New toothed fossil the missing link between ancient and modern baleen whales

Scientists finally found the missing evolutionary link between the modern whales’ toothed ancestors, the basilosaurids, and the filter-feeding mysticetes, which include the blue whale, the humpback whale, and the right whale. A recent paper describes a 36.4-million-year-old whale fossil with teeth and small vestigial hind limbs, which also help connect it to the whales’ ancient land-dwelling […]

Western spotted skunk is shown doing its characteristic hand-stand when spraying. (Image by Jerry W. Dragoo)

Ice Age climate change more important than geological barriers in spotted skunk evolution

The evolution of Western spotted skunks—tiny, maze-patterned carnivores with a unique hand-stand spraying technique—was influenced by climate change, not geological barriers, new research suggests. Spotted skunks can be found throughout western United States and Mexico, living in a variety of climates. Studying the evolution of skunks may seem arbitrary, but in fact, these small carnivores provide […]

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Newly discovered feathered dinosaur sheds light on the evolution of flight

A newly discovered troodontid species is the earliest example of a bird-like dinosaur with asymmetric feathers—a physical trait associated with the evolution of flight. The new species, named Jianianhualong tengi, was described from a nearly complete skeleton with preserved feathers. The fossil dates from the Early Cretaceous period— approximately 100-145 million years ago—and was found in north-eastern […]

This photograph shows a toy xoloitzcuintlel, a dog breed that likely descended from dogs that crossed the Bering Land Bridge with Native Americans Ancestors.
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Penny Inan

The most comprehensive evolutionary map of dog breeds

Researchers have assembled the most comprehensive map of dog breeds to date, using genetic sequences from 161 modern breeds. The largest evolutionary tree also reveals new information about the original purposes for breeding certain types of dogs; tells the story of the dogs that accompanied humans across the Bering land bridge; and the map could […]

A Hyaenodont skull. (Image by Matthew Borths)

Egyptian fossil leads to discovery of new extinct carnivore species

A 34-million-year-old Egyptian fossil has identified a new member of the ancient carnivore species, hyaenodonts. Researchers gave the new species the name Masrasector nananubis, referring to Anubis, the dog-headed Egyptian god of mummification and afterlife. Masrasector nananubis were likely fast-moving, terrestrial meat-eaters about the size of a modern skunk. This is a significant discovery to […]

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Fossil leads to recognition of birdlike reptiles that preceded early dinosaurs

Certain physical traits previously thought to be unique to dinosaurs evolved much earlier, a new study suggests. Fossil analysis of a newly described species, named Teleocrater rhadinus, places this carnivorous animal in a new spot on the evolutionary tree, directly after the split between birds and crocodilians. Teleocrater marks the first of an entirely new clade […]

A three-spined stickleback in "blackwater" saturated with tannins at Drizzle lake. (Image by Thomas E. Reimchen)

How distantly-related populations of sticklebacks evolved the same solution to their unique environments

Three-spined stickleback fish have inhabited freshwater lakes in the Haida Gwaii archipelago off the coast of British Columbia for thousands of years. A new study that combines genetic analysis with a 19-year-long selection experiment tells the story of how the sticklebacks evolved to adapt their vision to each of their unique lakewater conditions. Some of […]

Climate shaped the evolution of the human nose

It looks like temperature and humidity of a region may have stuck their noses in the evolution of the human smelling organ. Researchers examined the size and shape of noses on people of West African, South Asian, East Asian, and Northern European descent. They say the discovered differences are too great to have occurred on chance […]

X-ray tomographic picture (false colors) of fossil thread-like red algae. (Image by Stefan Bengtson)

1.6 billion-year-old red algae found in fossils

World’s oldest plant-like fossils, which the scientists believe are ancient red algae, were discovered in sedimentary rocks at Chitrakoot in central India. It’s difficult to ascertain that the fossils are, in fact, red algae, since there is no DNA material present, but researchers say the structure of the cells are consistent with this ancient plant […]

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When did bison arrive in North America?

The bison’s arrival in North America from Asia was an ecologically significant event, but its timeline remained a mystery—until now. The mystery started to unravel when researchers found a bison fossil dating about 130,000 years old in northern Yukon—the oldest known fossil of the large mammal in North America. They compared the genomes of the […]

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