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Paleo-news archive: January-March 2010

T. Rex
Southern 'cousin' of T. rex found
(Mar 26, 2010)

Scientists have found the first evidence that tyrannosaur dinosaurs – relatives of the famous T. rex – existed in the southern hemisphere. Previously, tyrannosaurs had only been known from fossil finds in northern continents, the team of researchers write in Science journal. Now, a hip bone found in Australia has been identified as belonging to a southern relative of T. rex.

Read more. Source: BBC

Denisova cave region
DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'
(Mar 25, 2010)

Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave. The extinct hominid (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans.

Read more. Source: BBC

Seitaad ruessi fossil
Dinosaur fossil caught in collapsing sand dune
(Mar 24, 2010)

Researchers have discovered a nearly complete fossil of a dinosaur which appears to have been caught in a collapsing sand dune. The Seitaad ruessi fossil, described in the journal PLoS ONE, is a relative of the long-necked sauropods that were once Earth's biggest animals. S. ruessi, found in what is now Utah, could have walked on all four legs, or risen up to walk on just two.

Read more. Source: BBC

early dinosaur
Dinosaurs' dominance 'helped by mass volcanism'
(Mar 23, 2010)

Immense volcanic activity helped the dinosaurs rise to prominence some 200 million years ago, a study suggests. Dinosaurs were the dominant vertebrates on land for some 160 million years. While it is widely accepted that an asteroid or comet wiped them out, there has been less agreement on the factors which led to their ascendancy.

Read more. Source: BBC

Linheraptor exquisitus
Velociraptor's cousin discovered
(Mar 19, 2010)

Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that was closely related to the Velociraptor. The 1.8m-long predator was a dromaeosaurid – a family of theropod dinosaurs from which modern birds descended. The researchers discovered its exquisitely well preserved skeleton in sediments dating from the Upper Cretaceous period in Inner Mongolia.

Read more. Source: BBC

hobbit and human skulls
'Hobbit' island's deeper history
(Mar 18, 2010)

Long before a 'hobbit' species of human lived on Indonesia's Flores island, other human-like creatures colonised the area. That much was clear. But scientists have now been able to date their presence to at least one million years ago – some 120,000 years earlier than previously recognised. The team reports the discovery of these humans' tools in the journal Nature.

Read more. Source: BBC

fossil eggshells
DNA of extinct birds extracted from ancient eggshell
(Mar 10, 2010)

Researchers have found that eggshells of extinct bird species are a rich source of preserved DNA. An international team isolated the delicate DNA molecules of species including the massive "elephant birds" of the genus Aepyorni. The Proceedings of the Royal Society B research demonstrated the approach also on emu, ducks and the extinct moa.

Read more. Source: BBC

Asteroid collision with Earth
Dinosaur extinction link to crater confirmed
(Mar 5, 2010)

An international panel of experts has strongly endorsed evidence that a space impact was behind the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs. They reached the consensus after conducting the most wide-ranging analysis yet of the evidence. Writing in Science journal, they rule out alternative theories such as large-scale volcanism.

Read more. Source: BBC

Asilisaurus kongwe reconstruction
Dinosaur's oldest relative found
(Mar 4, 2010)

Scientists have discovered a dinosaur-like creature 10 million years older than the earliest known dinosaurs. Asilisaurus kongwe is a newly discovered herbivore that lived during the middle Triassic period – about 245 million years ago. The scientists say that its age suggests that dinosaurs were also on the Earth earlier than previously thought.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ptychodus mortoni jawbone
Giant predatory shark fossil unearthed in Kansas
(Feb 24, 2010)

The fossilised remains of a gigantic 10m-long predatory shark have been unearthed in Kansas. Scientists dug up a gigantic jawbone, teeth and scales belonging to the shark which lived 89 million years ago. The bottom-dwelling predator had huge tooth plates, which it likely used to crush large shelled animals such as giant clams.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's reconstruction of Homo floresiensis
How a hobbit is rewriting the history of the human race
(Feb 21, 2010)

The discovery of the bones of tiny primitive people on an Indonesian island six years ago stunned scientists. Now, further research suggests that the little apemen, not Homo erectus, were the first to leave Africa and colonise other parts of the world.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Leedsichthys was a giant filter-feeder in prehistoric oceans
Giant fish swam prehistoric seas
(Feb 19, 2010)

Prehistoric seas were filled with giant plankton-eating fish which died out at the same time as the dinosaurs, new fossil evidence suggests. Scientists from Glasgow, Oxford and the United States have identified fossil evidence which shows the fish existed between 66 and 172 million years ago. They believe it may be a "missing piece in the evolutionary story of fish, mammals and ocean ecosystems".

