Paleontology

Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in the Arabian Peninsula but researchers have uncovered the first record of dinosaurs from Arabia itself.

What is now dry desert was once a beach littered with the bones and teeth of ancient marine reptiles and dinosaurs. A string of vertebrae from the tail of a huge "Brontosaurus-like" sauropod, together with some shed teeth from a carnivorous theropod represent the first formally identified dinosaur fossils from Arabia, and were found in the north-western part of the dictatorship run by the Al-Saud family, along the coast of the Red Sea.


A new species of fossil horse from 4.4 million-year-old fossil-rich deposits in Ethiopia, 
Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli, was about the size of a small zebra, Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli, had three-toed hooves and grazed the grasslands and shrubby woods in the Afar Region, according to its naming in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The horse fills a gap in the evolutionary history of horses but is also important for documenting how old a fossil locality is and in reconstructing habitats of human forebears of the time, said Scott Simpson, professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine, and co-author of the research. "This horse is one piece of a very complex puzzle that has many, many pieces."


A human ancestor
dated to 1.34 million years old and belonging to Paranthropus boisei at the Olduvai Gorge World Heritage fossil site in Tanzania
is characterized by a "robust" jaw and skull bones and was a muscular creature with a gorilla-like upper body and more adaptive to its environment than previously thought, scientists have discovered.

The partial skeleton -- including arm, hand, leg and foot fragments -- represents one of the most recent occurrences of P. boisei before its extinction in East Africa.


As someone who works on Silurian age fossils, I can't help but be jealous every time a new mammoth "fossil" is found in permafrost. I'm using quotation marks here around because these mammoth corpses can barely be considered to be fossils. My fossils are traces of rock on rock. Whereas, these mammoth corpses are so fresh, the discoverers have problems keeping their dogs from tucking in.

A new species of tyrannosaur, Lythronax Argestes, has been unearthed in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Lythronax translates as "king of gore," and the second part of the name, argestes, refers to its geographic location in the American Southwest.

The huge carnivore inhabited Laramidia, a landmass formed on the western coast of a shallow sea that flooded the central region of North America, isolating western and eastern portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period, between 95-70 million years ago.


A high school student is credited with finding the youngest, smallest and most complete fossil skeleton yet known from the iconic tube-crested dinosaur Parasaurolophus, in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. 

The discovery shows that the prehistoric plant-eater sprouted its strange headgear before it celebrated its first birthday. Three-dimensional scans of nearly the entire fossil make this the most digitally accessible dinosaur to date.


Oxygen was essential for advanced life to evolve; ancient dinosaurs and modern large-brained mammals needed a lot of oxygen to keep their large and sophisticated organisms running.   Some simple organisms like bacteria can survive without oxygen, but all higher organisms need it our atmosphere's 21 percent oxygen is essential for the human brain to function. 

So why did life not explode when oxygen levels rose dramatically 2.1 billion years ago? The oxygen content 2.1 billion years ago was probably the same as when life exploded around 542 million years ago - the Cambrian explosion, where oxygen levels rose to up to 10 pct. Before that life consisted of small and simple, typically single-celled life forms.


The fifth skull to be discovered in Dmanisi displays a combination of features unknown to researchers before the find - the largest face, the most massively built jaw and teeth and the smallest brain within the Dmanisi group.

Previously, four equally well-preserved hominid skulls as well as some skeletal parts had been found there. Taken as a whole, the finds show that the first representatives of the genus Homo began to expand from Africa through Eurasia as far back as 1,850,000 years ago.


Because an uninterrupted sequence of fossilized pollen from flowers begins in the Early Cretaceous, approximately 140 million years ago, it is generally assumed that flowering plants first evolved around that time. 

A new study documents flowering plant-like pollen that is 100 million years older, implying that flowering plants may have originated in the Early Triassic (between 252 to 247 million years ago) or even earlier.  Flowering plants evolved from extinct plants related to conifers, ginkgos, cycads, and seed ferns.  


The discovery of what may be the earliest known creature with what can be discerned as a face has been reported in Nature. Entelognathus primordialis is an exceptionally well-preserved 419-million-year-old fish from China that is the most primitive vertebrate to have a modern type of jaw.

This fish is a placoderm, one of a member of an extinct group of gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates), but its jaw is much more like that of a modern bony fish: its discovery may offer a new perspective on the early evolution of these creatures.