Fossil

Dino-era Mammal the “Jurassic Mother” of Us All?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 24, 2011   View Article

A tiny, shrew-like creature of the dinosaur era might have been, in a sense, the mother of us all.

Named the “Jurassic mother from China” (Juramaia sinensis), the newfound fossil species is the earliest known ancestor of placental mammals—animals, such as humans, that give birth to relatively mature, live young—according to a new study.

The 160-million-year-old specimen pushes back fossil evidence for the evolutionary split between the placental and marsupial lineages by 35 million years. Although it’s unclear if the creature is a direct ancestor of modern placentals, it’s “either a great grand-aunt or a great grandmother,” the study authors say.

Oldest Land Walker Tracks Found – Pushes Back Evolution

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 6, 2010   View Article

The first vertebrates to walk the Earth emerged from the sea almost 20 million years earlier than previously thought, say scientists who have discovered footprints from an 8-foot-long (2.4-meter-long) prehistoric creature.

Dozens of the 395-million-year-old fossil footprints were recently discovered on a former marine tidal flat or lagoon in southeastern Poland.

First Proof: Ancient Birds Had Iridescent Feathers

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 26, 2009   View Article

Just like modern-day starlings, some ancient birds had glossy black feathers with a metallic, glimmering sheen, scientists report in a new study.

The discovery is based on 40-million-year-old fossils of an unidentified bird species that were stored at the Senckenburg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany for up to 30 years. The fossils represent the first evidence of ancient iridescence in feathers.

Biodiversity’s winners and losers

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 17, 2009   View Article

There are winners and losers on the racetrack of speciation – the process of species splitting into new species, according to Michael Alfaro, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Los Angeles. He and his colleagues analyzed DNA and fossils from 44 major lineages of jawed vertebrates to calculate which ones have exceptionally fast and slow rates of speciation.

Armadillo-like Crocodile Fossil Found in Brazil

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 8, 2009   View Article

An ancient fossil crocodile coated in armadillo-like body armor was unveiled yesterday at an environmental museum in Brazil.

Dubbed Armadillosuchus arrudai, the newly described species of crocodile roamed the arid interior of Brazil about 90 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, scientists said.

New Dinosaur: Fossil Fingers Solve Bird Wing Mystery?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 17, 2009   View Article

The fossil hand of a long-necked, ostrich-like dinosaur recently found in China may help solve the mystery of how bird wings evolved from dinosaur limbs, according to a new study.

The ancient digits belonged to a 159-million-year-old theropod dinosaur dubbed Limusaurus inextricabilis. Theropods are two-legged dinos thought to have given rise to modern birds.

“Hobbits” Not Good Runners; Proof of New Human Species?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 8, 2009   View Article

Ancient “hobbit” feet contain clues that the diminutive fossil creatures, found on the Indonesian island of Flores, had a very different style of walking than that of modern humans, according to a new analysis.

“In several ways, their feet are what we call in the business ‘primitive,'” said study co-author William Harcourt-Smith, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The finding, he added, is further evidence that the 18,000-year-old fossils represent a unique species, Homo floresiensis.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach