Blogs about paleontology

Skeleton of the Thescelosaurus neglectus nicknamed Willo (Photo J. Spencer)

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” offers new information on the sensory capabilities of the Thescelosaurus neglectus, a small dinosaur that lived just before the great extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period. Paleontologists David Button and Lindsay Zanno submitted a Thescelosaurus skull to a CT scan to reconstruct its interior to create a 3D representation of its brain and inner ear. The conclusion is that this species had some very developed senses, useful for living in burrows.

Homo sapiens and Neanderthal skulls

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports the results of a genetic analysis that reconstructs the interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals that occurred during the migrations of populations of these two species. A team of researchers from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, analyzed the DNA of over 4,000 Homo sapiens who lived in Eurasia over the last 40,000 years. The results show variations in the presence of genes inherited from Neanderthals following various interbreedings in different populations and at different times.

One of two flakes_or hand tools_ seen from three different angles_discovered in the Jordan Rift Valley

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports a study that offers evidence that groups of Homo sapiens migrated from Africa using the Levant as a passageway to western Asia and northern Arabia. A team of researchers conducted a digging campaign in Jordan looking for traces of ancient human passages in what is now a desert but tens of thousands of years ago was an area covered by savannah and grasslands. The discovery of sediments dating back about 84,000 years containing tools created with the so-called Levallois technique in that area confirms that the Levant was part of at least one of the human migration routes from Africa.

The fossil of Bohemolichas incola (a) and views of its 3D reproduction with the contents of its digestive tract highlighted in shades of red and blue (c)

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study on a trilobite fossil of the species Bohemolichas incola dating back to around 465 million years ago, in the Middle Ordovician period, which reveals the contents of its guts in the last meal that occurred before its death. A team of researchers subjected the fossil in an extraordinary state of preservation to a sophisticated synchrotron microtomography that made it possible to create a 3D reproduction that also shows the contents of its intestinal tract. That revealed that this trilobite ate some marine invertebrates such as ostracods, bivalves, and echinoderms.

Various views of the partial skull of Anadoluvius turkae

An article published in the journal “Communications Biology” reports the assignment of fossils discovered in Anatolia in 2015 to a new species and a new genus of primitive hominins which was named Anadoluvius turkae. A team of researchers examined these fossils that form a partial skull discovered at the Çorakyerler site dating back to about 8.7 million years ago, in the Miocene period, concluding that it’s an ancestor of humans and great apes. This indicates that hominins evolved in Europe diversifying across the continent for a few million years before migrating to Africa, where the various hominin species already known evolved.