Questions tagged [palaeontology]

Palaeontology is the study of organisms that lived in prehistoric times.

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What did dying reefs look like during the Permian?

Today, reefs are made by scleractinian corals. They rely on a symbiotic relationship with unicellular photosynthetic organisms (zooxanthellae) in order to grow as fast as they do. This relationship ...
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What is the creature on the cover of the fourth edition of 'Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History'?

I have yet to receive my copy so apologies if this is explained in the book - what is the creature on the cover of the fourth edition of 'Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History'? It looks like a bird ...
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Was the KT asteroid a dinosaur killer or just a large animal killer?

The KT extinction event is well-known as the demise of the dinosaurs. But today we have about 10000 bird, 11000 non-avian reptiles, and 5000 mammal species. That means almost 50% of reptile species ...
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Can Shark bodies be preserved?

Under Normal Conditions, Shark bodies, which are made of cartilage are not preserved and only the teeth can only be preserved, I searched up, if Shark Bodies can be preserved in ice and I got this CNN ...
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What were the three dinosaur evolutions and do they imply that bipedalism could have evolved multiple times in hominins?

At this pop-sci article transcribing an interview with Jeremy DeSilva, they state: "If we’ve learned anything about evolutionary trends, it’s that good ideas evolve over and over again. For ...
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Why did ALL dinosaurs go extinct?

Why did all dinosaurs, rather than just some of them, go extinct during the K-T extinction event? Birds are an exception, but being able to fly, they are also a very special kind of creature, and ...
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The largest Triceratops specimen

Almost every dinosaur book writes that Triceratops maximal length was about 9 meters (29.5-30 ft), see for example Thomas R. Holtz's dinosaur genus list 2011. My question is what specimen is the base ...
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What is the common ancestor of humans and trilobites?

I have always been immensely fascinated by trilobites. What is the single common ancestor of humans and trilobites? Do we know? Do we have a name for it? Have we identified it?
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Evolution of Heteromorph Ammonites

I was reading about fossils and thought of this question: what was the purpose of the shells of heteromorph ammonites (for example, ammonites of the genus Nipponites)? Wouldn’t the odd shapes of these ...
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Estimates of historical human population size

What are the estimates of minimum historical human population size, and how are they obtained from the current human genetic diversity? I seem to recall a Scientific American article from over 30 ...
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Can a second mass extinction by microbes happen?

Science Daily reports that the mass extinction at the end of Permian period happened by the Methanosarcina archaea wiping out 90% of species: Methane-producing microbes may be responsible for the ...
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When life first formed in earth's ocean, was it salty yet?

Do we have any tangible proof, e.g. by studying fossils of primitive life forms, that during their time the ocean was already salty, and at roughly similar levels to today's, or on the contrary, that ...
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Examples of species whose extinct common ancestor is well documented?

If we follow the ascendence line of two closely related species we can build a "Theoretical" common ancestor, whose characteristics were inherited with few differences by the offspring. <...
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What is this fossilized claw found in a Belgian forest?

What is this fossilized claw found in a Belgian forest? It is 14.5 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter.
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Is there more biomass on earth today than there was in the past?

Is there more, (or less) matter on earth sequestered as a part of biological systems than there was at any(arbitrary) time in the past? Edit: I realise I don't have a specific question, and was ...
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Is Urea excretion a shared ancestral trait of amphibians and mammals relative to synapomorphic Uric Acid excretion in living reptiles?

Is the ancestral condition of prehistoric amphibians and early amniotes urea excretion? Would it follow then that the lineage leading to living reptiles went on to evolve uric acid excretion as a ...
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Were there any vertebrates with 6 or more limbs?

My question is actually a bit more broad than what's in the title, but I don't know how to put it succinctly. When I was trying to find the answer to that question, I found that all known terrestrial ...
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What's this fossil?

I've no experience on the field. The picture below is a gift given to me and I've completely forgotten what was the name of it. I think it was something like "umanite" but I don't know. It was found ...
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What is the current thinking on the typicality (or otherwise) of fossils as representatives of their species?

Since fossil records represent a tiny percentage of species populations, how do paleontologists determine how typical those specimens are? Is there any research or analysis to determine how the ...
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How old would seashells be if I found them 9 ft deep 30 miles from the ocean while digging a pond in North Carolina

This is a picture of some specimens that I found while digging a pond. I'm 30 miles from the coast in Wilmington, North Carolina and dug down about nine feet past the blue clay and hit a layer of ...
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Are there any known plesiomorphies of all living mammals relative to a newer trait state in all living reptiles?

If I understand how a "trait" is defined, a turtle's shell is a synapomorphy relative to mammals and the common ancestor of living amniotes. The same would go for a snake's limblessness, etc. But are ...
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Is the Lucy fossil really what scientists claim it is?

The New Scientist has an article talking about how a baboon bone was found in the Lucy skeleton. Creationist sites like this, https://christiannews.net/2015/04/23/evolutionary-embarrassment-part-of-...
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How many different species have existed on Earth?

NOTE: Someone else asked this same question a few years back, but it was incorrectly marked as a duplicate and so the question may not have been answered satisfactorily. I'm asking it again, in hopes ...
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4 votes
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Oldest Triceratops fossil

In most books, Triceratops is listed to live between 68-66 MYA (million years ago), however some books list Triceratops as living between 70-66 MYA. The Campanian age ended about 72 MYA and then came ...
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Why are mammals the only animals with pinnae / outer ears?

