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Paleo-news archive: October-December 2009





Sinornithosaurus_skull. Image: National Academy of Sciences
Bird-like dinosaur was 'venomous'
(Dec 22, 2009)


A bird-like dinosaur that prowled an ancient forest 125 million years ago used venom to subdue its prey, according to a new theory. Sinornithosaurus's upper teeth resemble those of "rear-fanged" snakes which bite their prey and channel venom into the wound. The dinosaur probably fed on the abundant birds which inhabited what is now north-east China.

Read more. Source: BBC

Tawa hallae
T.rex 'little cousin' discovered
(Dec 12, 2009)


Researchers have unveiled a new species of dinosaur from the late Triassic period – a small, early relative of T.rex and Velociraptor. The 2m-long dinosaur, named Tawa hallae, was found in a "bone bed" on the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The discovery of this early theropod, reported in the journal Science, sheds light on early dinosaur evolution.

Read more. Source: BBC

Reconstruction of the Mediterranean during the megaflood. Image source: R. Pibernat
Ancient Mediterranean flood mystery solved
(Dec 10, 2009)


Research has revealed details of the catastrophic Zanclean flood that refilled the Mediterranean Sea more than five million years ago. The flood occurred when Atlantic waters found their way into the cut-off and desiccated Mediterranean basin. The researchers say that a 200km channel across the Gibraltar strait was carved out by the floodwaters.

Read more. Source: BBC

mammoth
Dung helps reveal why mammoths died out
(Nov 20, 2009)


Mammoth dung has proved to be a source of prehistoric information, helping scientists unravel the mystery of what caused the great mammals to die out. An examination of a fungus that is found in the ancient dung and preserved in lake sediments has helped build a picture of what happened to the beasts. The study sheds light on the ecological consequences of the extinction and the role that humans may have played in it.

Read more. Source: BBC

Aardonyx celestae skull
Missing link dinosaur discovered
(Nov 11, 2009)


Researchers have discovered a fossil skeleton that appears to link the earliest dinosaurs with the large plant-eating sauropods. This could help to bridge an evolutionary gap between the two-legged common ancestors of dinosaurs and the four-legged giants, such as diplodocus. The remarkably complete skeleton shows that the creature was bipedal but occasionally walked on all four legs.

Read more. Source: BBC

Proceratosaurus skull
Oldest T. rex relative identified
(Nov 4, 2009)


Scientists have identified the most ancient fossil relative of the predatory dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex. The new addition to T. rex's clan is known from a 30cm-long skull uncovered during excavations in Gloucestershire in the 1900s. The well-preserved fossil is now held in London's Natural History Museum.

Read more. Source: BBC

oldest known spider web
Spider web confirmed as 'oldest'
(Nov 3, 2009)


Spider webs encased in amber which were discovered on an East Sussex beach have been confirmed by scientists as being the world's oldest on record. The amber, which was found in Bexhill by fossil hunter Jamie Hiscocks and his brother Jonathan, dates back 140 million years to the Cretaceous period. Professor Martin Brasier said they were the earliest webs to be incorporated into the fossil record.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of a pliosaur. Credit: Mark Witton
Colossal 'sea monster' unearthed
(Oct 27, 2009)


The fossilized skull of a colossal "sea monster" has been unearthed along the UK's Jurassic Coast. The ferocious predator, which is called a pliosaur, terrorised the oceans 150 million years ago. The skull is 2.4m long, and experts say it could belong to one of the largest pliosaurs ever found: measuring up 16m in length.

Read more. Source: BBC

Afradapsis jaw
Primate fossil 'not an ancestor'
(Oct 21, 2009)


The exceptionally well-preserved fossil primate known as "Ida" is not a missing link as some have claimed, according to an analysis in the journal Nature. The research is the first independent assessment of the claims made in a scientific paper and a television documentary earlier this year. Dr Erik Seiffert says that Ida belonged to a group more closely linked to lemurs than to monkeys, apes or us.

Read more. Source: BBC

Darwinopterus fossil
New flying reptile fossils found
(Oct 14, 2009)


Researchers in China and the UK say they have discovered the fossils of a new type of flying reptile that lived more than 160 million years ago. The find is named Darwinopterus, after famous naturalist Charles Darwin. Experts say it provides the first clear evidence of a controversial type of evolution called modular evolution.

Read more. Source: BBC

Tiny dinosaur footprints. Image: Kyung Soo Kim
Baby dinosaur made tracks as it fled for its life
(Oct 12, 2009)


Only just hatched and new to the world, the little guy who left these prints in the riverbed was probably running for its life. Barely 10 centimeters tall, the hatchling would have been the length of a wren and easy prey for pterosaurs and other hungry dinosaurs.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Scientists perform an autopsy and DNA analysis on Lyuba, a woolly mammoth
Mammoth remains from the Russian permafrost offer up rich bounty
(Oct 11, 2009)


Some 9,700 years after woolly mammoths became extinct, mysteriously dying out at the end of the last ice age, more mammoth remains are emerging from Russia's thawing permafrost. Russian experts say that the question of why the mammoth died out may shed light on our own prospects of survival in a world gripped by rapid climate change.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Ardipithecus ramidus
Fossil finds extend human story
(Oct 1, 2009)


An ancient human-like creature that may be a direct ancestor to our species has been described by researchers. The assessment of the 4.4-million-year-old animal called Ardipithecus ramidus is reported in the journal Science. Even if it is not on the direct line to us, it offers new insights into how we evolved from the common ancestor we share with chimps, the team says.

Read more. Source: BBC

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