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Life Sciences - Paleontology - 06.11.2020
Earliest example of a rapid-fire tongue found in extinct amphibians
Fossils of small armoured amphibians provide the oldest evidence of a slingshot-style tongue, according to a new study co-led by a UCL researcher. The research team analysed 99-million-year-old fossils to find that the animals were sit-and-wait predators that snatched prey with a projectile firing of their tongue, as reported in the journal Science .

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 02.11.2020
Fossil poop shows fishy lunches from 200 million years ago
Fossil poop shows fishy lunches from 200 million years ago
A new study of coprolites, fossil poop, shows the detail of food webs in the ancient shallow seas around Bristol in south-west England. One hungry fish ate part of the head of another fish before snipping off the tail of a passing reptile. Marie Cueille, a visiting student at the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences , was working on a collection of hundreds of fish poops from the Rhaetian bone bed near Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire, dated at 205 million years ago.

Paleontology - 30.10.2020
Plankton turned hunters to survive dinosaur-killing asteroid impact
After the last global mass extinction, 66 million years ago, most of the plankton that survived were those able to capture food to eat, according to a study led by UCL and University of Southampton researchers. The findings, published in Science Advances , support the theory that darkness drove the global extinctions, after an asteroid impact, as plankton and plants would not have been able to use photosynthesis to get their energy from the sun.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 28.10.2020
Giant lizards learnt to fly over millions of years
Giant lizards learnt to fly over millions of years
Pterodactyls and related winged reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs steadily improved their ability to fly, becoming the deadly masters of the sky, over the course of millions of years. A new study, ‘150 million years of sustained increase in pterosaur flight efficiency' , published in the journal Nature has shown that pterosaurs - a group of creatures that became Earth's first flying vertebrates - evolved to improve their flight performance over their 150 million-year existence, before going extinct at the same time as dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 28.10.2020
Pterosaurs undergo dental examination to reveal clues about diets and lifestyles
Microscopic analysis of the teeth of pterosaurs has revealed new insights into the diets and behaviours of Earth's earliest flying reptiles. Researchers at the University of Leicester's Centre for Palaeobiology Research and the University of Birmingham used dental microwear analysis to look at the wear patterns still visible on the teeth of 17 different species of pterosaur.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 12.10.2020
Ancient tiny teeth reveal first mammals lived more like reptiles
Ancient tiny teeth reveal first mammals lived more like reptiles
Reconstruction of Morganucodon (left) and Kuehneotherium (right) hunting in Early Jurassic Wales 200 million years ago. Original painting by John Sibbick, 2013. Copyright: Pam Gill Synchrotron micro-CT scan of a fossil Morganucodon tooth root from 200 million years ago. Elis Newham Scientists count fossilised growth rings in teeth like tree rings to find out how long the earliest mammals lived.

Paleontology - Life Sciences - 21.09.2020
Modelling of ancient fossil movement reveals step in the evolution of posture in dinosaur and crocodile ancestors
Modelling of ancient fossil movement reveals step in the evolution of posture in dinosaur and crocodile ancestors
Life reconstruction of Euparkeria highlighting the body parts investigated in this study. Illustration: Oliver Demuth. The oblique ankle joint did not allow Euparkeria to assume a fully upright posture as the foot also turns medially when the ankle joint is extended. An ankle joint allowing a more upright posture evolved later independent from the hip structure.

Environment - Paleontology - 16.09.2020
Discovery of a new mass extinction
Discovery of a new mass extinction
Summary of major extinction events through time, highlighting the new, Carnian Pluvial Episode at 233 million years ago. D. Bonadonna/ MUSE, Trento. 16 September 2020 It's not often a new mass extinction is identified; after all, such events were so devastating they really stand out in the fossil record.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 17.06.2020
Insect crunching reptiles on ancient islands of the UK
Insect crunching reptiles on ancient islands of the UK
By analysing the fossilised jaw mechanics of reptiles who lived in the Severn Channel region of the UK 200-million-years ago, researchers from the University of Bristol have shown that they weren't picky about the types of insects they ate - enjoying both crunchy and less crunchy varieties. The study, published today in the journal Palaeontology , describes how the team analysed the biomechanics of the skulls of some early lizard-like reptiles called rhynchocephalians to explore their diets.

Paleontology - Life Sciences - 11.06.2020
Oldest relative of ragworms and earthworms discovered
Oldest relative of ragworms and earthworms discovered
Scientists at the Universities of Oxford, Exeter, Yunnan and Bristol and have discovered the oldest fossil of the group of animals that contains earthworms, leeches, ragworms and lugworms. This discovery pushes the origin of living groups of these worms (polychaetes) back tens of millions of years, demonstrating that they played an important part in the earliest animal ecosystems.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 20.05.2020
Ancient giant armoured fish fed in a similar way to basking sharks
Ancient giant armoured fish fed in a similar way to basking sharks
Scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Zurich have shown that the Titanichthys - a giant armoured fish that lived in the seas and oceans of the late Devonian period 380-million-years ago - fed in a similar manner to modern day basking sharks. Titanichthys has long been known as one of the largest animals of the Devonian - its exact size is difficult to determine, but it likely exceeded five metres in length; like in the basking shark, its lower jaw reached lengths exceeding one metre.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 20.04.2020
Brain’s language pathway dates back at least 25 million years
A research team involving UCL has discovered an earlier origin to the human language pathway in the brain, pushing back its evolutionary origin by at least 20 million years. Previously, a precursor of the language pathway was thought by many scientists to have emerged more recently, about 5 million years ago, with a common ancestor of both apes and humans.

Paleontology - Life Sciences - 15.04.2020
Fossil-inspired flight: pterosaurs hold secrets to better aeronautical engineering
Fossil-inspired flight: pterosaurs hold secrets to better aeronautical engineering
Pterosaurs were the largest animals ever to fly. They soared the skies for 160 million years - much longer than any species of modern bird. However, until now, these ancient flyers have largely been overlooked in the pursuit of bio-inspired flight technologies. In a review, published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution , Bristol researchers outline why and how the physiology of fossil flyers could provide ancient solutions to modern flight problems, such as aerial stability and the ability of drones to self-launch.

Environment - Paleontology - 01.04.2020
Traces of ancient rainforest in Antarctica point to a warmer prehistoric world
Traces of ancient rainforest in Antarctica point to a warmer prehistoric world
Researchers have found evidence of rainforests near the South Pole 90 million years ago, suggesting the climate was exceptionally warm at the time. A team from the UK and Germany discovered forest soil from the Cretaceous period within 900 km of the South Pole. Their analysis of the preserved roots, pollen and spores shows that the world at that time was a lot warmer than previously thought.

Life Sciences - Paleontology - 13.02.2020
Boom and bust for ancient sea dragons
Boom and bust for ancient sea dragons
A new study by scientists from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, shows a well-known group of extinct marine reptiles had an early burst in their diversity and evolution - but that a failure to adapt in the long-run may have led to their extinction. Ichthyosaurs were fish-like reptiles that first appeared about 250 million years ago and quickly diversified into highly capable swimmers, filling a broad range of sizes and ecologies in the early Mesozoic oceans.

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