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Paleo-news archive: July–September 2011

Giant asteroid colliding with Earth
Old fossils solve mystery of earliest bird extinction
(Sep 21, 2011)

Many early bird species suffered from the same catastrophic extinction as the dinosaurs, new research has shown. The meteorite impact that coincided with the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, also saw a rapid decline in primitive bird species. Only a few bird groups survived through the mass extinction, from which all modern birds are descended.

Read more. Source: BBC

Australopithecus sediba skull reconstruction
African fossils put new spin on human origins story
(Sep 8, 2011)

The ancient remains of two human-like creatures found in South Africa could change the way we view our origins. The 1.9-million-year-old fossils were first described in 2010, and given the species name Australopithecus sediba. But the team behind the discovery has now come back with a deeper analysis.

Read more. Source: BBC

Four sides of a hand-axe found near Lake Turkana
Exciting stone tool find in Kenya
(Sep 4, 2011)

The world's earliest sophisticated stone tools have been found near Lake Turkana in northwest Kenya. The teardrop-shaped hand-axes date to about 1.76 million years ago, and would have been used for a range of tasks from chopping wood to cutting up meat. They would have been so useful in fact that scientists describe them as the "Swiss army knife" of the Stone Age.

Read more. Source: BBC

woolly rhinoceros
'Oldest' woolly rhino discovered
(Sep 2, 2011)

A woolly rhino fossil dug up on the Tibetan Plateau is believed to be the oldest specimen of its kind yet found. The creature lived some 3.6 million years ago – long before similar beasts roamed northern Asia and Europe in the ice ages that gripped those regions. The discovery team says the existence of this ancient rhino supports the idea that the frosty Tibetan foothills of the Himalayas were the evolutionary cradle for these later animals.

Read more. Source: BBC

Juramaia sinensis
Fossil redefines mammal history
(Aug 27, 2011)

A small, 160-million-year-old Chinese fossil has something big to say about the emergence of mammals on Earth. The shrew-like creature is the earliest known example of an animal whose kind evolved to provide nourishment to their unborn through a placenta. Its features clearly set it apart from marsupial mammals, which adopt a very different reproductive strategy.

Read more. Source: BBC

pregnant Polycotylus latippinus
Fossil 'suggests plesiosaurs did not lay eggs'
(Aug 12, 2011)

Scientists say they have found the first evidence that giant sea reptiles – which lived at the same time as dinosaurs – gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs. They say a 78 million-year-old fossil of a pregnant plesiosaur suggests they gave birth to single, large young. Writing in Science, they say this also suggests a degree of parental care.

Read more. Source: BBC

Jawbone of Samrukia nessovi
Giant fossil shows huge birds lived among dinosaurs
(Aug 3, 2011)

An enormous jawbone found in Kazakhstan is further evidence that giant birds roamed – or flew above – the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs. Writing in Biology Letters, researchers say the new species, Samrukia nessovi, had a skull some 30cm long. If flightless, the bird would have been 2–3m tall; if it flew, it may have had a wingspan of 4m.

Read more. Source: BBC

Suspected skull of Ugandapithecus major
Ancient primate fossil unearthed
(Aug 3, 2011)

Researchers working in Uganda say they have unearthed the well-preserved fossil skull of an ancient primate. The 20 million-year-old specimen comes from the site of an extinct volcano in Uganda's north-east Karamoja region. The scientists say preliminary analysis showed the tree-climbing herbivore was roughly 10 years old when it died.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist reconstruction of Xiaotingia
An earlier bird than Archaeopteryx?
(Jul 28, 2011)

A chicken-sized dinosaur fossil found in China may have overturned a long-held theory about the origin of birds. For 150 years, a species called Archaeopteryx has been regarded as the first true bird, representing a major evolutionary step away from dinosaurs. But the new fossil, called Xiaotingia suggests this creature was just another feathery dinosaur and not the significant link that palaeontologists had believed.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist reconstruction of Diprodoton optatum
Enormous wombat-like fossil found in Australia
(Jul 7, 2011)

The fossilized bones of a "giant wombat", dating back 2 million years, have been found on a farm in north-eastern Australia's Queensland state. The vegetarian marsupial would have been the size of a four-wheel drive car and weighed three metric tons, according to researchers. This is the first time a complete skeleton of a Diprotodon optatum has been uncovered.

Read more. Source: BBC


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