Meet Lingwulong, The “Amazing Dragon”

By Gemma Tarlach | July 24, 2018 10:00 am
Caption: An artist's rendering of Lingwulong shenqi Credit: Zhang Zongda

Lingwulong shenqi, a new dinosaur known from the fossils of multiple individuals, is a Jurassic surprise. It’s significantly older than other dinosaurs of its kind and is the earliest example found in China, challenging conventional ideas about the timing and spread of the four-legged plant-eaters. (Credit: Zhang Zongda)

Lingwulong shenqi, a newly described, 174-million-year-old dinosaur, is more than just another giant herbivore to add to the fossil record. Its age and location are unexpected, and upset notions about dino diversity and distribution during the Jurassic Period.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Scientists Claim They Found Bigfoot (The Brachiosaur, Anyway)

By Gemma Tarlach | July 24, 2018 6:00 am
Photograph from the excavations in 1998, with the brachiosaur foot bones below a tail of a Camarasaurus. University of Kansas expedition crew member as a scale. CREDIT Photo courtesy of the KUVP archives.

Found: Bigfoot! Or at least a brachiosaur foot that researchers nicknamed Bigfoot. A field researcher poses beside its partial remains in this 1998 photo. Foot bones are in foreground; vertebrae and other bones belong to a different animal. (Credit: Photo courtesy of the KUVP archives)

I don’t know about you, but nothing wakes me up in the morning quite like an announcement from a peer-reviewed journal declaring that paleontologists have found Bigfoot in the Black Hills region of the U.S.

Sooooo…yeah. Not quite. But they are claiming the dinosaur foot they found belonged to the biggest dino ever — which they nicknamed “Bigfoot.” Sneaky clickbait? Sure. But also some interesting science. Read on: The game is afoot.
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Neanderthals Really Were All Fired Up

By Gemma Tarlach | July 19, 2018 8:00 am
Production of fire was once thought to be a skill exclusive to Homo sapiens, but new research suggests our Neanderthal relatives could light it up as well. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Production of fire was long thought to be a skill exclusive to Homo sapiens, but new research suggests Neanderthals could light it up just as well. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Fire at will! Researchers present evidence that Neanderthals were just as capable of producing fire as early Homo sapiens were, sending another long-held notion of our species’ exceptionalism up in smoke.

I’m not just fanning the flames here: The question of whether our closest evolutionary kin used fire the same way our ancestors did has been a controversial one for decades, and its debate mirrors broader trends in paleoanthropology.
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Baby Snake Preserved In Amber Is Unprecedented Find

By Gemma Tarlach | July 18, 2018 1:00 pm
Remains of the earliest snake hatchling known to science were preserved in amber for 100 million years. (Credit: Ming BAI, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS))

Remains of the earliest snake hatchling known to science were preserved in amber for nearly 100 million years. (Credit: Ming Bai, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Snakes alive! Preserved in a piece of amber about the size of a small potato, a tiny snake hatchling — less than two inches long — is unprecedented in the fossil record. At nearly 100 million years old, the baby snake’s remains provide researchers with significant new information about the animals’ development and global distribution. But wait, there’s more…
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First Americans: Gault Projectiles Point To Earlier Presence

By Gemma Tarlach | July 11, 2018 1:00 pm
Stone tool assemblage recovered from the Gault Site. (Credit: Produced by N Velchoff ©The Gault School of Archaeological Research

Without human remains older than about 13,000 years, the best evidence for the earliest peopling of the Americas comes from stone tools such as the Gault projectiles, unique in shape, and other artifacts from a site in Texas. They represent previously unknown First Americans that pre-date Clovis, once thought to be the first indigenous culture in the New World. (Credit: Produced by N Velchoff ©The Gault School of Archaeological Research)

Amid a growing number of finds that challenge the long-held timeline of the peopling of the Americas, researchers get to the point: Artifacts found at a site in Texas, including projectile points of a previously unknown style, are at least 16,000 years old, pre-dating the conventional arrival date of First Americans. Read More

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Were Hominins In China 2.1 Million Years Ago?

