Paleontology

Kawingasaurus Skull (Image courtesy Michael Laaß / Verlag Wiley-VCH)

An article published in the “Journal of Morphology” describes a research on the skull anatomy of Kawingasaurus fossilis, a therapsid that lived just over 250 million years ago. Paleontologist Michael Laaß of the Institute of General Zoology at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and Dr. Anders Kaestner of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland examined a skull of this animal noting a structure similar to the neocortex, the most recent part of mammals’ brain.

A bush turkey, a kangaroo and a reconstruction of a Progura gallinacea (Image courtesy Elen Shute / Kim Benson / Tony Rodd / Aaron Camens)

An article published in the journal “Royal Society Open Science” describes a research on megapodes, a family of birds widespread in many parts of Oceania that includes various extinct species. A team of paleontologists at Flinders University reviewed several Australian fossils and proposed a new classification in five extinct species with various relationships with extant species.

The new possible elephant family tree (Image courtesy Asier Larramendi Eskorza / Julie McMahon)

An article published in the journal “eLife” describes a genetic analysis on elephants based on genetic analysis of the three existing species and the straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus), which is extinct but sampling of DNA from its bones was accomplished. A team of researchers led by Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, proposes a new family tree for elephants different from the one currently used.

Jebel Irhoud skull's tomographic reconstruction (Image Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig)

Two articles published in the journal “Nature” describe different aspects of a study on various fossil bones including a skull and a jaw uncovered at a site in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. Several researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studied the bones but also the remains of animals found with them to conclude that those were Homo sapiens of about 300,000 years ago, more than 100,000 years older than the most ancient Homo sapiens fossils so far known.

Scheme of the genetic research on birds (Image courtesy Koji Tamura (Tohoku University), Ryohei Seki (National Institute of Genetics), and Naoki Irie (University of Tokyo))

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes a research showing a possible genetic mechanism that determined the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. A team of researchers from the Japanese Tohoku University that includes international collaborators provided what the scientists believe are evidence of the connection of certain genetic sequences to the evolution of bird traits such as feathers.