Paleontology

A new species of dinosaur has turned out not to be a dinosaur at all, it is instead one of the large reptiles that lived before dinosaurs took over the world. But like many dinosaurs, it looked fearsome. 

Nundasuchus songeaensis was a 9-foot-long carnivorous reptile with steak knife-like teeth, bony plates on the back, and legs that lie under the body.  The basic meaning of Nundasuchus, is "predator crocodile," "Nunda" meaning predator in Swahili, and "suchus" a reference to a crocodile in Greek.

Scientists have extracted DNA from mysterious marsupial megafauna that roamed Australia over 40,000 years ago -  Australia's extinct giant kangaroos.

The team extracted DNA sequences from two species: a giant short-faced kangaroo (Simosthenurus occidentalis) and a giant wallaby (Protemnodon anak). These specimens died around 45,000 years ago and their remains were discovered in a cold and dry cave in Tasmania.

Relatively good preservation conditions in the cave allowed enough short pieces of DNA to survive so researchers could reconstruct partial "mitochondrial genomes" - genetic material transmitted from mother to offspring and widely used to infer evolutionary relationships.

Dinosaurs once flourished in Europe but when an asteroid hit 66 million years ago, they died quickly, according to a new study.

That an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs is widely held, but until recently dinosaur fossils from the late Cretaceous, the final period of dinosaur evolution, were almost exclusively found in North America. This raised questions about whether the sudden decline of dinosaurs in the American and Canadian west was merely a local story.

The new study synthesizes research on European dinosaurs over the past two decades. Fossils of late Cretaceous dinosaurs are now commonly discovered in Spain, France, Romania, and other countries. 



Dearcmhara shawcrossi, Scottish dino-fish. Todd Marshall

By Stephen Brusatte, University of Edinburgh

Today my colleagues and I had the great privilege to announce a remarkable new discovery: a dolphin-like reptile that prowled the Middle Jurassic waters 170 million years ago.

Reconstructing ancient life has long required a certain amount of inference and imagination - especially speculative is the coloration of long-extinct organisms.

New methods of investigation are being incorporated into paleontology that may shed light (and color) on fossils.

Many large mammals went extinct at the end of the most recent Ice Age (about 11,000 years ago), including the Steppe bison, Bison priscus.

Recently an intact one was found, literally frozen in time. This most complete frozen mummy of the Steppe bison yet discovered dates to 9,300 years ago and was uncovered in the Yana-Indigirka Lowland. 

The Yukagir bison mummy, as it is named, has a complete brain, heart, blood vessels and digestive system, although some organs have shrunk significantly over time. The necropsy of this unique mummy showed a relatively normal anatomy with no obvious cause of death. However, the lack of fat around abdomen of the animal makes researchers think that the animal may have died from starvation. 


A fossil of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis found in Germany contains a fetus as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues.

Eurohippus messelensis had four toes on each forefoot and three toes on each the hind foot, and it was about the size of a modern fox terrier. Though different in size and structure, reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of modern horses. The new find was unveiled at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Berlin.



The femur that led to the oldest modern human genome. Credit: Bence Viola, MPI EVA

By Daniel Zadik, University of Leicester

When a human bone was found on a gravelly riverbank by a bone-carver who was searching for mammoth ivory, little did he know it would provide the oldest modern-human genome yet sequenced.

The anatomically modern male thigh-bone, found near the town of Ust’-Ishim in south-western Siberia, has been radiocarbon-dated to around 45,000 years old.


Deinocheirus mirificus. Credit: Yuong-Nam Lee

By Stephen Brusatte, University of Edinburgh

Everywhere scientists look it seems like they are finding dinosaurs. A new species is emerging at the astounding pace of one per week. And this continues with the announcement of perhaps the strangest dinosaur find over the past few years: the toothless, hump-backed, super-clawed omnivore Deinocheirus mirificus that lived about 70m years ago in what is now Mongolia.

By pairing chemical analyses with micropaleontology, the study of tiny fossilized organisms, researchers believe they can decipher how global marine life was affected by a rapid warming event more than 55 million years ago.  

The work revolves around the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a well-studied analogue for modern climate warming. Documenting the expansion of OMZs during the PETM is difficult because of the lack of a sensitive, widely applicable indicator of dissolved oxygen.