‘Big Bird’ dino: Researchers discover largest ever winged dinosaur

by Michael Balter

Researchers now report finding the largest ever winged dino in China, a sleek, birdlike creature adorned with multiple layers of feathers all over its arms and torso that lived 125 million years ago. It almost certainly could not fly, however—an important confirmation that wings and feathers originally evolved to serve other functions like attracting mates and keeping eggs warm.

Over the past 20 years, thousands of specimens of feathered dinosaurs have been found in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, adding greatly to researchers’ understanding of the origins of flight. One of the most important of these Liaoning groups is the dromaeosaurs, which include Velociraptor of Jurassic Park fame and Microraptor, one of the few dinosaurs that scientists widely agree could probably fly. That leaves open the question of what function dinosaur wings and feathers originally served if they were not used for taking to the air.

Now, reporting online today in Scientific Reports, paleontologists Junchang Lü of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing and Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom describe the largest known dinosaur with birdlike wings and feathers. The new, nearly complete specimen, which the pair has named Zhenyuanlong suni

(read more: Science News/AAAS)

illustration: Zhao Chuang; photo by Junchang Lu & Stephen Brusatte

Travel back around 400 million years, and you wouldn’t have seen any forests, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to fill that particular role in nature. Before trees, Earth was covered in “forests” of 20-foot-tall mushrooms. Back in 1859 in Canada, scientists started digging up the fossils of what they believed were ancient tree trunks, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they finally confirmed the “tree” was a fungus. The organism, called Prototaxites, towered up to 24 feet tall and made a landscape that looked more like a Super Mario Bros. level than modern Earth.

And Prototaxites wasn’t just confined to Canada. Fossil hunters have dug up the titanic shrooms all over the world, suggesting that it was probably the biggest life-form on land at a time when animal life was nothing but microbes and worms.

Dog-Sized Scorpions: 6 Ways The Earth Was A Sci-Fi Nightmare

Oldest Neanderthal DNA Found in Italian Skeleton

by Charles Q. Choi

The calcite-encrusted skeleton of an ancient human, still embedded in rock deep inside a cave in Italy, has yielded the oldest Neanderthal DNA ever found.

These molecules, which could be up to 170,000 years old, could one day help yield the most complete picture yet of Neanderthal life, researchers say.

Although modern humans are the only remaining human lineage, many others once lived on Earth. The closest extinct relatives of modern humans were the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia until they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Recent findings revealed that Neanderthals interbred with ancestors of today’s Europeans when modern humans began spreading out of Africa — 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone living outside Africa today is Neanderthal in origin…

(read more: Live Science)

photograph by Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Superintendent of the Archeology of Puglia

Prehistoric Documentaries

In the mood for a good ol’ prehistoric documentary? Well here’s a list of ones you can watch for free! Cause who doesn’t love free stuff? ;D

Ape To Man 
Animal Armageddon (Full Series)
Part 1
- Part 2
Australia’s First 4 Billion Years 
- Awakening
- Life Explodes 
- Monsters
- Stranger Creatures
Arctic Dinosaurs (NOVA)
Bizarre Dinosaurs
Clash of the Dinosaurs
- Extreme Survivors
- Perfect Predators
- The Defenders 
- Generations 
Dinosaurs Decoded
Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
Dinosaur Planet
- Pod’s Travels (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
- White Tip’s Journey (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
Dinosaur Revolution
- Survival Tactics
- End Game
- Dodo
- Great Auk
- Smilodon (fatalis)
Ice Age Death Trap (NOVA)
March of the Dinosaurs
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6 
Monsters Resurrected
- Dinosaur King
- Giant Ripper
Monsters We Met
- Eternal Frontier
- The Burning
Planet Dinosaur - Lost World
Prehistoric Assassins - Blood In The Water 
Prehistoric Monsters Revealed
Prehistoric Dallas
Prehistoric Predators
- Dire Wolf
- Giant Bear
- Killer Pig
- Razor Jaws
- Sabretooth
Sea Monsters - A Walking with Dinosaurs Trilogy
- Episode 2
- Episode 3
Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy
The Birth of Humanity
The Dinosaurs (PBS)
- The Monsters Emerge
- Flesh on the Bones
- The Nature of the Beast
- The Death of the Dinosaurs
The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs
- Tyrannosaurus rex (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5)
- Velociraptor
Walking with Beasts
- New Dawn
- Whale Killer
- Land of Giants
- Next of Kin
- Sabre Tooth
- Mammoth Journey
Walking with Dinosaurs Special
- Land of Giants
- The Giant Claw
Woolly Mammoth - Secrets From The Ice

Playlists (Not full length documentaries)
BBC Walking with Dinosaurs
Dinosaur Planet 

- Admin Leopard

Solved: When Earth’s Largest Shark Disappeared

by Kelly Dickerson

Giant, 60-foot-long (18 meters) Megalodon sharks used to lurk in the Earth’s oceans, but while researchers are still unsure why these behemoths of the deep went extinct, scientists now have a better estimate for when it happened.

In a new study, researchers analyzed dozens of Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) fossils, and now estimate that the ancient shark, the largest to ever live, likely went extinct about 2.6 million years ago.

This date falls on the border between the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs, right when baleen whales began growing to their modern-day gigantic sizes. The timing of the Megalodon’s extinction makes sense, since these ancient sharks fed on marine mammals, including whales and dolphins, the researchers write in the paper. Without the presence of a predator, the baleen whale could flourish…

(read more: Live Science)

illustration by Michael Rosskothen/ShutterStock

10,000-Year-Old Stone Tool Site Discovered in Suburban Seattle

Archaeologists surveying the waterways of suburban Seattle have made a discovery that’s likely the first of its kind in the region — an ancient tool-making site dating back more than 10,000 years.

The find includes thousands of stone flakes, an array of bifaces, scrapers, and hammerstones, plus several projectile points, some of which were fashioned in a style that experts describe as “completely new” for this region and period in its history.

The site was discovered along a creek in Redmond, Washington, under a layer of peat that was radiocarbon dated to about 10,000 years ago. Read more.