WITH TROWELS AND paintbrushes, dozens of archaeologists in white hard-hats patiently sift the reddish-brown earth in the caves of Atapuerca, searching for remains a million years old.
From under strata spanning hundreds of millenia at this site in northern Spain, they unearth ancient mouse bones and the teeth of horses – but what they most hope for is a sign of prehistoric humans that could write a new chapter in our evolution.
Image: A reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, right, is contrasted to a modern human version of a skeleton in a display in 2003 of some of the finds from the Atapuerca caves.
Image: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II/PA Archive
Fossils from a quarry in a region of central Wisconsin known as Blackberry Hill show that the first footprints on land were made by an extinct arthropod known as a euthycarcinoid, and this occurred in the Cambrian period, roughly 500 million years ago. The authors of the study, Joseph Collette of the University of California – Riverside, Kenneth Gass, a researcher from Wisconsin, and James Hagadorn of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, published their findings in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
The suggestion that extinct arthropods had been walking about on land in what is now called Cambrian times is not a new one. Sir Richard Owen had published that idea in 1852, based on fossil footprints that he named Protichnites from Cambrian beach sandstone of Quebec.
A trove of 84-million-year-old fossils recently discovered in western Hungary belongs to what appears to be a family of a new mosasaur species. Mosasaurs are large crocodile-like reptiles from between 66 to 100 million years ago that, until now, scientists believed only lived in marine environments. The fossils belong to a species that paleontologists have named Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus, the first mosasaur species discovered to live in freshwater. The research team, led by Laszlo Makadi, a paleontologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, was excited to find not just one organism’s fossil, but a number of Pannoniasaurus specimens representing a range of ages. Finding juvenile specimens’ fossils is unusual in itself, but finding them alongside adults is even rarer, and tells scientists a whole lot about how that species lived. Makadi and colleagues believe that, due to the variety of ages of specimens, these Mosasaurs lived in groups with more than one family unit, and lived their whole lives in freshwater, versus arriving there later in life from a marine environment.
Please click "Like" under Ashley's and Lee's photo on Blue Bridal Boutique's Facebook page to help Ashley win a wedding gown. Ashley and Lee are both paleontologists. Also, check out Philip and Susan's great story on NPR's Storycorps.
Two years ago, I was having a really hard time finding the man of my dreams in Los Angeles. I dated actors and musicians--nice guys, but not the kind of gut-wrenching, long-lasting love that movies are made of. I'd heard about OkCupid.com, a free online dating website, so I gave it a try. I went on dates, but no one really understood my love for paleontology. I catalogue and identify 70 million year old dinosaur fossils for my job (I'm asst. curator of paleontology), so I needed a guy who truly understood and shared the same passion. Not having any luck, I expanded my OkCupid search from the Los Angeles area to the ENTIRE United States. Sound desperate? I spent an entire night searching OkCupid for any keyword that might lead me to my very own Dr. Alan Grant: "paleontologists," "paleontology," "dinosaurs". I was determined.
Biologists Philip and Susan McClinton started their life together, in 1972, in a very different place.
Forty years ago this week, Philip and Susan McClinton had their first date. Today, Susan is a retired biologist and Philip is assistant curator at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo. But when the two met, it was at a very different place.
The McClintons' story starts in 1972, at a topless bar in Fort Worth, Texas. Philip was a bouncer. Susan was there to compete in an amateur night, hoping to win the cash prize. To Philip, Susan was out of place.
"I thought, 'She doesn't belong in here,' " he recalls. "She didn't need to be in this place."
"At the time I had two children to support, so I needed the money. I remember at one point you said, 'I'll keep an eye on you,' " Susan says. "And I think that was the beginning of our relationship."
Philip told her he wanted to take her rattlesnake hunting. Susan thought he was crazy, but she went anyway. She loved it. "I thought, 'Hey, this is something I might want to do on a regular basis,' " she says.
Half a billion years ago, sea creatures fled from a terrifying new creature: a gigantic primordial shrimp with pin-sharp vision. It is one of the oldest known animals with compound eyes, the hallmark of modern insects and crustaceans.
Anomalocaris – the name means "strange shrimp" – is the earliest known example of a top predator. At 90 to 200 centimetres long, it was the largest animal in the Cambrian seas. It had formidable grasping claws, which allowed it to grab its prey and pull it into its mouth. Lacking legs, it must have swum in open water.
That raises a question: how did it find its prey? It had eyes, but all fossils discovered until now have been in poor condition, so we didn't know how well it could see. Now John Paterson of the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues have found a pair of exceptionally well-preserved eyes, 515 million years old, on Kangaroo Island off Australia's south coast.
"Anomalocaris had remarkable vision, rivalling or exceeding that of most living insects and crustaceans," Paterson says.
One of his sons pointed out what he thought was a ball in the creek below to his family. Once they got closer, John, who has an interest in archeology, noticed a marrow line at the top of the object, said reporter ABC5-WOI reporter Katie Eastman, who interviewed the family.
Check out The Evolution Store. "NYC's premiere retail outlet for science and natural history collectibles, artifacts, gifts, and home furnishings. Our store offers a museum quality atmosphere creating a unique and intimate shopping experience." They have a blog.
Paleontologists have long thought of the coelacanth as a stodgy old slowpoke: Two modern-day species of the fish—considered living fossils because of their remarkable similarity to ancient coelacanths—typically swim in a slow, almost dawdling manner. As a group, coelacanths had apparently kept the same basic body plan for hundreds of millions of years. But now, researchers have found fossils of a sleeker coelacanth—one that likely was a speedy, shark-like predator in the ancient seas west of the supercontinent Pangaea about 240 million years ago.
A quarter honoring a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Alberta back in 1974, the Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai., is being made available for purchase on April 16, 2012. It glows in the dark to reveal a likeness of the fossilized skeleton.
The species of Pachyrhinosaurus honored in the coin was named after its discoverer, Al Lakusta, who found the bone fragments while hiking around Pipestone Creek. He wasn’t aware of the coin until a local post office employee told his wife about it after reading about it in a brochure.
A miner has found a fossil from a shark jawbone deep in a central Kentucky mine and now it is on display at the University of Kentucky.
The fossil was found in February in Webster County, Ky., where 25-year-old miner Jay Wright was working to bolt a roof 700 feet underground. The 300-million-year-old black jawbone is believed to be from a shark from the Edestus genus that once swam the seas over what is now Kentucky.
Wright said in an interview Friday with The Lexington Herald Leader that his first thought was "Gosh, what is this thing?"
Jerry Weisenfluh, associate director of the Kentucky Geological Survey in Lexington, said a fossil this large is rare. It's now on display in the lobby of UK's Mines and Minerals building.