Tag: Paleontology

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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Why Crocodiles Are Not Just Living Fossils

On bright mornings in the tropics, crocodiles haul themselves out of the water to bask in the sun. Like other reptiles, they rely on its warmth to help fuel their metabolisms. This might seem to be a vision from a prehistoric world: sluggish creatures unchanged for millenniums. But evidence is building that modern crocodiles differ […]

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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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Seeing Red in the Fossil Record

What color was T. Rex? What about triceratops or glyptodon? Until recently, the palette of prehistory was the sole provenance of daydreams, CGI artists or kids with crayons. Advances in imaging technology are bringing us closer to real answers. Over the past decade, we’ve learned that Sinosauropteryx’s tail was striped, and Microraptor’s head was blue-black […]

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A Billion-Year-Old Fungus May Hold Clues to Life’s Arrival on Land

Scientists reported on Wednesday that they have discovered the oldest known fossils of fungi, a finding that may reshape our understanding of how life first arrived on land from the oceans. Fungi are the invisible giants of the natural world, even if most people are only dimly aware of them as toadstools along a hiking […]

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