Vadasaurus Fossil Shows a Reptile in Transition Animals Paleontology 

Vadasaurus Fossil Shows a Reptile in Transition

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg A small fossil—just a foot long—is revealing secrets of how some land-dwelling reptiles moved back into the water. After studying the 155-million-year-old reptile fossil, scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the American Museum of Natural History report they have filled in some important clues to the evolution of animals that once roamed land and transitioned to life in the water. Vadasaurus, the Latin term for “wading lizard,” was discovered in limestone quarries near Solnhofen, Germany. The area was once part of a shallow sea that has…

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Ongoing Human Evolution Revealed in Data Biology Health 

Ongoing Human Evolution Revealed in Data

By Kate Stone @GotScienceOrg When I was about nine years old, a young schoolmate demanded to know, “If evolution is real, then why isn’t it happening now?” Being nine and not a biologist, I wasn’t prepared to answer this question. And yet, it was a question that I’ve heard echoes of in the years to follow. Now, a research team at Columbia University has conducted a large-scale study of genetic data and revealed how humans are evolving. In a study analyzing the genomes of 210,000 people in the United States…

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Biology Paleontology 

Microfossils Are Earliest Evidence Yet of Life on Earth

By Katherine Lindemann Researchers examining deposits from ancient hydrothermal vents in northeastern Canada have found evidence of microbial activity, possibly some of the earliest life on Earth. Hydrothermal vents deep beneath the oceans have long been thought to be where life originated, leading Matthew Dodd and colleagues to search where they did. The microbes were likely iron-metabolizing bacteria, and the structures they left are between 3.77 and 4.28 billion years old, making them even older than the microbes found last year to have lived near the surface of the ocean…

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Which Dinosaur Gave Rise to Tyrannosaurus Rex? Paleontology 

Which Dinosaur Gave Rise to Tyrannosaurus Rex?

By David Blagic Tyrannosaurus rex surely is one of the most well-known dinosaurs of all time. We know nearly everything about it, from its anatomy to its behavior. However, one important question hasn’t yet been answered—who was T. rex’s ancestor? What dinosaur species has the honor to be called “the King’s” grandparent? There are three main contestants: (1) Tarbosaurus bataar, (2) southern-type North American tyrannosaurid, or (3) Daspletosaurus torosus. Tarbosaurus bataar Tarbosaurus is probably the closest relative of Tyrannosaurus discovered so far. The only notable morphological differences between it and…

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Book Review: God’s Word or Human Reason? Book Reviews Paleontology 

Book Review: God’s Word or Human Reason?

Title: God’s Word or Human Reason? An Inside Perspective on Creationism Reviewed by: Steven Spence for GotScience.org, a Science Connected publication Authors: Jonathan Kane, Emily Willoughby, T. Michael Keesey, Glenn Morton, and James Comer Publisher: Inkwater Press On sale: January 31, 2017 Best for: High school junior level and above Reviewer’s rating: 5 out of 5 Introduction “People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward…

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DNA Analysis Reveals Four Distinct Giraffe Species Animals Biology 

DNA Analysis Reveals Four Distinct Giraffe Species

By Katherine Lindemann Researchers have long recognized only a single species of giraffe, thought to be made up of several subspecies. However, a research collaboration has now identified four distinct species. Conservation biologist Julian Fennessy of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, geneticist Axel Janke of the Senckenberg Research Institute, and their colleagues collected and analyzed samples from giraffes across the African continent. Their results appear in the journal Current Biology. ResearchGate: When and why did you start genetically testing giraffes across Africa? Julian Fennessy: When I approached Axel Janke to help…

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Nests, Neurons, and the Evolution of Behavior. How and Why Do Brain Cells Die? Biology 

Nests, Neurons, and the Evolution of Behavior

By Emily Willoughby @eawilloughby Evolution is a beautiful thing. We tend to appreciate its elegance and creative productivity most when looking backward into deep time: in our distant ancestors, in dinosaurs, and in entire strange lineages that rose and fell before humanity. To most of us, evolution is a thing that happened so long ago that it has no practical relevance to our lives today. We see its results in the bodies of living things and the relationships among them—and these results, in all their wonder, seem static, like final…

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how snakes lost their legs Animals Paleontology 

How Snakes Lost their Legs

By Kate Stone Long ago, snakes lost their legs. Now, a fresh clue as to how and why has been found deep in an ancient snake’s inner ear.  Leglessness is not what makes a snake a snake. As this article explains, it is the flexible, unhinged jaw that distinguishes a snake from a legless lizard. And yet, developing legs only to lose them may seem like evolution in reverse. A 90 million-year-old snake skull is giving researchers vital clues about how snakes lost their legs as they evolved. Comparisons between…

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Berlin Mounted Dinosaur Skeleton: The huge mounted Giraffatitan in the main hall in Berlin, dwarfing the Diplodocus that stands behind it. (Photo by Steven Spence) Paleontology 

Mounting a Monument to a Mesozoic Monster

By David Hone Dr. Dave Hone is a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in dinosaurs and pterosaurs. In addition to writing for The Guardian, he blogs at Archosaur Musings, is a contributor to Pterosaur.net, created Ask A Biologist, and has published more than 50 academic papers on dinosaur biology. His latest book, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles, is now available for pre-order from Bloomsbury Publishing. Few visitors to the Museum for Nature in Berlin can fail to be impressed by the truly colossal dinosaur that takes centre stage in…

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London specimen of Archaeopteryx (photographed with permission from the Natural History Museum) Animals Paleontology 

Piecing Together the Archaeopteryx Puzzle

By Steven Spence Bird, Dinosaur, or Both? The 1861 discovery of Archaeopteryx made it one of the most important fossils ever found. Coming just two years after Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the finding caused a sensation. It had teeth and a bony tail like a lizard, and feathers like a bird. Archaeopteryx was assumed to be a transitional form between non-avian dinosaurs and modern birds, thus supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution, although this assumption was controversial and by no means immediately accepted. In the 150-plus years following the…

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