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Paleo-news archive: April-June 2010

Leviathan was an aggressive 17m-long predator which may have preyed on other whales
'Sea monster' whale fossil unearthed
(Jun 30, 2010)

Researchers have discovered the fossilised remains of an ancient whale with huge, fearsome teeth. Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists have dubbed the 12 million-year-old creature "Leviathan". It is thought to have been more than 17m long, and might have engaged in fierce battles with other giant sea creatures from the time.

Read more. Source: BBC

The colonial macrofossils found in Gabon
Ancient macrofossils unearthed in West Africa
(Jun 30, 2010)

Thumb-sized fossils discovered in Gabon, West Africa, were veritable behemoths 2.1 billion years ago. Paleontologists reporting the finding in Nature say that the fossils represent ancient signs of multicellular life. Fossils of putative multicellular organisms, found in India, were nearly half a billion years younger. And not until the Cambrian period, which began some 542 million years ago, were large, complex organisms commonplace.

Read more. Source: Nature

Artist's impression of newly found ceratopsian
Horned dinosaurs 'island-hopped' from Asia to Europe
(May 27, 2010)

Horned dinosaurs previously considered native only to Asia and North America might also have roamed the lands of prehistoric Europe, say scientists. Palaeontologists have announced the discovery of fossils belonging to a horned creature in the Bakony Mountains of western Hungary. The find may give them a better understanding of the environment during the late period of dinosaur evolution.

Read more. Source: BBC

Hair in amber. Image: V. Girard (Senckenberg Museum) & R. Vullo (Géosciences Rennes)
Oldest mammalian hair found
(May 19, 2010)

The oldest sample of mammalian hair ever found has been retrieved from a 100-million-year-old lump of amber. The scales on the hair – which provide its protective waterproof cover – are identical to those found on the hairs of mammals walking the Earth today.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Moroocan marine fossils preserved in brightly colored minerals
Fossil find resolves ancient extinction mystery
(May 13, 2010)

Researchers have revealed remarkably well preserved fossils of soft-bodied marine creatures that are between 470 and 480 million years old. Prior to this find, scientists were unsure whether such creatures died out in an extinction event during an earlier period known as the Cambrian. The fossils were preserved in rocks formed by layers of ancient marine mud in south-eastern Morocco.

Read more. Source: BBC

False color image of Archaeopteryx. Photo credit: W. I. Sellers/Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Soft tissue remnants discovered in Archaeopteryx fossil
(May 11, 2010)

It boasts more than just beautiful impressions of long-gone feathers. One of the world's most famous fossils – of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx – also contains remnants of the feathers' soft tissue. "It's amazing that that chemistry is preserved after 150 million years," says Roy Wogelius, a geochemist at the University of Manchester, UK.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Neanderthal reconstruction
Neanderthal genes 'survive in us'
(May 6, 2010)

Many people alive today possess some Neanderthal ancestry, according to a landmark scientific study. The finding has surprised many experts, as previous genetic evidence suggested the Neanderthals made little or no contribution to our inheritance. The result comes from analysis of the Neanderthal genome – the "instruction manual" describing how these ancient humans were put together.

Read more. Source: BBC

Woolly mammoth's survival secret? Antifreeze blood
(May 2, 2010)

Mammoths had more than woolly coats to protect them from the frigid conditions of their sub-zero stomping grounds, scientists have discovered. The extinct beasts had a form of antifreeze blood that kept their bodies supplied with oxygen in the sub-zero temperatures, according to a study of DNA extracted from 43,000-year-old mammoth remains.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal child. Image credit: Christoph P.E. Zollikofer
Neanderthals may have interbred with humans
(Apr 21, 2010)

Archaic humans such as Neanderthals may be gone but they're not forgotten – at least not in the human genome. A genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 people from around the world indicates that such extinct species interbred with the ancestors of modern humans twice, leaving their genes within the DNA of people today.

Read more. Source: Nature

Australopithecus sediba
South African fossils could be new hominid species
(Apr 8, 2010)

The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures have been found in South Africa. The fossils of a female adult and a juvenile male – perhaps mother and son – are just under two million years old. They were uncovered in cave deposits at Malapa not far from Johannesburg. Researchers tell the journal Science that the creatures fill an important gap between older hominids and the group of more modern species known as Homo, which includes our own kind.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of a Velociraptor feeding on a Protoceratops
Fossil find shows Velociraptor eating another dinosaur
(Apr 6, 2010)

A predatory Velociraptor has been caught in the act of eating another larger plant-eating dinosaur. Palaeontologists have uncovered fossil fragments of Velociraptor teeth alongside scarred bones of the large horned herbivore Protoceratops. The teeth of the predator match marks on the herbivore's bones, suggesting Velociraptor scavenged its carcass.

Read more. Source: BBC


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