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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

Deciphering mass extinctions

What the planet’s past mass extinctions tell us about the future of life on Earth

The crash-landing of a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid 65 million years ago made for a very bad day for dinosaurs — or one very lucky day for mammals.

02 Sep 2009

Art and dinosaurs

Lillian the Albertosaur strolls through the halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, glancing sideways at the skeletal model of a T. rex. She’s much prettier than the skeleton, from her textured brown skin, adorned with bright purple spots, to her slightly superior smirk. Neither dinosaur is actually alive: One is a fossil, and the other is a computer graphic superimposed on a photograph of the actual museum. But somehow, Lillian does liven the place up.

08 Sep 2009

Mini-T. rex fossil found in China

The Tyrannosaurus rex — arguably the most famous dinosaur of all time — was also one of the most efficient predators to ever walk on Earth. With its powerful jaws, large eyes, strong hind limbs and even tiny arms, the T. rex was uniquely designed to swiftly run down and dispatch prey. But on Wednesday, scientists announced that those characteristic T. rex features were not as unique as once thought: A new fossil find shows that 60 million years earlier, a T.

17 Sep 2009

Are birds dinosaurs? New evidence muddies the picture

In 1861, German paleontologist Christian Erich Hermann von Mayer excavated the fine-grained limestone layers of a quarry near Solnhofen, Germany. The 150-million-year-old limestone had already proven promising for finding fossils: A year earlier, von Mayer had found the imprint of a single feather preserved in the rock. But this time, he discovered something more spectacular: an entire skeleton of what appeared to be an ancient bird.

31 Oct 2009

Dinosaurs' active lifestyles suggest they were warm-blooded

Whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded has been a long-standing question in paleobiology. Now, new research on how two-legged dinosaurs walked and ran adds new evidence to the argument for warm-bloodedness, and suggests that even the earliest dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded.

11 Nov 2009

Tetrapod tracks reset timing of four-legged evolution

About 18 million years earlier than they were thought to exist, tetrapods — vertebrates with four limbs instead of fins — walked in what is today Poland. A new study published in Nature describes tracks belonging to a tetrapod in a Polish tidal flat, dating to the Middle Devonian period, about 395 million years ago. The discovery may prompt scientists to completely reassess the environment, origins and timing of early tetrapods.

07 Jan 2010