By Gemma Tarlach | July 11, 2018 12:00 pm
Researchers say scores of stone tools from Shangchen point to hominins in China more than 2 million years ago. Shown here: some of the oldest tools found. (Credit: Nature)

Researchers say scores of stone tools from Shangchen point to hominins in China more than 2 million years ago. Shown here: some of the oldest tools found. (Credit: Nature/Zhu et al 2018, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0299-4)

Nearly a hundred stone tools excavated from multiple layers at a site in China point to hominins — our ancestors and closest kin — being in East Asia about 2.1 million years ago. The find is the oldest evidence of hominins outside of Africa by more than 200,000 years and begs the question: what species made them?
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Ingentia Prima: A Dinosaur Making It Big On Its Own Terms

By Gemma Tarlach | July 9, 2018 10:00 am
Reconstruction of Ingentia prima from the Late Triassic (205- 210Ma) of Argentina. Total length 8-10 metres. Credit: Jorge A. González

Ingentia prima, which lived more than 200 million years ago during the Late Triassic, heralded the gigantic dinosaurs that followed. Researchers say I. prima‘s surprising anatomical traits reveal there is more than one evolutionary path to greatness. (Credit: Jorge A. González)

Before their lineage reached its pinnacle, pun intended, with enormous, aptly named titanosaurs, the sauropodomorph dinosaurs — best known as those long-necked, whip-tailed, four-legged herbivores — started small.

The sheer size of the later behemoths of the Jurassic and Cretaceous worlds have made many of us puny humans wonder how they got so big. Paleontologists thought they had it figured out. But new Triassic fossils from Argentina say hang on, there is more than one way to go big, and our lineage did it first.
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Hunting For The Lost Dogs of the Americas

By Gemma Tarlach | July 5, 2018 1:00 pm
They are all dog burials from the Koster site in Illinois, dated c. 10,000 years ago. Earliest known dogs in the Americas. Photographs by Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology.

The earliest dogs of the Americas: Skeletal remains from canine burials at the Koster site in southwestern Illinois are about 10,000 years old. (Credit: Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology)

Their skeletal remains curled into sleep-like positions familiar to any dog owner, the 10,000-year-old canines found at a site in Illinois are the earliest known dogs of the Americas. Ever since they were unearthed nearly a half-century ago, the animals have been at the heart of a debate: Were the dogs of the New World descended from Eurasian wolves and then brought here by humans, or were they locally domesticated from American wolves?

New genetic research answers that question — and reveals what became of them.
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The Toddler Who Climbed: Hominin Foot Unique In Evolution

By Gemma Tarlach | July 4, 2018 1:00 pm
The Dikika foot is one part of a partial skeleton of a 3.32 million-year-old skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis child. (Credit: Zeray Alemseged)

The fossilized remains of a 3.32 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis child included a mostly complete skull and foot. The juvenile hominin foot retains traits of tree-climbing, surprising some researchers. (Credit: Zeray Alemseged)

At some point in the last 4 million or so years, our hominin ancestors climbed down from the trees and got grounded. The transition between arboreal and terrestrial was, like just about everything in evolution, gradual. For decades researchers have debated, often heatedly, which hominin species was the first to be fully bipedal, walking and running rather than climbing.

Today, great answers come in small packages: A rare, mostly-complete juvenile hominin foot reveals new and unprecedented details of the transition from tree to ground.
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The Earliest Horse Dentist Was Just…Sawful

By Gemma Tarlach | July 2, 2018 2:00 pm
Horse tooth

More than 3,000 years old, this tooth from a young horse shows clear signs of sawing. It’s one of the earliest examples of horse dentistry, which appears to have originated on the Mongolian steppe. (Credit: PNAS)

Out on the Mongolian steppe, where the horse remains the primary mode of transport, modern herders regularly remove certain teeth from yearlings to avoid potential problems. The herders typically use pliers or screwdrivers for the task. If that makes you squirm, you might want to stop reading — because archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of horse dentistry, and it’s even more cringe-inducing.

If you’re not too squeamish, however, read on, because researchers discovered not only the oldest patients but also how equine chomper care changed over time as the horse’s role in the ancient world evolved.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
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