Paleontology

Professor Allen Nutman, Associate Professor Vickie Bennett and a piece of fossil stromatolite (Photo courtesy Yuri Alemin)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of microbial structures dating back to 3.7 billion years ago. A team of researchers led by Professor Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia, discovered fossil stromatolites in the oldest sedimentary rocks in the world, in the Isua Greenstone Belt in Greenland. These fossils show that in such an ancient time there was already a diversity of life forms.

Cave bear skeleton

An article published in “Journal of Quaternary Science” describes a research on the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) (photo ©Ra’ike). An international team of paleontologists led by Professor Hervé Bocherens of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) at the University of Tübingen studied the bones of these ancient animals and concluded that their diet was vegan. They also propose the hypothesis that their diet was wat led to the extinction of these bears about 25,000 years ago.

Reconstruction of a Thylacoleo carnifex attacking a Diprotodon (Image roman uchytel)

An article published in the journal “Paleobiology” describes a research on Thylacoleo carnifex. Commonly known as the marsupial lion, it was a predator native of Australia that lived between the Paleocene period and the beginning of the Pleistocene period, about 50,000 years ago. Christine Janis at the University of Bristol along with Figueirido Borja and Alberto Martín-Serra of the University of Malaga examined this animal’s elbows and concluded that it had a unique hunting style.

Reconstruction of Echovenator sandersi and its inner ear (Image courtesy A. Gennari 2016. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes a research on an ancient cetacean called Echovenator sandersi that shows how these marine mammals’ ultrasonic hearing is very ancient. A team of scientists led by Morgan Churchill of New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York, used modern scanning techniques to analyze the very well preserved ear of a fossil dating from the Oligocene period.

An article published in the journal “Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology” describes a study that offers new evidence supporting the theory that the first animals caused the first major mass extinction that took place on Earth. According to a group of researchers led by Simon Darroch of Vanderbilt University, the animals species that emerged in the so-called Cambrian explosion altered their environment in such a way that they caused that extinction.