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Paleo-news archive: July-September 2006

Australopithecus afarensis skull
'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia
(Sep 21, 2006)

The 3.3-million-year-old fossilised remains of a human-like child have been unearthed in Ethiopia's Dikika region. The female Australopithecus afarensis bones are from the same species as an adult skeleton found in 1974 which was nicknamed "Lucy". Scientists are thrilled with the find, reported in the journal Nature.

Read more. Source: BBC

Neanderthal skull
Neanderthals' 'last rock refuge'
(Sep 14, 2006)

Our evolutionary cousin the Neanderthal may have survived in Europe much longer than previously thought. A study in Nature magazine suggests the species may have lived in Gorham's Cave on Gibraltar up to 24,000 years ago. The Neanderthal people were believed to have died out about 35,000 years ago, at a time when modern humans were advancing across the continent.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid impact
Fossils suggest chaotic recovery from mass extinction
(Sep 5, 2006)

Insect bite marks in ancient leaf fossils are shedding new light on how nature bounced back after an asteroid impact killed off the dinosaurs and much of life on Earth 65 million years ago. Plant and insect biodiversity is strongly linked today: Where there are many types of plants, there are many insects to eat them. But after the mass extinction, the devastated plant and insect populations might not have been so in sync, according to a new study.

Read more. Source:

early toothed whale
Ancient whale 'truly weird'
(Aug 16, 2006)

A 25-million-year-old whale fossil from southeastern Australia has revealed a bizarre early type of 'baleen' whale. The creature was an ancient cousin of our modern blue whales and humpbacks, but it was hardly a gentle giant of the sea. Instead it was small and predatory, with enormous eyes and teeth.

Read more. Source: Nature

Flying reptile mystery 'solved'
(Jul 27, 2006)

UK scientists say they have solved the mystery of why prehistoric flying reptiles grew crests on their heads. A rare skull specimen found in Brazil shows the crest appeared at puberty, suggesting it was used to attract attention from the opposite sex. University of Portsmouth experts say pterosaurs, which ruled the air during the time of the dinosaurs, flaunted their headgear in sexual displays.

Read more. Source: BBC

fossilized frog
Fossil frogs yield 'soft tissues'
(Jul 27, 2006)

Scientists have extracted marrow from the bones of frogs and salamanders that died 10 million years ago in the muddy swamps of north-eastern Spain. The first fossilised bone marrow known to science provides a rare insight into the make-up of prehistoric animals.

Read more. Source: BBC

Geneticists shoot for Neanderthal genome in two years
(Jul 21, 2006)

We have the modern human genome. Now researchers are set to sequence the DNA of our extinct cousins: Neanderthal man. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in collaboration with 454 Life Sciences Corporation, in Branford, Connecticut, today announce a plan to have a first draft of the Homo neanderthalensis genome within two years.

Read more. Source: Nature

The bigger the dinosaur, the hotter its blood
(Jul 11, 2006)

The debate over whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded like modern reptiles, or warm-blooded like us, may finally have been settled. According to some elegant biophysics, they were both – depending on how big they were. Dinosaurs were built like reptiles, so scientists originally assumed they were “cold-blooded”, seeking or avoiding sunlight to control their temperature as modern reptiles do.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Newfound reptile swam in dinosaur era
(Jul 10, 2006)

Scientists have identified a new species of ancient aquatic reptile that swam the seas when dinosaurs still ruled the Earth. Dubbed Umoonasaurus, the creature lived in waters off the coast of what is now Australia 115 million years ago, when the continent was located much closer to Antarctica than it is now.

Read more. Source:

Woolly mammoths had both dark and light coats
Gene reveals mammoth coat colour
(Jul 6, 2006)

The coat colour of mammoths that roamed the Earth thousands of years ago has been determined by scientists. Some of the curly tusked animals would have sported dark brown coats, while other had pale ginger or blond hair. The information was extracted from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth bone from Siberia using the latest genetic techniques.

Read more. Source: BBC


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