A fossil skeleton of a primitive, Eocene aged whale at “Whales Valley”, 150 km southwest of Cairo, Egypt.  This spectacular site helps to provide an explanation to one of the biggest mysteries of the evolution of whales, the emergence of the whale as an ocean going mammal from a land-based animal. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration and quality of such fossils making it at particularly scientifically important location.

The whales found in Whale Valley possess small hind limbs, a feature that is not seen in modern whales.  They also have a powerful skull with teeth like those found in carnivorous land mammals. Several other types of mammals are present including three species of sea cows. These were fully marine like the whales, and likewise show primitive features not seen in modern species and possess teeth that suggest that they grazed on seagrasses and other marine plants.

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Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When we’re frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We are history! Everything we’ve ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are.

I’m made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. They’re in the way I look, in the colour of my hair. And I’m made up of everyone I’ve ever met who’s changed the way I think.

— 

Terry Pratchett

So inspiring!

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A beautifully articulated, rear paddle of a 183 million year old Ichthyosaur. The paddle is approximately 8 inches long. It comes from the Posidonia Shale Formation formation in Southern Germany.

Ichthyosaurs (“Fish Lizard”) was a giant marine reptile which thrived from much of the Mesozoic era. They evolved in the mid Triassic from a group of unidentified land reptiles which transition back into the water. This line evolved in parallel to the ancestors of todays dolphins and whales, something known as convergent evolution.

A new premium fossil list at Fossil Era.

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We sell a lot of these cut and polished ammonite fossils from Madagascar, but I think this 6 inch wide pair is particularly interesting.  It has some brilliant purple coloration, which I’ve only seen in a few of them.  The inner chambers of these 110 million year old fossil cephalopods has been filled in with a silica based material, more commonly referred to as being “agatized”  Check them out at FossilEra.com

The purple color is likely a product of manganese compounds being present in the silica (quartz/agate) that filled in the chambers.

Archaeopteryx 

A bird that lived during the Late Jurassic period that is a transitional species between feathered dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Anchiornus, and modern birds. The feather impressions found on archaeopteryx are advanced flight feathers, and suggest feathers began evolving well before the Late Jurassic. Also, this fossilized version is super creepy and super cool.

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A new premium fossil listing at FossilEra.com  Nine articulated and fused vertebrae of a Mosasaur, Platycarpus tympaniticus.  This specimen was collected from the Late Cretaceous, Niobrara Chalk Formation of Kansas.  This 20 inch long section of the vertebral column to this monstrous prehistoric reptile has been mounted on a custom metal stand creating a very aesthetic display.  

The Niobrara Chalk was was laid down in the Late Cretaceous, when the middle to the United States was covered by the Western Interior Seaway. It underlies much of the Great Plains of the US and Canada. Evidence of vertebrate life is common throughout the formation and includes specimens of plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and pterosaurs as well as several primitive aquatic birds. 

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New Research: Fossils of New Squirrel-like Species Support Earlier Origin of Mammals

A research team led by paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described three new small squirrel-like species that place a poorly understood Mesozoic group of animals firmly in the mammal family tree. The study, published today in the journal Nature, supports the idea that mammals originated at least 208 million years ago in the late Triassic, much earlier than some previous research suggests.

The three new species—Shenshou lui, Xianshou linglong, and Xianshou songae—are described from six nearly complete 160-million-year-old fossils found in China. The animals, which researchers have placed in a new group, or clade, called Euharamiyida, likely looked similar to small squirrels. They weighed between 1 and 10 ounces and had tails and feet that indicate that they were tree dwellers.

Based on the age of the Euharamiyida species and their kin, the divergence of mammals from reptiles had to have happened much earlier than some research has estimated. Instead of originating in the middle Jurassic (between 176 and 161 million years ago), mammals likely first appeared in the late Triassic (between 235 and 201 million years ago).

Read the full story. 

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New Painting: Living Fossils!

After drawing a couple different Fossil pokemon for PokeHalloween, I was inspired to draw all of them. There are way more fossils than I thought! My favorite is probably Tirtouga.

Fossilization is an extremely rare event.

To appreciate this point, consider that there are 10 specimens of the first bird to appear in the fossil record, Archaeopteryx.

All were found in the same site in Germany where limestone is quarried for printmaking (the bird species name is lithographica). If you accept an estimate that crow-sized birds native to wetland habitats in northern Europe would have a population of around 10,000 and a life span of 10 years, and if you accept the current estimate that the species existed for about two million years, then you can calculate that about two billion Archaeopteryx lived.

But as far as researchers currently know, only 1 out of every 200,000,000 individuals fossilized. For this species, the odds of becoming a fossil were almost 40 times worse than your odds are of winning the grand prize in a provincial lottery.

—  Biological Science, Second Canadian Edition (Textbook); Freeman, Harrington, Sharp
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Fossils at Monmouth Beach. Lyme Regis, Dorset. We were all so excited over these! So many happy memories from my childhood, and hopefully making happy memories for my children. It was so amazing to be in a place that helped to change history so spectacularly. You can almost feel the fin de siecle anxiety in the air, see the Victorians walking on the beach, see Hardy thinking up that passage in A Pair of Blue Eyes, Mary Anning finding her fossils. And you just can’t get it into your head that you’re looking at creatures that are hundreds of millions of years old. It’s too big to grasp.

(I have over 150 of these photos. Be grateful you only got 10.)

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Why aren’t we talking about extinct cervids??

At least Tori Morris, the artist who made this, is. I gotta ask, where do you find references for these animals? I’ve googled a lot and found no skull photos on the internet. Someone has them. Maybe there are pictures inside The Evolution of Artiodactyls.

In order: Ordosianus Mentuigouensis, Hoplitomeryx, Megaloceros Pachyosteus, Oschinotherium Orlovi, Pediomeryx, Palaeoplatyceras, Elaphurus Formosanus, Triceromeryx Pachecoi, Sinomegaceros Ordosianus.