Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Giant Short-Faced Bears

A paper (in the Journal of Paleontology) recently published a range expansion of Arctodus simus, finding late Pleistocene fossils in Florida.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Titanoboa Neighbors

Smaller crocodyliforms were probably prey to the huge Titanoboa, being found in the same fossil site. (News source.)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dinosaur "Death-trap" Footprints

Interesting speculation on what may have been giant footprints that trapped smaller dinosaurs, here.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Giant Pliosaur

Another large fossil discovered in the UK. (News source.)


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Giant Beavers

New research suggests that giant beavers ate aquatic vegetation rather than tree bark/tissue, as modern beavers do. (News source.)

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Interesting news about North America's smallest known dinosaur, here.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bigger than the Komodo Dragon

A fossil monitor lizard larger than the Komodo dragon (but not as large as Australia's Megalania) was found on the island of Timor in Indonesia. (News source.)

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Buy a Tyrannosaur

A 50% complete skeleton (apparently with restoration to make a full mount) will be available at an auction in Las Vegas in October. (News source.)

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Color in Fossil Feathers

Sausage-shaped melanosomes have been found in fossil bird feathers, giving clues as to the original coloration. (News source.)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Swinging Glyptodonts

Researchers have discovered that glyptodonts "had a 'sweet spot' on their tails right where the biggest, sharpest spike was situated." (News source.)


Monday, August 24, 2009

Some New Discoveries

A few new invertebrates were discovered "during a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands..." (News source.)

The "green bomber" is a new marine annelid that casts off glowing green appendages to fool predators. (News source.)

Several interesting fossils, including "stone tools, a remarkably preserved primate skull and the claws, jawbone and other bones of several species of Caribbean sloths" were discovered in an underwater cave in the Dominican Republic. (News source.)

A new pitviper (not rattlesnake, as the news account states) was discovered in Cao Bang province, Vietnam. (News source.)

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Moa Coloration

DNA from ancient feathers is helping researchers figure out what moas actually looked like. (News source.)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fun with Genetics

An interesting article in Wired on the T. rex protein research.

Lampreys lose about 20% of their genes as they develop. (News source.)

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fossil Mystery Ape

Russell L. Ciochon has an interesting essay in the latest Nature:

The mystery ape of Pleistocene Asia
Nature 459, 910-911 (18 June 2009)

Available here.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Giant Elephant Fossil

Researchers have dug up an enormous elephant fossil from a sand quarry in East Java.

"'It is one of the most complete elephant skeletons recovered in Indonesia,' Dr van den Bergh said in a statement.

"'(It) is of an extinct species and is of enormous size - much bigger than modern-day Asian elephants, with a femur alone being 1.2 metres long.'" (News source.)

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Giant Fossil Lemur

Another species of giant fossil lemur has been found in Madagascar. "Baptised Palaeopropithecus kelyus, this new specimen is smaller than the two species of these 'large sloth lemurs' already known and its diet made up of harder-textured foodstuffs." (News source.)

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Venomous Critter News

Komodo dragons have been confirmed to have venom glands: "magnetic resonance imagery has for the first time uncovered venom glands containing a shock-inducing poison which increases blood flow and decreases blood pressure." (News source.)

And, a large fossil shrew had channeled teeth for injecting toxic saliva. (News source.)

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Social Trilobites

Fossil groupings of up to 1000 trilobites suggest they were social creatures, at least while molting. (News source.)

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Lions Were Bigger

This isn't new, really, but another study is pointing out that fossil lions in Europe and North America were up to 25% larger than modern lions. (News source.)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Hurdia Victoria

A new fossil has been (re)identified from the Burgess Shale: Hurdia victoria.

"Like some large shellfish, this underwater predator had a segmented body, a pair of claws and a circular mouth with several layers of overlapping teeth. Its distinguishing feature was a hard carapace that jutted out from its head, the function of which remains something of a mystery since it did not serve as a protective covering for its flesh. ... The scholars speculate that the hurdia 's carapace, which jutted out over its head like the brim of a hat, may have been used to funnel prey into its mouth." (News source.)


Fossil Feathers

A heterodontosaurid fossil has features identified as "long feather-like structures sticking up from its body." (News source.)

A new fossil bird has been discovered in China, named Confuciusornis feducciai after the well-known palaeontologist. (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fossil Octopus

Interesting fossil, very similar to living species.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Fossils: Tiny Dinos, Predator X

North America has a new tiniest dinosaur, Hesperonychus. (News source, and here.)

A giant pliosaur, nicknamed Predator X, had a hefty bite. (News source.)

And, some info here on a trapped herd of young dinosaurs fossilized together.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


Trace fossils from the UK stir speculation on a "large" extinct worm. (News source.)

