Category Archives: paleontology

New report: Bacteria can remain alive for over 100 million years!

Well cut off my legs and call me Shorty (is that ableist?). A new report in the journal Nature Communications shows that some bacteria can remain dormant for over 100 million years in marine sediments—an unbelievable amount of time for an organism to remain “alive”—if you call it “alive.” I do: after all, the bacteria […]

A tiny 10-cm dinosaur that ate bugs

Note: The classification of “dinosaur” above isn’t totally accurate, for the creature discussed below is an archosaur, a member of the group that gave rise to dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crocodilians. But we might as well call it a dinosaur, as few people know what an “archosaur” is. The ancestors of the dinosaurs could not have […]

Photographs of readers

Today’s reader photos come from Bruce Thiel, whom I met at a talk I gave in Portland, Oregon. And there he gave me one of his fantastic preparations of fossil crabs, which I cherish and keep on my mantelpiece. You can see his preparations in his “reader’s photos” here. They are fantastic.  Bruce’s words are […]

Readers’ wildlife photos

Do send in your wildlife photos, as the tank continues to empty. Today’s batch, from Robie Mason-Gamer, is unusual because it comprises fossils. Robie’s notes are indented: This message stretches the definition of “wildlife” somewhat, back to a swampy Carboniferous community that existed over 300 million years ago. I hope the text is not overly long. The Mazon […]

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

UPDATE:  In light of new data and criticism of this paper, it has been retracted. The “dinosaur” is in all likelihood a lizard or other non-dinosaurian reptile . For more information see the Nature report here. _____________ Yes, we have a novel fossil, just described in Nature, that’s neither fowl nor reptile. And it’s TINY—roughly […]

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 […]