Category Archives: fossils

Birds of Stone: Avian Fossils from the Age of Dinosaurs

by Greg Mayer This coming Monday, February 1, at 7 PM in the Student Union Cinema, the University of Wisconsin-Parkisde will present Luis Chiappe, Director of the Dinosaur Institute of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, will speak on “Birds of Stone: Avian Fossils from the Age of Dinosaurs”. Many of the features […]

Readers’ wildlife photographs

Just in: a cool fossil courtesy of reader James Blilie: This photo isn’t of a living thing; but rather its traces:  A tetrapod trackway in Permian or Carboniferous sedimentary rocks, Cedar Mesa, southern Utah.  2001, Kodachrome 64, probably a Pentax A 20mm f/2.8 lens.  Probably f/11 at 1/125 sec. Pure speculation, but it could be from Eryops, or a similar […]

A four-legged snake

by Greg Mayer It has long been known that some snakes are two-legged, because many modern species have two legs– externally visible hind limbs– a fact we’ve noticed here at WEIT before. These small external legs, capped by keratinous claws, are supported internally by vestigial femurs and a vestigial pelvis. They are larger in males, […]

A very early fish

Many readers sent me a note about this paper, but, given my schedule, I simply hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Fortunately, Greg did, and gives us a nice summary of what it means. by Greg Mayer In the latest issue of Nature, Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron provide a detailed description of Metaspriggina […]

When did the Neanderthals go extinct?

by Greg Mayer In a recent paper in Nature (abstract only), Tom Higham of Oxford and several colleagues report on their effort to determine by radiocarbon dating when Neanderthals went extinct. Higham et al. conclude that it was about 40,000 years ago. It’s gotten a fair amount of media coverage—more on this below—but let’s look at the […]

A bizarre blood-sucking Jurassic maggot

by Matthew Cobb Just out in eLife, an Open Access journal that aims to rival Science and Nature, is this fantastic fossil of an aquatic fly larva from the Chinese mid-Jurassic (around 165 MY ago), published by Chen et al. Soft-bodied animals rarely fossilise well, but the Chinese fossil-hunters have been able to find three […]

Earliest evidence of birds visiting flowers

Angiosperms, or flowering plants, first appear in the fossil record about 160 million years ago. A new paper in Biology Letters, by Gerald Mayr and Volker Wilde (reference below and—I think—a free download) shows that by about 50 million years ago, birds had already evolved to take advantage of this new food source. Mayr and Wild report a […]

Good news! Religion expunged from South Carolina fossil bill

Reader Barry called my attention to a piece on yesterday’s Raw Story that, for once, gives good news.  You may remember the kerfuffle in South Carolina about making the wooly mammoth the state fossil. That suggestion, which came from an eight-year-old girl, Olivia McConnell, riled up some creationist legislators, and though the legislature voted to adopt the […]

The world’s prettiest fossil

And it’s now missing, thanks to thieves who stole it from a private collection. Reader Ant called it to my attention from a post on ZME Science‘s “Fossil Friday”: It’s the fossil of a giant ammonite, an ancient and prolific group of mollusks that has gone extinct without leaving descendants. I have one (not opalized!) about […]

A lovely fossilized beetle

Reader Ant sent me a link to this photo and short article from ZME Science showing a beetle that is way, way old, with jeweled exoskeleton nicely preserved. The caption (the website is starting a “Fossil Friday” feature): So, here’s a jewel beetle from the Messel Pit, Germany, 47 million years old. It’s fossilized in such a […]