Read more. Source: BBC

artist's reconstuction of spinosaurs in an aquatic environment
Sail-backed dinos had semiaquatic lifestyle
(Feb 13, 2010)

Paleontologists may have solved the mystery of how spinosaurs and tyrannosaurs – two dinosaur groups that included many large, fierce predators – could have lived in the same regions at the same time. A new study suggests that, like many pairs of surly neighbors, they simply avoided each other. Oxygen isotopes in the fossilized teeth of spinosaurs hint that the creatures (shown in an artistís reconstruction) spent much of their time in the water, as crocodiles and hippos do today.

Read more. Source: Science News

reconstruction of Inuk
Analysis of hair DNA reveals ancient human's face
(Feb 11, 2010)

DNA analysis of human hair preserved in Greenland's permafrost has given clues as to what the owner looked like. A study, published in the journal Nature, says the individual's genome is the oldest to have been sequenced from a modern human. The researchers say the man, who lived 4,000 years ago, had brown eyes and thick dark hair, although he would have been prone to baldness.

Read more. Source: BBC

Chinese dinosaur footprint
China dinosaur footprints found in Zhucheng
(Feb 11, 2010)

Scientists in China say they have discovered more than 3,000 dinosaur footprints, all facing the same way. The footprints – thought to belong to at least six dinosaur types – were found in eastern Shandong province, state news agency Xinhua reports. Experts believe the prints are more than 100 million years old and say they could represent a migration or a panicked attempt to escape predators.

Read more. Source: BBC

Haplocheirus sollers
New dinosaur discovery solves evolutionary bird puzzle
(Feb 2, 2010)

A newly discovered fossil has shed light on why a group of dinosaurs looks like birds, say scientists. Haplocheirus sollers may not be as charismatic as T. rex or as agile as a pterodactyl but it's thought to solve a long standing puzzle. Researchers believe its short arms and large claw show how bird-like dinosaurs evolved independently of birds.

Read more. Source: BBC

Dinosaur had ginger feathers
(Jan 27, 2010)

Meet Sinosauropteryx, a very spiky little dinosaur. A team of scientists from China and the UK has now revealed that the bristles of this 125 million-year-old dinosaur were in fact ginger-coloured feathers. The researchers say that the diminutive carnivore had a "Mohican" of feathers running along its head and back. It also had a striped tail.

Read more. Source: BBC

alligator skull
Alligators and birds share lung structure and ancestor
(Jan 18, 2010)

Alligators and birds share a breathing mechanism which may have helped their ancestors dominate Earth more than 200 million years ago, scientists say. Research published in the journal Science found that like birds, in alligators air flows in one direction. Birds' lung structure allows them to breathe when flying in low oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions.

Read more. Source: BBC

Pigment-coated ancient shell
Neanderthal 'make-up' discovered
(Jan 9, 2010)

Scientists claim to have the first persuasive evidence that Neanderthals wore "body paint" 50,000 years ago. The team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that shells containing pigment residues were Neanderthal make-up containers. Scientists unearthed the shells at two archaeological sites in the Murcia province of southern Spain.

Read more. Source: BBC

Oldest known quadriped footptints. Image: Per Ahlberg et al
Fossil tracks record 'oldest land-walkers'
(Jan 6, 2010)

The oldest evidence of four-legged animals walking on land has been discovered in southeast Poland. Rocks from a disused quarry record the "footprints" of unknown creatures that lived about 397 million years ago. Scientists tell the journal Nature that the fossil trackways even retain the impressions left by the "toes" on the animals' feet.

Read more. Source: BBC


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