Topic: Palaeontology

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Azolla Event

Climate change Environment Plants Arctic Palaeontology Geology

The Azolla event is a scenario hypothesized to have occurred in the middle Eocene epoch, around 49 million years ago, when blooms of the freshwater fern Azolla are thought to have happened in the Arctic Ocean. As they sank to the stagnant sea floor, they were incorporated into the sediment; the resulting draw-down of carbon dioxide has been speculated to have helped transform the planet from a "greenhouse Earth" state, hot enough for turtles and palm trees to prosper at the poles, to the current icehouse Earth known as the Late Cenozoic Ice Age.

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Dimetrodon

Palaeontology Amphibians and Reptiles Mammals

Dimetrodon ( (listen) or , meaning "two measures of teeth") is an extinct genus of non-mammalian synapsids that lived during the Cisuralian (Early Permian), around 295–272 million years ago (Ma). It is a member of the family Sphenacodontidae. The most prominent feature of Dimetrodon is the large neural spine sail on its back formed by elongated spines extending from the vertebrae. It walked on four legs and had a tall, curved skull with large teeth of different sizes set along the jaws. Most fossils have been found in the southwestern United States, the majority coming from a geological deposit called the Red Beds of Texas and Oklahoma. More recently, fossils have been found in Germany. Over a dozen species have been named since the genus was first described in 1878.

Dimetrodon is often mistaken for a dinosaur or as a contemporary of dinosaurs in popular culture, but it became extinct some 40 million years before the first appearance of dinosaurs. Reptile-like in appearance and physiology, Dimetrodon is nevertheless more closely related to mammals than to modern reptiles, though it is not a direct ancestor of mammals. Dimetrodon is assigned to the "non-mammalian synapsids", a group traditionally called "mammal-like reptiles". This groups Dimetrodon together with mammals in a clade (evolutionary group) called Synapsida, while placing dinosaurs, reptiles and birds in a separate clade, Sauropsida. Single openings in the skull behind each eye, known as temporal fenestrae, and other skull features distinguish Dimetrodon and mammals from most of the earliest sauropsids.

Dimetrodon was probably one of the apex predators of the Cisuralian ecosystems, feeding on fish and tetrapods, including reptiles and amphibians. Smaller Dimetrodon species may have had different ecological roles. The sail of Dimetrodon may have been used to stabilize its spine or to heat and cool its body as a form of thermoregulation. Some recent studies argue that the sail would have been ineffective at removing heat from the body due to large species being discovered with small sails and small species being discovered with large sails, essentially ruling out heat regulation as its main purpose. The sail was most likely used in courtship display with methods such as threatening rivals or showing off to potential mates.

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Great Oxidation Event

Chemicals Palaeontology Geology Evolutionary biology Limnology and Oceanography

The Great Oxidation Event (GOE), sometimes also called the Great Oxygenation Event, Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Holocaust, or Oxygen Revolution, was a time period when the Earth's atmosphere and the shallow ocean experienced a rise in oxygen, approximately 2.4 billion years ago (2.4 Ga) to 2.1–2.0 Ga during the Paleoproterozoic era. Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggests that biologically induced molecular oxygen (dioxygen, O2) started to accumulate in Earth's atmosphere and changed Earth's atmosphere from a weakly reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere, causing almost all life on Earth to go extinct. The cyanobacteria producing the oxygen caused the event which enabled the subsequent development of multicellular forms.

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Homo floresiensis

Anthropology Palaeontology Extinction Indonesia Archaeology Mammals Evolutionary biology Human Genetic History Primates Southeast Asia

Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man"; nicknamed "hobbit") is a pygmy archaic human which inhabited the island of Flores, Indonesia, until the arrival of modern humans about 50,000 years ago.

The remains of an individual who would have stood about 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) in height were discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete skull, referred to as "LB1". These remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans; the dominant consensus is that these remains do represent a distinct species due to genetic and anatomical differences.

This hominin had originally been considered remarkable for its survival until relatively recent times, only 12,000 years ago. However, more extensive stratigraphic and chronological work has pushed the dating of the most recent evidence of its existence back to 50,000 years ago. The Homo floresiensis skeletal material is now dated from 60,000 to 100,000 years ago; stone tools recovered alongside the skeletal remains were from archaeological horizons ranging from 50,000 to 190,000 years ago.

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Permian–Triassic Extinction Event

Palaeontology Geology Extinction

The Permian–Triassic extinction event, also known as the P–Tr extinction, the P–T extinction, the End-Permian Extinction, and colloquially as the Great Dying, formed the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, approximately 252 million years ago. It is the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It was the largest known mass extinction of insects. Some 57% of all biological families and 83% of all genera became extinct.

There is evidence for one to three distinct pulses, or phases, of extinction. Potential causes for those pulses include one or more large meteor impact events, massive volcanic eruptions (such as the Siberian Traps), and climate change brought on by large releases of underwater methane or methane-producing microbes.

The speed of the recovery from the extinction is disputed. Some scientists estimate that it took 10 million years (until the Middle Triassic), due both to the severity of the extinction and because grim conditions returned periodically for another 5 million years. However, studies in Bear Lake County, near Paris, Idaho, showed a relatively quick rebound in a localized Early Triassic marine ecosystem, taking around 2 million years to recover, suggesting that the impact of the extinction may have been felt less severely in some areas than others.

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Schöningen Spears

Germany Anthropology Palaeontology Archaeology

The Schöningen spears are a set of eight wooden throwing spears from the Palaeolithic Age that were excavated between 1994 and 1998 in the open-cast lignite mine in Schöningen, Helmstedt district, Germany, together with an associated cache of approximately 16,000 animal bones. The excavations took place under the management of Hartmut Thieme of the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage (NLD).

Originally assessed as being between 380,000 and 400,000 years old, they represent the oldest completely preserved hunting weapons of prehistoric Europe so far discovered. As such they predate the age of Neanderthal Man (by convention taken to have emerged 300,000 years ago), and are associated with Homo heidelbergensis. The spears support the practice of hunting by archaic humans in Europe in the late Lower Paleolithic.

The age of the spears was estimated from their stratigraphic position, "sandwiched between deposits of the Elsterian and Saalian glaciations, and situated within a well-studied sedimentary sequence." More recently, thermoluminescence dating of heated flints in a deposit beneath that which contained the spears suggested that the spears were between 337,000 and 300,000 years old.

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Cat Gap

Palaeontology

The cat gap is a period in the fossil record of approximately 25 to 18.5 million years ago in which there are few fossils of cats or cat-like species found in North America. The cause of the "cat gap" is disputed, but may have been caused by changes in the climate (global cooling), changes in the habitat and environmental ecosystem, the increasingly hypercarnivorous trend of the cats (especially the nimravids), volcanic activity, evolutionary changes in dental morphology of the Canidae species present in North America, or a periodicity of extinctions called van der Hammen cycles.

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