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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Dinosaur Relative Antarctanax Lived In Antarctica After Biggest Mass Extinction

By Gemma Tarlach | January 31, 2019 2:01 am
“The midnight sun over Early Triassic Antarctica.” Along the banks of a river, three archosaur inhabitants of the denseVoltziaconifer forest cross paths:Antarctanax shackletonisneaks up on an early titanopetraninsect,Prolacertalazes on a log, and an enigmatic large archosaur pursues two unsuspecting dicynodonts,Lystrosaurus maccaigi.© Adrienne Stroup, Field Museum

In the wake of the end-Permian mass extinction, the greatest die-off known, Antarctica was a land of rivers and lush conifer forests teeming with animals, as shown in this artist rendering of newly described Antarctanax shackletoni on the hunt (foreground). (Credit: Adrienne Stroup/Field Museum)

A dinosaur relative about the size of an iguana, which lived at the bottom of the world 250 million years ago, is throwing paleontologists for a loop. Antarctanax shackletoni, named for explorer Ernest Shackleton, hints at unexpected biodiversity on the now-frozen continent of Antarctica.
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Denisova Cave: New Fossils And Dates For Human Presence

By Gemma Tarlach | January 30, 2019 12:00 pm
Bone points and pierced teeth from the early Upper Palaeolithic layers of Denisova Cave sampled for radiocarbon dating Credit: Katerina Douka

Researchers sampled these Denisova Cave artifacts — bone points and pierced teeth — and fossils to determine a more precise timeline for hominins using the site. The Siberian cave has been home to Neanderthals as well as Denisovans, our enigmatic evolutionary cousins. (Credit: Katerina Douka)

Nestled in the foothills of southern Siberia’s Altai Mountains, Denisova Cave has yielded numerous artifacts, as well as fossils of many animals and at least two hominins: Neanderthals and Denisovans. The cave is the only place in the world known to have remains of the Denisovans, who, like Neanderthals, were our close evolutionary cousins.

The site is one of the most significant for understanding human evolution, but study of it has been hampered by difficulty dating the finds. Today, a pair of papers reveal new Denisovan fossils, scores of new dates and a refined timeline for a hominin presence at the cave: important steps in untangling the complicated role it has played in the human story.
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Fossil Shark Teeth Found With Sue The T. Rex Are Clues To Ecosystem

By Gemma Tarlach | January 21, 2019 7:00 am
Fossil shark teeth found near the famous T. rex known as Sue led to the identification of new species Galagadon nordquistae. (Credit: Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum)

Fossil shark teeth found near the famous T. rex known as Sue led to the identification of new species Galagadon nordquistae, shown here in an artist rendering. (Credit: Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum)

Tiny fossil shark teeth trapped in the matrix — that’s the matrix of rock and other material that once encased the world’s most famous T. rex — represent a new species. The find is helping researchers recreate a Cretaceous environment that might not be what you’d expect. Read More

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Ancient Whale Basilosaurus Isis Was Head-Chomping Apex Predator

By Gemma Tarlach | January 9, 2019 1:00 pm
basilosaurus

About 37 million years ago, the ancient whale Basilosaurus isis ruled the seas as an apex predator, according to new research. (Credit: Asmoth/Wikimedia Commons)

Analysis of its fossilized stomach contents suggests that Basilosaurus isis, an ancient whale that could grow to more than 50 feet long, swam at the top of the food chain and took its prey by the head. The new findings challenge previous suggestions that the formidable animal was a scavenger and suggest instead that it may have had orca-like behavior. Read More

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Meet Saltriovenator: Oldest Known Big Predatory Dinosaur

By Gemma Tarlach | December 19, 2018 6:00 am
Saltriovenator was likely covered with filamentous protoplumage. The presence of horns on the lacrymal and nasal bones is inferred from its close kinship with dinosaurs which possess those cranial onamentation. Credit: Davide Bonadonna.

An artist’s rendering of Saltriovenator includes filamentous protoplumage and horns, the latter suggested by its evolutionary links to species with similar ornamentation. (Credit: Davide Bonadonna)

Paleontologists working in northern Italy have announced the oldest large-size predatory dinosaur known to the fossil record. Saltriovenator zanellai weighed about a ton and, at nearly 200 million years old, predates more famous megapredators by at least 25 million years.

Saltriovenator’s bones are also the first dinosaur remains to preserve evidence of marine animals that gnawed on its carcass. The biggest thing about S. zanellai, however, may be its hands: The animal’s fingers could solve a long-running debate about how bird wings evolved.  Read More

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