Paleontology

The La Brea Tar Pits in California are known for saber-toothed cats and mastodons but they also have insects. Recent examination of fossil leafcutter bee nest cells, led by Anna Holden of Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and colleagues, reveal insights into the habitat and climate at the La Brea Tar Pits toward the last Ice Age. 

Holden conducted the study with bee specialists Jon B. Koch and Dr. Terry Griswold from Utah State University, paleobotanist Dr. Diane M. Erwin, from the University of California Berkeley, and Justin Hall from NHM, who used micro CT scans to reconstruct images of the nest cells and bees.


Somewhere around 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, the southern Swedish county of Skåne was a tropical paradise populated by dinosaurs and volcanoes.

One sudden volcanic eruption caused a fern to be preserved instantaneously and now researchers from Lund University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History have made a unique discovery; both undestroyed cell nuclei and individual chromosomes have been found in the plant fossil.


Genetic analysis of ancient poop found off the coast of Mexico suggests bighorn sheep may be native to Tiburón Island, the largest island in the Gulf of California and Mexico.

Bighorn sheep were not thought to inhabit Tiburón Island prior to their introduction in 1975 but scientists discovered fossilized dung in the mountains of Tiburón Island that challenges that assumption. Scientists compared the pellet-shaped poop to fecal pellets of other large mammals and extracted DNA to sequence and determine the origin.


A member of a mysterious dinosaur group has been discovered  in North and South Dakota, from roughly 66 million-year-old rocks of the Hell Creek Formation, which is already celebrated for its abundant fossils of famous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops.

After 13 years of excavation of the nearly complete skeleton of the Australopithecus fossil named Little Foot, researchers conclude that it is probably around 3 million years old, refute previous dating claims that suggested it is younger. 

The Sterkfontein caves of Gauteng, South Africa have been world famous since 1936 for producing large numbers of fossils of the ape-man Australopithecus. However, for sixty years, these fossils consisted only of partial skulls and jaws, isolated teeth and fragments of limb bones. These were obtained by blasting or drilling and breaking of the calcified ancient cave infill or by pick and shovel excavation of the softer decalcified infills.


A 70 million year old fossil found in the Late Cretaceous sediments of Alaska reveals a new small tyrannosaur named Nanuqsaurus hoglundi.  


How do researchers know what color ancient fossils were when they lived?

Paleontologists studying fossilized feathers have proposed that the shapes of certain microscopic structures inside the feathers can reveal the color of ancient birds but new research finds that it is not yet possible to tell if these structures – thought to be melanosomes – are what they seem, or if they are merely the remnants of ancient bacteria.


A new dinosaur species found in Portugal is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs from the Jurassic period - and may be the largest land predator discovered in Europe - 30 feet long and weighing up to 5 tons.

Scientists discovered bones belonging to this dinosaur north of Lisbon. They were originally believed to be Torvosaurus tanneri, a dinosaur species from North America. Closer comparison of the shin bone, upper jawbone, teeth, and partial tail vertebrae suggest to the authors that it may warrant a new species name, Torvosaurus gurneyi.


Fossilization is rare. It may seem common to find them because there have been billions of years and an entire planet on which to do it, but things really have to go right. An ancient fossil caught in the act of giving birth is bordering on spectacular.


A team has characterized a new dinosaur based on fossil remains found in northwestern China. The species, a plant-eating sauropod named Yongjinglong datangi, roamed during the Early Cretaceous period, more than 100 million years ago. This sauropod belonged to a group known as Titanosauria, members of which were among the largest living creatures to ever walk the earth.

At roughly 50-60 feet long, the Yongjinglong individual discovered was a medium-sized Titanosaur. Anatomical evidence, however, points to it being a juvenile; adults may have been larger.