mass extinction events Environment Oceanography Paleontology 

The Forgotten Mass Extinction

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Yes, we are in a mass extinction event Recent research has spotted a new major mass extinction, termed the “end-Guadalupian (259.8 Ma),” according to a scientific paper in the journal Historical Biology. Previously, scientists knew of only five mass extinctions in the history of Earth: the end-Ordovician (443.8 Ma), the Late Devonian (372.2 Ma), the end-Permian (251.9 Ma), the end-Triassic (201.4 Ma), and the end-Cretaceous (66 Ma). Our current biodiversity crisis has been called the sixth mass extinction, but with these new findings it will probably…

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Paleontology 

Sphenodontian Fossil from Ancient Gondwana Found in Brazil

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) A new reptile fossil was recently discovered in Brazil, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports and describes the species Clevosaurus hadroprodon, which has turned out to be the oldest fossil of its kind from what was formerly Gondwana—the ancient supercontinent that split up into Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arabian Peninsula. The remains of the fossil, consisting mostly of the mandible and skull bones, were found in rocks that…

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Astronomy Chemistry Paleontology 

Exploding Stars and Life on Earth

By Brian C. Thomas (@DrBrianAstroBio) A massive star that exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago—a supernova—may have helped drive the megalodon to extinction and may even have affected human evolution. Research by an international team of scientists and I have produced the most detailed picture ever of just how such a scenario played out. We’ve combined observations from astrophysics and geochemistry with new computer simulations to explore all the possible effects that life on Earth may have experienced. We’ve found that ozone in the atmosphere could have been…

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Paleontology 

Did Plant-Eating Dinosaurs Have Cheeks?

By Ali Nabavizadeh (@Vert_Anatomist) Above: Comparison of previous head muscle reconstruction (on left, showing hypothetical “cheek” muscle) and new head muscle reconstruction (on right) in the horned ceratopsian dinosaur Triceratops. Modified from Nabavizadeh (2018). An animal’s anatomy can tell us a lot about how it lived, including how it moved, how it ate, how it breathed, and just about any other physiological process involving morphology. In studying modern vertebrates, performing dissections is essential for understanding anatomical similarities and differences between various species and what these comparisons can tell us about…

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Another Early Toothed Bird Raises Its Head Animals Paleontology 

Another Early Toothed Bird Raises Its Head

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg Sometimes what you seek is right under your nose. Using fossils found in the 1870s, paleontologists have pieced together the skull of a toothed bird that represents a pivotal moment in the transition from dinosaurs to modern birds. “Right under our noses this whole time was an amazing, transitional bird.” Ichthyornis dispar is a key member of the evolutionary lineage that leads from dinosaurian species to today’s birds. It lived nearly 100 million years ago in North America and looked like a toothy seabird—like a gull…

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Why Do Humans Have Thumbs and Not Fins? Biology Education Paleontology Videos 

Why Do Humans Have Thumbs and Not Fins?

Did you know we can trace the evolution of our hands, and thumbs, back to a 375 million-year-old fish called Tiktaalik? Watch this video with paleontologist and geneticist Dr. Neil Shubin to learn what a fish and a little blue hedgehog can teach us about the evolution of thumbs. This is a video from Dr. Joe Hanson’s It’s Okay To Be Smart series.     Tiktaalik is a 375 years-old fish with fins. When we look under its fin rays and take off the scales, what we find are versions of our…

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Vadasaurus Fossil Shows a Reptile in Transition Animals Paleontology 

Vadasaurus Fossil Shows a Reptile in Transition

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg A small fossil—just a foot long—is revealing secrets of how some land-dwelling reptiles moved back into the water. After studying the 155-million-year-old reptile fossil, scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the American Museum of Natural History report they have filled in some important clues to the evolution of animals that once roamed land and transitioned to life in the water. Vadasaurus, the Latin term for “wading lizard,” was discovered in limestone quarries near Solnhofen, Germany. The area was once part of a shallow sea that has…

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Ancient Teeth Raise Questions about Human Origin Archaeology Paleontology 

Ancient Teeth Raise Questions about Human Origin

ResearchGate The teeth are unlike anything ever found in Europe or Asia and will force us to reexamine the theory that humans originated from Africa. Teeth fossils were discovered near the German town Eppelsheim in a former riverbed of the Rhine. Due to sheer confusion, researchers held off on publishing their research for the past year—that is, until they released a preprint detailing the teeth today. We spoke with the study’s lead author, Herbert Lutz, to find out more about the work. ResearchGate: What’s so exciting about this find? Lutz:…

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Dinosaurs of Ghost Ranch Animals Paleontology Videos 

Shelf Life Video: The Dinosaurs of Ghost Ranch

Dinosaurs’ fossils have attracted paleontologists to the Badlands of Ghost Ranch, NM, since 1881. Here, they have found the best place to find early carnivorous dinosaurs in the world. This video is another in the Shelf Life series from the American Museum of Natural History.   After being unearthed, dinosaurs’ bones are very delicate, and paleontologists need to take really good care of them. Once they are safely brought to the Museum of Natural History, they are ready to be analyzed. By looking at dinosaurs’ fossils, researchers can figure out…

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The Art of Scientific Illustration Animals Paleontology Science & Art 

The Art of Scientific Illustration

By Shayna Keyles Twitter @shaynakeyles Instagram @shaynakeyles Scientific illustration is more than just cool artwork. It’s a way of conveying technical detail that other tools can’t provide; of capturing the complexities of organisms or fabrications that are too small, too far away, too extinct, or too difficult to dissect; of sharing intimate research in a globally understood language. Pictures of discovery Illustrations have always been used to track observations and inform others. There are drawings of animals in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc caves in France that date back 30,000 years and are…

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