Meet Your New Nightmare: Ancient Spider With A Tail Preserved in Amber

By Gemma Tarlach | February 5, 2018 10:00 am
The Cretaceous spider Chimerarachne yingi, found preserved in amber, lived about 100 million years ago and had some unusual features, including a long, whiplike tail. (Credit: University of Kansas/KU News Service)

The Cretaceous spider Chimerarachne yingi, found preserved in amber, lived about 100 million years ago and had some unusual features, including a long, whiplike tail. (Credit: University of Kansas/KU News Service)

There’s a new kid in town — in Creepycrawly Town, to be exact. But there’s much more to this leggy fella than nightmarishly good looks. A pair of papers out today detail how this 100-million-year-old discovery, preserved in amber, fits into the spider evolution story…and the ways it doesn’t.
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MORE ABOUT: amber, fossils, paleontology

Stone Tools From India: Another Blow To Human Evolution Model?

By Gemma Tarlach | January 31, 2018 12:00 pm
Thousands of artifacts such as these stone tools have been excavated from a site in India, revealing Middle Stone Age technology arrived much earlier than once thought possible. (Credit: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India)

Thousands of stone tools excavated from a site in India suggest that a sophisticated tool-making technology arrived in South Asia much earlier than once thought possible, say researchers. (Credit: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India)

A new study on stone tools from a site in India offers the latest challenge to the model of human evolution and migration that has dominated paleoanthropology, particularly in the West, for decades. The artifacts, which the researchers say were produced with a sophisticated style of tool-making, are hundreds of thousands of years older than might be expected. What does it mean? Well, that part of the story is still up for debate.
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Oldest Human Fossils Outside Africa Push Back Our Timeline…Again

By Gemma Tarlach | January 25, 2018 1:00 pm
Caption info here (Credit info here)

The oldest human fossils outside Africa, a partial upper jaw bone and several teeth, were found in Misliya Cave in Israel and may be almost 200,000 years old. (Credit Israel Hershkovitz, Tel Aviv University)

Time keeps marching on…backwards, at least when it comes to telling the story of human evolution and migration. The oldest human fossils found outside of Africa suggest our species may have left that continent 200,000 years ago.
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Meet Caihong Juji: The Shimmering Show-Off Feathered Dinosaur

By Gemma Tarlach | January 15, 2018 4:00 am
Here's a pretty thing: newly described feathered dinosaur Caihong juji had iridescent feathers, the earliest such example in the fossil record. (Credit Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum)

Here’s a pretty thing: newly described feathered dinosaur Caihong juji had iridescent feathers, the earliest such example in the fossil record. (Credit Velizar Simeonovski, The Field Museum, for UT Austin Jackson School of Geosciences)

Ooh, shiny! The newest dinosaur on the paleoscene is more than a little eye-catching: Researchers believe the duck-sized Caihong juji was rocking iridescent feathers on its head, wings and tail. If it was indeed so fancy, it’s the earliest example in the fossil record of such shimmering finery.
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Meet Vulcanops, Giant Burrowing Bat and Ghost of Gondwana

By Gemma Tarlach | January 11, 2018 12:13 pm
New fossil find Vulcanops hails from New Zealand, home of burrowing bats such as Mystacina robusta, which went extinct in the 20th century. (Credit Gavin Mouldey)

New fossil find Vulcanops hails from New Zealand, home of burrowing bats including the now-extinct Mystacina robusta, shown here in an artist rendering. (Credit Gavin Mouldey)

Where might you expect to find fossils of a giant burrowing bat, three times bigger than today’s average bat? Why, in St. Bathans, New Zealand, of course. Vulcanops jennyworthyae, which lived more than 15 million years ago, tells a fascinating story of a lost world.
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Amber Preserves Tick On Dinosaur Feather

By Gemma Tarlach | December 12, 2017 10:00 am
Hard tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. (Credit papers authors here)

A tick grasping a dinosaur feather preserved for posterity in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. (Credit Peñalver et al 2017, doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01550-z)

Turns out even dinosaurs got ticked off. A nearly 100 million-year-old piece of amber has preserved a tick latched onto a dinosaur feather, the oldest such preserved specimen of the parasite everyone loves to hate. Additional ticks found in related pieces of amber provide more evidence that the nasty critters were feasting on feathered dinos back in the day.
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Was The Thylacine Doomed Even Before Humans Arrived in Australia?

By Gemma Tarlach | December 11, 2017 10:00 am
Benjamin, the last living thylacine (as far as we know), photographed in 1933, three years before his death, at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania. Credit: Photographer unknown, Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin, the last living thylacine (as far as we know), photographed in 1933, three years before his death. (Credit: Photographer unknown, Wikimedia Commons)

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, went extinct in the 1930s after a concerted eradication campaign by humans. But a new study suggests that the marvelous marsupial native to Australia may have been in trouble long before then.
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It’s Official: Timeline For Human Migration Gets A Rewrite

By Gemma Tarlach | December 7, 2017 1:00 pm
The traditional story of human migration out of Africa to points north and east has been on shaky ground for years. Researchers in a new Science paper are finally calling for a revision. (Archaic Homo sapiens photographed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Credit Ryan Somma/Wikimedia Commons)

The traditional story of human migration out of Africa has been on shaky ground for years. Researchers in a new Science paper are finally calling for a revision. (Archaic Homo sapiens photographed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, credit Ryan Somma/Wikimedia Commons)

The wealth of new paleoanthropological, archaeological and genetic evidence has passed the tipping point: In a review published today in the prestigious journal Science, researchers acknowledge that the conventional timeline of human migration out of Africa “can no longer be considered valid.”

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Duck, Duck, Dinosaur! Meet Halszkaraptor, A Mongolian Mash-Up

By Gemma Tarlach | December 6, 2017 12:00 pm
No, not an escapee from the Island of Dr. Moreau. It's Halszkaraptor escuilliei, a newly described dinosaur with an unusual combination of traits. (Credit Lukas Panzarin)

No, not an escapee from the Island of Dr. Moreau. It’s Halszkaraptor escuilliei, a newly described dinosaur with an unusual combination of traits. (Credit Lukas Panzarin)

If it looks like a duck…it may be a curious new dinosaur, Halszkaraptor escuilliei. The Mongolian maniraptor is a mouthful to say and a, uhm, glory to behold. But the most interesting thing about it is how it apparently lived. Read More

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This Is Not The Yeti You’re Looking For

By Gemma Tarlach | November 28, 2017 6:00 pm
Photo caption here. (Credit XXXX)

A partial femur collected from a cave in Tibet allegedly belonged to a yeti, the infamous cryptid also known as the abominable snowman. DNA tests showed it was from a Tibetan brown bear. (Credit Icon Films Ltd.)

Researchers took another crack at hair, bone and other samples allegedly from the yeti, or abominable snowman, of the Himalayas. The analysis was the most sophisticated to date but — spoiler alert — the results won’t thrill cryptozoology fans. The study did reveal, however, an evolutionary plot twist of scientific significance.
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