Billion-Year-Old Fossil Fungi, Oldest Known, Revises Broader Evolution Timeline

By Gemma Tarlach | May 22, 2019 12:00 pm
fungi

A billion-year-old fungi microfossil includes the earliest documented presence of chitin, a fibrous substance found today not only in fungi cell walls but also arthropod exoskeletons and fish scales. (Credit: Loron et al 2019, DOI:10.1038/s41586-019-1217-0)

The fungus among us is a key player in the ecosystem — and was part of the world hundreds of millions of years before we were. Hold on, make that potentially a billion years before we came along. Fungi microfossils from the Canadian Arctic are 900 million-1 billion years old, pushing back the fossil record for these organisms by at least 450 million years.

This discovery is about more than the very distant evolutionary kin of mushrooms, however. The microfossils include the earliest documented presence of a fibrous substance called chitin, found in living fungi and animals as varied as insects and fish. The fossils change our story, too: Their age pushes back the broader timeline for the evolution of not just fungi, but also animals.
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Amber Preserves Rare Snapshot Of Coastal Life 99 Million Years Ago

By Gemma Tarlach | May 13, 2019 2:00 pm
Amber from Myanmar, dated to be about 99 million years old, preserves a rare snapshot of coastal life, including an ammonite (at right). (Credit: NIGPAS)

Amber from Myanmar preserves a rare snapshot of coastal life 99 million years ago, including a marine mollusk called an ammonite (at right). (Credit: NIGPAS)

Amber, being fossilized tree resin, usually preserves scenes from an ancient forest. The latest stunning find from Myanmar, however, is a souvenir from a day at the beach 99 million years ago, including the first ammonite, a marine animal, preserved in amber. Read More

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Was Australopithecus Sediba Our Ancestor?

By Gemma Tarlach | May 8, 2019 1:00 pm
Composite reconstruction of Au. sediba. For comparison, a small-bodied female modern H. sapiens is shown on the left, and a male Pan troglodytes on the right. (Credit: Lee R. Berger/University of the Witwatersrand)

Australopithecus sediba (center) has a unique mix of anatomical traits that has led to debate over its proper place in the hominin family tree. For comparison: a small-bodied female modern human (left), and a male chimp (right). (Credit: Lee R. Berger/University of the Witwatersrand)

Remember Australopithecus sediba? The convention-challenging South African hominin, announced with much fanfare in 2010, has gotten lost in a torrent of other recent fossil finds from our family tree. A new study adds insult to injury, stacking the odds against A. sediba‘s place in our distant evolutionary past.
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History of the Horse: Ancient DNA Reveals Lost Lineages

By Gemma Tarlach | May 3, 2019 11:00 am
Today's Icelandic ponies are among the last vestiges of a European lineage nearly wiped out by horses from Persia. (Credit: G. Tarlach)

The history of the horse is not quite what we thought: Among the findings of an unprecedented analysis of ancient DNA, today’s Icelandic ponies (above) are some of the last vestiges of a European lineage nearly wiped out by horses from Persia. (Credit: G. Tarlach)

In the largest-ever ancient DNA study of its kind, researchers have pieced together the history of the horse: It’s an epic saga sprawling across continents and 5,000 years of evolution and domestication, and yes, it has plot twists.

Among the finds: researchers uncovered two lost lineages of the animal on opposite ends of Eurasia and determined that the modern horse is very different than even its recent ancestors, thanks in part to geopolitics.
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MORE ABOUT: aDNA, evolution, horses, mammals

Hualongdong Skull Is Latest Challenge To Dominant Human Evolution Model

By Gemma Tarlach | May 1, 2019 12:20 pm
Researchers created a virtual reconstruction of the mostly complete Hualongdong skull (yellow) by mirror imaging the missing pieces (gray). Stone tools found at the site appear in lower corners of the image. (Credit: Wu Xiujie)

Researchers created a virtual reconstruction of the mostly complete Hualongdong skull (yellow) by mirror-imaging the missing pieces (gray). Stone tools found at the site appear in lower corners of the image. (Credit: Wu Xiujie)

A largely complete, roughly 300,000-year-old skull from southeastern China appears to be the latest evidence challenging the dominant model of human evolution. The Hualongdong skull’s unique combination of features make the fossil a tantalizing clue to East Asia’s diverse hominin history.
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Is This The Oldest Human Footprint In the Americas?

