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...

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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 »

There hasn't been much of a debate about this paper at Science 2.0, so I thought I might briefly review it, and see what everybody else thinks. But, before we start, I should make one thing clear. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not even an evolutionary psychologist; I'm a paleontologist. And I should also make it clear that I am often very dubious of a lot of the findings of evolutionary psychologists, which often seem to me like pontificating on very banal things with very little actual science going on.
Friday Fossil

Friday Fossil

Jul 08 2011 | comment(s)

This week's friday fossil is Mesolimulus.

Although it's admittedly very pretty, Mesolimulus is actually a friday fossil because, if you were to wander along the Northwest Atlantic coast, you be forgiven for thinking Mesolimulus had become depetrified, had crawled out of the museums it was held in and had returned to the oceans once again.

Here's a question. In many millions of years time, is it possible that future geologists - be they our distant descendants, or an alien race that has since conquered Earth - will be able to look at the sequence of rocks corresponding to the present period, and recognise the moment when humans became the dominant species on the planet? If so, what time will this horizon represent, and how will it be recognised?
If you're anything more than an infrequent stumbler to Science 2.0, then you will probably have noticed - if not, read - Helen's article on geomagnetic polarity reversals, which until recently has been floating in the top articles list.

Whilst it's a gallant attempt to understand the ins and outs of an incredibly complex and poorly understood process, there are a number of misconceptions that I thought would be a good idea to clear up. It's clearly a topic of great interest, because there are over 400 comments on the article.

Before going into these misconceptions, though, let's start with...
Friday Fossil

Friday Fossil

Jun 17 2011 | comment(s)

This week's friday fossil is Cheirotherium (or Isocheirotherium, whichever you want).

Every year, thousands of geology students descend on the tiny Isle of Arran in the inner Hebrides. Its unique in the way you have so many different rocks all crammed next to each other on one tiny island, and so has been host to generation after generation of 1st year geology students from all over britain. Visit Arran in the Easter and you will never be out of sight of either disgruntled (if it's raining) or sunburnt (if it's hot) students, staring confusedly at the rocks on the shore.
Before discussing the conclusions of this paper released this week, I'll start with a pub-quiz style question. How much of Earth's atmosphere has not been made by living things?

The answer is: less than 1%, which is mostly argon. The overwhelming majority is biogenic; the nitrogen is a product of denitrifying bacteria, the oxygen from plants, and the inconspicuous CO2 is produced by everything, but especially animals.