Paleontology

Diagram of the skeletal anatomy of Ichthyosaur communis from 1824

An article published in the “Journal of Systematic Palaeontology” describes a research that proposes a taxonomic revision among ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles that lived in the Triassic and Cretaceous periods. Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, and Professor Judy Massare of Brockport College studied fossils of the species Ichthyosaurus communis and Ichthyosaurus intermedius concluding that they are actually the same species.

Virtual reconstruction of the two skulls found in China (Image courtesy Xiujie Wu)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the study of two incomplete skulls dated between 105,000 and 125,000 years discovered in the Henan province in eastern China. An international team examined the fragments found describing the mixed characteristics that put together those of various species of hominids. An intriguing hypothesis is that these are the mysterious Denisovans, of which very few bones were found. Unfortunately the attempt to recover DNA fragments failed.

Hematite tubes (Image courtesy Matthew Dodd, University College London)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes what might be the oldest life forms discovered so far. An international team led by Matthew Dodd studied tiny filaments and tubes they think were formed by bacteria living on iron and were found in the layers of quartz in the Nuvvuagittuq Belt in Quebec, Canada. However, this research has already raised a controversy.

Websteroprion armstrongi fossil (Photo courtesy Luke Parry)

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” describes the discovery of a primitive worm with jaws that are huge compared to its body’s size. Called Websteroprion armstrongi, it was studied by a team of researchers after a fossil specimen was discovered at the Royal Ontario Museum, where it was stored in the mid ’80s. It seems to belong to the class of polychaetes (Polychaeta), a marine relative of earthworms and leeches that lived about 400 million years ago.

An article published in the journal “Palaeontology” opens a dispute on the classification of Tullimonstrum gregarium, a strange marine animal that lived about 300 million years ago, commonly known as the Tully monster. During 2016, two research brought arguments to support the thesis that this animal was a vertebrate but now a group of paleobiologists led by Lauren Sallan of the University of Pennsylvania brought counter-arguments.