Category Archives: paleontology

Oldest “bilaterian” found: wormlike creature discovered along with its tracks

One of the big mysteries of paleobiology is where complex life (i.e., animals) came from, and what the earliest animals looked like. The first traces of life that we have go back about 3.7 billion years ago, but those are cyanobacteria (the so-called “blue green algae”). The first “true cells”—unicellular eukaryotes, go back to about […]

Another biologist disputes the nature of the tiny “bird/dino” fossil

On March 12, I wrote about the new Nature paper describing the fossil of Oculudentavis khaungraa, identified as a tiny (2-gram) dinosaur/bird found in Burmese amber. But the very next day I had to hedge the results after reading Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology post, not only on humanitarian grounds (the amber used in the study […]

An update on the tiny dino-bird I described yesterday

Yesterday I wrote about the discovery, published in Nature, of a very small theropod dinosaur that appeared to be part of the radiation of early birdlike dinos. It was tiny and had features so unusual that it couldn’t really be placed in a phylogeny. The creature was named Oculudentavis khaungraae and was remarkably well preserved (well, […]

Tiny dinosaur/bird skull found in amber

Yes, we have a novel fossil, just described in Nature, that’s neither fowl nor reptile. And it’s TINY—roughly two grams. How small is it? Well, it’s about the size of the world’s smallest bird: the bee hummingbird of Cuba  (Mellisuga helenae), which is this size: The intermediacy of this fossil, which is part of the […]

Fossilized trilobites preserved parading in line. But why did they do this?

A new paper in Nature by Jean Vannier et al. reports the unusual finding of a parade of trilobites—a group of the ancient arthropods—apparently killed and fossilized while walking in tandem, like an invertebrate conga line. They’re 480 million years old, from the Lower Ordovician, and were found in Morocco. (The paper can be seen […]

A new and important hominin skull from Ethiopia

A new analysis of a remarkable hominin find in Ethiopia suggests that the species it represents, Australopithecus anamensis, may be one of the very earliest species in our lineage, and possibly the first hominin we know of that is undoubtedly part of our own genealogy. (“Hominins”, formerly called “hominids”, represent all fossils on our side […]

An ancient giant parrot in New Zealand: one meter tall and weighing fifteen pounds!

Reader Kevin called my attention to this new paper in Biology Letters about a giant fossil parrot found in New Zealand (click on screenshot for link, reference at bottom; pdf is here). For eleven years a pair of large fossil bird bones (16-19 million years old)—two fragmentary “tibiotarsi”—languished in the Museum of New Zealand. Thought […]

An ancient bird with an extraordinarily long toe

There’s a new paper in Current Biology that details the finding of a very unusual bird in Burmese amber—a bird with one huge toe and weird bristles on its feet. You can read it with UnPaywall by clicking on the screenshot below (pdf here, reference at bottom). The specimen, uncovered by amber miners five years […]

“Modern” Homo sapiens may have been in Eurasia as long as 210,000 years ago

The conventional wisdom about the migration of Homo out of Africa, where the genus originated, involves the spread of Homo erectus about 2 million years ago across Eurasia, with that species appearing to have gone extinct without issue. After that, the Neanderthals, which split from the lineage producing “modern” (i.e., living) H. sapiens about 800,000 […]

Pterosaurs: Could they fly as soon as they hatched?

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to attain powered flight, and lived between 228 and 66 million years ago. They aren’t on the line to modern birds, which evolved well after pterosaurs appeared, and they appear to have gone extinct without leaving descendants. Often called “pterodactyls” or “flying dinosaurs”, they weren’t really in the group that […]