Evolution

Teleocrater rhadinus reconstruction (Image by Gabriel Lio, and courtesy of Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales "Bernardino Rivadavia" in Buenos Aires)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research about Teleocrater rhadinus, a carnivorous reptile that lived in the Triassic period, about 245 million years ago. A team led by Sterling Nesbitt of Virginia Tech studied specimens of this ancient cousin of the dinosaurs found in 2015 noting its similarities to crocodiles. However, this species and its other close relatives are the oldest of the group that originated dinosaurs and birds and this could greatly change the ideas about the early stages of their evolution.

Saccorhytus coronariusm reconstruction (Image courtesy Jian Han)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the identification of what is considered humans’ oldest known ancestor. Called Saccorhytus coronariusm, 45 specimens were discovered during excavations carried out in today’s Shaanxi Province, China. This animal had a length around a millimeter, lived 540 million years ago and is the ancestor of deuterostomes, which include vertebrates, echinoderms and other animals.

Asgard archaea in the tree of life (Image courtesy Eva Fernandez-Caceres)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of new microorganisms that provide more information on the evolution of eukaryotic organisms, the ones formed by complex cells. The new species discovered are archaea that were called Thor, Odin and Heimdall, simpler organisms that however have some characteristics found only in eukaryotes and together with another archaea family called Loki whose discovery was announced in September 2015, form a group that was called the Asgard archaea.

Tongtianlong limosus skeleton (Image courtesy Junchang Lü et al.)

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” describes the discovery of a new species of winged dinosaur that was named Tongtianlong limosus. The specimen studied was found in the Nanxiong Formation, in the Guangdong province, in south-eastern China, where it lived between 66 and 72 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period.

An article published in the journal “PLOS Genetics” describes a research on the genes existing in non-African modern humans inherited from Neanderthals. According to a team of researchers led by Ivan Juric of University of California at Davis only a small amount of Neanderthal genes have remained in the DNA of modern humans because natural selection removed a lot of deleterious variants.