Stories tagged fossils

From the University of Bristol. One-stop shopping for dino news, information, and images.


Two years ago, a scientist in Australia has a really lucky day. Tired after driving for several hours, he stopped to stretch his legs and -- boom! -- he tripped over a 100-million-year-old pterosaur jaw. (Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs. The Science Museum has one hanging in our main lobby.) The jaw bone was encased in rock; after two years of careful preparation, the bone is finally free and can be studied by scientists.

(OK, so it wasn't a technically a dinosaur, and it was actually off to the side of the road, but c'mon, how often do I get to reference my favorite bad song of the Seventies?)


Maria McNamara of University College Dublin, and colleagues in the UK, Spain, and US, have recovered bone marrow from 10-million-year-old fossilized bones of frogs and salamanders found in Spain.

The marrow was preserved in 3D, and still has its original texture and color. Scientists think they may be able to extract traces of protein and DNA.

Even more interestingly, the fossils prove that ancient salamanders produced blood cells in their bone marrow. Modern salamanders, on the other hand, produce blood cells in their spleens.

Last year, US scientists recovered some tissue resembling blood vessels from a 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil. They also found traces of what appeared to be red blood cells. (More on the T. rex find.)

And now that they're looking, scientists think they may find examples of preserved bone marrow in many fossils, raising the possibility of analyzing the proteins and DNA of lots of long-extinct organisms.


Beaver: Castorocauda lutrasimilis life reconstruction. The artwork of the reconstructed animal is 50% of actual fossil size. Illustration: Mark A. Klingler/CMNH
Most early fossil mammals were tiny, rodent-like, and ate primarily insects. Paleontologists assumed that mammals didn’t diversify much or grow to large sizes until their dinosaurian competition was eliminated. Recent fossil finds from China have included larger early mammals that have changed this view of mammal evolution. And now, with the new discovery of the beaver-like Castorocauda lutrasimilis, we know that a hefty mammal (about a half-meter long) evolved to live a semi-aquatic lifestyle way back in the Jurassic Period, a time on earth best known for enormous dinosaurs!

Assembly by committee?
Castorocauda is not directly related to any modern mammals. But it resembles several! Castorocauda looks like a combination of otter, beaver, and platypus. With webbed hind feet and a scaly paddle-shaped tail, Castorocauda was clearly a semi-aquatic animal. This early mammal ate more than just insects. Its seal-like teeth suggest it ate fish. Other aquatic mammals aren’t found in the fossil record until many millions of years later, making Castorocauda the first of its kind.

Record for the oldest fur pelt
Early fossil mammals are known primarily from their teeth. Other skeletal remains are rare. Castorocauda has a near-complete skeleton and its fur was remarkably fossilized, too! The fossil fur is similar to that of modern mammals that have adapted to swimming in cold water. At 164 million years old, this fur is the oldest ever discovered.


There has been a boatload of paleontology news in the last week or so. Here’s a brief round-up of some of the highlights:

April 4: Perhaps the biggest news is new evidence that a meteor did NOT kill off the dinosaurs. While no one doubts that a giant meteor did strike the Gulf of Mexico about 65 million years ago, a careful examination of the debris shows that it probably hit about 300,000 years before the dinosaurs went extinct.

April 4: A new species of dinosaur has been found in southern Utah. Scientists describe it as a 7-foot-tall, brightly colored turkey that could run 25 mph.

There's lots more fossil news -- click "read more" for the full list!


A new fossil fuels the theory that some dinosaurs cared for their young. It shows an adult Psittacosaurus (SIT-ta-co-SORE-us) with 34 juveniles.