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Posts Tagged "fossil"

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Popular special edition adapted for eBook format: Becoming Human: Our Past, Present and Future*

Becoming Human cover

We humans are a strange bunch. We have self-awareness and yet often act on impulses that remain hidden. We were forged in adversity but live in a world of plenty. Who are we? What is to become of us? To these age-old questions, science has in recent years brought powerful tools and reams of data. [...]

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But Seriously...

Largest Flying Bird Ever?

Dan Ksepka Big Bird

With a wingspan of 20 to 24 feet, Pelagornis sandersi may have been the largest flying bird ever to grace the skies of the Earth. Gone now for some 25 million years, the current living contender for that title belongs to the Royal Albatross – at less than half that wingspan. Announced in a paper [...]

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Guest Blog

How Much Nature Do We Have to Use?

It’s so easy to slip into debt, but so hard to dig oneself out. Just ask the typical wage earner—even business and national leaders. People who know better still wait for that next paycheck, assumed pay raise or small miracle to help them catch up. As any accountant will tell you, accumulating debt is not [...]

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Image of the Week

The 500-lb. Chicken From Hell

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Source: 500-Pound “Chicken from Hell” Dinosaur Once Roamed North America by Kate Wong at Observations Illustration credit: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History Nothing you could find in any hen house could prepare you for the 11.5-foot tall, 500-lb. behemoth that roamed the landscape 66-million years ago in what is today North and South [...]

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Image of the Week

Dynamic Grace from Static Fossils

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Tiktaalik reconstruction © Kalliopi Monoyios   From: Scientists Discover the Very First Hipster Source: Kalliopi Monoyios While photography is often the preferred way to document scientific phenomena, there’s an area where scientific illustration rules: the fossil record. Scientific American Blogs’ own Kalliopi Monoyios has been documenting Tiktaalik with Neil Shubin’s lab since the beginning, seeing [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Billion Year Old Seawater

As it was, and as it is, an ocean on Earth (T. Fioreze)

If there is one thing our universe makes a lot of, it is water. This isn’t an immediately obvious property based solely on the universal inventory of stuff. Hydrogen utterly dominates normal matter throughout the cosmos, and despite some 13 billion years of stellar nuclear fusion only a small number of these primordial protons have [...]

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Observations

Mind-Blowing Fossil Preserves Tiny Horse Carrying Unborn Foal

Fossil mare and unborn foal from Messel, Germany

BERLIN: The former oil shale mining site of Messel, near Frankfurt, Germany, is well known for its spectacular fossils of organisms that lived between 47 million and 48 million years ago, during the Eocene epoch. But a fossil of the early horse species Eurohippus messelensis, described at this year’s Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in [...]

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Observations

Molecular Analysis Supports Controversial Claim for Dinosaur Cells

RALEIGH—Twenty years ago, paleontologist Mary Schweitzer made an astonishing discovery. Peering through a microscope at a slice of dinosaur bone, she spotted what looked for all the world like red blood cells. It seemed utterly impossible—organic remains were not supposed to survive the fossilization process—but test after test indicated that the spherical structures were indeed [...]

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Observations

Complex Brains Existed 520 Million Years Ago in Cockroach Relative

insect brain evolution 520 million years arthropod fossil

Your everyday cockroach might not seem terribly intelligent. But new fossil evidence from 520 million years ago suggests that this insidious insect might have had some surprisingly smart early ancestors. Cockroaches and other insects belong to a group called the arthropods, which arose some 540 million years ago. A new Chinese fossil is yielding new [...]

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Observations

Odd Insect Fossils Suggest Early Carnivorous Lifestyle

insect fossil new order

A recently described swarm of fossil insects unearthed from a 100 million-year-old South American formation are a Frankensteinian riot of mismatched parts: lengthy praying mantis-like front legs; long, slim wings like a dragonfly; and wing-vein patterns to match those of modern-day mayflies. So unusual is their form that scientists are cataloguing the creatures into a [...]

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Observations

30 years After Televised Spat, Rival Anthropologists Agree to Bury the Hand-Ax

Paleoanthropology is a discipline known as much for its feuds as for its findings. Among the best known of these clashes is a longstanding one between two of the field’s most famous scientists, Donald Johanson and Richard Leakey. Both have led expeditions that made such extraordinary fossil discoveries as the 3.2-million-year old "Lucy" skeleton from [...]

