Tag: Paleontology

Colorado Fossils Show How Mammals Raced to Fill Dinosaurs’ Void

Some 66 million years ago, mammals caught their lucky break. An asteroid crashed into what is now Chicxulub, Mexico, and set off a catastrophic chain of events that led to the annihilation of the non-avian dinosaurs. That day began their furry ascension to the top of a brave new world, the one from which our […]

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How the Butterfly Discovered Daylight

Once upon a time, perhaps some 300 million years ago, a tiny stream-dwelling insect akin to a caddis fly crawled from the water and began to live on mosses and other land plants. Although drab in appearance, the creature had a glorious future: It would become the ancestor of the 160,000 species of moths and […]

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The Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Acidified the Ocean in a Flash

What happened to the dinosaurs when an asteroid about six miles wide struck Earth some 66 million years ago in what is today Mexico is well known: It wiped them out. But the exact fate of our planet’s diverse ocean dwellers at the time — shelly ammonites, giant mosasaurs and other sea creatures — has […]

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Trilobite Fossils Show Conga Line Frozen for 480 Million Years

You probably don’t think twice when you queue up at the grocery store or join a conga line at a wedding. But this type of single-file organization is a sophisticated form of collective social behavior. And as suggested by the children’s song “The Ants Go Marching One-By-One,” humans are not the only animals that appreciate […]

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It Had the Biggest Antlers Ever Found. Were They Weapons?

The antlers of the prehistoric deer Megaloceros giganteus inspire awe and bemusement in equal measure. They were the largest the world has ever known — up to 12 feet wide and five feet high — atop the head of a creature otherwise no taller than a modern moose. But when does such grandeur cross the […]

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What Was Kept in This Stone Age Meat Locker? Bone Marrow

Sealed for millenniums, Qesem Cave in central Israel is a limestone time capsule of the lives and diets of Paleolithic people from 420,000 to 200,000 years ago. Inside, ancient humans once butchered fresh kills with stone blades and barbecued meat on campfires. “It was believed that early hominins were consuming everything they could put their […]

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The Veterinarian Will See Your Dinosaur Now

Dinosaurs loom large in the human imagination, towering above the treetops, bringing down prey and reigning over the ancient land, sea and sky. In real life, though, things weren’t always so spectacular. A paper published last week in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B by Les Hearn, a retired science teacher, and Amanda Williams, […]

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Neanderthal Footprints in France Offer Clues to Group Behavior

A group of Neanderthal children scampered around the Normandy coast in France 80,000 years ago. Their footprints quickly became covered by windblown sand, preserved as ghostly signs of their passage. The tracks were eventually discovered by archaeologists working at a site called Le Rozel on the country’s northwestern shore. Carefully brushing away layers of sand, […]

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Why This Scientist Keeps Receiving Packages of Serial Killers’ Hair

Those fortunate enough to have a head of hair generally leave 50 to 100 strands behind on any given day. Those hairs are hardy, capable of withstanding years or even centuries of rain, heat and wind. The trouble for detectives, or anyone else seeking to figure out who a strand of hair belonged to, is […]

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Scientists Find the Skull of Humanity’s Ancestor, on a Computer

A single new fossil can change the way we think about human origins, but discovering it — deep in a cave or buried in rock — remains a daunting struggle for hammer-wielding paleoanthropologists. “It can take years and luck to find the right one,” said Aurélien Mounier, a paleoanthropologist at the French National Museum of […]

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How Did an Ancient Sea Turtle End Up Under a Dinosaur’s Foot?

Since the invention of the internal combustion engine, it has not been uncommon for broken turtle shells to turn up by the sides of highways, bashed by passing cars and trucks whose operators may not have even noticed. What is more striking is to find a version of this familiar story from 150 million years […]

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These Giant Parrots Once Roamed New Zealand

New Zealand today is home to a number of physically impressive parrots. Kakapos, the heaviest psittacines alive, are too chubby to fly. Sharp-beaked keas are strong enough to attack sheep and yank rubber parts off cars. Once upon a time, though, there was a prehistoric Polly in New Zealand who had them all beat. This […]

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Triceratops Skull, 65 Million Years Old, Unearthed by College Student, 23

Harrison Duran, a biology student at the University of California, Merced, had just been rejected from a summer internship when he received an invitation from a professor to go fossil hunting in a remote area of North Dakota. Mr. Duran, 23, accepted the offer. Just four days into the two-week trip, he was helping uncover […]

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Why Did This Extinct Bird Have Such a Weird, Long Toe?

Some 99 million years ago, a small animal with a weird elongated toe died and became partially entombed in amber. Its lower leg and foot remained undisturbed in the hardened tree resin until amber miners eventually discovered the fossil in Myanmar’s Hukawng Valley in 2014. The preserved toe measures less than half an inch from […]

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A Skull Bone Discovered in Greece May Alter the Story of Human Prehistory

A skull fragment found in the roof of a cave in southern Greece is the oldest fossil of Homo sapiens ever discovered in Europe, scientists reported on Wednesday. Until now, the earliest remains of modern humans found on the Continent were less than 45,000 years old. The skull bone is more than four times as […]

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Crocodiles Went Through a Vegetarian Phase, Too

Imagine you’re a small mammal of the Mesozoic. Snuffling around one day, you run into a cat-size, scaly, big-eyed reptile that looks not unlike a crocodile found later in the 21st century. Spotting you, he opens his mouth wide to reveal … tiny, intricate teeth. Then he turns his head and munches on some leaves. […]

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Fossils of a 12-Foot-Tall, 1000-Pound Bird Found in Crimea

Artist concept of Pachystruthio dmanisensis. Image: Andrey Atuchin Big Bird has nothing on Pachystruthio dmanisensis, a species of giant extinct bird that roamed the plains of Eastern Europe between 1.5 and 2 million years ago. This epic avian stood an astonishing 12-feet tall and weighed an estimated 1,000 pounds, making it by far the biggest […]

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How an Arctic Hyena Was Found in Canada, Then Lost, Then Found Again

This past February, Jack Tseng sat down in a warehouse room at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s research facilities in Gatineau, Quebec, to examine a pair of million-year-old teeth. Peering through a microscope, he studied their cusps and ridges. “Within 5 minutes, I could tell,” he said. These were the teeth of ancient hyenas — […]

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Out of Their Eggs, Into the Sky: How Baby Pterosaurs May Have Taken Flight

Modern nature teaches us that flying isn’t child’s play. Newborn birds spend their early days in the nest, and bat pups don’t take off for weeks on end, often requiring prodding from their mothers. But what about baby pterosaurs? Some researchers think the young of these flying reptiles that lived in the time of the […]

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He Was Looking for Opals. Instead He Found a New Dinosaur Species.

SYDNEY, Australia — Lightning Ridge is a town about 450 miles inland from Australia’s eastern coast, yet as he mined for opal there 35 years ago, Bob Foster would find remnants of fish bones and mussels. Forty feet below the surface, where water might have flowed some 100 million years ago, animals died and their […]

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A School of Fish, Captured in a Fossil

Fish can band together, sometimes in the millions, to form a school or shoal. They will move as one, like a flock of birds, so long as each fish stays in line with the fish that surround it. Modern fish, as well as other kinds of animals, already know how to move as one. But […]

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