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Paleo-news archive: January-March 2009

Hesperonychus claw
Canadian dig yields tiny dinosaur
(Mar 17, 2009)

The smallest meat-eating dinosaur yet to be found in North America has been identified from six tiny pelvic bones. Hesperonychus was the size of a small-chicken, and used its rows of serrated teeth to feed on insects, experts say. The bird-like creature is closely related to Microraptor – a tiny feathered dinosaur discovered in China.

Read more. Source: BBC

Norwegian fossil hunters unearth a Jurassic sea monster
(Mar 16, 2009)

The remains of a giant meat-eating sea monster that patrolled the oceans during the reign of the dinosaurs have been unearthed on an island in the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Norwegian fossil hunters recovered the rear half of the formidable reptile's skull in south-west Spitsbergen in what has been described as one of the most significant Jurassic discoveries ever made.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Ileret footprint. Image credit: M. Bennett
Earliest 'human footprints' found
(Feb 27, 2009)

The earliest footprints showing evidence of modern human foot anatomy and gait have been unearthed in Kenya. The 1.5-million-year-old footprints display signs of a pronounced arch and short, aligned toes, in contrast to older footprints. The size and spacing of the Kenyan markings – attributed to Homo erectus – reflect the height, weight, and walking style of modern humans.

Read more. Source: BBC

prehistoric fish. Artwork: Peter Fisher
Fish fossil clue to origin of sex
(Feb 26, 2009)

A fossil fish from Australia was one of the earliest known vertebrates to reproduce by fertilising eggs inside the female, a study suggests. Nature journal says the ancient fish was carrying a 5cm-long embryo. The fertilisation of eggs by sperm outside the mother's body – external fertilisation – is thought to have evolved before copulation.

Read more. Source: BBC

Neanderthal skull
First draft of Neanderthal genome
(Feb 12, 2009)

The "first draft" of a complete Neanderthal genome has been sequenced from fossils found in Croatia. The DNA shows no signs that humans and Neanderthals interbred, say researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute. Our closest ancestors may have been able to speak as well as us, said the project director, Prof Svante Paabo, at a science meeting in Chicago.

Read more. Source: BBC

Rocks in Oman containing the oldest known animal fossils. Image credit: D. Fike
Ancient sponges leave their mark
(Feb 5, 2009)

Traces of animal life have been found in rocks dating back 635 million years. The evidence takes the form of chemical markers that are highly distinctive of sponges when they die and their bodies break down in rock-forming sediments. The discovery in Oman pushes back the earliest accepted date for animal life on Earth by tens of millions of years.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of the giant snake Titanoboa cerrejonensis. Image credit: Jason Bourque/University of Florida/PA Wire
The snake that was so big it ate crocodiles
(Feb 4, 2009)

It grew up to 45 feet long, weighed more than a ton and dined on giant turtles and fearsome crocodiles. It was also the biggest known snake to have ever lived – even dwarfing the Hollywood snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the film Anaconda. Scientists discovered the fossilised backbones of the super-sized snake in a giant open-cast coal mine at Cerrejon in northern Colombia.

Read more. Source: The Independent

fossil fish found in Herefordshire, England
Fossil illuminates jaw evolution
(Jan 19, 2009)

A fossil fish is shedding light on the evolution of jawed vertebrates. It is one of the earliest known jawed fish in the fossil record, a scientist from Uppsala University, Sweden, reports in the journal Nature. The specimen is the first example of a well-preserved braincase of a group of extinct fish called acanthodians from the Paleozoic era.

Read more. Source: BBC

Tasmanian tiger
Genetic secrets from Tamanian tiger
(Jan 13, 2009)

Scientists have detailed a significant proportion of the genes found in the extinct Tasmanian "tiger". The international team extracted the hereditary information from the hair of preserved animal remains held in Swedish and US museums. The information has allowed scientists to confirm the tiger's evolutionary relationship to other marsupials.

Read more. Source: BBC

Dinosaur fossil with what appear to be early feathers
Dino feathers 'were for display'
(Jan 13, 2009)

The earliest dinosaur feathers were probably used for visual display, according to a new study. The evidence comes from two 125-million-year-old dinosaur fossils unearthed in north-east China. Writing in PNAS journal, the team says its findings may shed light on the origin of feathers.

Read more. Source: BBC


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