Earliest Uintan Mammals of the Bridger Basin
The Bridger Basin in southwestern Wyoming is paleontology heaven for Eocene mammal nerds like the author of this blog post. The middle Eocene Bridger Formation has yielded some of the most significant mammal fossils found in North America, including the primates Omomys carteri and Hemiacodon engardae. Distinct Bridger Formation mammals also include the strange multi-horned herbivore Uintatherium, the small weasel-shaped condylarth Hyopsodus, the giant brontotheres, carnivorous creodonts, and the blunt-toothed Stylinodon.
The fossil remains of marine mollusks have played a pivotal role in the understanding of stratigraphy around the world. Recently, Palaeontologia Electronica (PE) authors Lloyd Glawe, John Anderson, and Dennis Bell published an article about their study of microscopic mollusk shells from a set of nearly continuous cores from the Paleogene of Louisiana.
Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are small arboreal carnivoran mammals native to Asia that are not true pandas but are close relatives. Red pandas are unique among carnivores in many senses: they spend much of their time in trees, they eat mostly bamboo, and they practice a polygamous (both males and females have multiple mates) mating system with little male-male competition. This mating system has historically been pointed to as the reason for the monomorphism between the sexes (males and females are the same size), a rare character not seen in many other carnivores. Considering this polygamous mating system is unusual amongst carnivores, the natural question that comes to mind is when and why did this shift occur in ailurids?
Sauropods are some of the most iconic dinosaurs and images of these long-necked giants are frequently featured in the popular media. One type of sauropod, Camarasaurus, is one of the most common dinosaurs of northern America. You might think that paleontologists would know this dinosaur from head to foot because it so ubiquitous, but in reality those toes have remained quite the mystery.
Blastoids are an extinct group of bottom-dwelling echinoderms (closely related to sea urchins
and sea stars). These sea creatures had extremely complex skeletonized respiratory structures
that have had scientists curious for years about how fluids moved through their bodies.
International Team of Scientists Launches Fossil Database:
Open-source Resource Will Help Determine Evolution's Timescale
GREENWICH, CT, February 24, 2015 – Have you ever wondered exactly when a certain group of plants
or animals first evolved? This week a groundbreaking new resource for scientists will go live, and
it is designed to help answer just those kinds of questions. The Fossil Calibration Database (http:/
/fossilcalibrations.org), a free, open-access resource that stores carefully vetted fossil data, is the
result of years of work from a worldwide team led by Dr. Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the
Bruce Museum in Greenwich, and Dr. James Parham, Curator at the John D. Cooper Archaeological
and Paleontological Center in Orange County, California, funded through the National Evolutionary
Synthesis Center (NESCent).
Sea urchins (echinoids) are the spiny, globular, ocean-floor dwelling invertebrates that are closely related to sand dollars. Urchins can live in a variety of ocean environments, including shallow seas as well as in deep-sea bottoms. The Cenozoic fossil record of sea urchins in this deep-water zone of the Mediterranean are scarcely known, making the evolution of the Miocene to Recent Mediterranean deep-water echinoids poorly understood.
Recently PE authors Enrico Borghi, Vittorio Garilli, and Sergio Bonomo studied sea urchins from the Mediterranean deposits that formed in the deep-sea environments that dated back to ~1-3 million years ago during the late Cenozoic. Localities in Italy gave the authors a rare opportunity to study well-preserved sea urchin specimens, which provided further evidence of the nature of the deep-Mediterranean fauna that was established after the late Miocene salinity crisis.
Trace fossils record the behaviors of organisms long gone. These biogenic structures, meaning features created by living organisms such as trackways or burrows, are preserved within sedimentary rocks. The study of these trace fossils is called “ichnology” and the evidence from the traces clue scientists into the behavior and anatomy of the trace-making creatures. Understanding the behavior of these organisms can be handy when body fossils are scarce or nonexistent. Frequently scientists draw parallels between modern traces and those preserved in rock. Recently PE authors Angeline Catena and Daniel Hembree investigated the biogenic structures produced by a species of sand-swimming skink, Chalcide ocellatus, and recorded the diversity of biogenic structures produced by these desert-dwelling lizards in the sand.
Anti-evolution claims regarding dinosaurs and pterosaurs are a constant pain for paleontologists. A simple google search will reveal multiple young-Earth creationists websites that claim to have proof of these flying Mesozoic reptiles living alongside humans in the form of illustrations and paintings. A recent paper in PE by Phil Senter and Darius Klein investigated the claims that pterosaurs survived into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries based on illustrations of specimens by European naturalists.
The last of a lineage of giants: the discovery story of Anancus arvernensis mencalensis
The geographic and geologic context
As is so often the case, it was chance, or the conjunction of chances, that was the deciding factor in advancing our understanding of the life that inhabited our planet thousands and millions of years ago. It was during the month of July, 2006, when, under a blazing sun, the paleontologists who were conducting a survey for the Fonelas Project discovered new fossil localities in the desert of Guadix in southeastern Spain.
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