Paleontology

A key part of palaeontology is reconstructing long-extinct creatures to understand what they were like when they were alive. Such knowledge allows us to answer fundamental questions about how they moved and interacted with their environment. How did they feed and reproduce? Which of today's organisms are they most like and most closely related to? 

It has challenges. The history of life can be distorted by the ways animals decompose and lose body parts as they decay - and the ways in which decayed bodies ultimately become fossilized. Like on-screen zombies in "The Walking Dead" that gradually deteriorate through time, fossils preserve only incomplete remains of the living body.

Einstein could stick out his tongue but dinosaurs could not, according to a new paper. Instead of being like modern day lizards or legendary physicists, their tongues were probably rooted to the bottoms of their mouths like alligators. 

The discovery was made by comparing the hyoid bones — the bones that support and ground the tongue — of modern birds and crocodiles with those of their extinct dinosaur relatives. In addition to challenging depictions of dino tongues, the research proposes a connection on the origin of flight and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.

Pond scums were an animal’s best friend. 540 million years ago, oxygen was scarce in the atmosphere and ocean, and animals needed to find oxygen to make a livi

Torvosaurus tanneriThe specimen of Torvosaurus tanneri is currently on display in Madrid, Spain.

The genus Torvosaurus includes a unique species of megalosaurid therapod dinosaur.

Torvosaurus are found in the Morrison Formation, western United States but spread widely with specimens of the same species being unearthed in Europe in the Lourinha Formation near Lisbon, Portugal.

Kaikaifilu is a new species of giant sea lizard (mosasaur) discovered in 66 million year-old rocks of Antarctica. At about 10 m long, it is the largest known top marine predator from this continent. It lived near the end of the dinosaur age, when Antarctica was a much warmer ecosystem, and fed on filter-feeding marine reptiles.

Thanks, but no thanks, say British scientists about controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, primarily known for his criticism of religion.

A majority of those surveyed who mentioned Dawkins’ work during research interviews reject his approach to public engagement and said his work misrepresents science and scientists because he conveys the wrong impression about what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work.

A new hypothesis aims to explain how the complex vertebrate body, with its skeleton, muscles, nervous and cardiovascular systems, arises from a single cell during development and how these systems evolved over time. They give it a proper name, embryo geometry, but scientists are going to hold off on calling it a theory until it shows some chance of validation. Until then, it is like String Theory, more philosophy than science.

The paper, along with illustrations - or "blueprints" - depicting how it applies to different vertebrate organ systems, is in Progress in Biophysics&Molecular Biology.

A new paper in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology reviewed all mammal species known from the end of the Cretaceous period in North America and found that over 93 percent became extinct across the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, due to the same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago.

That's significantly more than previously thought - but mammals also recovered far more quickly than previously though.  

A close-up view of the dentition of an ancient aquatic, carnivorous lizard, the mighty Mosasaur, from Late Cretaceous exposures on Vancouver Island. 
<>This well-prepped specimen is now housed in the collections of the Courtenay Museum, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. 

The creature who owned this jaw bone undoubtedly swan alongside Kourisodon puntledgensis, another enormously powerful marine predator and new species of Mosasaur unearthed on Vancouver Island. 

Their feet modified into flippers, they were expert swimmers and hunters, with a strong tail for propulsion. These two would have commanded our ancient seaways between 70 and 66 million years ago.



A great temple to the god Amon was built at Karnak in Upper Egypt around c. 1785. It is from Amon that we get his cephalopod namesake, the ammonites and also the name origin for the compound ammonia or NH3.

Ammonites were a group of hugely successful aquatic molluscs that looked like the still extant Nautilus, a coiled shellfish that lives off the southern coast of Asia.

While the Nautilus lived on, ammonites graced our waters from around 400 million years ago until the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years.