TimeTree’s New Look At Evolution — And It’s Free!

By Gemma Tarlach | April 6, 2017 4:00 pm
Depictions of the tree of life have come a long way since this 17th century Russian take on it. (Credit Wikimedia Commons)

Depictions of the “tree of life” have come a long way — and changed in meaning — since this 17th century Russian take on it. (Credit Wikimedia Commons)

Who doesn’t love free stuff? I know I do. And a renovation of open access evolution database TimeTree is a treasure chest of data for the taking. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Olson’s Extinction: The Permian’s Dirty Little Secret Die-off

By Gemma Tarlach | April 4, 2017 6:00 pm
In one of Charles R. Knight's famous paintings, a dimetrodon (don't call it a dinosaur!) seems to be enjoying a last, lingering look at its environment before Olson's Extinction sends all of its kind packing. (Credit American Museum of Natural History)

In one of Charles R. Knight’s famous 19th century paintings, an Early Permian dimetrodon (don’t call it a dinosaur!) seems to be enjoying itself, happy and carefree, with no idea about the mass extinctions on the horizon. (Credit American Museum of Natural History/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s the mass extinction you probably haven’t heard about, because for a long time researchers have questioned whether it even existed. But a growing body of evidence, including a study published today, has strengthened the case for Olson’s Extinction — which played a role in our species eventually dominating the planet, for better or worse (mostly worse).

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

The Coffin Birth of Liguria: The Science Behind A Sad Story

By Gemma Tarlach | April 3, 2017 12:23 pm
The skeleton of a near-term fetus found in a Black Death-era Italian grave is evidence of a gruesome natural phenomenon called postmortem fetal extrusion, or coffin birth. (Credit Cesana et al 2017/http://doi.org/10.1537/ase.161011)

The skeleton of a near-term fetus found in a Black Death-era Italian grave. (Credit D. Cesana et al 2017)

For one unfortunate medieval Italian, the cradle was the grave. It’s commonly called coffin birth, though researchers use the terms post-mortem fetal extrusion or expulsion. And yes, it is what you think it is — but the latest case documented by scientists, from 14th century Liguria, reveals there was more to the story. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Black Death, death

The Touching Story of a Dinosaur Face

By Gemma Tarlach | March 30, 2017 8:00 am
A reconstruction of the face of Daspletosaurus horneri, based bone textures, reveals a host of details. (Illustration courtesy of Dino Pulerà)

A reconstruction of the face of Daspletosaurus horneri, based on bone textures, reveals a host of details. (Illustration courtesy of Dino Pulerà)

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but for paleontologists, reconstructing a dinosaur face opens doors into how it may have perceived and interacted with its environment — as well as some features it shared with distant evolutionary kin.

Researchers report being able to put a face to the name of 75-million-year-old Daspletosaurus horneri, a newly described member of one of Dinosauria’s most famous lineages, and discover the animal was the touchy-feely sort.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

WHAT?! A Massive Dinosaur Family Tree Rewrite

By Gemma Tarlach | March 22, 2017 1:00 pm
A new study about the relationships between dinosaur species blows up our base understanding of the dinosaur family tree. (Credit: Gary Larson/The Far Side)

A new study about the relationships between species just knocked down our basic understanding of the dinosaur family tree. (Credit: Gary Larson/The Far Side)

Ask any obsessive dino-phile above kindergarten age to explain the dinosaur family tree and it’s likely the first thing you’ll hear is that all dinosaur species fall into one of two groups. It’s a core concept upon which our entire understanding of dinosaurs is built. But according to a new study, we got that most fundamental aspect of dinosaur evolution completely wrong. Oops. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs, fossils

Earth’s Original Crust Still Hanging Around

By Gemma Tarlach | March 16, 2017 1:00 pm
New research finds bits of Earth's original crust in Canada, just north of the Great Lakes. (Credit NASA)

New research finds bits of Earth’s original crust in Canada. (Credit NASA)

Researchers who want to study the nature of Earth’s original crust find themselves between a rock and a hard place: Our planet’s top layer is constantly wearing down in one spot and building up in another, continents colliding or slip-sliding past each other in the great mosh pit of plate tectonics. You might have figured none of the early crust was even still around. New research shows you would have figured wrong. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Canada, geology

Sharks’ Missing Link To The Past

By Gemma Tarlach | March 15, 2017 10:17 am
A slightly scientifically inaccurate illustration from 1909. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A slightly scientifically inaccurate illustration from 1909. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

If, like me, you like fossils and you like sharks, you’re in luck. A recent re-look at a fossil found more than a decade ago has answered a big question about the story of sharks’ evolution.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Canada, fossils

NextGen Paleontologist: Egypt’s Catfish Hunter Sanaa El-Sayed

By Gemma Tarlach | March 3, 2017 11:26 am
Egyptian paleontologist Sanaa El-Sayed, shown here in the field, typifies the next generation of her field. Photo courtesy Sanaa El-Sayed.

Egyptian paleontologist Sanaa El-Sayed, shown here in the field, is the first woman vertebrate paleontologist from the Middle East to be first author on a paper published internationally — and her colleagues at Mansoura University are not far behind her. (Photo courtesy Sanaa El-Sayed)

Sometimes, paleontology is about looking forward. Sure, the field is focused on uncovering and understanding the past, but to continue to progress, like every other area of science, paleontology needs a constant influx of new and enthusiastic talent. And as more opportunities open up around the world for both academic studies and fieldwork, from Antarctica to the expansive deserts of Africa, the next generation of paleontologists are blazing new trails.

Here at Dead Things, I’ll be spotlighting these rising stars of the field in an occasional Q&A series, The NextGen Paleontologist. Today’s paleo-to-know: Sanaa El-Sayed, who’s making a splash for her description of an ancient fish from her native Egypt.

Qarmoutus hitanensis is the first catfish to be found at the famous Valley of Whales site, and it’s no small fry. Let’s just say that if you were fishing in the area back when Q. hitanensis was swimming around, some 37 million years ago, you’d need a bigger boat.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Woolly Mammoth DNA Mutations Piled Up Pre-Extinction

By Gemma Tarlach | March 2, 2017 1:00 pm
There's nothing but bones left of this mighty woolly mammoth, on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Credit: Ernie Mastroianni.

There’s nothing but bones left of this mighty woolly mammoth, now on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Credit: Ernie Mastroianni.

The extinct woolly mammoth lives on today as a regal symbol of the last ice age, a poster child for de-extinctionists and an occasional guest on HBO’s Game of Thrones. But new research reveals that when it made its last stand on a remote island, the species was a mess.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: de-extinction, DNA, mammals

Human Skull Fossils from China Have Surprising Traits

By Gemma Tarlach | March 2, 2017 1:00 pm
Leprechauns! Kidding. The vivid green chosen for this reconstruction of two partial human crania helps the images stand out from the background, the site where they were found. Credit: Xiujie Wu.

Leprechaun skulls! Kidding. The vivid green chosen for this reconstruction of two partial human crania sure does help them stand out from the background, a photograph of the site in China where they were found. Credit: Xiujie Wu.

The period about 100,000 years ago was a crucial one for our species — and a time not well represented in the fossil record. A pair of partial human skulls from Central China are helping to fill in some of the mystery, but their blend of archaic and modern Homo sapiens traits, as well as some Neanderthal characteristics, are also raising new questions.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Dead Things

Digging up the dirt on the latest finds and wierdest revelations, from lost civilizations to dinosaurs.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+