Category Archive 'Paleontology'
09 Jun 2019

Still Snarling After All The Years

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Very neat stuff and good photos from the Siberian Times.

The severed head of the world’s first full-sized Pleistocene wolf was unearthed in the Abyisky district in the north of Yakutia.

Local man Pavel Efimov found it in summer 2018 on shore of the Tirekhtyakh River, tributary of Indigirka.

The wolf, whose rich mammoth-like fur and impressive fangs are still intact, was fully grown and aged from two to four years old when it died.

The wolf, whose rich mammoth-like fur and impressive fangs are still intact, was fully grown and aged from two to four years old when it died. Picture: Albert Protopopov

The head was dated older than 40,000 years by Japanese scientists.

Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History will examine the Pleistocene predator’s DNA.

‘This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved. We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance,’ said an excited Albert Protopopov, from the Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences.

RTWT

19 Nov 2018

Grand Canyon Footprints

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Live Science has an interesting vertebrate paleontology story.

About 315 million years ago — long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth — an early reptile scuttled along in a strangely sideways jaunt, leaving its tiny footprints embedded in the landscape, new research finds.

It’s anyone’s guess why this ancient, clawed critter walked sideways (although experts have several ideas), but one thing is certain: The animal’s prints represent the oldest-known vertebrate track marks ever discovered in Grand Canyon National Park, said Stephen Rowland, a professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is studying the fossilized trackway.

The trackway is so old, that it was made a mere 5 million years after the first known reptiles emerged on Earth, just as the ancient supercontinent Pangaea was forming. “This is right in that little window of the very first reptiles,” Rowland told Live Science. “We don’t know much about that real early history.” [Photos: Dinosaur Tracks Reveal Australia’s ‘Jurassic Park’]

The research, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented at the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Oct. 17.

The trackway — preserved on a slab of sandstone measuring about 3.2 feet long and 18 inches wide (1 meter by 45 centimeters) — contains 28 prints from the mystery animal’s front and back feet. A friend of Rowland’s first noticed the fossilized tracks in 2016 while hiking along the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail, located on the Manakacha formation in northern Arizona.

When Rowland visited the site in May 2017, the 2-inch-long (5 cm) prints befuddled him. At first glance, the track marks looked as if they were left by two animals walking side by side, “which is very bizarre for an early reptile,” he said. After lying awake at night, turning the images over in his mind, Rowland had an epiphany: The animal that left the tracks was moving sideways.

RTWT

15 Sep 2018

Antlers and Skull of Irish Elk Found in Lough Neagh

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Irish Times:

Fishermen Raymond McElroy and Charlie Coyle thought their nets had snagged on an old piece of dead tree at the bottom of Lough Neagh.

It had been a bad night’s fishing and when they ventured out to their nets on the lake at 4.30am, they found they had caught no fish, yet the net was straining.

It took two of them all their strength to lift the net from the lough floor. By the weight, they figured it might be a piece of a dead tree snagged at the bottom.

Instead, it was the perfectly preserved antlers of a giant Irish elk. Now extinct, this magnificent animal stood more than two metres tall and had antlers of up to four metres in diameter.

Though called the Irish elk because their skeletons have been found in the bogs of Ireland, they roamed across most of northern Europe, but died out 7,000 years ago in mysterious circumstances.

One of the largest collections of such deer is in the National History Museum in Dublin.

Mr Coyle said he got a fright when the two metre wide antlers came out of the water. “I thought it was the devil himself. I was going to throw it back in. I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Mr McElroy said he recognised straight away that it was the antlers of a giant Irish elk. The jawbone of possibly the same animal was recovered from the lake in 2014.

RTWT

23 May 2017

Settled Science

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16 May 2017

When Exactly Did Humans Arrive in North America?

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San Diego Natural History Museum Paleontologist Don Swanson pointing at a large horizontal mastodon tusk fragment.

Wired reports on a fossil find near San Diego from the 1990s that may completely upset the chronological apple cart.

In 1993, construction workers building a new freeway in San Diego made a fantastic discovery. A backhoe operator scraped up a fossil, and scientists soon unearthed a full collection of bones, teeth, and tusks from a mastodon. It was a valuable find: hordes of fossils, impeccably preserved. The last of the mastodons—a slightly smaller cousin of the woolly mammoth—died out some 11,000 years ago.

But the dig site turned out to be even more revelatory—and now, with a paper in the journal Nature—controversial. See, this site wasn’t just catnip for the paleontologists, the diggers who study all fossils. It soon had archaeologists swooping in to study a number of stone tools scattered around the bones, evidence of human activity. After years of debate over the dating technology used on the mastodon, a group of researchers now believes that they can date it and the human tools to 130,000 years ago—more than 100,000 years earlier than the earliest humans are supposed to have made it to North America.

