Posts about fossil

Learning About Life over 200 Million Years Ago From Samples Trapped In Amber

230-Million-Year-Old Mite Found in Amber by Charles Choi

One way to learn more about prehistoric life is amber — fossilized tree resin. Before it hardened, this ooze often dripped over bugs and other wildlife perched on its tree’s bark, entombing them for millions of years.

“Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” Grimaldi said.

Scientists have now revealed arthropods trapped in 230-million-year-old amber from northeastern Italy, which appears to hold the most abundant outcrops of Triassic amber in the world. These are the oldest amber-trapped arthropods by about 100 million years, and are the first arthropods to be found in amber from the Triassic.

These mites are unexpectedly similar to their closest relatives, modern gall mites, creatures that feed on plants and cause abnormal growths known as galls to form around them.

“You would think that by going back to the Triassic you’d find a transitional form of gall mite, but no,” Grimaldi said. “Even 230 million years ago, all of the distinguishing features of this family were there — a long, segmented body; only two pairs of legs instead of the usual four found in mites; unique feather claws.”

These discoveries are very cool. The process of the discovery is often fairly tedious.

“The challenge for us, personally, is the tedious work required to screen through so many tiny droplets of amber — 70,000 droplets for three specimens, in this case!”

Related: Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in AmberDino-Era Feathers Found Encased in AmberAmber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution

Fossil or Mystery Monster Found In Kentucky Seems to Defy All Known Groups of Organisms

Around 450 million years ago, shallow seas covered the Cincinnati region and harbored one very large and now very mysterious organism. Despite its size, no one has ever found a fossil of this “monster” until its discovery by an amateur paleontologist last year.

UC Paleontologist David Meyer, left and Carlton Brett, right, flank Ron Fine, who discovered the large fossil spread out on the table.

The fossilized specimen, a roughly elliptical shape with multiple lobes, totaling almost seven feet in length, will be unveiled at the North-Central Section 46th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, April 24, in Dayton, Ohio.

Fine is a member of the Dry Dredgers, an association of amateur paleontologists based at the University of Cincinnati. The club, celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, has a long history of collaborating with academic paleontologists.

“I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil,” Fine said. “Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.”

The layer of rock in which he found the specimen near Covington, Kentucky, is known to produce a lot of nodules or concretions in a soft, clay-rich rock known as shale. “While those nodules can take on some fascinating, sculpted forms, I could tell instantly that this was not one of them,” Fine said. “There was an ‘organic’ form to these shapes. They were streamlined.”

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Lobopodians from China a Few Million Years Ago

image of a lobopodian fosil nicknamed the walking cactus

image of a lobopodian fosil from Nature

Cactus Walking On 20 Legs Found In China

There was a wild period — roughly 520 million years ago — when life, for no obvious reason, burst into a crazy display of weird new fantastic forms — producing creatures in shapes never seen before or since. Consider this animal, the newest fossil discovery from Jianni Liu in China. She calls it “the walking cactus.”

This is not a plant, not a sculpture. It was a live animal, with no eyes, what may or may not be a head, mostly a gaggle of limbs, armor-plated, covered in thorns, attached to a stomach.

What is it? Taxonomically, Jianni Liu thinks it’s a lobopodian, a group of animals described as “worms with legs.” Lobopodians are about the craziest looking critters that ever lived. A whole zoo of them appear in the rocks around Chengjiang, China.

All we know, says Richard Fortey in his classic history Life, is that a long time ago, the first of these strange animals popped into view and for a short while “there was a chain reaction, unstoppable once it started, a bacchanalia of zoological inventiveness, which has never been matched again.”

Every living thing on earth today is what’s left over from that amazing burst of forms. It’s true we now live on land and in the air, not just in the sea. We have grasses and flowers and beetles in more varieties than you can imagine, and yet, in some deep architectural way, the developmental paths were set way back then, 500 million years ago. The Walking Cactus is just another souvenir of that crazy moment.

Very cool. Actual science is so full of such interesting things. The Cambrian explosion of life, about 540-490 million years ago, marked the beginning of complex life on earth. Before Cambrian, the sea floor was covered by microbial mats. By the end of the period, burrowing animals had destroyed the mats through bioturbation, and gradually turned the seabeds into what they are today. Generally it is accepted that there were no land plants at this time, although it is likely that a microbial “scum” comprising fungi, algae, and possibly lichens covered the land.

Complex organisms gradually became more common in the millions of years immediately preceding the Cambrian, but it was not until this period that mineralized (readily fossilized) organisms became common. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude (as defined in terms of the extinction and origination rate of species) and the diversity of life began to resemble today’s.

Related: 500 Million-year-old Stromatolite FossilFossils of Sea MonsterDinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and TissueAncient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian DesertSouth African Fossils Could be New Hominid Species

Fossils of Sea Monster

Fosil of extinct sea creature

‘Godzilla’ Fossils Reveal Real-Life Sea Monster, National Geographic news:

Researchers have unearthed fossil evidence of a 135-million-year-old “sea monster” they’re calling Godzilla.

A large skull of the animal was found in southern Argentina in an area that was once part of the Pacific Ocean.

Named Dakosaurus andiniensis, the creature is an entirely new species of ancient crocodile. It had a head like a carnivorous dinosaur and a tail like a fish. With its massive jaws and serrated teeth, it preyed on other marine reptiles.

Totally unique among marine crocodiles, “it is one of the most evolved members of the crocodilian family and also one of the most bizarre,”

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