‘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…
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.
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…
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…
Whales are believed to have evolved to become the largest creatures on Earth because their biggest, most fearsome predator - the 50-foot-long Megalodon shark - became extinct at the beginning of the Ice Age.
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.