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29 Mar 2012
Published in Blog

If you're of a certain age, and still remember drive-in movies, you may appreciate the full name of this Carboniferous creature: Eucritta melanolimnetes, or "the creature from the black lagoon." As with the fish that preceded them and the tetrapods that succeeded them, it's difficult to identify the first true amphibians; Eucritta is as good a candidate as any, considering its small size, tadpole-like appearance, and strange mix of primitive characteristics. Even if Eucritta wasn't technically the first amphibian, its immediate descendant (which has yet to be discovered) almost certainly was!

27 Mar 2012
Published in Blog

The ultimate origin of snakes, like the ultimate origin of turtles, is still a matter of ongoing debate. What we do know is that the early Cretaceous Pachyrhachis was one of the first identifiable members of its breed, a three-foot-long, two-pound, slithering reptile that possessed a pair of vestigial hind legs a few inches above its tail. Ironically, given the biblical connotations of snakes, Pachyrhachis and its hissing pals (Eupodophis and Haasiophis) were all discovered in the Middle East, either in or near the country of Israel.

25 Mar 2012
Published in Blog


The evolution of mammalian carnivores is a complicated affair, since dogs, cats, bears, hyenas and even weasels all share a common ancestor (and some other fearsome meat-eating mammals, like the creodonts, went extinct millions of years ago). For now, paleontologists believe that the earliest common ancestor of modern cats, including tabbies and tigers, was the late Oligocene Proailurus ("before the cats"). Somewhat oddly given the usual evolutionary trends, Proailurus was respectably sized, about two feet long from head to tail and weighing in the neighborhood of 20 pounds.

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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...