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Key: Meeting Journal Funder
Public Release: 20-Nov-2014
Nature Communications
Out of India
Working at the edge of a coal mine in India, a team of Johns Hopkins researchers and colleagues have filled in a major gap in science's understanding of the evolution of a group of animals that includes horses and rhinos. That group likely originated on the subcontinent when it was still an island headed swiftly for collision with Asia, the researchers report Nov. 20 in the online journal Nature Communications.
National Geographic Society, Belgian Science Policy Office, National Science Foundation, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology

Contact: Shawna Williams
shawna@jhmi.edu
410-955-8236
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Public Release: 20-Nov-2014
Science
Evolution: The genetic connivances of digits and genitals
During the development of mammals, the growth and organization of digits are orchestrated by Hox genes, which are activated very early in precise regions of the embryo. These 'architect genes' are themselves regulated by a large piece of adjacent DNA. A study led by Denis Duboule, professor at the University of Geneva and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, reveals that this same DNA regulatory sequence also controls the architect genes during the development of the external genitals.

Contact: Denis Duboule
denis.duboule@unige.ch
41-223-796-771
Université de Genève

Public Release: 18-Nov-2014
Papers in Palaeontology
Ancient New Zealand 'Dawn Whale' identified by Otago researchers
University of Otago palaeontologists are rewriting the history of New Zealand's ancient whales by describing a previously unknown genus of fossil baleen whales and two species within it.

Contact: Robert Boessenecker
robert.boessenecker@otago.ac.nz
University of Otago

Public Release: 18-Nov-2014
Ecography
Fossils cast doubt on climate-change projections on habitats
Leave it to long-dead short-tailed shrew and flying squirrels to outfox climate-modelers trying to predict future habitats.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon

Public Release: 18-Nov-2014
The Anatomical Record
Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no
In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.
National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health

Contact: Ron Najman
ron.najman@downstate.edu
718-270-2696
SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Public Release: 18-Nov-2014
Geological Society of America Bulletin
Jurassic climate of large swath of western US was more complex than previously known
Climate over a large swath of the western US was more complex during the Jurassic than previously known, according to new research from Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Instead of a gradual transition from dry to wetter, chemical analysis of ancient soils reveals an unexpected abrupt change, says paleontologist Timothy Myers. Samples were from the Morrison Formation, a massive rock unit sprawling across 13 states and Canada that's produced significant dinosaur discoveries for over 100 years.
Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, Jurassic Foundation, Western Interior Paleontological Society, Paleontological Society, Geological Society of America

Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University

Public Release: 17-Nov-2014
Quaternary Science Reviews
Climate capers of the past 600,000 years
An international consortium of researchers under the auspices of the University of Bonn has drilled deposits on the bed of Lake Van (Turkey) which provide unique insights into the last 600,000 years. The samples reveal that the climate has done its fair share of mischief-making in the past. Furthermore, there have been numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In a special edition of the highly regarded publication Quaternary Science Reviews, the scientists now publish their findings.

Contact: Dr. Thomas Litt
t.litt@uni-bonn.de
49-022-873-2736
University of Bonn

Public Release: 17-Nov-2014
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Why lizards have bird breath
Biologists long assumed that one-way air flow was a special adaptation in birds driven by the intense energy demands of flight. But now University of Utah scientists have shown that bird-like breathing also developed in green iguanas -- reptiles not known for high-capacity aerobic fitness. The finding bolsters the case that unidirectional bird-like flow evolved long before the first birds.
National Science Foundation

Contact: Joe Rojas
joe.rojas@utah.edu
801-585-6861
University of Utah

Public Release: 10-Nov-2014
GSA Bulletin
Kīlauea, 1790 and today
Scores of people were killed by an explosive eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, in 1790. Research presented in GSA Bulletin by D.A. Swanson of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and colleagues suggests that most of the fatalities were caused by hot, rapidly moving surges of volcanic debris and steam that engulfed the victims. Deposits of such surges occur on the surface on the west summit area and cover an ash bed indented with human footprints.

Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America

Public Release: 8-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
A/C came standard on armored dinosaur models
A new study shows that armor-plated dinosaurs (ankylosaurs) had the capacity to modify the temperature of the air they breathed in an exceptional way: by using their long, winding nasal passages as heat transfer devices.
National Science Foundation, Ohio University, Jurassic Foundation, Sigma Xi

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 7-Nov-2014
Nature Communications
Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles
Through the careful study of modern and early fossil tortoise, researchers now have a better understanding of how tortoises breathe and the evolutionary processes that helped shape their unique breathing apparatus and tortoise shell. The findings published in a paper, titled: Origin of the unique ventilatory apparatus of turtles, in the scientific journal, Nature Communications, today.

Contact: Erna van Wyk
erna.vanwyk@wits.ac.za
27-117-174-023
University of the Witwatersrand

Public Release: 7-Nov-2014
Nature Communications
Turtles use muscle power to breathe due to rigid shell
Turtle shells are unique in the animal kingdom. In order to be able to breathe in this inflexible casing, tortoises have a muscle sling which is attached to the shell to ventilate the lung. A team of researchers including paleontologist Torsten Scheyer from the University of Zurich can now reveal that the turtle's ancestor Eunotosaurus africanus already breathed with the aid of such a sling -- even though it did not yet have a solid shell.

