New research in Nature Communications showing how tiny creatures drifted across the ocean before falling to the seafloor and being fossilized has the potential to improve our understanding of past climates.
The finding refutes a hypothesis by the famed evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould that marine creatures underwent an 'early burst' of functional diversity during the dawn of animal life.
The earliest known record of the genus Homo -- the human genus -- represented by a lower jaw with teeth, recently found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, dates to between 2.8 and 2.75 million years ago, according to an international team of geoscientists and anthropologists. They also dated other fossils to between 2.84 and 2.58 million years ago, which helped reconstruct the environment in which the individual lived.
For decades, scientists have been searching for African fossils documenting the earliest phases of the Homo lineage, but specimens recovered from the critical time interval between 3 and 2.5 million years ago have been frustratingly few and often poorly preserved. However, a fossil lower jaw found in the Ledi-Geraru research area, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia, pushes back evidence for the human genus -- Homo -- to 2.8 million years ago.
In their open-access paper for Geology, Kimberly Genareau and colleagues propose, for the first time, a mechanism for the generation of glass spherules in geologic deposits through the occurrence of volcanic lightning. The existence of fulgurites -- glassy products formed in rocks and sediments struck by cloud-to-ground lightning -- provide direct evidence that geologic materials can be melted via natural lightning occurrence.
The precise dating of ancient charcoal found near a skull is helping reveal a unique period in prehistory.
That swim tracks made by tetrapods occur in high numbers in deposits from the Early Triassic is well known. What is less clear is why the tracks are so abundant and well preserved. Paleontologists at the University of California, Riverside have now determined that a unique combination of factors in Early Triassic delta systems resulted in the production and unusually widespread preservation of the swim tracks: delayed ecologic recovery, depositional environments, and tetrapod swimming behavior.
A team of over 20 paleontologists, molecular biologists and computer programmers from around the world launched The Fossil Calibration Database on Feb. 24. The database will help scientists estimate the timing of the origins of key plants and animals by combining vetted data from the fossil record with DNA sequences. This open-access resource will be available not only to the scientists who helped create it, but to others around the world.
Tropical turtle fossils discovered in Wyoming by University of Florida scientists reveal that when the earth got warmer, prehistoric turtles headed north. But if today's turtles try the same technique to cope with warming habitats, they might run into trouble.
Have you ever wondered exactly when a certain group of plants or animals first evolved? This week a groundbreaking new resource for scientists will go live, and it is designed to help answer just those kinds of questions. The Fossil Calibration Database, a free, open-access resource that stores carefully vetted fossil data, is the result of years of work from a worldwide team of scientists led by Dr. Daniel Ksepka and Dr. James Parham.