Paleontology

An ancient kitten-sized predator is one of the smallest species reported in the extinct order Sparassodonta, which were carnivorous marsupials (metatherian mammals, anyway) native to South America lived in Bolivia about 13 million years ago.

The researchers can't name the new species because the specimen lacks well-preserved teeth, which are the only parts preserved in many of its close relatives.

The skull, which would have been a little less than 3 inches long if complete, shows the animal had a very short snout. A socket, or alveolus, in the upper jaw shows it had large, canines, that were round in cross-section much like those of a meat-eating marsupial, called the spotted-tailed quoll, found in Australia today, the researchers said.


Researchers have discovered a new fossil organism from the Ediacara Biota, a group of organisms that occurred in the Ediacaran period of geologic time.

Named Plexus ricei and resembling a curving tube, the organism resided on the Ediacaran seafloor. Plexus ricei individuals ranged in size from 5 to 80 centimeters long and 5 to 20 millimeters wide.

Along with the rest of the Ediacara Biota, it evolved around 575 million years ago and disappeared from the fossil record around 540 million years ago, just around the time the Cambrian Explosion of evolutionary history was getting under way.


Scientists have discovered a new species of long-snouted tyrannosaur, nicknamed Pinocchio rex, which stalked the Earth more than 66 million years ago.

The dinosaur, officially named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, was unearthed in southern China and confirms the existence of long-snouted tyrannosaurs. Researchers say the anima was a fearsome carnivore that lived in Asia during the late Cretaceous period. 

The newly found ancient predator looked very different from most other tyrannosaurs. It had an elongated skull and long, narrow teeth compared with the deeper, more powerful jaws and thick teeth of a conventional T. rex.


Synchrotron-imaging techniques have shed new light, literally, on the healing process that took place when dinosaurs were still alive. 

They examined the cracks, fractures and breaks in the bones of a 150 million-year-old predatory dinosaur - possible because dinosaur bones occasionally preserve evidence of trauma, sickness and the subsequent signs of healing.

Diagnosis of such fossils used to rely on the grizzly inspection of gnarled bones and healed fractures, often entailing slicing through a fossil to reveal its cloying secrets. But the synchrotron-based imaging, which uses light brighter than 10 billion Suns, meant the team could tease out the chemical ghosts lurking within the preserved dinosaur bones.


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.