Lycopsids are one of the oldest groups of vascular plants. These ancient plants only have a few living relatives still around today, the clubmosses and quillworts. Lycopsids were some of the first plants to diversify on land and their long history stretches all the back to the late Silurian period, about 425 million years ago.
Recently, authors Evreïnoff, Meyer-Berthaud, Decombeix, Lebrun, Steemans, and Tafforeau published an article in Palaeo Electronica about a new Late Devonian lycopsid from New South Wales, Australia. When asked about their most recent project, the authors wrote, “when studying how early land plants acquired the features that made them comparable to modern plants, Australia comes to a special place with the discovery of large leafy stems of the lycopsid Baragwanathia as early as the Late Silurian.”
“When we started [Palaeo Electronica] it was like a dare. Jump off that roof top, climb that tree, make an online journal.” – Jennifer Rumford
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Palaeontologia Electronica (PE). For paleontologists, 20 years may not seem that long. But for the online, open-access journal PE, this represents a milestone that deserves celebration. The recently published commentary piece by Louys et al. offers a brief history of Palaeontological Electronica on the PE homepage . PE started in the early days of the internet in 1996; in fact it was one of the first peer-reviewed online academic journals in the world.
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.