Seemingly Ordinary Fossils May Be Hiding Some Major Clues to the Past

Detail of a partially decalcified Allosaurus bone fossil at Yale Peabody Museum.

Detail of a partially decalcified Allosaurus bone fossil at Yale Peabody Museum.
Photo: Jasmina Wiemann

Paleontologists are lucky to find complete sets of fossilized bones. Sometimes, they get even luckier, finding preserved impressions of delicate features like feathers. Beyond those clues, though, most of the biology of extinct species—their DNA, internal organs, and unique chemistry—has been totally destroyed by the many millions of years that separate us. Except, what if it hasn’t? Some scientists now claim they can tease much more complex biological information out of apparently mundane fossils, including things that most paleontologists don’t expect to survive over millions of years, such as skin and eggshell.

Molecular paleobiologist Jasmina Wiemann has been on the forefront of this exciting research since 2018, co-authoring papers that reveal elements of fossils that cannot be immediately seen with our eyes but can be detected through a series of complex chemical and statistical

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Megalodon fossils discovered all over the world

Megalodons, the apex predator of the seas, may have gone extinct more than 3.5 million years ago, but experts may have discovered nurseries of the massive shark all around the world, according to a new study.

The research, published in Biology Letters, notes that nurseries of the megalodon have been found in northeastern Spain, with fossils of adult and younger megalodons discovered. In all, five potential nurseries may have been found, including in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific basins, with fossils ranging from 16 million to 3 million years ago.

“Our analyses support the presence of five potential nurseries ranging from the Langhian (middle Miocene) to the Zanclean (Pliocene), with higher densities of individuals with estimated body lengths within the typical range of neonates and young juveniles,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract. “These results reveal, for the first time, that nursery areas were commonly used by O. megalodon

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Fossils purported to be world’s earliest animals revealed as algae

Nov. 23 (UPI) — Fossils previously heralded as the earliest evidence of animal life have been revealed to be algae. The reinterpretation, announced Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, will force scientists to reconsider early animal evolution.

“It brings the oldest evidence for animals nearly 100 million years closer to the present day,” study co-author Lennart van Maldegem said in a news release.

“We were able to demonstrate that certain molecules from common algae can be altered by geological processes — leading to molecules which are indistinguishable from those produced by sponge-like animals,” said van Maldegem, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University.

The new research reverses the trend of fresh discoveries pushing the emergence of animal life further and further back on the evolutionary timeline.

For decades, scientists have struggled to pinpoint the origins of animal life, but recently, a series of discoveries suggested sponge-like

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‘Dueling dinosaurs’ fossils show Triceratops, T. rex, may have died after a battle

It may have been a battle for the ages in ancient Montana.



a herd of cattle walking across a river


© Matt Zeher/North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences


About 67 million years ago, two iconic dinosaurs, a Triceratops horridus and a Tyrannosaurus rex, died and were quickly buried together side by side in a single grave. And both of them bear battle scars. It’s the kind of showdown scientists have speculated about for years, but it has only ever appeared in “Jurassic Park” games — until now.

The impressively complete skeletons of these “dueling dinosaurs” will go on display and be studied at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in 2022, the museum announced Tuesday. The museum is located in downtown Raleigh.

The fossil of the Triceratops was first discovered 2006 as it eroded out of sedimentary rock from the Hell Creek Formation. This rock formation, which dates to 65.5 million years ago, was named for

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Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species

Henderson island fossils reveal new Polynesian sandpiper species
The extinct Kiritimati Sandpiper, Prosobonia cancellata – a close cousin of the newly discovered Prosobonia sauli. Credit: George Edward Lodge, 1907

Fossil bones collected in the early 1990s on Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Group, have revealed a new species of Polynesian sandpiper.


The Henderson Sandpiper, a small wading bird that has been extinct for centuries, is described in an article in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society published last week.

The newly-described bird is formally named Prosobonia sauli after Cook Islands-based ornithologist and conservationist Edward K Saul.

A team of researchers from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and China, led by Canterbury Museum Research Curator Natural History Dr. Vanesa De Pietri, described the Henderson Sandpiper from 61 fossilised bones cared for by the Natural History Museum at Tring in England.

Canterbury Museum Visiting Researcher Dr. Graham Wragg collected the bones from caves and overhangs on

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Mysterious remains of ancient flying reptile found hidden among shark fossils

flying

A type of North African pterosaur, believed to be similar to the one uncovered by the University of Portsmouth researchers.


Davide Bonadonna

Combing through a drawer of shark fossils early this year, British doctoral student Roy Smith made a surprising and thrilling discovery: remains of a flying reptile that lived more than 60 million years ago. 

Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at the UK’s University of Portsmouth, was examining fossils of shark fin spines from two British museum collections when he noticed some fragments contained neural foramina, or tiny but perceptible holes where nerves come to the surface to sense prey. Sharks fin spines don’t have these, so Smith instantly knew some of the fragments weren’t like the others. 

In fact, they didn’t even come from creatures of the sea, but from creatures of the air: toothless pterosaurs, an enigmatic flying reptile and the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered

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Indian fossils support new hypothesis for origin of hoofed mammals — ScienceDaily

New research published today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology describes a fossil family that illuminates the origin of perissodactyls — the group of mammals that includes horses, rhinos, and tapirs. It provides insights on the controversial question of where these hoofed animals evolved, concluding that they arose in or near present day India.

With more than 350 new fossils, the 15-year study pieces together a nearly complete picture of the skeletal anatomy of the Cambaytherium — an extinct cousin of perissodactyls that lived on the Indian subcontinent almost 55 million years ago.

Among the findings includes a sheep-sized animal with moderate running ability and features that were intermediate between specialized perissodactyls and their more generalized mammal forerunners. Comparing its bones with many other living and extinct mammals, revealed that Cambaytherium represents an evolutionary stage more primitive than any known perissodactyl, supporting origin for the group in or near India

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Two fossils from a group of extinct seabirds represent the largest individuals ever found — ScienceDaily

Fossils recovered from Antarctica in the 1980s represent the oldest giant members of an extinct group of birds that patrolled the southern oceans with wingspans of up to 21 feet that would dwarf the 11½-foot wingspan of today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross.

Called pelagornithids, the birds filled a niche much like that of today’s albatrosses and traveled widely over Earth’s oceans for at least 60 million years. Though a much smaller pelagornithid fossil dates from 62 million years ago, one of the newly described fossils — a 50 million-year-old portion of a bird’s foot — shows that the larger pelagornithids arose just after life rebounded from the mass extinction 65 million years ago, when the relatives of birds, the dinosaurs, went extinct. A second pelagornithid fossil, part of a jaw bone, dates from about 40 million years ago.

“Our fossil discovery, with its estimate of a 5-to-6-meter wingspan —

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Supercomputers dig into first star fossils — ScienceDaily

No one has yet found the first stars.

They’re hypothesized to have formed about 100 million years after the Big Bang out of universal darkness from the primordial gases of hydrogen, helium, and trace light metals. These gases cooled, collapsed, and ignited into stars up to 1,000 times more massive than our sun. The bigger the star, the faster they burn out. The first stars probably only lived a few million years, a drop in the bucket of the age of the universe, at about 13.8 billion years. They’re unlikely to ever be observed, lost to the mists of time.

As the metal-free first stars collapsed and exploded into supernovae, they forged heavier elements such as carbon that seeded the next generation of stars. One type of these second stars is called a carbon-enhanced metal-poor star. They’re like fossils to astrophysicists. Their composition reflects the nucleosynthesis, or fusion, of heavier

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