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Shark Debate Stirred Again

Was Megalodon closer to great whites or makos? A new fossil brings up the debate again. (Eurekalert.)

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Long-Necked Stegosaur

A new fossil from Portugal shows an interesting variation in stegosaurs. (News source.)


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Giganto Articles

Here are a few abstracts to somewhat recent papers pertaining to Gigantopithecus (of interest to some in cryptozoology):

Molar enamel thickness and dentine horn height in Gigantopithecus blacki
A. J. Olejniczak, et al.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 135(1): 85-91 (2008; online Oct. 2007)
Download PDF
[Also see paper on Australopithecus and Paranthropus enamel: PDF]

Absolutely thick molar enamel is consistent with large body size estimates and dietary inferences about Gigantopithecus blacki, which focus on tough or fibrous vegetation. In this study, 10 G. blacki molars demonstrating various stages of attrition were imaged using high-resolution microtomography. Three-dimensional average enamel thickness and relative enamel thickness measurements were recorded on the least worn molars within the sample (n = 2). Seven molars were also virtually sectioned through the mesial cusps and two-dimensional enamel thickness and dentine horn height measurements were recorded. Gigantopithecus has the thickest enamel of any fossil or extant primate in terms of absolute thickness. Relative (size-scaled) measures of enamel thickness, however, support a thick characterization (i.e., not "hyper-thick"); G. blacki relative enamel thickness overlaps slightly with Pongo and completely with Homo. Gigantopithecus blacki dentine horns are relatively short, similar to (but shorter than) those of Pongo, which in turn are shorter than those of humans and African apes. Gigantopithecus blacki molar enamel (and to a lesser extent, that of Pongo pygmaeus) is distributed relatively evenly across the occlusal surface compared with the more complex distribution of enamel thickness in Homo sapiens. The combination of evenly distributed occlusal enamel and relatively short dentine horns in G. blacki results in a flat and low-cusped occlusal surface suitable to grinding tough or fibrous food objects. This suite of molar morphologies is also found to varying degrees in Pongo and Sivapithecus, but not in African apes and humans, and may be diagnostic of subfamily Ponginae.

Comparative observations on the tooth root morphology of Gigantopithecus blacki
K. Kupczik and M. C. Dean
Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 54(2): 196-204 (Feb. 2008)

The extinct great ape Gigantopithecus blacki from the middle Pleistocene of China and Vietnam is known only from dental and mandibular remains, and its dietary specializations remain contentious. Here, for the first time, we describe the root morphology in G. blacki using computed tomography and three-dimensional image processing. We quantify the tooth root lengths and surface areas of the female G. blacki mandible No. 1 from the Liucheng Cave and compare it to a sample of extant great apes and humans, as well as the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and the American black bear (Ursus americanus). The results show that, in G. blacki, the pattern of mandibular root numbers—particularly that of the premolars—corresponds with that of Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, and Pongo pygmaeus. However, G. blacki can be distinguished from the extant hominids by having relatively higher values for postcanine root length and surface area, both absolutely and relative to mandibular size (except for premolar root lengths of humans). The relatively large postcanine root surface areas, which are most similar to A. melanoleuca, suggest that the dentition of G. blacki was adapted to sustaining relatively large occlusal forces needed to fracture mechanically resistant foods such as bamboo.

Geochronology of Ailuropoda–Stegodon fauna and Gigantopithecus in Guangxi Province, southern China
W. J. Rink, et al.
Quaternary Research, vol. 69(3): 377-387 (May 2008)

Pleistocene faunas from south China are difficult to subdivide based on the long temporal ranges of many taxa and a reduced number of genera in comparison to faunas from temperate north China. In south China, the Ailuropoda–Stegodon fauna is a very general one and includes a relatively stable suite of genera that apparently persisted for long periods of time. These attributes have made constraining its time range difficult. Application of electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of tooth enamel constrains the ages well where uranium uptake was minor. Where uranium uptake into teeth was significant, an approach combining ESR and 230Th/234U isotopic analysis also yields excellent ages. Previous estimates of early, middle and late Pleistocene time ranges previously determined by biostratigraphic seriation for the Ailuropoda–Stegodon fauna are confirmed in all cases but are made more precise with our approach, including specific time ranges for certain archaic taxa. Absolute dating also yields an extended time range for Gigantopithecus blacki of 1200 to 310 ka.

