow, could fly. The new evidence, reported this week in the journal Nature, indicates not only that Archaeopteryx could fly, but that it must also have had many ancestors who could.
SCIENCE
June 5, 2004 | Robert Lee Hotz, Times Staff Writer
At a quarry in southern China, researchers have discovered the oldest known ancestor of all creatures that have a left and a right, a front and a back, a top and a bottom. A team of paleontologists from USC, Caltech and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology in China found fossils of a 580-million-year-old microscopic creature believed to be the earliest known example of a bilateral body form -- an animal with a complex, purposeful shape, unlike the animated blobs that preceded it.
SCIENCE
May 1, 2004 | From Reuters
Neanderthals may conjure up images of an uncivilized, brutish species, but they were surprisingly young developers, researchers said Wednesday. Although Neanderthals disappeared from Europe about 30,000 years ago, scientists at the French research institute CRNS in Paris have uncovered new details about them by studying fossils of teeth.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 24, 2004 | John Johnson, Times Staff Writer
Bob Ernst, a burly 67-year-old with shoulder-length silver hair, sweeps his arm across the treeless horizon. All of it, he says proudly, is his. The swath of landscape a dozen miles northeast of Bakersfield doesn't have much to recommend it. There's no water, no shade. The downy patches of spring grass won't survive the first heat wave. What makes this place special is not what's on it, but what's under it. This is Ernst's personal fossil farm.
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