Paleontology

Woolly Mammoth Tusks Yield Clues to Animals’ Lives

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 22, 2005   View Article

A woolly mammoth that died millennia ago nursed for at least six years, according to an analysis of one of its tusks. The finding raises the question: Did its mother finally get tired of being poked?

“That’s an interesting question,” said Adam Rountrey, a graduate student in geology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who helped analyze the tusk. “At this age the tusks are not protruding very far, but sure, eventually they could get in the way.”

5-Foot Giant Water Scorpion Once Roamed U.K. Shores

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 30, 2005   View Article

If you think scorpions are scary, try this on for size: a six-legged water scorpion the size of a human. Newly discovered tracks reveal that about 330 million years ago, just such a creature lumbered along the riverbanks in present-day Scotland.

The fossilized track is the largest of its kind ever found and shows these now extinct creatures could walk on land, according to Martin Whyte, a geologist at the University of Sheffield in England.

Extinct Mammal Had Venomous Bite, Fossils Suggest

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 22, 2005   View Article

About 60 million years ago, a small shrew-like mammal captured its prey by stabbing it with dagger-like teeth that delivered a nasty dose of venom, paleontologists reported today.

“Nothing like that has ever been described before,” said Richard Fox, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Dino-Era Fossils Inspired Monster Myths, Author Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 17, 2005   View Article

According to the Lakota, or Sioux, Indians’ “Water Monsters of the Badlands” legend, the rugged and eroded lands of southwestern South Dakota were the stage for an epic battle between water spirits and thunder and lightning spirits.

The water sprits were embodied by giant water monsters known as the Unktehi. Thunder and lighting spirits took the form of thunderbirds known as Wakinyan.

Extinct Giant Bird Doomed by Slow Growth, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 15, 2005   View Article

The large, flightless moa bird that roamed New Zealand in ancient times grew much more slowly than modern birds, according to a new study of their bones. The finding suggests that slow growth doomed the moa to extinction when humans arrived about 700 years ago.

Unlike the bones of all modern birds, several moa bones show growth marks similar to the rings found on tree stumps, said Samuel Turvey, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London in the U.K.

Stubby Dino Find Blurs Image of Long-Neck Lumberers

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 1, 2005   View Article

Paleontologists today unveiled a sauropod dinosaur with a stubby neck. The discovery smudges the common picture of sauropods as unspecialized, lumbering dinosaurs that used very long necks to munch away at any greenery in sight, including treetops.

Sauropods were the largest animals ever to walk on land. They are characterized by their small heads, elephant-like limbs, and long tails and necks. Some sauropods’ necks were four times as long as their backs.

Bizarre New Dinosaur Shows Evolution to Plant Eating, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 4, 2005   View Article

First noticed by a black market fossil dealer, a new species found in a Utah boneyard may be a missing link in dinosaurs’ trend toward vegetarianism.

The 125-million-year-old fossils, from the dinosaur Falcarius utahensis, were discovered in a graveyard of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Though it may have eaten meat, Falcarius’s teeth and guts show the first signs of the species’s change toward a leafy, green diet, said James Kirkland, a paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey in Salt Lake City.

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