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Croc Teeth Bite Fatal Wound into Dino Phylogeny

This line sounds serious: “We have pretty much erased the record of Triassic ornithischian dinosaurs from North America, Europe and worldwide, except for South America.”  This is what William Parker said about his find of a complete Revueltosaurus fossil in Arizona that upsets the leading story of the rise of the ornithischian dinosaurs (one of […]

Soft T-Rex Tissue Claimed Bird-Like; Age Ignored

More details about the soft tissue found in a T. rex thigh bone (see 03/24/2005 story) were published in Science this week.1  Mary Schweitzer’s team claims to have found evidence of medullary bone [MB], a type of mineralized and vascularized bony tissue found only in certain birds during ovulation as a buffer against calcium loss.  […]

David Attenborough Finds Living Fossil Tree Romantic, Not Devastating

England’s famous Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is getting a Wollemi Pine, and David Attenborough, naturalist and evolution popularist, is proud of it.  This “living fossil” was thought extinct for 200 million years, but was found alive and well a few years ago in Australia (see 12/15/2000 entry).     Grinning like a kid at Christmas, […]

Toothy Dinosaur Goes Vegan

The news media all pounced on a dinosaur fossil discovery reported in Nature this week.1  Dinosaur finds are ever popular, and reporters especially like it when an artist’s rendition is available.  Some outlets reporting the discovery of Falcarius utahensis, a previously unknown species “in the process of converting to vegetarianism from a rather more bloodthirsty […]

Missing Link Fish Story

Once upon a time, 450 million years ago, scavenger fish without teeth or bones roamed the shallow icy waters of Africa which was undergoing an Ice Age.  Slowly, over millions of years, they gained teeth and other structures characteristic of more advanced fish.  Then, a few thousand years ago, a lake in the (now continental […]

Giant Carnivorous Amphibians Found in African Fossil Deposit

Meat-eating amphibians shaped like crocodiles?  Be glad you didn’t live in West Africa 250 million years ago, say scientists at McGill University.  Two species were described, one with large and small fang-like teeth, and another with curved horns on the back of its head. The fossils didn’t come with dates on them, and since amphibian […]

Dinosaur Fossilized in the Act of Laying Eggs

Two eggs, with shell material still attached, were found inside the oviducts of a theropod dinosaur, a Chinese team reported in Science.1  This first-time discovery of intact eggs in the body of the female “suggests that theropod dinosaurs had two functional oviducts (like crocodiles) but that each oviduct produced only one egg at a time […]

Gorilla or Hominid?  Toumaï Controversy Continues

Michel Brunet’s controversial Toumaï skull (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) made the cover of Nature last week,1,2 but rivals contend it was not part of the human line.  The skull he found in Chad in 2002 (see 07/11/2002 and 10/09/2002 entries) was badly disfigured and needed reconstructive surgery, leading to criticisms that any interpretations were subjective.     […]

More Convergent Evolution Claimed for Dino-Era Mammal

A chipmunk-size mammal with Popeye-like forearms and beaver-like teeth resembling an armadillo?  That’s how the discoverers are describing the fossil they named Fruitafossor, a small mammal found near Fruita, Colorado and reported in Science.1  They think it dug burrows and ate termites.  Of special interest were the open-root teeth like those of the beaver.  Lead […]

Soft Tissue from Dinosaurs Found: Intact Cells and Blood Vessels

The news media are abuzz with exciting reports about the discovery of soft tissues recovered from a Tyrannosaurus rex bone; see CNN, National Geographic, BBC News, MSNBC and News@Nature for examples.  The soft tissue, analyzed from a thighbone unearthed in Montana, was reported by a North Carolina team led by Mary Higby Schweizer and was […]

Horse Evolution Is Back on the Charts

The old horse-evolution charts from the 1880s have been revised substantially since 1920 when paleontologists began to realize the story was not so simple.  (Thomas Huxley had used the series of O. C. Marsh as a focal point of his 1876 lecture tour in the United States.)  These charts portrayed small horses with three toes […]

Oldest Fossils Aren’t

A new analysis of the world’s oldest claimed fossil rock, a banded deposit off the coast of Greenland said to be 3.8 billion years old, probably contains no signature of life, reports Stephen Moorbath (Oxford) in Nature.1  He has visited the Akilia site twice where rocks were purported to contain graphite of biological origin.  He […]

South American Dinosaur Find Modifies Theories

A deinonychus-like dinosaur has been found in Argentina.  Representatives of this group, including velociraptor, had previously only been known in the northern hemisphere and Asia.  Since South America was supposedly on another land mass at the time, “The new discovery demonstrates that Cretaceous theropod faunas from the southern continents shared greater similarity with those of […]

Fossil Record Reliable, Study Says

A University of Chicago press release declares that the fossil record is reliable.  Susan M. Kidwell studied the record of bivalves as a function of their fragility and deduced that preservability of shells was only a minor factor in their observed abundance.  “In fact, if anything, variations having shells that seemed least likely to be […]

Can Evolution Repeat Itself?

A press release from University of Chicago reported today that “115-million-year-old fossil of a tiny egg-laying mammal thought to be related to the platypus provides compelling evidence of multiple origins of acute hearing in humans and other mammals” (emphasis added in all quotes).  The fossil apparently shows inner-ear bones in the monotreme lineage that supposedly […]
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