You’re a four legged invertebrate lived on land but walked about in water laden areas, now you’re currently a favourite of palaeontologists
‘everywhere’ and they call you a tetrapod! You’re popular because you’ve left you’re footprints all-over and they’re easy to find!
Early tri-assic reptiles were well suited to the delta systems and there were fewer creatures, (probably due to the recent ‘largest mass
extinction event’) to stir up sediment and interrupt the swim track forming process, providing enthusiasts of sedimentological and
stratigraphic processes lots of data to analyse.
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After a decade of investigating Amazon bone beds, labelled mega-wetlands by John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History
researchers have found the largest number of crocodile species in one area ever (so far). One croc, Gnatusuchus(circa 13 millions years
ago) had a stubbier nose and is thought to have searched for food by shovelling its head into the mud for molluscs and other creatures.
Have you peeped at the fossil calibration database yet? Team leader Dr. Ksepka says “This new resource will provide the crucial fossil data needed to calibrate ‘molecular clocks’ which can reveal the ages of plant and animal groups that lack good fossil records. When did groups like songbirds, flowering plants, or sea turtles evolve? What natural events were occurring that may have had an impact? Precisely tuning the molecular clock with fossils is the best way we have to tell evolutionary time.” fossilcalibrations.org
Surprisingly the hippopotamus’s ancient relative 35 million years ago was one of the first mammals to establish themselves in Africa. A significant find in the Lake Turkana basin, Kenya of a new fossil species has ‘filled the gap’ Epirigenys lokonensis belongs to a new genus, Epiri is a transition between the oldest hippo fossil record with an anthracothere lineage and their closed living relatives, the cetaceans,
whales, porpoises & dolphins etc.
When oxygen became a significant part of the earth’s atmosphere(some time ago) it affected the preservation of microbial fossils in the rock record. Researchers have shown that microbial structures embedded in iron minerals are preserved under pressure and temperature conditions that occur during rock formation, ‘twisted stalks’ created by microaerophilic Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria highlight areas of high iron and low oxygen.
Using microbial mat samples from a German silver mine, researchers duplicated pressure & temperature conditions for rock creation, using confocal laser microscopy, electron microscopy with synchrotron techniques at the Swiss and Canadian Lightsource laboratories the morphology of microbial twisted structures and organic material is shown to be preserved.
The New Phytologist Journal has published an article regarding how plants have managed to adapt through the mass extinction events the earth has endured. Studying more than 20 000 plant fossils researchers found that flowering plants were impacted the least where
gymnosperms(pines & firs etc.) lost a great deal of diversity following an event. The angiosperms (flowering plants) actually experienced an accelerated diversity following such an occurrence.
A few old rocks dated to 2.75 to 3.2 billion years ago from South Africa & Australia were studied and subsequently were shown to provide evidence of complicated enzymes based on molybdenum, which is unusual because at the time oxygen was not around, unless it was produced by a microbial life form. Lead on the project Eva Stüeken will now focus on the impact of trace metals on early life.
Only seen a woolly mammoth picture? well scientists have recently inserted partial woolly mammoth dna into an Asian elephant in an attempt to see if the ‘dna’ behaves normally, then they could eventually transfer a lot more dna and perhaps recreate the beast.
Fossil LD 350-1 or more memorably the earliest ever human ancestral fossil has been dated to 2.8 - 2.75 Million years old, the find from the Afar region of Ethiopia has under gone comprehensive dating including radiometric analysis of volcanic ash above and below the location. Other fossil finds in the area suggest grass, shrub lands with rivers and trees. More research is anticipated in order to discover potential triggers for the evolution of Homo & modern humans.
Continuing the topic, the oldest European / Asian Neanderthal skeleton has been dated to approximately 130 000 - 170 000 years
old, nicknamed Altamura man discovered ‘tangled up’ among stalactites in an Italian cave in the nineties, only recently had some
DNA extracted and dated. However the cagey Neanderthal isn’t giving up any more secrets, scientists hope that the next generation of DNA sequencing technology will be able to deduce the fossils genome.
