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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Shelf Life Video: Fossils in the Gobi Desert Paleontology Videos 

Shelf Life Video: Fossils in the Gobi Desert

It’s been nearly a century since the Museum began their explorations of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert—a vast and imposing landscape that occupies an unparalleled space in the scientific record. The American Museum of Natural History gives some background on the Gobi Desert expeditions: One of the world’s richest locations for dinosaur, lizard, and mammal fossils, it was discovered in 1993 by a team that included Curators Mark Norell (now Macaulay Curator and Chair of the Division of Paleontology) and Mike Novacek (now Provost of Science at the Museum), and visited by…

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ancient bird wing preserved in amber Paleontology Science & Art 

Amber Preserves Details of Ancient Bird Wings

By Emily Willoughby @eawilloughby I am a paleoartist—a scientific illustrator whose job is to combine paleontological research with inference, logic, and a healthy dose of creativity to produce illustrations of long-extinct organisms. We are uniquely tasked with translating research into representations of real creatures that the public can see and experience as animals that lived and breathed, rather than as movie monsters or collections of measurements and static bones. This is no easy task. Accuracy always takes precedence, and the rendering must closely conform to the glimpse of reality granted…

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messel Paleontology Photos 

Eocene Fossils: The Mines of Messel

By Steven Spence Gimli: “And they call it a mine. A mine!” Boromir: “This is no mine, it’s a tomb!” (Film: Lord of the Rings) In November 2015, it was my good fortune to tour a special exhibit of never-before-displayed fossils from the shelves of the Hessiches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. The fossils were shown in the Visitor’s Center at the Messel Fossil Pit. Messel is, indeed, a mine and a tomb, but you won’t find the bridge of Khazad-dûm, a Balrog, or the tomb of Durin like in Tolkien’s Middle Earth…

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The Art of Scientific Illustration Animals Paleontology Science & Art 

Dakotaraptor: Giant Raptor Straight Out of Hell Creek

By Emily Willoughby For centuries, dinosaurs have captured the public’s imagination through their massive proportions and power, and their ancestral connection to birds has more recently brought a new fascination to paleontology. But when a newly discovered dinosaur is both huge and covered in feathers, it becomes the stuff of legend—a true dragon shaped by evolution instead of mythos. Meet Dakotaraptor steini, one of the largest “raptor” dinosaurs known to science. This 17-foot-long predator was described by Robert DePalma, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural…

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Dinosaur fossils: The entrance to New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch in 1947, the year Edwin Colbert discovered the Coelophysis quarry. ©AMNH Paleontology Videos 

Dinosaur Fossils of Ghost Ranch

In more than a century of fossil collecting, paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History have unearthed fossils from every corner of the globe. But there are some sites so fruitful in dinosaur fossils that they are visited again and again by the Museum’s fossil hunters, with each generation turning up new and unexpected finds. One of those sites is New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch, home to four quarries that paleontologists from the Museum have excavated for decades. The remains of animals from the Triassic era, including dinosaurs, reptiles, and…

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Biology Paleontology Videos 

The Tiniest Fossils of All

This episode of the Shelf Life video series explores the fossils of tiny marine organisms known as foraminifera. That name is a mouthful, so even scientists often shorten it to forams. These single-cell organisms still live in Earth’s oceans today. The fossilized shells left behind by their foram forefathers serve as tiny time capsules for climate data from bygone eras. Finding Clues in Fossils Ammonite fossils also contain clues to past climates. Ammonites are a group of ancient mollusks related to modern animals like nautiluses, which most closely resemble squid and…

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Skull of the Olinguito: Shelf Life Episode 4 Animals Biology Videos 

Skull of the Olinguito: Shelf Life Episode 4

The Skull of the Olinguito This video, fourth in the Shelf Life series, reveals how scientists in the field found the skull of a new species and identified it as the elusive olinguito. Thousands of new animal species are discovered every year, some living and some extinct. Researchers regularly make expeditions to the far-flung corners of the globe in search of new species, ranging from the single-celled organisms found in pools of volcanic sulfur (or even in your own stomach), to deep-sea organisms and larger animals like monkeys and birds.…

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EH Science: Ankylosaurus_skull, By William Diller Matthew (1871-1930) Paleontology 

Armored Dinosaurs, Elaborate Nasal Passages

Since paleontologists began using CT scans and 3D reconstructions of dinosaur remains, they have been able to tell us much more about dinosaurs than ever before. Now a new study shows that armor-plated dinosaurs (ankylosaurs) had the capacity to modify the temperature of the air they breathed using nasal passages shaped like “crazy straws.” We know that animals use strategies such as sweating, panting, and swimming to prevent their brains from overheating. However, the ankylosaur appears to have relied upon its long and winding nasal cavity to cool down, using…

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