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2001 News Stories:


Sue: Rediscovered

A broken leg. A broken arm. Two broken ribs. Deformed back bones and jaw lesions. Sounds like a recipe for one very grumpy T. rex.

In fact, the most famous of all Tyrannosaurs, "Sue," suffered from all these ailments-and apparently survived them as well. [MORE]


October News

The Crocodile That Hunted Dinosaurs

10/31 Paleontologists have announced the finding of a skeleton  of a super- crocodile called Sarcosuchus imperator. The big croc, estimated to have been around 40 feet long, was found in Africa by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago. [Science UniSci]

Neanderthals May Have Assisted Debilitated Kin

10/15 From cave rocks in France dating to the middle of the ice age comes evidence Neanderthals were caregivers to those who couldn't provide for themselves. A new paper describes a diseased jawbone devoid of teeth- teeth all but required for survival in the ancient Neanderthal world. The researchers suggest other Neanderthals probably brought food to the debilitated individual, possibly even preparing the food for easy swallowing. [PNAS]

Sauropod Bones From Largest Australian Dinosaur

10/12 Paleontologists recently unearthed a large femur and other bones from a long- necked dinosaur. The skeleton is believed to be about the size of an Apatosaurus. [More: Yahoo]

New Fossil Shows Evolution From Land to Water

10/12 An almost complete skeleton of a new and different permanently aquatic mammal is described in this week's Nature. This sirenian (a member of the group that includes manatees and dugongs) had a back and legs that would have supported its weight to walk on land, but it probably spent most of its time in the water.

It thus illustrates the evolutionary transition between terrestrial and aquatic life. It is, says D. P. Domning of Howard University, Washington DC, "one of the most marked examples of morphological evolution in the vertebrate fossil record". [Source: Nature]

Study: Dinosaur Era a Period of Intense Global Warming

10/7 Recent evidence for high worldwide carbon dioxide levels some 70 million years ago suggests the Cretaceous Period was an increasingly hot one. Scientists studied the chemical properties of fossilized plankton shells and found a notable difference in readings between those of the Late Cretaceous and others from the later Tertiary, the period of time that came after the extinction of the dinosaurs. [UniSci]
Image courtesy ISAS/NASA


Dinosaur Embryos Provide First Look at Titanosaur Skulls

10/5 Nature proved her sense of irony when she revealed the cranial anatomy of the largest of all known dinosaurs-the Titanosaurs-in the minute and fragile bones of their embryos. [More]
Illustration by Steve Melendrez

Beaked Dinosaurs Were Filter Feeders

10/3 "Dinosaurs with beaks used their mouthparts as sieves, not daggers, say researchers. Analysis of unusually well preserved fossils reveals structures similar to those used by ducks for filtering food out of the water, suggesting that they ate small plants and invertebrates rather than hunted

Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and colleagues, studied specimens of two species of ostrich dinosaurs, Ornithomimus edmontonicus from the Canadian Rockies and Gallimimus bullatus from Mongolia, where some soft tissues had been fossilized. Many small projections stick out from the inside of the bill, forming a filter-like apparatus. If these 'ornithomimid' dinosaurs did feed this way. it may explain why their fossils are usually found in wet environments." [Nature]

September News

50 Million-Year-Old Whale Ancestors

9/26 Researchers recently have discovered two skeletons which appear to be predecessors of living whales and support the theory that whales evolved from hoofed mammals. The skeletons- and several other finds of early whales- were uncovered in Pakistan. [More: BBC] Illustration by Carl Buell

August News

Feathered Dromaeosaur Completes Picture of Bird Evolution

8/17 The American Museum of Natural History announced a new fossil dinosaur from China that confirms again the relationship of birds and their scaly kin. The specimen is preserved in two halves and in great detail. Feathers can be clearly seen on the fossil which otherwise resembles a dromaeosaur- the family of dinosaurs which includes Velociraptor. [More: AMNH]