200 million years ago an amphibian with crocodile & salamander traits was thought to of been one of the top predators, Metoposaurus algarvensis from a dried lake bed in Portugal where it was amongst many bone remains of creatures left after the waters had receded.
Lots of teeth and up to 2m in length helped the creature be on top of the food chain although most of the larger amphibians died out at the end of the Triassic Period. The famed Canadian Burgess Shale fossil deposit in Canada has yielded a new marine species - Yawunik kootenayi, providing an insight to the first arthropods (lobster & spider relatives), researchers used a fossil imagery technique known as elemental mapping which analyses the atomic composition of the fossil and surrounding material. The creature approximately 15cm
(6”) long had two pairs of eyes and could grasp its prey.
The Hong Kong Global Geopark of China is the location for a 147 million-year-old Jurassic period fossil fish, the 4cm section of fossil has been identified as a osteoglossoid osteoglossomorph from the Paralycoptera genus.
The last vertebrate fossil to be identified from the region was a placodermwas discovered 35 years ago and dated to 370 million years old.
Two oviraptors found buried together in the Gobi desert of Mongolia have been closely studied with the intention of proving that the species used long tail feathers in mating rituals.
One of the pair (nicked named Romeo & Juliet) had enhanced and shape tail bones to support larger muscles which would allow the creature to perform a tail feather display much like peacocks and turkeys of today.
University of Alberta researchers are convinced that this was the use for the oviraptors tail feathers which simply wouldn’t have been practical for any attempted flight. Also examining the tail bones of other ‘birds’ could help with identifying their sex.
A m b e r once again has shown use a first, a 100 million year old 6mm fossil was found with a cocoon containing up to 60 eggs. The female scale insert is the oldest demonstrative evidence for brood care to date. The fossil example was dated by using the radiometric
uranium-lead dating technique, originating from Myanmar and named after a the Buddhist earth Goddess and Polish entomologist Jan Koteja.
Further research on the Peabody museum mosasaurs has shown that the potentially 50 foot long creature gave birth to its young at sea, originally miss-identified the 65 million old fossils collected some 100 years ago were thought to have been marine birds.
The south American Llallawavis scagliai or more commonly known ‘terror bird’, a flightless creature which was a dominating predator approximately 3.5 million years ago now has a voice, a superbly comprehensive specimen (over 90% in tact) enabled researchers to study hearing and voice characteristics. They believe that the creature communicated via low frequency sounds and also listened for prey.
Researchers studying Daspletosaurus’s a Tyrannosaurus relative, from Canada have determined that the creatures sustained injuries from attack from other Daspletosaurus’s. Specimens were found with damaged and tooth marked skulls, although not thought to be life threatening at the time but demonstrated conflict among the species. Further examples showed that the creatures also scavenged upon their own kind.
Still in Canada at the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, a new arthropod has been discovered well preserved. The 508 million years old lobster related predator’s frontal appendage had a sensory function along with lots of teeth.
If you’re not so knowledgeable on dinosaur names you might recall with childhood fondness the term Brontosaurus, however the name was banished some time ago and the ‘dinosaur’ was grouped under Apatosaurus because at the time “they were virtually the same”.
Well as “new” species are frequently discovered you’ll smile knowing that recent studies are suggesting that Brontosaurus is actually a different species from Apatosaurus and should be recognised as such.
Just when all the kids’ dinosaur books now mention Apatosaurus. Still we’re sure the Bronto is back!
A Japanese delphinid fossil first discovered in 1977 named Stenella kabatensis has been renamed Eodelphinus kabatensis by researchers who now date the find to 13 - 8.5 million years ago.
This is now the earliest known dolphin species by circa 5 million years earlier than first thought.
Another controversial find is an early angiosperm or flower(Euanthus panii), the fossil sample collected some 40 years ago is thought to be from the Jurassic period which suggests it’s the earliest known flower according to researchers at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and
Paleontology in China. However other paleobotanists are sceptical and suggest that stronger supporting evidence is required.
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