Using AI to probe the dawn of animal life

A joint Australian-US team has a plan to use AI to understand the oldest complex fossils on Earth – and they’ve just received a cool US$300,000 (about $410,000) grant from NASA to do it. The natural archive of Earth’s geological record contains fossils and other signals of living creatures, which helps us understand the evolutionary … Continue reading Using AI to probe the dawn of animal life

Snakes dined out after dinosaurs died out

Around 66 million years ago, the dinosaurs died out. But it wasn’t a sad day for everyone, with mammal and bird evolution exploding, leading to a variety of new species. But what about snakes? Researchers have found that snakes also experienced rapid evolution following the demise of the dinos. This was primarily driven by a … Continue reading Snakes dined out after dinosaurs died out

Let there be photosynthesis: three billion years of fresh air

Long ago, the Earth was filled with unbreathable gases that prohibited the existence of life as we know. But a moment in history caused a dramatic shift as oxygen was breathed into the world. It accumulated in the atmosphere and oceans, kickstarting a domino effect of diversification that led to the uniquely habitable planet we … Continue reading Let there be photosynthesis: three billion years of fresh air

Searching for the dawn of animal life

Drone footage courtesy of Associate Prof Diego C. García-Bellido (South Australian Museum/University of Adelaide). If you climbed down through the branches of the evolutionary tree, from child to parent for countless generations, you would eventually meet the greatest-grandparent of us all. But when did that animal evolve? And would we know it when we saw … Continue reading Searching for the dawn of animal life

Huge new fossil species uncovered in Canada

Palaeontologists have dug up a brand new animal species from the Cambrian era, more than 500 million years ago. Remarkably, Titanokorys gainesi was about half a metre long – which is giant compared to most of the other, pinky-finger-sized species alive at the time. “The sheer size of this animal is absolutely mind-boggling,” says Jean-Bernard … Continue reading Huge new fossil species uncovered in Canada

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Reptile fossil provides clues to origin of snakes and lizards While palaeontologists know quite a lot about the early evolution of the archosaurs (crocodiles, avian and non-avian dinosaurs), they know very little about lepidosaur evolution (lizards, snakes and tuataras) because the fossil record is very patchy. Now, a 231-million-year-old fossil found in Argentina is helping … Continue reading You may have missed…

Fossil found in Brazilian police raid is best preserved of its kind

An extraordinarily well-preserved pterosaur fossil, fondly referred to as one of the “crown jewels of the Museum of Geological Sciences in São Paolo” by the palaeontologist who has spent five years unlocking its secrets, could well have been lost to science were it not for a lucky police raid in the harbour of São Paolo … Continue reading Fossil found in Brazilian police raid is best preserved of its kind

‘Never skip leg day’ – Tetrapods evolved superfast

When did tetrapods evolve from fish? Around 390 million years ago and it happened really, really quickly, according to a team of researchers from Harvard University. Despite representing a major evolutionary shift to life above water, the details of how fish grew legs and came on land somewhere between the Middle and Late Devonian (approximately … Continue reading ‘Never skip leg day’ – Tetrapods evolved superfast

Early plants evolved from algae, fossils show

A fresh look at spore-like microfossils has challenged conventional understanding of how plants evolved. In a study, published in Science, researchers analysed a 480-million-year-old microfossil, retrieved from Western Australia, that connects plant origins to freshwater green algae. This suggested that plant evolution was gradual and nuanced as it evolved from using simple cell-division to complex … Continue reading Early plants evolved from algae, fossils show

More to learn about evolution from Galápagos finches

Finches on the Galápagos Islands have become famous because of the subtle variations in species between islands. These variations represent different selective pressures, showing the birds evolved in response to the environment. The Galápagos finches, also known as Darwin’s finches, have been scrutinised since the 19th century, but according to a team of researchers from … Continue reading More to learn about evolution from Galápagos finches

How snakes got their fangs

The mystery of the evolution of snake fangs may have been solved by scientists at Flinders University. Fangs have evolved independently time after time among many lineages of venomous snakes, but are rarely seen in other reptiles. Now, scientists have revealed that microscopic features of snake teeth – that may have evolved for an entirely … Continue reading How snakes got their fangs

Dog days in prehistoric Europe

Scientists have unearthed the earliest evidence of wild hunting dogs in Europe, from more than 1.7 million years ago – and they may have lived alongside early humans. A team led by Saverio Bartolini-Lucenti from the University of Florence, Italy, found a large canine at the archaeological site of Dmanisi in Georgia. This site is … Continue reading Dog days in prehistoric Europe