Category Archives: Fossils

First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals

The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

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Source: gad

How Trump's cuts to public lands threaten future dinosaur discoveries

Researchers have made remarkable finds at sites such as Grand Staircase-Escalante, which the administration has shrunk

The paleontologist Rob Gay wasn’t expecting to find anything significant that day. He and a few of his students were scouting in the southeast Utah badlands in summer 2016 when they came across a hillside littered with hundreds of bones. Scattered haphazardly and protruding from the earth, they were the remains of of prehistoric reptiles that lived 220m years ago, at the same time as the earliest dinosaurs.

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Source: gad

How do you sex a fossil? | Elsa Panciroli

How can we tell if an extinct animal is male or female? And how did dinosaurs mate?

“It was a slit, like this,” Vinther held his cupped hands side by side and opened and closed them, like a puppet’s mouth. “That’s it. That’s what a dinosaur cloaca looked like.”

For those who don’t habituate the often explicit world of natural scientists, let me explain. A cloaca is the opening through which most vertebrate animals excrete their waste and have sex. It is an all-purpose exit and entry-point. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol, and his colleagues, are currently describing the only known dinosaur cloaca. It belongs to a spectacular Psittacosaurus specimen that preserves details of skin texture and even colouration. Their upcoming research will be the first ever scientific description of actual dino-privates.

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Source: gad

Strangest things: fossils reveal how fungus shaped life on Earth

Fossil fungi from over 400m years ago have altered our understanding of early life on land and climate change over deep time

Much of the weirdness depicted in the TV show Stranger Things is distinctly fungal. The massive organic underground network, the floating spores, and even the rotting pumpkin fields all capture the “otherness” of fungi: neither plants nor animals, often bizarre-looking, and associated with decay. As weird as they may seem to us, fungi are integral to the story of the evolution of our landscapes and climate.

Molecular studies show us that animals and fungi share a more recent common ancestor than either group does with plants, and that these groups had all diverged over a billion years ago. A sparse fossil record for fungi is not entirely surprising, given the low preservation potential of soft, microscopic threads, but we still have tantalising glimpses of their history. Recent work on the Rhynie Chert, a deposit formed in hydrothermal wetlands 407m years ago, preserving an early land ecosystem in exquisite detail, has helped to reveal the hidden history of fungi. All modern groups of fungi are abundant in Rhynie chert samples apart from the basidiomycota, the group which includes those most familiar of fungi: mushrooms. New findings have been published in a special volume of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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Source: gad