Oldest Crustacean Lends Support to Early Evolution

8/17 A tiny fossil related to modern lobsters and shrimps may have huge implications for the history of life. Advanced forms of life appear in the Cambrian Period, some 550 million years ago. Researchers have traditionally thought this indicated a relatively rapid evolution of animal forms. Recently others have suggested evolution was happening behind the scenes during earlier times but is not well recorded in fossils. The new crustacean- an advanced form dated at 511 million years- tends to bolster the latter theory. [More: BBC]

Finally, a Complete Titanosaur Skeleton

8/17 One of the most prolific groups of sauropod (long necked) dinosaurs is among the least studied. This is in part because Titanosaur skeletons have rarely been found intact and invariably without skulls. Now a member of the great Cretaceaous long-necks has been found in Madagascar- and this specimen is nearly complete from head to toe. [Reported in Nature]

July News

Skeleton and Rare T. rex Skin Impressions Reportedly Found

7/25 Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago has described a skeleton from a large predatory dinosaur spotted near the border of South Dakota and Nebraska. A source quoted Sereno as saying he suspects skin may be preserved with the big Jurassic predators remains. We'll post more information as it becomes available.

Wobbling Mercury Doomed the Dinos?

7/20 University of California researchers recently discovered the earth was sent into an uneven orbit around the time of the dinosaur extinction. The earth's gravitational pull then forced the planet Mercury into an unnatural orbit. The scientists speculate these "wobbling" orbits might have had the power to draw an asteroid out of the asteroid belt and into a collision course with Earth. [More: CNN]
Photo: NASA

New Dinosaur Egg Site in Patagonia

7/09 "Miners in Argentina's southern region of Patagonia have stumbled on two nests, each about five feet wide, filled with fossilized 70 million-year-old dinosaur eggs, museum officials said on Tuesday." [Source: Yahoo]

June News

"Sloth-Like" Theropod One of Two New Dinosaurs from New Mexico

6/20 Named Nothronychus, this newly announced fossil find is related to a feathered dinosaur in China. It's claws were exceptionally long and probably used to gather plants-a unique trait for theropod dinosaurs, most of which were meat eaters. [More: Yahoo] Nothronychus was a therizinosaur, a group of dinosaurs not previously known in the Americas.

Mass Extinctions Pinned on Ice Age Hunters

6/14 Incriminating new evidence from Australia and North America points to Homo sapiens as the culprit behind the mass extinctions of many species of big, exotic mammals and flightless birds in the late Pleistocene era, 11,000 to 50,000 years ago. If findings reported [in the latest] issue of Science are confirmed, humans are guilty of two counts of serial mass murder, 35,000 years apart, and rival suspects such as climate change are off the hook. [Source: Science]

Found: The First Food Grinder

6/7 This week, researchers describe the oldest known vertebrate to possess the specialized hardware needed to digest plants. Suminia getmanovi, a newly discovered reptile that lived about 245 million years ago in what is now Russia had close-packed teeth which would have been ideal for grinding up vegetation. The success of animals like Sumina would have been good news for predators, leading to the evolution of the type of ecosystems and food webs with which we are familiar today. [Source: Nature. See also CNN]

A T. rex for New Mexico

6/5 In late 1998, field crews excavated a new T. rex specimen from New Mexico badlands. The skeleton is now in a lab at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Learn more about the dig and the ongoing preparation at the BLMs paleontology site.  

Finding The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt

6/3 In 1909 German paleontologist Ernst von Stromer discovered a treasure of new dinosaur skeletons at the Bahariya Oasis in the middle of Egypt's Sahara Desert. Shipped to a German museum, the fossils were completely destroyed during World War II by an Allied bombing raid on Munich. But the dinosaurs would not be lost forever. For the last two years, American scientists have been digging in Bahariva, uncovering more bones from Stromer's famed dinosaurs. Among the finds is Paralititan Stromeri, the largest dinosaur ever discovered in Africa.
[Egypt Dinosaurs Science
Photo: Joshua B. Smith/University of Pennsylvania

Battle of the Meat-Eaters: Neanderthal vs. Human

6/1 The saying "you are what you eat" became a reality for ancient man in Europe. Now scientists have turned up clues to his diet in 20,000 - year - old bones of Neanderthals. The research suggests Neanderthal preferred big-game like Mammoth almost exclusively. Early Humans may have had a wider, but still meat - centric diet including fish and fowl. [Source: PNAS

