fossils

Earliest Ichthyosaur Munched on Shellfish

May 13, 2020

The ichthyosaurs were sleek, dolphin-like marine reptiles that roamed the oceans while dinosaurs ruled on land. But the earliest known member of the group was a short, seal-like animal that could likely pull itself onto land.

Now, scanning of that animal’s skull shows that it likely fed on hard-shelled animals such as shellfish and crabs. The appearance of similar teeth in other ichthyosaurs gives insight into how these animals were evolving in the wake of the mass extinction at the end of the Permian era, 250 million years ago.

Mutant Fern Spores Point to Mass Extinction Culprit

October 24, 2019
About 200 million years ago, much of the life on Earth was wiped out in the end-Triassic mass extinction. The catastrophe may have been caused by climate change related to massive volcanic eruptions.

Four Limbs Good, Three Legs Bad?

October 01, 2019
If “Why?” is the first question in science, “Why not?” must be a close second. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about why something does not exist. Such as a truly three-legged animal.

Researchers Describe New Reptile Platypus From the Early Triassic

January 24, 2019
No animal alive today looks quite like a duck-billed platypus, a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal hailing from eastern Australia. But about 250 million years ago, something very similar swam the shallow seas in what is now China, finding prey by touch with a cartilaginous bill. The newly discovered marine reptile Eretmorhipis carrolldongi from the lower Triassic period is described in the journal Scientific Reports Jan. 24. 

Why Whales? What Sends Land Animals Back to Sea

April 20, 2018
What drives species to move into such a different habitat? Two paleontologists at UC Davis, Geerat Vermeij and Ryosuke Motani, set out to test these ideas by compiling a list of all the groups of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that have re-occupied marine environments and comparing their time of return to the ocean with known mass-extinction events.

Rewriting the History of Our Species

June 07, 2017
New fossil finds from the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco do more than push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years. They also reveal what was on the menu for our oldest-known Homo sapiens ancestors 300,000 years ago

Evolution of Biggest Whales Linked With Ocean Productivity

August 12, 2016
The similar pathways to enormous size among whales and sea cows provide new insights into the history of the ocean’s food supply, according to paleontologists Nick Pyenson, curator of Fossil Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Geerat Vermeij, distinguished professor of paleontology at the University of California, Davis.

Fossil Discovery Fills Evolutionary Gap

November 05, 2014
The first fossil of an amphibious ichthyosaur has been discovered in China by a team led by researchers at the University of California, Davis.