Category Archives: paleobiology

A new species of hominin hits the news. What is it and what does it mean?

“Hominins” (formerly “hominids”), comprise all species, extinct and living (the latter is only H. sapiens), that fell on the side of the lineage that produced modern humans after the divergence of that lineage from the lineage leading to modern chimpanzees (our closest living relatives). Not all hominins fall in the genus Homo, of course: we have […]

Readers’ wildlife photos (including paleobiology!)

I’m pleased to feature some paleontology today from reader John Scanlon.  In case you didn’t know, stromatolites are layered accretions of microorganisms, usually cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”), and they represent some of the oldest fossils on earth: about 3.5 billion years old—only about a billion years after the Earth was formed. But these accretions are still formed today by living bacteria, […]

Putative amphibian fossil shows “broken” bone; said to be first indication of terrestriality

Now this paper is way above my pay grade, as it involves all kinds of complicated scanning, computer, and mathematical analysis of a “fishapod” fossil. The conclusion, from a new paper in PLoS ONE by Peter Bishop et al., is that the fossil, Ossinodus sp., shows a callus on its radius (one of the two lower […]

New fossils: the world’s earliest known bird

Here’s a short scientific report (yesterday’s didn’t inspire much enthusiasm)—short because much of the paleontology is beyond my expertise, as the paper consists largely of describing features I’m not familiar with. But this new paper in Nature by Min Wang et al. (link and reference below) is quite important, for it describes what appears to be the earliest […]

More on the dino-bat Yi qi

Five days ago I wrote about the new Nature paper revealing the “dino-bat” fossil Yi qi, a bizarre species of theropod that had feathers but also membranous wings like a bat—and a special new bone, evolved from the wrist, that supported its wing. It isn’t clear whether this creature could fly, but it surely could […]

Dinosaur feathers found in amber

UPDATE: I’m a real dummy; I failed to check the dates of any of these items and a eagle-eyed reader noted that they’re all from 2011! I should have seen that from the dates on the Science paper, if not the links. Oh well, it’s still interesting stuff. ******* A paper in Science by Ryan McKellar […]

A new phylum of very weird sea creatures

Read some biology today; it’s good for you! It’s not often that a new animal phylum has been described, but a new paper in PLoS ONE apparently does just that, basing the phylum on two enigmatic species, dredged up from the deep sea, that can’t be placed in any existing phylum. This may add one more […]

Spot the fossil belostomatids!

[JAC: At least it’s not nightjars this time!] by Matthew Cobb This post is entirely based on a fantastic set of fossils posted over at Updates from the Paleontology Lab which is run by the Virgina Museum of Natural History (VMNH) and updated by Dr. Alton “Butch” Dooley. My thanks to him for the pics! If you’re […]

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 […]

Don Prothero discusses fossils with the Thinking Atheist

This was just put up: an audio discussion between Seth “The Thinking Atheist” Andrews and Don Prothero, a prolific paleobiologist and author of one of my favorite evolution books, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. The introduction begins at about 6:30, and the show continues for about an hour and five minutes after that. […]


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