May News

Half-Size Tyrannosaur Ancestor From Britain

5/20 A newly discovered predatory dinosaur, named Eotyrannus lengi has been suggested as a probable predecessor to Tyrannosaurus rex. Only 15' long-just less than half the length of the biggest T. rex specimens-this smaller predator lived some 50 million years before T. rex in the early Cretaceous period. [More: Nando]

Sauropod Dinosaur Goes Airborne

5/16 Big Bend National Park confirms that everything is bigger in Texas with the discovery of perhaps the largest known long-necked dinosaur. Last week, ten neck vertebrae weighing up to a half-ton each where airlifted by helicopter to the Dallas Museum of Natural History. Over the next couple of years, the museum hopes to prepare and study the giant bones, believed to belong to an Alamosaurus dinosaur. [More: National Park Service]

April News

Feathered Dinosaur Spreads its Wings

4/29 Fossils of "feathered" dinosaurs that promise to shed light on the origin of birds are becoming more common but, like most fossil skeletons, these dinosaurs are rarely complete, and the bones are often fragmentary and disarticulated.
This makes the feathered dinosaur described... by Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and colleagues all the more special. The 126-147-million-year-old Chinese fossil is a complete skeleton preserved spread- eagled on a slab, allowing the examination of feather- like filaments over the body in unprecedented detail. [Source: Nature]

Dinosaur Vomit?

4/17 Paleontologists have found a collection of pellets of fossilized juvenile bones from different birds that show signs of having been digested. Based on the size of the pellet and the degree of digestion, the researchers suggest that the birds were eaten by a small theropod dinosaur or a pterosaur, which coughed up the indigestible parts much as owls do today. [More: Nature]

March News

"Flat-Faced Man" Fossil Skull Wrinkles Picture of Human Evolution

3/21/2001  Hot on the heels of the Kenyan fossil Orrorin tugenensis, claimed to take the human lineage back to around 6 million years ago, comes a spectacular new find from Meave Leakey of the National Museums of Kenya and colleagues, described in this week's Nature. At 3.5 million years old, the new discovery threatens to blur the already murky picture of man's evolution.

The find is a battered but almost complete skull and face of an entirely new breed of early human, and is the oldest reasonably complete cranium known for any member of the human family. The researchers call it Kenyanthropus platyops - the Flat-Faced Man of Kenya. It comes from a rugged, semi-desert site on the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

The most striking thing about this face is how human it looks. It seems very similar to the skull KNM-ER 1470, discovered in the 1970s by Richard Leakey and colleagues on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. "It seems that between 3.5 and 2 million years ago there were several human-like species, which were well adapted to life in different environments, although in ways that we have yet to appreciate fully," Daniel E. Lieberman of the George Washington University, Washington DC, says in an accompanying News and Views article. [Nature Press Release]

Virtual Fossils

3/21/2001  A remarkably preserved assemblage of fossils from the Silurian (Wenlock Series) of Herefordshire, UK, covers a 100-million-year interval, around 425 million years ago, from which few soft-bodied animals are known. The relatively deep-water marine environment represented is dominated by new arthropods and polychaetes. The fossils are preserved as hollow spaces in volcanic materials, so the only way to 'see' them is by reconstructing them digitally.

Using techniques more familiar to neuroscience, Mark D. Sutton of the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues have reconstructed a three-dimensional fossil of Acaenoplax - perhaps the earliest known aplacophoran mollusc - which they present in this week's Nature. The digital fossil reveals a marked degree of repetition, throwing light on the controversial question of body segmentation in primitive molluscs. Movies showing the virtual fossil from all angles will be downloadable from [Nature Press Release]

Dinosaur Extinction Followed by Quick Recovery

3/15/2001  By measuring levels of an extraterrestrial element in rock layers marking the end of the Cretaceous Period, researchers found evidence showing the earth's ecosystems quickly rebounded from the destruction. The element, helium-3, appears suddenly, persists at a constant level, then just as quickly vanishes from the rocks. This finding supports the idea that a single asteroid- and not comets or volcanoes- was responsible for the great extinction of animal life including dinosaurs at the end of the Mesozoic Era. [Science BBC] Image of Chicxulub crater thought to have been the point of impact. LPI/NASA

Hype No Longer: Those Dinosaurs Had Feathers!