By Gemma Tarlach | April 29, 2019 11:28 am
Described as the oldest human footprint in the Americas, the impression, found in Chile, is 15,600 years old. (Credit Moreno et al 2019, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213572)

Described as the oldest human footprint in the Americas, the impression, found in Chile, is about 15,600 years old. (Credit Moreno et al 2019, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213572)

It may look more like the impression of a jellybean in Play-Doh, or excavations for a kidney-shaped swimming pool, but researchers say the find, at about 15,600 years old, is the oldest human footprint in the Americas — and the latest evidence that people were living throughout the New World much earlier than thought.
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Simbakubwa: Mega Carnivore Hiding In A Museum Drawer

By Gemma Tarlach | April 18, 2019 7:00 am
simbakubwa

Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, was the lion-like king of Kenya 22 million years ago. The enormous carnivore, not actually a feline, is known from recently rediscovered partial fossils, including most of its jaw and pieces of skull, that had been languishing in a museum drawer. (Credit: Mauricio Anton)

Take a polar bear. Take a lion. Mash them together and chuck them in a time machine, sending them back 22 million years to what’s now Kenya and you’ve got the massive carnivore Simbakubwa kutokaafrika. The enormous bitey mammal was identified only after researchers rediscovered partial fossils of it, forgotten in the backroom of a museum.
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Gobihadros: New Member of Duck-billed Dinosaur Dynasty

By Gemma Tarlach | April 17, 2019 1:00 pm
Gobihadros

A skeletal reconstruction of new dinosaur Gobihadros mongoliensis, based on multiple individuals including a rare, virtually complete specimen. (Credit: Tsogtbaatar et al, 2019)

Toothy tyrannosaurs and enormous titanosaurs may be the most dramatic dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous, but plant-eating hadrosaurs had the numbers. These widely-distributed animals, often called duck-billed dinosaurs, are among the most commonly found fossils from the period that stretched 66 million-100 million years ago. Yet the hadrosaur origin story remains a bit of a mystery. Today, a magnificent new find from Mongolia fills in some of the gaps.
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Meet Mnyamawamtuka: The New Tanzanian Titanosaur

By Gemma Tarlach | February 13, 2019 1:00 pm
Mnyamawamtuka

Its name isn’t the only big thing about Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, a new titanosaur from Tanzania rendered here with a whiff of whimsical romance, just in time for Valentine’s Day (“I bless the rains down in Aaaaaafrica…”). (Credit: Mark Witton)

Hailing from East Africa, the newly described giant, plant-eating dinosaur Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia lived around 100-110 million years ago, during the middle of the Cretaceous. The animal, a member of the titanosaur lineage, is helping paleontologists understand how, where and when the mightiest of land animals evolved.
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Bone Cancer In 240 Million-Year-Old Proto-Turtle Pappochelys

By Gemma Tarlach | February 7, 2019 10:00 am
Pappochelys rosinae lived during the Triassic Period, about 242 million years ago, and was an early, shell-free member of the turtle lineage. New research has identified bone cancer in a Pappochelys fossil. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Pappochelys rosinae lived during the Triassic Period, about 240 million years ago, and was an early, shell-free member of the turtle lineage. New research has identified bone cancer in an individual of the species. (Credit: Wikimedia/Rainer Schoch)

While many people think of cancer as a modern plague, researchers continue to find examples of tumors in animals much older than our own species. Discovery of bone cancer in a very early member of the turtle lineage, which lived 240 million years ago, reveals new information about the disease and just how long it’s been a scourge to living things.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
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