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Observations

New fossil shows “Lucy” to have been steady on her feet

lucy human ancestor foot bone modern walking

At some point in the past five million years or so, our human ancestors traded in an arboreal existence for a dedicated two-legged life on the ground. A patchy fossil record, however, has frustrated researchers hoping to pinpoint the emergence of more modern human upright walking.  Even the gait of the well-studied "Lucy" species, Australopithecus [...]

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Observations

A whale of a fossil is named in honor of Herman Melville

new fossil of giant sperm whale named for Herman Melville attacking a baleen whale

The large leviathan that was the bane of Ahab’s existence in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has a new ancient relative that might have lived up to the fictional beast’s monstrosity. Leviathan melvillei, a giant toothed whale, is described in a new paper, published online June 29 in Nature (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing [...]

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Symbiartic

Now That’s a Wee Little Infographic

shrews_J_Christiansen_mini

  53 million years old, and it may be the smallest mammal that has ever lived. Batodonoides vanhouteni was a shrew-like mammal that scientific illustrator Jen Christiansen has deftly described in this illustration. In addition to being an illustrator, Christiansen is also Scientific American’s art editor of information graphics. Composing an illustration with only a few, [...]

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Symbiartic

Shields and Spears

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I love when this group of Alaskan paleoartists has a show – I even have one of their past postcards framed and decorating my sons’ robot-and-dinosaur themed bedroom. Scott Elyard, Raven Amos and Zachary Miller are distinct and lively personalities in the paleoart (and often toy) blogging world. (Raven and Scott also frequent the SciArt [...]

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Symbiartic

A DIY Fossil Hunting Activity for Pre-K Classrooms

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The following project constitutes a half-hour activity for 3-, 4-, or 5-year olds. It includes the entire process from finding fossils to putting the recovered pieces together like a puzzle to drawing our best guess at what it looked like in life. The details of the project are based on my experience working in Neil [...]

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Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale Gets A Rockin’ Label

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Sometimes you never know where your work will end up. Take this figure depicting the evolution of whales that I created for Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Pretty academic and dry, right? When I created it I never thought it would have appeal outside of the occasional textbook reuse or request to include [...]

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Symbiartic

Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, Brewed from Real Fossils!

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With craft brewing on the rise and many breweries tinkering with flavorings that range from the somewhat obvious (honey or citrus) to the eyebrow-raising (jalapeño, hemp, or even peanut butter cup) it was only a matter of time before someone stared a 35-million year old fossil in the face and thought, “would you make a [...]

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Symbiartic

Largest Assemblage of Cambrian Fossils Since 1909 Discovered in British Columbia

new arthropod

Much of what we know about the diversification of body plans that happened starting 540-million years ago (commonly known as the Cambrian Explosion) comes from the famous Burgess Shale formation. The original site, located in Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies, was discovered by paleontologist Charles Walcott in 1909. The site has produced an [...]

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Symbiartic

The Hypnotic Whorl of Teeth That Keeps Researchers Guessing

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How many facelifts can one extinct animal undergo? The answer is probably equal to the number of interested researchers and paleoartists out there, and then some. In the case of the mysterious whorled tooth rows left behind by the fossil fish known as Helicoprion, artist Ray Troll has documented close to two dozen, many of [...]

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Symbiartic

Putting the Illustrations Before the Text

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We’re wrapping up the daily sciart posts today. We hope you’ve enjoyed them! Stay tuned tomorrow for a round-up of the month’s artists and images. Typically, illustrators are called in towards the end of a project. The text is largely written, and the author and/or art director have developed a clear idea of the illustration/s [...]

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Symbiartic

How Fossil Fish Make Front-Page News

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Perhaps you’ve heard about Entelognathus primordialis this week. Wait, the scientific name doesn’t ring a bell on its own? What if I refer to it as the 419-million-year old placoderm fish that surprised everyone with its beautifully preserved, surprisingly modern-looking jaw? Entelognathus primordialis shakes our family tree at its roots; it unseats cartilaginous fish as [...]

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Symbiartic

Skeletal Drawing Has Never Looked So Good

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Dinosaur fossil mounts can be breathtaking in their grandeur. It’s rare that illustrations of the fossils can have that affect. Scott Hartman has been illustrating dinosaur fossil skeletons for years, and is one of the clearest, most detail-oriented illustrators we are lucky to have describe our favourite, dynamic, prehistoric beasties. And now with his revamped [...]

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