Siamraptor suwati: First Bitey Dino of Its Kind in Southeast Asia

By Gemma Tarlach | October 9, 2019 1:00 pm
A reconstruction of the predatory dinosaur’s skull based on partial fossils of Siamraptor suwati. (Credit: Chokchaloemwong et al., 2019)

Siamraptor suwati joins the ranks of predatory dinosaurs known to science — and it’s the first of its lineage from Southeast Asia, giving its discovery greater significance.

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MORE ABOUT: paleontology

First Americans Arrived More Than 16,000 Years Ago, According To Find In Idaho

By Gemma Tarlach | August 29, 2019 1:00 pm
First Americans artifacts from Cooper's Ferry, Idaho
A sampling of some of the scores of artifacts produced by First Americans at the Cooper’s Ferry site in western Idaho. Dotted lines along some of the tools indicate patterns of wear. (Credit: Davis et al 2019)

Stone tools, charcoal and other artifacts from Cooper’s Ferry, Idaho, are the latest evidence that the First Americans arrived more than 16,000 years ago — well before an overland route existed. It’s looking more and more likely the first people arrived via a Pacific Coast route.

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Oldest Australopith Skull Raises Questions About Hominin Evolution

By Gemma Tarlach | August 28, 2019 12:00 pm
Oldest australopith skull
At 3.8 million years old, this mostly complete cranium of Australopithecus anamensis is the oldest australopith skull in the fossil record. (Credit: Dale Omori, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

On Feb. 10, 2016, the face of a ghost emerged from weathered Ethiopian sandstone. The nearly complete skull, 3.8 million years old, was found less than 20 miles from the site where Lucy, the most famous of our distant evolutionary relatives, was discovered in the 1970s.

Lucy was a member of the species Australopithecus afarensis. This new find, however, was something different.

As paleoanthropologists analyzed the skull and compared it with other hominins, members of our family tree, two things became clear: They were coming face-to-face with a species for the first time, and it would challenge the traditional model of hominin evolution.

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Skeleton Lake: Genetic Surprise Deepens Riddle Of The Dead

By Gemma Tarlach | August 20, 2019 10:00 am
Skeleton Lake
Skeleton Lake, formally known as Roopkund Lake, sits at more than 16,000 feet above sea levels in the Himalayas. (Credit: Atish Waghwase)

At the mysterious Skeleton Lake in northern India, the dead are talking, revealing surprises through centuries-old DNA. And it’s not what anyone expected.

New research suggests the site is not the scene of a single natural disaster that killed hundreds, as once thought. Skeleton Lake’s emerging truth is far more mysterious. The human bones littering its shores appear to belong to people from across Eurasia, who met their end in multiple incidents spanning a thousand years.

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MORE ABOUT: anthropology

Unusual Parasites Plagued Bronze Age Fen Folk And Their Dogs

By Gemma Tarlach | August 15, 2019 6:00 pm
Parasites aplenty riddled humans and their dogs at a swampy site in Bronze Age England. From left: Microscopic eggs of a fish tapeworm, giant kidney worm and Echinostoma worm found in ancient feces from the Must Farm site. (Black scale bar represents 20 micrometers.) (Credit: M. Ledger, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University)

Around 3,000 years ago, people were going about their business in a marshy corner of eastern England known as The Fens.

These Fenland folk had just built their settlement over a slow-moving river channel, sinking wooden stilts for homes deep into the squishy soil. They had erected a wooden palisade around it all, creating as comfortable a gated community as one might imagine possible in a setting that was, well, a bit swampy.

Then, one day, less than a year after construction, fire consumed the entire settlement. The homes, the stilts and the palisade burned and quickly collapsed into the river. Of course, as soon as the flames hit the water, they fizzled out.

It was a terrible event for the people who lived there, and likely fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. But the settlement’s collapse, and subsequent burial in layers of silt, would be a gift to modern archaeology, preserving an incredible wealth of detail about how the fen folk lived.

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Cambroraster: Ancient Predator Looked Like Millennium Falcon

By Gemma Tarlach | July 30, 2019 6:15 pm
Artist rendering of Cambroraster, a predator from half a billion years ago. (Credit: Lars Fields © Royal Ontario Museum)

Half a billion years ago, Cambroraster falcatus was a bizarre predator of the Cambrian seas. As it moved through the water, enormous mouth and rake-like claws at the ready for its next meal, it cast a shadow on the seafloor reminiscent of the most famous bucket of bolts in the entire Star Wars galaxy: the Millennium Falcon.

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MORE ABOUT: Cambrian, paleontology

Ochre Engraving On Bones From China Oldest Symbolic Use

By Gemma Tarlach | July 15, 2019 3:06 pm
ochre engraving
Ochre engraving on a rib fragment from China is the oldest evidence for the material’s symbolic usage, say researchers behind the find (top: photograph; bottom: illustration). (Credit: Francesco d’Errico and Luc Doyon)

Two pieces of animal bones with ochre engraving, found in central China, are the latest evidence that members of the human family used the material to express abstract ideas much earlier than once believed — and much further from Africa.

Researchers studying the find call it the oldest such example of the symbolic use of ochre. At more than 100,000 years old, the discovery raises another challenge to the conventional model of human evolution.

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MORE ABOUT: human evolution

Long-Toed Bird Preserved In Amber For 99 Million Years

By Gemma Tarlach | July 11, 2019 10:00 am
A long-toed bird preserved in amber from Myanmar is the first of its kind. (Credit: Lida Xing)

Smaller than a sparrow, a bird that lived 99 million years ago in what’s now Southeast Asia had legs unlike any other avian. The bird’s hindlimb features one toe longer than its entire lower leg bone.

Lucky for paleontologists, a piece of amber has preserved the animal’s odd anatomy.

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MORE ABOUT: amber, paleontology

Apidima Skull Is Earliest Homo Sapiens Outside Africa, Say Researchers

By Gemma Tarlach | July 10, 2019 12:00 pm
The skull fragment known as Apidima 1 (right) is about 210,000 years old, according to a new analysis. Seen from the rear (middle) and side (left) in a reconstruction, the partial skull’s rounded shape shares a unique feature of modern humans. (Credit: Katerina Harvati, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen)

A scrap of skullcap collected in 1978 and stored for decades in an Athens museum may rewrite the timeline of our species leaving our ancestral African homeland.

A new analysis of the Apidima 1 fossil, named for the Greek cave where it was found, suggests it’s 210,000 years old, which would make it the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens outside Africa.

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MORE ABOUT: human evolution

Some Ancient Crocodiles Went Vegan

By Gemma Tarlach | June 27, 2019 10:00 am
This American alligator, like crocodiles and other related species, is a meat-eating power biter. (Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Someone says “crocodiles” and the image that comes to mind is probably a toothy one. Modern crocodilians are power biters, and many species are apex predators. But it wasn’t always that way.

Paleontologists believe that multiple extinct species preferred plants over prey.

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MORE ABOUT: paleontology

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