Yes, I know owls have feathery "ear tufts", but these are less suited for hearing and more for display. And I find it hard to believe that animals like dinosaurs or other cursorial archosaurs would ...
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Limbs in synapsids

Within synapsids, there was a change from a lizard-like sprawling posture (like in pelycosaurs) to a more erect stance. Non-eucynodont eutherapsids seem to have had a facultatively erect hindlimb and ...
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What sauropod genera had a double row of chevron bones in the tail?

I know that Diplodocus is marked by the feature of having a double row of or "double-beamed" chevron bones in the tail, but how diagnostic is this feature if several other sauropods have it? I mean, ...
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Is this an imprint of a fossil?

I found this stone in the arizona desert. Sort of far from humans on the side of a Butte
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Is there a way tell apart dinosaurs from similar extinct reptiles?

When I was a child, I thought I knew what a dinosaur was. But, as I grew older, I was told that many of the extinct species that I thought were dinosaurs (dimetrodons, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, etc.) ...
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How do biologists discover information from fossils? [closed]

I have a query about the study of fossils (palaeontology). Let me know about the study of fossils. How do biologist discover "DNA" information from dead and old fossils such as a dinosaur? (answer ...
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What is the term for a given interpretation of a fossil record?

There exists a term, that I have heard and forgotten it appears, for taking a described species in paleontology and creating a version of what it was like in life. For example, a prior ...
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The size of the Triceratops specimen Lane in the Houston Museum of Natural Science

In 2012 the Houston Museum of Natural Science published they discovered an almost complete fossil of Triceratops including fossilized skin, see HMNS post, and nicknamed it "Lane". I am interested to ...
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Why is history not called science even though palaeontology is? [closed]

In the scientific method, we propose models to explain a phenomenon and propose falsifiable tests for it. In palaeontology, we cannot do direct tests to verify our models, but we still make ...
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What is this row of pits along the "upper lip" of theropod skulls?

Consider the row of pits visible in the "upper lip" area (and to some extent, the "lower lip" too) of this T-Rex skull at the Palais de la Découverte, Paris (picture from Wikipedia): I noticed ...
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Bite Force of Triceratops

Estimations (or measurements) of bite force is usually conducted for toothy predators like sharks, theropod dinosaurs and crocodiles. For example: Tyrannosaurus had a bite force of about 57 kN (about ...
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Palaeontology and Palaeobotany

Could someone please clarify the roles and differences between palaeontology and palaeobotany. My textbook says the palaeobotanists study plant and animal fossils, but other sources say that this is ...
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Are Triceratops and Eotriceratops similar enough to be considered as the same genus?

Everybody knows Triceratops, the horned dinosaur from Late Cretaceous North America, who lived 68-66 MYA. In 2007, Eotriceratops xerinsularis was named and described (Wikipedia). It lived in (what is ...
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What does it mean for a type of plant to "vegatatively dominate" as opposed to "taxonomically dominate"?

I'm reading Plants and the K-T Boundary, by Douglas Nichols and Kirk Johnson. On page forty-seven the authors write the following: "By the Campanian many floras were vegetatively co-dominated by ...
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What is the etymology of "moura" in Mourasuchus?

Mourasuchus is a unique species of prehistoric crocodile so far discovered. It is a filter-feeder and has shared its habitat with Gryposuchus and the more fearsome Purussaurus in the Miocene Era -- ...
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Size of Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum

In most books the size of long-necked sauropod Mamenchisaurus is stated as about 26 meters. Recently, a huge specimen of Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum was discovered. However, Gregory S. Paul ...
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MLE estimation with Mk model in ape or phangorn?

When doing MLE with the R package ape or phangorn, is it possible to set the substitution model to Mk? If so, how does one do this?
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Resources for the study of the environment of Laramidia in the Late Cretaceous

I'm looking for resources (book, web, article, etc.) to learn in detail about the environment of Laramidia in the late Cretaceous, including flora, fauna, landscape, and climate. My goal is to get a ...
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Were there any marine/aquatic dinosaurs?

Most dinosaurs were terrestrial, but there were a couple of groups of arboreal and flying dinosaurs (microraptors, birds etc). I have read that the theory that Brachiosaurids were aquatic has been ...
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Size of Apatosaurus

What are the current and up-to-date estimates of the size of the big sauropod dinosaur Apatosaurus (the biggest species of it) in terms of mass range (weight) and total length? I prefer the answer in ...
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How exactly is the wood fossil process?

I would like to know in deep how exactly is the wood fossilisation process. I am fascinated how after millions of years the fossil wood preserves its microscopic characteristics. Look at this cross ...
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Have skeletons of "failed" animals been found yet?

I don't know what the correct term for "failed animals" is, but I mean those animals which wheren't able to survive due to their "failed" evolution process. Because evolution, as we see it today, has ...
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How can paleontologists identify morphologically different fossils as members of the same species?

I recently saw a documentary about Tyrannosaurus rex, which detailed the growth stages of the dinosaur. Apparently, it underwent a huge growth spurt at around 14 years of age, growing into the massive ...
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How did palaeontologists discover the age of the Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue?

I'm trying to understand how they discovered or speculated the age of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex to be about 28–29 years old. How do they know exactly the age of Sue? Could it be wrong? Could it be ...
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How did hydrophilic plants become established on an isolated island with an arid coastal zone?

I find unconvincing the existing explanation of how several hydrophilic endemic plants became established at St Helena. This is one of the most isolated islands in the world, has an arid semi-desert ...
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What are the chances that Tyrannosaurus Rex could roar? [closed]

Tyrannosaurus Rex is now thought to have possibly had lips. Less of chance of it roar though I was told by a friend just because there are birds doesn’t mean they can’t. Evolution isn't linear, just ...
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