Assessing mandibular shape variation within Gigantopithecus using a geometric morphometric approach
S. F. Miller, J. L. White, and R. L. Ciochon
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 137(2): 201-212 (Oct. 2008)

This study provides a survey of mandibular shape in a sample of extant hominoids (Pan, Gorilla, Pongo, and Hylobates), as well as extinct Asian and Eurasian taxa (Ouranopithecus, Sivapithecus, and Gigantopithecus) in order to compare overall shape similarity. Results presented call into question differences in mandible shape recently used to distinguish Gigantopithecus giganteus from Gigantopithecus blacki and to justify resurrecting a different generic designation, "Indopithecus," for the former. It is concluded that while the two large-bodied Asian taxa may have been adapted to slightly different dietary niches with different geographic and temporal ranges, the unique mandibular/dental characters that the two taxa share should not be viewed as independent evolutionary developments.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fossil Croc with Tusks

A "boar-croc" has been discovered in the Sahara, but still awaits official description.

"Boar-croc doesn't fit in any known order. It has a crocodile-like snout, but adds horns and three sets of canine teeth like those of a wild pig adapted for eating meat." (
News source.)

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


A giant fossil snake (Titanoboa cerrejonensis) has been described from Columbia.

Researchers "used the ratio between vertebral size and the length of existing snakes to estimate that this boa-like snake must have reached 13 meters (42 feet) in length and weighed more than a ton." (Eurekalert; also, here)

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Fossil Worms Weren't

Turns out that some fossil tubeworms were misidentified: "scientists discovered that what was previously identified as fossilized tubeworms were actually fossilized tubular escape hatches for methane, a major constituent of natural gas." (Eurekalert)

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thief of Time

A fossil hunter turned out to be a fossil thief. (News source.)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fossil Wings Studied

X-ray fluorescence imaging is being used to determine what the wings of the Archaeopteryx actually looked like before fossilization. (News source)

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Indonesian Bones

Some "fossil bones" found in Muara Gembong while a fish pond was being dug are stirring the interest of local residents. Many theories have been voiced. Several articles so far:

The initial find here.
The bones sent to experts for identification here.
Residents hope the bones bring some tourism interest here.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Fossils may be Protist-Tracks

Oceanographers have discovered large protists (Gromia sphaerica) roaming the bottom of the ocean near the Bahamas, making tracks that look similar to certain fossil grooves. (This species of protist was described back in 2000.) (News source.)


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent Extinction of a New Fossil Penguin

Examination of fossil penguins found in archaeological sites on New Zealand suggest that a newly discovered species went extinct after Polynesian settlers arrived there. Another species, the extant yellow eyed penguin, then took over its territory. (News source.)

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fossil Debate

Speculation that strange geological imprints in Arizona rocks were dinosaur tracks is causing some debate. (News source.)


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Strange Fossil

Researchers have found a strange 8-armed creature, Eoandromeda, in fossils from Australia and China. (News source.)


Friday, October 17, 2008

Big Fossil Snake

A boa-like fossil snake found in Colombia may have reached 12.8 meters and a ton in weight. (News source.)

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Fossil Goose

A goose-like bird fossil has been found in the UK; it had a 16-foot wingspan and a beak full of teeth. (News source.)

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

More on Fossil Print

A little bit more on that Tennessee fossil footprint, with better image, here.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Little People Larger Than Thought

Research suggest the small Palau skeletons weren't so small... (News source.)


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ebaying for Species Discoveries

An entomologist bought an insect in amber off Ebay, which turned out to be an undescribed species. (News source.) [Note: If you want to try this yourself, have fun; just don't buy amber from China. Most of it is fake.]

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Giant Crocodilian Fossil

Another giant species of fossil crocodilian (gavial-like, in this instance) has been discovered. The article is in Portuguese, so my online translator isn't exact, but it looks like it was found along the Brazil and Venezuela border. (News source.)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Big Fossil Lemur

Research is being done on the skull of a now-extinct lemur that was as large as a baboon. (Eurekalert.)

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Big Rodent Downsized

The fossil rodent Josephoartigasia monesi was originally speculate to have weighed as much as 2584 kg, but "re-estimation of J. monesi's body mass with a more complete analysis suggests it may have weighed as little as 350 kg." (News source.)

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scandinavia's Parrot Fossil

A fossil parrot has been found on the Isle of Mors... (News source.)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Old Lemur

Bones of a 2,000 year old lemur found in a Madagascar cave have an intriguing anatomical distinction on the little finger. (News source.)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Palau's Pygmies

About a year or so ago, National Geographic Channel set out their schedule of programming for 2007-8, noting that one would be on fossil pygmies found in Palau. Nothing showed up in the literature until now, as reported by Reuters. Obviously, the find is of interest due to the ongoing debate over H. floresiensis.

"The Palau skeletons, which date to between 900 and 2,800 years ago, appear to have belonged to so-called insular dwarfs -- humans who grew smaller as a result of living on an island, the researchers said.
"They said their findings, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, show it is possible the same thing happened on the Indonesian island of Flores, where small skeletons dating back 15,000 to 18,000 years ago have intrigued scientists since they were discovered in 2004." ...

