Category Archives: paleontology

A 43 million-year-old transitional form: an amphibious whale

The evolution of whales from a small, deer-like artiodactyl took about ten million years: from about 50 million to about 40 million years ago. That’s remarkably fast evolution, especially when you consider the amount of morphological and physiological change that occurred, and the fact that the divergence between chimps and modern humans from their common […]

Remarkable new Cambrian fossils comparable to those of the Burgess shale

Greetings from Amsterdam! I want to call your attention to a remarkable new fossil find in southern China; a rich group of soft-bodied animals, the “Qingjiang Fauna”, from about 518 million years ago. It’s comparable in importance to the Burgess Shale fauna popularized by Steve Gould’s book Wonderful Life, and to the Chengjiang fauna China […]

Neanderthal bones in Croatia

Note: This has been slightly updated after I ran it by Davorka, who caught a few errors. Over the years we’ve had a number of posts about Neanderthals and their genetic legacy in “modern humans” (see here for a collection), many of them written by Matthew Cobb. Croatia—in particular a hill near the small town […]

The earliest known animal?

The Ediacaran fauna, a group of extinct species that lived between 571 and 541 million years ago, has been an evolutionary anomaly. Its fossil record contains multicellular organisms, but they are just plain weird, bearing little resemblance to present-day metazoan (multicellular) animals. The two species of “dickinsoniids” shown below, for example, lack a mouth or […]

Spot the Tiktaalik!

As you probably know, my colleague Neil Shubin was on the team of biologists and paleontologists who uncovered the fossil Tiktaalik, a lobe-finned fish that lived about 375 million years ago. Three skeletons of this species are now known, all found on Ellesmere Island, part of the Canadian territory of Nunavet. Below in red is […]

Sue update

by Greg Mayer She’s gone. I was at the Field Museum on Wednesday for the first time since the previous month, and the removal of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex has been completed. Viewed from the balcony above, visitors walk through Stanley Field Hall, seemingly unaware of the ghostly white outline of Sue’s now departed plinth. […]

So long, Sue…. see you upstairs!

by Greg Mayer Sue, the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex that has inhabited the Field Museum of Natural History‘s Stanley Field Hall since 2000, is coming down. But, shortly after she comes down, she’ll be going up– upstairs that is.  The Museum announced plans last year to replace Sue in Stanley Field Hall with a model of […]

Possible life found in sediments between 3.8 and 4.3 billion years old

The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old, and the oldest undisputed life on our planet appears as bacterial “microfossils” 3.5 billion years ago. But because bacteria are already quite complicated organisms, it’s a good bet that life (however you define it), began well before that. But how long? The seas weren’t around much before about […]

Feathered dinosaur tail in amber!

In a market in Myanmar, the Chinese scientist Xing Lida, shown in the picture below, found a piece of amber about the size of a dried apricot, and it had an inclusion. The seller, thinking the inclusion was a piece of plant, raised the price, for biological items in amber dramatically increase its value. Still, Xing bought […]

Earliest organisms: 3.7 billion years old?

There’s a new paper in Nature that has everyone excited, for it reports what is said to be the earliest evidence for microbial life—”microbial structures” dated 3.7 billion years ago. The paper, by Allen P. Nutman et al. (reference and free link at bottom), describes what are said to be ancient traces of stromatolites—layered colonies of cyanobacteria that trap sediments […]