Get your fossil fix with our favourite palaeontology stories
Life, long-dead, enthrals us. Here we present our top 10 stories of 2016 which give insights into the planet millions – even billions – of years ago.
What killed off the vicious ichthyosaur?
The dolphin-like ichthyosaur was king of the ocean, reigning at the top of the food chain. But some 90 million years ago, well before the mass extinction that wiped dinosaurs off the face of the planet, they died out. Why the ferocious “sea dragon” disappeared has been a mystery – until now. Read more
Where did we come from? A primer on early human evolution
The story of human origins is a messy one. Each bone fragment that’s unearthed or ancient genome that’s decoded adds a new piece to the puzzle – and it doesn’t necessarily make the picture any clearer. Read more
End-Permian mass extinction was not so massive: study
The greatest mass extinction the world has ever seen was not as great as we thought, a paper suggests. Calculations downgraded the end-Permian "great dying" from wiping out between 90 to 96% of all species to around 81%. Read more
Meet Murusraptor, a ‘giant thief’ among dinosaurs
A new species of dinosaur – Murusraptor barrosaensis – was named unveiled in the journal PLOS One, thanks to the discovery of one of the most complete fossils of a Megaraptorid on record. Read more
Fireplace discovery sheds light on hobbits’ demise
Evidence narrows the time gap between the last Homo floresiensis – the so-called hobbits on the Indonesian stand of Flores – and the arrival of modern humans. Scientists at the University of Wollongong in Australia have found signs that modern humans, or Homo sapiens, were probably using fire at the Liang Bua site on the island 41,000 years ago. Read more
Ancient fossil bee nest reveals clues to Taung Child’s home
A fossilised bee nest uncovered near the “Taung Child” in South Africa indicates that the famous human ancestor may actually have lived in a dry, savannah-like environment rather than caves, as previously thought. Read more
Did ancient humans hunt cave lions to extinction?
Rituals conducted by Paleolithic humans might have contributed to the extinction of one of the largest ever species of lion, a study suggests. The Eurasian cave lion (Panthera spelaea) roamed parts of Europe, Asia and North America during the Upper Paleolithic epoch, and is thought to have died out around 14,000 years ago. People from the period are known as avid hunters of other species, so a research group led by Marian Cueto at the Universidad de Cantabria in Spain set out to examine the dynamic between human and cave lion. Read more
Why giant dinosaurs evolved fancy headwear
The biggest dinosaurs, including famous Tyrannosaurus rex, often sported crests and horns on their heads – and a study says this correlation between size and horns may not be a coincidence. Read more
What 3.7-billion-year-old fossils mean for life on Mars
When did life on Earth first arise? Scientists are narrowing in on the answer with perhaps the oldest fossils known to date – a staggering 3.7 billion years old – uncovered in Greenland. If confirmed, it beats the previous record-holding oldest fossils by around 220 million years. Read more
Skull fossil shows how whales grew to be largest animals on Earth
A 25-million-year-old fossilised whale skull nicknamed Alfred provides a missing link between the evolution of filter-feeding whales from their toothed cousins – and explains how whales became the largest animals on Earth. Read more