Blogs about paleontology

A schematic of the various evolutionary patterns of Homo sapiens including also an interbreeding with Neanderthals

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study that relaunches the idea that the Homo sapiens species emerged not from a single population that had e linear evolution but from different groups of genetically similar hominins that diversified and then interbred again. A team of researchers led by Brenna Henn of the University of California-Davis, USA, and Simon Gravel of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, conducted a genetic analysis and a comparison with early Homo sapiens fossils to try and locate the origin of modern humans. The researchers tested different evolutionary and migratory models and the one that best matches the data points to ramifications of African populations that subsequently interbred again until they merged.

Photos of Rotadiscus grandis fossils and their interpretive drawings

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” reports a study on exceptionally preserved Rotadiscus grandis fossils. A team of researchers led by Dr Imran Rahman of the Natural History Museum in London offered many new insights into these animals dating back to the Lower Cambrian period, about 518 million years ago. Previous studies had left a number of questions about their classification and lifestyle. The new study assigns them to the large Ambulacraria group, which includes the Echinoderms and Hemicordata phyla and is part of the superphylum Deuterostomia together with the phylum of Chordates. If this classification is correct, it indicates that certain characteristics of later animal species emerged independently several times.

The skeleton and a drawing of the Honghesaurus longicaudalis specimen

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” describes the identification of a new species of marine reptile with an exceptionally long tail that lived about 244 million years ago, in the Middle Triassic period, in today’s China. A team of researchers named it Honghesaurus longicaudalis after examining a complete skeleton discovered in the Guanling Formation in China’s Yunnan province. This reptile is part of the now-extinct group of pachypleurosaurs and was quite large among them, with a long trunk and tail that probably gave it swimming maneuverability and efficiency.

(a) taxonomic profiles of some species whose DNA was discovered in some of the samples taken in the Kap København Formation and (b) the phylogenetic placement of mitochondrial DNA belonging to or close to the Elephantidae family

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the identification of environmental DNA dating back to two million years ago discovered in sediments taken in the Kap København Formation in Greenland. A team of researchers led by Professors Eske Willerslev and Kurt H. Kjær used state-of-the-art technologies available for this type of exam.

Microscopic fragments of DNA were found for a total of 41 usable samples stored in clay and quartz within sediments that remained in the ice for two million years. The analysis of the samples revealed the presence of various species of plants and animals, not all identifiable with precision but nonetheless useful to get an idea of that ancient ecosystem.

Painten's pterodactyl specimen

An article published in the journal “Fossil Record” reports a study on the oldest pterodactyl fossils discovered so far. A team of researchers examined a sub-adult specimen of Pterodactylus antiquus (Photo courtesy Augustin et al., all rights reserved) discovered in central Bavaria, Germany, which dates back to the sage known as the Kimmeridgian, part of the Upper Jurassic period. So far, the specimens dating from the Tithonian age, the next and last of the Jurassic period. This specimen is one of the best-preserved pterodactyl specimens, which is another reason why this discovery is important.