The researchers expect a bit of controversy from a discovery that pushes back the arrival of humans in North America by a factor of ten.

RTWT

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21 Apr 2017

Compare

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16 Feb 2017

Oldest Venomous Critter on Earth

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Euchambersia is a genus of therocephalian therapsid that lived during the Late Permian, approximately 255 million years ago, in what is now South Africa.

Seeker.com:

The oldest venomous vertebrate yet found was a small-dog-sized early relative of mammals named Euchambersia that lived some 260 million years ago, according to findings just published in the journal PLOS One by scientists from University of the Witwatersrand (WITS).

“Today, snakes are notorious for their venomous bite,” said the study’s lead author Julien Benoit in a statement, “but their fossil record vanishes in the depth of geological times at about 167 million years ago. So, at 260 million years ago, the Euchambersia evolved venom – more than a 100 million years before the very first snake was even born.”

Euchambersia was about 16-20 inches long (40-50 centimeters) and trod the land of modern-day South Africa well before the dinosaurs. The animal has long been supposed to have been venomous, based on characteristics of its teeth and upper jaw, but the hypothesis had not until now been tested.

The WITS researchers used CT scanning and 3D imaging on the only two fossilized skulls in existence of Euchambersia. Sure enough, under the detailed examination they found the small creature’s anatomy had characteristics consonant with making venom.

The scientists found a deep, wide space in the upper jaw called a fossa that would have held a venom gland. It was connected to the canine teeth and mouth by bony grooves and canals. Finally, ridges on the incisors and canine teeth completed the venom delivery system.

Euchambersia did not deliver its venom in the same way snakes deliver their payload, the scientists found. While reptiles such as the cobras and vipers we all know and run from today inject venom through needle-like grooves in the their teeth, Euchambersia’s venom went directly into its mouth and the animal used the ridges on its canines to pass the poison to its victims.

Complete story.

12 May 2015

40,000-Year-Old Bracelet Made by Different Hominid Species Found in Siberia

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DenisovianBracelet

Digital Journal:

[S]cientists have confirmed that a bracelet found in Siberia is 40,000 years old. This makes it the oldest piece of jewelry ever discovered, and archeologists have been taken aback by the level of its sophistication.

The bracelet was discovered in a site called the Denisova Cave in Siberia, close to Russia’s border with China and Mongolia. It was found next to the bones of extinct animals, such as the wooly mammoth, and other artifacts dating back 125,000 years.

The cave is named after the Denisovan people — a mysterious species of hominins from the Homo genus, who are genetically different from both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

20 Mar 2015

Carolina Butcher

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Carnufex
Carnufex carolinensis

The Guardian has news of the discovery of a very large, bipedal crocodile which once inhabited the Carolinas.

Scientists have unearthed fossils in the United States of a big land-dwelling crocodile that lived about 231 million years ago, walked on its hind legs and was a top land predator right before the first dinosaurs appeared.

Transported back to the Triassic Period, what would a person experience upon encountering this agile, roughly 9-foot-long (about 3 meter-long), 5-foot-tall (about 1.5 meter-tall) beast with a long skull and blade-like teeth?

“Abject terror,” said North Carolina State University paleontologist Lindsay Zanno, who led the research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Climb up the nearest tree,” advised North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences paleontologist Vince Schneider.

The creature is named Carnufex carolinensis, meaning “Carolina butcher,” for its menacing features. It was a very early member of the crocodile lineage and was unlike today’s beasts. It was not aquatic and not a quadruped, instead prowling on two legs in the warm equatorial region that North Carolina was at the time.

16 May 2014

Ice Age Skeleton Found in Cave in Mexico

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HoyoNegro

One of the earliest examples of human remains ever found in the Americas, an Ice Age skeleton, 12,000 to 13,000 years old, of a sixteen-year-old girl was found in 2007 in Hoyo Negro, an underwater cave in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The cave also contained skeletal remains of saber-toothed tigers, gomphotheres, two species of giant ground sloth (including one previously unknown to Science), cougars, cave bears, coyotes, bats and other small animals. The girl’s skeletal remains were DNA-tested, and her Mitochondrial DNA identified as belonging to Haplogroup D1, one of five haplogroups typical of Native Americans.

National Geographic article & video

Current coverage was occasioned by the appearance of an article in Science.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

09 Nov 2013

Paleontology Cake

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Via I f*cking love science.

08 Oct 2013

“The Crows Were Very Large Near the Old Nuclear Test Sites in Eastern Kazakhstan”

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Actually, a model of a once real bird.

Hat tip to Steve Bodio.

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