3D Printing of Fossils

In fields like paleoanthropology, where there aren't that many fossils, and the ones we have are are housed in museums and labs around the world, digital scanning and 3D printing could change how scientists share data. It's now possible to print out Lucy's bones.

See the news story in Nature here.


Absurdly ancient stromatolites found in Greenland

Scientists are now reporting stromatolite fossils that seem to be around 3.7 billion years old, and 220 million years older than the oldest previously known stromatolites. (For perspective, just think of all that's happened biologically in the last 220 million years.)

Here is an accessible discussion in The New York Times.

And here is the original paper in Nature.

If this holds up, these will be the oldest fossils yet found. And they suggest that microbial life on Earth was well established a good deal earlier than anyone had previously realized.

The effort to reconstruct LUCA

New research is suggesting that LUCA--the last universal common ancestor of life on Earth--may have been an extremophilic microbe. It's a fascinating effort to draw inferences about organisms that lived way, way, back in deep time.

New Ceratopsid!

Plos One* just published a description of a new ceratopsid, Spiclypeus shipporum (how many dang ceratopsid can there be?) based on a specimen named Judith (who had some really interesting pathology...). There's also a lovely new art-work by Michael Skrepnik, which you can see here.

*what makes a ceratopsid 'Boldly Audacious' is unclear to us here at Extinct, but we'd love to know why!

Atopodentatus: less flamingo, more hammer-head.

When you're inferring a critter's morphology and feeding strategies from a few incomplete finds, hypotheses can be pretty unstable. This is nicely illustrated in the dramatic shift Chun et al have just pushed in the mid-Triassic marine reptile Atopodentatus. Here's the article, and here's a nice summary in the guardian (with pictures!)