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10 Mar 2012
Published in Blog

The genus to which all modern dogs belong, Canis, evolved in North America about six million years ago, but it was preceded by various dog-like "canid" mammals--and the mammalian genus that was immediately ancestral to the canids was the late Eocene Hesperocyon. About the size of a fox, Hesperocyon possessed an inner-ear structure similar to that of modern dogs, and also like its modern descendants it probably roamed in packs (though whether these communities lived high up in trees, burrowed underground, or trekked across the open plains is a matter of some dispute).

09 Mar 2012
Published in Blog

Some time during the middle Triassic period, about 230 million years ago, the very first dinosaurs evolved from their archosaur ancestors. Eoraptor, the "dawn raptor," wasn't a true raptor--that family of theropods only appeared toward the start of the Cretaceous period--but it's as good a candidate as any for the first true dinosaur. Befitting its early place on the dinosaur family tree, Eoraptor was only about two feet long from head to tail and weighed five pounds soaking wet, but it compensated for its puny size with sharp teeth and grasping, five-fingered hands.

07 Mar 2012
Published in Blog

Odontochelys ("toothed shell") is a case study in how slippery the title of "first" anything can be. When this late Triassic turtle was discovered in 2008, it immediately took precedence over the then-reigning turtle ancestor, Proganochelys, which lived 10 million years later. Odontochelys' toothed beak and semi-soft carapace point to its kinship with the obscure family of Permian reptiles--most likely the pareiasaurs--from which all modern turtles and tortoises evolved. And yes, in case you were wondering, it was pretty small: only about a foot long and one or two pounds.

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Book review

Dinosaurs Encyclopedia

Book Review

Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages ... WRITTEN BY A PROFESSIONAL paleontologist specifically for young readers, this guide to the Dinosauria is packed...