Mammoths: The Misunderstood Giants

As someone who works on Silurian age fossils, I can't help but be jealous every time a new mammoth...

Let's hope we don't have another Archaeoraptor on our hands

I mentioned at the end of last week's post about the new "earliest bird" that there were murmurs...

The Earliest Bird: How A Toe Bone Can Change History

Do you know, my original title for this was "The Early Bird Gets the PR". I hastily changed it...

New fossil arthropod named after Johnny Depp

There a lot of rules governing how you name new species. But that doesn't mean that fun things...

User picture.
picture for Hank Campbellpicture for Helen Barrattpicture for Robert H Olleypicture for Gerhard Adampicture for Gunnar De Winterpicture for Daniel Chapman
Oliver KnevittRSS Feed of this column.

In a nutshell: I like fossils. But even more than than that, I like arguments about fossils. Which is why my current occupation as a PhD researcher in paleontology suits me well. My research is... Read More »

...but don't worry, I'm not stopping blogging at Science 2.0! So really, this is just shameless self promotion. Especially since the new blog has nothing to do with science - it's history, or humour - but it's been rather lonely there for the first few days of its existence, so I thought I'd undertake a little "marketing".

I've always had a love of the old satirical magazine Punch, and after I unexpectedly found myself in a secondhand bookshop the other week, I unexpectedly found some old Punch anthologies, and rather unexpectedly found myself buying a load of them. I got rather addicted to reading them, and so I thought I'd start a blog where I could post a little snippet every day.
A couple of months ago, I picked up on the news that Archaeopteryx had been rebumped in its* phylogeny to now sit among the dromeosaurs.

I also mentioned near the end...

I will say this, though: don't expect this to be the last you've heard of this. I think it is probably quite likely that there may be another reclassification, and Archeopteryx may find itself being reclassified as a bird again.
Friday Fossil

Friday Fossil

Oct 21 2011 | comment(s)

I'll bet you've never seen a fossilized parrot before.

This is an ex-parrot. It has ceased to be. (Just couldn't resist it, apologies!)

This is the newly named Cyrilavis colburnorum from the Paleogene Green River formation, which is getting to be rather famous for the extremely well preserved birds; it's here that many of the bird specimens for plumage colour reconstruction of fossil feathers have been recovered from.
Mention "Mass Extinction" and most people will immediately think of the extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

To be fair, this was pretty big, as far as extinctions go. Not only did it kill all of the non-avian dinosaurs, it also finished off the ammonites, belemnites, all of the large swimming reptiles, and many, many others. It's almost like all mammals being killed today.

So yes, pretty big. The K-T extinction, as it's called, ranks among the top 5 greatest extinctions in Earth's paleozoic history.

But it's peanuts to the P-T extinction.

To put it in perspective, at the K-T extinction, about 60% of life on Earth died out. At the P-T extinction, it was about 95%. So it's fair to say that this was when the Earth nearly died.
It's been a while, Science 2.0.

My excuse (if anybody needed one): I've been rather busy over the summer with fieldwork. Not a good excuse, admittedly. But, anyway, I'm back now!

Anyway. There's a rather disparaging quote by Francis Bacon, the 16th century philosopher who basically invented science, who said,

Many secrets of art and nature are thought by the unlearned to be magical.

It's not often that paleontology makes the news. This week, however, it did - in a big way. And let me tell you, it wasn't the edgy paper on a new assemblage of South American bivalves ("Barremian Bivalves from the Huitrín Formation, West-Central Argentina: Taxonomy and Paleoecology of a Restricted Marine Association") that was all over the rolling news channels.

No; it's the news that Archaeopteryx may be knocked off its pedestal as the earliest bird in the fossil record, based on a new phylogeny by Xu et al. Archaeopteryx is now deemed to be just another deinonychosaur; probably closer to velociraptor than to birds.