Contact: Torsten M. Scheyer
tscheyer@pim.uzh.ch
41-446-342-322
University of Zurich

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
Science
Scientists resolve the evolution of insects
A collaboration of more than 100 researchers from 10 countries announce the results of an unprecedented scientific study that resolves the history of the evolution of insects. The results are published in Science, the world's leading peer-reviewed research journal, and include answers to many long held questions about the evolutionary history of the world's largest and most diverse group of organisms.

Contact: Bernhard Misof
b.misof@zfmk.de
49-228-912-2289
Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig - Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
Science
Ancient DNA shows earliest European genomes weathered the Ice Age
A genome taken from a 36,000 skeleton reveals an early divergence of Eurasians once they had left Africa, and allows scientists to better assess the point at which 'admixture' -- or interbreeding -- between Eurasians and Neanderthals occurred. The latest research also points to a previously unknown population lineage as old as the first population separations since humans dispersed out of Africa.

Contact: Fred Lewsey
fred.lewsey@admin.cam.ac.uk
44-122-376-5566
University of Cambridge

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Rabbit-proof hoof: Ungulates suppressed lagomorph evolution
Rodents and rabbits are sister groups, but while rodents have diversified to over 2,000 living species and an enormous range of body sizes, lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas) are limited to fewer than 100 relatively small species. A new study shows, surprisingly, that competition with ungulates -- hoofed mammals -- intensified by climate change, are to blame for the lagomorphs' limited diversity.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Complete 9,000-year-old frozen bison mummy found in Siberia
Many large charismatic mammals went extinct at the end of the Ice Age -- approximately 11,000 years ago, including the Steppe bison, Bison priscus. A recent find in Eastern Siberia has uncovered one of these bison, literally, frozen in time.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Tricky take-off kept pterodactyls grounded
A new study, which teamed cutting-edge engineering techniques with paleontology, has found that take-off capacity may have determined body size limits in extinct flying reptiles.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Exquisite ancient horse fossil preserves uterus with unborn foal
A specimen of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis has been discovered in Germany that preserves a fetus as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues. It demonstrates that reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of modern horses, despite great differences in size and structure.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 6-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
New insights into an old bird
The dodo is among the most famous extinct creatures, and a poster child for human-caused extinction events. Despite its notoriety, and the fact that the species was alive during recorded human history, little is known about how it lived, looked, and behaved. A new study of the only known complete skeleton from a single bird takes advantage of modern 3-D laser scanning technology to open a new window into the life of this famous extinct bird.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 5-Nov-2014
Nature
Madagascar: Fossil skull analysis offers clue to mammals' evolution
The surprise discovery of the fossilized skull of a 66- to 70-million-year-old, groundhog-like creature on Madagascar has led to new analyses of the lifestyle of the largest known mammal of its time by a team of specialists including biologist Elizabeth Dumont at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an expert in jaw structure and bite mechanics.
National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society

Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Public Release: 5-Nov-2014
Nature
First amphibious ichthyosaur discovered, filling evolutionary gap
The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur has been discovered in China by a team led by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The fossil represents a missing stage in the evolution of ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles from the Age of Dinosaurs about 250 million years ago.
National Geographic Society, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education, Department of Land and Resource of Anhui Province

Contact: Ryosuke Motani
rmotani@ucdavis.edu
530-754-6284
University of California - Davis

Public Release: 5-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
African diamond mine reveals dinosaur and large mammal tracks
Unexpectedly one of the largest diamond mines in Africa, Catoca in Angola, holds 118 million year old dinosaur, crocodile and large mammal tracks. The mammal tracks show a raccoon-sized animal, during a time when most were no larger than a rat.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 5-Nov-2014
74th Annual Meeting of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Taking a deeper look at 'ancient wing'
In order to determine the feather color of ancient organisms such as Archaeopteryx, microscopic melanin-containing structures called melanosomes have been compared in a variety of living and fossil birds. However, might there be another explanation for the presence of these structures? This research uses scanning electron microscopy and high-sensitivity molecular techniques to respond to alternative interpretations and shed light -- and color -- on Jurassic feathers.

Contact: Anthony Friscia
tonyf@ucla.edu
310-206-6011
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 4-Nov-2014
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Digital dinosaurs: New research employs high-end technology to restore dinosaur fossil
An international team of scientists employed high-resolution X-ray computed tomography and digital visualization techniques to restore a rare dinosaur fossil. The focus of the study was the skull of Erlikosaurus andrewsi, a 3- to 4-meter large herbivorous dinosaur called a therizinosaur, which lived more than 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period in what is now Mongolia.

Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Public Release: 31-Oct-2014
Science
Lack of oxygen delayed the rise of animals on Earth
Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn't flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth's surface. Animals began to prosper at the end of the Proterozoic period -- but what about the billion-year stretch before that, when most researchers think there also was plenty of oxygen? Yale University researcher Noah Planavsky and his colleagues found that oxygen levels during the 'boring billion' period were only 0.1 percent of what they are today.
NASA Exobiology Program, National Science Foundation

Contact: Jim Shelton
james.shelton@yale.edu
203-432-3881
Yale University