I would assume the NGC program is soon to follow...

The PLoS journal article is here.

Additional: Another recap from the NYT, and a rebuttal from the H. floresiensis proponents.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Scot Polar Bear to be Tested

An Ice Age polar bear skull found in a cave in the Scottish Highlands in 1927 is undergoing genetic tests to determine how it relates to modern day ursines. (News source.)

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Pliosaur

A fossil pliosaur discovered in 2006 has been confirmed as the largest marine reptile ever, with an estimated length of 50 feet. (News source.)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bigger Than Your Hamster

A Uruguay fossil rodent, recently described as Josephoartigasia monesi, weighed over 1000 kilograms. (News source.)


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Psittacosaurus "Feathers" Debate

A researcher has more to say in the "feathered dinosaur" fray, arguing for the collagen side. From the news:

"Prof Theagarten Lingham-Soliar at the University of KwaZulu Natal, claims today to have 'refuted' a suggestion that primitive bristle-like structures that adorn the tail of Psittacosaurus are prototype feathers, as claimed by those seeking evidence to back the widely accepted idea of avian origins." ...
"But Prof Lingham-Soliar, who attacks this interpretation of the Chinese fossil in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, tells The Daily Telegraph: 'Scientists must really now choose - belief in the nebulous idea of protofeathers or the reality of collagen, the dominant protein in vertebrates.
"'I am convinced from the nonsense spouted by many of the people who denounce collagen in favour of protofeathers that they have never actually seen collagen in its natural or decomposing state.'
"He adds that, thanks to a quirk of preservation, the fossil provides a 'remarkable, unprecedented' insight into the structure of dinosaur skin.
"'What is highly significant in the present study are the masses of collagen fibres found - over 40 dermal layers seen for the first time in a fossil animal, which shows how vitally important collagen was in providing support and protection of the enclosed body mass of dinosaurs per se.'"

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Friday, December 28, 2007

New Gigantopithecus Fossils

Only sparse details so far, but NG News states:

"The 400,000-year-old fossils of a giant panda were uncovered alongside the remains of a titan-sized, ancient ape called Gigantopithecus blacki, said Huang Wanbo, a paleontologist at Beijing's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.
"Excavated from a limestone cave on the island province of Hainan, the fossils suggest that both the giant pandas and the Giganto apes survived on a mostly bamboo diet, said Huang." ...
"Russell Ciochon, a professor at the University of Iowa who has joined several fossil digs in China but was not involved in the Hainan excavation, said the findings expand the known geographic range of nine- to ten-foot (three-meter) Giganto, which he called 'the largest ape that ever existed.'"

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Soft Tissue Dinosaur Found

A hadrosaur fossil discovered in North Dakota may be the best preserved of any "mummified" dinosaur ever found. (News source.)


Friday, November 23, 2007


The Natural History Museum in Milan, Italy, has received fossil Tanystropheus bones from the Alps that are "exceptionally well-preserved." (News source.)

"The fossils belonged to three younger 'reptile giraffes,' so nicknamed because of their long neck which the animal used to approach its prey unnoticed.
"Tanystropheus lived in shallow waters but went ashore. On land, they dined on insects and small reptiles while in waters they would feast on fish and mollusks, the researchers said."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giant Sea Scorpion

A fossil claw from a sea scorpion, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, taken out of a German quarry, is much larger than any other found. It suggests that the animal itself was up to 8 feet in length. (News source.)


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Paleoanthropology in Eurasia

Here's an article on the Dmanisi fossils in Georgia.


Monday, June 11, 2007

New Fossil: Longnecked Gliding Reptile

A description of a new gliding reptile with a longer neck than expected has been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. From the press release:

"A remarkable new long-necked, gliding reptile discovered in 220 million-year old sediments of eastern north America is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (Vol. 27, No. 2), scientists report. Mecistotrachelos apeoros (meaning "soaring, long-necked") is based on two fossils excavated at the Solite Quarry that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina state line." ...
"Fraser said that while two other reptiles with similar gliding membranes are known from the Triassic Period, they have much shorter necks and therefore conform more to the modern gliding lizard, Draco.
"The relationships of Mecistotrachelos are unclear, but Fraser considers that it is probably related to the protorosaurs. Protorosaurs are a group of extinct reptiles characterized by a long-necked, including the bizarre Tanystropheus which had a neck longer than the length of the body and tail combined.
"Because of the nature of the sediments, it was not possible to prepare the fossils by standard mechanical methods and the descriptions are based entirely on CT scans. This technique has only been rarely used to describe new species. Tim Ryan of the Center for Quantitative Imaging at Pennsylvania State University led the work on the CT scanning."