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dinosaur

Bringing dinosaur biology into the 21st century

We may know a lot about dinosaurs, but there’s an awful lot we don’t know yet, especially about their biology. How heavy were the dinosaurs? Were they fast or slow? Recent research poses new answers to these long-standing questions.

06 Jul 2012

Five outstanding questions in earth science

Even 15 years after the release of “Good Will Hunting,” there remains something appealing about watching the title character, a mathematically inclined janitor at MIT, scribble the solution to an unsolved mathematics problem on a hallway blackboard. In reality, there are a number of unsolved problems in mathematics, seven of which were designated in 2000 by the Clay Mathematics Institute as “Millennium Prize Problems,” each with a purse of $1,000,000. To date, only one has been solved.

27 Jun 2012

Quoth the feathered, iridescent Microraptor, Nevermore

Our knowledge of the evolution of feathers in dinosaurs is sketchy, at best, but new research on fossilized feathers is painting a remarkably clear picture of what one species, known as Microraptor, may have looked like — a raven with black iridescent feathers. The findings may have implications for the importance of sexual display in the early origins of feathers.

08 Mar 2012

Highlights of 2010: Definitive statements: a new trend?

“This is the way it was.” Or: “This is what is happening.” Hmmm. Scientists don’t usually make such definitive statements, given that in science, there are almost always caveats. Yet in the last year, such statements have been issued by several large groups of scientists who have come together to support a certain point of view. Are scientists feeling the need to dig in their heels because of public pressures? Or are we actually reaching some consensus?

10 Dec 2010

Triassic Park: On the origin of (dinosaur) species

Ask a third grader what happened to the dinosaurs and she will tell you that an asteroid killed them all. Many adults even know what caused the demise of the dinosaurs: A massive bolide crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico about 65 million years ago, setting in motion a series of environmental changes that killed off 60 percent of life on Earth. But if you ask people about the origin of dinosaurs 165 million years earlier, you get blank looks. Even many paleontologists have little to say about the subject.

18 Jan 2011

Benchmarks: September 30, 1861: Archaeopteryx is discovered and described

What's commonly thought of as the first bird, Archaeopteryx was first described 150 years ago this month.

02 Sep 2011

It's a Dirty Job, But Someone's Gotta Do It

Fossilized feces reveal significant details about ancient life

How often do you laugh when you talk to a scientist? Over the years, I have interviewed and talked with dozens of geologists, biologists and archaeologists. I often come away feeling the researcher’s passion and excitement about his or her subject, but rarely do I come away with a sense of mirth, until I started to talk to people who work with coprolites. I don’t mean to imply that the researchers aren’t serious about their work — they are. But they also exude a healthy sense of humor.

28 Aug 2008

Odd crests helped dinos communicate

Paleontologists have puzzled over the lambeosaur, an odd-looking duck-billed dinosaur, since its fossils were discovered in 1914. In particular, scientists were curious about the distinctive crest on the lambeosaur’s head: Elongated and complex nasal passages led air from the dinosaur’s nostrils up into the hollow crest and back down into its lungs. But what purpose these nasal passages served was a mystery — until now.

31 Oct 2008

Soft tissue preserved in 80-million-year-old dino fossil

A two-year-old debate is back in the flesh — literally.

Molecular paleontologist Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues presented evidence this week in Science that they had successfully recovered and identified collagen, a type of protein, from the femur of an 80-million-year-old hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur.

30 Apr 2009

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