3/8/2001  Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, came equipped with feathers indistinguishable from those of any modern bird. This fact has confounded attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of feathers. If feathers had morphological antecedents, how would we recognize them if we found them? If we did find them, how would we tell that they were feathers rather than some other structure? Enter the strange, not-quite-hairlike, not-quite-featherlike integumentary structures of the 'feathered dinosaurs' from China. Proponents of the theory that birds and dinosaurs are close relatives see these structures as proto-feathers, but opponents have questioned this interpretation.

This week Richard O. Prum of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, and colleagues re-examine the integumentary structures in the theropod dinosaur Sinornithosaurus millenii, showing that these appendages are compound structures composed of multiple filaments. In addition, these structures show two types of branching structure seen nowhere else but in bird feathers: filaments joined in a basal tuft, and filaments joined at their bases in a series along a central filament. These observations corroborate the identification of these structures as akin to feathers. [Nature Press Release]

February News

Dinosaur With a Hatchet-Like Bite?

2/26/2001  Cutting-edge engineering meets another kind of cutting edge - the teeth of a Jurassic predator - this week. Emily Rayfield of the University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues show that the strong, light skull of the predatory dinosaur Allosaurus fragilis could withstand a great deal of stress, even though it could not inflict a bite as bone-crushing as has been suggested for the larger Tyrannosaurus rex of the later Cretaceous period. This apparent paradox could be explained by dinosaur lifestyle. During attack and feeding, Allosaurus would hit its prey head-on at high velocity, like a person wielding a hatchet, the researchers suggest. Once in contact, the animal would tear chunks of flesh out of its prey. This slash-'n'-slice technique is seen today in a giant lizard, the Komodo 'dragon' (Varanus komodoensis).

The researchers think that the skull of T. rex, in contrast, might have been built for dismemberment rather than high-velocity attack. Rayfield's group modelled the Allosaurus skull with 'finite-element analysis', which engineers use to model the distribution of stresses in structures such as bridges. [Nature Press Release]

New South American Fossil Mother Lode

2/15/2001  Four new species of dinosaur, an ancient mammal and many reptile fossils have recently been uncovered at a new fossil site in Argentina. Scientists say they've only brushed the surface of what appears to be a vast collection of fossils from the rarely preserved Middle Jurassic period. [More: Yahoo!]

Pew! Dinosaur B.O. Stinks Up London Museum

2/13/2001  For a new T. rex exhibit, England's Natural History Museum commissioned a company to recreate a smell associated with dinosaurs. In the end, they chickened out of a full-blown T. rex smell: "The most putrid, foulest thing that ever lived." [More: Yahoo!

Finally: First maps of Human Genome to be published this week

2/12/2001  The Journals Science and Nature will this week for the first time will publish research analyzing the 30,000 or so genes in human DNA. [More: Nature Science

BBC Dinosaurs Tromping Back to the Small Screen

2/9/2001  Computer animated dinosaurs seen in the popular BBC series "Walking With Dinosaurs" will be seen again in a new TV series. This time the presentation is a live-action drama- a remake of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World." [More: CNN]

January News

Rockin' Name for a Dinosaur

1/29/2001  A dinosaur newly described from Madagascar was named after rock singer Mark Knopfler. More novel than it's name, however, is the new predatory dinosaur's teeth. The front teeth on the bottom jaw point almost directly outward, a feature not found in any other known dinosaur. [More: CNN Nature

New Evidence from China Suggests Molars Evolved Twice

1/18/2001  A recent issue of the science journal Nature details new mammal fossil finds that seem to show molars- a feature of all mammals- evolved twice some 160 million years ago. [Nature]

Study Supports Multi-Regional Origin of Homo Sapiens

1/14/2001  A recent DNA survey of fossil human skeletons from Australia turned up a modern human unrelated to other ancient Australians. This finding is said to dispute the popular theory that modern humans evolved once in Africa and migrated around the world. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Science]


2000 News Stories


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