The Phylogeny of H. floresiensis

A new paper in the Journal of Human Evolution presents evidence against the hypothesis that the  "Hobbits" of the island of Flores are descended from H. erectus. Instead, the authors argue that we have to go deeper into the family tree to find the common ancestor that we humans share with H. floresiensis. Here's an accessible summary of the findings.

Rethinking the dinosaur family tree

A new study published in Nature challenges the deeply entrenched distinction between ornithischian and saurischian dinosaurs. What if therapods were more closely related to ornithischian dinosaurs than they were to sauropods? Here is a nice discussion of the research in The Atlantic.

Pinning down the timing of the bison invasion of N. America

A recent paper in PNAS uses ancient DNA research to determine when bison first "invaded" North and South America. The iconic symbols of the N. American west haven't actually been here that long. It turns out that the first migration of bison from Asia occurred between 195 and 135 thousand years ago. Here is a shorter report on the research from The New York Times.

Canadian microfossils might be 3.77 billion years old

Scientists keep pushing back the age of the earliest known fossils, which also suggests earlier and earlier dates for the first appearance of life on Earth. A new paper in Nature reports on microfossils from Canada alleged to be almost 3.8 billion years old. (Here is an accessible discussion in The Washington Post.)

Evolving Flight: Messier Than You Might Think...

Getting from a little theropod-thing to a fully-powered flying bird-thing is often presented as a pretty direct trajectory, as "as a long evolutionary march in which natural selection progressively refined one subgroup of dinosaurs into ever-better aerialists". In a new paper in science, Stephen Brusatte argues that recent fossil finds suggest that things were way crazier than that...

The Lost World of Appalachia

Here is a fun piece of prehistory writing by Asher Elbein. In North America, much attention has focused on the Cretaceous ecosystems of Larimidia. But what about the territory east of the seaway that divided what is now North America? What about the prehistory of Appalachia?

A Canadian Lagerstaette that's not the Burgess Shale

Scientists writing in the latest issue of Geology report on a newly identified Lagerstaette in Alberta, Canada, not far from Banff. The Ya Ha Tinda site records a marine ecosystem from the early Jurassic, around 183 million years ago. Here is a short description of the findings. But check out the original paper (the first link above) for nice images of the fossils.