Paleontology

Blogs about paleontology

On the left the fossil and on the right a 3D image of its lateral view constructed thanks to neutron tomography

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” reports the identification of a new species of cynodont that lived about 220 million years ago, in the Triassic period, in today’s Argentina. A team of researchers named it Tessellatia bonapartei after examining a partial skull using an unusual neutron tomography technique after a classic X-ray tomography gave limited results due to the high presence of iron in the rock. The researchers’ effort paid off because some characteristics suggest a rather close relationship with mammals, which are likely descended from a single group of cynodonts.

Qikiqtania wakei fossils

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the identification of a precursor of the tetrapods that lived on today’s Ellesmere Island, in Canada, in the Devonian period, about 375 million years ago. A team of researchers named it Qikiqtania wakei and illustrated similarities and differences with Tiktaalik roseae, the possible ancestor of today’s tetrapods. The anatomical characteristics of Qikiqtania wakei indicate that it descended from the precursors of the tetrapods that ventured to the mainland but unlike Tiktaalik roseae it went back to the water, where it developed fins suitable for aquatic life.

Views of the molar TNH2-1

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” reports the discovery in today’s Laos of a tooth that was attributed to a little girl that belonged to the Denisovan species, an archaic human species still mysterious in many ways. The molar was dated between 164,000 and 131,000 years ago from the analysis of the sediments in which it was found in the Cobra Cave (Tam Ngu Hao 2), in the Annamite Chain, in Laos. The warm and humid conditions in that area offer little hope of still finding pieces of DNA but the proteins and appearance of the molar, very similar to that of a jawbone discovered in Tibet and attributed to a Denisovan, led the researchers to that conclusion.

A map of the habitats of the various human species

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the results of a research on the correlation between climate changes that occurred over the last two million years and the evolution of human beings. A team of researchers led by Axel Timmermann, director of the IBS Center for Climate Physics (ICCP) at Pusan ‚Äč‚ÄčNational University, South Korea, used ICCP’s Aleph supercomputer to simulate climate history. The results were compared with the largest database of human fossils and archaeological artifacts built under the direction of Pasquale Raia of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. The result was that the best habitats for the human species that existed in these two million years match the climatic changes caused by the oscillation of the Earth’s axis and the periodic changes in the shape of the Earth’s orbit.

Some microfossils object of this study (Image courtesy D. Papineau)

An article published in the journal “Science Advances” reports the results of a thorough examination of a rock dated between 3.75 and 4.25 billion years offering evidence of the presence of microfossils. A team of researchers discovered in a rock found in the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, Quebec, fossilized structures that bear similarities to microfossils from a later era and to today’s bacteria living in hydrothermal vents. This discovery offers new evidence that at the time, there were already diversified life forms after the evidence published in an article in the journal “Nature” in March 2017. In that case, the nature of the structures sparked controversy but the ones presented in the new study have greater complexity.