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Paleontology

Egg-laying mammal: Scientists discover that for Australia the long-beaked echidna may not be a thing of the past

The western long-beaked echidna, one of the world's five egg-laying species of mammal, became extinct in Australia thousands of years ago…or did it? Smithsonian scientists and colleagues have found evidence suggesting that not only did these animals survive in Australia far longer than previously thought, but that they may very well still exist in parts of the country today.

The team's findings are published in the Dec. 28, 2012 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

With a small and declining population confined to the Indonesian portion of the island of New Guinea, the western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii) is listed as "Critically Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened...

Evidence contradicts idea that starvation caused saber-tooth cat extinction

In the period just before they went extinct, the American lions and saber-toothed cats that roamed North America in the late Pleistocene were living well off the fat of the land.

That is the conclusion of the latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of these great cats recovered from the La Brea tar pits in southern California. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis did not find any indications that the giant carnivores were having increased trouble finding prey...

Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction

The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to...

New dinosaur: First freshwater mosasaur discovered

A new mosasaur species discovered in Hungary is the first known example of this group of scaled reptiles to have lived in freshwater river environments similar to modern freshwater dolphins.

The research is published Dec. 19 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Laszlo Makadi from the Hungarian Natural History Museum, Hungary and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Canada and MTA-ELTE Lendület Dinosaur Research Group, Hungary.

The species lived about 84 million years ago...

Was the sauropod dinosaurs' large size due to plant food? Scientists argue old idea still has legs

The long necked sauropod dinosaurs were the largest land animals ever to walk the Earth -- but why were they so large? A decade ago, a team of plant ecologists from South Africa suggested that this was due to the nature of the plant food they ate. However, these ideas have fallen out of favour with many dinosaur researchers. Now Liverpool John Moores University's (LJMU's) Dr David Wilkinson and Professor Graeme Ruxton of University of St Andrews, Scotland, argue that this idea still has...

Why Were Dinosaurs So Big?

One of the things that makes dinosaurs so appealing is their sheer size: plant eaters like Diplodocus and Brachiosaurusweighed well over 50 tons, and a well-toned Tyrannosaurus Rextipped the scales at 7 or 8 tons. From the fossil evidence, it's clear that--species by species, individual by individual--dinosaurs were more massive than any other group of animals that ever lived (with the exception of certain genera of prehistoric sharks,prehistoric whales and marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs...

New approach allows past data to be used to improve future climate projections

Detail of an ice core from 2668 meters depth. (Credit: Dr. Sepp Kipfstuhl, Alfred Wegener Institute)

Climate scientists are still grappling with one of the main questions of modern times: how high will global temperatures rise if the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide doubles. Many researchers are now turning to the past because it holds clues to how nature reacted to climate change before the anthropogenic impact. The divergent results of this research, however, have made it...

How Do Fossils Form?

Fossils are the remains or imprints left behind from plants and animals. They can be whole parts of an animal, or just pieces of their remains. They can also include movement remnants of animals, such as footprints or imprints. In order for a fossil to form, an animal or plant must be trapped into a material. In many instances, fossils are found in sediment. Layers of sediment will envelop the remains; this can continue for thousands of years. The actual remains that are found aren't...

9.2-million-year-old rhino skull preserved by instant 'cooking to death' in volcanic ash

 Less than 2% of Earth's fossils are preserved in volcanic rock, but researchers have identified a new one: the skull of a rhino that perished in a volcanic eruption 9.2 million years ago.

 

The find is described in a paper published Nov. 21 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Pierre-Olivier Antoine and colleagues from the University of Montpellier, France.

The fossil, found in Turkey, is thought to be that of a large two-horned rhino common in the Eastern...

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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...