Fossil

Fossils Shed Light on Africa’s “Missing Years”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 3, 2003   View Article

A massive, ancient, rhino-like creature with two bony horns protruding from its nose and several species of distant elephant relatives are among a jackpot of fossils recovered from the highlands of Ethiopia.

The fossils help fill a huge gap in the evolutionary history of African mammals known as the “missing years,” shedding light on the origin and distribution of the famed beasts that roam Africa today.

Are Asteroids History’s Greatest Killers?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 20, 2003   View Article

Catastrophic asteroid impacts are gaining a credible edge over violent volcanic eruptions as the greatest killers Earth has ever seen, according to two pieces of scientific detective work reported in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science.

The first cataclysm in question occurred about 250 million years ago, when according to the fossil record more than 90 percent of Earth’s marine species and 70 percent of life on land perished. The event is known as the Permian-Triassic (P-T for short) mass extinction, named because it falls on the boundary between the two geological eras.

Frog Discovery is “Once in a Century”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 15, 2003   View Article

A frog species whose ancestors evolved in the shadow of dinosaurs has been discovered burrowing into the remote mountains of southern India, a pair of biologists report in the October 16 issue of Nature.

The blackish-purple living fossil looks like a bloated doughnut with stubby legs and a pointy snout. Its closest relatives hang out in the Seychelles, a group of islands 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) away.

Ancient, Lizard-Like Reptile Discovered

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 8, 2003   View Article

A pair of Argentine paleontologists have discovered numerous 90-million-year-old fossils of a new type of sphenodontian—an ancient lizard-like reptile thought to have gone extinct about 120 million years ago except for a few relicts that live today in New Zealand, the tuatara.

The fossils, including several well-preserved skulls, were found in the red sandstone cliffs of the La Buitrera fossil quarry in northwestern Patagonia, about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) east of Buenos Aires.

Why Did Ancient Britons Stop Eating Fish

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 24, 2003   View Article

When cattle, sheep, pigs, and wheat arrived on the shores of Great Britain about 5,000 years ago, fish quickly fell off the Neolithic menu, according to an analysis of human bones scattered throughout the island.

The research helps resolve a debate over whether the adoption of domesticated plants and animals introduced to Great Britain from the European mainland was a gradual or rapid process, said Michael Richards, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford in England.

World’s Largest Rodent: Buffalo-Size Fossil Discovered

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 22, 2003   View Article

The fossil remains of a giant rodent that weighed an estimated 1,500 pounds (700 kilograms) is helping scientists form a clearer image of what northern South America was like some eight million years ago.

Heralded as the world’s largest rodent, Phoberomys pattersoni looked more like a giant guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) than an oversized house rat (Rattus rattus) and it apparently flourished on a diet of vegetation, not scraps dropped on the kitchen floor.

Female Moa Birds Liked the Little Guys, Studies Suggest

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 11, 2003   View Article

Female moa birds had a sweet spot for the little guys, according to two papers appearing in the September 11 issue of Nature.

The research teams, led by scientists in New Zealand and England, applied a pioneering technique in genetic analysis that allowed them to determine the sex of extinct moa by analyzing nuclear DNA extracted from fossils.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach