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The Demise of the Neanderthal Species Concept

Can you call a population a separate species when it shares its distinctive characteristics with another species, and interbreeds readily?  A team of Romanian paleontologists, publishing in PNAS Nov. 3,1 re-evaluated some “poorly dated and largely ignored” skeletons of early modern human bones found in the Pestera Muierii region that, since 1952, had “never been […]

Big Bad Bird: Ten-Foot “Terror Bird” Found

What would a “terror bird” look like?  Imagine a ten-footer, able to disembowel you with a single kick and crush your skull in its jaws.  That’s what scientists from the Dinosaur Institute of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History described in Nature1 after finding the largest-ever skull of a flightless phorusrhacid (‘terror bird’) in […]

Fossil Lamprey Changed Little in 360 Million Years

Lampreys, fish that consist of little more than a mouth with a tube-like body and fin, don’t usually fossilize well because they lack bones and hard cartilage.  A small two-inch fossil lamprey has been found in South Africa and reported in Nature1 (see also National Geographic, Live Science and EurekAlert based on a press release […]

Wanted Dead or Alive: New Mammals

Do we know all our fellow mammals?  Further research has uncovered new furry creatures, fur sure.  Furthermore, some are dead and some are alive and well: Weird Tooth:  An “ancient mammal that defies classification” has been given a name, at least.  EurekAlert reported that Horolodectes sunae, found 30 years ago in Alberta, remains a mystery: […]

Oxygen YoYos and Wings

Molecular oxygen: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.  We breathe it in constantly or else we would turn blue and die within minutes.  Yet we take antioxidants because of the harm that oxygen radicals can wreak in our cells.  Like fire, it is a useful substance, but only when tightly […]

Precambrian Cell Division Imaged

Embryos frozen in stone in the act of cell division were reported in Science.1  According to a press release from Virginia Tech, there are millions of fossilized embryos in the Doushantuo formation in south China, estimated to be 551 million years old, but “later stages of these animals are rare.”  The EurekAlert version of this […]

Sea Monster Fossils Found in Arctic

The BBC News reported the discovery of over two dozen plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs (see 04/20/2005) north of Norway.  Skeletons of the large marine reptiles, completely assembled, were found buried in fine-grained sedimentary layers of black shale.  “Everything we’re finding is articulated,” said Jorn Harald Hurum, co-director of the dig.  “It’s not single bones here […]

Record Dino Trove in Mongolia

67 dinosaurs in a week: that’s what diggers from Montana State University found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.  The team effort was led by veteran dinosaurologist Jack Horner.  Most skeletons were Psittacosaurs, thought to be predecessors of the horned ceratopsids, like Triceratops.  Seeking to understand the developmental biology of dinosaurs, the team was less […]

Dinosaur Bone Hunting Looks Promising

With probably less than a third of dinosaur types known, prospects are good for a new generation of young people to find one of their own, reports News@Nature.  New finds in Mongolia, South America and China over the last fifteen years indicate the vast majority of dinosaurs are still waiting to be discovered.  The authors […]

Meanwhile, Back on the Dinosaur Ranch

Sid Perkins went on a dinosaur hunt in Montana this past July, and wrote up his experiences for the cover story of the Aug. 26 issue of Science News.  It was more personal diary than science.  Perkins talked about the teamwork, hard work, and the occasional thrill of finding a fragment of bone that the […]

Team Claims “Hobbit Man” Is Fully Human

The bones of Homo floresiensis that caused such a stir two years ago (10/27/2004) are human ancestors of the current population of pygmies living on the island today, not a new species, according to a press release from Penn State.  The individual with the small skull (LB1) suffered from microcephaly and the rest of the […]

Cambrian Embryo Fossils Show Exquisite Detail in New X-Ray Imaging

The news media are all showcasing the detailed color-rendered X-ray tomographs of Cambrian worm embryos from China.  Scientists were able to determine that these embryos, alleged to be 500 million years old, are very similar to those of modern, living priapulid worms.  Despite their assumed age, some of the embryos were remarkably well preserved, displaying […]

Opal Plesiosaurs, Flashy Pterosaurs and Hot Titanosaurs Inspire Stories

Paleontologists continue to dig up bones of fascinating species of long-lost animals.  When it comes to extinct species, the line between observation and interpretation becomes fuzzy, since there is no way to be absolutely sure how they behaved and what they were doing when they died.  This does not prevent scientists from freely speculating on […]

Is This Frog Marrow Really 10 Million Years Old?

LiveScience reported finding intact bone marrow from fossils of frogs and salamanders.  Without blinking an eye, reporter Ker Than croaked that the marrow is ten million years old.  He compared it with the intact soft tissue and blood cells found in a T. rex specimen last year (see 02/22/2006, 06/03/2005, 03/24/2005), and said, The discovery […]

Bear Tooth DNA Yields New Date Record: 400,000 Years

According to a story posted on Yahoo News, Swedish scientists found intact DNA in a bear tooth claimed to be 400,000 years old.  The team leader remarked, “It is usually hard to find DNA that is older than 100,000 years, and work on fossilized DNA mostly focuses on material that is a few tens of […]
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