Tag Archives: Paleontology

Crested dinosaur pushes back dawn of feathers

A predatory dinosaur with bony bumps on its arms and a strange hump on its back provides evidence that feathers began to appear earlier than researchers thought, according to a report in Nature today.

The new species, named Concavenator corcovatus, was about 4 metres long from nose to tail and lived during the Early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago.

Read the rest of this news story on Nature News [html] or here [pdf].

This story got a mention on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker: here.

When hasty headlines fail to shake a family tree

When a new species comes to light, its effect on the arrangement of its family tree might be better measured by statistics than by headlines. In a study of primates and flightless dinosaurs, researchers at Bristol University, UK, have found that the likelihood of any given find shaking up the family tree depends on how complete that tree was to begin with.

“What we’ve done is look at the two most intensively studied groups,” Tarver says, and highlighted differences between the relatively stable catarrhine family tree, and the less certain family history of the dinosaurs. He says that statistical analysis could help to indicate which areas in a given family tree are already well-sampled and which might yet reveal more influential finds.

See the rest of this news story on Nature News [html] [pdf]

Fossil skull fingered as ape–monkey ancestor

The rust-coloured plateau above Mecca in Saudi Arabia may soon attract pilgrims of palaeontology. The hills, which overlook the Red Sea, have disgorged the 29–28-million-year-old partial skull fossil of an early primate that possesses features both of apes and monkeys. The skull could help palaeontologists to answer questions about the life of primates in a period that until now has provided few fossils.

When he caught sight of the skull during an expedition in search of ancient whale fossils last year, Iyad Zalmout wondered whether it belonged to a monkey or an ape. “It turns out it’s not an ape, it’s not a monkey, it’s something intermediate,” says Zalmout, a palaeontologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and an author of a paper published in Nature today. Continue reading Fossil skull fingered as ape–monkey ancestor

Nature Internship 7: Ida cont’d

nature_cover_090528Thanks to Ida the fossil primate I got out of the office last week, on Tuesday to see a screening of the documentary about Ida at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and on Wednesday to interview Ida’s other half Jørn Hurum at the studio that produced the film. I blogged about the screening and Nature ran an online question-and-answer story culled from my interview.  Nature also ran a few choice quotes from the press juggernaut in the print magazine, along with an editorial, though I can’t take credit for the editorial. It’s trickier doing in-person reporting, but I really enjoy it and hope to include a little more of it in my work.

I also dashed off a quick blog on a US federal directive which halts road-building in about 50 million acres of US Forest Service land, a reversal of a Bush reversal of a Clinton rule. Not clear? Click here to read the whole thing.

Update: My interview with Jørn Hurum appeared on the Brazilian website terra.com.br on 2 June.